Showing posts with label Barack Obama. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Barack Obama. Show all posts

Jan 29, 2014

The GOP: Vandalism and Sabotage

An anti-social movement in American politics does not get acknowledged enough: the Republican Party.

Last night was an opportunity for Republicans to tell the American people what they want to do in public policy.

Instead, the GOP response to the State of the Union Address ranged from vacuous to Rand Paul, a man who as judged by his ruminations on government ought to be an an also-ran for a Village Board member.

Paul is arguably the leading candidate for the nominee for the U.S. presidency of a major political party. Perfect for the Republicans.

The plain truth is the Koch brothers-fueled GOP continues its assault on the USA that is nothing short of vandalism and economic sabotage, en effort protected by obstructing the American people from voting.

This anti-American attack did not merit inclusion last night by the president speaking to the state of the union.

Nov 8, 2012

Protect Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid in Grand Bargain

FDR signs the Social Security Act in 1935
Time to get back to work, Mr. President. The forces of feudalism are forever busy.

Outside of the idiot caucus, and it pundits, no one wants the most successful social insurance programs in U.S. history diminished.

And no one, rational, wants the working class targeted in the coming the Grand Bargain.

Facing the elimination of public debt in 2001, the GOP under Bush-Cheney drove up the debt in the hopes that later structural deficits would force massive cuts to social insurance, education, stimulus spending and research.

Now is the time of reckoning of the lost decade.

Let's not reward what Bush-Cheney did.

In 2001, Fed Chair Alan Greenspan testified before the Senate Budget Committee on the potential dangers of having zero federal debt, a fiscal legacy that Bush, Cheney and his rightwing ideologues were desperate to avoid.

And avoid and reverse this no-debt legacy they did.

Greenspan’s was an ambiguous and wide-ranging testimony—recounted by former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neil in The Price of Loyalty—that included Greenspan’s “fear that large surpluses would create a drag on the economy,” among other expressed cautions and concerns about the then-proposed Bush tax cuts (O’Neil p. 63) for the super-rich, now set to expire.

But the damage was done and Greenspan gave political cover (then and in later statements) to the reckless Bush tax cuts.

Said Greenspan in his subsequent testimony before the House Committee on the Budget (March 2, 2001):

At zero debt, the continuing unified budget surpluses now projected under current law imply a major accumulation of private assets by the federal government. Such an accumulation would make the federal government a significant factor in our nation’s capital markets and would risk significant distortion in the allocation of capital to its most productive uses.
A significant distortion to productive uses of capital? You mean like AIG, Citibank and Goldman Sachs?

Greenspan has since more or less apologized for his role in the train-wreck of the Bush-Cheney years that the GOP wants brought back, in part because the GOP friends in the Tea Party cannot stand the site of a black president reelected by other 'mud people.'

If President Obama takes Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid off the table, the American people will be behind him, Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson be damned.

- A version of this piece has previously appeared

Oct 22, 2011

Bush's Iraq War by the Numbers

Pres. George W. Bush in 2003 aboard the
USS Abraham Lincoln

What sick bunch of callow human beings inflicted upon the world this misery of the Iraq War? Lied to the troops and Marines of Operation Iraqi Freedom who swore the oath and committed their honor, to be betrayed by weak, miserable men and women? We know exactly whom these people are.

By Brad Friedman

War criminal - all
George W. Bush adviser Kenneth Adelman predicted the War in Iraq would be a "cakewalk". As President Barack Obama announced today that all U.S. military troops would finally be leaving the "cakewalk" by year's end after 9 deadly years (and as Fox "News" was busy ignoring the historic announcement), ThinkProgress put together a few numbers from what they describe as "The World's Costliest Cakewalk"... [numbers below vastly understate the damage]:
8 years, 260 days since Secretary of State Colin Powell presented evidence of Saddam Hussein’s biological weapons program

8 years, 215 days since the March 20, 2003 invasion of Iraq

8 years, 175 days since President George W. Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” speech on the USS Abraham Lincoln

4,479 U.S. military fatalities

30,182 U.S. military injuries

468 contractor fatalities

Unknown number of contractors working in support of U.S. mission injured

103,142 – 112,708 documented civilian deaths

2.8 million internally displaced Iraqis

$806 billion in federal funding for the Iraq War through FY2011

$3 – $5 trillion in total economic cost to the United States of the Iraq war according to economist Joseph E. Stiglitz and Linda J. Blimes

$60 billion in U.S. expenditures lost to waste and fraud in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001

Zero weapons of mass destruction found in Iraq

Dec 22, 2010

President Obama Signs Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010

Landmark civil rights legislation signing this morning is the culmination of a long battle against Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and an array of political forces fighting against equality for all Americans. See the White House for more information.

