Lower your expectations Archives

November 21, 2006

Small pleasures -- very small

After all the world-historical purple prose about the midterm elections, here's former prophet of the apocalypse Matt Stoller on what we can expect, now that the saints have come marchin' in:
On Net Neutrality and This Next Congress
by Matt Stoller, Tue Nov 21, 2006 at 12:20:51 PM EST

When we won a Congressional majority, I immediately said that I don't expect a lot from this Congress. ... My signpost is net neutrality, a clear issue that we worked on, that we care about, and that is the bedrock for a progressive strategic advantage. Despite our work, I expect that net neutrality protections are going to have rough sledding in this Congress....

There are a lot of choices this group of leaders will make; they will either pay attention to the populist progressive wave that elected their majority, or they will move to appease the DLC constituency that worked against them in the 1990s and over the past six years. For a variety of cultural reasons, I suspect that the latter path is a bit more likely...

The netroots and the progressive movement isn't going away, and we have to make sure that our legislators write laws that are for the benefit of all of us, not simply any one sector full of campaign contributors.

Oh, the pathos.

Headlines of the future

From the Washington Post, sometime next spring:

Dogs and progs make it a hot time for the Dem headliners

Like the Light Brigade in Tennyson's wooden poem, will next spring find the house leadership of the Democratic majority charging ahead to nowhere, with 'cannons to the right of them and cannons to the left of them'? Will the progs and dogs be a-rippin' at 'em like hungry wolves trying madly to pull the caucus in opposite directions? Will some harried and frazzled party boss be saying "it's like nothin' seen around here in years -- hell it's like nothin' ever seen around here!"

Okay, okay -- I hear you all now: "No way, Paine, no way. At best, you're half right -- the blue dogs will come on like a pack of Cujos, okay -- but the prog fish? No way. Most caucus progs can't make water come out of a tap. They're just a bunch of violets waiting to bloom, a bunch of well-rewarded, righteous false hope mongers nestled up there on the hill in hot house comfort."

I agree -- no way have "they" got anywhere near belly fire enough to bite back at the "leadership" the way the blue dogs will. Recall the blue dogs got the votes to structure "an aisle crossin majority" (this is an obsession of Father Smiff's, of course). They can stage-manage the ancient forward motion stymie, that has roots running all the way back to the New Deal's second term. And also recall, their invisible chieftains are nicely embedded inside the right hump of the party's brokeback middle mountain -- yes of course I mean the Steny Hoyer and Rahmbo hump. Nancy's hump, the back hump, is a sure to freeze outfit, once the cross firing starts.

And the prog caboose? They'll squeeeeal like virgins at a Mayan sacrifice. Like my late pop used to say, trying to evoke the spirit of W C Fields -- "When you lope into your 50's you can expect to find a lot of deja vu waitin' for ya there."

January 2, 2007

Profiles in cowardice

Anybody still expecting the new Dem majority to do anything useful on health care? Read and weep:

Dems take middle ground on drug plan
By Erica Werner, Associated Press Writer | December 11, 2006

WASHINGTON --House Democrats will take the middle ground on the Medicare drug benefit, pushing for government-negotiated prices but stopping short of creating a federal plan to compete with private insurers, a lawmaker said Monday.

Rep. Pete Stark, D-Calif., said a government-run plan would save money but is too ambitious for immediate action.

"That might draw a veto and then get us accused -- which I don't mind, but most of my colleagues do -- of price-setting and all that. ... There's a hesitancy to seem too radical," said Stark, a liberal in line to chair the House Ways and Means Committee's health subcommittee.

This is the same Stark who last year introduced a band-aid universal-coverage plan, HR 5886, to take the wind out of Conyer's genuine single-payer plan, HR 676. The Stark bill introduced an expanded Medicare for the uncovered, but mandated that employers provide coverage for all their employees -- a job-security measure for the insurance companies, of course.

January 10, 2007

Bait and switch

Does anybody remember, a couple of months ago, we were being told how important it was to the future of humankind for the Democrats to re-take control of Congress? Well, they did re-take it -- and the current Punch-and-Judy show on the Hill is leading up to conclusion that whoops, we spoke too soon, we need the White House too.

In fact, without the White House we are nothing. The unitary prez, like a Stuart king, can thwart the majority will of the people. A united Democratic nation, saddled with a divided gubmint, can be flummoxed at the whim of the executive.

Deduction: the Iraq occ will only end if "we" -- the party of the people -- get the White House. So: 1) Expect nothing for the next two years of Democratic congressional superiority, and 2) be a good soldier and vote the Lesser Evil for prez in '08.

It's the next last best hope of humanity -- or do I mean inanity?

January 24, 2007

A name of ill omen

File this link under donk House reps, fearless warstopper unit:

Meet Jimmy "Jumpstart" Mcgovern. This exchange with a PDA wallaby gets us to where Jimmy's at:

PDA: You had one bill last Congress and you are going to have a new one this Congress. The one that everybody's heard about, 4232, what did that bill do?

McGovern: Well, what that bill basically did is what the bill I'm going to introduce this year will do.

What didn't work last time will work this time, 'cause now it's different! The people have spoken!

So... errrm... why the same old same old? Ah, patience, folks, these war endgames are complex -- kinda like cuttting the wires on a time bomb -- do it wrong and....

Of course, there's the required brush with Nambo history -- in this case, it's a nod toward another Mcgovern's dovey congressional wing-flapping, the famed Mcgovern-Hatfield amendment (two guys hung from the verbal lampposts at least ten million and one times since by drive-time talk-radio hosts). Here's the lesson of the day, as told by this new Mcgovern:

The McGovern-Hatfield Amendment...received 39 votes. Didn't receive a majority. Received 39 votes. Thirty-nine US Senators went on record as saying, 'I want this war to end and I want to cut off funding.' That sent a powerful signal to the White House and other leaders in Congress that basically support for this war is eroding rapidly. They needed to come up with a plan to get out.
Send a signal? A signal?

