Last week in the Hartford airport I watched a TSA agent run some kind of swab over each palm of the man behind me in the security line — just a standard-issue sandy-haired young Anglo-Saxon type, no beard or weird skull cap. What was the agent looking for? Naturally I didn’t ask. Maybe he’d take it wrong, do a palm-swab on me just to show the wise guy to mind his own business. God knows what he might find. You don’t want to mess with the war on terror.
But just yesterday, in one of those incredible coincidences that could only happen in real life, I came across this possible answer on the internet:
Fidgeting, whistling, sweaty palms. Add one point each. Arrogance, a cold penetrating stare, and rigid posture, two points.
These are just a few of the suspicious signs that the Transportation Security Administration directs its officers to look out for — and score — in airport travelers, according to a confidential TSA document obtained exclusively by The Intercept…
There’s a fun article by Elizabeth Stoker Breunig up today at TNR. She looks at Ohio’s John Kasich and finds a politician who actually seems to have some consistency and intellectual integrity with regard to his interpretation of Christianity. “Yeah, right!”, I hear someone saying, and with good reason. Anyone who remembers Kasich in the House recalls his general orientation as pretty far out there. And of course he spent six years hosting a Fox News show while a managing director of Lehman Brothers until the firm collapsed in 2008. So he’s got all the marks of a died-in-the-wool “Christian” conservative who’s mainly interested in money.
But remember also that he was a Representative from 1983-2001, a period when the GOP was pushing its Christian contingent to the right but that push had not gone nearly as far as it has now, and it’s a bit easier to accept that Kasich doesn’t seem to fit the mold. For example, he doesn’t accept the standard Republican position that welfare from the government is morally hazardous to both giver and receiver. As Elizabeth says, the story that Jesus commanded generosity from individuals and never said that government should be involved is theologically incoherent and contradicted by explicit statements in the New Testament. Those propounding that line are simply using religion to advance their own selfish interests.
When hawking a story that creaky, politicians must maintain a unified front, lest the disparity between right-wing zeal for Christian teachings on sexuality versus Christian teachings on poverty expose opportunism. Yet John Kasich, for whatever reason, did not get the memo.
You’ve probably seen this Kasich quote before, but I’m impressed with it so I’m reproducing it again.
Kasich told reporters in 2013 that “when you die and get to the meeting with Saint Peter, he’s probably not going to ask you much about what you did about keeping government small. But he is going to ask you what you did for the poor. You better have a good answer.” For linking the extension of healthcare coverage to some 275,000 vulnerable Ohians with his Christian principles, Kasich received scorn from flustered rightwingers. Writers from RedState, The National Review, and The Wall Street Journal all converged to offer a collective sneer at Kasich’s pro-poor Christian politics…
They’re flustered, of course, because the enormous gap between their protestations and their actions is on the verge of being exposed by one of their own, and their hypocrisy might be measured against actual belief. A politician from their own ranks who acts on what he believes despite knowing that it will harm him politically is a standard few would wish to be measured against.
In the end, though, what fascinates me is that Kasich has no chance of being nominated for the office he clearly wants, in large part because he actually appears to make some effort to live by the creed his party loudly espouses when his colleagues are spending all their effort convincing crowds of potential voters that they are True Believers. Yet Kasich could very likely draw a nontrivial portion of the Democratic vote away from, say, Hillary for exactly the same reason; how many Christians who vote Democratic because they dislike both war and poverty could switch sides when the Democrat is known as a relative hawk and the Republican can tout not only an expansion of Medicaid but a willingness to go around his Republican legislature’s opposition to do it? Every day brings new evidence that the GOP is self-destructing.
[h/t to TeaParty.org for the image]
Unfortunately that leaves us stuck with the Democrats.
…there won’t be a next time. Baylor knocked Iowa out of the Sweet Sixteen 81-66 last night and granddaughter Bethany’s college basketball career ended not with a bang but an elbow. To her nose, knocking her out of the game with four minutes left to play. There was plenty of blood but no permanent damage and so life goes on. As will this year’s WNBA draft, on April 16.
Since it would be immodest for me to brag on our granddaughter Bethany, I’ll step aside and let the opposing coach do it. From the Associated Press:
Doolittle scored 22 points, Ally Disterhoft had 15 and third-seeded Iowa beat 11th-seeded Miami 88-70 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Sunday, earning its first trip to the Sweet 16 since 1996.Tomorrow Iowa is scheduled to upset fifth-ranked Baylor in the Sweet Sixteen. Be there Friday via ESPN2, at 6:30 Central Time.