"Out of many, we are one!"
By Mark Smith

WASHINGTON — Fulfilling a campaign pledge, cheering his party's downcast liberals and striking a blow for what he sees as basic human rights, President Barack Obama is signing a landmark law Wednesday that tells America's armed services to let homosexuals serve openly for the first time.

So many gay rights and Democratic activists were expected at the signing ceremony that the White House booked a large auditorium at the Interior Department.

"This day has come!" said an elated Mike Almy, an Air Force major discharged four years ago when his sexual orientation became known. "'Don't ask, don't tell' is over, and you no longer have to sacrifice your integrity."

While the elation is real, Pentagon officials caution it could be premature, since the bill requires service chiefs to complete implementation plans before lifting the old policy – and certify to lawmakers that it won't damage combat readiness, as critics charge.

Also, guidelines must be finalized that cover a host of practical questions, from how to educate troops to how sexual orientation should be handled in making barracks assignments.

While officials have avoided timetables, the process will probably take months.

Still, for gay and lesbian Americans, Wednesday is a watershed. And for Obama, it is a day to revel in the achievement of a goal he's long championed.

It is also the second of three expected victories in what's turned out to be – for Obama – a surprisingly productive lame-duck Congress. Weeks after his self-described "shellacking" in the midterm vote, he's won lopsided approval of a tax cut compromise, and the Senate is poised to deliver his top foreign policy goal: ratification of a new nuclear arms treaty with Russia.

Many Democratic liberals were furious over the tax package, believing Obama blithely yielded to Republican demands to retain the same tax cuts for the rich he had loudly denounced on the campaign trail. That's not the case with the repeal of don't ask, don't tell. Lifting of the ban on gays serving openly was something Obama not only campaigned on in 2008 but reiterated in this year's State of the Union speech.

"I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are," he said in January to cheers in the House chamber, adding, "It's the right thing to do."

Born 17 years ago as a compromise between President Bill Clinton and a resistant Pentagon, the "don't ask, don't tell" policy became for gay rights campaigners a notorious roadblock on the way to full acceptance.

Speaking in June at a Gay Pride Month observance at the White House, Obama likened the fight to end it to the struggle of American blacks for civil rights.

"We have never been closer to ending this discriminatory policy," he declared.

Yet he has also faced rising discontent among gay activists who believed he hadn't moved forcefully enough. He's been heckled at campaign appearances over AIDS funding and the failure to end the military service ban.

Obama countered that as commander-in-chief, he had to ensure the ban's end is carefully prepared for.

That's just what the bill from Congress mandates.

"The implementation and certification process will not happen immediately; it will take time," Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz warned in an e-mail that went out right after Saturday's Senate vote. "Meanwhile, the current law remains in effect. All Air Force members should conduct themselves accordingly."

Military and administration officials are wrestling with numerous legal questions raised by the end of the ban – knowing that courts are waiting in the wings. They include what to do about pending expulsion proceedings, and when those ousted under don't-ask-don't-tell might apply to rejoin the armed forces.

For Almy, who appeared at a Capitol Hill ceremony Monday, the important thing is that gay and lesbian service members are no longer singled out because of who they love.

"That's all we ever wanted," he told reporters, "not special rights, just the same as our straight counterparts. "


Associated Press Writer Sagar Meghani contributed to this report.

Apr 27, 2010

Sec. Gates and Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak Huddle on Iran

Though informed sources who shot down the Bush-Cheney administration's false propaganda program on Iraq are now knocking down the AIPAC-pushed "Iran threat," the Obama administration appears to be playing along at least in rhetoric, as Israel warns against giving Iran too much time‎ to develop a nuclear weapon like Israel has.
Gates Satisfied With U.S. Planning to Counter Iran

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 27, 2010 – Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates today expressed satisfaction with the level of planning by the Defense Department and other elements of the U.S. government to counter threats from Iran.

“I'm very satisfied with the planning process both within this building and in the interagency,” Gates told Pentagon reporters. “We spend a lot of time on Iran, and we'll continue to do so.”

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, appearing alongside Gates after a meeting at the Pentagon, endorsed diplomatic efforts and sanctions to steer Iran away from its nuclear ambitions.

“We think that they should be blocked,” Barak said of Iran. “And I think that the time is clearly, at this stage, time for sanctions and diplomacy.”

Barak backed international economic sanctions in efforts to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions, saying he expects sanctions to be “effective and to be limited in time so we will be able to judge to whether -- what kind of results stem from the sanctions regime.” But he added that “only time will tell to what extent they are really effective.”

The administration of President Barack Obama and U.S. allies are working to build a consensus for pressuring Iran through economic sanctions. Iran contends its nuclear pursuit is for peaceful purposes, while many believe the country seeks to obtain a nuclear weapon.

Speaking about the Obama administration’s stance on Iran’s nuclear pursuit, National Security Advisor Jim Jones last week said Iran failed to show that its program was for peaceful purposes when given the opportunity before an international audience.