Make that a smoke signal, ladies and gents, not a flare that might start a fire on a roof or something. Just send up a series of puffs, really firm puffs of dark gray smoke. Let 'em float up and disperse into the blue sky. That'll get the bad boys' knees knocking.

Imagine the Cheney gang responding to... "signals", and peppering the oposition with: "You sniveling weaselly backstabbers, you skunky betrayers of our brave trooper girls and boys, you'd have this nation abandon its own best hopes, our brightest, bravest children, leave them to hold out as best they can, till rescued like so many Beau Gestes."

We all could go on and on and on over this blood hole, like pigeons inflating and re-inflating our chests, while what needs doing, what somehow we must do, is take dire action.

We need a second front to this war, another place to be in "harm's way," here at home, right up there on Capitol Hill. We gotta find the raw means to put them all up there in harm's way: tell 'em, "Get us out, motherfuckers, or we'll get you out, and not give a shit who replaces you."

The filibuster: it's baaaack

How it works in the Senate these days:

Fifty-four senators voted to raise the federal minimum wage from $5.15 an hour to $7.25 an hour, without giving any more lucrative tax breaks to business. But because of the mostly Republican opposition to a clean minimum wage bill in the form of a filibuster, that was six votes too few for passage.

The 54–43 vote on cloture this morning (it takes 60 votes to end debate on a filibustered bill) means the Senate now will take up a minimum wage bill (S. 2) that, along with the $2.10 wage hike, will include the tax breaks and other giveaways....

Says Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), leading Senate proponent of a clean bill:

Adding a tax package to the bill creates procedural hurdles that will delay—perhaps significantly—the implementation of the increase. Minimum wage workers could wait months for a raise they so clearly deserve.
Notice, again, that the Republicans can filibuster but the Democrats can't. Now that's what I call usin' that fine Dixiecrat remnant the way it was intended.

March 27, 2007

First the bad news, then... more bad news

The Progdems of Am's Tim Carpenter has a cheery/bleak post mortem on the donk house bill extending the now jointly owned Iraq occupation:

Tim is of several minds on this:

The bad news is that the House bill funds Bush's troop surge and won't bring our troops home until a Sept 1, 2008 'deadline' with provisions allowing troops to stay in Iraq beyond that on vaguely-defined 'training' or 'anti-terrorism' missions....

More bad news is the disunity stirred up among antiwar progressives in Congress by the House leadership's arm-twisting and the intervention of in support of the leadership's arm-twisting....

But on the other hand....
... [T]here is great news! While many antiwar Congress members shared with us their bruises and frustrations over Friday's vote, they remain more committed than ever to get a debate on fully-funded unconditional troop withdrawal from Iraq within a year.... The House supplemental has a porous 18-month deadline; Out-of-Iraqers will work toward a tighter, firmer deadline....
Great news? You gotta love this jabberwock -- the eternal quest for a tighter, firmer, more satisfying "time line".

But there are masterpieces in this field from time to time. Note this hard-biting ewe:

fully-funded unconditional troop withdrawal....
I nominate that one for direct induction into the rough tough cream puff Hall of Fame.

July 10, 2007

Ipse dixit

The scoop from Spooktown:

Former CIA chief analyses global terrorism

Intelligence analyst Michael Scheuer, a 22-year CIA veteran, has been closely watching events involving terrorism around the globe. While in the CIA he anonymously authored two books that were highly critical of how the West has fought the war on terrorism. Mr Scheuer is in Australia for a major security conference and he spoke with Ali Moore.


ALI MOORE: What happens if after a presidential election you have a Democrat and a Democrat controlled Congress?

MICHAEL SCHEUER: You know, I don't think that much will change, really. They may pull out of Iraq, but American politicians across board from left to right are interventionists. They think America needs to be involved anywhere, and the policies at issue here, support for Israel's dependence on foreign oil and support for Arab despots and tyrannies, it's a shared policy in both American parties. So I don't expect there would be a great change.

Nancy and the dungeon

Delayed flash, from the peace, good jobs, and love-ya-baby Demo House we elected last fall:

42 Democrats ... voted to keep the world's foremost torture school, the School of the Americas, open during a House vote on June 21.

Now that's crossing the aisle for empire! Can you beat it? Our Latin academy of electric blue mangling, saved by the cross-aisle voting of alg those stout donks.

And they were needed, too -- it was a close call; the endsville bill missed passing by 6 votes only.

Note well: several leading house humanists among the missing in action, including Charles Rangel of New York and who else, her worship madame Speaker.

April 14, 2008

Bitter?! Well, maybe just a little

At issue are comments he made privately at a fundraiser in San Francisco last Sunday. He was trying to explain his troubles winning over some working-class voters, saying they have become frustrated with economic conditions:

"It's not surprising, then, they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."

Vacuous, condescending, junk sociology comments from a Democratic candidate are not usually interesting. But the Code Orange hysteria generated by the young millionaire with a law degree from Harvard has some interesting content. He and his elite critics genuinely believe in wholesome effects of privileged, neoliberal license. Subsidized capital mobility and militarized protection for it are unalloyed goods in their world. "Bitterness" over the actual, real world effects of it are attributable to cretinous social values, bigotry, ignorance and personal inadequacies that can be compensated by owning weapons.

His crime was not saying anything that might allude to that elite point of view, however. His crime was the implicit recognition that things are not all rosy for the white working class. He broke the magic, and now he needs to be punished.

This is not his first flirtation with a public understanding that all is not well for people in the harvestable class and I think the hints he gives towards that understanding are attractive to the gentler-souled progressives. It's audaciously adorable to vouchsafe a qualm or two, with imploring eyes cast upwards towards a heaven where a kindly God (who looks remarkably like FDR) looks down in genteel dismay, and pleads with the recalcitrant inhabitants of His creation to be just a little bit nicer to each other. But not too nice, of course -- welfare was divisive.

