Saturday, October 22, 2011

Joe Cocker: "Feelin' Alright" (by Dave Mason)

Music on Saturday @ The Reaction

By Richard K. Barry

I play in a rock 'n roll / blues band in and around Toronto. It's an eight piece with a four piece horn section. I'm on tenor sax. We're mostly middle-aged white guys, though Rosemary is on trumpet and young Ewan, a fairly recent jazz college grad, is on bone.

It's all for fun. If we can pay for gas to and from the gigs and buy a beer or three, we're ahead of game. But the gang can play.

At a practice three days before our last gig, just for fun, David on keys starting laying down the intro riff to "Feelin' Alright," which is a tune I know best as done by Joe Cocker. Our vocalist started to dig in, the horns found a part, our drummer made up something to do as did the lead guitarist and bass, and before you knew it we were in all in the middle of a very cool wall of sound.

Never played the song together before, and it probably would have sounded ragged to an outsider, but for that moment, we were all having a hell of a good time.

Three days later we played it at a gig and felt pretty good about it. It's one of those songs that doesn't make you want to move a lot, just a little bit in a very tight and self-contolled sort of way. It's also the kind of tune where it's easy for the band to forget the audience because the groove is so mesmerizing. They could get bored while we kind of play for ourselves. I don't know. But, if that happens occasionally, so what? Like I said, no one is getting rich.

By the time everyone has had a chance to take a solo, and it's time for the outro, everything does in fact feel all right. It's true.

Here's Joe Cocker with a great version. The song, if I am not mistaken, was written by Dave Mason in the late '60s, originally for the group Traffic.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)


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Marco Rubio denies embellishing family history but continues advancing politically convenient lies

In a much-quoted and widely-circulated piece, The Washington Post reported on Thursday that Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, one of the party's wunderkinder (and a possible vice presidential choice next year), embellished the facts about his parents' departure from Cuba and status as exiles in the U.S.:

During his rise to political prominence, Sen. Marco Rubio frequently repeated a compelling version of his family's history that had special resonance in South Florida. He was the "son of exiles," he told audiences, Cuban Americans forced off their beloved island after "a thug," Fidel Castro, took power.

But a review of documents — including naturalization papers and other official records — reveals that the Florida Republican's account embellishes the facts. The documents show that Rubio's parents came to the United States and were admitted for permanent residence more than two-and-a-half years before Castro's forces overthrew the Cuban government and took power on New Year's Day 1959.

The supposed flight of Rubio's parents has been at the core of the young senator's political identity, both before and after his stunning tea-party-propelled victory in last year's Senate election. Rubio — now considered a prospective 2012 Republican vice presidential candidate and a possible future presidential contender — mentions his parents in the second sentence of the official biography on his Senate Web site. It says that Mario and Oriales Rubio "came to America following Fidel Castro's takeover."

Writing for Politico yesterday, Rubio defended himself, calling the Post report "an outrageous allegation." But the facts are clear. His parents came to the U.S. before the revolution, not after it, as he has alleged, including in his own official bio.

And he continues to advance this lie.

Even if it's okay, however misleading, to call his parents "exiles" -- or, as Steve Benen puts it, "after-the-fact exiles" -- it makes a big difference whether they left Cuba before or after Castro took power. If, contrary to his claim, it's before, his own narrative, a narrative that allows him to score political points, particularly in Florida, falls apart.

But the thing is, does it really matter? Did Rubio have to embellish his parents' story? No, because the truth is almost as compelling. They left Cuba for the U.S., watched as their country was taken over by totalitarians (as opposed to U.S.-backed goons), and as their countrymen suffered, end ended up being effectively exiled. Does it really add all that much to their credibility, and to Rubio's personal story, that they escaped from Castro? Well, maybe a bit, sure, but I hardly think Rubio needed to lie.

But lie he did. Over and over and over again.
Below is a clip Benen posts at his place showing Rubio lying.
He can defend himself all he wants. And I doubt this is enough to hurt him (or destroy his veep chances -- embellishment is fairly common (see Biden, Joe), and Republicans will see this as a partisan media attack, even if the Post is hardly a bastion of liberalism these days). But he can't run from the truth.

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Michele Bachmann, say goodbye to your entire New Hampshire staff

Staff members in New Hampshire for Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann have resigned en masse, a Republican familiar with the situation said on Friday, in a fresh blow to her 2012 hopes.

Hopes? She still has hopes? 


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Friday, October 21, 2011

Top Ten Cloves: Possible reasons Muammar Qaddafi is not being buried at sea

10. Secret plan to just dump him in Zuccotti Park, and blame OWS crowd.

9. Can't find a Sea that will take him.

7. Not sure if there were enough front-page death photos to warrant it.

6. Conflict with the World Series.

5. Everybody too busy reading new Bio on Steve Jobs.

4. Waiting to see if Groupon issues a discount coupon for it.

3. Negotiating with Will Ferrell to do a cheap dramatization of it.

2. Talking with the Head of The Charles Regatta, to see if they can handle it.

1. President Obama has already used up his "Frequent-Burial-At-Sea" miles for the year.


Bonus Riffs

(Cross-posted at The Garlic.)