“That team is full of great players and she just had a great performance,” Miami’s Adrienne Motley said of Doolittle. “She just had a great performance. She played like a Division I basketball player trying to get to the Sweet 16.”
Doolittle shot 8-for-16, mostly turnaround jumpers, and grabbed 11 rebounds — none bigger than the one she collected after Iowa’s Samantha Logic missed a free throw with Miami trailing just 69-63.
After a couple of passes, Doolittle got free on the baseline and buried a jumper, starting a 15-3 run that all but wrapped up the victory for the Hawkeyes (26-7).
“She hit a jumper right in our face,” Miami coach Katie Meier said. “That was a four-point swing in a six-point game, a huge turnaround. From that point on we just kind of broke.”
As the political pundits have spent enormous amounts of time discussing, Ted Cruz announced his not-even-quixotic candidacy for President yesterday. David Pescovitz at BoingBoing flagged something (flagged by Twitter user UPSO) that’s interesting about his campaign logo:
Check out the logo for Al Jazeera, presumably one of Cruz’s favorite news sources:
So, it appears not only that Cruz is a foreigner, not even (as Donald Trump has helpfully pointed out) born in this country, but also that he’s a not-so-secret admirer of those he publicly denounces. Perhaps that’s why he thinks he has a shot at bringing in those who might not otherwise be attracted to his Double-High personality, combining standard Right-Wing Authoritarianism with a Social Dominance Orientation. After all, if he can bridge the gap separating the horde of flag burners, the self-professed Christian groups defined mainly by who they hate, and the left-wing Arab groups whose experience of the US is largely as an exploiter and oppressor, then he can bring peace in our time.
In retrospect, it will seem completely natural that America’s period of worldwide dominance only lasted a short time. It is intellectually unfit to rule the world. It just doesn’t pack the gear to handle the job. Just as Sparta couldn’t rule Greece after the Peloponnesian War, so America couldn’t rule the world after the Soviet Union went down. We just aren’t cut out for it.
Think about it: America’s moment as the super power du jour spans the lifetime of the baby boomers. That’s it. In history that’s the blink of an eye.
We talk up a storm and build gaudy monuments, but in reality we’re just trashy used car salesmen experiencing a chance, temporary monopoly, and we can’t even handle that. We went from Jonas Salk to Rush Limbaugh in the time takes for hair to go gray. We went from the Marshall Plan to quantitative easing and Wall Street bailouts in my mother's lifetime.
She was born in postwar middle class splendor; she’s ending her days in a mobile home on social security.
(She grew up in Manhattan Beach, California, where I lived as a child; it was a beachy, middle class place. Now it is an exclusive rich suburb, home to obscenely affluent fuckwads like Sharon Stone and Tiger Woods, and a legion of sniffy plastic yuppies. Last time I was there, they were all racing out to buy mini-coopers, because they were just oh so fucking hip and trendy at the time, don’t ya know? God, that fucking place always makes me feel like I need a shower.)
(Although I did meet Chuck Woolery in the produce department at Ralph’s once, and I’m a better man for it.)
Shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in one generation.
American exceptionalism will be a term that refers to the speed of our decline, not any special quality within us.
Off tomorrow a.m. to watch the women's basketball NCAAs. See you again once Iowa has swept the field, carrying even Connecticut before it to the astonishment of a wondering nation.
Thanks be to God that William Rehnquist, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Anthony M. Kennedy and Sandra Day O’Connor managed to save us from having this turkey in the White House:
His slide show on the threat of climate change, presented in the movie “An Inconvenient Truth,” won an Academy Award. His efforts to spread the word about global warming earned him, along with the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a Nobel Peace Prize. His was a dire call to strenuous and difficult action…
His slide show on the threat of climate change, presented in the movie “An Inconvenient Truth,” won an Academy Award. His efforts to spread the word about global warming earned him, along with the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a Nobel Peace Prize…
Much of what he makes, including all salary from his early stage investing work as a partner at Kleiner Perkins and his Nobel Prize money, goes to his advocacy group, the Climate Reality Project…
He co-founded Generation Investment Management, a firm that takes positions in companies that manage themselves along principles of sustainability, including the effects of climate change. He also sits on the board of the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, which invests heavily in green start-ups. He sold his cable channel, Current TV, to Al Jazeera America in 2013 in a deal that earned him a reported $100 million … His success in the business world has surprised many people, Mr. Kramer says. “I didn’t think of him as a business guy — I’m sure nobody did,” he says, adding that “he is a phenomenally deep student of critical forces that ultimately change society.”