June 18, 2008

Same old same old

Sometimes there's something good on one of my lefty mailing lists, like the following:

> OBAMA CAMPAIGN announces 'Senior Working Group on National Security'
> --Secretary of State Madeleine Albright
> --Senator David Boren, former Chairman of the Senate Select Committee  
> on Intelligence
> --Secretary of State Warren Christopher
> --Greg Craig, former director of the State Department Office of  
> Policy Planning
> --Secretary of the Navy Richard Danzig
> --Representative Lee Hamilton, former Chairman of the House Foreign  
> Affairs Committee
> --Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder
> --Dr. Tony Lake, former National Security Advisor
> --Senator Sam Nunn, former Chairman of the Senate Armed Services  
> Committee.
> --Secretary of Defense William Perry
> --Dr. Susan Rice, former Assistant Secretary of State
> --Representative Tim Roemer, 9/11 Commissioner
> --Jim Steinberg, former Deputy National Security Advisor
> AP's Nedra Pickler reports: 'Obama also was meeting Wednesday with  
> nearly 40 retired admirals and generals to discuss the state of the  
> military and the challenges in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.'   
My correspondent writes:
Madeleine Albright?

Warren Christopher?

William Perry?

Lee Hamilton?

Oh man, change is coming fast.

I'm so excited to see something so unique happening in my lifetime.

I'm also glad Clinton didn't win, she never would have picked new fresh faces like these!

October 25, 2008

Don't say you weren't warned

Somehow I missed Joe Biden being more candid than he intended last weekend. For those who haven't already read his insiderish chat with a group of fund-raisers in Seattle:
We talk about Iran getting a nuclear weapon and threatening Israel and us. Let me tell ya something, Pakistan already is bristling with nuclear weapons, all of which can hit Israel right now, all of which can strike the Mediterranean and well into the Indian Ocean....

It will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama like they did John Kennedy.... we're gonna have an international crisis, a generated crisis, to test the mettle of this guy. And he's gonna have to make some really tough - I don't know what the decision's gonna be, but I promise you it will occur.... he's gonna need you, not financially to help him, we're gonna need you to use your influence, your influence within the community, to stand with him.

Because it's not gonna be apparent initially, it's not gonna be apparent that we're right. Because all these decisions, all these decisions, once they're made if they work, then they weren't viewed as a crisis. If they don't work, it's viewed as you didn't make the right decision, a little bit like how we hesitated so long dealing with Bosnia and dealing with Kosovo, and consequently 200,000 people lost their lives that maybe didn't have to lose lives....

[Y]ou all are gonna be sitting here a year from now going 'oh my God, why are they there in the polls, why is the polling so down, why is this thing so tough?' We're gonna have to make some incredibly tough decisions in the first two years. So I'm asking you now, I'm asking you now, be prepared to stick with us. Remember the faith you had at this point... remember St. Peter denied Christ thrice, you know?

...There are gonna be a lot of you who want to go 'whoa, wait a minute, yo, whoa, whoa, I don't know about that decision.' Because if you think the decision is sound when they're made.... they're not likely to be as popular as they are sound. Because if they're popular, they're probably not sound.

I probably shouldn't have said all this because it dawned on me that the press is here.

Apparently the audience of Obamaphiles ate it all up enthusiastically.

November 4, 2008

Wild in the streets

All the yelling and horn-honking is keeping me awake. I haven't heard anything like it since I happened to be in St Louis in 1964, when the Cardinals won the World Series. Of course there are also five or six police helicopters hovering overhead, just to make sure that the high spirits don't get out of hand. I don't think the cops really have anything to worry about -- but they do love the flak-jacket theater of it all, don't they?

Will there be fewer police helicopters under Obama? Personally, I doubt it.

One does wonder just what all my noisy, happy, law-abiding neighbors are expecting. Wrong question, probably. They're mostly just glad that the Other Team has been vanquished, and that someone they think is a person like themselves is going to take over.

I do feel a bit pleased, actually. Of course I would have been pleased either way. But the "I told you so's" will have a much sharper, sourer taste, after all this sweet euphoria.

November 7, 2008

As if Rahm weren't bad enough...

... I hadn't realized that another notorious vampire from the Israel Lobby's well-stocked crypt, Dennis Ross, is in the Obamamix too:

[Obama campaign adviser] Ross's record includes supporting the pro-Iraq War advocacy campaigns of the Project for the New American Century and serving as a consultant to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), a bastion of Israel-centric policy thinking in Washington.

Ross... reportedly has told friends and foreign officials that he hopes to nab a very senior post in an Obama administration, one that at least covers Iran policy, if not the entire Greater Middle East.

Ross's efforts [under Clinton] to negotiate an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict were a failure. In his writings, Ross has emphasized Palestinian intransigence....

Other participants in those negotiations have pointed their finger at Ross. In their book Negotiating Arab-Israeli Peace, Daniel Kurtzer, who is also an Obama adviser, and Scott Lasensky cite a number of anonymous officials who were critical of Ross.

Said one Arab negotiator, "The perception always was that Dennis [Ross] started from the Israeli bottom line, that he listened to what Israel wanted and then tried to sell it to the Arabs ... He was never looked at ... as a trusted world figure or as an honest broker."

Likewise, a former Clinton administration representative told the authors, "By the end, the Palestinians didn't fully trust Dennis ... [T]hey thought he was tilted too much towards the Israelis."

Ross got his start in high-level policy-making working under Paul Wolfowitz in the Pentagon during the Carter administration....

When Wolfowitz was tapped to head the State Department's Policy Planning Staff after the election of Ronald Reagan, he included Ross in his team....

[Ross] supported the invasion of Iraq and, during the run-up to the 2008 presidential elections, repeatedly teamed up with writers from groups like the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) to craft hard-line policies toward Iran.

Ross also helped produce the 2008 report "Meeting the Challenge: US Policy Toward Iranian Nuclear Development," [which] argues that "Cold War deterrence" is not persuasive in the context of Iran's program, due in large measure to the "Islamic Republic's extremist ideology." Even a peaceful indigenous uranium enrichment program would place the entire Middle East region "under a cloud of ambiguity given uncertain Iranian capacities and intentions."

