Posts Tagged ‘Dick Cheney’

Dirty, Rotten Scoundrels

June 24, 2009

In his press conference yesterday, President Obama was stellar.  Almost all of the questions had to do with Iran and our own struggle for a health care plan.  I will deal with the issues of Iran today, and save health care for a later post .

The almost universal political reality  is one of power- hungry leaders acting for their own good and survival as the ruling party; their instincts are to preserve and protect  themselves and not to deliver the democratic principles that underscore the type of government that the people want.  What we have are scoundrels out for themselves, dedicated to the maintenance of their thrones,  rather than getting to the nitty gritty of a fair and just government.  The allegiance is to the framework of power rather than to the substance of running a society.  Dirty, rotten scoundrels.

Similarly, we have our own scoundrels right here in America.  Yesterday, President Obama gave the Party of No what it wanted: strong language, such as “condemn”, “appall” and  “outrage”, to describe his reaction to the stealing of the Iran elections and the subsequent attack on protesters.  Don’t hold your breath: the GOP will still not be satisfied.  Their first and foremost objective is to bring Obama down.  No matter how honest, effective or appropriate our President’s policies might be, the Republicans, with their main objective of antagonism and obstructionism, just want Obama to fail.  Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham will never back off of their attack of President Obama, even if  their logic is unfounded.  Whatever the issue at hand, these close-minded senators will take the opposite position of our President, damn the effects on the people.  They do not care one whit about whether or not the people of our country, or Iran, will get the help they need.   These purposes are secondary to destroying the Obama administration and reclaiming themselves as the ruling party.

But our President was strict, as usual.  He said — correctly — that ever since the Iranian election and resulting protests, he HAS voiced a strong and consistent opinion against the government’s attack on free speech and the right of assembly.  He acknowledged that what is going on in Iran is “profound”.  What he would not capitulate to is the next step, i.e. creating retaliatory consequences in response to Iran’s internal turmoil.  Since we do not, as yet, know how this civil unrest will play out, our consequential options are not clear right now.  What?  Does the GOP disagree with that careful, wait-and-see attitude, or do they think the U.S. should start yet ANOTHER war in the Mideast?  Just like Dick Cheney seems to want another terrorist attack on our soil to prove his opinion that President Obama has weakened us, so too do the Republicans want us interfering in what is clearly a national problem in Iran.  This unwanted interference would definitely muddy the waters for the freedom fighters in Iran and perhaps then the ruling Mullahs WOULD have some basis for calling the unrest a force of outside manipulation, rather than a deep response to the injustice in their own country.  The GOP’s policies are stupid and selfish, totally aimed inward at their own survival rather than turned outward to govern effectively.  Dirty, rotten scoundrels.

There is a larger issue regarding Iran that comes into play: secular democracy versus religious democracy.  This is a much more esoteric, philosophical issue with relevant opinions on both sides.  I will save that debate for another time.  Specifically, in Iran there exists a supposed religious democracy, not a theocracy.  The Iranians are a profoundly religious people; they are NOT protesting against their religious hierarchy.  What they are battling is the abuse of their democratic principles.  Crackdowns against human rights are not acceptable whether or not the leader is a religious cleric or a secular politician.  A scoundrel is a scoundrel is a scoundrel.  Ayatollah Khamenei is a scoundrel, as is Ahmadinejad.  So while we may debate whether or not a democracy can truly be a democracy if it is within the framework of a religious construct, what is going on in Iran is a fight for DEMOCRATIC principles.  The religion argument will have to wait for another day.

President Obama made it quite clear yesterday that the path available to Iran in handling this internal civil unrest will dictate how the international community will react.  The legitimacy of the Iranian elections and its government’s subsequent actions in dealing with the protests will determine Iran’s viability in the world at large.  President Obama spoke of Iran’s obligations to its own people, in terms of assuring them their basic human rights,  as the first part of the overall blueprint of adhering to international standards of fair and just governance.  Internal actions will effect external consequences.

Please read Roger Cohen of the New York Times:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/24/opinion/24iht-edcohen.html?ref=global

But our President is no fool.  He is well aware of the political antics in Washington.  His dedication to doing what is good and right will supercede the selfish intentions of our Washington legislators.  They can bait him all they want; he will not jump to premature decisions that could endanger us as harmfully as our foray into Iraq has.  Eric Clapton, in his mournful ode “Here in Heaven” to his young son who died after falling out of a window, had to reconcile his unending grief with some sort of peace for himself here on earth.  His conclusion was that “I know I don’t belong here in Heaven”.  He recognized the need for time, place and perspective.   So must we in our response to the events in Iran.  Yes, we can wear green, as does Senator Barbara Mikulski, to show our compassion for and unity with the Iranians.  Yes, we can speak openly and loudly about the injustice going on in Iran.  Yes, we can follow the incredible reporting by Andrew Sullivan on the events in Iran (http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com).  Yes, in the words of NPR’s “Writer’s Almanac” with Garrison Keillor, we should all “be well, do good work and stay in touch.”  Whether or not the Iranian freedom movement will succeed, or go underground and lie dormant for years once again, or totally die out, is not ours to call or determine now.

Democracy and freedom are quirky, not perfect and certainly not easy to obtain and maintain.  The fight must come from within.  What we certainly do not need are internal (to Iran) scoundrels crushing the people’s democratic rights and  external scoundrels ensuring a total collapse of the deep-founded quest for personal rights.   Barack Obama’s  sense of time, place and perspective is indeed intact.  No scoundrel is our President Obama.  That role has been filled by the GOP and Ayatollah Khamenei.   Dirty, rotten scoundrels.

POSTSCRIPT

In case any of you are having some difficulty with my use of the term “scoundrel”, I cite two more examples of despicable scoundrels from today’s news.

First, read about the “Disappearing Governor”, South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford:

http://www.cnn.com/2009/POLITICS/06/24/south.carolina.governor/index.html

As if it wasn’t bad enough that he deserted his state and citizens, his disappearance was also quite the slap in the face to his wife and four sons.  Dirty, rotten scoundrel.

