Sunday, March 29, 2009

No One Ever Expects the Spanish Iniquisition!

This has been a jam-packed week of events concerning the torture issue in the Bush Administration. The ACLU and others brought a case against the United States at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights about torture in Guatanamo.

Spain's newspapers El Pais and Publico reported that the Spanish national security court has opened a criminal probe focusing on Bush Administration lawyers who authored the infamous torture memos. The targeted individuals are John Yoo, William J. Haynes II, former vice presidential chief of staff David Addington, former Attorney general Alberto Gonzalez, former Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee, now a judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and former Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith. The Spanish case evolved out of an investigation into allegations, sustained by Spain's Supreme Court, that a Spanish citizen had been tortured in Guantanamo.

The judge assigned the case is Baltasar Garzon, Europe's best known counterterrorism judge, responsible for targeting activities of ETA and investigating Al Qaeda-affiliated organizations in Morocco and the Spanish enclaves in North Africa. In the United States he is best known for his prosecution of a criminal investigation against Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet that resulted in an arrest warrant issued while the former dictator was visiting England.

The Spanish criminal court now may seek the arrest of any of the accused if they travel to Spain or any of the 24 nations that participate in the European extradition convention. Given the Pinochet case, the accused will be in jeopardy if they travel to any European Union country, the United Kingdom and Canada.

The Washington Post today reported on the case of Abu Zubaida as the first high-value target, who was waterboarded and subjected to harsh interrogation techniques. The long story details Abu Zubaida's complicated political background and his role as a "fixer" for radical Muslim ideologues. He has been linked to the "Millenium Bomber" and his plot to bomb LAX on New Year's Eve 1999 and other plots to attack holy sites in the Middle East. His torture produced false leads on plots that never existed. Whatever the disposition of his case, his is the clearest case of the Bush Administration torturing someone without even the pretext of legality. His torture preceded all the DOJ memos and therefore provides an opening to prosecute Bush officials and CIA agents under the federal laws prohibiting torture and war crimes.

On Friday, the Manhattan Federal Court handed down a decision that called on the CIA to release all documents relating to the destruction of viodeotapes of detainee interrogations. The ACLU who brought the case maintained that the destruction of the vdeootapes in 2005 that document harsh questioning techniques was a violation of the 2004 order from the Manhattan Federal Court that ordered the CIA to preserve all records pertaining to the treatment of detainees.

The beat goes on. the Senate Armed Services Committee has announced the release--maybe this week--of a voluminous report on the treatment of alleged terrorist detainees held in U.S. custody and the brutal interrogation techniques they were subjected to. According to the Defense Department and intelligence agencies, the report is the most detailed account to date of the roles senior Bush Administration and Defense Department officials played in implementing a policy of torture at Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and other detention sites.

The full declassified version of the report is 200 pages, contains 2,000 footnotes and will reveal a plethora of new information about the genesis of the Bush Administration's interrogation policies. The investigation relied upon the testimony of 70 people, generated 38,000 pages of documents and took 18 months to complete. The declassified version will also include a full account of the roles military psychologists played in assisting the Bush administration to administer the policy.

Chairman Carl Levin has relayed the classified report to the Department of Justice and requested Attorney General Eric Holder appoint someone like a retired federal judge to further analyze the report's findings and to make recommendations to the Attorney General about how to proceed. Last week, the ACLU called on Holder to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate all Bush Administration officials who signed off on and approved the torture of prisoners.

Better yet, Vijay Padmanabhan, the State Department's chief counsel on Guatanamo litigation, came out last week and basically accused the Bush Administration as panicking over 9/11 and embracing the torture policy as a reaction. He says now that it was "foolish" for the Bush Administration to declare detainees beyond the reach of American and international laws and the Geneva Conventions.

Meanwhile in the U.K., Britain's Attorney General ,Lady Scotland (love the name) launched her own criminal investigation into the MI5 complicity in the torture of Binyam Mohamed, a British resident held in Guantanamo, as well as 15 other cases.

Philippe Sands, whose book Torture Team, made the case against the Bush lawyers claimed that the Spanish case among others will force the Obama Administration's hand to decide to launch a criminal investigation of its own. If it doesn't then, the Spanish case will proceed with a green light.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Mondo Bizarro-The Republican Clown Car

If there wasn't so much talk about political violence on the edges of the Republican scene and so much hyperbole over Obama's alleged Marxism and his so-called desire to amass political power, the Republicans would provide much needed amusement for a nation on the brink of a Depression. Yesterday, the House leadership--if that's what they are--unveiled to the amusement of the assembled reporters and almost everyone in the media a counter-budget that lacked any numbers or figures. To make matters worse, they promised to release the "real" real thing on April 1, providing the headline for the story.

The so-called budget emphasized lowering the top marginal rate for taxes to 25%, thus providing the precise people who got us into this mess another windfall in profits. The energy platform was a recycled version of Drill, Baby, Drill without any sense of irony. The new found Republican concern for deficits called for the reform of Medicaid and Medicare without a healthcare reform plan of their own. On further bailouts the document promises" No Mas" but John Boehner told the press, "Well, maybe.", thus stepping on one of the few principled stances in the document.

The end result was that the Republicans were the Not-For-Prime-Time players. Michael Steele says that the "time for reflection" among Republicans is over. It's clear that like Lucy they have alot of 'xplaining to do. Republicans can not be credible on the issue of deficits--although that is a valid issue--because of their almost joyous embrace of them under both Reagan and Bush II. They can only go to the tax-cut well so many times before--and the time is now--that old warhorse needs to be put out to pasture. And cutting entitlements put them back into the old mode of their days wanting to eliminate social security.

The Senate leadership was AWOL when it came to attending the White House's announcement of a new policy toward Afghanistan, a war which the Republicans started and one in which they would at least pretend some interest. Eric Cantor, who always campaigns on family values,missed President Obama's press conference to attend his own fund-raiser at the local Birtney Spears concert, which features a little S&M parody that I'm sure would go down well with the values set.

The disconnect gets worse. Newt Gingrich returned to Fox News to warn about Barack Obama's power grab and the threat posed by "liberal fascism". What would make this somewhat credible is if conservatives had demonstrated some resistance to the Bush Administration's embrace of a constitutional doctrine which gave the President powers analogous to the PRI Governments in Mexico and the Third Reich. Only Bruce Fein ever challenged the Bush Administration on its despotism, the remaining conservatives fell for the Cheney line hook, line and sinker. That Newt focuses on President Obama as the power-seeker is laughable.