Maureen Dowd is her usual witty, penetrating self in today’s offering. Here, for instance:
When the Rogue State of Bill began demonizing Monica Lewinsky as a troubled stalker, you knew you could count on the complicity of feminists and Democratic women in Congress. Bill’s female cabinet members and feminist supporters had no choice but to accept the unappetizing quid pro quo: The Clintons would give women progressive public policies as long as the women didn’t assail Bill for his regressive private behavior with women.This stalker stuff comes up with tiresome regularity. It shouldn’t be necessary to say, but stalkers of both sexes do in fact exist, and Monica Lewinsky defines the term. She aimed herself at President Clinton from the first day she set foot in the White House, no doubt having gathered from news reports that he was enthusiastically heterosexual. She was not an innocent child. She was free, white and 22. She was already involved in a five-year affair with her married high school drama teacher. She had in no sense been pressured or seduced by a powerful boss. The only one stalked in that whole squalid business was Clinton.
A nice boy like Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, what could have got into him?
On Saturday, Boko Haram’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, proclaimed allegiance to al-Baghdadi, the so-called “caliph” of ISIS. In an audio statement posted to Twitter, Shekau said, “We announce our allegiance to the caliph… and will hear and obey in times of difficulty and prosperity,” according to the BBC…
Hashem says al-Baghdadi is described by people who knew him in Baghdad as “calm” and as someone who wouldn’t attempt to draw attention to himself. Hashem was also told that al-Baghdadi is extremely intelligent. Indeed, he reportedly holds a PhD in Islamic Studies from a university in Baghdad. People also mentioned the militant leader’s prowess as an attacker on the soccer field, a quality that would later earn him the nickname “Maradona,” after the famous Argentinian World Cup champion, when he was held by the Americans in Camp Bucca, Iraq.
The major turning point in al-Baghdadi’s radicalization and his decision to join what was then known as al-Qaida in Iraq (AQI) was the U.S. occupation of Iraq and his incarceration in 2004 at Camp Bucca, a detention center set up the U.S. military, Hashem told MintPress.
“He’s a normal person, at least he was,” Hashem said. “He was a young man who came from a village to study in Baghdad, but his life changed after the American occupation.”
The first way al-Baghdadi’s life changed was that he became a militant. The Guardian’s Martin Chulov reported that al-Baghdadi helped to found Jeish Ahl al-Sunnah al-Jamaah, a militant group, just before he was arrested by the Americans in February 2004.
According to Hashem, al-Baghdadi was radicalized inside Camp Bucca, where he was able to meet the big names inside al-Qaida and former Ba’ath party members — all of whom were fighting against the American occupation of the country. With all of these people in the same place, Hashem said, “You can just imagine the kind of plan that is going to come out of such a place!”
Radicalization as a result of being at the camp was not uncommon, he explained. “This was the situation, not only for al-Baghdadi but for several people that entered the jails as normal people, at least not al-Qaida… And then they went out of the jails as al-Qaida operatives.”
I don’t remember ever before laughing out loud at a cartoon, but it happened this morning. Is there, just maybe, something wrong with me?
…or try your luck with JARDIANCE? What the hell is JARDIANCE, you’re no doubt wondering. Well, you may know it by its street name, empagliflozin, a new prescription drug supposed to lower blood sugar. Among other things. The following is from a three-page ad in this week’s Time:
Women who take JARDIANCE may get vaginal yeast infections. Talk to your doctor if you experience vaginal odor, white or yellowish vaginal discharge (discharge may be lumpy or look like cottage cheese), and/or vaginal itching.
Men who take JARDIANCE may get a yeast infection of the skin around the penis, especially uncircumcised males and those with chronic infections. Talk to your doctor if you experience redness, itching or swelling of the penis, rash of the penis, and/or pain in the skin around the penis.
…If you have any of these symptoms, stop taking JARDIANCE and contact your doctor or go to the nearest emergency room immediately.
