Saturday, February 28, 2009

In Your Guts, You Know They're Nuts

The CPAC frolics which will culminate in Rush Limbaugh receiving an award for preserving the Constitution gave me flashbacks to the last real conservative crack-up I first remember. William F. Buckley,Jr. gentrified conservatism by courageously at that time exiling the John Birch Society, the KKK and the isolationism of the American First Movement. It's hard to believe that the man who was to put us under United Nations rule at that time and was an appeaser was none other than Dwight David Eisenhower. Perhaps, it's no mistake that the whole Eisenhower family backed Barack Obama--they have long memories.

Barry Goldwater won the hearts and minds of conservatives with his orneriness and blunt speaking. But, dear Barry was also a founding member of the NAACP in Arizona and was more a libertarian than the social conservatives of today. Yet the monumental landslide loss in 1964 should have indicated the limits of the appeal of unvarnished conservatism to the public.

Today, Ronald Reagan would be hard-pressed to win the leadership of the GOP because as Governor of California he did raise taxes and vote for abortion rights, something conveniently forgotten in the hagiography of his Presidency.

Conservatives and the party they finally seized are faced with the same swill of neo-confederates, white supremacists and separatists that plagued them in the 1950s. It's hard to imagine today's situation where the "birthers" actually seek out approval of Pravda as they do.
The Senator from the state with the most secessionist groups and a high level of white supremacist organizations--DeMint from South Carolina--claims the enemy is the Left--presumably the 68.5 million voters for Barack Obama.

Since the election, almost all the conservative and Republican pundits have been chanting the litany that America is a center-right country. This was echoed again yesterday at CPAC when speakers claimed the majority backed their views. This assumes that ideology will always trump competence, which the last Administration sadly lacked. And curiously, these same people studiously ignore the American people's support of the president's economic programs and his huge popularity as opposed to the conservative Republican leadership in Congress. The politically astute would normally pause and try to analyze this discrepancy.

The blatant appeals to racism and nationalism by the McCain campaign thankfully failed but they have continued through the first weeks of the Obama Administration. We should recall that for the first time in my life a presidential candidate campaigned against the "socialism" of his rival, something the average voter didn't quite perceive. One would have to assume by the results of the last election that "socialism" won, since it was put up to a popular vote.

If you want to drill down and find out where the most noxious rumors about Obama come from, you should examine the hate websites. Last week the Southern Poverty Law Center posted an interactive map of hate groups in the United States. Now there are some 926 such groups ranging from the Nazis to the Nation of Islam, almost a 50% increase since 2000. They usually generate some of the Obama rumors that then get filtered into more conservative websites like the Free Republic and become somewhat accepted within that political culture.

If some adult figures don't step in and call a halt to this courting of the most noxious types in our society,so-called conservatism will become a seditious affair. So far, no respectable leader has called these groups out on their nonsense and tried to steer the debate back to Planet Earth. And, frankly, I believe it is because the Republican leaders now want to see the political possibilities in this route. The same crowd that generated the whole Clinton scandals believe this type of behavior will pay off dividends in the future. In fact, those who believe the "birthers" are stark raving bonkers believe " we should create innuendo after innuendo so that Obama's credibility is damaged." And, yes, it is as cynical as that.

The most curious new addition to the conservative enemy list is FDR. This would be understandable to the geriatric set but makes no sense to Generation X'ers. The embrace of attacks on FDR--which I find disconcerting and irrevelant--are aimed at preserving the Bush entitlements to the rich and corporations. Grass-roots conservatives are not invoking the demons from the FDR period but more the fiscal conservatives linked to Wall Street and the corporate media. Since both New Gingrich and Ronald Reagan once embraced FDR, it's hard to find where the traction is among younger types. For the rich Republicans the anti-FDR scree is a call to dismantle social security and Medicaid--a position not held by the majority or even a significant minority of Americans.

As Glenn Beck lamented, "America is addicted to Government." or as Michelle Bachman said, "What would our founders think of taxation with representation"--you can't make that up. Where is the next William F.Buckley, Jr. when the conservatives need him?

Friday, February 27, 2009

Gandhi or Che?

The CPAC meeting continues to spill out amazing moments. Newt Gingrich says that Obama has galvanized the conservative movement as nothing before and that the GOP is poised to take over the House in 2010. House Republicans said they have taken the measure of Obama in their various meetings and says the man is averse to confrontation and that they sense his weakness. The Senate Republicans boasted they are in great shape for 2010. FYI--from my count, Republicans could lose an additional five seats in the Senate.

Newt also linked George W. Bush to Obama claiming there is a continuity in their love for big government. Odd, we didn't hear Newt say that during the W years.

Tom Coburn (R-Ok) says that the death of America's newspapers favor Republicans.

CPAC found their new leader--13-year old Jonathan Krohn, who wowed the audience.

The war drums are pounding on the Right. Bill Levinson writes that Obama's carbon cap proposal could force the energy dependent and industralized South to secede from the Union. Conservatives also see any move to ban the Assault Weapons as the ticket they need to ride back into power. Larry Kudlow has announced that Obama has declared war against corporations, investors and shareholders. The TeaBag parties held around the country only drew handfuls of people with the exception of St.Louis, where roughly 1,000 people came out to protest the stimulus package.

Conservatives don't know how far to protest taxes. (Note: everyone gets a tax break until 2011 when the top 5% of earners get hiked.) Some propose organizing a massive tax protest by either mailing in blank tax forms or mortgage coupons or car payments with requests the government pay them. A million people burning fake tax forms is one idea. Others want to send their IRS forms to the White House in care of The Squatter. Those arguing a tax boycott claim that the American tax base is almost exclusively Republican and that without that revenue the silent majority will have made a powerful statement. That sounds as constructive as the earlier project, "A Day Without Conservatives" where conservatives would simply stay home from work. No one seemed to notice.

So conservatives have moved far beyond the boycott of Krispy Kreme for handing out donuts to celebrate the inauguration. A few posters on Freerepublic ominously hint that it is going to take something more serious to turn things around.

A laugh moment was the booing of the mention of American intervention into WWI--not II, but I.

Michelle Bachman told Michael Steele "You be da Man."

There is a real cognitive dissonance in all this.( A correction--It was not that the Obama Administration was one of Gays, Porn and Abortion. It was Porn, Pot and Abortion.) New Gingrich is coaching Eric Cantor of "Back in the Saddle" fame in how to take back the House. The playbook neglects to understand that unlike Clinton, Obama was elected by a clear majority with the largest popular vote count in American history. Also, Republicans had controlled both houses of Congress for 6 out of the last eight years, the White House for eight years, and selected 7 out of 9 Supreme Court Justices. And we ended up with the most catastrophic economic situation since the 1930s. As conservative Doug Brooks said,"calling for smaller government right now is a form of nihilism."

Jesus Wept. Senator DeMint calls for Revolution

Senator De Mint today said that conservatives might have to take to the streets to stop" the slide into socialism" in the country. Can you imagine engaging in mass action so the top 2% in wealth aren't taxed more--and only by an increase of 4% at that? John Boehner, who has that old retro black-and-white television look, cried that Obama's budget was the downpayment on a New Form of American Socialism. What did the old form look like?

Revolution was definitely in the air at CPAC. Joe the Plumber, the new Karl Rove of the GOP, said that certain congressmen should be shot for disrespecting the military. John Bolton suggested it might not be a bad thing if terrorists took out the city of Chicago. Huckabee said that the GOP now can be the party of the little guy (?). Freepers are encouraging Tea Parties to protest tax hikes--for whom, please?

One of the birther lawyers wants Obama deported when he wins his case. And Cliff Kincaid said he remembered when presidents were born in the United States and were anti-Communists and not....fill in the blank. Patrick Henry (yes, a relative) said that the GOP won the stimulus debate and would come back to power through Facebook. Rush Limbaugh again asserted he wants Obama to fail.

If you want an idea of how braindead the Republican Party is, read the list prepared by Toby Harnden of the Daily Telegraph of the 10 top anti-Obama conservatives. They run in order: 1. Rush Limbaugh, 2. Matt Drudge, 3. Sean Hannity, 4.Karl Rove, 5. Michelle Malkin, 6. Patrick Ruffini, 7. Michael Savage, 8.Ann Coulter,9. David Brooks and 10. Rick Santelli.