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Frankly, Mr. Shankly wouldn't be pleased: How Liverpool is seeking to destroy competition in the English Premier League

By Robert Lawson, International Sports Reporter

"The socialism I believe in is everybody working for the same goal and everybody having a share in the rewards. That's how I see football, that's how I see life."

In a move that's already generated a whirlwind of controversy, Liverpool has announced that they are seeking changes to the Premier League's current broadcasting deal (worth £3.2 billion in total to all Premier League clubs for 2010-13). Specifically, the club wants to see larger clubs receive an increased share of international television revenues.

Taking a longer view, the endgame for Liverpool seems to be the installation of a new television rights system, one where larger clubs are free to negotiate their own television deals with prospective rights-holders.

Such a system is currently in place in Spain, where clubs such as Real Madrid and Barcelona negotiate massive television contracts and to enjoy the riches they provide, while minnow clubs are left to fend for themselves on the scraps.

As the argument goes, this type of system would allow a club such as Liverpool (or Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, etc.) to generate a massive increase in revenues from television and other media; leverage the club's profile in emerging markets (e.g., Asia); strengthen its competitive advantage vis-à-vis other clubs when it comes attracting investment (e.g., sponsorship agreements); and, ultimately, enhance the club's capacity to compete with other large European clubs when it comes to purchasing top talent.

Some Liverpool supporters may react to this announcement with unbridled enthusiasm, gleefully rubbing their hands together at the prospect of massive revenue increases, commercial expansion, and, hopefully, attracting the world's best players to Anfield.

Others might heed the words of much loved former manager Bill Shankly, quoted above, and wonder whether reaping the putative rewards is worth the cost.

Introducing a television rights model such as the one prevailing in Spain would surely diminish the already considerably reduced capacity of smaller clubs (think Stoke City, Bolton, Wigan, West Bromwich Albion, Norwich, even Everton) to compete in the Premier League, not to mention extend the widening gulf between the Premier League and the lower divisions.

It would be hard to imagine clubs such as Derby County and Nottingham Forest achieving success under such a regime. To be sure, it's hard enough to imagine the success of smaller clubs as it is, when television rights revenues are centrally distributed in a fixed manner, with clubs guaranteed a certain share of overall revenues. If clubs such as Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea, and Arsenal were permitted to go their own way, any illusions of future competition that remain would be shattered completely.

Put bluntly, the wealthy and powerful clubs could and would leave their more modest brethren firmly behind.

But consider this: As I'm sure the great Bill Shankly would point out, without genuine competition between clubs in the Premier League it really isn't much of a league. It would become a playground for the rich.

Sure, the rich clubs would continue to go through the motions, filling out the fixture calendar with perfunctory visits to the Britannia or the Reebok. Yet the only matches to matter would be those played among the big boys.

The English Premier League would quickly begin to resemble La Liga -- and would be much worse for it, in my view.

Ironic that such an endeavour would be spearheaded by a club made famous around the world by an ardent socialist whose approaches to football management and life make him a figure of worship on Merseyside to this day.

Sad, too.

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Has the Herman Cain bubble burst?

(Ed. note: The air is coming out of the bubble, and his time may well be up. Almost. And yet he's in the lead in Iowa, 28-21 over Romney. A lot can change, and will, before the Iowa caucuses, and Cain will decline, but conservative Republicans are still looking for someone, anyone to be their anti-Romney. And for now Cain's it, even more than Perry. -- MJWS)


You know what they say about living by the sword.

In politics, the same goes for polls.

As Rick Perry realized when the mere prospect of his entrance into the 2012 Republican presidential race made him an automatic frontrunner immediately following the announcement of his candidacy, polls are flattering. In Perry's case, the polls proved to the pundits and the naysayers that he could be a contender, that he could win the GOP nomination, and that people liked him – or at least that they liked him more than they like the other guy, which, in the GOP primary race, actually meant that they didn't dislike him as much as they disliked the other guy.

And then the polls suddenly proved the opposite.

Once the media sinks its talons into a candidate, which is what happens when public opinion polls show him or her as a potential frontrunner, every aspect of his private and public life is opened up to mass dissection, dissemination, speculation, and criticism. Every piece of legislation he backed, every gaffe or false statement he makes, every twitch, stutter, and scratch goes instantly viral.

It happened to Perry. It happened to Michele Bachmann when she was briefly considered a contender in the 2012 Republican presidential race, and it's what is now happening with Herman Cain, whose straw poll victory in Florida a while back turned him into a top-tier candidate almost overnight.

Cain went from being ignored by both the media and the other candidates to being an instant political celebrity. Needless to say, the scrutiny hasn't done him any favors.