The week has seen episodes of silliness. Michelle Bachmann,a right-wing Republican from Minnesota, proclaimed several times the need for a revolution in America to preserve our freedom. Glenn Beck, the Morman libertarian, raised the pithy point that Obama uses the teleprompter alot--sort of like all other Presidents--and wondered who puts the words on it. The fact that Obama is the first President since Reagan to actually write his speeches doesn't phase these people. Beck believes Obama is the Manchurian candidate. I guess John McCain is finally off the hook. Karl Rove, destroyer of all worlds, has been omnipresent on television claiming that President Obama believes "repeating a falsehood all the time makes it true." Karl should know that's been his whole life, including his peak performance orchestrating the issue of WMDs in Iraq. Now veteran neocons Bob Kagan and Bill Kristol have created a new think and will host a seminar on How to Win in Afghanistan led by "We can muddle through" John McCain. John 's sidekick Joe The Plumber is campaigning around the country against efforts by unions to get the Employee Choice act passed. Not a Joe or a plumber, he's managed to rouse the outrage of real plumbers, who do want real unions. The cartoon quality of these antics is too rich.

Meanwhile, the Queen of the North, Sarah Palin spoke this week about her inability on the McCain campaign to find some to pray with. She politely avoided mentioning that Mark Salter looked and acted like the Devil. Michael Steele also had the God vibe when he said he would run for President if God told him to. Remember it was W who introduced this meme to all Republican candidates. Ike won't be caught dead talking about his religion.

All one can conclude is that the Congressional Republicans need to replace their entire leadership without exception if they are going to have any credibility in the future. The present gang are all accomplices in the debacle of the Bush years. If they need an issue--and I think they need many--, they might try rebuilding our manufacturing base--an ideology called Neo-Industralism. Oddly enough, the only Republican in recent memory to raise this as an issue was the retired congressman Duncan Hunter, who received less than 1% in the presidential primaries.

The Republicans will spend light-years in the wilderness if they keep neglecting to address real social needs--stripped of the pseudo-God and values talk. If their plans for healthcare do not extend coverage in the United States and lower costs, then they will stand as they are right now as the Party of the Rich and the Corporations. It may have been a natural evolution or dissolution but the party once pretended to support small businesses and the Middle Class, instead of Theocrats and Plutocrats.

The Republicans need serious time for self-reflection and self-criticism. Flaming the nativist elements in society is just raising the specter of violence and further ugliness. It's one of the main reasons Colin Powell came out against his friend John McCain and backed Barack Obama because the McCain campaign rallies revealed the dark smell of the paranoid.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

President Obama meets the Press and the Challenges to Conservatives

President Whoopass cleaned the reporters' clocks last night in his second press conference. He called on an array of reporters from Ebony, Stars &Stripes, Politico and even the Washington Times at the expense of the more established media. His putdown of Ed Henry of CNN put that network into a tizzy, where they tried to spin the rest of the press conference as deteriorating after their reporter demoralized President Obama. President Obama stayed and went back to and stayed on his message that his budget was inseparable from the recovery. Earlier in the day Republicans--in this case Mitch McConnell--moaned about how the budget didn't cohere. It's obvious that they hadn't listened to any of the Administration's briefings. In fact, it is one of the only budgets in my memory that does hang together and is an integrated whole.

President Obama has been trying to comunicate beyond the media filter, a filter that is more and more obviously protective of the wealthy and corporate interests. His appearance on the Jay Leno Show netted the highest rating for that show in many a year and another appearance on 60 Minutes topped 17 million. I still revert to my primary campaign days of watching his public appearances on C-Span so I am spared the inanity of the chattering class. The Obama strategy is obviously working since he retains his high approval ratings, despite outliers like Zogby and the compromised Rasmussen polls.

Pro-lifers are protesting that President Obama will be receiving an honorary degree from Norte Dame--like almost all his predecessors. The Catholic Bishop in Indiana has announced he will boycott the proceedings. I'm sure he's be missed. Soon to be a Catholic convert, Newt Gingrich commented that Obama's policies were against Catholic doctrine. The twice-divorced Gingrich will be converting to Catholicism soon so he and his wife can worship together. A quick study--he's already mastered Catholic doctrine.

Newt has been in other news creating a new group that will bring together fiscal and social conservatives. Fiscal conservatives tend to blame evangelicals for the declining fortunes of the Republican party and this is Newt's effort to bridge the divide. In a lot of ways it reminds me of the Southern Agrarian Literary Movement, except no one can write. The new 'City on the Hill"--the post-Reagan utopia--will be the 21st century revival of the South with an emphasis on a rural culture isolated from science and modernity and steeped in the religiousity of Flannery O'Connor's Wise Blood. The wealthy will be the plantation holders of old. That might explain conservatives' interest in South Carolina's Governor Mark Sanford, former Goldman Sachs manager, who refused the stimulus money, despite his state having one of the highest unemployment rates in the country and a school system that continues to deteriorate.

A leading conservative publisher and writer approached me the other night about the state of the conservative movement. A literary person schooled in the more philosophical underpinings of conservatism, he lamented the rise of people such as Ann Coulter and G.Gordan Liddy as spokespeople for conservatism. But in our conversation, it was clear that he had no knowledge of the detritus appearing on right-wing websites or the poseurs on cable news. He had not caught Glenn Beck's recent act on the 9/12 Project. Beck quite proudly has announced on his radio show he has never read Hayek and the other philosophical pillars of conservatism. He even rejoices in this, declaring them boring. Nor had my friend been aware of the re-emergence of racism on the right and some of the more inflammatory rhetoric against Barack Obama, whom he thinks is too inexperienced and tackling too many things at the same time.

Personally, I believe we are back at the moment in my youth when William F. Buckley,Jr in the National Review started banning certain types of political behavior from the conservative line-up--the John Birch Society, the KKK, the blatant segregationists and more fringe groups. In New Jersey at that time, Rev. Carl McIntyre had a pirate radio station beaming off Cape May,denouncing Communists, which included President Eisenhower. It was from this morass that modern conservatism had to emerge. But now it has sunk back into the swamp, now even courting secessionists. Like teenagers, more conservatives are reverting to Ayn Rand's writings to launch their "Gault" movement based on the hero of Atlas Shrugged. In the old days,one was encouraged to read Russell Kirk to counter these tendencies or Randian urges.

The conservatives first must do a lot of housekeeping and housecleaning before they can reconstitute a viable movement. First, they must recognize and assimilate the idea that the Bush-Cheney embrace of the unitary theory of the executive was an egregious violation of conservative principles. Secondly, they must formulate some idea of the public good, something that has been sadly lacking in recent years. Thirdly, they must debate with social conservatives how intrusive do they want government in people's personal lives. The domination of the Republican Party by social conservatives is frightening and a leading cause of intolerance in this country.I would also suggest it is the most off-putting aspect of the Republicans, preventing them from any real political reach in the Northeast and the Midwest.

Conservatives must finally deal with the whole idea of governance. In a time of almost Depression, how can one reconcile a philosophy of small government with the suffering of the population on a large scale? For a group that has joined with forces arguing against evolution in school systems, how can one advocate social darwinism as they are doing as a default argument? And why have the wealthy been seen as virtuous in light of the behavior of bankers and Wall Street operators?