Among the report's proposals are undertaking a major military build-up in the Gulf, ... setting a pre-determined compliance deadline and be prepared to apply increasingly harsh repercussions if these are not met, leading ultimately to US military strikes.

November 8, 2008

Getting better all the time

I'm really enjoying myself these last few days. Here's the latest: Obama will apparently be continuing Clinton's and Bush's provocative forward policy with respect to Russia -- a Western imperial tic (as I've observed here repeatedly) with a 150-year history.

From Aunty Beeb:

US President-elect Barack Obama will go ahead with plans to build part of a controversial missile defence system on Polish soil, Poland has announced.

President Lech Kaczynski's office said the pledge was made during a telephone conversation between the two men.

Russia opposes the US plans, and early this week said it planned to deploy missiles on Poland's border and electronically jam the US system.

This is the first signal that Mr Obama plans to continue George Bush's policy.

During the US election campaign, Mr Obama said he wanted to review the system to build a missile defence system in central Europe to ensure it would be effective and would not target Russia.

November 11, 2008

Obama: Soft on welfare queens

-- No, no, not those welfare queens, a different bunch:

President-elect Barack Obama yesterday urged President Bush to support immediate aid for struggling automakers and back a new stimulus package, even as congressional Democrats began drafting legislation to give the Detroit automakers quick access to $25 billion by adding them to the Treasury Department's $700 billion economic rescue program.
I've always been very amused by the contrast between the self-representation of business folk, and the actuality. Some years ago, a couple of other propellerheads and I had quite a good idea -- an idea which some other propellerheads ended up making a lot of money with -- and we went with our begging bowls to various venture-capital folk (this was when that unamiable species was as thick on the ground as bison were, before the railroads came). The first question the VC guys asked (and they were guys, every time, so cool your jets there, Ms Steinem) was this: "What are the barriers to entry for potential competitors?" The Grail they were seeking, you see, was quite simply monopoly. Competition is for losers.

Representation: risk-taking; self-made; beholden to no one; bold; unafraid of possible failure; eager to compete on the level playing field, may the best man win, et cetera, et cetera -- one has heard all this piffle a million times, right?

Reality: they hate competition worse than cholera, and when they fail, they run to Uncle for a handout.

And Uncle, with both halves of his bicameral, bipartisan brain, feels their pain.

November 26, 2008

With friends like these....

La Huffington, Inc., reports:

Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman [says] Barack Obama's actions since winning the presidency have been "just about perfect."

"Everything that President-elect Obama has done since election night has been just about perfect, both in terms of a tone and also in terms of the strength of the names that have either been announced or are being discussed to fill his administration," Lieberman said during a visit to Hartford.

... Lieberman said he believes the rift between himself and the party stemmed mainly from his support of President Bush's policy in Iraq and will close as that becomes less of an issue.

"It appears to me that the war in Iraq is coming to a successful -- I don't want to say conclusion yet, but it's moving in a way that it will not be a divisive issue either in the Democratic Party or between Democrats and Republicans in the time ahead," Lieberman said. "And therefore, I think we'll return to more normal times, which I welcome."

Joe's no fool. He loves the Iraq war like his firstborn son. When he says that the war "won't be a divisive issue," you can take that to the bank.

"Normal times" indeed -- the Democrats are only anti-war when they're in opposition.

If then.

December 5, 2008

Got your bumper sticker, right here:

From Mike Flugennock:

December 9, 2008

Young David Sirota thinks God
Must find it exeedingly odd...

David Sirota doesn't miss much. He's noticed that the Democratic Party has declared open war, war to the knife, against what it calls the "left":

Seems to me that House and Senate leaders have declared an all-out war on "the Left." ....

Here's this excerpt from the Washington Post (h/t FDL):

[O]ne Senate Democratic aide said bluntly: "The left has been foiled again. They can rant and rage but they still do not put the fear into folks to actually change their votes."

Here's the Hill newspaper today:

Democratic leader says party won’t turn left

As the House prepares to elect its leaders, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer is challenging the idea that the expanded Democratic majority and its leaders will make a hard left turn.

To show that these aren't errant, uncommon statements, make sure to read Glenn Greenwald's review of how this hatred for "the Left" now reaches all the way to the top of the new Obama administration through Rahm Emanuel.

[I]t's pretty odd that only two weeks after a landslide election that saw a huge ideological progressive mandate, Democratic congressional leaders think it's a great public message to declare jihad on progressives.

I think David is odd. He's surely well-informed enough to know that this is standard operating procedure for the Democrats.

But in all fairness, he is onto something -- though it's not what he thinks it is.

In earlier years, Pwogs had to wait until after Inauguration Day to be disappointed. Now, with the generally faster pace of events -- due probably to the atom bomb, or maybe that Internet thing -- they can have the satisfaction of receiving their inevitable kick in the teeth much more promptly.

More explicitly, too. This suddenly popular trope among the old Donkparty stagers of berating the "left", even before their man has been sworn in is, I think, a straw in the hot air of no mean consequence. It attests bleakly to the radically enfeebled state of "left" Democrats.

These people's pathologically perseverative commitment to lesser-evillism has now landed them in the unenviable job of almost-perennial whipping boy. (They do get a few dry old bones thrown to them in primary season, whenever the Democrat is not the incumbent, and on this scanty fare they must nourish their delusions from one decade to the next.)

Why, though, do the alpha donkeys feel the need to drive the point home so explicitly, and so publicly? Why not just fuck the Pwogs quietly, rather than talking about it -- as has always been the case in previous Democratic administrations? The election is over -- those half-a-dozen Angry White Guys who might have been swayed by this tactic have already cast their ballots for whomever.

I suspect they're just having some fun, and the Pwogs are now so inconsequential that they can afford to have it. It's good to be the king -- again. Yeah, during the primaries and to some extent during the election, they had to keep their hatred and contempt for the Pwogs a little muted. Now they can indulge themselves -- and people who can indulge themselves, generally will.