Not only has he caught fire for his opinions about Muslims, his claim that poor people should blame themselves for not being rich, and his statement that the United States should build an electric fence along its border with Mexico, the last week of Cain news coverage centered on the heart of the pizza executive's campaign platform – his signature 9-9-9 tax proposal.

During the GOP debate in Nevada Tuesday night, the 9-9-9 plan was eviscerated by every candidate on stage, from the frontrunner on down.

Perry's response was unlike his other comments throughout the debate – and by that I mean coherent.

"Herman," he said, "I love ya brother, but let me tell you somethin'. You don't have to have a big analysis to figure this out. Go to New Hampshire where they don't have a sales tax, and you're fixin' to give 'em one. They're not interested in 9-9-9."

Rick Santorum, in his usual "family values" pitch, said he opposed the 9-9-9 plan essentially because it didn't do anything to encourage married couples to have children.

Bachmann, who had inferred during the last debate that the 9-9-9 plan was satanic, said Tuesday night that she opposed the proposal because it would give Congress a 9-percent sales tax, and "how long will it take a liberal president and a liberal congress to run that up to maybe 90 percent? Who knows?" (A technicality here: If Cain were elected president – the only chance the 9-9-9 plan would have of becoming a national policy – there wouldn't be a "liberal president" in office.)

Ron Paul said "the worst part about" the 9-9-9 plan is that "it's regressive."

"A lot of people aren't paying any taxes," Paul said, "and I like that. [But] I don't think we should even things up by raising taxes. So it is a regressive tax, so it's very, very dangerous."

Try as he may, Cain just couldn't convince anyone on the stage that the independent analysts who said his plan would raise taxes on 84 percent of households were wrong. As evidence of his distinguished colleagues' ignorance, Cain relied on a rather interesting cliché.

"This is an example of mixing apples and oranges," he said. "The state tax is an apple. We are replacing the current tax code with oranges. So it's not correct to mix apples in oranges."

"Once again, unfortunately," he said at another point in the debate, "none of my distinguished colleagues who have attacked me tonight understand the plan... It's apples and oranges."

Mitt Romney, the current frontrunner, asked Cain, "Herman, are you saying that the state taxes will also go away?"

"No," Cain replied. "That's an apple. We're replacing a bunch of oranges."

"So, then Governor Perry was right?"

"No," Cain said. "He wasn't. He was mixing apples and oranges."

Obviously amused, Romney asked, "Well, but, will the people in Nevada not have to pay a Nevada sales tax and in addition pay the 9 percent sales tax?"

"Governor Romney," Cain said, as annoyed as the rest of the field was entertained, "you're doing the same thing they're doing. You're mixing apples and oranges. You're going to pay the state sales tax no matter what. Whether you throw out the existing code and you put in our plan, you're still going to pay that... That's apples and oranges."

"Right," Romney replied, "and I'm going to get a bushel basket that has apples and oranges in it, because I'm going to pay both taxes, and the people of Nevada are going to pay both taxes."

Moderator Anderson Cooper then put the question to Newt Gingrich: "Speaker Gingrich, you have said in recent days that Cain's 9-9-9 plan would be a harder sell than he lets on. How so?"

"Well," Gingrich said, "you just watched it."

Before the debate began, L.A. Times reporter Michael Hiltzik wrote that "Herman Cain's 9-9-9 plan would probably be seen as just another cockamamie tax scheme were it not for his surprising ascendance to front-runner ranks in the Republican Party primary. Yet one of the more interesting questions raised by the plan hasn’t gotten much attention: What accounts for the enduring popularity of such tax nostrums, when they never pencil out?"

A few hours later, Hiltzik got his answer when "the enduring popularity" of 9-9-9 met Earth.

So has the Cain poll bubble burst?

(Cross-posted at Muddy Politics.)

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The meaning of the Libyan revolution and Qaddafi's death

By Ali Ezzatyar

Qaddafi's death well and truly spells the end of another Arab dictatorship. Three out of the four out-and-out Arab dictatorships in North Africa have fallen in the last year. Now is a good time to take a step back to examine what this all means for the region and the world, as the Arab uprisings continue to rage on.
Question one: Have the British, French, and Americans been planning for Libyan unity?
It is important to note that with Qaddafi's downfall coming so many months after the uprising first began, and with the Syrian and Yemeni regimes still insisting on sticking around, the clean revolutions of Egypt and Tunisia are truly behind us. As I argued in the Middle Eastern and French press last summer, tribal divisions and long-standing tensions in Libya were the primary concern going forward -- not the return of Qaddafi-esque dictatorship. Watching the rebels drag Qadaffi through the streets and reading about renewed tribal tensions within the ranks of the Libyan rebels, there is clearly room for error in Libya going forward. The next year in Libya needs to be marked by unification, and the steps that were taken outside of the press by the rebels and the world to facilitate that will be key.
Question two: The world got involved -- was it worth it?
Unquestionably, Libya suffered from foreign intervention to some degree. The inability of the rebels to cope and sustain their revolution was a blow to the Libyan revolutionary project. The international community's involvement took some of the shine off of that project, to be sure. But the consequences of the world ignoring Libya, now with the benefit of more hindsight, would have been worse. For all that must be said about NATO's overreaching, the involvement of Turkey seemed to soften the negativity of foreign intervention in Libya, and things went surprisingly well in the months leading up to the ouster of Qaddafi from Tripoli. It was a necessary evil, but the world was right to get involved in Libya's fight. Once again, the important question (as it was in Afghanistan in the '80s, Afghanistan in 2001, and Iraq in 2003) is, how will the world stay involved? Reference to question one, here.
Question three: What does it mean for Syria and Yemen?

