thedigbyblog at gmail Dennis: satniteflix at gmail Gaius: publius.gaius at gmail Tom: tpostsully at gmail
Spocko:Spockosbrain at gmail
David: isnospoon at gmail tristero: Richardein at me.com
As one who has long found the breathless election coverage of candidates' personal lives to be puerile and voyeuristic, I'd usually be sympathetic to complaints about the "vetting" of Mitt Romney in the media this election cycle. I can't imagine why anyone would want to run for office and put up with it, but then that's why they're them and I'm me.
Nonetheless, this lightning rod of an article from Politico on Thursday about unfair coverage of Romney is a bit much. Particularly this part of it:
Ari Fleischer, the former press secretary to President George W. Bush, said the personal coverage of Romney is silly and won't cut it with voters, but that he finds the media inconsistency with regards to covering Obama to be galling.
"These stories are not unusual, except they were never done about then-Senator Obama in 2008," Fleischer said. "The press never ran probing, sneering stories about candidate Obama, and yet The Washington Post and New York Times are on overtime covering who-cares stories about Mitt Romney."
But to hear some of the biggest donors of 2012 tell it, their six- and seven-figure contributions have instead bought them nothing but grief.
Their personal lives are fodder for news stories. President Barack Obama and his allies have singled out conservative mega-donors as greedy tax cheats, or worse. And a conservative website has launched a counteroffensive targeting big-money liberals.
This is definitely not what they had in mind. In their view, cutting a million-dollar check to try to sway the presidential race should be just another way to do their part for democracy, not a fast-track to the front page.
And now some are pushing back hard against the attention, asking: Why us?
“This idea of giving public beatings has been around for a long time,” said Frank VanderSloot, a wealthy Idaho businessman who donated $1 million in corporate cash to the super PAC supporting Mitt Romney and says he’s raised between $2 million and $5 million for the Romney campaign.
VanderSloot, who is also a national finance co-chairman for Romney, was among eight major Romney donors singled out on an Obama campaign website last month as having “less-than-reputable records,” and he thinks the purpose is clear – intimidation.
“You go back to the Dark Ages when they put these people in the stocks or whatever they did, or publicly humiliated them as a deterrent to everybody else – watch this – watch what we do to the guy who did this.”
Yes, heaven forbid that anyone shine a spotlight these people who want to buy the country's democratic system outright. If we don't give them the ability to buy a President in secret, it's the same as torture in the Middle Ages.
In the absence of real campaign finance reform, disclosure of who is spending the money to buy our elections is the next-best thing. I've always been a little skeptical of that approach because the message gets through regardless of whether the messenger is exposed.
But it's been eye-opening and amusing to see how very sensitive the Masters of the Universe are to exposure and criticism. One would think that people with the ability to buy anything in life wouldn't care so much about their precious feelings and reputations, but they do. Immensely. It's said that politicians are vain and egocentric, but that's not entirely true: it takes a thick skin and high tolerance for abuse to go into public office. It's not a pleasant place to be for those who constantly crave praise.
No, it seems that the people with the thinnest skins and most bloviated egos lie not at the top of the political chain, but at the top of the financial pecking order. It's about time they took a little more heat and were exposed to a little more sunlight.
I have always loathed Alan Simpson going all the way back to the 80s. His pro-choice and LGBT rights record always gave him cover as a "moderate" and everyone enjoys his colorful language. But he's a hardcore fiscal conservative who thinks that everyone can make it in America by just pulling themselves up by their bootstraps. Like he did. Of course he had a teensy bit of help from his daddy, former Governor and Senator Milward L. Simpson.
He also doesn't know what he's talking about and never has. His folksy speech masks his ignorance but the Villagers are so enthralled by it that they never pin him down on the details. So someone else has stepped up to do it:
It's nice to see young people challenging the hideous generational taunts that the Pete Peterson acolytes all throw around. They understand very well that we all rise and fall together. Apparently the only thing these elderly millionaires want to do before they shuffle off their mortal coils is wreck that compact.
Others have written much more eloquently about the recall story in Wisconsin than I ever could. Rick Perlstein, for instance, a homeboy who wrote this epic piece just before the primary election in which he made the case for why we should all care about the governor's race:
Here's why: the voting in Wisconsin this spring "will be the first national test of the possibility of democracy in the Citizens United era," writes Ruth Conniff of the Madison-based magazine The Progressive, referring to the historic Supreme Court ruling that allowed unlimited spending on polticial campaigns. If conservatives succeed in breaking public unions in Wisconsin, they will try the same thing everywhere, with mind-blowing seriousness. Already by this February, Walker, taking advantage of a loophole that allows donors to recall targets to blow through the state's $10,000 contribution cap, had raised an astonishing $12.2 million dollars; then, by April, he had added $13.2 million more. [...] So, $25 per vote from reactionary out-of-state donors versus three bucks and one million petition signatures from regular old Wisconsinites: which one of them will prevail in June will tell us what American democracy will look like – if it will look like democracy at all. It's like one of those posters I saw in Madison last year said. It quoted the Gettysburg Address: "Now we are engaged in a great civil war testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived or so dedicated can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war." The picket sign added: "MADISON is that battlefield."
And E.J. Dionne went right to the heart of the matter with this piece on Wednesday:
Walker is being challenged not because he pursued conservative policies but because Wisconsin has become the most glaring example of a new and genuinely alarming approach to politics on the right. It seeks to use incumbency to alter the rules and tilt the legal and electoral playing field decisively toward the interests of those in power.
It's hard to understate just how important this race is to progressives. The polls this week range from a dead heat to Walker leading by up to six points. We'll keep our fingers crossed.
But in looking at the Marquette University poll just out yesterday, I couldn't help but be somewhat surprised by this:
Read on.It's not good. But it's not bad either.
Blue America has dubbed June 5th Progressive Super Tuesday and we're hoping like hell that our candidates all do well. (You can help, here.) And Wisconsin is the leading edge, the place where the latest progressive uprising began and where we've poured so much idealism and energy (while the other side has poured buckets of thousand dollar bills.) Keep your fingers crossed.
So the old GOP foreign policy guard is once more ineffectually mewling about the neocon influence on the party:
Colin Powell, who preceded Ms. Rice as Mr. Bush’s secretary of state but backed Mr. Obama in 2008, has expressed concerns about neoconservative sway within the Romney camp. Some foreign policy advisers for Mr. Romney, he said, “are quite far to the right.” He has also taken strong issue with Mr. Romney’s statement that Russia is our “No. 1 geopolitical foe.”
“Come on, Mitt — think. It isn’t the case,” Mr. Powell said last week on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” adding that Mr. Romney’s comments had caught “a lot of heck from the more regular G.O.P. foreign affairs community.”
Oh really ... (Ok, I know there's nothing to this, but still, it kind of creeps you out a little bit...)
It's Mormon lore, a story passed along by some old-timers about the importance of their faith and their country.
In the latter days, the story goes, the U.S. Constitution will hang by a thread and a Mormon will ride in on a metaphorical white horse to save it. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints says it does not accept the legend - commonly referred to as the "White Horse Prophecy" - as doctrine. [...] "You will see the Constitution of the United States almost destroyed," the diary entry quotes Smith as saying. "It will hang like a thread as fine as a silk fiber."