“To date, we have seen no indication that Iran's leaders want to resolve these issues constructively,” Jones said at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy here. “Iran’s government must face real consequences for its continued defiance of the international community.”

Iran’s defiance of its international obligations on its nuclear program and the country’s support of terrorism represent “a significant regional and global threat,” said Jones, emphasizing that the U.S. is determined to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

Barak today used similar tones to express his views on threats facing Israel, among them being the potential of a nuclear-armed Iran.

“These threats have broad implications,” he said, “not only to Israeli security, but to the entire region's security and any conceivable world order

Jan 4, 2010

David Corn: Progressives' Waning Support Will Cost Obama, Dems

David Corn in Politics Daily:

Yet Obama and his aides should not ignore the spreading anxiety among his liberal fans. The folks who I've talked with -- in conversations that often feel like counseling sessions -- have said they are unlikely to hit the pavement for Obama and the D's in 2010. They felt empowered by Obama's campaign in 2008; they feel alienated from politics today. Disenchantment is not what you want in your base when you're heading toward a tough mid-term election.

Oct 1, 2009

Hey Mr. President, NO Trashing Media Shield Bill

Whether it's political posturing or actual policy prescriptions, President Obama's attacks on the bill protecting reporters’ confidentiality are shameful and undemocratic.

Lisa Graves at the Center for Media and Democracy has a piece explaining why, if the point were not glaringly obvious, our government is generally not to be trusted with information management and that our fellow citizens are the rightful custodians of information.

It's a classical liberal thing vis a vis a national security state claim. Graves' piece, Government Lied about National Security Letters and the Patriot Act, is a must-read.

President Obama, what are you thinking? Are you thinking? We elected you in part for an open government, not to be only sort of like George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.

Sep 12, 2009

GOP Goes Bat-Crazy, Enjoy It

Update: See Media Matters - Fox News openly advocates against Democratic Congress, White House and watch Beck's Witch Hunt: The New McCarthyism.

Democratic strategists are enthralled by the 9-12 project, Rep Joe Wilson (R-SC), deathers, birthers and the GOP as the hatred of our black president becomes apparent, branding not President Obama but rather the Republican Party.

The last time the GOP went this crazy, actually impeaching a president after the GOP was trashed in the November 1998 election, President Bill Clinton’s approval ratings spiked upward. Look for more of the same.

Democratic strategists, if they were inclined, do not need to craft a straw man.

The GOP is building its own: Themselves, and apparently are not aware of this development as they scream how much they love America and want America back from the black man who took it a short eight months ago.

Rush, Glenn Beck and company are offending not only the fastest-growing demographics of our electorate, but also are turning off independents and firing up Obama’s progressive base.

And make no mistake. Beck, Rush and Fox are mainstream Republicans.

A Madison business owner with whom I often talk politics — an activist Republican and respectful, old-school politico — assures me that the 9-12 movement is mainstream in the GOP.

Even as President Obama delivers a message of inclusion, service and respect as we honor 9/11 this weekend, the GOP and the tea-bag types are drinking deep of McCarthyite hate. Reports David Paine in the Huffington Post:

This past August, a few months after the 9/11 community finally secured passage of bipartisan legislation that established 9/11 as a National Day of Service and Remembrance, a writer for the American Spectator published an article entitled ‘Obama's Plan to Desecrate 9/11.’

The opening sentence read this way:

‘The Obama White House is behind a cynical, coldly calculated political effort to erase the meaning of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks from the American psyche and convert Sept. 11 into a day of leftist celebration and statist idolatry.’

Add to this bizarre but typical reprise of McCarthyism an even stranger development: The old-time segregationist religion is being openly revived with such enthusiasm that one wonders if the GOP knows that the 1950s-60s civil rights movement actually occurred.

The ignominious gloom of Ronald Reagan who championed foes of the civil rights movement by kicking off his 1980 campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi — the site of the 1964 murder of civil rights workers Schwerner, Goodman, and Chaney (depicted above)— by calling for "states rights" and other anti-civil rights initiatives is casting its fetid vapor today.

As Ed Kilgore writes in Tim Pawlenty Climbs Aboard the Crazy Train:

The ‘state sovereignty movement’ is not, it's important to understand, just a group of people who think the federal government has too much power. Its central feature is the crackpot nineteenth century theory, revived most recently to resist civil rights legislation, that states have the inherent right to nullify federal legislation and court rulings that fall outside the enumerated constitutional powers of the federal government. And Pawlenty knows its extremist provenance: that's why he identified himself with Rick Perry, who's flirted both with nullification and with secession as part of his high-minded contributions to the ‘state sovereignty movement.’
Most Americans find open displays of racial hate and McCarthyite lies genuinely disturbing and indecent.

But we can watch and enjoy the GOP digging its political grave in one of the most outlandish moments of modern American political history.