December 10, 2008

The course of true love

A lefty friend of mine observed today, a propos Barack and the Left: "The wedding isn't till January but the honeymoon is already over."

January 15, 2009

Well. maybe he'll build an Autobahn

I remember a co-worker from some years ago, a German chap of a certain age -- born about 1928, I would guess. Let's call him Gunnar.

I got to know Gunnar pretty well. He wasn't a bad fellow. Thoughtful, well-read, enlightened, droll.

It took a long time for the unfortunate subject of Hitler to arise. I avoided it, and Gunnar certainly wasn't any more eager than I was to bring it up.

But one evening, after a beer or two or three, I can't remember how it happened, but the ill-omened name was spoken.

Gunnar submerged himself in his stein for a long minute, and finally observed, when he came up for air, that well, you know, the man wasn't completely bad. He built the Autobahn, after all.

I thought of this recently in connection with my giddy, happy, liberal friends, still all jazzed about Obama, and very peeved at me when I tactlessly mention the ongoing slaughter in Gaza, to which Obama and his entire party have given a very unequivocal green light.

Oh, I know. Obama isn't Hitler. Nothing like. Of course not. Hitler is the gold standard. Nobody is going to take his trophies away from him any time soon -- let's hope.

What interests me the mentality of my thoughtful, well-read, enlightened, droll Obama-ite Gunnars, who recognize, and quietly -- very quietly, perhaps even entirely in the deep quiet of their own minds -- deplore the bestial depravity of Israel, and understand that Obama is right down there with it; but who nevertheless think he's going to build us an Autobahn.

Or something.

Anything, really.

February 1, 2009

Extraordinary Renditions, Obama Style

The CIA's secret prisons are being shuttered. Harsh interrogation techniques are off-limits. And Guantanamo Bay will eventually go back to being a wind-swept naval base on the southeastern corner of Cuba.

But even while dismantling these programs, President Obama left intact an equally controversial counter-terrorism tool.

Under executive orders issued by Obama recently, the CIA still has authority to carry out what are known as renditions, secret abductions and transfers of prisoners to countries that cooperate with the United States.

Current and former U.S. intelligence officials said that the rendition program might be poised to play an expanded role going forward because it was the main remaining mechanism -- aside from Predator missile strikes -- for taking suspected terrorists off the street.

The rendition program became a source of embarrassment for the CIA, and a target of international scorn, as details emerged in recent years of botched captures, mistaken identities and allegations that prisoners were turned over to countries where they were tortured.

The European Parliament condemned renditions as "an illegal instrument used by the United States." Prisoners swept up in the program have sued the CIA as well as a Boeing Co. subsidiary accused of working with the agency on dozens of rendition flights.

But the Obama administration appears to have determined that the rendition program was one component of the Bush administration's war on terrorism that it could not afford to discard.

LA Times

To carry out its mission, the CTC relies on its Rendition Group, made up of case officers, paramilitaries, analysts and psychologists. Their job is to figure out how to snatch someone off a city street, or a remote hillside, or a secluded corner of an airport where local authorities wait.

Members of the Rendition Group follow a simple but standard procedure: Dressed head to toe in black, including masks, they blindfold and cut the clothes off their new captives, then administer an enema and sleeping drugs. They outfit detainees in a diaper and jumpsuit for what can be a day-long trip. Their destinations: either a detention facility operated by cooperative countries in the Middle East and Central Asia, including Afghanistan, or one of the CIA's own covert prisons -- referred to in classified documents as "black sites," which at various times have been operated in eight countries, including several in Eastern Europe.

In the months after the Sept. 11 attacks, the CTC was the place to be for CIA officers wanting in on the fight. The staff ballooned from 300 to 1,200 nearly overnight.

"It was the Camelot of counterterrorism," a former counterterrorism official said. "We didn't have to mess with others -- and it was fun."

Washington Post

Democrats will find comfort in the Camelot reference; JFK, the good old days of nuclear brinksmanship, the Bay of Pigs, domino theories and their use in justifying military adventurism. It was a more innocent time, a time of hope. Change was in the air, his supply side economics notwithstanding. Enema banditry and vengeful diapering were private pursuits, for the most part, not yet proudly on display as important tools of statecraft. And in that regard, Democratic Party supporters should be grateful to President Bush. His administration removed the shameful stigma associated with sexually molesting people in order to keep the country safe and improve our enemies' understanding of democracy.

Needless to say, he took it too far, much further than President Clinton did. There was no reason to maintain proprietary black prisons and post-kidnapping torture facilities. They're expensive and in plentiful supply in client states. Responsible managers outsource activities that can damage a brand. They retain control of only the essential parts. To his immense credit, President Obama recognizes that. He may well issue an executive order mandating a more tasteful approach. Proper guidelines make a difference! And if pressed, his supporters can point out that at least they don't gloat about spending hundreds of millions of dollars on state-sponsored molestation, not like those nasty Republicans, who administer date rape drugs after they've had their fun.

March 3, 2009

The violent bear it away

If that moth-tongued gossiping auntie, the Washpost, is to be trusted, then the class struggle inside the present White House is over.

Larry "The Sow" Summers and the "progressive" side of Wall Street won, and Jared Burpstein and the union piecard side of the DC loop lost.

"Meeting in January on the eighth floor of the transition team's office in downtown Washington, Geithner pressed the incoming president to commit to cutting the deficit to 3 percent of the economy over the next five years, which would keep the nation's debt roughly in line with normal economic growth. Summers quickly backed him.

"Some, including economist Jared Bernstein, resisted, saying that such a strict limit would make it more difficult to confront the many challenges ahead and that the size of the government's emergency response to the economy and financial markets would make the cap tough to maintain.

In February, the entire economic team convened in the windowless Roosevelt Room in the White House. Obama abruptly ended the debate. Geithner and Summers would have their way."