If you follow the Muslim World, you know that revolution and intervention are the two most charged, and in a sense important, words people use in relation to their political lives. The interplay between the two, moreover, really makes one cringe. The more they mix, the more you cringe. In watching Libya, there was little doubt that the world's involvement, from day one, meant the downfall of the Qaddafi regime.
However, the way things would play out was to affect the region, not just Libya, due to its precedential value. In that sense, Libya and the world have been lucky thus far. No doubt, there have been blunders, tragedies, suspicious activity, and all the like with respect to the world's involvement in Libya's revolution. But the tipping point, where the world's pulse felt that the revolution was no longer theirs, never happened. That is essential, and it also leaves the door open to the world helping Syria and Yemen.
Today is a bad day for Bashar al-Assad and Ali Abdallah Saleh (not forgetting Bahrain and the other dictatorships in the region). It is also a lukewarm day for those who believe that nobody should have been involved in Libya besides the Libyans. The Syrian revolution certainly, and perhaps even the Yemeni revolution, will carry on for months, even years. That means that the world will continue to look to Libya to see how things fall into place there. Reference to question one, here, again.

Revolution is inspiring, but it is tragic as well. It is almost always the triumph of good violence over bad violence -- and violence is never desirable. It is with the realization that Libyans had to live under a brutal regime for decades, that thousands of innocent men and women died on both sides of the conflict, that even the presumed worst were killed without their day in court, and that the world got its dirty hands involved and inevitably tainted Libya at least a little, that we say, today, to Libya, congratulations.

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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Qaddafi is dead

Whatever you think of the military intervention in Libya, whether you think it's illegal or not, whether you think the U.S. should be involved or not, and whatever you think of the rebels who will now determine that country's future, the world is a better place without Qaddafi.

A brutal dictator, a thug, an oppressor, a mass murderer is dead.

I don't say these things lightly.

Death, any death, should not be cause for celebration. Whether it's the death of Saddam, or Osama, or Qaddafi.

But while there is be a fine line between justice and vengeance, sometimes, on rare occasions, it seems appropriate to say good riddance.


Said Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril: "It's time to start a new Libya, a united Libya. One people, one future."

Let's hope so.

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Rick Santorum thinks we should all stop using contraception

Just when you think GOP presidential nomination candidates can't say anything dumber, they raise the bar. Yes, ThinkProgress has a clip of Rick Santorum being interviewed in which he says that he would repeal all federal funding for contraception. He goes on to say that birth control devalues the act of procreation. Here's the quote:
One of the things I will talk about, that no president has ever talked about before is I think the dangers of contraception in this country. It's not okay. It's a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.

Well, Santorum is half right, which is probably better than his average. Contraception is a license to do things - fun things. I suspect, however, that if he were to conduct a poll even amongst solid conservatives, he would find that most people who do things in the "sexual realm" with the benefit of contraception probably don't think what they are doing is counter to how things are supposed to be. Just a guess.

As he continues:
[Sex] is supposed to be within a marriage. It's supposed to be for the purposes that are yes, conjugal.. but also procreative. That's the perfect way that a sexual union should happen. This is special and it needs to be seen as special.

I'd like to recommend that a question be asked of GOP presidential candidates at their next debate. I propose that each be asked if they think that contraception is "not okay." I think they should be made to answer whether or not they think everyone should be made, or at least encouraged, to stop using contraception. Simple up or down answer.

I'd love to hear the responses.

I think it's worth quoting the ThinkProgress piece at length on the benefits of contraception:
An overwhelming majority of Americans - virtually all women (more than 99 percent) aged 15-44 have used at least one contraceptive method - rely on contraceptives to prevent unintended pregnancies and limit the spread of sexually-transmitted diseases. In fact, the Guttmacher Institute estimates that contraceptive services provided at publicly funded clinics helped prevent almost two million unintended pregnancies. Without funding from Medicaid and Title X "abortions occurring in the United States would be nearly two-thirds higher among women overall and among teens; the number of unintended pregnancies among poor women would nearly double."
I know that Rick Santorum is a radical Christian nutjob. I get that. It just amazes me that the other GOP hopefuls feel the need to tip toe around this kind of bullshit for fear of alienating social conservatives.