The last appeared on the Gordon Liddy show to suggest the Obama White House threatened him only to say this morning that it wasn't true. Now, aside from David Brooks,none of these people are thinkers, writers or conservative intellectuals in any way. In fact, the majority of them have never graduated from college. These are thought to be the "brains" of the party. I count at least 8 racketeers, people who use their media exposure simply for self-aggrandizement and profit.

These are the people that conservatives are banking on to fuel a reaction to Obama. Unfortunately, the tenor of the conservative rhetoric these days is increasingly violent. When you have adult members of Congress actually incite street actions,one should be prepared for localized acts of violence appearing.

We have had the report of neo-Nazi recruitment increasing in these perilous times as well as the resurrection of the KKK. Today a U.S. Marine was arrested for planning to shoot President Obama. Another man was arrested for sending HIV-infected blood to the White House. These episodes sky-rocketed during the fall campaign as Sarah Palin whipped up her crowds with incendiary rhetoric.

The "birthers" has been enlisting active military officers to join their lawsuit as plaintiffs. In a late night call out, one of the lawyers realized that these people risked being courtmartialed so he put out a request for JAGs to help these men. A little late in the day to be concerned about using people.

No such concern is expressed by those exploiting relatives of those slain on the U.S.S. Cole, asking them to generate letters claiming that President Obama is weak on terrorists and is releasing them. Be forewarned these are not the spontaneous eruptions of upraged citizenry but fraudulent endeavors to raise money.

The concern here really is that this brainlessness has all the ingrediants to become a home grown fascist movement. Many of these people have already abandoned the Republican Party as too compromised and weak. Others are into an alternative political fantasy world, hungering for the time that a resurgent Christian movement will emerge to restore the values of Western civilization against the regime of gays, porn and abortion. What's dangerous here is that they have access to large amounts of money and to media outlets that tend to rationalize their opinions. If our own economic situation worsens even more,these people will become a dangerous force.

Back Off Budget Bugaloo

Washington's mind was blown by Obama first budget. Of course, the journalists' focus was on the increase--in two years-- of taxes on those with taxable income of $250,000 and above. Even though Obama repeatedly talked about this during the primary campaign and in the general election,the media is still shell-shocked that he will end about three decades of favoring the wealthier among us. To keep this in perspective, only 2% of those owning their own businesses earn $250,000. And remember that's taxable income--after the deductions. So, we're talking about $350,000 gross income here. Which should tell you all you need to know about how and why your news is slanted. After all they all earn more than the $250,000.

The Obama Budget was brilliantly explained by his Budget Director Peter Orszag. But I think that's the problem. The budget and Obama's economic plans are inter-related in such a sophisticated way it is clear to me no one in Congress will understand them. Republicans complained no one had read the stimulus bill even though it was posted on the White House website and Huffington I actually read both the House and final versions. So certainly someone on the Hill could have, should have read it. But sadly, it is true no one did. Most of the Republican complaints about earmarks for ACORN and other crimes against nature were simply false. You should expect the same for the budget.

The Obama Budget does have a basic problem of optics. It comes after the stimulus bill, the bank bailouts and the curious budget passed by the House. So there is a fair amount of money fatigue on both sides of the aisle. And I get people want a respite after going on a spending spree. While I like the whole symphony of the Budget, I think when the rubber meets the road that the Obama Administration should focus on the health care reform portions of it because once he secures that he's golden.

The Republicans find themselves in a fascinating political place. The party is on the record against the extension of unemployment benefits for out of work Americans but for tax policies that benefit only the extremely wealthy and corporations. What they haven't figured out yet that Obama took the lower, middle and upper middle classes away from them without a fight.

With the southern Governors publicly resist additional suport for the unemployed, it is going to look very bizarre the vigorous fight--which will happen--to preserve tax cuts for the wealthy. The Scream Machine will go into full throttle on this, trying to make the case that this is Obama's first step to increase everyone's taxes. First they took the yacht and I did nothing. Then they took the third house away and I didn't nothing. I always fear that they might bamboozle people into this.

The Kaiser polls are out on health care. It's clear that now is the time for Obama to move since nearly 60% of those polled believe what he says about the situation compared to 9% for the Republicans. Also, the vast majority of Democrats and Independents believe the time for health care reform is now. What Obama needs to do is make sure that Republicans can not succeed in the Billy Kristol strategy of stall and delay.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Thursday Ice Coffee--Spring Training Starts

Yeehaw! We in Virginia already have the right to openly carry guns into restaurants. Now Richmond proposes to allow concealed weapons into restaurants. I want to know what girly-men are behind this. I had proposed that the law bearing open weapons be limited to antique six-shooters so to give us the air of the frontier again. Apparently, my neighbors want Uzis and Glocks. But isn't the issue whether you can really shoot and not spread the customers?

I have been told by my conservative friends that fund-raising for the NRA is going through the roof as they maintain that Obama is plotting to take all their guns away. An alternative answer to this is that the NRA has a great dental plan and people want to take advantage of it in a bad time. Gun sales are going gang-busters (maybe not the right word) since the Mexican cartels have been importing alot of weaponry from the States. The State of Montana in an attempt to get around any federal restrictions is encouraging the local manufacture of munitions and guns. My brother-in-law, a recent citizen of the United States, reports that there is an ammunition shortage in Florida. Why he should be interested remains an open question.

I received e-mail flashes that Senator DeMint's amendment on the Fairness Doctrine passed 87-11. A great triumph for conservatives. Well, step back. It was appended to the bill that would give the District of Columbia a house seat, something all but moderate Republicans oppose. Since Obama opposed the re-introduction of the Fairness Doctrine but supports voting rights for D.C., who came out ahead? And now the talk radio heads can't use the Fairness Doctrine as a way to raise funds.

Mary Matalin, whose last campaign venture was Dick Allen's epic fail for the Senate ("Remember the Macaca Moment"), says that the U.S. faces a "mini-crisis" in the financial system. Let's see the entire global financial system collapsed, credit vanished, 19 million homes are empty and millions more are being foreclosed, and the unemployment rates in states are topping 10% and above. It's just a tad incovenient.

Rep. Boehner is still at it. He now says that the Republican agenda is a tough sell because Americans are like "Welfare Queens", who just want handouts. We heard of the Blame American First San Francisco Democrats. Now we have the Hate America First Republicans. We could have a new category "Self-Hating Americans".

Obama is a tax-raiser. He intends to raise the top marginal rates, tax the wealthy for health care and proposes a tax increase ("dramatic according to the Wall Street Journal") on overseas profits by American corporations. We applaud the last move.

As we explained previously, there is about $2.5 trillion of tax revenues hiding offshore. The fact that no one who earns under $250,000 will pay a penny more escapes his critics. For me that is the salient point if you are a Republican figuring out who you lost. Obama just stole the middle and upper-middle class away from the Republicans and they haven't discovered it yet.

You knew this was coming. The agribusinesses, mining companies and other corporate interests who feel their ox is about to be gored are gearing up big time with the lobbying firms to kill Obama's initiatives in Congress. The chances are they will succeed with the Blue Dog Democrats doing their bidding along with the Republicans.

The case against Texas billionaire Allen Stanford's multi-billion scam has taken some interesting turns as analysts comment that the SEC and the Feds were told to stand down by John Negroponte, the commissar for intelligence under Bush. Also interesting is that the Biden family is in this episode up to their elbows. It's looking more like an intelligence plot everyday.

For your amusement, you might try to log onto the CPAC conference here in Washington where you can laugh along with tales of how amateurish the Obama Administration is and how Biden doesn't know the difference between a website and a phone number. Rush Limbaugh will be given an award for his defense of the Constitution. It should be fun for all!

Did Bobby Jindal diss volcano monitoring to get at Sarah Palin, who now is sitting on a live volcano in Alaska? Sarah Palin is saying now that Jindal is really a closet Moslem. (Actually Hindu). Little Billy Kristol says the new Republican strategy is to slow everything down and to tie everything up in procedural debates so that not everything Obama wants can be enacted. In that way, he hopes lightning will strike --eventually.

Anyway, catch the Stevie Wonder Concert on PBS if you can. Stevie surprises by playing a mean classical piano. Maybe he should have a duet with Condi Rice.

Incomplete Thoughts on the Torture Debate

I have been holding off my comments on Leahy's Truth Commission and the Obama Administration's conclusions on Gitmo until the dust settles. Barbara Ehrenreich writes today about her being accomplice in torture for penning the piece on making the H-Bomb that got Mr. Mohammad renditioned and tortured. Senator Whitehouse (D-RI) claims what we will be finding out about torture under the Bush Administration is "quite big" and "horrendous".