March 7, 2009

Lower your expectations

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had an embarrassing moment when she presented a gift to Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov that was intended to display the Russian word for "reset" -- a reference to Vice President Joe Biden's statement that the U.S. wants to reset relations with Russia.

The gift read "peregruzka."

Mrs. Clinton said, "We worked hard to get the right Russian word. Do you think we got it?"

The Russian diplomat answered nyet. Peregruzka means "overcharged," he explained.

"Reset" is "perezagruzka." U.S. officials said they would fix the gift.

Wall Street Journal

In other light-hearted gaffes, it turns out Tom Geithner is too much of a delusional, oligarch-coddling hack for James Baker. I'm beginning to wonder what, outside some grim technocratic effort to horrify the bourgeoisie, inspired Geithner's appointment. Baker, one of the better fixers in the Republican stable, is fairly delicate about it. He's accustomed to speaking in ways that soothe the temper tantrums and fears of arrogant, hyperactive merit babies. But his admonition to take at least a measure of reality into account is unmistakable.

I think Obama is headed for a one term wonder presidency. That may even come as a relief to the more priggish pwogs. They can get back to feeling ill-used by the "Vichy" Democrats, continue their feckless ridicule of right wing celebrities and congratulate each other on achieving new milestones in continence.

March 19, 2009

The Dissociated Press...

... erm, that is Associated Press, has inadvertently given us a little glimpse of how the the news is produced ("een the pheesical sense"), via

I innocently followed a link in somebody's email and got this story:

Obama seeks patience, warns of expecting too much
By Associated Press Writer Charles Babington -- 31 minutes ago

LOS ANGELES – Facing largely adoring crowds far from Washington, President Barack Obama on Thursday asked Americans to back his far-reaching economic and health policies, but warned them not to expect too much from him or the federal government.

Well, sez I to myself, this calls for a blog post. I even have a subject heading for it already: Lower Your Expectations.

So of course I gotta give a link. Now I like to give links to the print version -- easier to read, and helps balk the advertisers.

But -- oho! Here's the print version:

Obama asks patience, guarantees better days ahead
By Associated Press Writer Charles Babington -- 2 minutes ago

LOS ANGELES – Buoyed by adoring crowds far from Washington's political wars, President Barack Obama guaranteed Americans on Thursday that the nation's economy will recover, though he asked them for patience....

"We will come out on the other side stronger and a more prosperous nation," he said, acknowledging the nation's economic crisis. "That I can guarantee you. I can't tell you how long it will take, what obstacles we'll face along the way, but I promise you this: There will be brighter days ahead."

The comments brought [a] roar of approval....

For people who enjoy the whodunnitude of text criticism, both versions are available, at least until AP's lawyers get in touch with me.

April 4, 2009

The defender of Castle Frankenstein

From Politico:

Inside Obama's bank CEOs meeting

Arrayed around a long mahogany table in the White House last week, the CEOs of the most powerful financial institutions in the world offered several explanations for paying high salaries.....

[Obama said] "The public isn’t buying that.”

“My administration,” the president added, “is the only thing between you and the pitchforks.”

Nice to see that Obie agrees with us here about his role.

April 14, 2009

Neocons ♥ Obama

I really like palaeocons, because they loathe neocons so much. It's my version of lesser-evillism, I guess.

There's a wonderfully droll piece in The American Conservative:

Neoconned Again
Discredited under Bush, the superhawks reunite for Obama.

After successive elections unseated the Republican majority and sent John McCain to defeat, neoconservatism seemed like a spent force....

One would expect neoconservatives to be friendless and circumspect, grumbling about Obama’s inevitable failure as they slump away from Washington. Instead, they are jubilant, palling around with liberals again, enjoying renewed respect. Obama is their hero.

On March 31, Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol, Washington Post columnist Robert Kagan, and senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations Dan Senor launched the Foreign Policy Initiative, the latest neoconservative think tank. Its first conference, dedicated to “Planning for Success” in Afghanistan, had the spirit of a family reunion. Sounds of backslapping and gossip filled the hall at the Mayflower Hotel....

Nearly every attendee, it seemed, was president of another grandly named neoconservative outfit. In one corner was Clifford May, head of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. In another stood John Nagl, who leads the Center for a New American Security. Near him, Randy Scheunemann, the disgraced lobbyist and—bear with me—former president of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, a program of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC)....

The first order of business at FPI was a stern warning against “isolationists.” An article, “Yes, We Can,” by Max Boot, Frederick Kagan, and Kimberly Kagan was distributed to the crowd.... A panel comprised of Nagl, Robert Kagan, and the Washington Post’s deputy editorial page editor, Jackson Diehl, focused on defending the foreign-policy consensus that has been developing since Obama announced his decision to increase troop levels in Afghanistan....

Kagan warned that “opportunistic” Republicans might attack the administration’s escalation of the Long War. Gushing over the new president’s strategy, he exclaimed, “Obama made a gutsy and courageous decision.…"

.... Frederick Kagan, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, outdid his older brother Robert in lauding the commander in chief: “I fully support the president’s policy as stated—and I will work as hard to make this president’s policies a success...."

Republican Congressman John McHugh provided a model of bipartisan obedience to the president—“I can only say to the president, ‘Sounds good to me, boss.’” Jane Harman, a Democrat, dismissed progressives who criticized her for working with “the new neocon group” ....

Robert Dreyfuss, a contributor to the Nation, could not believe the respect being accorded to Obama. “They’ll turn on him. They’re just so toxic,” he predicted.

Perhaps not. As Senor told the New Republic that week, FPI began because Kristol and others had been “discouraged” by conversations they were having with members of the House GOP leadership. Republicans balked at their suggestion of increased military spending as an alternative economic stimulus plan. Senor continued, “Our objective right now is to give President Obama cover in the eyes of those who would otherwise be skeptical on the Right.”