The problem with the last Administration--as conservative as politicians can be--was the reliance on the rhetoric of ideology as a replacement for competence. In the final analysis, that was found profundly wanting.

It seems to me that the first requirement for any conservative recovery is to start telling the truth about the recent past and how conservatives fueled in their hubris by Karl Rove betrayed their own principles by seeking dominant control of all governing institutions and sought to bend established constitutional safeguards to their own ideological benefit.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Binyam Mohamed Case --more Revelations

The case of Binyam Mohamed,the Ethiopian citizen held at Guatanamo for four years and released into custody of the British government, continues to provide embarrassing revelations. According to documents presented to Britain's High Court, U.S. government lawyers tried to get the British resident to sign a deal saying he had never been tortured and that he would not speak to the media as a condition for his release. The U.S. lawyers also wanted him to plead guilty so he could secure his freedom even though he was never charged with a crime. Even his U.S. military lawyer had said that the case against him had been dismissed in 2007. The documents also revealed that the U.S. military wanted Mohamed to agree not to sue the United States or any of its allies.

These proposed agreements were contained in the documents brought before the High Court in October, when it ruled that documents relating to Mohamed's case could not be released because it might jeopardize national security agreements between Britain and the United States.

Apparently, Mohamed's lawyer rejected the agreements and he was released last month. The British government also opposed these conditions and helped fight them until they were dropped.

"The facts revealed today reflect the way the U.S. government has consistently tried to cover up the truth of Binyam Mohamed's torture,"said Clive Stafford-Smith, a lawyer for Mohamed and director of the human rights charity Reprieve. "Gradually the truth is leaking out, and the governments on both sides of the Atlantic should pause to consider whether they should continue to fight to keep this torture evidence secret."

To correct yesterday's post, the CIA has over 3,000 memos, not 300 that documented the "enhanced interrogation" of those videotaped. The videotapes were subsequently destroyed.
Colin Powell's former chief of Staff at the State Department, Lawrence Wilkerson wrote a column in The Washington Note where he responded to Dick Cheney's blast at Barack Obama's policy to close Guantanamo. The post entitled "Some Truths About Guantanamo Bay" reveals a host of problems that plagued the facility since its foundation. In the end, Wilkerson claims that only about two dozen of the detainees held there were ever terrorists.

Some of Wilkerson's assertions have found print before in various books since 9/11 but his former position gives him weight as an insider confirming what is becoming obvious to the outside world all the time.

First, there was an utter incompetence of the battlefield vetting in Afghanistan during the early stages of operations there so that there was no meaningful discrimination made by competent officials as to who the United States were transporting to Cuba for detention and interrogation or why. The U.S. policies such as bounty-hunting, a weak understanding of cultural tendencies and rivalries as well as an utter disregard for the fundamentals of jurisprudence compounded problems.

A second aspect of the issue should bother most of us. Several in the U.S. political leadership became aware early on that the reality was that many of the detainees were innocent of any substantial wrongdoing, had little intelligence value and should have been immeditely released. To have admitted this would have put a black mark on the political leadership who already had allowed 9/11 to happen. Instead, it was decided it was better to claim everyone was a hardcore terrorist "the worse of the worst" and had enduring intelligence value than to have them released.

The third aspect of the issue was, according to Wilkerson, that Ambassador Pierre Prosper, the U.S. envoy for war crimes issues, was being bombarded by questions and directions from Colin Powell to repatriate every detainee who could be repatriated. However, this was blocked by Don Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney, who would have none of this. Wilkerson reports that both men knew that among the detainees were a 13 year-old boy and a man over 90.

The fourth aspect Wilkerson covers is an adhoc theory of intelligence called the mosaic philosophy, which held that it didn't matter if a detainee was innocent because since he lived in Afghanistan he might know something of importance. This philosophy required a large number of people detained for as long as possible for this theory to work.

Another aspect of Gitmo ,which has been revealed in the last few months, is the sheer incompetence involved in cataloguing and maintaining the pertinent factors surrounding the detainees that might be relevant in any eventual legal proceedings, whether in an established court system or even in a kangaroo court setting. There was no chain of custody, no disciplined handling of the evidence and no attention to the details that a legal process would demand.

Wilkerson is devastating when he writes," it has never come to my attention in any persuasive way--from classified information or otherwise--that any intelligence of significance was gained from any of the detainees at Guantanamo Bay other than from the handful of undisputed ring leaders and their companions, clearly no more than a dozen or two of the detainees, and even their alleged contribution of hard, actionable intelligence is intensely disputed in the relevant communities such as intelligence and law enforcement."

Wilkerson was driven to write his piece not only because of Cheney's re-emergence to advocate torture and maintaining Gitmo, something the Bush Administration had planned to close as early as 2004 and 2005, but also the stoking of what he sees are the half-baked nuts which formed the base of the McCain-Palin run in 2008. He also writes that Gordon England, Deputy Secretary of Defense, had proposed closing Gitmo and that given his competence surely had a plan in 2005. Whether it was passed on remains to be seen.

Memories from Guatemala

Reuters ran a story on Sunday that brought back memories when I was with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and we investigated the disappeared in Guatemala. Contrary to the film classic Repo Man, the disappeared didn't just go to the future. After days of taking the testimony of the mothers of the disappeared, we received an anonymous tip from a junior military commander, who confessed that all the relatives of these women had been murdered. Now in a mass grave at the La Verbena cemetary a mass grave has been discovered that is said to contain around 1,000 bodies thought to be the victims of the extrajudicial killings by the army and the police during the most violent years of the civil war that ran from 1960-1996.

The project is one of the Forensic Anthropology Foundation, who worked in Bosnia after the 1992-95 Balkan conflict. Fredy Peccerelli, who runs the project, revealed things I didn't even know. The people who were taken prisoner were questioned, interrogated and tortured. If they knew little, they were killed quickly. If they knew a lot,they were held first for three to six months. The last detail would have made it possible to locate some of the victims while they were alive but this didn't happen. According to the U.N.-backed truth commission over 80 percent of the murders during the civil war were committed by the army.

The Forensic Anthropology Foundation says the bodies were buried under concrete lids in a grave of four large pits thought to contain 40,000 bodies. The remains will be cross-checked against a new DNA database of family members of the disappeared to finally identify the victims and give them a proper burial.