The Justice Department will be filing terrorism charges in a civilian court of Qatari national Ali Saleh Khlah Al-Marri--the only detainee taken prisoner in the U.S. and still being held in this country at the Navy brig in Charleston, S.C. The ACLU is still pushing to have the Supreme Court hear his case, which is a challenge to the President's authority to detain an individual inside the United States without habeas corpus and keep that person in indefinite military detention.

Human rights groups and civil libertarians have been pushing the Obama Administration hard to make good its promises to return to constitutional rule. The problem I see is that the remedies are not as clear as human rights activists make it seem. After 9/11, the Bush Administration issued a number of executive orders, some still secret, that in effect created a law-free zone concerning detainees in Gitmo,black sites, Bagram and terrorist suspects.

The military lawyers were purposely kept clear of these policy formulations, the Geneva Accords were suspended,(and quite wrongfully interpreted) and the federal criminal code was ignored. In this situation, it is not an easy task to 'walk back the dog" since alot of that path was obliterated by evidence obtained under torture. So, what do you do with detainees that from a prima facie case are dangerous hombres and others who are completely innocent and who have been detined incommunicado for years? I don't think the issue is as simple as we would like to pretend.

Can one really argue, for example, the case as the Bush Administration did that these people can be detained forever? That also seemed to be the tentative position of the Obama Administration. What do you do with them all those years? It's like we create our own official "disappearance" policy like a Latin American dictatorship.

Conservative bloggers are claiming that Bush has been vindicated by Obama's lack of movement on these issues. Here,I do think it's important after nearly eight years to air out the issues in the public and prosecute select persons, particularly the lawyers who concocted a dangerous legal rationale for the Bush policies. It is also important that the American people learn how compliant were the Republican and Democratic leadership in Congress on these issues. It's one thing for Nancy Pelosi to urge prosecution but what is her responsibility, having been fully briefed on these polcies and actions?

For those like Dick Cheney who claim these policies prevented several further terrorist attempts against the United States, it is time for them to put up or shut up. This can be arranged so that "national secrets" are protected. Of the four plots I know of that these apologists name, one was fictitious according to British counter-intelligence, and the three were uncovered by either NYPD or the FBI and were not revealed through waterboarding detainees at Gitmo. So if there are others, these folks should come forward.

There is the argument that we need some new way of prosecuting terrorists. We already have the goofy Military Commissions Act of 2006, which was really meant to legitimize already existing executive orders. We should remember that over 158 terrorists, including a few tried this week, have been convicted in our federal courts and sentenced to federal prisons. So far none of them have escaped or been released to return to the battlefield compared to the release of Gitmo detainees, who went on to restock Al Qaeda in Yemen. For all the torture apologists, they coveniently forget the Millenial Bomber was apprehended by the FBI while en route from Vancouver to L.A.and he spilled his guts and gave up the details of the 9/11 plot without being tortured. Somehow the FBI did something right.

The debate is likely to heat up and get muddier as the weeks go on.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Great Moments in American History

In the midst of a crypto-depression, Republican Congressman Mike Pence (R-In) is urging a freeze on all federal spending since "the American people expect us to make hard choices."

Pence has joined Senator DeMint (R-S.C) in drafting legislation that would prohibit the FCC from using any taxpayer money from enforcing any renewal of the Fairness Doctrine. With a gaggle of conservative groups, these two claim that the Fairness Doctrine will be "a massive assault on the First Amendment". This appears to me to be another fund-raising gimmick. Rush Limbaugh and other conservative talk show hosts are mounting a campaign against the Fairness Doctrine. Since the campaigning Obama and the President Obama are on record against reinstating it, where is this new major threat to our civil liberties since Al Qaeda coming from?

Diaper Dave Vitter looks like he has his hands full. Frst a primary challenge from porn star Stormy Dawn and now Tony Perkins--not that one, he's dead-- of the Family Research Council, Bauer's evangelical group.

Conservatives keep hailing Norm Coleman's legal victories in Minnesota but neglect to mention after each one of these court decisions Al Franken's vote count keeps getting bigger. Last night I had a 261 vote lead and today it's up to 275.

Which brings me to John Batchellor's column today where he says that House Republicans sense "an animal weakness" in Obama and they have him where they want him--is this the Norm Coleman School of philosophy? It reminds me of guerrilla movements I have known that brag about the government controlling all the cities--which means they will have to defend them.

The birthers recruited its first active duty officer, Scott Easterling to sign on as a plaintiff in one of the Obama birth certificate cases. If superior officers find out, that's immediate grounds for a court martial.

Republicans may have their own birther problem if Bobby Jindal runs for the Presidency. Apparently, his mother had ended her first trimester with Bobby before she embarked for the United States. Both his parents were immigrants. So does being an Anchor Baby mean you are not native-born?

Astral Weeks

Sometimes these ideas don't quite work, even if Rolling Stone raves about them. It is great to hear Pet Sounds played live for the first time despite a medicated Brian Wilson. But it still was not sublime. So what about Van Morrison deciding after all these years to play Astral Weeks live.

Astral Weeks was the first album Van Morrison got to produce. After all these years, my version has gotten muddled through replays and possibly the bad mix of yesteryear. This album was the first of the plunges into the mystical Celtic funk that came out in albums like Hymn to the Silence.

Astral Weeks: Live at the Hollywood Bowl works wonderfully. The Van Man is in a groove, his phrasing at the top of his game. His backup band is perfect for the materials. Most importantly, the mix is clear and crisp. At a few points, Van Morrison slightly bends lyrics that may have sound great on days when you're stoned. And what's better yet, the album was cheaper than the original cost me almost a generation ago.

Obama on the Hill

After several years a President suddenly emerged on the Hill to deliver a speech without smirks and invocating strange demons we should fear. The vanguished rival John McCain looked wistful the whole proceedings. MSNBC rigged up those reaction lines to measure the support of Obama and McCain supporters to the speech. On several occasions the McCain group surpassed the Obama people in support. CNN's poll afterward showed all of 8% of viewers had a negative view of the speech. But this is cheating, over 77% of voters felt Obama would give a bravura speech before the night began.

It makes you wonder what would happen if Obama actually blew a major speech.

Our own Department of Inland Security hailed Obama's call to go after tax havens as we suggested in previous blogs. Today's press reports American fatcats are suing UBS in switzerland not to reveal their names.

Now about Bobby Jindal. Michael Steele spent the time prior to the speech raving how Jindal's speech was the perfect antidote to Obama and that he already had seen the speech. After last night, reporters tracked him down and he commented," It was OK. But I only heard it on radio." I guess this wasn't Steele's Hip-Hop moment.

NYT conservative op-ed writer Doug Brooks called Jindal's speech the worst in the history of democracy sincle Pericles' time. I strenuously object to this--John McCain's Lime Jello speech was the worst in the history of politics, not only just democracy. But Jindal certainly was creepy. he came across as a Hindu Nixon. I'm surpised he didn't say, "No one will write a book about my mother."

Little Bill Kristol had a clever take on the Obama speech. He ignored the fact that Iceland melted, New Zealand will be rationing food in a month, Eastern Europe is collapsing and Annie Liebovitz just pawned her life's work so she can meet her mortgage payment and simply focused on war--allegedly the lack of mention in Obama's speech. Kristol complained that the short mentions of Iraq and Afghanistan show that this is a President that doesn't expect to use military force within the next two years. What's wrong with this picture?

Larry Sabato was charitable saying that following any President is tough and the response usually doesn't deliver. In this case, he said, Jindal didn't deliver at all.

Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson waxed poetic about Jindal's background, which is another way to avoid the issue.

For his part, Obama emerged at least on the scale of Reagan in his heyday and possibly FDR. For this reason, the Republicans are shell-shocked. They haven't moved on to scared to death.

During the week here in Washington,a Republican Governor walked through who actually sounded sensible. Utah's Jon Huntsman was interviewed about Republican Governors against the stimulus package. He admitted the "Republicans are so back on their heels, they don't know what they're doing. We have no ideas left. I just ignore all of the Republican congresspeople."

Bobby Jindal's home-written speech hit some truly absurdist notes. One that escapes people is his complaint that the stimulus bill has money for "volcano monitoring" in it. With an Alaskan volcano about to erupt and having been the victim of a natural catastrophe in Katrina,this is truly odd. But it does pander to the anti-science base in the party. The other major snafu was talking about Katrina as evidence that the government can't do anything well. Was this a slam at W or just the crazed imaginings of an exorcist? He told the story about a sheriff,who is known for racial profiling,complaining about the government interfering with rescue boats. One thing that actually was superb was the Coast Guard helicopter rescues of people in new Orleans. Lastly, the idea of any Louisiana Governor talking about federal aid, which the state receives in bucketfuls, is amazing.