Not only will the Mormons save the Constitution, under the prediction, but the prophecy goes further, insinuating that Mormons will control the government.
"Power will be given to the White Horse to rebuke the nations afar off, and you obey it, for the laws go forth from Zion," the prophecy says.
Here's Wikipedia on the prophesy:
Smith reportedly said that "You will see the Constitution of the United States almost destroyed. It will hang like a thread as fine as a silk fiber.... I love the Constitution; it was made by the inspiration of God; and it will be preserved and saved by the efforts of the White Horse, and by the Red Horse who will combine in its defense."
Smith additionally said, according to the diary, that the Mormons would send missionaries to "gather the honest in heart from among the Pale Horse, or people of the United States, to stand by the Constitution of the United States as it was given by the inspiration of God." Roberts' account quotes Smith as predicting numerous wars involving Great Britain, France, Russia, China, and other countries, and saying that the European nobility "knows that [Mormonism] is true, but it has not pomp enough, and grandeur and influence for them to yet embrace it."
It must be noted that when Mitt was asked about this in 2007 he replied:
"I haven't heard my name associated with it or anything of that nature," Mitt Romney told The Salt Lake Tribune during an interview earlier this year. "That's not official church doctrine. There are a lot of things that are speculation and discussion by church members and even church leaders that aren't official church doctrine. I don't put that at the heart of my religious belief."
Well that's certainly reassuring. Keep in mind that George W. Bush reportedly believed that he was called by God, so it's not like it would be unprecedented.
Say, does anyone know where Glenn Beck stands on this?
Sometimes I wonder if amidst all of our world-weary cynicism we are even cynical enough. It's hard to wrap your mind around the immensity of the problem of money in politics, but it's this part of it that still shocks and depresses me. Thomas Edsall wrote this column earlier this week:
Four years after the 2008 collapse, the finance industry has regained its dominant position in American politics. Perhaps the development of deepest significance is an absence: the failure of a powerful anti-Wall Street faction to emerge in either the House or the Senate. This is in contrast to the response to previous financial crises, when Congress enacted tough legislation—after the Savings and Loan implosion of the 1980s, for example, and more recently after the bankruptcy of Enron and WorldCom in the early 2000s.
Look at the current political environment this way: if Mitt Romney's campaign and the Romney-supporting super PAC Restore Our Future were a public company, the financial services industry would have a controlling interest. President Obama, in turn, has been noticeably cautious in his critique of Wall Street, trying instead to focus on Romney's former company, Bain Capital. Obama's ambivalence about speaking out is a tacit victory for the industry.
From the Politico article detailing conservative super PACs' plans to spend over $1 billion to defeat Barack Obama comes this little nugget.
Restore Our Future, the super PAC supporting Mitt Romney, proved its potency by spending nearly $50 million in the primaries. Now able to entice big donors with a neck-and-neck general election, the group is likely to meet its new goal of spending $100 million more.
And American Crossroads and the affiliated Crossroads GPS, the groups that Rove and Ed Gillespie helped conceive and raise cash for, are expected to ante up $300 million, giving the two-year-old organization one of the election’s loudest voices.
“The intensity on the right is white-hot,” said Steven Law, president of American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS. “We just can’t leave anything in the locker room. And there is a greater willingness to cooperate and share information among outside groups on the center-right.”
In targeted states, the groups’ activities will include TV, radio and digital advertising; voter-turnout work; mail and phone appeals; and absentee- and early-ballot drives.
Somebody is clearly being played for a fool here. If President Obama is just as good for the corporatist rich as Mitt Romney, then there's an awful lot of misplaced white-hot anger out there, and a lot of wasted billionaire money. Or the alternative is also possible that there's a great deal of difference between the two of them, and that America's biggest billionaires aren't exactly idiots.
Either way, it's quite interesting. The anger of the GOP's racist and misogynist base is understandable: they feel their world slipping away from them year by year, and the election of a black guy named Barack Hussein Obama frightens them terribly. They're faced with cultural and demographic marginalization after centuries of dominance. That they would be white hot with anger is not surprising.
But the fury of the super rich conservatives is a little more baffling. After all, the stock market is doing well. Corporations are making record profits. Income inequality is at record highs, which is great for the luxury yacht crowd. It's not as if the elite wealthy are suffering under Barack Obama. Even assuming that Mitt Romney would give them even more goodies, that should be a choice between two positives, not a situation demanding no-holds-barred warfare and intense existential rage.
The rage of the Left against the Bush Administration was understandable: with at least one trumped-up war on false pretexts, unprecedented politicization of government offices, rampant lawbreaking, massive new impositions on civil liberties, rollbacks of protections for the environment, women's rights and the social safety net, the drowning of an entire American city, the attempt to privatize social security, and finally the deregulation-induced crashing of the world's economy, it's no surprise the Left felt its back was up against the wall. But the same can't be said of Obama and the moneyed Right.
What is it, after all, that the Koch brothers could buy under a Romney regime that they can't buy under an Obama presidency? What threat to them and their purchasing is the ability of teachers to collectively bargain in Wisconsin? Whence this fury?
The social scientist who can answer that question will have gone a long way toward solving what is wrong not with America, but with the inherent ugliness of human nature as well. My theory? Their preposterous wealth has given them all a real-world Gyges' ring. Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
They're not necessarily inherently bad people. But I postulate that this is what will always happen when human beings are given far more power and privilege than any person's inner morality can long resist.
Oh wait. The "I approved this message" is missing, isn't it? That's because it's a Fox News clip, not a Romney ad:
It was a segment produced by a show on a network that bills itself as "fair and balanced." The network has continued to push the limits of its outright promotion of conservative politicians and policies, and Fox & Friends has been at the forefront. The show regularly acts as the communications arm of the GOP, attacking Democrats, promoting Republicans, and broadcasting GOP talking points, sometimes word for word. Co-host Gretchen Carlson has repeatedly advised GOP candidates how to promote their ideas in order to defeat their Democrat opponents...
On the morning after Mitt Romney clinched enough delegates to officially claim the Republican presidential nomination, Fox has launched its first anti-Obama attack ad of the presidential campaign.
This article in The New Yorker sounds the alarm about the economy not working in Obama's favor for the November election. I really doubt the economy will have any beneficial effect for the president unless something dramatic happens. It's been my personal observation that most people are about a year to 18 months behind the reality of economic performance—at least on an emotional level. (There is a lot of varying data and analysis on this, so take it for what it is.) But it's getting late, and even if the economy were to dramatically improve in the next few months I doubt very seriously that anyone is going to be persuaded or change his or her vote because of it. This has been a painful slog and people have seen too many "green shoots" that turned brown to have any trust in numbers at this point.
I point out in the piece that this isn't Morning in America, which I think may be the biggest surprise of all to the Obama campaign. Going back to the beginning, I think they were running a Reagan first term strategy --- and it didn't work.
To: The Honourable Senator Olympia Snowe (Republican, Maine) The Honourable Senator John D. Rockefeller (Democrat, West Virginia)
Uphold Free Speech About Climate Change Or Resign
The US Constitution guarantees the right of free speech. It is inappropriate for elected Senators such as yourselves to suggest that any person should refrain from exercising that right, as you have done in your letter of October 27 to the CEO of ExxonMobil. That great corporation has exercised its right of free speech -- and with good reason -- in openly providing support for scientists and groups that dare to question how much the increased concentration of CO2 in the air may warm the world. You must honour the Constitution, withdraw your letter and apologize to ExxonMobil, or resign as Senators.