So much of Republican politics these days is about finding the lowest common denominator. It's about not sticking out in a way that might alienate the vocal minority on the radical right. Where does that leave them? No tax increases under any circumstances, draconian immigration laws, real enthusiasm for capital punishment, gay bashing (even for our gay soliders), climate change denying, even some evolution denying, and, now, the rejection of contraception.

What a bunch of yahoos. The more they talk, the more I like Obama's chances.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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A Promise Made

By Carl
I want to talk about expectations. I want to talk about Occupy Wall Street.

Hundreds of attorneys, law students and other legal minds are volunteering their skills to protect the rights of protesters in the Occupy movement, according to the National Lawyers Guild.

In New York alone, dozens of people have stepped forward to act as legal observers at marches in the past month. They don luminous green hats at rallies and document the names of those arrested in confrontations with the NYPD, and they also can be found in court.

The New York City chapter of the Lawyers Guild has about a dozen pro bono lawyers working on cases. At least 50 more attorneys are on standby if the caseload becomes overwhelming, said defense attorney Marty Stolar, who represents several protesters.

The US Constitution promises us many rights, in exchange for....what? Abiding by the laws of the land as passed by the government.

And how do we abide by those laws? Well, as a living human being, by knowing the law, by understanding the law, and by accepting responsibility when we are in the wrong of those laws.

So those rights are promised to us in exchange for our promise to obey the law. Sounds like a social contract to me!

What form does this "obeyance" take? As a people, we are expected to contribute to the greater good of the society around us, economically, spiritually, morally. Most laws in this country grow out of the Ten Commandments which are easily understood (and devilishly hard to obey, but that's a different post.)

This has all been simplistic to this point because I need to pin down the crux of this article. Bear with me a bit longer.

So how do we contribute to the greater good? By being good citizens. And we're good citizens by keeping out of trouble and not being a burden to the rest of society.

We are trained for this from the very earliest onset of consciousness. We're taught that, if we just work hard at a job or a business, we can aspire to a mediocre middle class existence.

Really. That's the Horatio Alger myth we've all had inculcated in us from the get-go, in some form or other. Many, if not most of us assume we're to be rich by working hard and saving our money (HA!) but in truth, all that was supposed to provide us was a stable family life and decent food and shelter.

The disconnect we get learning all this stuff is pretty ironic: If we stay in school, study hard, get a job, go to work, get married, have children, act normal, watch TV and buy the stuff we're brainwashed into buying, we'll be "normal." No, better than normal. We'll be real Americans.

Meanwhile, only one percent of us can be in the one percent. Only five percent of us can be in the five percent. Only one in five of us can be in the twenty percent.

Do you see where the confusion starts in people's minds?

It gets harder. Look at the other half of the Alger Myth: if we save our pennies, the dollars will take care of themselves.

Possibly true. No one ever got rich working for someone else, but plenty of people have accumulated a comfortable wealth by putting away as much money as possible, and many of us grew up in a day when banks would let a five year old open a savings account with five bucks, so he could put away his allowance and chore money. We were encouraged to save, to delay gratification, and to only go into debt when it was absolutely necessary (to-wit, to buy a house. Then it became maybe for a car. Then, it went onto maybe for college. Then, maybe a vacation. Then, maybe Christmas presents. Then, food.)

We didn't stop saving because we wanted to, we stopped saving because we had to. You'll notice what happened in that progression: it went from things that were nice to have to things we had to have.

We had to have a house, because when our parents and grandparents returned from World War II, there was plenty of cheap houses to be bought within spitting distance of the city where they worked. And we had to have the car because that's how they got to work (see above: go to work, be a real American.)

And as wages began to flatten for the American middle class, parents just couldn't put away enough money for college which, through the laws of supply and demand, were becoming exponentially more expensive every year. Why? Because wages were flattening. The kids needed more education just to keep up with the American dream. That increased demand. Colleges could only be built so fast. A college education, once a privilege, became a commodity.

Y'know, as America the nation is just finding out, you borrow enough and soon those monthly payments eat into your income. Now, any big ticket item become financeable. Like appliances. Like vacations. And soon, you find yourself trying to work the magic of buying now, paying later on everything because you simply do not have the money.

Meanwhile, the Alger Myth never changed. It never flexed to "Work hard, pay later, and die of a heart attack."

At least the OWS folks would have had warning about what they were up against.

So here we are: a generation lost in cyberspace with no time left to start again. We have an entire battalion of kids who did what they were told: studied hard, got an education, got a job, got a place to live...and now find themselves spending night after night in a sleeping bag on an increasingly cold concrete sidewalk.

And people mock them for being lazy hippies. People who, if they had to sleep on a couch would whine about being uncomfortable.

We broke a promise to these people, and we ought to honor it.