The same day as Obama's speech the renegade Republican Governors--Sanford, Barbour, Riley and Jindal--learned the hard truth--you accept the whole package, including the unemployment benefits or nothing at all.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Saturday--Red Eye with Expresso

What question did journalists fail to ask George W. Bush and John Kerry during their 2004 debate? Since both were Skull and Bones, it was "Where's Geronimo"s skull?" Geronimo's family is now suing Skull and Bones for the return of his remains. It seems George Senior was involved in the original theft.

Has Alan Keyes gone across the line to sedition? The former candidate on George Wallace's American Independence Party now claims that not only was Obama born in Nairobi (changing his original charge from Mombassa) but is a radical communist who must be stopped at all costs if the country is to survive. While such nonsense can be amusing,this is playing into the growing hysteria on the right about Obama and this rhetoric encourages violence. Lest we forget the Oklahoma City bombings and the violence by pro-lifers.

My 2012 prediction-- the following will not be the Republican presidential candidate: Mitt Romney, Bobby Jindal, Sarah Palin or Marc Sanford. The opposition to the Obama stimulus plan may look like a short-term winner for the Republican front-runners but it is a total loser. Republican Mayors and Governors, who actually pretend to govern, are hailing the initiatives. There is literally no marked uptick in anyone's polling showing Republicans have hit any responsive chord on this. In a trans-Atlantic interview with Newsmax, Ambrose Evans Pritchard chastised his American counterparts on the stimulus debate. Saying he is philosophically opposed to much of its details, he said it was absolutely necessary because we already are in a world depression.

Not so good news on the human rights front. The Obama Administration looks like it will lift the isolation of Burma and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton seemed to close down any discussions about China's human rights policies. The latter is particularly worrisome since we are at the 50th anniversary of the Tibetan uprising and the Chinese have moved more troops into that province. The whole issue concerning the Bush Administration's policy against terrorism is still up in the air, awaiting for Eric Holder's review of Gitmo and a few other sites. So far, the news is not good as the Obama Administration wants to move on.

A friend from Vancouver, Canada telephoned to report how ecstatic Canadians were during Obama's visit. He said it was great that the American President was the most popular person on the whole planet. According to the Harris Poll, it appears Obama has moved into America's number 1 position as hero with Jesus polling second. We remember the last time someone was more famous than Jesus. There were alot of record burnings in the South.

An interesting GAO report came out this week, it showed that 87,000 or 36% of those weapons given by the US to the Afghanis are missing and unaccounted for. Also, the records and serial numbers of an estimated 135,000 weapons donated by 21 countries are also nowhere to be found. The report concluded this "could pose a significant danger to the U.S. and coalition fiorces involved in security, stabilization, and reconstruction efforts." Captain Obvious.

If you want to know what a Depression looks like, take a gander at Central Europe and the Baltic countries. Latvia lost its government this week because of the collapse of its economy and the doubling of unemployment. In Hungary, people are in homes now worth less than 50% the value of a year ago. With Western Europe holding all of Central Europe's debt, none on the American side, the collapse of the remaining economies with blow through Western Europe, which is in a Depression. The Germans will be especially hurt since they were slow in reacting to the global financial collapse, thinking it was an Anglo-American problem.

We all know what happened during the last Depression with the rise and formation of fascism. In future bogs I will be outlining the rising threats both here and abroad for a new type of fascism emerging.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Empty Overcoats

Well, that didn't take long. The Republican Governors of Texas, Mississippi, Lousiana, Alaska, South Carolina and Idaho yesterday expressed reservations about accepting any simulus money. As we saw with Sarah Palin's behind-the-scenes machinations, the smell of mendacity was pungent. By this morning. Governor Sanford of South Carolina just reneged on his refusal to take the funds. It will be interesting to see what Rick Parry of Texas does since he is the one questioning any strings attached by the federal government.

Poor Representative Cao of Lousiana is facing a recall campaign because of his opposition to the stimulus bill. Cao ran without any party identification on his campaign literature since he faced Rep. Jefferson. Apparently, his constituents didn't have conservatism in mind when they voted.

My son wants The Republicans to keep quiet for awhile. He's tired of their screaming. But what Ed Rollins pointed out, this screaming is a way for them to preserve their funding base--not their political base. The super fatcats, who oppose anything Obama will do for the economy, will stay with the Republicans if they seem to fight Obama. That this leads to future electoral defeats is not an issue for them.

Meanwhile Karl Rove is still out and about, racheting up his complaints that Obama is just adlibbing everything large and small. For his part, Obama made 510 campaign promises and has only fulfilled 80 of them in the last three weeks. He has to pick up the pace.

So Allen Stanford--no relation to Leland--has been under investigation by the feds for 15 years. The fugitive bunco artist was the largest employer on the island of Antigua-Barbuda and a major contributor to both parties. John McCain said he would donate his contribution to charity, the Texas Republicans said they would keep their loot. Stanford is alleged to have been a money-launderer for the Mexican drug cartels. But if he has been under investigation for 15 years, that's usually a tip-off he was involved in spook business. One wonders how much of the financial meltdown and ponzie schemes are spook creations.

Conservative constitutionalist Bruce Fein, the former Deputy Attorney General for President Reagan, is not too happy with Obama for failing to move against the unitary executive. While it's too early in my book, Fein, who testified in favor of impeaching George W. Bush, urges Obama to send the right signals concerning Presidential powers by modifying the Surveillance Act of 2008, which eviscerates the Fourth Amendment, and to void the Military Commissions Act of 2006. Fein is the author of Constitutional Peril: the Life and Death Struggle for our Constitution and Democracy. On the op-ed pages of the Washington Times, he urged the prosecution of Bush Administration officials for torture and other war crimes. We will know more next week as Eric Holder visits Gitmo to examine both the situation of the detainees and the interrogation techniques.

Investigators into the whole Bush Administration policy on torture and black sites indicate the culprits are Richard Addington, Dick Cheney's lawyer, John Yoo, William Haynes, the Pentagon lawyer, and "Fredo" Gonzalez. Most agree that the architectural brains behind all the torture memos and the rationale for the policy was actually Richard Addington and that John Yoo was the ideologue who could formulate it into legalese.

Nancy Pelosi claims that Karl Rove, Harriet Meirs and Josh Bolton will be prosecuted for their failure to testify before Congress. I doubt it.

Meanwhile President Obama signed the Stimulus Bill, unveiled his mortgage plan, bailed out the auto industry and visited Canada. He also seems to have picked his long-time supporter and friend, Kansas Governor Kathleen Sibelius to be the Secretary of Health and Human Services. Sibelius is a popular Governor in a Republican state and was one of the first major political figures to back Barack Obama and campaigned widely and effectively for him. She was on the short-list for the Vice-Presidency.

It seems to have been a slow week for the White House. I failed to mention the ramp up in military forces sent to Afghanistan--a subject we will discuss in the future.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


Ok, it's Eric as in Cantor. Celebrating the Republicans' O votes in the House for the stimulus bill, Cantor sent out an e-mail championing the Republicans' stand on principle and accompanied by Aerosmith singing "We're Back in the Saddle Again". If it was an old Byrd's cover, then it would just be a cowboy song. But Cantor, who wanted a congressional investigation over the Janet Jackson breast pop-out at the Super Bowl years back, just happened to choose a song that celebrates anal sex with a guy's favorite prostitute. Not your most family value type of tune. To make matters worse, Aerosmith has complained and its music company is seeking damages for copyright infringement.

Eric also announced in Sunday that Republicans were totally opposed to any bailout of home owners by the Obama Administration because millions of homeowners are suffering from excessive real estate taxes.

The Chutzpah award this week goes to Sarah Palin. The Queen of the North is facing a $1.5 billion shortfall because of the drop in oil prices. Alaska depends on oil for 90% of its revenues.She told Fox News that Obama should veto the stimulus bill because it is filled with pork. Meanwhile, the Republican congress types have been telling the local papers what projects will be funded. Palin has been quietly lobbying Obama personally for federal funding of the Alaska-Canada oil pipeline, a subject that will be on the agenda for the summit between Harper and Obama on Thursday.