Aug 21, 2009

Obama and Progressives

President Obama was elected as an agent of change with the energetic support of the peace-and-justice, civil-liberties-loving, Constitution-following, reality-based community.

So it comes as a disappointment to see Obama bow to those who are opposed to change and hostile to civil liberties.

What's going on?

Mike Madden in Salon says, "Obama's just not that into you," asking if progressives and the president are really meant for each other.

Paul Krugman says, "So there’s a growing sense among progressives that they have, as my colleague Frank Rich suggests, been punked. ... So progressives are now in revolt. Mr. Obama took their trust for granted, and in the process lost it. And now he needs to win it back."

Obama needs to make a decision: Cater to Sarah Palin and her off-the-wall, white GOP or make good on the shiny, progressive promises of the last campaign that saw Americans break all manner of new ground in their thirst for real change.

Jul 3, 2009

Support Veterans Always

"They were careless people, Tom and Daisy. ... They smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made."

- F. Scott Fitzgerald in The Great Gatsby (1925), condemning hubris and disrespect -

Were he alive today, Fitzgerald could be describing the Department of Justice and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) under George W. Bush. For that matter all the warmakers and chickenhawks who turn their backs on the people who fight these ridiculous wars.

Those two are for us to clean up now.

This Independence Day weekend is dedicated to jailed Wisconsin veteran Keith Roberts, and the Vietnam-era veterans that the American rightwing to this day treats like dirt.

Roberts is an honorably discharged Vietnam-era veteran jailed and effectively fined some $500,000 because he blew the whistle on fraud committed against his veteran's Claim File and insisted on getting his disability benefits paid back to his date of discharge.

Not a popular thing to do under the reckless Bush-led VA and the Bush DOJ that had morphed into hostile, uncaring creatures.

Now, cautious optimism defines the feeling among supporters of jailed veteran Keith Roberts.

Optimism because Keith Roberts—an innocent Vietnam-era veteran wrongfully jailed through a Bush DOJ prosecution—has been granted a rare en banc hearing before seven members of the national veterans court, the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC), for the appeal of his 13-years-long claim. Recently scheduled oral arguments are set for July 29.

Anxiety because Roberts, who was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) after seeing his friend, Gary Holland, crushed to death by a C-54 aircraft, and his family were relentlessly pursued by the Bush Department of Justice and Dept of Veterans Affairs (VA) for Roberts’ “tenaciously pursuing a claim for benefits” and Roberts' whistle-blowing accusations that the VA was fraudulently altering his C-file, records containing documents related to his VA claims.

U.S. Atty Stephen Biskupic's office had convinced a jury that Roberts and a deceased Navy airman (Gary Holland) were not friends. That was the basis for the prosecution along with the allegation that Roberts exaggerated his efforts to save Holland, which constituted wire fraud for which he was convicted in November 2006 by a jury in northern Wisconsin.Roberts was on line duty at a Naval base in Naples, Italy on February 5, 1969 at the time that Holland was crushed to death by the aircraft.The two men had parallel service histories that would make it unlikely that Holland and Roberts were not at least friendly in their relationship, and that contradicts the prosecution’s indictment and trial statements.

Writes Scott Horton in Harpers Magazine (Sept 7, 2007):

The prosecution smacks of retaliation and a plan to suppress veterans claims—Roberts was prosecuted for tenaciously pursuing a claim for benefits, which VA resisted and which is still in the benefits review process.

On appeal, Roberts' criminal conviction for wire fraud was upheld last year with the Court opinion reading in part:

The record might also have supported a jury determination that Mr. Roberts sincerely believed that his statements were true and that he had no intention to defraud the Government. It is beyond our authority to disturb such a finding on appeal.

VA Shreds Veterans

Roberts was an early whistle blower in the shreddergate veterans scandal, accusing the Milwaukee VA Regional Office of destroying documents in his file and engaging in fraud as the VA was in the process of determining the date from which his retroactive disability pay was to become effective.Roberts, of Gillett, Wisconsin, sought a new retroactive date per the advice of his Shawano County (Wisconsin) Veteran’s Service Officer.

Anger and frustration with the VA drove Keith Roberts to phone the VA Inspector General’s regional office at Hines, Illinois in November 2003 to complain.

Roberts spoke with one VA Special Agent Raymond Vasil.When he accused the VA of outright fraud in November 2003, Vasil retaliated against this Vietnam-era who had reportedly become a pain to the VA regional office.Several VA e-mails point to top officials in the VA engineering a criminal prosecution while gaming the veteran’s VA benefits adjudication, and subsequently putatively financially assaulting the veteran’s family.

Roberts is but one victim of a stacked-against-the-veteran benefits system that was the subject of an unprecedented class action law suit by veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars that found as fact benefits-hostile practices at the VA.Exercising an utter lack of prosecutorial discretion, the U.S. Atty after prodding from U.S. Dept of Veterans Affairs (VA) officials began the bizarre prosecution that drew immediate fire from veterans’ groups, such as Colonel Daniel K. Cedusky’s, AUS, (Ret.) and the American Legion.