[E}stablishment liberals... are ready to forgive neoconservatives for everything. Many FPI attendees sported nametags that read Brookings Institution or Center for American Progress. Liberal interventionists... agree... that Obama “will be counting on some significant amount of support from his political opponents” to win in Afghanistan.

... For [Matthew] Yglesias, this feels like a replay of the ’90s, where neoconservatives guarded the Right flank of the Kosovo consensus: “By making themselves useful to Clinton and his supporters... the neocons were able to elevate their status...."

The hawks who went hoarse trying to defeat [Obama] are [now] celebrated by liberals as the responsible faction on the Right.... PNAC becomes FPI, and the neocons become the new Obamacons.

Nice to know, of course, that opportunism is not solely the property of liberals.

I paid a visit to the brand-new FPI web site. It was kind of uncanny. I had just read through fifty pages of turgid prose from Clinton and Obama apparatchik Dennis Ross' "Jewish People Policy Planning Institute" for an earlier post, and the material on the FPI website seemed awfully familiar. Different redaction, slight changes in wording, but it's very much the Synoptic Gospels:

In 2009 the United States--and its democratic allies--face many foreign policy challenges. They come from rising and resurgent powers, including China and Russia. They come from other autocracies that violate the rights of their citizens. They come from rogue states that work with each other in ways inimical to our interests and principles, and that sponsor terrorism and pursue weapons of mass destruction.
Presidents come and presidents go, but the permanent government is, well, permanent.

April 28, 2009

Hundred-day wonders

From the Washpost:

A Hundred Anxious Days
In a South Carolina Town Where the Downturn Has Deepened Since the Inauguration, Two Obama Supporters Have Struggled, Going From 'Fired Up' to Tired Out

GREENWOOD, S.C. Her cordless phone stores 17 voice messages, and tonight the inbox is full. Edith Childs, 60, grabs a bottle of water, tosses her hat on the living room floor and scowls at the blinking red light. A county councilwoman, she spent the past 12 hours driving rural roads in her 2001 Toyota Camry, trying to solve Greenwood's problems....

Across the dark living room, one of Childs's favorite pictures is displayed on a worn coffee table. It shows Childs with her arms wrapped around Barack Obama, his hand on her back, her eyes glowing....

Now Obama is president, and she still believes he will help rescue Greenwood County. But her enthusiasm has faded into a wary optimism. "He's only one man, and there's a lot to get done," she says, a predicament she knows all too well.... * * * Evon Hackett, 38, lost her job on Day 20 of Obama's presidency....

She voted for Obama and still holds out hope for the man she calls a "people's president," but she's not interested in hearing his stories about flying to Europe or fighting pirates. "I guess he's just working his way down the list, and he'll get to us," she says.

Y'know, I guess I should feel sorry for these two women, and I suppose I do on a certain level -- but I'm sure as hell not feeling sorry for them for supporting Obama, that's for sure.

I suppose that's what the Post is getting at, here, although the real story might be how B.O. had intended all along to stiff these women and leave them hanging out to dry once he got their votes out of them. Bled 'em dry and left 'em. "Babylon System is a vampire!", as Bob Marley wisely said.

Basically, they got played big-time, but their denial's all they've got left, so they're still clinging to the Hope™ that Barack Obama might be able -- and willing -- to do something for them.

July 6, 2009

King Log?

From the LA Times:

Biden says Israel has the right to attack Iran

Washington — Vice President Joe Biden signaled that the Obama administration would not stand in the way if Israel chose to attack Iran's nuclear facilities....

"Look, Israel can determine for itself -- it's a sovereign nation -- what's in their interest and what they decide to do relative to Iran and anyone else," Biden [said].

"Look, we cannot dictate to another sovereign nation what they can and cannot do," he said.

Reminded that the U.S. could impede an Israeli strike on Iran by prohibiting it from using Iraqi airspace, Biden said he was "not going to speculate" ....

Adm. Michael G. Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he had been "for some time concerned about any strike on Iran." He also said that military action should not be ruled out and that a nuclear-armed Iran was a highly troubling prospect.

Mullen said he worried about unpredictable consequences of an attack on Iran.

"I worry about it being very destabilizing not just in and of itself but the unintended consequences of a strike like that," he told CBS' "Face the Nation." "At the same time, I'm one that thinks Iran should not have nuclear weapons. I think that's very destabilizing."

Poor Mullen -- trying to cover all the bases, and falling all over himself in the process.

Another straw in the wind, for what it's worth:

Saudis would ignore Israeli jets en route to Iran

LONDON (AFP) — Saudi Arabia would turn a blind eye to Israeli warplanes flying over the kingdom in any raid on Iran's nuclear sites, The Sunday Times said in a report denied by Israel.

Citing diplomatic sources, it said the head of Israel's Mossad intelligence service had assured Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Saudi Arabia has tacitly agreed to the use of its airspace....

The Sunday Times said Mossad director Meir Dagan had held secret talks with Saudi officials to discuss the possibility.

"The Saudis have tacitly agreed to the Israeli air force flying through their airspace on a mission which is supposed to be in the common interests of Israel and Saudi Arabia," it quoted a diplomatic source as saying.

Now none of this comes as any great surprise. Everybody now acknowledges that the Israel-crazed Bush administration actually refused to let Israel attack Iran, a couple of years ago. But the Democrats have historically been even more Israel-crazy than the Republicans, so if they're now giving the green light -- which is certainly what Biden's comments sound like -- it's only to be expected, on prior form.

The mildly interesting question is whether Obama is down with all this. Or is he just being bypassed? Is he, in fact, King Log(*)?

The same question occurs in connection with the coup in Honduras. My man Ace Cockburn thinks it was the usual Central American military coup, and Washington was in it up to its elbows, Obie included:

We can take it as an absolute certainly that CIA and Pentagon advisors were at the elbows of the Honduran plotters, giving the green light and barely bothering to maintain deniability, and that Obama and Mrs Clinton had been fully briefed....