Exorcist Bobby Jindal, the Republican speaker to respond to Obama's State of the Nation address, also has a stimulus problem. He's seeking political cover by asking the Louisiana Legislature whether they want to accept the package.

South Carolina, home of Lindsey Graham, just passed today a state soverignty bill, asserting states rights. It's unclear what this will mean, if anything.

California is simply getting battered as the budget impasse continues.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Rag Bin

Oil prices have gotten a small bump with the stimulus package and OPEC cutting back on production. The peak production year for planet Earth was 2007 and supplies will continue to dwindle in the years ahead. The Saudi reserves are a mirage--they are pumping several times more water now than oil, which indicates they are "drying" up. The Iranian fields are obsolete in terms of technology and they have been using an old method of injecting in water to stimulate oil and gas production. The problem with this is that it eventually seals the field off from further production.

The last major global find in oil was the Caspian Sea fields in 2000 and few expect larger finds in the near term. Meanwhile, the Chinese are locking in oil supplies throughout the world through signing long-term agreements, which will force an America with a recovering economy to pay higher prices within two years. It's estimated that barrel prices will again be at the highs of the past year. The message is to rapidly move away from oil even though it will dominate the American economy for years,maybe decades to come.

What about "Drill, Baby, Drill"? As T. Boone Pickens has pointed out, the average American oil well pumps only 5 barrels of oil a day. By opening the coastal waters and the national parklands, there will not be enough return on the cost--financial and environmental--to make a difference. If you drilled off New Jersey, you face another problem--the location of all the biological and germ weapons buried off the coast.

Our great media has been saying that the Republicans won the week here in Washington. A great definition of winning. Obama just won the centerpiece of his campaign promises. But somehow, the united Republican block gets a gold star for cohesiveness. For this, we should send McCain more ABBA albums. The Old Man Shouting at Clouds keeps getting invited on the networks to describe bipartisanship. As I recall it was McCain campaign that ran on bipartisanship and no earmarks and not Obama's. If he had any decency, McCain would stay in seclusion for a while so that other leaders in the Republican party could emerge.

This week is Auto Show here in D.C. when we find out whether the American auto industry will survive and how. The American auto industry represents about 23% of the country's manufacturing base and its demise could prove catastrophic for the American economy and its prospects for recovery. For reasons that they only know, Republicans actually sought the collapse of the auto industry during the last bailout. Perhaps, it will happen but to willfully kill off a sector of your manufacturing base without any thought of its consequences is madness. At the time, the arguments were all aimed at the UAW, arguments that had some validity 30 years ago but not since the massive concessions made by that union over the decades. Also, we heard from our Southern Senators, the champions of foreign automakers, that our product is not as good. Actually in the last several years, American cars have been winning all sorts of awards for safety and fuel efficiency. Still, I like the old muscle cars, even though I've never owned one.

Keeping our manufacturing base from completely collapsing is---drumroll--the fast-food industry. To camouflage how badly off our manufacturing base was, the Bush Administration added the fast-food industry to the category, a group that until now has shown signs of expanding.

Congrats to David Crosby, who may be the artificial father of the octupolets. he gave sperm for the Octomom. David likes to help the gals out from time to time. He also hangs out in Maine, which is the new superstate.

President's Day and Ratings

C-Span polled 65 historians and professional observers of the presidency to rank president's accoring to 10 leadership attributes. The culmination rankings put Abraham Lincoln at the top, where he retained his 2000 ranking, George Washington in second, where he moved up, Franklin Roosevelt in third, Theodore Roosevelt fourth, Harry Truman fifth, JFK in sixth, a jump of two places, Thomas Jefferson at seventh, Dwight Eisenhower eight, Woodrow Wilson, ninth, losing three ranks, Ronald Reagan 10th, Lyndon johnson 11th and James K. Polk at 12.

Big gainers this year are U.S. Grant, who moved up 10 places into 23rd and Bill Clinton who moved from 21st to 15. Richard Nixon lost two places and now sits just above James Garfield.

The most successful President was really Jame K. Polk, who had a written to-do list when he came into office, completed it and didn't run again. Historians have always praised his dairies as the most detailed and frank of all the Presidents.

The worst President to date still is James Buchanan. W starts his legacy tour at number 36, just above the immortal Millard Fillmore. Between W and the bottom include my paternal grandmother's favorite President, Warren G. Harding. "His mistress was such a lovely person and he was so dapper",Millie used to say. As a blogger on Dailykos wrote, William Henry Harrison was robbed with his 39th rating.. Filling out the loser table is Franklin Pierce, who was immortalized in a campaign bio written by his Bowdoin classmate National Hawthorne. Hawthorne tried to make a virtue out of Franklin's inability to make a decision. And second to last is Andrew Johnson, who showed up drunk to Lincoln's second inaugural.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Gitmo Galore--Random Notes

In the forthcoming Newsweek, Michael Isikoff reports that an internal Justice Department report on the conduct of the senior lawyers who approved waterboarding and other harsh interrogation tactics could prove to be a problem for Bush Administration lawyers such as Jay Bybee and John Yoo as well as Steven Bradbury, who was chief of the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) at the time.

Last year H. Marshall Jarrett, chief of the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) confirmed he was investigating whether the legal advice in the torture memos "was consistent with the professional standards that apply to Department of Justice attorneys." Then Attorney General Mike Mukasey strongly objected to the draft and requested that the three principals be allowed to respond. A final version of the report will be presented to Attorney General Eric Holder.

If Holder should accept the OPR findings, the report could be forwarded to state bar associations for possible disciplinary actions. Anonymous Bush lawyers were furious with the initial findings because they claimed "the OPR is not competent to judge. They're not constitutional scholars." Oh, like--say John Yoo, practitioner of the unitary theory of the executive. Like that type of constitutional scholar.

The OPR probe began after conservative John Goldsmith took over the OLC in 2003 and protested that the legal arguments in the torture memos were "deeply flawed" and "sloppily reasoned". He particularly objected to the assertion of Yoo and Bybee that the President could unilaterally disregard a law passed by Congress banning torture.

The OPR investigators focused on whether the torture memo's authors deliberately slanted their legal advice to provide the White House with the conclusions it wanted.
The investigators gathered internal e-mails and multiple drafts of the memos that have allowed then to reconstruct how they were crafted. The OPR told members of the Senate Judiciary Commitee last year that it would consider releasing the report to the public.

Last week the Obama Administration began the process of reviewing files of detainees held at Guantanamo Bay to determine who can be prosecuted and who can be transferred to other countries. The executive order requires Eric Holder to identify all informations on the detainees to "the extent reasonably practicable." Evidence against the detainees apparently has been collected by different agencies or by different parts of the Defense Department and alot of it remains classified and scattered in multiple locations.

The review will have to develop rather new and creative ways to prosecute some detainees. If evidence of detainees' larger alleged crimes is too tainted to use because of torture, the government may have to charge them with lesser crimes, such as conspiracy or material support for terrorism."

Meanwhile, British officials are en route to Gitmo to visit Binyam Mohamed, a British resident who has been there for five years after having been renditioned because of his consulting a satirical article about building an H-Bomb. The team includes a doctor,who will assess Mr. Mohamed's condition. His military defense attorney, Lt.Col Yvonne Bradley said he had been on a hunger strike since January and that he has lost so much weight that his life is at risk.

Apparently, the Obama Administration has placed a priority on the review of Mohammed's case so that he might be returned to Britain.

The London Guardian reports today the British Foreign Office (FO) actually solicited the letter from the State Department that forced British judges to block the disclosure of CIA files documenting the torture of Binyam Mohamed. A former State Department official said it was the Foreign Office that initiated the cover-up that claimed the US would refuse to share intelligence with the UK if the information was released. Human rights advocates and lawyers for Mohammed are claiming the UK wanted to hide the fact that UK intelligence agencies were complicit in the torture.

Amnesty International this past week released documents from the United States Government that shows that several captured persons had been tortured to death and that Defense Department officials know this.

Yesterday, the Associated Press pubished a story about Army Pvt. Brandon Neely, who was a guard at Guantanamo, and dealt with the first group of detainees . Neely describes a time when soldiers lacked any clear rules for dealing with the detainees and that the detainees were only offered basic comforts just before the International Red Cross arrrived. Neely, who is a policeman in Texas, recounted beatings and humiliations of detainees whose sole purpose was physical or psychological pain. In part, he said that was the emotional reaction to the events of 9-11 and being told that the detainees were "the worst terrorists in the world". Because of his desire to come clean, he went to the University of California at Davis' Guatanamo Testimonials Project, which is an effort to to document accounts of prisoner abuse.