Regulation for the Benefit of Public Health, Safety and Welfare
From an interview with Matthew Fogg, an African American former special agent for the Drug Enforcement Agency:
The special agent in charge, he says “You know, if we go out there and start messing with those folks, they know judges, they know lawyers, they know politicians. You start locking their kids up, somebody’s going to jerk our chain.” He said they’re going to call us on it, and before you know it, they’re going to shut us down, and there goes your overtime.
What I began to see is that the drug war is totally about race. If we were locking up everybody, white and black, for doing the same drugs, they would have done the same thing they did with prohibition. They would have outlawed it. They would have said, “Let’s stop this craziness. You’re not putting my son in jail. My daughter isn’t going to jail.” If it was an equal enforcement opportunity operation, we wouldn’t be sitting here anyway.
When Jonathan Chait reports the following nugget from Dan Pfeiffer, a recently-former senior advisor to President Obama, he seems to do so without irony. True, Chait is an Obama cheerleader, and true, as well, that he has been known to state as fact assertions that are at least controversial, even among those on the same general side of the aisle. Still, he is a thoughtful and intelligent writer, and one might hope for a bit of self-reflection based on this anecdote.
The original premise of Obama’s first presidential campaign was that he could reason with Republicans — or else, by staking out obviously reasonable stances, force them to moderate or be exposed as extreme and unyielding. It took years for the White House to conclude that this was false, and that, in Pfeiffer’s words, “what drives 90 percent of stuff is not the small tactical decisions or the personal relationships but the big, macro political incentives.”
It took years for them to figure this out. That in a nutshell is the problem we face. Even stipulating our ability to elect a decent human being to the office of President, which only occasionally happens, we end up with someone so naïve that they could reach the highest office in the land without knowing things that had long been obvious to any serious observer of the political landscape. It takes six years and three elections to reach the conclusion that even us bloggers had figured out and stated for years. It makes one feel a bit hopeless.
Perhaps the juiciest bit is what Chait reports as Pfeiffer’s views on the House Republican leadership:
“You have to be careful not to presume a lot of strategy for this group,” Pfeiffer said. “I’ve always believed that the fundamental, driving strategic ethos of the Republican House leadership has been, What do we do to get through the next caucus or conference without getting yelled at? We should never assume they have a long game. We used to spend a lot of time thinking that maybe Boehner is saying this to get himself some more room. And it’s like, no, that’s not actually the case. Usually he’s just saying it because he just said it or it’s the easiest thing to solve his immediate problem.”
Does the American ideal of self-government end like this, not even with a bang, managing only a whimper? Caught in the crossfire of a cynical manipulator at the head of one chamber of Congress, a gormless spokespiece in the other, and an executive more naïve than much of the populace? At least Rome had the dignity of being desirable to sack.
Despite granddaughter Bethany’s twenty-one points, Iowa went down to Ohio State 91-85 in overtime in the Big Ten semifinals last night. Oh, well. On to the NCAAs later this month.
From The Guardian, another specimen of human filth from post-racist America:
The judge in Ferguson, Missouri, who is accused of fixing traffic tickets for himself and colleagues while inflicting a punishing regime of fines and fees on the city’s residents, also owes more than $170,000 in unpaid taxes.
Ronald J. Brockmeyer, whose court allegedly jailed impoverished defendants unable to pay fines of a few hundred dollars, has a string of outstanding debts to the US government dating back to 2007, according to tax filings obtained by the Guardian from authorities in Missouri.
Brockmeyer, 70, was this week singled out by Department of Justice investigators as being a driving force behind Ferguson’s strategy of using its municipal court to aggressively generate revenues. The policy has been blamed for a breakdown in relations between the city’s overwhelmingly white authorities and residents, two-thirds of whom are African American.
Investigators found Brockmeyer had boasted of creating a range of new court fees, “many of which are widely considered abusive and may be unlawful”. A city councilman opposing the judge’s reappointment was warned “switching judges would/could lead to loss of revenue”.
In a post on Scott Walker at Gin and Tonics, Ed has the best 16-word description of the GOP you’re ever likely to come across:
“… A coalition of smart people trying to sound dumb and dumb people trying to sound smart; Walker is a tool of the former and the archetype of the latter.