(crossposted to Simply Left Behind)

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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The GOP's dangerous ignorance of foreign policy

It is amazing how Republicans typically get a free pass when it comes to needing to understand the nuances of foreign policy. Certainly it is a difficult and complex area, but all they need do is mouth a few platitudes about Obama apologizing for America and they are off to the races. GOP foreign policy seems to boil down to "Republicans strong, Obama weak" (insert caveman grunt here).

A few days ago a New York Times editorial expressed concern that candidates for the Republican presidential nomination were not saying much about national security and foreign affairs. But, as the editorial continued, now that a few are starting, we might have been better off had they not bothered:

Certainly, the Republican hopefuls have put to rest any lingering notion that their party is the one to trust on national security. The United States is involved in two wars with more than 100,000 troops overseas. China is rising, relations with Pakistan are plummeting, Iran and Korea are advancing their nuclear programs. The Middle East is in turmoil. Yet the candidates offer largely bad analysis and worse solutions, nothing that suggests real understanding and new ideas.

Have a look at the article for a better sense of the foolishness that these pretenders are peddling. But the one that really bothered me is Herman Cain's statement that "a leader" does not need to know the names of people who run places like "Ubeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan."

Was that supposed to be funny, Mr. Cain? I'll bet that would slay them in someone's sixth grade class. Great material for the playground.

As the Times notes, the president of Uzbekistan is Islam Karminov, an autocrat with an appalling human rights record, and Uzbekistan is an important supply route for American forces in Afghanistan. Okay, most Americans wouldn't know that, but most Americans aren't running to be president of the United States and commander-in-chief.

Just keep 'em laughin', Herm.

What an embarrassment -- the whole lot of them.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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In 21st-century America, it's still okay to beat up on women

Guest post by Ramona

Ed. note: This is Ramona's second guest post for us. Like the first, on cruelty in America, it's excellent, a defence of basic decency (and rights) against those who would abuse it. You'll be seeing more of her here at The Reaction, and I encourage you again to check out her wonderful blog. -- MJWS


Ramona is a freelance writer based in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Her blog, "Ramona's Voices," is liberal-leaning, with such a small amount of navel-gazing you'll hardly even notice. She is also on the masthead at dagblog, a gathering place for dissidents and reprobates and other friendly people.

The Topeka City Council on Tuesday voted to repeal the city's law against misdemeanor domestic battery, the latest in a budget battle that has freed about 30 abuse suspects from charges.

One of the offenders was even arrested and released twice since the brouhaha broke out Sept. 8.

It started when Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor announced that a 10 percent budget cut would force him to end his office’s prosecution of misdemeanor cases, almost half of which last year were domestic battery cases.

With that, Taylor stopped prosecuting the cases and left them to the city. But city officials balked at the cost.

Tuesday’s 7-3 vote to eliminate the local domestic violence law was designed to force Taylor to prosecute the cases because they would remain a crime under state law.

Hey, all you totally misunderstood guys in Topeka who feel the need to smack around your women, good news! As long as you don't get too heavy-handed -- blackening eyes, loosening teeth, leaving really ugly bruises -- your city officials are on your side.

In a fledgling century of new lows, this may not rank up there with the worst of them, but as an indicator of how low our new austerity drives have allowed us to fall, it's right up there. Misdemeanor violence against women has now been approved by a city council for no other reason than to play chicken with a county prosecutor looking for creative ways to get around budget cuts.

Tack on top of that last week's action by the House to bully insurance companies into refusing to cover abortions:

The House approved a bill that Republicans said would prevent last year's healthcare law from funding abortions, but which Democrats said would go far beyond that and make it much harder for women to exercise their constitutional right to have abortions.

The bill, H.R. 358, was passed in a 251-172 vote that saw more than a dozen Democrats join nearly all voting Republicans in support of the measure.

Republicans said throughout the day that the bill is needed because the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) was approved without any limitation on funding for abortion rights. They also dismissed President Obama's Executive Order that Democrats say reinforces this prohibition.

"Thus ObamaCare, when phased in fully in November 2014, will open up the floodgates of public funding for abortion in a myriad of programs, including and especially in exchanges, resulting in more dead babies and wounded mothers than would otherwise have been the case," Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) said.

I expect that sort of thing from Republicans, but 15 Democrats bought into it, too. It would still have passed without them, but that doesn't make me any less ashamed of them. (Here is the list.) Don't tell me they're only doing what their constituents expect of them. Either they're Democrats or they're not. A real Democrat wouldn't be caught dead voting for something like that:

"This bill is a radical departure from existing law," House Minority [Leader] Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said. "This legislation is bad public policy, it is the wrong priority for Congress, it is an assault on women's health, and women should know that it prevents them from using their own dollars to buy their own private insurance should they be part of an exchange."

Never mind that this action by the House is as phony as the bill's moniker, the "Protect Life Act." Where are the bills to protect jobs, to protect children already living, to protect the health and welfare of the citizens of this country? Nowhere to be seen. There are some battles we shouldn't still be fighting. A woman's right to choose is sacrosanct. A woman's right to protect her own body is not now and never should have been up for debate. 