You defy every tenet of democracy when you invite ExxonMobil to deny itself the right to provide information to "senior elected and appointed government officials" who disagree with your opinion. You are elected officials yourselves. If you do not believe in the right of persons within the United States to exercise their fundamental right under the world's greatest Constitution to petition their elected representatives for the redress of their grievances, then you have no place on Capitol Hill. You must go.
You will rightly deduce from Beckett's sinister remark that after a decade of Socialist government freedom of speech does not figure in our constitution. But let me quote the First Amendment to yours: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech or of the Press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
I call upon the pair of you to live by those great words, or to leave.
MONCKTON OF BRENCHLEY
Right-o! Or he'll have your head on a pike, what what?
In my original piece, I discussed how Monckton's father had been Chairman of the Iraq Petroleum Company and mused a bit on the new money aristocrats engaging a real peer of the realm to do their dirty work for them. A rather eccentric one at that:
Lord Monckton is an ardent global warming science foe who recently published an exhaustive 52 page roll of toilet paper on the subject for The Telegraph. (George Monbiot explains the whole thing in this article in the Guardian.)He has no degree in any scientific subject and has never done any work in the field. Lately, he's best known for his (admittedly impressive) jigsaw puzzle design. But he styles himself an expert, writes nonsensical papers and then demands the resignations of anyone who disagrees with him. I think there was more intellectual rigor involved in Galileo's trial.
So what's the old boy been up to recently? A couple of years ago he made some news calling climate change activists, "Hitler Youth" and Nazis.
Hey all you pot loving libertarians! You don't have to join the anti-abortion, authoritarian right wing party of the rich. (Unless, that is, you secretly agree with it and think that low taxes for the wealthy and property rights are more important than personal freedom and ending the wars.) There are Democrats who believe in downsizing the military and ending the drug war too.
Howie at Down with Tyranny writes about Beto O'Rourke, a Democratic upstart who unseated one of the most regressive Democratic warmongers in the congress last night. And he's from Texas!
All the pundits and bloviating Beltway politicos ignored Beto O'Rourke's race against painfully long-term incumbent, Silvestre Reyes and said the young upstart had no chance. Even the commercialized progressive groups completely ignored his contest. But early voting went drastically in his direction and, despite Reyes, last minute, heavily funded (by the Military Industrial Complex) smear campaign, O'Rourke put him away nice and easy. Even as the votes were coming in, the most unctuous shills of the DC Establishment were hoping out loud that Beto would lose. This isn't about ideology, this is just about Establishment dick suckers sucking Establishment dick, which is what they get paid to do-- to the point where they become what they do. By the end they were publicly praying for a run-off or even a Republican victory in November. The Establishment and its miserable foot soldiers are very threatened by insurgents... and victorious insurgents make them want to kill themselves.
Congratulations to the Campaign for Primary Accountability for putting almost $200,000 into helping make Congress less institutionally corrupt-- and for, once again, making a complete laughing stock out of the ridiculous Cook Report, Washington's most clueless and utterly out-of-touch prognosticators.
The good guys won another one. And nobody believed it could happen.
Please click over to Howie's place to read about the next one of these fights against an entrenched, scandal riddled, Military Industrial Complex lackey --- Lee Rogers vs Buck McKeon. It's another one the insiders are clueless about. And this one's against a Republican.
At this point if Charlie Cook says something, you'd probably come out ahead in the end by betting on the opposite.
Having organized 43 plaintiffs—including the archdioceses of New York and Washington and the University of Notre Dame—to file 12 different lawsuits against the Obama administration last Monday alleging the administration is violating the religious freedom of Catholics, the Catholic bishops of the United States are now preparing Catholics for what may be the most massive campaign of civil disobedience in this country since the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and early 1960s.
"Some unjust laws impose such injustices on individuals and organizations that disobeying the laws may be justified," the bishops state in a document developed to be inserted into church bulletins in Catholic parishes around the country in June…
The bulletin insert reminds Catholic parishioners that the bishops have called for "A Fortnight of Freedom"—which they have described as "a special period of prayer, study, catechesis, and public action"—to take place from June 21 to July 4.
Read on to see just how unlikely it is that they'll be able to get Catholics to join this crusade. (But they may have some more tricks up their sleeves.) This war n contraception is escalating.
I tend to look on the bright side of this: when Republicans denigrate everyone from Jon Stewart to our centrist President to their own Heritage Foundation health program from 1993 as "socialist," it rehabilitates the very word "socialism." After all, if the Republicans don't see any daylight between Barack Obama and Bernie Sanders, why not nominate a Bernie Sanders type for President in four years and give them what they've been asking for?
I'm thinking we're about to break a hissy fit record today. Here's your latest outrage and demand for an apology:
Poles and Polish-Americans expressed outrage today at President Obama’s reference earlier to “a Polish death camp” — as opposed to a Nazi death camp in German-occupied Poland.
“The White House will apologize for this outrageous error,” Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski tweeted. Sikorski said that Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk “will make a statement in the morning. It’s a pity that this important ceremony was upstaged by ignorance and incompetence.”
The president had been trying to honor a famous Pole, awarding a Presidential Medal of Freedom to Jan Karski, a resistance fighter who sneaked behind enemy lines to bear witness to the atrocities being committed against Jews. President Obama referred to him being smuggled “into the Warsaw ghetto and a Polish death camp to see for himself.”
Sikorski also tonight tweeted a link to an Economist story noting that “few things annoy Poles more than being blamed for the crimes committed by the Nazi occupiers of their homeland. For many years, Polish media, diplomats and politicians have tried to persuade outsiders to stop using the phrase ‘Polish death camps’ as a shorthand description of Auschwitz and other exemplars of Nazi brutality and mass murder. Unfortunately this seems to have escaped BaracK Obama’s staff seem not to have noticed this.”
Honestly, do you think it might be possible to unplug the phony outrage machine for a week or two? This is just getting exhausting.
Update:Thank God. I just hope it's enough. (fingers crossed ...)
It does raise a question in my mind about "social distance." Chris apologized saying that he "sounded like a typical out-of-touch pundit seeking to discuss the civilian-military divide and the social distance between those who fight and those who don't, I ended up reinforcing it, conforming to a stereotype of a removed pundit whose views are not anchored in the very real and very wrenching experience of this long decade of war. And for that I am truly sorry." I've always thought this "social distance" was a useful thesis, helping to explain why the Villagers are so out of touch with the average person. But what I hadn't reckoned with until now is a sort of tyranny of "walking the walk" that results once you acknowledge it.
All citizens have a right and an obligation to participate fully in American civic life. If we are now going to say that those who haven't "walked in the shoes" of whomever is directly affected by a policy are not sanctioned to have an opinion, we are essentially saying that we are only responsible to ourselves rather than the body politic. It becomes a fragmented sort of social responsibility in which we substitute experience and expertise for democratic participation.
I hope we can go back to the old-fashioned "everybody's entitled to their opinion" and stop with endless hissy fits, disavowels and demands for apologies. It's exhausting
Update: I want to be perfectly clear that I believe Chris apologized completely of his own volition. He would not do it any other way. And I believe he truly meant it. On the other hand, his network is treating him very badly considering how quickly he handled it.