Adding insult to injury, the VA also began immediate collection actions against the veteran and his two young daughters who had received education benefits related to their father’s service in the Navy, though Roberts' claim is still pending to this day at CAVC.What prompted the U.S. Atty’s office was a puzzle to many readers who have followed the case of Roberts who has been serving 48 months in a federal prison since 2007, as well as incurring associated costs of some $500,000.

But Keith Roberts was indisputably a major political and legal target of the VA that retaliated against this veteran for seeking retroactive PTSD-related disability benefits and calling out the VA on altering his C-file, a practice that was found to occur in 41 of the 57 VA field offices which have now adopted new procedures to preserve records such as what Roberts complained about in November 2003.

Politicalization under Bush

Revealing the Alice-in-Wonderland nature of the case is the fact that if Roberts claim is affirmed by CAVC, Roberts will have been found guilty of receiving benefits which he was found to be entitled.

In August 2005, the VA announced plans to review 72,000 PTSD cases with a 100 percent disability ratings like Roberts’.

But a torrent of criticism by veterans’ groups and Democrats forced the Bush administration to back down.

On August 10, 2005 Sen. Barrack Obama (D-IL) blasted the administration in a letter to then VA Secretary Nicholson.

In order to truly create fairness in the claims system, the VA should concentrate its efforts on reviewing denials of PTSD claims. Without assessing why some PTSD claims are denied, it will be impossible to fully understand how the VA’s PTSD rating system can be improved.

The process of gathering evidence to prove PTSD disability is extremely time-consuming. It requires the compilation of medical records, military service records, and testimonies from other veterans who can attest to a person’s combat exposure. I cannot fathom why the VA would require veterans to go through this emotionally painful process a second time.

Now many veterans' advocates are optimistic that under President Obama a change will come in how the VA treats its veterans in the face of a hostile and selfish entrenched bureaucracy.

There is now a political will from the administration to respect veterans.

There are plenty of candidates for condemnation in this affair where the environment persists that agencies of the U.S. government usurped by the Bush administration lacking in conscience and public accountability, politicized virtually every agency in sight, including former U.S. Atty Biskupic’s office.

- Special Agent Raymond Vasil of the regional VA Inspector General’s office [“A cop Vasil is not, just an idiot with a badge,” said one veteran assisting Roberts] who lied to and vocally mocked Roberts while flying around the country fabricating a case against Roberts.

- The VA benefits process that systemically wears down veterans with the apparent intention of inducing them to give up their fight for benefits [this process is being adjudicated in the unprecedented class action suit by veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan.] In fact, the VA claims process can be so frustrating that many vets (especially those suffering from PTSD) are thrown into fits of rage directed at the VA itself.

- The American Enterprise Institute (AEI) that demeans veterans for seeking help with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in this “culture of trauma”·

- The Pentagon that blames veterans “personality disorders” and lack of faith in God for veterans suffering after service.

But veterans advocates and Roberts' many supporters remain optimistic.

See also:

- Weakening us criminal case, VA turns down jailed Wisc vet’s PTSD claim
- Jailed Wisconsin Veteran Sent to Solitary Confinement, Seeks Help
- VA attacks veteran
- National VA Director Pushed US Atty Biskupic to Indict Wisconsin ...

May 20, 2009

Obama and Trust

Update: What Are We Fighting For? (Rick Reyes)

It really would not take much for President Obama to renounce and halt torture and two American wars of aggression while he's at it.

That's actually why a lot of people put him into office.

Obama is breaking a trust right now for what he stands for, for what we stand for. Will he continue?

From Noam Chomsky, Unexceptional Americans:

Occasionally the conflict between ‘what we stand for’ and ‘what we do’ has been forthrightly addressed. One distinguished scholar who undertook the task at hand was Hans Morgenthau, a founder of realist international relations theory. In a classic study published in 1964 in the glow of Camelot, Morgenthau developed the standard view that the U.S. has a ‘transcendent purpose’: establishing peace and freedom at home and indeed everywhere, since ‘the arena within which the United States must defend and promote its purpose has become world-wide.’ But as a scrupulous scholar, he also recognized that the historical record was radically inconsistent with that ‘transcendent purpose.’

We should not be misled by that discrepancy, advised Morgenthau; we should not ‘confound the abuse of reality with reality itself.’ Reality is the unachieved ‘national purpose’ revealed by ‘the evidence of history as our minds reflect it.’ What actually happened was merely the ‘abuse of reality.’