The continued unraveling of the torture and Guatanamo issue heightens the pressure on the Obama Administration to investigate and prosecute responsible officials from the Bush Administration. According to a USATODAY/ Gallup poll published this week, 38% of Americans want a criminal investigation into these abuses, while 24% want some time of independent panel to look into this. International lawyers are telling the Obama Administration that, despite the urgency of the economic situation, the United States has both a moral and legal responsibility to investigate and criminally prosecute the culprits.


The National Republican Tust, a political action committee set up to produce anti-Obama commercials featuring Rev. Wright, is back with new radio ads targeting four senators who supported the stimulus package. The lone Democrat in the ads is Sen. Blanche Lincoln of Arkanasas, who is believed by Republicans to be vulnerable in 2010. The three Republicans--Specter, Snowe and Collins--are targeted for being "disloyal to the country." The PAC announced it would "support challengers in any primaries of any Republicans who voted for the stimulus bill." The group's ads against Obama during the campaign may have affected some voters in Eastern Virginia but provoked a backlash in Pennsylvania, the site of Obama's "Race" Speech.

Maine Senators Snowe and Collins report that e-mails against them ran to about 75,000 but their Maine constituents were overwhelmingly positive about their roles.

Ralph Reed famous for creating the Religious Right and sponsoring gambling casinos on Indian reservations is trying to get evangelicals to adopt another name because he now believes they are associated in people's minds with extremism.

Ken Starr has returned to warn that any judges nominated by Obama will have great difficulty being confirmed since they would be out of the mainstream of recent appointees. Seven out of the last 9 Supreme Court Judges were appointed by Republicans and the judiciary now is a majority Republican, despite complaints from conservatives.

The conservative group Grassfire is urging citizens to join their patriotic resistance to Obama's agenda. Claiming over 428,000 members, it claims its resistance is an alliance of patriotic, resilient and determined conservatives who will not forsake their principles. One is asked to take the pledge," As an American citizen, while I will show respect to President Obama, I oppose the far-Left and socialistic elements that comprise the centerpiece of his agenda, including the massive Government spending spree that is being pushed as an economic stimulus. I recognize that it will take a patriotic and resilient Citizen Resistance to block implementation of this agenda and I join with others who oppose these threats to our liberties."

The group then goes on to ask citizens to resist environmental extremism, liberal court activism, open border anarchy, all tax increases and welfare programs, the Fairness Doctrine,the radical pro-abortion and the homosexual agenda, post-American globalism and any weakening of the Second Amendment.

Several posters on the Freerepublic refuse to sign because it mentions showing respect to President Obama.

New Gingrich, after a shaky start of the week by saying the Obama Administration was characterized by "gross mismanagement", settled down to suggest ways out of the GOP impasse. Gingrich claimed that Republicans will fare better by stressing small government and small business, rather than supporting big business. He also suggested that their past problem was incompetence in implementing their ideas. In his speech, asked about the Bush Presidency, he wiggled saying,"it had some successes and a great many failures."

The RNC has been raising money galore for Norm Coleman's quest to overturn the results of the Minnesota election, which saw Al Franken win by a landslide 225 votes. However, with recent court decisions in Minnesota, Al's lead now has expanded to 245 votes. The RNC is on record that they will try anything to prevent the Democrats from getting 59 seats. I expect now they will challenge Illinois' new Senator Ray Burris, who admits that Hot Rod Blago did ask for campaign contributions. And all this time I thought it was Saxbe Chambliss from Georgia, who was our quarantee against socialism.

Meanwhile in Arizona the state government is in such bad financial shape that school weeks are now cut back to 4 days. Both their Senators voted against the stimulus package as "generational theft."

Poor Mr. Cao, America's first Vietnamese-American congressman. He wanted to vote for the stimulus bill because he said his district was hurting but the Republicans actually stationed someone right beside him during the whole vote to make sure he toed the line.

The severe cuts in funds for building and restoring schools was a result of Repubicans responding to the religious right's objection that the funds could not be used for buildings that hosted religious events or church services.

Old tax rebel, Howard Jarvis has returned to the scene--how old is this guy?-- to resist any deals on the California budget, which would require any raises in taxes.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Strange Doings on Saturday

The "birthers" are now shuddering. After claiming that Obama was spending millions on a L.A. attorney to stop the over 50 lawsuits generated concerning the eligibility issue, Obama's lawyers finally have entered a response at a district court to have the case ruled inadmissable on its merits. Allan Keyes and other birthers tell us this is the ruthless act of a tyrant. Keyes wrote in a recent editorial that he expects threats to his liberty and even to his life itself. He might expect his funders may want their money back.

All for a single response to a lawsuit. See the "birthers" have been trying to convince the potential funding audience that Obama is spending millions upon millions on these lawsuits--which is not true--because he has something to hide. The range of what he has to hide usually depends on which wingnut is filing the case. So now that they finally have a real response from Obama's lawyer, they start to chicken out and run. Besides citing the myriad cases out there and their irrelevance to planet earth, the Obama lawyers ask for dismissal on a single fact--Obama submitted his birth certificate--end of story.

Let's see how the "birthers" try to keep this story alive and whether their funders might start questioning their lawyers' judgements.

Glenn Beck, the Morman libertarian, is becoming unhinged with his daily television show. He told a skeptical Bill O'Reilly that we will be crashing into Depression soon and a revolution will come, which will target the rich. Beck has now been getting behind the state sovereignty movement. He also believes that the Fairness Doctrine will be re-instated to which Bill O'Reilly just laughed. Even though some liberals and Bill Clinton has advocated it, President Obama opposes it and the whole new generation of media almost makes it an impossibility to enforce.

It's interesting to recall that in 2001 when President Bush, with far less legitimacy in his election than Obama, pressed for his tax cut program that 28 Democratic Senators joined him. A dramatic change from today's monolithic opposition to Obama by Republicans. The total bill for that tax cut was $1.4 trillion, slightly less than double the current stimulus package.

Politicians standing on principle usually get some support. Since the Republican stance against the economic stimulus package was almost unanimous, one could imagine that such stand-tallness might be rewarded by the public. Apparently, not. Republicans in Congress haven't even gotten a bounce--they are still at a 19% approval rate, a few points higher than former Vice President Dick Cheney. So where's the Base they speak of? The counterpart Mr. Obama is at 76%.

Happy Opening of Spring Training. The pitchers and catchers report today. The Washington Nationals, who have a great stadium, did manage to secure one major player this year Adrian Dunn. Otherwise, I would continue hoping that Nick Johnson would actually remain healthy for a full year.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Largest Middle Class Tax Cut Passed

That's the way the Administration should sell tonight's proceedings. With additional support for unemployment and jobs creation, the Obama Administration can carve out a large demographic with the new stimulus package. And they should use this for the maximum advantage. Large majorities of the public believe the banks and hedge funds are responsible for our current crisis and they are the institutions the Republicans tried to save with the original TARP funds. Only three Republicans combined from both the Senate and the House voted for the bill. It's about time the Obama Administration turned the tables on them.

The Senate Republicans were the most hypocritical crying about "generational theft" and the glimmers in young peoples' eyes "will dim" when they realize their freedom is gone. Orrin Hatch raised the specter of the "Europeanization" of America, a constant theme. At least it's not the godless Communists. John McCain again whined about the lack of bipartisanship, saying he hoped the Administration learned their lesson. It should be recalled a larger spending bill--the $800 billion 2004 appropriations bill was supported by McCain, who then said,"the Americans don't care what's in the bill. They just want it bipartisan." No shouts were heard then about the young.

Republicans believe they have the best of both worlds--they can't take the blame for the bill if it fails and they are hustling like crazy to get the funds for their states. Arlen Specter told reporters the majority in the Republican caucus actually support the stimulus bill but were too frightened of the party base to vote for it. Senator Murkowski and Rep. Young from Alaska voted against the package but made sure the Anchorage papers knew they were on call to get as much funding for Alaska as they can. One of the problems reported to me was that the bill had no earmarks so the Republicans couldn't rationalize their vote by pointing to the funding for a pet project. Republicans have never supported the John McCain campaign against earmarks.

What's amazing is that the media has been reporting Republican criticism of the bill as if these were good faith arguments and needed serious attention. Democratic Senators pointed out that the Republicans objected to assistance to middle class and lower class Americans but wanted to eliminate the Estate Tax, which would be a greater transfer of wealth than the entire stimulus bill itself. The elimination of the Estate Tax would have cost the US Government $1 trillion in tax dollars.