Anthropologists working with local indigenous people have already found the remains of thousands of people massacred and buried in the Guatemalan countryside. Over a quarter of million people were killed or disappeared during this conflict. It is only now that some of the evidence is appearing about those who were murdered in the urban areas.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Don't Follow Leaders, Watch Parking Meters

This week I have been swamped with media clusters from AIG to torture. If you plug into the sensorium, is it really just an excuse to feel alive? I have been unable to make head nor tail of the banking crisis despite many able commentaries posted on the web and strange memos appearing from obscure French think tanks. I do get the fact that Obama's decision on the toxic assets will be of monumental importance. What bothers me is that I'm convinced that virtually no one has the faintest idea about what to do or its consequences. Some of the speculation has the derivative blackhole the equivalent of several times the GDP of planet earth. In that case, you can kiss our economic system goodby.

If you think that the financial system simply needs mending and re-regulation, then the measures being put in place should re-assure people and recovery might happen in 2010. But, if you are convinced as I am that everything is busted beyond repair, then we are looking at a decade of steady decline. In the Third World, we referred to these situations as de-development.

The Fed printing of a $1 trillion for the stimulus of new credit was done publicly as a re-assuring move. But what really happened was that the Fed had to buy up its own debt because there were no new takers. This happened recently with Germany, when their auction went without buyers. China is already voicing its concerns about the total of American debt it hold and wants guarantees from the Obama Administration.

Those who argue the current crisis cries out for a New New Deal neglect to understand that FDR's America was a creditor country with a vigorous industrial base. Now we are a debtor country with an ever dwindling industrial base. That's why Obama is right in putting down the foundations for a new economy--but we will not see the results of that for many, many years to come.

The good thing that has come out of all this is the fact that the wealthy are no longer viewed as virtuous. It has become quite evident in the bonus flap that the Wall Street culture is so oblivious to the public good and so immune from actually producing positive results that the best that can be said for them is they act like feudal lords entitled to the yields of others' labor. Max Weber would be appalled at the collapse of the Protestant Ethic. It has now become clear that the rich are the non-productive part of society. For every Steve Jobs, there are hundreds of AIG executives. This crisis may end the days when Wall Street and the Big Corporations command any respect as being authorities on either economic issues or models of conduct. The problem now is that these decisions will have to be made by our political culture, which also boasts a studied ignorance of economic affairs.

Another nightmare surfaced again this week. Mark Danner printed excerpts of the report by the International Red Cross in the New York Review of Books,where they said that the CIA tortured detainees at Gitmo and other black sites. The importance of this can not be underestimated. According to the Geneva Conventions, the authoritative source for determing whether war crimes and torture have been committed is the International Red Cross. The publication of this document, which usually would be reserved, puts added pressure on the Obama Administration and other countries as well to prosecute those responsible. Anne Applebaum at the Washington Post, the author of a definitive book on the Soviet Gulag, wrote an op-ed calling for an investigation into the CIA black sites and the accusations of torture. Ms. Applebaum noted that the Red Cross documents concerned only about 16 persons, showing the United States hasn't become the black hole of Calcutta--yet, but that the details of the torture were such to deserve investigation.

Following last week's appearance of Dick Cheney, commentators have noted that the Heathrow plot he mentioned was foiled by the British and almost completely screwed up by the Americans. It also was made clear that the intelligence about the plot did not come from Gitmo. This means, according to my count, of the 5 alleged plots foiled by intel from Gitmo, according to Cheney, none of them were remotely related to Gitmo detainees or information derived from them. The man is so far batting 100.

There were several important related developments concerning the issue of torture and rendition this week. While the CIA destroyed nearly 100 tapes of enhanced interrogation, over 300 memos about these events have been uncovered. In Britain, a good deal of press coverage has been given to how British intelligence "sexed up" the Iraq threat to persuade Parliament to go to war. President Obama has ok'd Eric Holder releasing the rest of the Justice Department's "torture memos". The ACLU this past week published 4 pages just listing the memos by single-line title and author.

I have not been able to catch up to all the documents and commentary on all of this. But after the release of the second batch of the memos, I hope to address the whole shabang from the torture and rendition issue to the Truth Commission. Right now in the Senate, there is not alot of support for Senator Leahy's proposal. But that can change with more leaked revelations. I wonder how much the Obama Administration is trying to leak as much as they can to create a climate that will support the holding of such an investigation.

The other issue that has draw severe criticism has been the Administration's seeming defense of the Bush Administration's positions in various court cases. How much is this a sincere position or a delay tactic until the final reviews are completed?

Does media matter? On key stories it does but on the drumbeat of criticism concerning President Obama not so much. During his California trip and his appearance on the Jay Leno show, he was criticized from both the Left and Right for not staying home to work on the economy, for taking on too much, for not taking harsh steps on AIG, etc. Today's Gallup approval rating has him at 65%. Apparently, the American people have other things on their mind.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Sunday Coffee--Rt.66

The Bush deadenders seem out in force these days. Karl Rove--who should be banned from both network news and the Republican Party--goes on O'Reilly to warn about fascism coming from the Obama Administration and saying the leftwing in the country is well-funded. Dana Perino reappears on the heels of Ari Fleischer sadsack performance on Hardball. Then we have Dick Cheney's appearance on CNN with an uninformed John King asking him questions. There has been much tut-tuting in the Washington holdovers from the dead regime, talking about how the Obama people aren't behaving properly in things big and small. Outside of the total lack of manners involved in this charade, it's clear the Bush deadenders have not listened to Mitch McConnell's now frequent statements how the Republicans are in trouble because of the reaction of the American people to the Bush Administration. I know conservatives and fellow-travelling Republicans who defend these people. My best advice is not to do it--they are either protecting their legal positions or book deals. They have long abandoned any concern about the common good.

Dick Cheney's appearance on CNN showed him at his confident best. A former Vice President accuses a sitting President of weakening the United States for another terrorist attack. If this were MoveOn. org., Republicans would be outraged. The fact Cheney couldn't name any measures Obama has made to weaken the country was indicative. I am sure it was the Administration dropping the "enemy combatant" designation for terrorists and the declaration it will close Gitmo that caused Cheney's reaction. Remember Cheney's exit interview when he bragged about how Obama would like the anti-terrorist regime established by the Bush Administration and how he would enjoy the extension of powers for the President that Bush put in place. It turns out that hasn't been the case.

John King failed in his interview by not pointing out that the Bush Administration released scores of detainees at Gitmo who have returned to become leaders and members of Al Qaeda in Yemen. I call this group Cheney's Raiders. He also didn't ask the obvious question of the week about Cheney presiding over secret hit squads as revealed by investigative reporter Sy Hersh. This was a fat pitch and he could have Cheney vigorously deny it.

For his part Cheney brought out the old saw against "law enforcement" tactics in fighting terrorism as if the Obama Administration is not sending Predators to wipe out camps in Pakistan. He was confident in his defense that everything the Bush Administration did was constitutional, despite a few Supreme Court rulings that deny this claim. But in his own world they were constitutional if you buy the unitary theory of the executive, a constitutional theory held by a small cult of extremists.