Noting that PM “Netanyahu’s credibility is low”, Roger Cohen quietly but brilliantly dissects the speech that’s been almost as big an internet meme as last week’s black-and-blue dress. Thank goodness nearly every commentator I’ve read points to the obvious, that the only realistic alternative to the sort of agreement now being hashed out among Iran and the P5+1 is military action, which everyone agrees will merely ensure that the Iranian regime attains a nuclear weapon as fast as humanly possible and will never again have reason to consider abiding by the relevant international norms. Which, to be fair, don’t apply to Israel because it’s not a signatory to the pact, so without directly violating any legal commitments it can not-very-secretly stash a couple hundred nukes while calling Iran the hypocritical aggressor.
Given the obvious silliness of Netanyahu’s argument that the powerful, irrational, and suicidally aggressive regime he projects onto Iran will eventually submit completely to economic sanctions and meekly hand over its national security interests to his gentle keeping, it is at least refreshing to see him called out on it in so many varying quarters. But Cohen does more than join the chorus, he pops Bibi’s bubble altogether.
One word did not appear in Netanyahu’s speech: Palestine. The statelessness of the Palestinians is the real long-term threat to Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. Iran has often been a cleverly manipulated distraction from this fact.
Among foreign leaders, nobody has been invited to address Congress more often than Netanyahu. He now stands equal at the top of the table along with Winston Churchill. Behind Netanyahu trail Nelson Mandela and Yitzhak Rabin. That’s a pretty devastating commentary on the state of contemporary American political culture and the very notion of leadership.
You’ve gotta hand it to Bibi in trying to outdo the Audacity of Hope Presidency with his Audacity of Fear Prime Ministership. Remember way back when some of us hadn’t realized how stupid it would be to invade a country that had nothing to do with the recent attack we’d suffered? As Josh Marshall recalls for us today, the then-private citizen actually testified in Congress in support of invasion, promising that
“there is no question whatsoever that Saddam is seeking and is working and is advancing towards the development of nuclear weapons — no question whatsoever. If you take out Saddam, Saddam’s regime, I guarantee you that it will have enormous positive reverberations on the region.”
Which turned out to be God’s honest truth. But even as unusual, perhaps unprecedented, as it was for a private citizen of another country to address a Congressional committee in favor of us going to war, his secretly negotiated deal, apparently not even disclosed to his own national security advisor (a position he pushed to create), is not only pushing it a stage further than Bibi has allowed himself to go in the past, but it’s created a rift in Democratic party support for him. Of course, all but openly campaigning for Romney didn’t help, nor do his close ties with Sheldon Adelson et al.; but such a direct slap at American foreign policy by a sitting Prime Minister whose country depends on US support is beyond not only his own most extreme antics but anything I can remember. He appears from the outside to have conflated his own political career with the physical existence of the country he leads; and someone whose hold on reality is that loose is truly dangerous.
As John Kerry said today, “The prime minister was profoundly forward-leaning and outspoken about the importance of invading Iraq under George W. Bush… We all know what happened with that decision.”
The Obama administration seems to be using every tool that it considers within bounds to make clear to Israelis that the current Prime Minister and PM candidate has already damaged the most critical relationship Israel has, and practically the only supporter to judge by votes taken at the UN over the decades. And of course it probably won’t matter; despite being behind in the polls, Bibi’s probably the best positioned to put together a coalition that surpasses the 61-seat threshold for a majority. That spells trouble for Israel, and not just with the US. He may have misunderestimated the sitting President’s resolve to do something significant in his final two years, or the frustration that his intrasigence has engendered on practically every side.
As Josh puts it, “Kerry’s point is a simple if brutal one: Netanyahu has a history of trying to get the US to launch major wars in the Middle East.”
Is it really going to be the pro-war party and the not-so-sure party once again? That show went off the air somewhere between Watergate and the last US helicopter leaving Saigon.
I was prompted to these ruminations by an email from my Congresswoman, who has announced her support for postponing Netanyahu’s speech, and failing that will not attend the speech.
I do hear him criticize America much more often than other American presidents. And when it’s not in the context of an overwhelming number of statements about the exceptionalism of America, it sounds like he’s more of a critic than he is a supporter…
He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up through love of this country.