Secondly, there was a release of more information from the Nixon tapes:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/24/us/politics/24nixon.html?ref=todayspaper

What a statesman!  What a human being!  Trashing Jews by holding them responsible for all of the anti-Semitism since the beginning of time.  Reducing women to the sexual objects that they are.  Blaming the efforts to end the war in Viet Nam as purely a means of political advancement rather than the will of the people.  Sound familiar?  Dirty rotten scoundrel.

If you should have any further doubt as to what a scoundrel is, do get in touch with me.

The Folly of Our Leadership

May 31, 2009

Frank Rich of the New York Times has been reading my posts again.  All egotistical flattery aside, our ideas are in sync because they are the obvious truth.   So very obvious, in fact, that everyone and Yo Mama have the very same thoughts.  No secret there.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/31/opinion/31rich.html

The folly and intellectual laziness of people still astounds me.  At the heart of Dick Cheney’s foray into the media this month is the fact of revenge.  His main objective is to continue the Bush/Cheney scare tactic of a repeat 9/11 performance in order to obtain the political ends the GOP desires.  Those wants, such as lower taxes, obstruction of individual rights, lower taxes, invasion of privacy, lower taxes, benefits for the rich over all the other economic classes and lower taxes, often bear no correlation to the prevention of terrorism.  As I said in an earlier post, Cheney would feel vindicated if there was another major terrorist attack on our soil.  It is more important for him to be “right” than for peace to prevail.

Frank Rich is also correct that the cradle of worry should be Pakistan.  May I add to that Iran and North Korea?  The common denominator of these three countries is the threat (an actuality in Pakistan) of nuclear arms.  All three nations have corrupt, unstable governments whereby an atomic warhead can very possibly fall into the wrong hands.  President Obama, upon taking office, made his plea for global nuclear disarmament clear.   However, the topic was not sexy enough and the current bevy of pressing issues quickly overtook this essential tenet.

As an aside, I can not for the life of me, reconcile the actions of nuclear armed nations “outlawing” non-nuclear governments from obtaining the technology.  Are the U.S., Israel, Russia, China, et.al. more peace-loving, politically sane and less power hungry than Iran or North Korea?   History would prove that untrue.  If it is forbidden for some countries to develop the bomb, then the entities that already have the bomb must disarm immediately.

Pakistan is the main worry now.  Afghanistan not so much: the terrorists in Pakistan were born in Afghanistan, their loyalties remain to that country but the geographical borders between the two countries do not exist in reality.  The mountains and rough terrain muddy what the maps say exist.  Attention must be paid to Pakistan because they are a nuclear nation and the political unrest there has the power to unleash chaos, which could morph into a nuclear weapon being stolen and used by the extremists.  So President Obama is correct in amassing policies and procedures to rein in the dangerous factions in Pakistan.  That must be our first priority.  Even  though Iran and North Korea may not be atomically armed yet, they too must be watched closely, for they also encompass a shaky political structure that can fall victim to the destructive aims of terrorists.

Furthermore, the Democrats who sided against the closing of GITMO are equally culpable in their contribution to this game of fear and succumbing to the least common moral denominator.  Fear mongering is so much easier than using ones brain to design a more effective solution.  Lazy bastards.

What can the world do?  Frank Rich echoes my thoughts again: we must act using our hearts and minds.  Feed the people, give them shelter and education, guarantee their human rights.  With these practices in place, there will be NO NEED for terrorists.  However, until we can attain that stasis, we must protect ourselves.  This is the fly in the ointment.  The yardstick, whether for global harmony, political power or individual financial gain, must become a fair and just belief system rather than a map for what one has, such as power and lucre.  The world at large has vacated their senses, if they ever had any sense in the first place.

Read Frank Rich carefully this morning.  If the next step in the narcissistic political battle field escalates to a nuclear attack, we all lose.

POSTSCRIPT

I have received an illuminating comment on this post in my Daily KOS diary.  I include it here:

You make some fine points.  However I believe that you have swallowed the propaganda with regard to several of the countries you cite as being unstable. For some of them “instability” is the cultural norm, externally imposed stability is the danger.

When discussing Pakistan and Afghanistan, one must recognize that they are tribal societies first and nation states second. When one bombs Pakistanis or Afghans, from the victims point of view, one is bombing their tribe, and that tribe as a whole will react regardless of which country they actually live in. This is why their border is so porous; there is little difference between the populations on either side of it. The border is a mere technicality of more interest to those doing the bombing than those who are being bombed.

Pakistan and Iran are more developed nation states than Afghanistan, but this is largely because their modern identities were developed in opposition to what they perceive as colonization by foreign powers. With Pakistan that would be Britain/India, with Iran it would be the United States. Their fundamental tribal basis is incredibly stable and is only made stronger by foreign intervention which tends to make the various tribes more cooperative.

The paternalistic attitude we take toward them with regard to propping up authoritarian rule in their country has blowback as can be seen in the Russo/Afghan and U.S./Afghan wars and the revolution against the U.S. backed Shah, not to mention the U.S. supported regimes in Iraq.

Your statements as regards Iran’s efforts to get the bomb have been repeatedly knocked down by intelligence services worldwide, though they also say that continued harping on the subject and aggressive stances towards them will ensure their ultimately seeking it if only as a deterrent/bargaining chip.

proliferation of nuclear weaponry has proven to be the sole point upon which the west will bargain. North Korea has proven this conclusively and has milked it through escalation for decades…as has Pakistan vs. India. Point being, there is a major difference between the motivations of the populations and the state actors which purport to lead them. This is what gives the impression of instability. They are in fact very stable countries within their own contexts, foreign as they may seem, And aggression or paternalism on our parts only makes both factions more likely to escalate.

we must act using our hearts and minds.  Feed the people, give them shelter and education, guarantee their human rights.  With these practices in place, there will be NO NEED for terrorists.

is absolutely correct. The militaristic stances we have taken in order to achieve our own narrow goals for the last seventy years, and longer if Britain, Russia and France are taken into account, have created the problems we see today. When you say:

So President Obama is correct in amassing policies and procedures to rein in the dangerous factions in Pakistan.  That must be our first priority.

You are essentially ratifying the status quo, which I sincerely do not believe will be of any real use if what we are interested in is resolving the problems we face with regard to extremism in the M.E and S.E Asia.