In my view, you are politically bankrupt if you have to bet on another terrorist attack on the U.S. to reverse your political fortunes. The Bush mantra that he kept us safe after 9/11 doesn't admit to how he let the whole attack happen by negligence in the first place. If one of Cheney's raiders attacks the U.S., will the Bush Administration be at blame again?

Cheney again vouched for the saving techniques of waterboarding by suggesting that numerous plots against the U.S. were thwarted. I hope Leon Panetta requests this classified document Cheney referred to and has it analyzed. Today Cheney added the breakup of the Heathrow airline plot to the list of actions broken up through intelligence discovered through waterboarding. As I have written before, there were four alleged plot that proponents of waterboarding mentioned in the past. Three were thwarted by intelligence developed with law enforcement techniques and one in London didn't exist, according to former head of British counter-intelligence. So it would be good if some investigative reporter followed up on Cheney's new claims.

In arena of style, the Bush deadenders have criticized Obama because he actually is more forthright and open than their Administration. They read Gibbs jabs at Cramer on the John Stewart show or his digs at Rush Limbaugh as some systematic coherent attacks on enemies--which Karl Rove says they would never do. What the political culture here has not wakened up to is the degree to which the entire Bush Administration was covert--from the signing statements on enviromental issues to the whole war on terror. Journalists have been quite to pick up complaints about the Obama Administration without examining the Cone of Silence that covered the Bush Administration. The Bushies acted quietly but were lethal behind the scenes.

You are not alone--We have them surrounded

After a series of doomsday shows, Glen Beck launched his 9/12 project on Fox News to encourage the revival of conservatives and libertarians so as to "take back" the country, which they lost to a bunch of flag-waving leftists. The libertarian Morman combined old street evangelism, show-manship and a touch of McCarthyism to gin up the audience gathered at viewing parties stationed around the country. If fascism comes to America, it will come as this noxious combination of sweet talking religiosity, fear-mongering and invocation of a patriotism separate from government.

Beck outlined a series of principles, which he thought should govern this new "movement". He introduced the show with a rundown of all the American institutions you can not trust--banks, big business, government. He claimed Americans were frustrated because they had no one to hear their complaints. Americans are afraid because of Islamic fundamentalism, Mexican drug lords and extrenal chaos. While he acknowledged that some Americans were suffering during these times, what about those people who behaved by the rules, he wondered. Whose rules and who decides they acted in accordance with them?

Beck posited that the country was asleep before 9/11 and then after the initial shock of 9/11 came together spontaneously and that's the spirit he wants to continue. America, for Beck, doesn't exist pre-9/11 and that's what makes his little project worrisome. Oddly enough, one of the first complaints in the show was that the Government--there was no Obama here--will raise your taxes--well, only if you are earn over $250,000, which he and all his Fox cronies do. Another cute trick was a photomontage of largely Democratic leaders in Washington with the rare appearance of John Boehner to give partisan balance and Beck saying that "Washington says they are the solution". But that's the problem ,according to him. You are the solution--the Forgotten Man.

Beck's faux populism is problematic. He calls for sacrifice by all Americans and encourages us all to adopt the value system of our military--the only organized force in the show that deserved respect. Interestingly, a study released this week showed that of all the organizations with respect--number one was our military. The other group of Americans who deserved respect was small business owners--one of the groups studiously omitted from the Republican campaign this past fall and that suddenly re-appears as the new heros (victims) in the new conservative populist scenarios.

Beck--as he has been recently on other shows--was prone to sobbing rather uncontrollably. This was done artufully as if he was genuinely moved like the great evangelist Jimmy Swaggert when he called his cousin rock-and-roller Jerry Lee Lewis to repent. In all, the whole program was a secular revival meeting using a therapeutic 12-step program for recovery. At times he reminded me of Nixon's discoursing about the Silent Majority with the production value of We The People.

Maybe it will work. His show was the highest rated for that time slot. He promised to return with an update of this project in six months. Maybe he will spell out what kind of revolution he has in mind since Sean Hannity has already posted a poll on the various options.

What is curious about this hyper-hysteria of the right is that they ignored a whole range of issues under the previous Administration that really did touch on constitutional rights and liberties and which affected everyone and not just the random terrorist cell.

Glen Beck has been pushing the idea of the FEMA concentration camps as some Obama plan, when in effect several times during the Bush Administration there was actually talk about declaring martial law, the last instance when the banks melted down. Beck knows --if he were honest--that these camps had been around for quite some time. Yes, their existence should be worrisome but one can not use them to make some case against Obama.

If we should all act as the soldiers he idolizes, then Beck should be the first to call for the re-introduction of the draft. That's the only way the warrior values he worships can be indoctrinated into the population.

For me, I simply don't see Americans fighting each other at this point in time. Despite propaganda about Obama's falling numbers, I take Gallup as the gold standard which shows him still riding high with the only region dragging his numbers is the South--now the only real Republican bastion left. Approval ratings in the Northeast are at 87%, other regions they are over 70%.

Somehow, despite the conservative noise machine and the Bush deadenders appearing as talking heads, the public isn't buying. Of course, this could all change but nothing on the domestic horizon indicates that the worst fears (hopes) of the conservatives are going to be realized.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The End of the Great Awakening Part II

Several items were released this week on religion in America and God in your Brain. The Trinity College "American Religious Identity Survey" was released that showed the number of Americans claiming no religion now has increased to 15 percent. Northern New England has now taken over from the Pacific Northwest as the least religious section of the country. Vermont leads all states with 34% of the population claiming to have no religious preference.

The percentage of Christians in the United States has declined from 86.2 percent in the 1990s to 76 percent today. Mainstream protestant churches have experienced the largest declines to 12.9 percent from 18.7% in the 1990s. Evangelical churches however have increased to almost 11.8 percent of the population from 5% in the 1990s. Significantly, nearly 38.6 percent of mainline Protestant now also identify themselves as evangelical or born again.

Good news for evangelicals? Well, evangelical Michael Spencer writing in the new on-line Christian Science Monitor warns that within ten years there will be a major collapse of evangelical Christianity. He sees evangelicalism being deserted by half within a generation. He argues that the 21st century will be very secular and religiously antagonistic, triggering an intolerance of Christianity that many thought impossible in their lifetimes and that public policy will see evangelical Christianity as an opponent of the common good.

He envisions that thousands of ministries will end; Christian media reduced, if not eliminated, and millions of evangelicals will quit. He says "the end of evangelicalism as we know it is close."