The first statements from Obama and Secretary of State Clinton bear all the marks of careful preparation. In the coup’s immediate aftermath last Sunday they merely urged negotiations with the coup plotters to "restore constitutional order”, feebly enjoining "all political and social actors in Honduras to respect democratic norms, the rule of law and the tenets of the Inter-American Democratic Charter”, which has all the moral and persuasive power of telling a child not to go swimming immediately after lunch. Carefully avoided was any tough demand by Obama or Clinton – still hoarse from shouts for “democracy” in Iran -- for the legitimate Honduran President Zelaya to be returned to office. The plan was obviously to try and run out the clock with indecisive parleys until Zelaya’s term ends in six months.

But my other man, Hugo Chavez, thinks -- or at least says -- different (apologies for the translation -- my Spanish is really bad):
Chavez... accused sectors of the US right-wing of being behind the [Honduran] coup.... [He] said these groups were 'defying' President Obama with these actions....

[Chavez] declared that [the US is] sliced up among powerful organizations that add up to a "horrific miltary, industrial, financial, terrorist and drug-dealing machine."

[He] discounted the possibility that the north American [president] had any connection with what happened in Honduras... but warned him to take a position more opposed to the [coup] government.

Somehow -- pace Alex -- I prefer the idea of rogue entrepreneurs a la Aaron Burr conducting US foreign policy on their own, while Obie polishes his soothing phrases in the Oval Office. But who knows? Let's hope we all live long enough to read the memoirs.


(*) A fable of Aesop's. The frogs wanted a king, so Zeus dropped a nice old log into their pond. The frogs enjoyed the log for a while, leaping off its sun-warmed back into the cool water, but then they decided they wanted a more stylish, activist king. So Zeus sent 'em a stork, who ate them all up.

July 27, 2009

Business as usual

CQ Politics reports:

Pelosi's Door Revolves for Top Lobbyist

The revolving door is wide open in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office just two years after she promised to crack down on the practice of congressional aides moving into lobbying shops and then back into government.

Pelosi announced Monday that she is hiring one of Washington's top lobbyists, Richard Meltzer, to be her policy director....

Pelosi's aides say... her agenda will not be unduly influenced by his former clients... [including] heavy hitters with serious interests in the outcome of Democratic agenda items, including a health care overhaul, energy legislation, the financial services bailout, the government's stake in the auto industry and others. In addition to ExxonMobil and R.J. Reynolds, his recent clients include health products giant Johnson & Johnson, Pacific Capital Bancorp (which has received more than $180 million in bailout funds), Ford Motor Company, Microsoft, General Electric, Aetna, and the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association.

Quite a rogue's gallery. I don't know which one I fear most. I think maybe it's Aetna.

December 1, 2009

Welcome back to the fold

This crossed my laptop today, from one of my lefty mailing lists:

I voted -- and asked people -- to vote for Obama.  I made my case on the grounds of what would better advance the class struggle.  I still think that, with the information then known, it was the best decision.  I didn't think I had high hopes or expectations about him as an individual.  I did think though that, under the right conditions, his personal background made it possible for him to become a decisive reformer, even if not an FDR.  But I think I was entirely wrong on that.  He is not one of us.  Period.  I don't entirely understand his motivations, but that matters little now.  I am convinced that this decision [about Afghanistan] offsets anything historically progressive that Obama may accomplish -- if at all.
Churlishly enough, I was tempted to respond that Obie told us all along what he was really about. Nothing he's done in office has added a jot or tittle to "the information then known."

But then early training took over, and I remembered what the man said:

Joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.

January 20, 2010

The New Talking Points Are Out

They look exactly the same as the old talking points.

"Republicans have an obligation to the American people to join us in governing our nation through these difficult times and to help clean up the mess they left behind," reads the memo obtained by TPMDC. "It is mathematically impossible for Democrats to pass legislation on our own. Senate Republicans to come to the table (sic) with ideas for improving our nation and not obstructionist tactics. Ph'nglui mglw'nfah Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn!"

Via TPM.

I added a little something for verisimilitude.

December 31, 2010

More Deep Thinking

The hard truth is that until the Left gets onto the field in a much more serious way and starts engaging the Right in its “war of ideas” -- including making major investments in media, think tanks and other means of getting information to the public -- politicians will continue to disappoint and embitter the Left. So will mainstream journalists. -- Robert Parry.

Lady Poverty

That's a recurring trope with pwogs. The big problem, needless to say, isn't a lack of idea-propagation infrastructure. They have an embarrassment of riches. What they're lacking is ideas. The only one they have is: vote for Democrats. That's it. They flap their gums a lot in between voting for Democrats, but none of it is meaningful.

July 1, 2012


Hugh,at Corrente, has an interesting post on the Obamacare sophistries of the Roberts' court and the sophistries of Roberts himself. The constitutional issues are not my strong suit and I feel a little badly that I don't particularly care about them.

What does tickle my funny bone is the legalistic counter-argument he got. It's filled with the flummery of enumerated powers and prerogatives. It has the ring of expertise. I'll bet it would be very easy to find scholars and courts who find it compelling—lots and lots of courts, with judges tripping over their robes in a rush to find it compelling.

Whether something is right or wrong is immaterial. They just don't apply. I think they should, but they don't. This might leave a pragmatic, utilitarian consideration, along the lines of, "is this thing workable towards a greater good, within the system as is actually exists?". That can be argued, although I think it gets into speculative fantasy land very quickly, but one way or the other it doesn't apply either. There's no room for it; no framework for its consideration. And the only fact that obtains is the demonstrable fact that this is now the law.

The expertise in flummery is a big part of how union pension plans get adjusted and readjusted and handed over to the PBGC and then melt away. How NAFTA and all the other "free trade" agreements knee-capped labor. How card check became a non-starter. There are always plenty of stalwart Democratic labor lawyers—with the relevant expertise, credentials and everything—and they can always explain, bless their hearts.

Whatever will they do when they finally kill their host?

About Lower your expectations

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to Stop Me Before I Vote Again in the Lower your expectations category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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