Edmund Burke, in Reflections on the French Revolution:
The precept given by a wise man, as well as a great critic, for the construction of poems, is equally true as to states:—Non satis est pulchra esse poemata, dulcia sunto. There ought to be a system of manners in every nation, which a well-formed mind would be disposed to relish. To make us love our country, our country ought to be lovely.
I’ve been trying to think of something nice to say about Rudolph Giuliani, but the only thing I could come up with is that at least he out-grew the comb-over. For the nasty bits, you’ll have to read this dissection of the great patriot by Wayne Barrett in The New York Daily News.
Ed at Gin and Tacos asks a question to which most of the answers are depressing in the extreme. And virtually none of our true failures will even be discussed in run-up to the 2016 coronation. Or after it. Been down so long it looks like up to us.
What exactly are we good at anymore? At least during the Cold War we were able to prop up right-wing dictators or interfere with the internal politics of tinpot countries enough to ensure that the right strongman was “elected.” Now we can’t even do that right. Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan (where all efforts at Nation Building / winning Hearts and Minds have been abandoned and ground forces are now exclusively interdicting terrorists) have proven definitively that our conventional military power — honestly the only thing we have as a nation at this point that we can claim is Number One and not be fooling ourselves — is of limited use in the modern world. We’re great at it. We can blow up your tanks, shoot down your planes, sink your ships, and bomb your cities into oblivion better than anyone else.
The question is, so what? What good is that anymore? If we have to fight a conventional World War III with Russia or China — doubtful at best — we’ll do quite well. With that and a bus pass, as my grandfather loved to say, you can get a ride on the bus.
We’ve ceded our strengths in manufacturing, education, and non-frivolous technology to the rest of the world. Our welfare state is an embarrassment. Our law enforcement and justice system are a case study in corruption. Our Congress and state legislatures are cautionary tales of what not to do. Other industrialized nations laugh at our health care system. Our standard of living is declining, wages have stagnated for three decades, and the rising cost of living is slowly making 99% of us poorer as we work longer hours with no mandated vacation or personal leave. Is the U.S. still a better place to live than the majority of the countries on Earth? Of course.
But we’re not comparing the U.S. to Chad. Compared to our peer group, it’s hard to figure out what our strengths are anymore other than consuming energy, maintaining a giant stockpile of nuclear weapons, and having a big, powerful, expensive conventional military. Oh, and I guess we’re pretty good at spying on everyone’s telecommunications, although if I had to place a wager I’d bet the Israelis, Russians, or Swiss are even better at it.
The failure of the Iraq War creates some eerie similarities between the modern U.S. and the final years of the USSR. After wrecking its economy and standard of living with profligate military spending for thirty years, the Soviets found themselves pulling out of Afghanistan in defeat (and the government they installed had collapsed by 1991, too). The rest of the world, including the U.S., looked on and asked, “If you’re spending that much on the military and you can’t even win a war against a Stone Age country, what CAN you do?”
It was a valid question. It is a valid question to ask ourselves as well. We’ve bled ourselves dry paying for two wars since 2002 and massive annual defense budgets every year for more than a half-century now. What do we have to show for it? Shouldn’t we at least be able to do Military Stuff right? If we can’t, what exactly do we have going for us?
“Encourage Critical Thinking in the Classroom” is the title of HB 321. The preamble of this legislation says, “The scientific community has not resolved or answered the questions related to the origins of all life or the origin of our universe.” It would give public school teachers legal immunity if they want to teach “alternative” theories.
From the Facebook of a major political party’s pick to be vice president of the United States:
I have never and will never let the shroud of victimization cover me — God’s given me way too many undeserved blessings to dishonor His goodness by wasting time crying “victim” — but I’m happy to recall the hundreds of Palin-centric false reports if it helps America understand you must never trust JournoList-types. (Well, not exactly “happy” to do it, but willing — all the whilst throwing up a little bit in my mouth, believing the reason the harshness perpetuates may be for others’ edification.)
Here’s Brown University economics professor Mark Blyth explaining how lucky we were that Paul Ryan’s efforts to wreck the American economy were only partially successful:
Europe is about to basically fall apart by trying to teach a tiny little country the size of Alabama a lesson in moral hazards, which could lead to the implosion of its banking system once again, and this time [ECB President Mario] Draghi has no more tricks in his bag to solve the problem. They really are on a path to blowing up the eurozone and it’s looking very likely that they’ll do that.