How did this happen so fast? Spencer cites a number of factors.
1. Evangelicals made a costly mistake by identifying their movement with the culture war and with political conservatism. "Being against gay marruage and being rhetorcally pro-life will not make up for the fact that massive majorities of Evangelicals can't articulate the Gospel with any coherence"
2. Evangelicals have failed to pass on to young people an orthodox form of faith that can take root and survive. Despite billions spent on youth ministries, coming generations of Christians are going to be monumentally ignorant and unprepared for cultural pressures.
3. Consumer-driven megachurches are one of the dominant forms of the evangelical movement and they will shrink, even vanish.
4. Christian education has not produced a product that can withstand the rising tide of secularism. It had used its educational system primarily to staff its own needs and talk to itself.
5. He believes that cultural secularism will put pressure on evangelicals to "do good" so that actual religious work will not get done.
6. Even in the "bible belt" Evangelicals will not find a great reception.
7. And the money will dry up.

In viewing what will be left, Michael Spencer sees much of Evangelicalism needs a funeral, escpecially the prosperity Gospel. He thinks that the Catholic and Orthodox churches will be two of the beneficiaries of evangelicals' collapse. He expects that the remainder of the evangelical churches will have a fragmented response to the so-called "culture wars" and will still flirt with political conservatives.

An excellent read on h0w the evangelicals got into their present state is Frank Schaeffer's very rich memoir Crazy for God, (2007, De Capo Press, $16.00). Frank appeared on television this week, looking like Mitt Romney's brother,and called the Republican Party "the drunk at the end of the subway car trying to get everyone's attention". Frank and his father created the religious right in America in response to Roe v. Wade. While he credits his father, a well-known reformed Presbyterian preacher with this, it was actually Frank as a young man, who dragged his father into politics from his faith-based community in Switzerland.

Crazy for God is not a Marjoe type story. His parents, while fundamentalist in terms of biblical theology, were actually quite liberal, tolerant,not homophobic and relatively enlightened about sex. The most amusing parts of the memoir are the meetings between his father and people like Pat Robertson and Rev. Dobson. Schaeffer has since converted to the Greek Orthodox faith and has been blogging for the last year or so on

The backlash against the fundamentalists will likely be accelerated by studies to be released this year that indicate fundamentalists tend to have extraordinarily high incidences of spousal abuse, sex abuse, alcoholism, out of wed pregnancies and epidemic levels of drug use. In other words, the family values crowd will be shown to suffer a plague of problems and become viewed more as constituting a social problem themselves.

But the good news for everyone is that the US National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Strokes in Bethesda , Maryland has completed a study that demonstrates " specific components of religious belief are mediated by well-known brain networks, and they support contemporary psychological theories and ground religious belief within evolutionary-adaptive cognitive functions."

In short, Jesus was right, the Kingdom of God is literally inside you. Congratulations.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Whither The Republicans?

A recent Gallup poll has the nation's party breakdown as 40% self-proclaimed Democrats, 35% independent, and 25% Republicans. I remember the time in the 1990s that the Republicans actually had a plurality, the only time in my life. Now if you have fallen 15% behind the other party, don't you think you should become introspective?

It takes a Canadian David Frum to take on Rush Limbaugh and the whole idea that Limbaugh should represent the party. Naturally for Fox News and other conservatives, this was really a controversy generated by Barack Obama, who has an enemies list that is as extensive as say... Richard Nixon. While this flap has had its entertaining moments,it has become quite clear that party officials have kowtowed to Limbaugh.

One has to admit that Obama gave Republicans an opening by letting the interim budget go on without modification. This is either very clever politics or a mistake. The Obama Administration is gunning for their own budget fight, which will handle a host of issues such as health reform, where all political capital is needed.

But the interim budget until the end of September,one written under the previous Administration, has allowed the Republicans another moment to make their stand. What is their proposal--a freeze on government spending? Even Doug Brooks who momentarily went wobbly over Obama's budget, says even this is insane. The last time a Republican proposed a freeze on government funding during the beginning of a Depression was Herbert Hoover and that didn't work out.

In the endless parade of Republicans on the Sunday talk shows, all of them said,"As American families are tightening their budgets, we in government must do the same." Well, Americans are not only tightening their budgets, they are losing their houses, jobs, pensions and savings--which seem to require something more from Government. There is a massive disconnect between Republicans now and reality as we know it.

Republicans are choosing some very strange fights. First is the McCain obsession on earmarks. The irony is that his Arizona counterpart Jon Kyle must be acting in tandem with McCain. McCain denounces earmarks but makes sure Kyl gets the ones for Arizona. No Republicans I have ever known has ever cared about earmarks except for McCain. Even Lindsey Graham said on televsion that he voted having all earmarks removed from the budget bill but would work to get his re-inserted.

This charade is meant to point out that Obama campaigned to get earmarks out of the budget and he didn't fulfill his promise. Although Obama deserves credit for no earmarks in the stimulus bill and probably few in his own budget.

The other idea we get is that Obama is aiming to raise taxes--only on 2% of Americans in 2011. But this mantra is repeated ad nauseaum by Republicans and their surrogates on television. The next is that this is Obama's recession and really only hit since his election. All of this is aimed to bring Obama's approval ratings more down to earth, although we do not see a rise in Republican approval ratings.

55% of Americans blame Bush and the Republicans for our current economic situation and almost statistical fluke blames Obama. Republican congressional approval ratings are below that of Dick Cheney, which would make one really pause if you are the minority.

Do Republicans want Obama to fail? Yes, they do because with the passage of his 2010 budget, he will have effectively ended the assumptions about governance that existed since Reagan's time. The Republicans instinctively know this. That's why all this talk about Obama being a socialist--that is, he believes government can play a positive force for the public good, something Republicans no longer believe.

The other issue is that the Republicans have reflexively gone back to their FDR time instincts about defending the rich at all costs. Heavy duty financiers are bank-rolling the war against health care reform and encouraging the tax revolt tea parties ,which are actually against tax cuts. These financiers are the high-rollers for funding the Republican party.

Ironically, in the 1990s, the Republican Party became the party of small donors with millions giving a $100 or less. Now it is almost exclusively for the special interests with intense interests in lobbying to block key economic reforms. This leads to Republicans tolerating such things as birthers,neo-secessionists, Christianists, and the recent reemergence of John Birchers in their base.

It is like the odd tightrope the Republicans walked during the heydays of McCarthyism--toleration of the most extreme right-wing elements and cultivation of the wealthiest. Ironically, they have deliberately excluded real small businesses and the middle class from any attempt to extend their reach.

The question I think is worth asking is whether Republicans agreed with the Bush policy under the global economy of making the US simply the gendarme of the world, while devolving into a third world country with extremes of wealth and a further deterioration of living standards? That was the logical extension of these policies as even the elder Bush must have known. Is this what Republicans really wanted to do? If not, then before they get sober again, they have to confront that reality.

The Birthers Get Foiled

The U.S. District Court for the District of Coumbia decided one of the birther cases put forth by a retired Air Force colonel named Gregory Hollister and it wasn't pretty. Birthers are now arguing that Judge James Robertson, who penned the position should now be impeached. The case against one Barry Soetoro, one of the clever names of the birthers for Barack Obama, didn't quite go as planned as the Judge admonished the plaintiffs at least twice during the proceedings about their claims.