The release of the torture memos led others to recognize the problem. In the New York Times, columnist Roger Cohen reviewed a new book, The Myth of American Exceptionalism, by British journalist Geoffrey Hodgson, who concludes that the U.S. is ‘just one great, but imperfect, country among others.’ Cohen agrees that the evidence supports Hodgson's judgment, but nonetheless regards as fundamentally mistaken Hodgson's failure to understand that ‘America was born as an idea, and so it has to carry that idea forward.’ The American idea is revealed in the country's birth as a ‘city on a hill,’ an ‘inspirational notion’ that resides ‘deep in the American psyche,’ and by ‘the distinctive spirit of American individualism and enterprise’ demonstrated in the Western expansion. Hodgson's error, it seems, is that he is keeping to ‘the distortions of the American idea,’ ‘the abuse of reality.’ ...

‘Come Over and Help Us’

The inspirational phrase ‘city on a hill’ was coined by John Winthrop in 1630, borrowing from the Gospels, and outlining the glorious future of a new nation ‘ordained by God.’ One year earlier his Massachusetts Bay Colony created its
Great Seal. It depicted an Indian with a scroll coming out of his mouth. On that scroll are the words ‘Come over and help us.’ The British colonists were thus pictured as benevolent humanists, responding to the pleas of the miserable natives to be rescued from their bitter pagan fate.

The Great Seal is, in fact, a graphic representation of ‘the idea of America,’ from its birth. It should be exhumed from the depths of the psyche and displayed on the walls of every classroom. It should certainly appear in the background of all of the Kim Il-Sung-style worship of that savage murderer and torturer Ronald Reagan, who blissfully described himself as the leader of a ‘shining city on the hill,’ while orchestrating some of the more ghastly crimes of his years in office, notoriously in Central America but elsewhere as well.

The Great Seal was an early proclamation of ‘humanitarian intervention,’ to use the currently fashionable phrase. As has commonly been the case since, the ‘humanitarian intervention’ led to a catastrophe for the alleged beneficiaries. The first Secretary of War, General Henry Knox, described ‘the utter extirpation of all the Indians in most populous parts of the Union’ by means ‘more destructive to the Indian natives than the conduct of the conquerors of Mexico and Peru.’

May 13, 2009

Dick Cheney Stays on Point

Update: Not Even Chuck Norris Can Save the GOP

Dick Cheney is competing with Rush and Newt as the leader of the new GOP.

We wish him luck.

Maureen Dowd and Juan Cole analyse Cheney's macabre machinations that apparently will not stop ever. From Cole:

This week's news is about the grand old pit bull's struggle to continue to define his own party. Cheney emerged last Friday to warn on a North Dakota radio program that it would be a mistake for the Republican Party to moderate its message. (Does that mean it is now radical?) Then on Sunday Cheney told Bob Schieffer of 'Face the Nation' that it was a mistake to stop using waterboarding and other forms of extreme interrogation, and that they did not constitute torture. He also poked fun at Colin Powell, questioning his credentials as a Republican and expressing a preference for the waspish Limbaugh as the party's leader.

Apr 30, 2009

Bondholders v. Taxpayers

Update: Durbin: Bankers "own" the U.S. Congress

This is an idea gaining increasing currency on making banks healthy, wealthy and lending.

See Reorganising the banks: Focus on the liabilities, not the assets, and Henry Blodget in TechTicker:

From The Business Insider, April 29, 2009:
We are pleased to discover that we're no longer shouting down a rain barrel.

The idea that the government should draw on a massive pot of money available to fix the banks that is NOT coming from the U.S. taxpayer is finally going mainstream!

Today, the NYT's David Leonhardt has devoted an entire column to the idea of making bondholders -- the people who lent the banks the money that they incinerated -- pay for some of the cost of fixing them.

What's more, Leonhardt says that Larry Summers actually mentioned this as a possibility in a TV interview.
Politically, it's not difficult to see how this approach might take the air out of the Republicans' getting all populist on us.

Take this approach combined with the Geithner project, described by Chadwick Matlin as: "A healthy derivative market leads to a healthy bank leads to a healthy economy leads to a healthy life," and you can see some light and a lot of room for Democrats to move right over the Republicans and out of their Battered Wife Syndrome.

Let the Republicans say no, no and get downright abusive and Democrats can get the country moving again.

Apr 27, 2009

Jeffrey Sachs: Geithner Plan Is Unconscionable Rip-Off

This developing, weeks-old story is more scary that a bio-engineered, airborne Swine Flu virus invented by a bio-terrorism novelist.

See John Carney's Jeffrey Sachs: Geithner Plan Is An "Unconscionably Large" Rip-Off in Business Insider, and Sachs' piece at Huffington Post. Read his piece a couple of times.

I hope Sachs is way, way off.

Chadwick Matlin has the knockdown of Sachs' concerns at The Big Money from Slate, which you should probably read about three, four times.