NBC made it extremely clear where they stood on the matter, and it wasn’t behind their employee. The Today Show ran a segment this morning on Hayes’ comments, with NBC employees as the commentators, and they universally bashed Hayes, in sometimes personal terms, for his comments, showing a real ignorance about those comments.
During a panel on Tuesday’s NBC Today, liberal pundits Star Jones, Donny Deutsch and Nancy Snyderman condemned left-wing MSNBC host Chris Hayes for suggesting fallen U.S. troops are not heroes. Deutsch was the strongest in denouncing Hayes: “I hope that he doesn’t get more viewers as a result of this…this guy is like a – if you’ve seen him…he looks like a weenie.”
Jones was clearly appalled by the offensive comments: “…the person that he [Hayes] was talking to was the officer whose job it was to call the families of fallen soldiers. Could you be more inappropriate on Memorial Day?” Snyderman voiced her disgust as well: “To criticize the young men and women who put themselves in harm’s way to protect us and then cheapen it…”
Co-host Matt Lauer actually attempted to defend Hayes: “I’m not sure he was criticizing those young men and women. He was just saying that the word is overused.” The panelists would have none of it. Snyderman declared: “But he’s wrong….Because you know what? The four of us aren’t fighting those wars. So these people are heroes to me.” Jones added: “When it’s a dead soldier, it’s not overused.”
After Lauer quoted Hayes’s apology for the remarks, Snyderman responded: “Where was that eloquence on the front hand?” Jones reiterated: “You don’t say this on Memorial Day.”
Hayes didn’t criticize troops, he merely made a point about how glorifying them without constraint has an impact on future calls for war. Lauer tried to get at that but to no avail.
The important thing here was not Nancy Snyderman or (Lord help us) Star Jones’ opinion on Chris Hayes and his views on valor and the US military, it’s that NBC scheduled this segment at all. As Inside Cable News writes:
Snydermann is an NBC News employee. Deutsch is an NBC brass favorite. And they just threw one of their own under the bus. Today staffers had to have known, or at the very least guessed, that the segment would go in this direction. Was this a subtle signal from NBC trying to distance itself from Hayes?
One could make that argument. If NBC didn’t want this issue addressed the word would have come down from the execs to Today EP Jim Bell and the word would have been “hands off”.
I’m sure that the Today Show, which is far more widely watched than a public affairs program on Sunday morning on a cable news network, got a pat on the back from the brass on that one. They know precisely how much they have riding on a consensus view of military heroism. The forces that promote and support imperialism – and here I’m talking about military contractors who make ad buys on networks like NBC – have no trouble with using the word “hero” to describe soldiers, and furthermore they know exactly what that terminology does psychologically and what it benefits.
It also benefits GE, which still owns 49% of the company. This is, after all, the network that ran Phil Donohue off the air for being against the Iraq war.
Still, this was pretty cheap. Those Today Show "hosts"basking in their superiority couldn't shine Chris Hayes' shoes. Yuck.
Western nations expelled senior Syrian diplomats on Tuesday in a hardened and coordinated condemnation of the weekend massacre of more than 100 villagers in Syria, nearly half of them children.
The response by the United States and others came as the top United Nations peacekeeping official gave new credence to suspicions that pro-government Syrian thugs, known as shabiha, were at least partly responsible for the killings, despite official Syrian denials of complicity.
Outrage over the killings, which constituted one of the gravest atrocities in the 15-month-old uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, coincided with a visit to Syria by the United Nations special envoy, Kofi Annan, who met with Mr. Assad in Damascus to salvage a failing cease-fire.
Mr. Annan, speaking to reporters later, said he had warned Mr. Assad time is running out.
"We are at a tipping point," he said at a news conference in Damascus. "The Syrian people do not want the future to be one of bloodshed and division. Yet the killings continue and the abuses are still with us today. As I reminded the President, the international community will soon be reviewing the situation. I appealed to him for bold steps now — not tomorrow, now — to create momentum for the implementation of the plan."
Yes, I'm sure Assad is just shaking in his boots.
The international community needs to figure something out. It either cares about what the Assads of the world are doing, or it doesn't. If it doesn't care, stop the pretenses at outrage, the expulsions of diplomats, the security council handwringing and the rest of it. Let them consign themselves to the idea that no one should ever meddle in what happens within another nation state's borders, that any change in a country must come from within, and that we should turn a blind eye to massacres by national leaders because any sort of intervention would just make things worse and lead to more deaths. Every nation and person for itself in a global federalism, and if your particular ethnic group or democratic reformist protest is marked for death, too bad. Not our problem.
Or it can create an actual organization with teeth that can enforce principles of human rights with the same authority that a federal marshal can exercise against murderers within a nation state. Doing that would also delegitimize the selfish actions of individual nation states playing the world's self-appointed cop.
One or the other. But enough pretense of outrage, horrified protestations, diplomatic expulsions and sternly worded letters. The Assads of the world couldn't care less what anyone thinks of them as long as they don't feel personally threatened.
Do something or don't do anything and stop pretending you care. Expelling diplomats doesn't count as doing something.
I will never understand why political campaigns think it's helpful to telegraph their plans in public, but here's the obligatory "inside the Obama campaign strategy" piece by John Heileman in New York magazine. To the extent it isn't spin, it's quite interesting, and since so much of it is unflattering, I'd have to guess that's most of it.
The campaign principals (much like the administration itself in the first two years) are as convinced as ever that when it comes to brilliant strategy, they are the toppermost of the poppermost and show a level of confidence that borders on hubris. What seems to have changed since the last time around is that they are very, very worried about money
One of the things I couldn't find a way to easily fit in the piece is the fact that they are basically planning to re-run the Bush 2004 campaign. I can't help but wonder if they've got Marine One all gassed up and ready to land in the football stadiums to the martial strains of the Top Gun theme song "Danger Zone."
Limbaugh: "I Have Created More Jobs Than Obama And Romney Put Together, Damn Right"
Apparently, his "EIB Radio Network" is right up there with General Motors and Microsoft for sheer entrepreneurial genius.
Rush is, by his own reckoning, and entertainer who makes money by performing a radio show a couple of hours every day (and destroying America in the process.) By this new standard, Hollywood is one of the greatest capitalistic achievements of all time. When will Rush give credit where credit is due?
"He likes action, especially when he doesn’t leave fingerprints"
It would appear that when it comes to the fight against terrorism the main difference between the Obama administration and the Bush administration is that the current White House has upgraded from the old-fashioned playing cards to a Facebook layout:
This was the enemy, served up in the latest chart from the intelligence agencies: 15 Qaeda suspects in Yemen with Western ties. The mug shots and brief biographies resembled a high school yearbook layout. Several were Americans. Two were teenagers, including a girl who looked even younger than her 17 years.
President Obama, overseeing the regular Tuesday counterterrorism meeting of two dozen security officials in the White House Situation Room, took a moment to study the faces. It was Jan. 19, 2010, the end of a first year in office punctuated by terrorist plots and culminating in a brush with catastrophe over Detroit on Christmas Day, a reminder that a successful attack could derail his presidency. Yet he faced adversaries without uniforms, often indistinguishable from the civilians around them.
“How old are these people?” he asked, according to two officials present. “If they are starting to use children,” he said of Al Qaeda, “we are moving into a whole different phase.”
