Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Amsterdam terror arrests a painful reminder of Bush 911 failures

Authorities arrested two men in Amsterdam on suspicion of plotting a terrorist attack by blowing up a US airliner. Dutch police and the FBI believe the men were carrying out a "walk through" to see if their plan would work.

They were arrested after taking a Chicago to Amsterdam flight carrying what Amsterdam police and FBI say were two mock bombs in their suitcases.

The reason the men were detected, followed and then arrested however, was because the FBI, acting on intelligence, was on high alert for a possible hijacking involving all US air carriers. And the high alert paid off.

But it also recalls the intelligence George W. Bush and Condoleeza Rice received for 8 months warning of a terrorist attack on the United States by Al-Qaeda, but even more specifically the information given to Bush on August 6,2001 when, the Presidential Daily Briefing,informed Bush that there was intelligence that Al-Qaeda was going to strike within the United States, that there were 40 active Al-Qaeda cells already in the United States, and specifically that Al-Qaeda planned on hijacking US airliners as part of their plan and that they had buildings in New York under surveillance.

All this information came at the same time Richard Clarke and George Tennant were, in the sworn testimony of Clarke, "running around the White House like men with their hair on fire" in August of 2001 because of CIA intercepts of Al-Qaeda chatter that indicated the US was about to be hit with a massive terrorist attack, an attack that the intercepts showed was immient, and that was, in the words of the CIA translator, "going to be spectacular".

Bush nevertheless refused to see Clarke and Tenant while on vacation in Crawford and completely ignored the intelligence and warnings in the August 6 PDB.

Had Bush taken it seriously and had he issued a heightened alert through the FAA to all US carries to be on alert for potential hijackings by middle eastern men, 911 never would have happened. It would have been stopped. Of this there is no doubt even though the press have turned a blind eye to this reality for the last 9 years.

On the morning of Sept 11,2001, the 911 hijackers, all middle eastern men, all bought one way tickets on transatlantic flights to the West Coast from Logan and Dulles airports. None had reservations so all were paying the most expensive fare possible. All of them paid cash. None of them had luggage.

What do you think ticket takers or sellers or other officials at Logan and Dulles airports, on high alert for possible hijackings by middle eastern men would have done with that information? Think there is any chance any of the hijackers would have been allowed to get on those planes?

Two of them, including Mohammad Atta, actually started their connection from the Maine Airport buying two one way tickets to San Francisco with a connection made at Logan. The ticket taker at the Maine airport was suspicious since they too paid cash at $2500 a ticket because they werent bought in advance, and had no luggage. And that kind of a transaction at the Maine airport was highly unusual. But no one alerted him to the danger that Bush was told in advance was possible.

The arrests in Amsterdam because of a high alert for a potential hijacking is just a reminder that 911 was really all Bush's fault, a result of his and Condoleeza Rice's incompetence and ideology having dismissed terrorism as a real threat from the beginning. It led to them both being guilty of the worst case of gross negligence in the case of national security in American history for ignoring intelligence reports and warnings that would have prevented 911 and the worst attack on the United States in history. Bush and Rice, looking for scapegoats and to avoid the fury they both deserved, blamed a lack of intelligence on being unable to stop 911. But the only real intelligence failures occurred at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

The 911 hijackers were actually quite sloppy and dumb. Bush was dumber. And when Rice said "we couldn't connect the dots" she was absolutely right. Neither she nor Bush was able to do what a child could do -- draw a line from one numbered dot to the other consecutively, dots and numbers which were right in front of their faces for months, and then see the whole picture. The country has been paying for it ever since.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Tens of thousands of conservatives rally in DC to admit they were wrong.

Tens of thousands of conservatives, most of them Tea Party conservatives and Republicans, descended on Washington DC to attend a rally hosted by Glenn Beck whose theme was "Restore Honor".

It was heartening for anyone to see so many conservatives rallying to restore honor, something they are now obviously admitting has been missing from their lives for a long time. So the rally is showing that perhaps they have seen the light and are now admitting that they've been wrong. About everything.

Beck said the point of the rally is that "honor integrity and respect must be restored" to America, something that has been sorely lacking with conservatives for decades. And since it was a conservative president,George W. Bush who dishonored America more than any president in history it was fitting to see all those conservatives asking for forgiveness.