You protect life by respecting the living, by nurturing the living, by honoring the living. You accept the job as representative of the people by promising to preserve and protect. This bill and the actions in Topeka turn those notions upside down, and do it in mean-spirited, draconian ways too many people are finding acceptable. But change is in the air. If we can keep it going, a great awakening is about to begin. If we can keep it going, we'll be looking back on the last few decades of wicked wrongheadedness, wondering how we ever let it happen in our lifetime.

It can't come soon enough for me.

(Cross-posted at Ramona's Voices.)

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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Obama both right and wrong about Tea Party / Occupy Wall Street comparison (but mostly wrong)

President Obama, who has become a target of the Occupy Wall Street protests sweeping the country, today embraced the economic frustration voiced on the streets and said in an exclusive interview with ABC News that his vision for the U.S. economic system is best suited to resolve protesters' concerns.

"I understand the frustrations being expressed in those protests," Obama told ABC News senior White House correspondent Jake Tapper in the interview to air this evening on ABC News "Nightline" from Jamestown, N.C.

"In some ways, they're not that different from some of the protests that we saw coming from the Tea Party. Both on the left and the right, I think people feel separated from their government. They feel that their institutions aren't looking out for them," he said.

Not that different? Huh. Well, sure, superficially they're somewhat the same -- or, that is, if you look at them superficially. Both are, supposedly, grassroots movements expressing populist frustrations directed at the establishment, whether political or economic.

But the Tea Party has been bankrolled by the establishment, and specifically by conservative organizations with a partisan agenda, hence the ease with with with the Tea Party and the Republican Party have basically co-opted each other. While efforts have been made to make it appear as if the Tea Party, or the various groups that loosely make it up, are independent, the truth is quite different. Meanwhile, the Occupy Wall Street movement is truly populist and anti-establishmentarian. Democrats are more or less aligning themselves with its interests and objectives, more less than more, but it's clearly not a partisan tool, or a movement with decidedly partisan aims, partly because the Democratic Party is in bed with Big Finance as well, if not necessarily to the degree the GOP is.

The Occupy Wall Street movement can't just be dismissed, as much as various elites (political, media, etc.) tried to initially. The reason is that it reflects genuine discontent with the system, with the elites that control the U.S. economy and allow the 1% to control the 99%. The Tea Party reflects discontent as well, but it's a libertarian, anti-government discontent that implicitly and effectively enables these elites to keep doing what they're doing. Not all Tea Partiers may understand this, but their "hands off my money" agenda would allow those in the private sector with power to accumulate even more power by removing the one institution that actually tries to, or at least has the power to, keep those elites in check, namely, the federal government. Sure, you can pay less in taxes to a skeleton government, but then what? Then the elites have you even more firmly by the balls.

It doesn't help that Obama has been a president for Wall Street, bailing out the big banks and surrounding himself with a Goldman Sachs economic braintrust. And his policies thus far have been directed not at the 99% but at protecting the 1%, whatever his occasionally populist rhetoric. This is one of the great disappointments of his presidency. He may be more centrist technocrat than change-we-can-believe-in progressive, and may have been so all along (even if so many of his supporters misunderstood him), but nonetheless the fact that he has focused his priorities on the elites of credit and capital over the people who have been severely abused by those elites is beyond even what most cynics, justifiably or not, expected.

It's all well and good that the president understands the frustrations that people are expressing, but... so what? What is needed is action, and he has shown himself unwilling to do what needs to be done to fix a system that is sick at its core, that enhances the plutocracy of the few while leaving the many to suffer at their hands.

Obama said the most important thing he can do as president is express solidarity with the protesters and redouble his commitment to achieving what he described as a more egalitarian society.

Then fucking do it, Mr. President. And show you mean it. You have history on your side, and votes to win, and the men and women occupying Wall Street, unlike the Teabaggers, seek to rescue America from those who would destroy it.

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Monday, October 17, 2011

Back from the 'Burgh

Just got back from Pittsburgh this evening. Wonderful weekend -- and I say it again, what a wonderful city. The game was tighter than it should have been, the Steelers letting up in the second half, but a win is a win. And dinner at Isabela was, as usual, outstanding. (The owner, Mr. George Merrick, even picked us up at our hotel and then drove us home, after we phoned to say we were going to be late due to terrible traffic on the way into the city. He and his staff just wanted to relieve our stress and make us feel comfortable. That sort of hospitality and generosity is exceptional, yes, but also characteristic of the city and its people.)

But now I'm quite exhausted after a couple of busy days and a long day of driving today, with some shopping along the way. I'll get back to blogging soon.

Stay tuned for new posts.