It was not a theoretical question: Mr. Obama has placed himself at the helm of a top secret “nominations” process to designate terrorists for kill or capture, of which the capture part has become largely theoretical. He had vowed to align the fight against Al Qaeda with American values; the chart, introducing people whose deaths he might soon be asked to order, underscored just what a moral and legal conundrum this could be.
Mr. Obama is the liberal law professor who campaigned against the Iraq war and torture, and then insisted on approving every new name on an expanding “kill list,” poring over terrorist suspects’ biographies on what one official calls the macabre “baseball cards” of an unconventional war. When a rare opportunity for a drone strike at a top terrorist arises — but his family is with him — it is the president who has reserved to himself the final moral calculation.
“He is determined that he will make these decisions about how far and wide these operations will go,” said Thomas E. Donilon, his national security adviser. “His view is that he’s responsible for the position of the United States in the world.” He added, “He’s determined to keep the tether pretty short.”
Nothing else in Mr. Obama’s first term has baffled liberal supporters and confounded conservative critics alike as his aggressive counterterrorism record. His actions have often remained inscrutable, obscured by awkward secrecy rules, polarized political commentary and the president’s own deep reserve.
In interviews with The New York Times, three dozen of his current and former advisers described Mr. Obama’s evolution since taking on the role, without precedent in presidential history, of personally overseeing the shadow war with Al Qaeda.
They describe a paradoxical leader who shunned the legislative deal-making required to close the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay in Cuba, but approves lethal action without hand-wringing. While he was adamant about narrowing the fight and improving relations with the Muslim world, he has followed the metastasizing enemy into new and dangerous lands. When he applies his lawyering skills to counterterrorism, it is usually to enable, not constrain, his ferocious campaign against Al Qaeda — even when it comes to killing an American cleric in Yemen, a decision that Mr. Obama told colleagues was “an easy one.”
Wow. Just wow. I guess we should be happy he didn't call it a "no-brainer".
Back during the Bush administration we all used to make the argument that Bush and Cheney's power grab was dangerous and we always asked, "imagine how you will feel if this power is in the hands of ... Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama" to make our point.
It would appear to have had the opposite effect. Instead of teaching the lesson to the Republicans that unrestrained presidential power is bad, it's taught the Democrats to love it too. And it hasn't bought a single Republican vote.
This isn't the first time that we've glimpsed the eagerness with which the president embraces his role as the decider. I have written about it several times. In the article I just linked to, David Ignatius, no critic of covert action, wrote this:
There is a seduction to the secret world, which for generations has charmed presidents and their advisers. It’s easier pulling the levers in the dark, playing the keys of what a CIA official once called the “mighty Wurlitzer” of covert action. Politics is a much messier process – out in the open, making deals with bullies and blowhards. But that’s the part of the job that Obama must master if he wants another term.
There's been a lot written recently about how President Obama has been thoroughly seduced. Frustrated by his inability to deal with the Republicans he's turned to the area of the Executive branch where he doesn't have to rely on anyone. And that's a very unhealthy thing to do. Here's how Ignatius describes it:
It’s an interesting anomaly of Barack Obama’s presidency that this liberal Democrat, known before the 2008 election for his antiwar views, has been so comfortable running America’s secret wars. Obama’s leadership style — and the continuity of his national security policies with those of his predecessor, George W. Bush — has left friends and foes scratching their heads. What has become of the “change we can believe in” style he showed as a candidate? The answer may be that he has disappeared into the secret world of the post-Sept. 11 presidency. [...]
Obama is the commander in chief as covert operator. The flag-waving “mission accomplished” speeches of his predecessor aren’t Obama’s thing; even his public reaction to the death of bin Laden was relatively subdued. Watching Obama, the reticent, elusive man whose dual identity is chronicled in “Dreams From My Father,” you can’t help wondering if he has an affinity for the secret world. He is opaque, sometimes maddeningly so, in the way of an intelligence agent. Intelligence is certainly an area where the president appears confident and bold. James Clapper, the director of national intelligence who has been running spy agencies for more than 20 years, regards Obama as “a phenomenal user and understander of intelligence.” When Clapper briefs the president each morning, he brings along extra material to feed the president’s hunger for information.
This is a president, too, who prizes his authority to conduct covert action. Clapper’s predecessor, Adm. Dennis Blair, lost favor in part because he sought to interpose himself in the chain of covert action. That encroached on Obama, who aides say sees it as a unique partnership with the CIA... Perhaps Obama’s comfort level with his intelligence role helps explain why he has done other parts of the job less well. He likes making decisions in private, where he has the undiluted authority of the commander in chief. He likes information, as raw and pertinent as possible, and he gets impatient listening to windy political debates. He likes action, especially when he doesn’t leave fingerprints.
I think the saddest part about all this is that the campaign is probably thrilled with this story. Even sadder, I've no doubt that most people are too.
This is the letter Blue America sent out to all of our friends today. It's important:
Next Tuesday, June 5th, is primary day in several states, including three where we have critical contests pitting progressive, dynamic leaders against, at best, garden variety Democrats. In California, two races stand out above and beyond all others: the CA-2 primary to replace retiring Lynn Woolsey and the first shot in twenty years for the Democrats to replace corrupt reactionary curmudgeon Buck McKeon. Our candidates, respectively, are Norman Solomon and Lee Rogers. Also here in the West, there is a primary for Montana's one at-large House seat and there is one outstanding candidate, state Rep. Franke Wilmer. Similar story in New Mexico, where the Albuquerque district has a corrupt conservative and a well-funded careerist being challenged by one of the most important progressive leaders running anywhere in America, state Sen. Eric Griego. These are 4 of the most outstanding candidates for office running anywhere and it's crucial to elect each of them-- and polling in all 4 races looks good.
Blue America would like to appeal to you to help us hit the ground running for these candidates for the general election. We want to get right into action against House Armed Services Committee chairman/bigot Buck McKeon in northeastern L.A. County and against extremist crackpots Janice Arnold-Jones in New Mexico and Steve Daines in Montana. And, because California's strange new "jungle primary" is likely to force Norman Solomon to face off against a corporate garden variety type Democrat, Jared Huffman, we need to help explain to voters why Norman is the exceptional candidate worth their trust and support. A lot of work. And we're asking for your help again.
Here on our Blue America ActBlue page, it's easy to contribute to all of our candidates or any one or two or more of them. And we love you for doing it. We'd also like to ask you to think about contributing to the Blue America PAC this week as well, a fund we use for one thing: communicating to targeted voters. We've been using TV, Internet and radio spots, mailers and billboards. There is no such thing as a contribution being too small. So whatever you can do, we'd be really grateful.