If you wanted a sign of a lack of bipartisanship, think about the lack of courtesy showed to Sen. Brown, who had to fly home for his mother's wake and funeral. Instead of forcing his return to vote, A Republican could have voted for the package, thereby ending the issue, with a proviso his vote would become a no, when Brown showed up and voted. But this didn't happen, showing how unaccommodating the minority has become after years of enjoying carte blanche.

Now Specter, Snowe and Collins are referred to as Judas'. Christianity seems to be the theme of the day. Asked why he would not sit down with President Obama, Rush Limbaugh said,"Well, it would be like Jesus sitting down with Satan." By the way, he did.

As I said Obama should make sure the American people know that the Republicans voted against the largest tax cuts in American history. Then let the echo machine spin out trying to explain this.

Obama Administration Promises To Settle The Indian Trust Suit

13 years ago Elouise Cobell, a member of the Blackfeet Nation, brought a class action lawsuit over the federal government's mismanagement of individual Indian trust accounts. Two previous Secretaries of the Interior had been held in civil contempt on the case. During the Bush years, the Interior Department claimed that their computers had erased all the records for the individual accounts.

Secretary of the Interior Salazar promised to bring the case to conclusion. The case will benefit more than 500,000 Indians covered by the lawsuit. Ms. Cobell said," We are happy that the Obama Administration appears to be taking a positive view toward resolving our case. The Secretary must understand that the Cobell litigation cannot be settled unless such a settlement is fair, equitable and in accordance with trust law."

Friday Madness

There is a that caters to former Republicans. So far I'm not impressed but they may gain some momentum with the latest fracas on the Hill.

I think Andrew Sullivan got the Judd Gregg thing right. He has Gregg accepting the Commerce post believing Republicans were actually going to work with President Obama. He might have thought that because he worked with the Democrats in the first bank bailout bills that Bush forced down Congress' throat. Once it became clear there was no movement on the Republican side to accomodate the President, he knew the game was up. A personal issue was also his awareness that he didn't work well with teams. Democrats are also hinting that the Jack Abramoff connection with his staff may have been a negative. Sullivan desires credit for coining the phrase," opportunism of selective ideology" referring to the GOP.

Meanwhile in Chinatown, Diapers Dave Vitter spoke to the Federalist Society claiming Obama's theory of judges was "dictatorial". A fringe group of the Federalists managed to foist off the "unitary theory of the executive" onto the American people through the Bush Administration. Only Mexico under the PRI and Adolf Hitler obtained greater inherent legal executive authority than Bush. So you wonder for this crowd how much more dictatorial can you go?

The House Democrats slipped a mickey into the drink of the stimulus by requiring Governors to respond within 30-45 days whether they wanted to accept simulus funds. This was in particular a shot at South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, who has been campaigning on network television against it. Republican Governors Haley Barbour and Texas' Rick Parry have also denounced the package.

The Queen of the North, Sarah Palin, is having none of it. She's cancelled her appearance here at the CPAC summit with Rush Limbaugh for reasons of her official duties. But I expect it was to avoid criticising Obama when she has been pushing him on using stimulus funds for the Alaska-Canada pipeline. She urged him to raise it with Canada's Harper, which he did. A prompt thank-you note to the President was sent. An Alaskan nationalist, Palin is not going to waste any opportunity snagging some federal support.

My posting about the Kanjorski C-Span comments concerning the September 18 run of the banks anticipated the new rash of comments by Cliff Kincaid, Diane West, and Rush Limbaugh who raised the issue of who actually did do the run. Rush Limbaugh thinks it was a consortium of countries, including George Soros, who wanted Barack Obama elected President. The conservative commentators claim (although not true) that John McCain was leading the race at that point. The financial collapse did do in John McCain, but also recall it was the time of the first debate where the rest of the United States got to see Barack Obama and not the McCain caricature of a terrorist-living ,crypto-Muslim naif. Obama went on to win that and every single other debate with McCain. But the first debate sealed the deal just like the Reagan-Carter debate ended that election. But expect more on this subject in the future.

The "birthers" continue on. They are trumpeting their recruitment of a few legislators in Tennessee, who are demanding President Obama prove he is an American citizen.

The "Real America" terminology is being brought to bear on the stimulus debate. Without Republicans voting on the House bill, now we are hearing it is no longer an "American" bill. Senators Specter, Snow and Collins are called Benedict Arnolds by Dick Morris. Presumably helping Americans during this time is considered --"unpatriotic". Strange.

Karl Rove, who never hides his ugly face, has been around town chatting how 'gracious" the Republicans have been about the whole stimulus debate and that this highlighted the Obama position of it's my way or the highway. I never knew that was Obama's position. Also I wouldn't call the Republicans particularly gracious. For his part, Congressman Conyers just issued another subpoena to Karl. When is Rove going to hide and start preparing his law cases.

Little Eddy Cantor who had a 100% voting record for Bush seems to be replaying footage from Newt Gingrich's early years. Republicans complained then that the accomodations the minority leadership made with the Democrats doomed them to a perpetual minority status in the House. Newt changed all that with his fervent obstructionism, which eventually saw the Republicans come back in 1994. Cantor is simply replaying that. It's the most amazing Hail Mary Pass in political history. he should have been John McCain's campaign manager.

Republicans have threatened the three Republicans about withholding campaign funds from them in the future. One problem, Collins just won and Snowe won't run until 2012. So they have decided to target Sen. Specter with a primary challenger. It may cost Specter his job but the Republicans will lose the seat to Democrats if they continue down the hard-right path.

Rasmussen is another man going down the road to perdition. The Rasmussen poll claims that Republicans would pick up 50 additional seats in the House if the election were held today. I guess he has changed his first name to Zogby.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Thursday Morning Coffee--Mocha Java

The Obama Administration is trying to do the Bush people a favor--and they are getting no thanks. The new Solicitor General claims that we can hold "terrorists" for a sustained period of time without bringing charges because we are "at war". The Administration uses the state secrets defense in the trial brought by ACLU on behalf of those people who had been renditioned. Democrats are bringing a bill on the House floor to prevent civil litigation on these activities. The force-feeding of Gitmo detainees is upheld by a federal judge. And Leon Panetta says he will not prosecute CIA agents who engaged in the waterboarding and retention programs.

For reasons that escape me, conservatives who want desparately to defend Gitmo refuse to see how the Obama Administration just wants to move on and is actually protecting Bush operatives. Instead, Senators Inhofe and others are conducting political tours of Gitmo to try and save the facility.

Senator Leahy's suggestion of forming a bipartisan Truth Commission has met resistance from Republicans. But there are other reasons to oppose such a Commission. As Jonathan Turley of George Washington University argued on television, truth commissions are used in developing democracies that have a weak legal structure and are meant more to establish an historical record. The problem with creating one in the United States is that you are in fact arguing the Bush case that these episodes are unique and separate and that the United States can and will violate its treaty commitments. He has been the most forceful in arguing that if there is no legal investigation or prosecution then the Obama Administration owns the crimes. A ironic note on that is that the force feeding case in Miami became v.the Obama Administration, instead of the Bush Administration which did the deed.

Yesterday,Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada said he did not intend to raise the Omar Khadr case with Barack Obama next week. Canada's three opposition leaders called for Khadr's immediate release from detention in Gitmo. Khadr was wounded and captured by American soldiers in a July 2002 firefight in Afghanistan. The opposition has maintained that Khadr was unlawfully recruited and used as child soldier. The Canadian authorities have planned a rather elaborate repatriation project that would include placing him in a foster home since his parents were close to bin Laden.

The Mohammed case even gets murkier. The Janitor, who was renditioned on the basis of satirical article on how to build an H-Bomb, has ,according to official documents, had his genitals sliced by a scalpel and subjected to more than waterboarding. What's strange is that the U.S. dropped all claims he was a terrorist last year and continue to hold him.

These cases will proliferate as bilateral issues in the months ahead. They are not only embarassing but it is rather doubtful the Obama Administration can avoid the onslaught of legal cases. One of the key issues of the Torture Convention, which we ratified under Ronald Reagan,was the responsibility of other countries to bring violators to justice. With the U.N. Special Rapporteur Mr. Nowak on record saying he had the documents on file approved by Donald Rumsfeld authorizing torture, I can't see a European prosecutor or government avoiding the opportunity to pursue this.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Dick Cheney Was Right!