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By Carl
The world saw the Occupy Wall Street protests up close and personal as rallies spanned four continents, sparking riots in Rome, where a crowd of 200,000 gathered, and arrests in London.
All that was on top of sporadic clashes between police and protestors (I refuse to characterize them beyond that, but let me just say that I have always believed cops need to develop a thicker skin in these instances.)
Hell, the movement has even spawned a Kiddie Koalition!
If you've been trying to work out the demands or the raison d'etre of the movement, well, it's really not hard. It's the same reason the Teabaggers were initially as popular as they were.
Melissa Harris-Perry of The Nation made a most excellent comparison on Saturday's UP With Chris Hayes on MSNBC: The Teabaggers were at the apex of their popularity when they were perceived as being a movement formed in opposition to the bailouts of the Bush administration (and later, Obama's.) When they careened into hate messages against President Obama, people walked away from them.
Similarly, the OWS movement is about populism, first and foremost. After all, my bank got a $25 billion bailout and all I got was this lousy debit card fee.
It's true: the Teabaggers once upon a time held approval of some 40+% of Americans. Now, they are the same jackwagon 20% or so who supported Bush in the final days of his administration.
And who now paint Dumbya as a liberal, but I digress...
OWS does not seem in any danger of following the Teabaggers in dipping into obscurity, mostly because it's not a fraudulent movement. There is no perception involved here, no FOX News humping the hell out of a made-up story funded by billionaire tycoon money and forged on the anvils of evil.
And you'll note yet another reason why this is presumably to be so: the anti-tax movement never really took root across the world the way the anti-corporatocracy movement has. This is a genuine movement of people who are frustrated and angry. The sneering and mocking of the right wing only serves to stiffen their resolve.
Now, you're probably wondering about the title of this article. You're probably wondering what the hell a broad overview of the OWS movement's origins and philosophies has to do with your mind.
You want to join the OWS, but it's hard. You don't live near a big city. You can't get to the rallies on the weekends, much less the week. You have a job and in this economy, you need to balance your work with your political beliefs or else you'll find yourself permanently attending these rallies.
There is still something you can do: you can occupy your mind. This is a time for honest Americans to stand up and be counted. You can comment here, if that's what makes you feel comfortable. You can call the Limbaugh or Hannity programs if you've got the nerve and can make your point in the face of a gale of derision and bullshit agendae.
You can write to your Congresscritter or Senator and ask him or her why we STILL don't have a jobs bill, nine full months into a Congress where Weaker Boener promised to help the workers of America get one.
You can ask your friends what they think and then, arming yourself with the facts you've read on this blog and thousands of others over the years, point them to the truths of it: there really is no America anymore, there's only Americans and the people who'd try to own us lock, stock and barrel.
You can skip or or any number of myriad corporatist websites, and buy locally. Support Main Street by occupying it, too. Sit in the coffee shop. Speak your mind, respectfully of course, but firmly and with great resolve. And when you get laughed out, go back the next day and make the same points.
I'd advise against doing this in a bar because, you know, politics and alcohol don't really mix, but hey, if you can, do.
At Thanksgiving dinner, when Uncle Frank starts into his tirade about the President, you can ask him politely if he thinks the GOP might bear some responsibility for the mess we're in-- by then it will be ten months without a jobs bill, and five months since the debt ceiling standoff and credit downgrade. Break his concentration. End his focus. Start the dialogue.
Occupy your mind. Get informed. Get those around you informed. Do what you can.
And then try to do a little bit more.
(crossposted to Simply Left Behind)

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Sunday, October 16, 2011

All the shallow things

By Capt. Fogg

"If this be treason, make the most of it."

What a different line that would be without "if." It would become an admission of the crowd's charge of treason rather than Patrick Henry's defiant stand for the law it was.

"Thou hast said it."

Is that an affirmation or a denial; or a refusal to answer the question?

"If I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness. . ."

How would that statement differ if the 'if' disappeared? That's a question being asked today about one of the inscriptions on the new Martin Luther King memorial being dedicated in Washington, where the 'if' does not appear as it did when it was spoken at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta in 1968:

"Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all the other shallow things will not matter."

The 'if' matters. It matters a great deal because without it King is assuming a mantle and with it he is not; that it is not about him but about Justice, peace and righteousness. Is this a shallow thing or insignificant? I don't think so. I think it speaks of the way our heroes are elevated, to become, in death, a 30 foot tall man expressing stern, stony determination rather than just a man struggling with a mission, struggling with himself, struggling with a stupid, angry and vengeful world that will continue to be just that long after he is gone. The quote on the monument is not phrased as part of a question and that raises many questions.

Are we making him what he was not and apparently did not wish to be? If we make his life about him, then we can opposes him more readily than we can argue against justice and we can make the movement he participated in, a mere matter of quotes and formulae if we like him and personal failings if we do not. Perhaps some can ask his stone idol for guidance and support for their own objectives and pretend he is not gone and will magically return some day. As always happens when our heroes die, we are making his life something less than it was and something more about our lust for leaders, prophets and even gods and we do it to preachers and prophets; polemicists and presidents when we put our desires into their acts and words and thereby worship ourselves.

(Cross posted from Human Voices)

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