Sorry this turned into a novel.

And here is my response:

Thank you for your insightful comments.  We probably agree more than we disagree.

However, regarding the political stability (or lack thereof) in Afghanistan and Pakistan, I beg to differ with you.  Alliances within tribal entities are very secure.  However, within the confines of an overall national governing structure, tribal politics fall apart and serious hostilities can erupt.  Each tribal faction has there own little war with the next faction. So even though the tribes may provide some internal stability, that stasis does not apply to a national government or the international arena.

Regarding the stability in Iran, even my son astutely pointed out to me that there is a stable government in Iran.  Once again, I beg to differ.  Certainly the leader of Iran, an elected official no less, Ahmendinijad, is NOT the vision of stability.  He is a madman.  What other explanation could there be in response to his cry for action to wipe Israel off the face of the earth?  That’s stability?  And what of the electorate who elected him?  That’s stability?  No way.  Internal national security can not exist if it is a threat to international security.  If a nuclear device were to be detonated, would we be able to erect our territorial fences to prevent the toxic poison from entering our space?  No way.

I understand and acknowledge our paternalistic advances in countries that we have no right to interfere with.  That is an obvious given.  However, in view that a few extremist governments, either already possessing a nuclear capability or just on the verge of it, are a real threat to the entire world, we must find a better way, using our hearts and minds, to disarm them.

And more back and forth:

I hear you and I am quite sure that our agreements outnumber the disagreements, however I think the main disagreement is too fundamental not to discuss.

Alliances within tribal entities are very secure.  However, within the confines of a national governing structure, tribal politics fall apart and serious hostilities can erupt.

I tried to make this point here:

Point being, there is a major difference between the motivations of the populations and the state actors which purport to lead them. This is what gives the impression of instability

Probably not well. However, I maintain that aggressive militarism and self righteous, often false, propaganda with regard to such countries is not our friend because it tends to make the competing factions cooperate to a more extreme end than would otherwise be the case. You made my case for me by using Achmidenijad as an example:

Certainly the leader of Iran, an elected official no less, Ahmendinijad, is NOT the vision of stability.  He is a madman.  What other explanation could there be in response to his cry to action to wipe Israel off the face of the earth?

It is perfectly simple: they have been messed with by foreign powers, including Israel, for over seventy years. As regards Israel: Iran has the largest population of Jews in the middle east, yet Iranian Jews encounter few difficulties in their daily lives. The Persian peoples have traditionally been an extremely religiously sophisticated group. Their stance with regard to Israel has little to do with the Jewish faith, they cannot be fobbed off as anti-semites, there is something more at work here and I believe that the protected status of such an aggressive power as Israel in their backyard has a lot to do with it. See how the tribal and state interests coalesce in a more extreme form than they otherwise would in a different scenario?

Further, Iran has given incredible amounts of aid to the U.S. and its’ coalition partners with regard to our effort in Afghanistan, yet we have infiltrated them with factions hostile to their regime. How can such overt slaps in the face not be considered a factor in the radicalization of the Iranian regime?

Your son is right, the primary reason that Iran is as stable as it is is because they are drawn together in the face of what is perceived a greater enemy than conservative, nutcase Presidents; the Great Satan (U.S.) and its’ indefatigable efforts to undermine their leadership. We cannot say, at this point, that we do not understand that particular dynamic here, why would it be unreasonable elsewhere with far more historical reasons?

Note that the Iranian people’s enmity has not, until recently, extended to the U.S. people, just its’ government. This is an insight that we should be well aware of when advocating for a status quo solution.

My response:

Your comments on Iran are well-taken and I think you are correct. But can you explain to me, because I do not get it, how a seemingly mature nation like Iran can elect a leader like Ahmendinijad?  Are you ascribing all of his zealotry and hatred to a national response of retaliation due to outside influences?

If so, the thrust of my argument, for using our hearts and minds,is even more important.

And finally, more from my interested party:

Are you ascribing all of his zealotry and hatred to a national response of retaliation due to outside influences?

By comparison, the revolution was only thirty years ago; the coup around fifty. It will take time for their wounds to heal. We should respect that.

Exactly!  Few here could possibly recognize the very real trauma of having one’s elected leadership replaced in a coup instigated by a foreign power and then being ruled by so authoritarian a personage as the Shah. Reja Pahlavi was every bit the butcher that Saddam was (yet another one of our creations). We do not often hear what his reign was actually like…it wouldn’t put us in a favorable light.

The revolution by fundamentalist Muslims in Iran was easily forseeable given the type of country it was, yet one never hears that other side of the story. Instead, we hear a lot about the hostages, nothing about why they were taken hostage. Convenient, eh? When in peril, even a perceived peril, a people, any people including ourselves as we now well know, will seek freedom from that threat(however that term may be defined within the context of its’ own culture) in the most brutal way necessary.

Iran as a culture may be thousands of years old, but as a state it is, comparatively speaking, brand new with virtually all of its founders intact. The revolutionary rhetoric is not surprising, though actions based upon it in the absence of a real threat would be. These folks ain’t stupid…just like Kim Jong Il. Given Iran has essentially been surrounded by what their leadership perceives as an aggressive threat, the surprise is how helpful they have been in spite of their harsh rhetoric.

During the (from their perspective) relatively benign Clinton Administration they were slackening up on their more authoritarian tendencies with regard to their own people and the west, under Bush we got Achmadinejad. Their President, who is surprisingly powerless under their form of government, may have been popularly elected but he is not popular. Don’t bet, however, that in the face of a real threat each and every one of his constituents wouldn’t haul out their pitchforks and follow him wherever he might lead.

If so, the thrust of my argument, for using our hearts and minds,is even more important.

This is, indeed, critical for our understanding of how to handle all such countries, in my view.

I just thought of the perfect example. Persia is a VERY conservative culture which does not take slights well. Within the tribal system, where most cultural knowledge is passed down verbally, they are still angry at Alexander the Great and memorize epic poems about him. Alexander the Great! Nearly four thousand years ago!