Beck's rally to restore honor does come a little late. Its a rally they should have held during the Bush Administration when George W. Bush dishonored America with his gross negligence in ignoring 9 months of terror warnings that eventually allowed the 911 attacks to happen when they could have been prevented, to his incompetence with Katrina, to the first pre-emptive war in America's history which was all based on lies and deceit, and to economic policies that caused the worst economic crisis since the Depression. All with help from the Republican congress.

But conservatives admitting their mistakes is at least a start. After all, what can you do?conservatives are always a few years behind reality anyway. They were 150 years behind the civil rights struggle of the 60's and in the case of evolution they've been about 100,000 years behind the curve.

But better late than never. A conservative's holding a rally to "Restoring Honor" must be their way of saying " We're sorry". So it was nice to see them in such large numbers wanting to restore honor and renouncing those who left phone messsages for Bart Stupak that said they were going to pray that he gets stomach cancer. But then, conservatives have always been a deeply religious lot.

And lets give Glenn Beck some credit. It took courage to call for a rally of conservatives to give up their ideologoy and restore honor, truth and integrity. It was a willing sacrifice on his part because if it succeeds, Fox News is out of business. And Beck is out of a job.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Even as Obama becomes a catastrophe, Republicans are no solution

Republicans have been using the bleak economy and even worse unemployment numbers to attack president Obama and his failures as president, mostly to use against Democrats in the upcoming November elections. Obama deserves all the criticism he gets, and with the recent revised downgrade of economic growth showing a stalled recovery, more will be coming, But the only people who have no standing to criticize are Republicans.

There are many reasons for Obama's failures but the biggest reason is not because he has been too liberal but because he wasn't liberal enough. The true criticism of Obama is that he has no backbone, no convictions, is politically dishonest and duplicitous and he has been not much more than the snake oil salesman that was evident to more than half the Democratic party during the primaries. And now its become evident to the majority of voters. The recent bad numbers on economic growth is showing the stimulus hasnt been working. And liberal economists like Paul Krugman and others said at the time that what Obama was proposing wasnt big enough. But Obama chose to play politics and settled for halfway measures that isnt working.

But for all the criticism Obama deserves, Republicans have no standing to criticize. They are still the reckless, ideological drunk drivers who wrapped the car around a tree.

But that doesnt explain Obama's failures. While Obama's supporters look at the failures of his presidency and say " what happened"? the real answer is nothing happened. This is who Obama is and always was. He bamboozled a lot of people into thinking he could do things he cant and never did. What became important was the racial agenda forgetting everything Martin Luther King stood for. And now both the Democrats and the country as a whole is suffering for it.

Its not just the economy that has the Democrats in trouble. Obama sold out the public option on health care for the same reasons he took half way measures on the economy -- no courage and no convictions. With the public option he dropped it to find a half way measure that would mollify Republicans and get the town hall conservative crazies to stop yelling at him. It didnt work, and the country is that much poorer now for not having the public option.

But for all of Obama's disasters as president, the Republicans are no answer. Republicans have proved since 1993 and actually going back to the Depression, that they are the most economically incompetent collection of nincompoops to ever occupy the congress, and are 100% to blame for the mess the country is in now. The criticism Obama deserves is that he has been totally inadequate at fixing it.But it was the ideoological DWI Republicans that wrapped the economy around the tree.

How inept have the Republicans been? In 1992 the record deficit became the major issue in the presidential campaign thanks mostly to Ross Perot who made it the number one issue. All three candidates committed to eliminating the deficit and when Bill Clinton was elected he offered a 1993 budget designed to do just that. It included a 5c a gallon gas tax with the money earmarked to bring down and eventually eliminate the deficit.

The Republicans went ballistic. They marched in lockstep opposing Clinton's budget and they made their case to the country in speech after speech and press conference after press conference. Led by Newt Gingrich, they said that Clinton's 1993 budget would explode the deficit, deepen the recession and drive up unemployment. Every Republican in the House and every Republican in the senate voted against it saying it would be a catastrophe and it was left to Al Gore to cast the tie breaking vote in the senate that passed the budget.

So how right were the Republicans and their aides and staff in their astute assessment of the economy and what to do about it? They batted 1.000. They were wrong about everything.