Writes Matlin:

... (L)ast time we checked, functional markets have banks buying and selling things with other banks. If we're trying to return to normalcy, why would we stop the very mundane and typical process of banks buying and selling from other banks? Yes, taxpayer money is involved, but it would be involved with whoever bought the assets. I'd rather bail out the banks a little bit further than enter into new pseudo-bailout contracts with hedge funds, who will make the politically deaf banks look like saints.

Some of the attacks rightfully focus on the possibility of collusion. If the banks are buying from one another, they may agree to set a floor for their bids (60 cents to the dollar, when they're really worth 30 cents, for example), then the assets will still be overpriced. If the assets are still overpriced, then we're back where we started from, with immobile assets stuck on balance sheets, slowly draining the life out of zombie banks.

This, though, jumps the gun in two ways. First, we don't know that the banks are colluding. Profit motives suggest that they would, but political pressures suggest they may not be. And it only takes one rogue bank to underbid the cartel and sabotage the plan.

Second, and more likely, the government could set a ceiling to the price of the assets. To understand what this would entail, think about an eBay auction, in which oftentimes the seller will set a price minimum. The minimum prevents the good from being sold unless the winning bid clears the threshold. The Treasury is conducting a reverse auction, so it would set a price maximum, not a minimum. It would say that an asset could not be purchased for more than, say, 40 percent of its original price.

This would warp the market, certainly, but it would also prevent collusion. Plus, it would allow the banks to start acting like banks, just like they were before the crisis hit. That would be good for everybody's confidence.

One thing is certain: Nothing is clear and certain.

Apr 22, 2009

Bush Used Torture to Support Iraq Lies

Update: Mark Benjamin: Bush officials said they only tortured terrorists after they wouldn't talk. New evidence shows they planned torture soon after 9/11 -- and used it to find links between al-Qaida and Saddam. Mike Madden: Rumsfeld: Architect of torture The secretary of defense began laying the groundwork for detainee abuse years before Abu Ghraib.

Bush and Cheney approved torture to get false information to support their lies to the American people to invade Iraq.

From Report: Abusive tactics were used to find Iraq-al Qaida link:

WASHINGTON — The Bush administration put relentless pressure on interrogators to use harsh methods on detainees in part to find evidence of cooperation between al Qaida and the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's regime, according to a former senior U.S. intelligence official and a former Army psychiatrist

Apr 20, 2009

Could Be a Bad Week

An update on the Obama's Project: Making Thin Ice Safe column.

The Dow dropped 289 points today from 8,131 (3.56%). And Mike Whitney has a new piece, Housing Bust Comes Roaring Back, Worse Than Ever in CounterPunch that reads like a horror book: "Market analysts predict there will be 5 million more foreclosures between now and 2011. Soaring unemployment and rising foreclosures ensure that hundreds of banks and financial institutions will be forced into bankruptcy. ... Another 20 percent carved off the aggregate value of US housing means another $4 trillion loss to homeowners. That means smaller retirement savings, less discretionary spending, and lower living standards. The next leg down in housing will be excruciating; every sector will feel the pain. Obama's $75 billion mortgage rescue plan is a mere pittance; it won't reduce the principle on mortgages and it won't stop the bleeding. Policymakers have decided they've done enough and refuse to lift a finger to help. They don't see the tsunami looming in front of them plain as day. The housing market is going under and it's going to drag a good part of the broader economy along with it. Stocks, too."

Mar 27, 2009

Hey Wisconsin, Remember the Fear of Zero National Debt

As Gov. Doyle grapples with the giant budget deficits, it's worth recalling a time when zero national debt was feared and states argued about how much fiscal revenue they should shave off their budgets.

In 2001 Fed Chair Alan Greenspan testified before the Senate Budget Committee on the potential dangers of having no federal debt [we're at $11 trillion now], a fiscal legacy of the Clinton administration that Bush, Cheney and his rightwing ideologues were desperate to avoid.

It was an ambiguous and wide-ranging testimony, recounted by Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neil in The Price of Loyalty, that included Greenspan's "fear that large surpluses would create a drag on the economy," among other expressed cautions and concerns about the then-proposed Bush tax cuts (O'Neil p. 63).

But the damage was done and Greenspan gave political cover (then and in later statements) to the reckless Bush tax cuts for the super-rich.

Said Greenspan in his subsequent testimony before the House Committee on the Budget (March 2, 2001):
At zero debt, the continuing unified budget surpluses now projected under current law imply a major accumulation of private assets by the federal government. Such an accumulation would make the federal government a significant factor in our nation's capital markets and would risk significant distortion in the allocation of capital to its most productive uses.
A significant distortion?