The Tow Truck, Torture and the Court

May 29, 2009

My wonderful weekend wedding magic ended abruptly at 8:00 A.M. on Tuesday.  First the tree guys arrived to cut back my very own piece of Virginia jungle.  Then the window washers arrived to clean my access to the outside world, which my fine feathered friends use as their toilets.  Then my car died.  Reality is sobering at best and, at worst, sucks eggs.

The thermometer light went on, in RED.  Unlike a similar experience I had over 30 years ago and chose to, in my exuberant youthful optimism, ignore and thus the engine completely melted down, I pulled over at  the side of the road within 30 seconds of this warning indicator going on.  After waiting two hours for the tow truck to arrive, I settled down in the cab of the truck with the driver and commenced delving into his life and political beliefs.

This man was somewhere in his forties, African-American, a very hard worker and a dedicated, stable family man.  My powers of discovery and observation served me well on this 45 minute drive to the dealership.  President Obama had just appointed Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme court that morning, so I asked the driver, allow me to call him “Gordon”, how he felt about that choice.   Silence.  Then I probed even further: I asked him his opinion of our president.  He responded that all the lawmakers and politicians are thieves and crooks, Obama included.   Uh-oh.  So I asked him why he felt that way.  He was so against the tens of billions of dollars allocated to the banks, auto companies, etc. instead of being handed over to him, one of the “little people”.  He firmly held that the way to a better economy was for the government to dole out all that stimulus and bailout money to you, me and especially, him.  That, he said, was the only way to truly stimulate the economy.

Gordon had my sympathetic ear for about two minutes.  Then we continued to discuss the abuses of large corporations and big government.  For those  few minutes, I also believed his economic theory.  Poor man: here he is just giving me a ride to my car dealership and I hook him into all of my political nonsense.  So I continued by acknowledging that yes, many financial, corporate and governmental entities are corrupt, greedy and immoral.  However, I added, so are many of the “little people”.  Their hardships were precipitated by their accepting mortgages that they knew they could not afford, demonstrating irresponsibility in managing their credit limits  and their incessant crying  for entitlements and personal bailouts added to the exact same scenario on an individual level that happened on a corporate level.  Gordon was again silent in response to my comments.

So since my ride with Gordon, I have been thinking about his proposal of paying out large, taxpayer dollars to each and every citizen versus investing in the larger infrastructure.  Either way, we are using taxpayer dollars to “save” our economic framework.  Gordon could not see this fact, and insisted that the only way to benefit Americans was to give them money directly.

Gordon’s plan and Obama’s plan have the same ends; it is just the means that differ.  After much thought, I agree with the larger plan because if the infrastructure of our economy goes to hell in a hand basket, the individual will not be able to stimulate any economy, much less one that is dead in the water and dismantled.  Gordon was blind to this plan for the greater good over individual gain.  I understand his position completely; I just disagree.

As ugly, bad and corrupt as our system appear to be sometimes, if we do not prop up the entire framework, such as jobs creation and retention, there will be no getting out of the hole.  But with Gordon sitting on a pile of bills totalling $9000 (Am I good at getting information from people, or what?), I understand his lament.  In retrospect, Gordon deserved much more than $9000 for having to listen to me on that tow ride to the dealership.

I have a couple of other incomplete issues that I must bring to your attention.  In one of my posts last week addressing President Obama’s speech and Dick Cheney’s separate speech, both however, on the philosophy and procedures of detainee practices, I said that I would get back to you on the finer points.  Rather than listen to me, I have an article from this week’s “New Yorker” authored by Jeffrey Toobin that summarizes the ideological differences between these two men:

http://www.newyorker.com/talk/comment/2009/06/01/090601taco_talk_toobin

Guess in which camp my heart and mind rests?

The other issue that I want to discuss further is the Supreme Court nomination of Sonia Sotomayor.  I present you with two Op-Ed articles from the “Washington Post” today for your enlightenment.  After all, what value does a weekend have without assorted and meaningful reading?  The first is by Charles Krauthammer, the conservative commentator.  In this piece today, I find him to be the model of reason and tolerance:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/05/28/AR2009052803613.html

But wait.  Right under his article, is another piece, by Eugene Robinson, the progressive if not downright liberal thinker, on this same subject of Sotomayor:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/05/28/AR2009052803627.html

On one hand, compatible with Krauthammer’s stance that the fireman Ricci was treated unfairly in being denied his well-earned promotion, I find my sense of fair play to be terribly offended.  On the other hand, Robinson’s opinion made perfect sense to me.  So study these two articles this weekend and give me some feedback.  Whatever your and my opinion may be, I firmly believe that Sotomayor was a solid pick for Justice of the Supreme Court.  And do not be foolish enough to pride yourself that Sotomayer, once on the bench, will deliver consistently for the liberal side.  She is much more moderate than that.  This was the most conservative choice President Obama could have made and we might be in for some judicial surprises once she is confirmed.  Enlighten yourselves:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/05/27/AR2009052702906.html?nav=hcmoduletmv

So have a good weekend.  Forgive me all the assigned reading, but we must always enrich our minds.  A vegetative state has no worth.  Couch potatoes can not help themselves, much less anyone else.  Get on it.

The Baby and the Bath Water: Obama and Bush

May 17, 2009

I said it before and I will say it again: President Obama will not be able to affect change, to act on his national and international agenda, until he confronts, corrects and possibly punishes the ghosts of the Bush/Cheney romp of the last eight years.   It is unfortunate that President Obama has these stumbling blocks in front of him.  Nevertheless, those are the facts and he must do the laundry before he can wear clean clothes.  Not only was he left a mess to pick up after, but also he faces current problems the likes of which we have never seen before.  However, it is just as imperative that he not throw out the baby with the bath water.   Thus, he walks a fine line between political overreaction and common sense, while always cognizant of the needs and safety of our country.