Clinton's budget eliminated the deficit and resulted in the first balanced budget in decades. It made possible the greatest economic expansion in history, the lowest unemployment in 40 years and Clinton left the country a $5 1/2 trillion budget surplus.

After Al Gore's disastrous presidential campaign, the Republicans came to power and Karl Rove bragged to Time magazine that the Bush Administration was "going to be ABC -- Anything But Clinton". If Clinton did it they were going to reverse it. And they did exactly that and, predictably to anyone who believes every action has an equal and opposite reaction, achieved the opposite results of Clinton on everything from terrorism as 911 proved, to the economy.

Reversing Clinton's policies destroyed the balanced budget, blew the $5 1/2 trillion budget surplus in less than 3 years, sent the country back to record deficits, saw Bush become the first president since Hoover to lose jobs in his first 3 years in office, and led to the greatest economic crisis since the 1930's.

While Obama has been a disaster in terms of what could have been accomplished given that he's squandered the biggest congressional majority any president has had in 100 years showing how politically incompetent he is when it comes to getting anything done, the Republicans are and have been the problem not the solution. They are not only incompetent, they have proved they are the most bald face collection of political liars since the 19th century. And when a group of politicians are defined by lies, they are not fit to run the country.
Their lies about healthcare reform were just a prelude to their lying about the economy and taxes. And defining them as liars is exactly what Howard Gleckman, resident fellow of the Urban Institute and editor of the non-partisan Tax Policy Center did.
Republicans are saying that "on Jan. 1,2011 Democrats will drop a $3.8 trillion tax increase on American small businesses and families". Gleckman says in so many words, and without mincing them, that this statement "is a lie". Mostly because Democrats plan on keeping the tax cuts for all but the top 3% of the country. Gleckman also pointed out that Republican claims that allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire would be "the largest tax hike ever" is another lie. Gleckman's assessment of Republican lies about taxes and tax increases is that "they should be ashamed".

So why are the Democrats so pathetically inept at making this point and exposing Republicans as not only being dishonest but inept? Because Democrats have been pathetically inept politically for the last 15 years. "Democratic strategist" is an oxymoron, their campaigns, TV commercials, political advertising and ability to get a message across is as inept politically as the Republicans are with policy. And if they want to point to the 2008 elections the truth is the Democrats didnt win, the Republicans lost based on their performance.

The economy is going to be the major issue in the fall elections. The way for Democrats to do as well as is possible under the circumstances which is the albatross Obama has become around their necks, is to graphically point out the Republican track record going back to 1993, their out and out lies, and at the same time admit Obama's short comings and that he hasn't been what those who supported him had hoped. Then vow to take matters into their own hands whether its passing the public option in the next term or doing what is needed to help unemployment even if it means usurping and trumping the president.

Obama might not be happy with that but given the stakes, who cares? No one is happy with Obama and that goes not only for voters but congressional Democrats. Admitting the obvious about Obama's shortcomings, is simply the truth and political honesty would resonate with voters. The same voters the Democrats need to win. Moderate and liberal Democrats and independents so disgusted with Obama they have said in polls they may take their anger at Obama out on congressional Democrats.

But congressional Democrats can unite and put out the message that they will take charge and that a Democratic congress is still the best way to get the country back on its feet. Admit that the reason people are so unhappy with Obama and that his poll numbers are sinking is not because he went too far but because his policies didn't go far enough. Especially because of his attempts at trying to mollify Republicans which Democrats should point out was a big mistake. And they should point it out because it's the truth.

Then point out that the Republicans have proved they have no solutions, they are the cause of all the problems and have not given one minute's indication for years that anything they propose would work because nothing they have done for decades has worked. And so all they can do is lie.

Admitting Obama's shortcomings will be embarrassing for Obama but first, it's the truth, secondly he's already done enough damage to the Democratic chances in the fall between his policies, his endless empty talking, his duplicity which people are finally seeing through, and Robert Gibbs mouth.

Any candidate in a close election trying to defend Obama and his presidency as part of an election strategy is finished. But admitting Obama's shortcomings is just the kind of truth and honesty that would resonate with people and give them hope that maybe a Democratic congress can deliver what Obama hasn't.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

If the Tea Party is fighting for the soul of the country, then the Tea Party must lose.