In his last interview, Dick Cheney predicted a terrorist attack with biological or nuclear agents within 5 years. He was right. Two months ago,in Belfast, Maine, James G. Cummings was shot to death by his wife for his lifetime of spousal abuse. In the subsequent investigation, the FBI found real literature about how to build "dirty bombs' unlike their CIA counterparts in the case of Mr. Muhammad as well as significant amounts of radioactive materials, which his wife said he mixed at the kitchen sink. He was said to be extremely upset by the election of Barack Obama. Virtuallly all the Maine politicians and police agencies are refusing to comment on the case.

In a leaked FBI report, Cummings was described as independently wealthy, surviving on a trust fund established by his late father, a prominent lawnowner in Northern California. The trust fund is reported to generate an annual income of $10 million per year. He was an ardent admirer of Adolf Hitler and had a collection of Nazi memorabilia around the house, including a displayed flag with a swastika. He claimed to have pieces of Hitler's personal silverware and place settings , which he used at dinners. He was linked to white supremacist groups and had filed out an application for the Nationalist Socialist Movement that the police found when they investigated his murder.

What got the FBI's attention were four 1-gallon containers of 35% hyrdrogen peroxide, uranium, thorium, thium metal, thermite, aluminum powder, boron, black iron oxide and magnesium ribbon--all of which happen to be key ingrediants for a "dirty bomb".

Music and Missing Books

An old favorite of mine Jorma Kaukonen has released River of Time on Red House Records. This album is without his old sidekick Jack Casady and contains 13 cuts of Jorma and his group on acoustic. Recorded at Levin Helms studio/ house in Woodstock, it's the best sounding album of Jorma's over the last few years. The pleasure comes in hearing a musician become even more accomplished at an instrument you first heard him play at 13. If you want, you can learn Jorma's finger-picking style at the Fur Peace Ranch in Ohio at his workshops. Jack is also there for bass lessons.

But the real purpose of this entry is to ask the question about books that are missing and we're--alright only me--are waiting for.
1. Ralph Ellison's second novel Three Days Before the Shooting has been promised for over a year. This is a great story for literature fans. Long rumored not to exist. Ralph Ellison claimed the manuscript was burned in a fire at his home in western Massachusetts and subsequently rumors went around that Ellison never really wrote it. He suffered from writers' bloc. After his death,his executor received from his widow boxes of mauscript pages and floppy discs (remember them) from a variety of computers and in different software. Together with a student assistant, he pieced together the final draft of a huge novel. The student assistant had to locate the various computers--some almost PC prototypes--to decipher the text and create a time chart of each draft. Ralph Ellison always told Albert Murray it existed and they often talked about chapters but after years people began to think it was like Truman Capote's Unanswered Prayers, a novel which was talked about but didn't exist in manuscript form. The first excerpt of the novel was published as the long "Juneteenth" several years ago. And we have been promised the full masterpiece over the last year. So far, I have not found any pub date and it keeps being pushed off.
2. William Burroughs' Evil River. In Bill Burroughs estate, a completed novel was found. Amazon has had it listed off and on for the past three years. I have pre-ordered it for the whole length of time and have now gone two Christmas' without it. Now Amazon promises an April 1 pub date, which I'll believe it when I see it.
3. Herman Melville's Complete Poems and Billy Budd as edited and annotated by Melville scholar Herschel Parker. Both volumes have been promised in the Newberry series of the Complete Herman Melville. It's hard to imagine the hangup on Billy Budd. The Complete poetry I understand since it has only been in the last few years that newly-found bits and pieces have come to view.

Then we have Missing Authors:
1. James Ellroy. Since becoming a cult writer and cult figure, James Ellroy has only surfaced as the writer of very short pieces. At one point, he suggested in an interview he had been researching the Clinton years with an eye of writing about them. A perfect idea since the Clinton years brought back in force the use of private detectives such as Terry Lenzer, who would be a prefect tool for melding Hollywood and Washington decadence.
2. Ian Rankin. This is unfair since Exit Music came out only a short time ago. In it Detective Rebus retires. But Rebus takes with him the dead cases from his career. It was clear that Edinburgh had outgrown Rebus' character. It had become yuppie-ized and European. The dead cases allow both Rankin and Rebus to go back to a nitty-grittier time more in character with the main character.
3.George Pelecanos. Pelecanos is the only novelist writing now that actually captures the real Washington away from the political world. After his last novel, he said he was exhausted and that it was harder each time. He's been writing for television shows like The Wire. Don't go, George.
4. J.G. Ballard. Last year Ballard left his readers with the distrubing news he was dying of cancer. We just want to know how's he doing.
5. J.D. Salinger. The New York Times already did their annual J.D.Salinger story. Has he been writing all this time? Is Janet Malcolm right--there are two completed novels in his workroom? Will we ever know? Is this the biggest Truman Capote?
6. Mary Oliver. One of our leading poets has actually been prolific since her life companion died a few years back. It's just that I could use another Mary Oliver soon.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

After Dinner Coffee--Rt.66 Dark Roast

Well, it passed with 61 votes, including Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins and Arlen Specter. Now all the progressive blogs are gaming the Republican strategy. The young Cenk at has done at least two shows on this. Yes, the Republicans want the stimulus package to fail just as Rush Limbaugh said because if it succeeds the Democrats will be a majority for a generation. That's why we hear this endless dribble about FDR not really ending the Depression.

There, however, is a more ideological problem--The Republicans do not want to admit the age of Reagan is over and that new times call for new approaches--they have none. The Republicans have boxed themselves into sillyland by being Johnny One-Notes about taxes. They can not conceive of any worthwhile government spending, except for national defense. That's why you have such nonsense being said by Michael Steele that government jobs aren't real jobs; only the private sector can create real jobs--even if they don't last. The Republicans in town are absolutely delighted by their obstructionism and feel they have their mojo back.

And there are the Bush/Cheney Republicans who worry their ultimate plans for the United States will be rolled back. In the globalization they supported and profited from, the United States ultimately would become the Godfather of A Banana Republic, suffering the disparities of wealth exhibited in developing countries but retaining its clout by being the policeman of the world. Basically, if we follow this to conclusion, the United States will soon look like the former Soviet Union. It would be hyper-crony capitalism, rewarding the financial nomenklatura. Unfortunately, the herd mentality took over among the elites, which triggered the September financial collapse.

One note-- Politico, which is headed by the chairman of the Reagan Library, was quick to respond to Rep. Kanjorski's account of September 18, saying it didn't happen or (cough) not in the numbers he said. He clearly hit a nerve.

Less savvy Republicans still don't get it. Like John McCain, they really believe we are only suffering a recession and therefore the old tools like tax cuts and business incentives will get us back in the swing of things. In fact, the Bush Administration pulled its largest Katrina with the September collapse. Someone should title their memoirs of these years--The Time of Septembers.

Yes, it is also true that the Republicans salted the stimulus bill with their favorite projects, like Bob Bennett's $50 billion for nuclear energy. Part of this was a strategy so that their states will get goodies even if they voted against it.

Two great comments today: Mitch McConnell said that the bill represented 'the Europeanization of America". That needs a Talmudic scholar to interpret. And Mike Huckabee's "the stimulus package is anti-religion." The reason for this is that no construction funds can go to the rehabilitation or construction of those buildings which are or will be used exclusively for religious purposes. So we're going to become secular Europe--the new center of Godlessness. And --cue up McCain's "Lime Green Jello Speech"--"And that's not Change we can believe in."

As long as they have their echo machine--the talk radios and Fox News--providing surround sound to reinforce their positions, they won't change. In the congressional elections in 2010, they will lose more in the Senate but gain some in the House as some Democrats will get caught in affairs or some corruption. Their real gains will be in some state houses--possibly New York, New Jersey and Virginia but that will be a local phenomenon and will not have national meaning.

Barack Obama has many gifts but the one that is fatal to his enemies--is his transparent empathy. Some of us like that fact he speaks in full sentences and talks to the American people as if they could be adults. But it really is the sense he conveys of actually wanting to alleviate the suffering of the American people. This doesn't come off as Clinton's schmaltzy "I feel your pain" but something genuine. As evidenced by the events in Indiana and Florida, that buys alot of good will. And that will make him hard to oppose in the future.

The progressive blogs should avoid the conspiracy theories about Republican politics. They really are as inept as they seem. For the past ten years, they let ideology far outstrip competency and now they are Old Men Yelling At Clouds.