The GOP commitment to make a fiscal mess of things is long-standing, notes Joe Conason in Salon today, and "and Republicans who are complaining about Barack Obama's spending are hypocrites," and avoid even addressing the arguments for stimulus spending (see Krugman, Dec. 1, 2008). Writes Conason

In our time, the Republican Party has compiled an impressive history of talking about fiscal responsibility while running up unrivaled deficits and debt. Of the roughly $11 trillion in federal debt accumulated to date, more than 90 percent can be attributed to the tenure of three presidents: Ronald Reagan, who used to complain constantly about runaway spending; George Herbert Walker Bush, reputed to be one of those old-fashioned green-eyeshade Republicans; and his spendthrift son George "Dubya" Bush, whose trillion-dollar war and irresponsible tax cuts accounted for nearly half the entire burden. Only Bill Clinton temporarily reversed the trend with surpluses and started to pay down the debt (by raising rates on the wealthiest taxpayers).
As is clear among honest observers, among the pathological programs pursued by the Bush administration was its enterprise to turn the national debt from prospects that were made in 2001 of the debt being completely paid off in 10 years to upping the debt to $10 trillion when it left office.

The wish list that the rightwingers, like Grover Norquist, desired from the future administrations dealing with the massive debt: Eliminating those awful programs like Social Security and Medicaid and Medicare which they hoped would become unsustainable because of the debt purposefully piled up by Bush and Cheney.

Bush bequeathed more than that: Millions of jobs shipped overseas, $trillions of unregulated financial products that may yet cost the dollar its role as reserve currency, states' deficits like Wisconsin's and on and on.

Obama has been scrupulously careful not to put the blame on the GOP; it's the wrong message for the guy sent in to clean up the mess. But Conason, Krugman and others should continue to further an understanding of the political-economic commitments of the GOP.

- See also Krugman: Large fiscal expansion needed (Dec. 1, 2008)

Mar 17, 2009

MoveOn Hits Feingold

Most progressives love Russ Feingold but sometimes ... WTF, Russ?

MoveOn is alerting its members to contact Feingold and tell him to keep his eye on the ball as Obama pushes his budget.

Feingold's idiosyncratic tangents such as hitting Janesville workers' job training and placement services in a recent spending bill and getting in bed with John McCain aren't doing anyone any good.

So, we need Russ behind this budget like right now.

Dear MoveOn member,
As a Wisconsin resident, you're in a unique position this week to help pass major progressive reforms. Here's why:

President Obama's budget (the critical bill that decides how the government will spend trillions of dollars) is being debated right now in Congress. And Senator Russell Feingold, as a member of the budget committee, is one of just a few make-or-break votes.

The budget is the change we voted for: health care reform, a plan to make polluters pay for clean energy investment, tax breaks for 95% of Americans, even a firm timeline for the end of the war in Iraq. As Paul Krugman said, it will set America on a "fundamentally new course."1

But the budget faces mounting opposition from special interests and conservative Democrats who want to take out key parts of the bill.

Senators on the committee are already making up their minds about whether they'll pass Obama's progressive budget or water it down—and they're hearing from the opposition every day. So it's really important that your senator hears from MoveOn members in Wisconsin right away.

Can you call Senator Feingold? Tell him to pass Obama's budget without stripping the crucial provisions that make sure polluters and other special interests pay their fair share.
Here's where to call:

Senator Russell FeingoldPhone: 202-224-5323

Then, please report your call by clicking here:

Obama's plan is boldly progressive—which makes the special interest lobbyists dead-set against it:

Oil companies don't like a key provision that taxes polluters to help pay for a transition to a clean-energy economy.

Insurance companies are fighting the health care funding that will help create a more efficient system and pave the way for universal coverage.

Highly paid executives are against the elimination of tax loopholes that they've gotten rich off of for years.

Let's be honest. "Passing a budget" doesn't sound particularly compelling. But few people realize that if we lose this budget fight, our other goals like transitioning to a green economy and health care reform will become difficult or impossible to achieve. So there's a real risk that millions of progressives who helped elect this president will sit on the sidelines during this fight.

We can't let that happen—especially in Wisconsin, where our voices can have a huge impact on the outcome. Please call today.

1. "Climate of Change," The New York Times, February 27, 2009

Feb 25, 2009

Obama Scores

Update: See also The state of Obama is strong (Mike Madden)

Obama hit a home run with the American public in the address last night, although the speech did serve to demonstrate the limitations of what individual Americans can do to help solve the crisis created by sociopathic greed and those who curry political favor with greed.

He explained the problems clearly.

[Pictured above-right are leaders of the loyal opposition: Sen. Joe Lieberman (aka Snagglepuss), Sen John McCain (aka McSame), and Sen. Lindsey Graham (aka doesn't Sidney Blumenthal have a funny-sounding last name).]

Obama stressed the need for Americans to obtain continuing education and vocational training and to give back to the community with service to our country. But individual Americans cannot regulate financial derivatives products and put back in place the regulations of greed, favoring the welfare of American society over the blind pursuit of profit.

For links to video and text of full address, see the President's address with photos, video, and full remarks.