Frank Rich of the New York Times writes of this dilemma, this inability of President Obama to “turn the page” on Bush/Cheney:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/17/opinion/17rich-5.html

Regarding the attention focused on Nancy Pelosi this week as to whether or not she was briefed about waterboarding, some people claim this is just a distraction invented by the GOP to take some of the firestorm of an illegal war and foist it on a Democrat, any Democrat.    Perhaps this tactic is true, but once again, our lawmakers are placing more emphasis on procedure rather than on actual content and substance of policies.  Of course enhanced interrogation procedures took place and double of course, we all all knew it.  Whether this is individual or collective guilt is also irrelevant to the basic fact that it occurred.  On my Daily KOS diary (http://www.dailykos.com/user/yomamaforobama), the loudest complaints and deepest defense mechanisms have come from the left side of the aisle.  Their hissy fits and tantrums would almost make you think that they, through their inflammatory, unforgiving and unrelenting tirades against anyone in office, are the true savers of the world.  Hah!  Once again and similarly like the Republican politicos, these over-the-top liberals just seek to destroy.  They are their own worst enemies because they too, attack the overall structure of government rather than focus in on the specific issues of content.  To condemn everyone and everything equally has the same effect as doing nothing.

Who could have predicted a year ago, even six months ago, that the Veep who was virtually hidden away during his reign, would be the one person to relentlessly defend his job and all of the turmoil he created?   His attempts to defend HIS (and it was HIS) administration are just about to backfire and kick the entire GOP right in their behind.  Cheney prided himself on his foreign policy; he never gave a whit for domestic policy.  His current, incessant retaliatory behavior makes it very clear that he is only seeking to save himself, despite the fact that he is ripping apart this country even more so out of office than he did while in office. His own political allies are begging him to stop pouring oil on the fire.

So here is my burning question of the day: if the GOP believes that Pelosi was complicit in the waterboarding instances, what does that make Bush , Cheney and Rumsfeld?  Their desire for political validation and retribution is second only to their pure stupidity.  Certainly if Pelosi goes down over this issue, Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld should be beheaded.  No?

I do not know what the answer is.  President Obama is in the middle of a political, yet real, quagmire of sweeping up the mess of the last administration.  But it must be cleaned up or there will be no going forward.  On the specifics, I agree with our President that the recent photos of our torture methods should NOT be publicly released; as long as we have troops abroad, we must protect them.  Damn.  Let’s start bringing them home now.

So do we sweep the parlor clean across the board, or pick and choose?  The answer probably falls somewhere in the middle.  As horrendous as the atrocities and lies were during the last eight years, there are some tidbits that must remain confidential.  National security, though used as an excuse during the last administration, is a reality and certain information must be held back.  Perhaps even more important though, information that is released to the public should not be lies.

As for a “truth commission”, Washington wouldn’t know the meaning of “truth” if it smacked them squarely between the eyes.  So for starters, let’s call the investigation something else.  Also, President Obama must respond in a measured, methodical manner.  He can not just sweep all the Republicans under the carpet to clean house.  That would be as bad as what the Lefties are doing.

President Obama is a careful man, both in his personal demeanor and political ways.  He actually thinks before he acts, which is why I fought so hard for his election and support him even more today.  He inherited the wicked ways of Bush/Cheney and will have to put to rest the aftereffects of that administration before he can tackle his own agenda. Some how, some way, President Obama must find a way to turn the page on Bush/Cheney.  His path must be tempered with reason, caution and a concern to keep some specific information closely held, if for no other reason than for the security of our nation and the safety of our people.  Surely we can accept that.  Our empathy and patience can only help him.  We must prevent Obama’s administration from becoming simply a boomerang to the Bush administration.  Rome wasn’t built in a day nor did it fall in a day.  Chill.

Bottom line: I trust Obama.  No, it is not blind faith.  Rather, it is a trust in my own instincts that his intentions are good and true.

Cheney’s Legacy Versus Obama’s Reality

May 14, 2009

Two ideas have been swirling around in my head this week.  The first has to do with Dick Cheney and the second with President Obama.  After careful thought, the juxtaposition of these two men, and their methods and policies of governance, really became quite clear.

Dick Cheney has been making a nuisance of himself appearing on many talk shows and generally, defending “his” administration and criticizing that of our current president.  I have been trying to make sense as to why Cheney is so outspoken and defensive about his eight years as Veep.  The only answer I have come up with is that he WAS the acting President.  As a result, he is personally invested in the legacy that will develop.  For eight years, he was always at some undisclosed location, inaccessible, quiet on issues, albeit the power behind the constricting, confining and downright illegal policies.   Bush was the public face on those issues, but, make no bones about it, Cheney was the mastermind.

Thus, Cheney is now, clearly, defending his tenure of running this country.  Certainly there is no chance that he is interested in elective office in the future, so his incessant appearances on political shows must be, by a process of elimination, an effort to defend his rule during the last administration.  This  Machiavellian personality desires his legacy to stand well over the course of time.  That’s it: his legacy.  But it will be difficult for his historical reputation to overcome the reality of his regime, that of legislative support for the financial elite without a whit of concern for the middle and lower classes, repression of individual rights and the inducement of fear as the motivating factor in foreign relations.

On the other idea passing through my brain, I have tried to step back and summarize what exactly President Obama has accomplished so far.  I needed to “take stock”.  Sure: he has passed major enactments to bolster up the economy, reversed social, conservative bans on stem cell policy and freedom of reproductive rights for women and certainly has raised our stature on the international front.  To me though, the most important thing President Obama has done to date is to be true to his word.  He gave us the true lowdown.  Yes, he told us the ugly truth about our economy.  Yes, he brought out the disgusting facts about Bush/Cheney’s torture policies.  Yes, he pointed out the need for social program overhauls.  However, at the same time, President Obama has presented us with REASONABLE EXPECTATIONS, i.e. filled us with hope for the future, for the betterment of our country.  His is a carefully balanced message, that plenty of things need fixing but we will come out of this a stronger, healthier society.  Common sense, honesty, consistency and leadership by example have been the stalwarts of his young administration.

The most recent controversy, that of President Obama’s refusal to release the latest photographs of our torture techniques, at first glance appears to run counter-intuitive to his progressive policies.  Not true.  It is ironic that the truly repressive regime of Bush/Cheney actually DID release the Abu Ghraib photos while our current administration refuses to.  But it DOES make sense and here is the why and wherefore.  Bush/Cheney ruled this country by making us petrified about what COULD happen in a post 9/11 world.  All of their restrictive, illegal programs were based on the fear factor and they used this hateful, divisive tactic to allow them carte blanche to violate and show contempt for all that is sacred in our Constitution and accepted international law.