Back in the United States, you went through the craziness of the sequester and that stuff and, ultimately, $78 billion of discretionary, nondiscretionary, on a $17 trillion economy is enough to be annoying but it wasn’t enough to actually do real damage. Once the brakes were off, then, of course, the economy started to recover more. Now, you’ve got the eurozone dragging the world economy down; you’ve got China slowing down; the United States is the only place left that’s actually growing. Why is that? Because it’s the one that cut the least. It doesn’t mean austerity is over and it doesn’t mean the Republicans aren’t going to come back with the same old-time medicine and illogical nonsense masquerading as economics — because, basically, they represent people who don’t want to pay taxes — it doesn’t mean that that’s gone, that we’ve all woken up and said, Whoop dee do!
From Steve M. at No More Mister Nice Guy, a good point:
The real shame is that even though members of the non-“fake” news media respected Stewart, and spoke reverentially about his influence on their understanding of their own business, no one in the legitimate press followed him up Bullshit Mountain to pursue Fox News as a story. Do you understand what I mean by that? Fox isn’t just a news organization with a somewhat different take on current events — it’s an Orwellian propaganda ministry for a large, white nation-within-a-nation that votes in every election and therefore decides the political course of the larger America no matter how much of a lock Democrats seem to have on the presidency.
What Fox has done to America is the great untold news story of our generation. Jon Stewart got that, and mainstream media figures admired him, but the mainstream press never followed up on his stories. The MSM figured he had it covered (or, more likely, figured that he never had to worry about suddenly needing a job in an industry where only Murdoch seemed to be expanding).
The only major takeout on Fox News that I recall was a New Yorker profile way back in 2003. Its focus was on Roger Ailes, the former GOP hitman who still runs the network. But not only is Fox an even more newsworthy target today, it’s also an easy one. By now there must be hundreds of disaffected employees and ex-employees wandering around and willing to talk. They wouldn’t even have to be disaffected, actually: no greater blabbermouth exists than a newsman (or in this case a television “news”man). I’d do the job myself, only I’m on social security now so I don’t have to get my hands dirty anymore.
President Obama, God love him in this instance at least, has finally cracked open the door to Cuba. Soon it will swing wide, in spite of all the shrieking from the GOP and a few Democrats. Their corporate supervisors will see to that. There is, after all, money to be made down there. Count on it, it won’t be long before Sheldon Adelson opens a casino in Havana, with the kind of floor show too hot for even Las Vegas. The legendary Superman himself must be long dead, but surely Sheldon could come up with another foot-long Cuban hot dog to sit up straight for the Yankee tourists.
But enough of the future. Let’s look at the pointless, stupid and murderous past: the undeclared war on Cuba we have been waging for more than half a century. Its most active phase began under Saint Jack, and would have led to a nuclear holocaust if a grown-up, Nikita Khrushchev, hadn’t stepped in at the cost of his own career. Instead our little weenie war continued under a series of cowardly presidents who all, except Saint Ronnie, certainly knew better. So two cheers for President Obama (It would have been three if he hadn’t stalled around till he was re-elected).
For those who have forgotten the backstory of this vicious folly or never knew it, here’s a brief history from Noam Chomsky. We should, as a nation, be ashamed of ourselves. But we, as a nation, consider shame Un-American.
You’ve got to be incredibly delusional to come up with a policy that puts Nobel Peace Prize winner Henry Kissinger and Noam Chomsky on the same side of an issue. But Nobel Peace Prize winner Barack Obama has managed to pull it off. Read this by Kevin Zeese in Mint Press News. Excerpt:
The views of Henry Kissinger and Noam Chomsky on this conflict are quite similar, though it’s difficult to find two more polar opposites regarding U.S. foreign policy. Indeed, Chomsky has been a long-time critic of Kissinger for the bombings in Southeast Asia and the various coups against democratic leaders that occurred during his tenure. Chomsky has said that in a just world, Kissinger certainly would have been prosecuted for these actions. (These were the war crimes that CODEPINK recently protested before the Senate Finance Committee.)
Yet when it comes to Ukraine, Chomsky and Kissinger essentially agree with each other. They disagree with the more hawkish Obama administration and the even more extreme Sen. John McCain — who are both escalating the conflict in their own ways.