Last week Dennis Kucinich sent a note out to his own northern California supporters-- as did Alan Grayson and Raúl Grijalva. (By the way, Raúl has also endorsed Lee Rogers, Franke Wilmer and Eric Griego.) This is what Dennis told his folks why he's so enthusiastic about Norman, who he referred to as "one of the top peace candidates for Congress anywhere in the country":
Norman and I have been friends for almost 15 years. He is a powerful intellectual, a gifted writer and an activist who is willing to put himself on the line for the principled causes of peace, justice and the environment. He will be one unique member of Congress... Norman is a true progressive. He is an independent thinker. Too many Democrats go along with outrageous military spending, deadly wars and Wall Street greed, all of which demoralize our nation, drain our federal treasury and cause resentment around the world. Norm Solomon is unafraid to stand up and speak out when others are silent. Norman will stand up to the Wall Streeters who continue their high-stakes gambling at public expense. He refuses to take corporate PAC money or lobbyist donations. That puts him at a disadvantage in this primary battle. As you know, I will not be returning to Congress next year. We need Norman in Congress so that he can share his insight with all members. Because of his fierce dedication to the public interest, Norman will be an instant leader in Congress-- on war, on bloated military spending, on Wall Street, on threats to Social Security and Medicare (from either party). Norman Solomon was an advocate for the 99%-- challenging the 1%-- before there was an Occupy Wall Street movement. Every supporter of mine should be a natural supporter of Norman. Help him carry on the legacy of strong peace and justice advocacy in the U.S. Congress.
And that is what Blue America has sought out in all of our candidates and it's what these four candidates all have in common-- proven leaders who will be advocates for the 99% and will not buy into the abysmal bipartisan corrupt ways of Washington. Unless you live in Montana you've probably never heard of Timm Twardowski. He runs AFSCME in that state and knows Rep. Wilmer well. "There is no doubt that Franke is the only candidate that understands what it means to do the 'work' for Montana in Washington," he told us. Which is why AFSCME endorsed Franke. "Franke's Montana experiences have shaped her deep commitment to the issues that affect us here at home and I know she will bring that message and hard work to Washington. Franke understands the unique nature and challenges of America's working families and will work to protect the middle class and restore the American Dream. It’s not about politics; it’s about doing the 'right thing' and putting our trust into someone who has walked in our shoes. Franke understands the work that needs to be accomplished in Washington and will always defend our beliefs."
This year Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, is working harder than I've ever seen progressives work to help elect more progressive candidates to Congress. Raúl has endorsed all 4 of these candidates. Here's what he had to say about Eric Griego in the state next door, New Mexico:
Eric Griego believes that "the last thing we need to send to Washington is a Democrat who's a kinder, gentler version of the Republicans." I agree. Democrats must fight for a government that works for all people, not just those with deep pockets and fancy titles. Eric fought to get corporate money out of politics as an Albuquerque City Councilor, where he passed one of the strongest local campaign finance reforms in the nation. As State Senator, he took on the Big Oil companies and put middle-class workers first by passing a green jobs bill into law. Eric is supported by leading progressive groups and major labor unions-- and he is the only candidate in the race to have a lifetime 100% rating from Conservation Voters New Mexico. I need Eric Griego fighting by my side in Congress.
Alan Grayson also wants one of our candidates fighting on his side when he's back in Congress next year. Last year Alan sat down with Lee Rogers at a medical convention in Orlando and got to know him and to give him some of the helpful advice that is helping Lee beat the Buck McKeon machine. Here's the endorsement of Lee Rogers that Alan Grayson sent us yesterday:
I'm happy that Dr. Lee Rogers, candidate in CA-25, is a solid progressive. I'm happy that a Rogers victory means the defeat of Buck McKeon, who has been called the most corrupt Member of Congress. But I'm especially happy that Dr. Rogers knows something about something-- a quality that Congress sorely needs.
When I was a lawyer, I had a client with a severe case of diabetes. I watched his health deteriorate over the years. The circulation in his legs weakened to the point where a foot was amputated.
It was terrible.
Dr. Rogers is a podiatrist and medical researcher. He pioneered a new protocol for such cases that reduced amputations by 72%.
Dr. Rogers runs the Amputation Prevention Center in Los Angeles. He teaches medicine. He has received awards for his research.
Healthcare is now one-sixth of the US economy. Imagine how good it would be to have someone in Congress who knows it so well.
Let's face it; many Members of Congress are good at only two things: getting elected, and getting re-elected. Whether Dr. Rogers is good at either of those things remains to be seen. But for the good of Congress, and our health, I'd like to see it happen.
All the Blue America candidates are on the same page. And they all will need the help to go all the way in November. And the race to keep an eye on for today? Progressive insurgent Beto O'Rourke is challenging corrupt El Paso incumbent Silvestre Reyes in Texas' 16th CD. This could be another blow against the DC Establishment Machine and polls show Beto winning handily among early voters..
A Long Beach hospital charged Jo Ann Snyder $6,707 for a CT scan of her abdomen and pelvis after colon surgery. But because she had health insurance with Blue Shield of California, her share was much less: $2,336.
Then Snyder tripped across one of the little-known secrets of healthcare: If she hadn't used her insurance, her bill would have been even lower, just $1,054.
"I couldn't believe it," said Snyder, a 57-year-old hair salon manager. "I was really upset that I got charged so much and Blue Shield allowed that. You expect them to work harder for you and negotiate a better deal."
Unknown to most consumers, many hospitals and physicians offer steep discounts for cash-paying patients regardless of income. But there's a catch: Typically you can get the lowest price only if you don't use your health insurance.
That disparity in pricing is coming under fire from people like Snyder, who say it's unfair for patients who pay hefty insurance premiums and deductibles to be penalized with higher rates for treatment.
The difference in price can be stunning. Los Alamitos Medical Center, for instance, lists a CT scan of the abdomen on a state website for $4,423. Blue Shield says its negotiated rate at the hospital is about $2,400.
When The Times called for a cash price, the hospital said it was $250.
"It frustrates people because there's no correlation between what things cost and what is charged," said Paul Keckley, executive director of the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions, a research arm of the accounting firm. "It changes the game when healthcare's secrets aren't so secret."
Snyder's experience is hardly unique. In addition to Los Alamitos, The Times contacted seven other hospitals across Southern California, and nearly all had similar disparities between what a patient would pay through an insurer and the cash price offered for a common CT, or computed tomography, scan, which provides a more detailed image than an X-ray.
This is not a political problem. It's a crime against society.
And a political system that takes the only obvious solution to this problem, single-payer healthcare, off the table from day one is broken beyond all reason.
This election will be fought between two men whose "solutions" to this debacle are based on a system that cannot possibly solve it, and who contradict their own positions on the subject from just a few short years ago. The makeup of what passes for our legislative branch is already guaranteed to produce no answers of any kind when it deadlocks after the next election, even as what passes for our judicial branch seems likely to throw the entire muddled mess into turmoil with an abjectly partisan, closely divided ruling.
At what point will the jingoists step back and admit that not only do we not have the best healthcare system in the world (which is obvious to anyone paying the slightest attention), our political system is pretty rotten, too?
Every Memorial Day, this is at the top of my mind:
I still want an answer to who murdered Pat Tillman. His fellow soldiers deserve an answer. The country deserves an answer. And the people who turned his death into a propaganda opportunity should be seriously punished for disgracing and dishonoring this nation's military.
"Progressive thinking is a miasma arising from a cauldron of toxic ideas"
Throughout this long lazy week-end, I've been having some fun sharing some of the right wing hysteria one runs across on the innertubes these days. Here's the last one, a review of United in Hate:The Left’s Romance with Tryanny and Terror:
...Glazov documents, with extensive footnoted excerpts, the Left’s romance with dictators from Hitler, to Stalin, to Castro, to Mao, to the North Vietnamese commununists, to the Sandanistas, showing that this romance is the strongest at the height of the terror unleashed by each regime and falls off when the terror is abated. The new darlings of the Left are the barbaric jihadists of radical Islam that he shows has elements of western-style tyranny borrowed from Hitler and Stalin and mixed with religious texts advocating Islamic supremacy and death to the infidel and to the Jews.