President Obama, on the other hand, has told us that he can not release those photos because that would almost assuredly endanger the lives of our soldiers abroad and result in retaliatory actions.  These violent acts occurred during the last administration, NOT during the Obama tenure.  So politically, President Obama is not driven by self-serving motives to hold back these photos.  He is not denying that they exist.  He has been absolutely forthright in his admission that the former administration carried out those atrocious acts and, in fact,  one of the first items on his agenda after taking office was to outlaw these illegal forms of torture.  Now he must weigh the pros and cons of his policies and he has decided it would be safest to withhold publication of such horrible events.  So while Bush/Cheney allowed the public release of their horrendous policies to scare the beejeezus out of us in order to ultimately allow them to justify even more horrific tactics, President Obama acknowledged these acts of torture but deemed it wiser to withhold dissemination of graphic pictures.  Yes, maybe counter-intuitive at first perusal.  But in the end, it makes perfect sense.  Above all, President Obama’s honesty, balanced by his take on the probable repercussions on the international front, shines through.

Dick Cheney is a sorry excuse for a human being even more so in his retirement than in his service to country.  His attempts at legacy building and face saving are contemptible, embarrassing and pathetic.  I, for one, have all my chips on President Obama’s promised, and so far true to his word, path towards honesty, transparency, justice and human decency.

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WEEKEND FUN

The Writing Is On The Wall

April 26, 2009

The writing is on the wall.  It is self-evident that we immediately need to establish a commission to further investigate our torture policies in the Iraq war and perhaps take punitive measures against those responsible.  This commission must be nonpartisan, not bipartisan, because we all know that there is no such thing as bipartisan.  Mr. President, I am sorry if this process will detract  and derail you from your forward looking agenda; the fact is we can not move ahead unless we deal with what came before.

The usual, wonderful suspects all wrote intelligently, factually and convincingly today on this issue.  You know who they are, i.e. Frank Rich and Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times, Steve Weissman of Truthout, Arianna Huffington of the Huffington Post (I will include links to these articles at the end of this post.).  The general take seems to be that the Bush administration carried out their torture practices, after having gotten a “legal” opinion from the Department of Justice, in order to justify the Iraq war.  If ties between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein could be established, then our foray into Iraq, and our commitment to the over-generalized, all-encompassing fuzzy War on Terror would have been based on solid reason.  Twisted, and oh so backwards; a veritable “back-fill” of convoluted and manufactured logic.

But that is history.  The one burning question I have is: why did Bush and his cronies push so hard to enter a war with Iraq?  Could it have been because of oil?  After all, Iraq sits on a significant chunk of the world’s oil resources.  Could it have been because Cheney, in wanting to secure huge profits for his company, Halliburton (which did reap a ten-fold profit increase during this time), was so personally single-minded?  Could the reason for entry into this war have been Bush’s attempt at going one better than his Daddy did in the Gulf War and nab Saddam Hussein?  I need to find the answer to this question of purpose.

I may be delusional in trying to discover a rational basis for the Iraq War.  I do know that the attacks of 9/11 were atrocious and retaliatory measures were called for.  However, those attacks were used by the administration, coupled with a campaign to abuse and play on America’s fears, to fulfill their own agenda, whatever that may have been.  To justify our presence in Iraq would have given the Bush administration the votes and, following naturally from that consensus, further approval to use their time in office for personal and/or ideological selfish aims.  Our shock, anger and fear after 9/11 was so raw and painful that of course we were susceptible to our leaders’ wishes.  After all, they were our leaders, right?

Wrong.  This is the real frightening aspect of the mess that needs to be cleaned up now: distorted visions of truth and justice must not be used to fulfill personal vendettas and ideologies.  Thus, President Obama, no matter how decent he is in his wish to fix  America’s plethora of problems, must face this stain on our recent past and take whatever action is necessary to cleanse it.  I know, I know.  Multitasking can be a bitch.  But when President Obama released these ten telling memos to the public a couple of weeks ago, the chances were that the outcry would only escalate.  So it has.  The President is an intelligent workaholic; he will now need to move his multitasking skills up one more notch to include a serious investigation into our torture practices. Plus, if our President chooses not to proceed with this investigation, it would be not only a blocking of forward progress, but also a repudiation of our founding principles and laws that would invalidate our entire 200 year old existence.

As lucky as we have been since 9/11 in that there have been no similar attacks on U. S. soil, this luck will inevitably fail.  If and when an attack occurs, it still shall remain an abomination to our laws to use illegal tactics to gain information or retaliate.  Two wrongs do not make a right.  Never have and never will.

President Obama’s tenure is his alone, but the United States of America is, philosophically and ideologically, an ongoing entity that knows no artificial time constraints between administrations.  It is a wonderful continuum based on the phenomenal articles of our Constitution that can not be broken by any current person in power.  Our first loyalty is to this country and the ideals on which it was founded.  Then, and only then, may we subscribe to personal political loyalties.

Mr. Obama: the writing is on the wall.

For Your Sunday Reading:

http://www.truthout.org/042509A

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/arianna-huffington/the-torture-moment_b_190687.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/26/opinion/26rich.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/26/opinion/26kristof.html

Get Smart

April 24, 2009

It is Friday again, and you know what that means: assigned reading and listening for the weekend ahead.  If I don’t take responsibility for your enlightenment, who will?

This issue of torture is riveting because how we treat our enemies is, in a nutshell, the measure of who we are:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/scott-atran/the-moral-measure-of-a-ci_b_188579.html

This torture dilemma is wrapped up in the dual questions of transparency/accountability and the possibility of prosecution, is in the forefront of the news and we all need to educate ourselves on the merits of taking steps to expose and possibly punish those responsible.   One thing is for certain:  Americans do not like any circumstance that is long, drawn-out and emotionally taxing and draining.  We are an impatient people, whether the specific issue at hand is a war, a recession or a scandal.  Furthermore, Americans, when faced with an obstacle, want to take immediate steps to remedy the situation.  Whether or not immediate action is wise, practical and useful is of less importance than just making the problem go away right now.