Here's what Judge Robertson argued: "This case, if it were allowed to proceed, would deserve mention in one of those books that seek to prove that the law is foolish or that America has too many lawyers with no enough to do. Even in its relatively short life the case has excited the blogosphere and the conspiracy theorists. The right thing to do is to bring it to an early end." And that's just the opening paragraph.

The Judge goes after the "real plaintiff" Philip J. Berg, who he says argued the case in Pennsylvania in front of a judge who wrote a scholarly opinion about Berg's claims and dismissed them. He also outlines the legal arguments of the lawyer John D. Hemenway, which he had already proclaimed "frivolous".

Judge Robertson claims that "any attempt to sanction (Berg and another lawyer) them for the misuse of the public and private resources that have had to be devoted to this case would only give them a forum to continue their provocation." He does reserve his wrath for John D. Hemenway, who was "enlisted as a footsoldier in their crusade"" and is directly responsible to this Court for the pleadings that have been filed on behalf of the plaintiff".

The Judge then lays the hammer down. "Because it appears that the complaint in this case may have been presented for an improper purpose such as to harass...the accompanying order of dismissal requires Mr. Hemenway to show cause why he has noted violated " the rules of the Federal Civil Procedure against frivolous lawsuits and "why he should not be required to pay reasonable attorneys fees and other expenses to counsel for the defendants". Boom.

However, that hasn't stop the Birthers, who claim Roberston appointed by President Carter was a Democrat and so make up your own story. Now the Russian woman,Mrs. Orly, who got her law degree in correspondance school, is recruiting serving federal employees to be plaintiffs in similar suits.

As I have said to many conservatives who embrace this case, you have to prove Barack Obama's mother was not an America. All the rest is drivel. The sad fact of these cases is that they are fund-raising exercises against unwitting saps.

The Week That Was

I have been inundated with materials concerning the DOJ release of the Yoo memos and the various arguments for a Truth Commission and the prosecution of Bush officials. Kudos go to Harpers 'Scott Horton for his piece " George W. Bush's Disposable Constitution". Matthew Rothschild in "We Came an Inch from Martial Law, Bush Justice Department Memos Reveal" in The Progressive is worth a read. Long-time Bush-basher Robert Parry writes in "How Close the Bush Bullet". The most worrisome news came from an anonymous Bush Administration official who said,"the worst is yet to come."

John Yoo is fighting back through the pages of the Wall Street Journal in his ope-ed,"Yes, We Did Plan for Mumbai-style attacks in the U.S." to justify his position on suspending the Fourth Amendment.

While the prominent papers gave due notice of the revelations contained in the released DOJ memos, the odds are slim to none that there will be prosecutions or even a Truth Commission. Leon Panetta this week reassured CIA agents involved in "enhanced interrogations" that they would not face prosecution. The Obama Administration would love to have this issue disappear since the prospect of proscution and investigations have produced a backlash in the national security community. It's enough in their mind to "move forward" and try to change strategy and behavior.

The real issue is that a full-scale assault on our democratic system can not be revealed to the public. If the full picture were really known such as the FEMA plans for concentration camps and the dictatorial powers of the Presidency, then the myth of America would be shattered. We had a similar situation during the Watergate Days, when the ambitious plans of Richard Nixon to reorganize the entire federal bureaucracy were conventiently left out of the investigation and debate. The same applies to the Clinton impeachment proceedings, which serious proponents argued should have been based on the extent of the White House's dealing with Mainland China and its agents. In that case, presentations by Bill Cohen and Madeliene Albright to former OSS man Henry Hyde killed that line of inquiry.

In the case of George W. Bush, Pat Leahy also voiced the intention to uncover the role of Democrats in enabling warrantless wiretaps and the suspension of basic liberties. As Dick Cheney hinted in his exit interviews, key Democratic leaders were briefed and OK's everything from warrantless wiretaps to torture. It's a classic case of greymail.

The American people have always given a sitting President a wide lattitude in conducting wars. As Bush supporters point out, Abraham Lincoln suspended habeas corpus and FDR interned Japanese Americans. After the Civil War, the American Congress passed laws forbidding any of Lincoln's violations in the future and a large consensus has emerged in America that the internment of Japanese Americans was a blot on our history.

But these exceptions, to my mind, do not entail an Administration's own lawyers writing legal opinions that would justify a presidential dictatorship. What is curious about the DOJ memos so far is that their are no counter-arguments or hesitations registered in these memos--no admonitions that some of these positions should not be taken. There is no indication that other lawyers had inputs that may have reflected real constitutional thought and not the blathering of John Yoo and his compatriots.

Remember Congress gave George W. Bush permission to wage the war against terror with all means necessary. The Bush Administration took that literally and without any hesitation. While Democrats thought the war meant to eliminate Al Qaeda, the Bush Administration security types thought it meant all islamic terrorists. And another subset felt it meant to wage war on all organizations that might lend material or intellectual support to people engaged in terrorism. The latter gets you the Sierra Club on the terrorist list because its enviromental positions might encourage eco-terrrorists in the Pacific Northwest, even though there is no direct link. If the actual foe is not defined, this becomes a recipe for a totalitarian system.

Bits and pieces of this policy are all over the landscape and ,frankly, no one in public office wants to put it all together. Homeland Security providing evidence against anti-war activists in nearby Maryland to justify their surveillance is just a small example. No matter the justification of such policies and such loony things such as the Patriot Act, it is always useful to remember that such policies are always implemented at the lowest common denominator. Sheer force will always dominate over subtlety or a graduated response.

The conservatives are now in high dungeon on the prospects of investigations or prosecutions to avoid any blunt reflection on the vast extent of the Bush Administration's constitutional over-reach. One only had to witness the reaction by the right to Justice Kennedy's Supreme Court decisions months ago concerning the habeas corpus rights of Gitmo detainees. In fact, alot of the posturing now, including the frequent media appearances of Karl Rove and other Bush officials, is meant to be prophylactic against legal prosecutions. Expect more John Yoo op-eds.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Happy Square Root Day

This is the only post of the day since I'm trying to digest the post-9/11 legal memos of Johnnie Yoo. The memos are now on the DOJ website for the wonder of us all. Progressive bloggers who fear that the Obama Administration may succumb to the Bush rationale in the war against terrorism might want to hold their fire for a while. Some comments on the draconian measures advocated by Yoo neglect using the Rosetta Stone of these legal opinions. Almost all the opinions from the military's right to search and seizure to curbs on the freedom of the press as well as the right to torture stem from the rather crackpot consitutional notion of the theory of the unitary executive.