The original sin in this whole terrifying mess was our decision to act like a bunch of drunken Patriot fans when Gorbachev decided to end the Cold War in 1989. It wasn’t enough to win the game. We had to tear down the goal posts and beat up Seahawk fans in the parking lot. Which is to say we set out immediately to expand NATO and the European Union right up to Russia’s borders. A quarter century later we are still doing it, which is why Obama touched off the present conflagration by overthrowing Ukraine’s elected president and installing a US/NATO stooge. You could look it up.
From The Washington Post, a fun fact that is unlikely to go viral in the MSM:
Predominantly, Muslim countries average 2.4 murders per annum per 100,000 people, compared to 7.5 in non-Muslim countries. The percentage of the society that is made up of Muslims is an extraordinarily good predictor of a country’s murder rate. More authoritarianism in Muslim countries does not account for the difference. I have found that controlling for political regime in statistical analysis does not change the findings. More Muslims, less homicide.
I find the whole situation surrounding the upcoming speech by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu endlessly fascinating. As you’ve no doubt read Speaker Boehner has invited the PM to address the House of Representatives, which is not in itself unusual. But the context is troubling: here in the US the Senate is considering new sanctions on Iran in the very midst of negotiations with that country over the future of its nuclear program, sanctions that are explicitly aimed at scuttling the negotiations undertaken by the Obama administration. The PM’s speech will almost certainly argue in favor of the sanctions, another blatant interference in US politics by a old pro looking for personal advantage in muddy waters.
In Israel, there’s an election coming up, a surprise election in that Netanyahu called it before he was required to by law, which presumably means he considered it politically preferable to do so. The speech is now scheduled for two weeks before the election, a date apparently set at the PM’s request, and one that will have him on Israeli TV a great deal just as the election approaches looking diplomatic and looming over his competitors on the world stage.
Icing on the cake is that Israel’s current Ambassador to the US, Ron Dermer, negotiated the arrangements for the speech with Boehner’s office in secret. Dermer, in fact, met for a couple of hours with Secretary of State Kerry on the day before the speech was announced and failed even to mention it to Kerry. In personal life that would be considered a pretty serious slight, and from what I understand it’s a pretty serious one for diplomats as well.
At TPM Josh Marshall rounded up the current knowledge and reporting on the topic. Of the Dermer/Kerry meeting he said, “In almost any other case, such bad faith and duplicity would lead a host country to ask that an ambassador be withdrawn.” There are undoubtedly many reasons why that wouldn’t happen in this case, from the supposed blow such action might deliver to the special relationship to the possibility that Netanyahu would publicly consider refusing to withdraw until after the election, and the more likely possibility that the request to withdraw would be received in Israel as an inappropriate attempt to interject into the election the contempt the two leaders hold for each other.
Now, though, the President and Secretary of State have both refused to meet with the Prime Minister during his visit; the tide seems to be turning against Netanyahu’s political maneuvering (though as many have pointed out he is a political grandmaster) — even Fox News pundits have criticized the speech; and the Ambassador’s role in secret and even duplicitous negotiations with Speaker Boehner is public knowledge. While the White House might be politically barred from requesting withdrawal, it couldn’t be more obvious that the Ambassador will henceforth be considered unworthy of trust by the very individuals he’s sent here to work and communicate with. Israelis arguing that Netanyahu has already endangered the special relationship would thus seem to have some hard data, in fact almost-real-time play-by-play, showing how the PM puts his own political fortunes ahead of the interests of the country. It’s hard, after all, to argue that Dermer is anything but useless as ambassador to the US until such time as Republicans control the White House.
Finally, if I can think it through this far, I expect Netanyahu can as well. What is his strategy? Does he imagine that the GOP now has its act together enough to elect his man-bae Mitt? Crazy as that sounds, I think he shared, perhaps still shares, pollsters with the Romney campaign, so maybe he’s similarly misguided. Is this an act of political desperation, scrambling for anything that floats? Or perhaps it has become natural to him to think first of how he might muddy the waters. He has maintained himself at the top of the heap for longer than anyone since ben Gurion despite having little personal support from the public at large, few long-time allies, and no obvious powerful coalition or interest behind him. In the US that wouldn’t work, but in the world of Israeli politics where the smallest and most extreme parties often determine the top office-holders, Netanyahu makes it fly. This sort of maneuvering works best in complex, unclear, even muddy sitations. Perhaps Bibi has a plan, despite how it looks right now. Though we can certainly hope not.