This is exactly what we are faced with on the torture issue and the question of whether or not the Justice Department should take the inquiry and possible prosecution up to the highest levels of government.  On one hand, we have those that say it is in the best interest of national security to avoid such public transparency.   Even President Obama himself would prefer to put this issue to bed now and focus more on the future rather than the past.  On the other hand, we have those who, knowing that these policies were immoral and illegal, insist that the very groundwork  on which this country was founded is on the line.  The Iraq war and its accompanying POW practices were illegal and for the United States NOT to prosecute the top people who condoned these practices is an illegal act in and of itself.  Our national security and international reputation actually suffered substantially from all this blatant nose-thumbing at national and international law.  Therefore, to go after these criminals would not hurt us further; quite the contrary.  We MUST prosecute the guilty to in fact redeem ourselves and return to those founding principles of our Constitution.

Here then, is an Op-Ed piece supporting the side that wants to put this torture issue behind us, without further investigation and possible prosecution of officials, i.e. Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney and George W. Bush:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/23/opinion/23iht-edcohen.html

I do understand Roger Cohen’s viewpoint.  Yes, our government, media and Justice Department all failed in their oversight of the tactics used during the last seven years with regard to the war in Iraq.  Cohen believes that these checks and balances are now back in working order.  He feels that Obama’s decision to “out” the offending memos is enough for us to assume the correct path.  Sorry: unless this process is taken to its natural conclusion, that being accountability and prosecution, enough is NOT enough.  I am a big believer in consequences.  Atrocious acts WILL happen over and over again unless the resultant consequences are appropriate, steep and effective in dissuading future copy-cat behavior.  To refuse to fully investigate and if necessary, suffer consequences, would be a repudiation of everything that is the United States of America.

On the other side of the coin, there are plenty of individuals who want this investigation to go as high up as necessary.  Paul Krugman today had an article in the New York Times focusing on the “soul” of America:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/24/opinion/24krugman.html?_r=1&ref=opinion

Read his words carefully.  You would have to be a horse’s ass to deny Krugman’s last thought that to prevent further invesitigation is to deny our future:

“We need to do this for the sake of our future. For this isn’t about looking backward, it’s about looking forward — because it’s about reclaiming America’s soul.”

A few other events of relevance  must be cited.  On the MSNBC Rachel Maddow Show earlier this week, she had a true coup of an interview with Philip Zelikow.  He was on board at the Office of Legal Counsel at the same time as Jay Bybee and John Yoo.  However, Zelikow took the opposite position on torture: he deemed such practices as water-boarding to be illegal.  Gutsy.  Of course, his memos have since disappeared.  Please watch the following video from Maddow’s interview with Zelikow:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/26315908/#30335366

Then today, Zelikow had his own say in an Op-Ed piece in the New York Times:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/24/opinion/24zelikow.html?ref=opinion

Finally, President Obama, on April 15th, had a sit-down debate on the torture issue, listening to both sides.  Keep in mind that we are dealing with not only transparency of this issue, but also the content, and if this content demands prosecution.  Unlike John Boehner, who accused Obama of being unpatriotic because he released these memos to the American public, this panel assembled by Obama dealt with the whys and wherefores of future prosecution.  What kind of idiot is this Boehner?  No matter how illegal these acts were, Boehner believes that the public should have remained in the dark.  Does he not care at all about the content and substance of what went on, or is it all about covering up?  Has Boehner ever commented on the sheer illegality of these torture tactics?  No.  The content of the memos is not a worthy issue for Boehner;  it is the publication of the memos, informing the public, that is the total issue for him.  All looks, no substance.  But hey, he has a real nice tan.

Anyway, on one side of this debate were Leon Panetta, current CIA chief, and the immediate four previous  CIA heads.  These men were in favor of not prosecuting.  On the other side of the debate were Defense head Robert Gates, Attorney General Eric Holder, Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair and White House counsel Gregory Craig.  I must tell you, I have been most impressed with the thoughts and actions of Robert Gates during these first few months of our new administration.  His comments at this particular meeting were wise because they were so simple and true.  Gates said that the publication of these memos that rationalized the legality of these torturous acts were “inevitable.”  How true; how prescient.  Remember: it is usually the cover-up, not the initial deed, that slams shuts the door on the acceptance of consideration and sympathy in any scandal.

At any rate, the forces on the side for public awareness and follow-up investigation won the day.  The phenomenal aspect that I am in awe of though, had to do with the way President Obama handled this meeting.  First, he gathered members of opposing camps so that he could have a fair and honest overview.  Then, once he made up his mind, he dictated a memo right in front of all the participants.  I guess we know where exactly the buck stops.  We actually have an actively engaged, interested and responsible leader.  Glory be!  The link below is a much more detailed account of this meeting.  It was the lead article of the Washington Post today:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/04/23/AR2009042304718.html?nav=hcmodule

Finally, we must remember that the final decision to go forth in this investigation and possibly bring those guilty parties to justice is solely within the power of the Department of Justice, not President Obama.  So far, all our President has done in this matter is to fact find and release that information to the American public.  Imagine!  The outrage and accusations of “traitor” that have befallen our President are, above all, the ultimate violation of our Constitution.

So please forgive me for all this assigned reading.  If you value your freedoms and your right to speak and act on them, you owe it to yourself and your country to “get smart”.

Echoes

April 19, 2009

Is the New York Times reading Yo Mama?  Today’s editorial regarding torture eerily echoes my thought of yesterday’s post “C’mon Baby, Let’s Do the Twist.”  This is a succinct must-read:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/19/opinion/19sun1.html

I would like to believe that the Times is just responding to such heinous, government sanctioned, and then twistedly rationalized, crimes as the rest of us sane, moral people have —- with outrage and a call for the heads of those Justice Department thugs, Pentagon pimps and the evil triumvirate of Rumsfeld, Cheney and Bush.  This time though, we need to start cutting at the TOP first, instead of wasting time and resources on the lowly, trashy, thrill-seeking plebes like Lynndie England.