Just like religious folk, the believer espouses a faith, but his is a secular one. He too searches for personal redemption–but of an earthly variety. The progressive faith, therefore, is a secular religion. And this is why socialism’s dynamic constitute a muted carbon copy of Judeo-Christian imagery. Socialism’s secular utopian vision includes a fall from an ideal collective brotherhood, followed by a journey through a valley of oppression and injustice, and then ultimately a road toward redemption.
Later in the book, he shows how this redemption is built on the blood of those killed for the sake of the new society and calls up a suicidal longing in true believers on the Left. He also points out the parallels between the socialist utopia and that of the reign of Islam. In other words, profound insights into the old Leftist phrase of having to break a few eggs if you want to make an omelet–so what you purge society of the intellectuals and the bourgeois, and those who refuse to sink their individuality into the collective. Glazov writes:
"In rejecting his own society, the believer spurns the values of democracy and individual freedom, which are anathema to him, since he has miserably failed to cope with both the challenges they pose and the possibilities they offer. Tortured by his personal alientation, which is accompanied by feelings of self-loathing, the believer craves a fairy-tale world where no individuality exists, and where human estrangement is thus impossible. The believer fantasizes about how his own individuality and self will be submerged within the collective whole.”
These assertions come relatively early in the book and some might have a hard time accepting them at first, because they so go against the grain of progressive thinking that’s like a miasma arising from a cauldron of toxic ideas. But he provides the proof, over and over again, from diaries, from writings of prominent leftists who turned a blind eye to the Stalinist purges etc. etc. and romanticized the blue pajamas that obliterated sexual distinctions and individuality at the height of China’s cultural revolution. He even makes a convincing case for why the burka holds such allure for western feminists.
Yes, sluts love burkas, everyone knows that.
I have never been able to understand how it's possible that the slutty, homo, hippie secularists of the left are in league with the most uptight religious fundamentalists on the planet. I guess I'll have to read this book to find out. I'm sure I'll either end up joining the swashbuckling individualists on the right who march to their own drummers instead of following the crowd or committing suicide because of my own alienation and self-loathing. I'll let you know.
More Arizonans were killed by guns in 2009 than in motor-vehicle incidents, evidence of the need for stricter gun laws, according to a report released last week.
The report, by the Violence Policy Center, said Arizona was one of 10 states where firearm deaths outstripped traffic deaths in 2009, the most recent year for which numbers were available.
An Arizona politician explained that this is apples and oranges because cars aren't used in self-defense. One might point out that guns aren't useful for anything other than killing, but I guess that would be un-American.
David Koch, co-owner of the Koch Industries petrochemical, manufacturing and commodity speculation fortune, hasn’t been shy about supporting Governor Scott Walker (R-WI), whose controversial union-busting agenda has forced a recall election this summer. Earlier this year, Koch told the Palm Beach Post: “We’re helping him, as we should. We’ve gotten pretty good at this over the years. We’ve spent a lot of money in Wisconsin. We’re going to spend more.”
Evidently, they are paying for transportation and meals for people to come to Wisconsin to help Scott Walker.
Fang reminds us of the Koch's previous generosity in funding the "grassroots" Tea Party:
Here’s a video I shot of Koch providing dozens of free buses for anti-health reform protesters back in 2009:
I don't know, it seems to me that this would be a good story for some mainstream newspaper, but I guess they figure this is just standard operating procedure. except, of course, the left doesn't have anyone funding its "grassroots" operations. Too bad for us, I guess.
The good news is that the LA Times finally picked up the big Lee Fang expose from 10 days ago about the 55 million in previously unknown Koch expenditures in the last election. Of course, they published it on a holiday. Wouldn't want everyone to see it or anything.
Each Sunday from sunrise to sunset, a temporary memorial appears next to the world-famous pier at Santa Monica, California. This memorial, known as Arlington West, a project of Veterans For Peace, offers visitors a graceful, visually and emotionally powerful, place for reflection.
Arlington West Mission Statement
In accordance with the Veterans For Peace Statement of Purpose, the Arlington West Mission Statement is to remember the fallen and wounded to provide a place to grieve to acknowledge the human cost of war to encourage dialogue among people with varied points of view to educate the public about the needs of those returning from war.
Visiting Arlington West
To take in the full expanse of crosses, one stands breathless at the enormity of what one sees. Each cross, carefully positioned in the sand with a uniformity appropriate a memorial for this purpose, represents all American military personnel who've lost their lives in the US war and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. Upon deeper reflection, Arlington West also powerfully represents the path our country has embarked upon.
When one visits the Arlington West Memorial at Santa Monica, one will see mementos placed on some of the crosses, many with fresh cut flowers. Arlington West also represents those who've lost their loved one or close friend.
In celebration of their lives, family and close friends of the fallen write their own heartfelt words and dedicate these to their loved one. A gold star is placed by us on dedications made by those who are family. Those dedications made by a friend or those who served along side an individual, will have a silver star placed on their dedication.
Veterans For Peace and dedicated volunteers of Arlington West are careful stewards of these dedications and currently maintain an archive of over 1600 such mementos. Mementos are added to those that may already have an existing dedication made to an individual. We also maintain a log of these dedications, making it easier to see if an individual has ever been visited before.
A Sea of Crosses
As one stands looking out over the sea of crosses, one will notice a swath of red crosses standing among the white ones. As the numbers of American lives lost increases daily, one red cross is representative of 10 military personnel each.
For those who've lost their lives within the week past are flag draped coffins with blue crosses positioned in front of each of these. The cross was chosen for its simplicity, not for its religious connotation.
The “wall” of names has been replaced with pillars positioned where the public can review the frequently updated list of fallen American military personnel since day one of the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. The list contains the name, age, rank, branch of service, unit assigned to, date and place of the circumstance of death, as well as their hometown and state.
Here's this year's statement:
This Memorial Day we will once again remember and reflect upon all Americans who've lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan. To date, the United States has sacrificed (officially acknowledged) 4,486 of its military personnel in its war and occupation of Iraq, not counting those lost to the war and occupation of Afghanistan.
We will also reflect upon and remember all US military personnel who've committed suicide, often times due to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. We reflect upon the inadequate and all too often total absence of help our military personnel are faced with both in and out of military service and of the insistence of the US military to over rely on perscription drugs as a form of treatment.
Rather than address the root cause of the high rate of suicide among military personnel - that being military conditioning to accept the carnage and violence of war as acceptable and healthy to defend the American Way Of Life - the military's response is to sedate them with psytropic medications and simply re-deploy them into combat.
That there have been thousands (upwards of 1 million or more by some statistics) of innocent people who've lost their lives in the violence of the invasion and occupation is without question. As Veterans For Peace, we also acknowledge there are innocent people on the receiving end of our benevolent bombings that did not live to experience the liberty and freedom we brought with them.
As Veterans For Peace and at Arlington West, we acknowledge we are not worth more; they are not worth less. They, too, shall be remembered over this year's Memorial Day observations. As Leah Bolger, National President of Veterans For Peace, aply states:
On this Memorial Day, Veterans For Peace asks you to mourn not only for Americans killed in battle, but also for those killed by Americans in battle. We ask you to be willing to accept the fact that these war deaths did not have to happen—that they are actually in vain. Hundreds of thousands of innocent people have died in American wars of aggression. That is a tragedy and is a truth that must be accepted and for which we must take responsibility.