Originally, an administrative theory about the full extent of the President's powers over independent organs of the executive branch developed during the Nixon Administration, it later became a full-fledged constitutional theory supported by a very small, microscopic group of conservatives. Unfortunately for the rest of us, this group ended up writing the legal guidelines for the Bush Administration. Almost all the looniness of these memos derive from a rather loony constitutional theory. Almost all the memos legitimizes unconstitutional--to the rest of Planet Earth's population--actions by the President.

Freepers have denounced these "secret" memos as another form of treason by the Obama Administration. They might want to reconsider who the real traitors are in this case. People like John Yoo and David Addington did more damage to the United States than even the effective KGB moles.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Stoogeland in Snoozeland

2 inches of Snow here is severe weather. With it quiet around town, you would think that CPAC would leave town like every other political meeting and that would be the end of it. Michael Steele and Rush Limbaugh carried on their name-calling for national audiences today. The irony is that the Republican Party has about a 22% approval rating and Gallup has Limbaugh at 22% also. The cage match of the dwarfs.

What makes this fun is the entrance into the arena of Howard Stern who denounced Limbaugh as a traitor today. What is really needed is the return of Stern sidekick Stuttering John to wander the halls of Washington asking embarrassing questions.

Vicki Iseman, who won zero from the New York Times in a lawsuit, appeared on television to deny she ever had an affair with John McCain. Skin-crawling stuff indeed. But why do this and why now? After all Joe The Plumber has the novelty act sewed up for the time being.

Rahm Emmanuel is up to no good. He planted the idea Limbaugh was the head of the Republican Party just so the GOP would blow themselves up. What's worse he said it with a straight face. And of course they blew themselves up.

Ron Paul thinks it's pretty disgusting that a radio announcer could be the head of the Republican party and says it's all a sorry affair.

Don't expect Obama to let up on the pedal now. Republicans are admitting there is nothing much they can do to stop his budget. With Sibelius as head of Department of Health and Human Services expect to see a full court press for an early resolution on health care. Almost everyday produces some major policy changes and alot of acts below the surface to indicate that change is here and going to stay.

Today the Administration released the Bush post-9/11 memos that confirmed that the US military could engage in search and seizure in the United States without warrants. Considering yesterday's news that the Sierra club is a terrorist-linked organization,a normal citizen should be alarmed.

The Dow continued its drop today. No one has any idea where the bottom will be. More importantly, there is not a human alive who knows when the banks will rights themselves. If anything is to be expected, I imagine populist outrage at continuing to pour good money after bad into losing ventures, especially AIG. Since AIG has often been a spook front, why doesn't the Agency bail them out of their black budget?

We are waiting for the blowback from the collapse of the Central European economies. Germany nixed a bailout deal and we should expect a ripple effect throughout Europe, which will surf across the pond. The Ukraine has basically had it. There already has emerged a two-tier system in Western Europe already--Greece, Portugal, Spain are borrowing Euros at higher rates than Germany and their bonds have all been devalued. Add to this the collapse of Central Europe and we're looking at political instability.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Shays Rebellion Redux

Well, Rush blasted Obama for stirring up "class envy" against all the people to whom we all owe our jobs. A curious formulation but one you'll see more of as the Tax Revolt against Tax Cuts gets into high gear.

We still like our idea that Obama in honor of Ronald Reagan should raise the top marginal tax rate to 50% where it was under the Great Man. As one sees these little teabag parties taking place, remember this is all about raising the top tax rate from 35-39% and increasing taxes of those who have taxable incomes over $250,000.

It looks like the whole teabag party was an idea of some of the conservatives' most devoted foundations and wealthy families. Rick Santelli's infamous rant on CNBC looks like it was staged to trigger the reactions of the right. Immediately, a dormant website called sprang into life showcasing the rant and calling for the tax revolt. The sleeper cell website was in place since August and it looks like Fred Koch, cofounder of the John Birch Society, and funders linked to FreedomWorks used this occasion to start another anti-Obama campaign. Ironically, one of the funding sources was a foundation created by a family that took its wealth to Canada during WWII to avoid the income taxes imposed by FDR.

Sunday shows were spent by Republicans distancing themselves from Rush Limbaugh. Michael Steele outraged conservatives by referring to Limbaugh as an entertainer. Well, Ron Reagan was an actor and Al Franken a comedian. Eric Cantor looked subdued when he was trying to explain how concerned he was about working mothers. Karl Rove continued his Bush Legacy Tour by blasting Obama's speech and claiming the election was not about Obama's vision for America. Somehow he tried to spin it that the election was about budget-cutting. Fantastic!

Ben Smith in Politico ran a front page story about the birthers and the fight between some of the birthers, particularly against Berg, who also is one of the 9/11 conspiracy nuts. Birthers are now seeking to run democrats against Hawaiian Republican Governor Lingle so the truth of Obama's mysterious birth will be made public.

Did you ever wonder why select Republican Governors including Sanford,Barbour and Jindal opposed the extension of unemployment benefits? Even the McCain campaign agreed that the extensions would have an almost 1.7 multiplier effect in the economy. Why would Governors needlessly alienate the people in their state that most need help? The answer was supplied by Arkansas Governor Beebe when asked why he would accept this money. It seems our distinguished Republican southern governors calculate providing unemployment on a more restrictive basis. Accepting this stimulus money would mean they would have to be in compliance with federal guidelines. That's the whole beef behind Texas Governor Parry and Mississippi Governor Barbour denouncing the federal strings attached. Nice guys, hey?

The Left is making much of conservatives being the dominant audience for porno. The number one consumer of porno in the country is Utah and Alaska is second. Mormans are basically horny folks as environmentalist Edward Abbey often told us. And what else is there to do in Alaska?

Mitt Romney romped to his third consecutive victory in the CPAC straw poll. Evangelicals nixed him as McCain's number 2 and will block him from the Republican nominations because Mormans are considered a "cult."

Ansel Adams is turning in his grave. The Sierra Club was listed as a terrorist-linked organization during the Bush years. I guess W didn't tell Jeb because he used to hang out with Clyde Butcher, the great photographer of the Everglades and a Sierra Club honcho. Around Washington,we already know that anti-war activists in Maryland were spied on by Homeland Security, despite having virtually no link to terrorism. There will be more revelations as months go on.

I can't help but mention the nomination of Kansas Governor Sibelius as the Health and Human Services Secretary. She has been an able Governor in a Republican state and was a very early support of Obama and a surrogate of his to women's groups throughout the campaign. Once considered for the Vice-Presidency, she declined to spend time on the economic crisis in her state. Hope she does well.

The real hit of CPAC was Wayne LaPierre of the NRA, who reminded the audience that liberty isn't liberty unless you have the phsyical means to defend it--like in guns. His remarks danced up to and back off the line where he advocated open revolt.

Some of this reaction is understandable. If Obama gets most of his budget request, he will have reversed the last thirty years of politics in this country. Conservatives know this very well but can't articulate why that might not be a bad idea.