My assessment from yesterday’s post, i.e. “a new world order can not come into being unless we deal with the atrocities of the OLD world order”, is identical to today’s Times editorial main thrust, i.e. “until Americans and their leaders fully understand the rules the Bush administration concocted to justify such abuses — and who set the rules and who approved them — there is no hope of fixing a profoundly broken system of justice and ensuring that that these acts are never repeated.”  Despite President Obama’s full plate, our nation MUST now undertake the process to right these horrible wrongs.

As if the acts of torture  weren’t bad enough, the rancid Bush Administration then sought out language that would justify these acts.  The only thing is though, there is no justification in the entire world for this type of horror.  So of course, the reflection, as evil as it is, comes right back to us — you, me, Bybee, Yoo, Rumsfeld, Cheney, Bush— and even to President Obama —  if he chooses to bury this chapter in our recent history rather than prosecute.

To do otherwise, to ignore what came before, is to doom our future and what can come after.

C’mon Baby, Let’s Do The Twist

April 18, 2009

It never ceases to amaze me the way politicians, and especially world “leaders”, twist the truth so that it fits in perfectly with their own special interests.  Words are powerful and people are stupid.  The higher the office, the greater the charade.

Rick Perry, the governor of Texas, is becoming masterful in the ways of deception.  In support of the recent tea bag parties, he has called for Texas to possibly secede from our Union.  These tea bag protests are plain and simple, a response to the GOP’s paralysis in coming up with any meaningful alternatives to President Obama’s policies and popularity.  As the time grows closer that the top 5% of wage-earning Americans will see their tax bills rise (never mind that 95% of Americans will see their taxes decline), the tea baggers are all incendiary bluff with no underlying substance to their protest.  Gail Collins of the New York Times, in one of her better columns, hit the nail right on the head this time:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/18/opinion/18collins.html?_r=1

For the Republican party, Rick Perry and the tea baggers, I have but two words: SOUR GRAPES. Furthermore, their deception in using our Constitutional values, such as freedom and justice for all, to fulfill their own greedy, selfish purposes, is despicable.  Twist baby, twist.

Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld also used their own self interests to thwart not only our national but also the civilized world’s international legal code of ethics.  This issue of torture will not go away, nor should it.  Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, the many rendition sites and the use of illegal tactics here on our own soil are the ultimate treason to the ideals on which our country was founded.  This judge Jay S. Bybee, whom during the early years of the Iraq war was a member of the Office of Legal Counsel (a body of constitutional experts that offers advice to the President), is now a federal appeals court judge.  Yeah, right: reward the bastard for nipping and tucking the verbiage of illegal executive branch decisions so that it all appears legal.  Only in America can torturers, judges and lawmakers, not to mention the President, twist the legal lingo to supposedly offer a basis for their decisions.  Only the great United States of America would be interested in supplying a legal basis for their atrocious and immediate acts.   Surely this upholds our honor to the Constitution.  What happened to abiding by the actual content of the Constitution?  Twist baby, twist.

Anyway, here is an article from the Washington Post that will explain the evil goings-on in the Bush administration’s efforts of “balancing” security and monstrous torture:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/04/16/AR2009041602768_2.html?sid=ST2009041602877

Andrew Sullivan goes even further in his disgust with the “banality of evil”:

http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2009/04/the-banality-of-evil.html

No one speaks to an issue better than Sullivan.  The sick irony of this situation is that Bybee, with the advice and consent of Bush, ruled on the acceptance and legality of various torture methods AS IF there was any moral basis for any of them!  Bottom line: there is no law or rationale in the universe that would sustain inhuman torture.  Twist baby, twist.

Finally, that ideal example of international enlightened leadership, Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan, is being faced with protests from women who — oh my!— will not abide by the law Karzai signed off on last week to make marital sex mandatory, i.e. marital rape.  As I stated in my previous post, “The Pecker Wars”, Karzai okayed this aspect of Sharia law because he is trying to amass votes for the upcoming August election.  I stated that he would be appealing to half of his population, i.e. the men, with this measure.  I stand corrected; the Shia population of Afghanistan is only 20%.  That makes Karzai’s intentions even more degrading and desperate.  Was this an action to titillate the sex lives of tired marriages, or is it an effort to spice up Karzai’s electoral base?  Did I miss something here?  Since when has violence and rape been “sexy” and legislatively permissible?  He has since said, on Thursday in a CNN interview, that he will have the Shia Muslim clergy revise that law so that it will be in agreement with Afghan constitutional law.  Mr. Karzai: make believe I am from Missouri.   SHOW ME.  The true test of Karzai’s intentions will come in the courts and then the world will see if the Afghan constitution overrides the sectarian, inhumane Shariah law.  Twist baby, twist.

I am proud of the immense progress President Obama has made during his first almost 100 days in office.  If I have but one critical complaint, it is on the topic of human rights.  When Secretary of State Clinton visited China right after the inauguration, no mention of human rights was made.  Similarly, the administration has been publicly (could they be working on this in private?) silent on the recent events in Afghanistan and Pakistan regarding women’s civil and human rights.  Also, no mention of human rights was made this week by Obama when he cracked the door ajar to relations with Cuba.  It is still early days.  I am patient though, and have confidence that President Obama will deal with the very basic issues of human existence that he truly believes in.

Do I think that his ruling this week, not to hold those military personnel responsible for delivering the torture legally accountable, to be correct?  Surprisingly, at this juncture, I do.  If  Eric Holder and the Justice Department were to bring charges against these servicemen and women, there would be absolutely NO EXCUSE not to go after the depraved individuals who gave those orders, namely, at the top of the pyramid, Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld.  I think Obama is still on the fence about this mainly because he wants to spend his time on a new world order to fix what ails us.  Eventually, he is going to have to come to the conclusion that a new world order can not come into being unless we deal with the atrocities of the OLD world order.

Until that time, the arena of public opinion will be key in how this scenario plays out.  However, I do not believe there will be a huge outcry against the evil Bush triumvirate because the average American does not care enough about global principles of right and wrong.  Their apathy is realistically based on their time-constrained efforts to make a living and meet the often hard tasks of daily living.  Not an excuse, just an observation.

The black stain of deliberately miscommunicating, of altering the facts to fit whatever current situation in which we find ourselves, is an abomination.  It is especially harmful when our leaders participate in this sham.  In fact, it is outright lying.  Twist baby, twist.