Weather permitting, we will set up the memorial beginning on Saturday, May 26th at 8am with a candle light vigil placed at the base of each marker at dusk on Sunday. Take down of the memorial will commence of Monday, May 28th around 3pm. The public is welcome to volunteer for set up and or take down. Please introduce yourself at the information table for guidance on procedures and protocols observed within the memorial and its artifacts.
(Note: Leah Bolger spent 20 years on active duty in the U.S. Navy and retired in 2000 at the rank of Commander. She is currently a full-time peace activist and serves as the National President of Veterans For Peace.)
I hear complaints that this memorial is unpatriotic because it is affiliated with a group that opposes these wars. We don't seem able to discuss these things with any complexity or nuance anymore. But I walk by it frequently on Sundays and I always see a few people sitting quietly by the crosses, perhaps even a family member or a friend of the fallen. And they don't seem to be upset. In fact, I've never known anyone who isn't moved by the sight of it:
And every time I go by there I'm always struck by how much bigger it's gotten since the last time:
The skewing effect of Republican extremism, healthcare edition
by David Atkins
NPR had a great report a few days ago on the presidential candidates' "evolution" on healthcare and the individual mandate. To make a long story short, the two men were not altogether different in their approach to the healthcare problem. Whether through pragmatism or ideology, both sought to base a solution on the current private system. Then-candidate Obama was against the mandate before he was for it, because he felt that a mandate would be an imposition on those who could least afford it. Then-governor Romney liked the mandate to buy private insurance as a market-based solution that would eliminate the healthcare "free rider" problem (one of the reasons the Heritage Foundation proposed the plan as the alternative to the Clinton plan in 1993.)
President Obama felt that promoting such a conservative plan in order to at least address pre-existing condition denials and bend the healthcare cost curve would lead to acceptance and goodwill in Washington across the board. Romney believed that improving people's lives through a market-based approach would make him a conservative darling.
Regardless of the actual benefits and drawbacks of the specific policies involved or whether any form of single-payer healthcare had a prayer of passing in Congress (both which are other, multiple-book-length topics), the politics of the situation are instructive. Both men's best laid plans were thrown far off course by one thing and one alone: the radical extremist shift of the Republican Party, which suddenly opposed the Heritage mandate plan as the pinnacle of socialism, and portrayed Mitt Romney has only just slightly right-of-socialist.
As the NPR story says:
Health care has become one of the starkest contrasts between President Obama and Republican rival Mitt Romney in the 2012 campaign. And that's surprising, given that once upon a time they both came up with similar plans to fix the system.
Stuart Altman, a professor of health policy at Brandeis University, says the two men once occupied the same political space on health care.
"I would define Obama as a moderate liberal and Romney as a moderate conservative. ... Both of them came to the same conclusion," he says. They decided what was needed was a system "built as much as possible on the existing health insurance system."
Both men embraced what was considered to be mainstream health care policy thinking: maintain the employer-provided system but get everyone covered through an individual mandate — a requirement to buy insurance.
Romney went first. In 2006, as Massachusetts' governor, he talked about the state's mandate in decidedly nonideological terms: "We're going to say, folks, if you can afford health care, then gosh, you'd better go get it; otherwise, you're just passing on your expenses to someone else. That's not Republican; that's not Democratic; that's not libertarian; that's just wrong."
Getting rid of free riders was a moral issue for Romney and many Republicans back then, says Jonathan Gruber, an MIT economist who helped the Romney and Obama administrations design the individual mandate. Gruber says he could tell that health care overhaul had a particular appeal for Romney — a businessman who specialized in turning around troubled companies...
Just as passing a national health care law was supposed to be the legacy achievement for Obama, Gruber says that back in 2006, as Romney got ready to run for president, the Massachusetts law also looked like a surefire political winner.
"You can understand his thinking, right? He thought, 'Look, I can run for president by saying I solved this intractable problem by bringing conservative principles to bear — individual responsibility, the health insurance exchange.' I mean, there was a guy from the freaking Heritage Institute on the stage with Romney at the bill-signing," Gruber says. "This was a victory for Republican ideals, a victory for using market forces to solve an intractable problem, and I think that Romney probably thought, 'Isn't this a great thing I can run on as a Republican?' ... I would have thought so, too."
As for Obama?
Over time, Obama and Romney have had a mirror-image relationship with the linchpin of their health care laws: Romney was for the mandate before he was against it. Obama was against the mandate before he was for it.
"The irony is even worse than that," says Altman, the Brandeis professor. "I worked for Obama during the election and he was adamantly opposed to the individual mandate. ... I was on his advisory group, and we said, 'But you know, you really do need an individual mandate to make this all work together.' He said, 'I won't support that because you're asking, you know, not wealthy people to buy expensive insurance. We've got to get the cost down.' "
During the 2008 Democratic primary, the mandate was the single biggest policy divide between Obama and opponent Hillary Clinton.
In a debate, candidate Obama blasted Clinton's plan for an individual mandate by citing the experience in Massachusetts.
"Now, Massachusetts has a mandate right now," he said. "They have exempted 20 percent of the uninsured — because they've concluded that that 20 percent can't afford it. In some cases, there are people who are paying fines and still can't afford it, so now they're worse off than they were. They don't have health insurance and they're paying a fine."
What happened? The obvious:
And Romney and Obama have something else in common, Altman says. They were both victims of the same political sea change: The Republican Party got a lot more conservative.
"Obama campaigned that he was going to be a different kind of a president. He was going to get things done; he was going to compromise," Altman says. "And when he got to Washington, he realized that the Washington that he thought was there wasn't there anymore. So the movement of the Republicans to the right ... hurt Obama and really put Romney in a bind."
Romney's bind was apparent in the GOP primaries, when conservatives questioned his ability to attack the president on a plan so similar to his own. But now, with the nomination virtually in hand, Romney is making health care the heart of his argument against the president.
"The president's plan assumes an endless expansion of government, with rising costs and, of course, with the spread of Obamacare," Romney says. "I will halt the expansion of government, and I will repeal Obamacare."
What was once a common bond is now a deep divide.
"I will not go back to the days when insurance companies had unchecked power to cancel your policy, or deny you coverage, or charge women differently from men," Obama says. "We're not going back there. We're going forward."
There is no overlap at all in the two men's current approaches to health care. If Romney is elected, he'll work to get rid of the law that was based on his own plan. If the president wins a second term, he will fight to keep what he can.
This, at long last, is honest journalism (even if the lede is buried toward the bottom.) Nothing--absolutely nothing--in American politics makes any sense anymore without addressing the real story: the radical shift of conservatives to the far right, combined with the desire of Democrats to find consensus by tacking to the new, formerly conservative "middle."
There are forces that underlie that dynamic, of course: they are largely a function of the prioritization of assets over wages in elite policymaking circles. But that secondary level of analysis is perhaps asking too much. At the very least we should expect journalists to make an honest assessment of the rapidly increasing Republican extremism that is turning all of American politics on its head, causing Presidents and Presidential candidates on both sides of the aisle to make self-contradictory fools of themselves in the span of just a few short years.