Sinclair Lewis the great American writer once said, "if fascism ever comes to America it will come wrapped in the American flag".

Welcome to the Tea Party.

Leaders of the Tea Party movement have said that they are fighting for the soul of the country and that is what they see the November elections as being all about. If that's true, then that's enough of a reason for disgruntled and disheartened Democrats and independents to go to the polls in November -- to make sure the Tea Party candidates lose. Because as Sinclair Lewis pointed out in another time, the Tea Party is not what they pretend to be.
They claim to be against big government but big government is fine with tea party conservatives as long as it's in the service of the things they want the government to enforce. More times than not that means using the government to force their own ideas and values down other people's throats, values that are closer to fascism than democracy and values most people reject as did the Founders of the country.

Social conservatives, many who claim to be against government interference, have always hypocritically supported government interference as long as the government was interfering in the things they believe in, things that people refuse to embrace willingly and so they want to use the power of government to force people into compliance.

As their swastikas and socialism signs showed, they are totally against the government having anything to do with whether a person can get healthcare whether they can afford it or not, but firmly believe the government should pass and enforce laws forcing a woman to complete an unwanted pregnancy, taking the decision out of her hands and placing it in the government's.

In the thirties, social conservatives had no problem having big government interfere by preventing someone being able to buy a drink or a beer, something that spawned organized crime, or preventing women from voting, or interfering with where certain people could live, go to school, vote, eat lunch, watch a movie, or what kind of jobs they could hold, and in Griswold vs. Connecticut, a Supreme Court case social conservatives lost, whether people should be able to use contraceptives in the privacy of their own homes.

Most of these conservatives today, as evidenced from extremist conservative blogs, watching Tea Party members on TV and looking at poll results, are, to put it bluntly, either brainwashed or dumb. Virtually nothing they have to say are supported by facts. They give every indication that they are people who either cant or wont think for themselves, but think and believe what they are told to think, disregarding every shred of common sense. Because what they are told to think fits their view that their values are right and everyone else is wrong. And there are no shortages of "leaders" willing to exploit them.
Some religions operate on this premise and the religious fervor and in many cases fanaticism of conservatives easily translate into their politics, the reason Jefferson and the Founders insisted on erecting a constitutional wall between religion and the function of the government.

Most of these people as a recent poll showed, are people who, if confronted with facts that refute their beliefs, will dig in their heels even more, reject the facts and redouble their beliefs. This explains why in so many polls, conservatives express opinions that fly completely in the face of history and facts. They claim to support certain principles but when these principles were violated wholesale by Bush and the Republicans, they ignored it.

Many of these people are angry and bitter, people feeling screwed by life and who think they are on the short end of everything, and most of what they are about politically, a point of view which Republicans are all too happy to accommodate, is all about what they don't want other people to have. Whether its health care for all, gays having legally sanctioned partnerships, gays serving in the military, or extending unemployment, they are against it even when these issues have nothing to do with their own lives.
They support Republicans blindly and most are in denial that it was Clinton who eliminated the deficit and Bush who exploded it, that it was Clinton and Democrats who passed policies that resulted in the greatest economic expansion in history and Republicans who brought about the greatest economic crisis since the depression. That it was Bush's gross negligence with regards to national security that allowed 911 to happen even though it was easily preventable, resulting in the worst attack on American soil in history.
Conservatives in general claim to the "real" Americans, the real "patriots" but ignored that it was Bush who was accountable for the worst attack on America in history. To Tea Party conservativs none of this matters. That it was a conservative president and congress that wrecked havoc on the country doesnt matter. They have showed in polls that they even want more.

Most of what conservative think and believe from economics to morality to concepts of individual freedom has never worked. Because their ideas are not about freedom, but only about the freedom to force their ideas on other people. What to this day, most conservatives resent most, is the cultural and political revolutions that took place in the Sixties that overturned all those beliefs, eliminated their power, and proved so much of what they believed was false. That the results of that revolution are in place today and are part of every day life galls them even more, whether its issues of race, gender equality or the environment.

Hypocrisy is a hallmark of the Tea Party Conservatives, who are now complaining about deficits.These same Tea Party activists kept their mouths shut from 2000 to 2008 while George W. Bush and a Republican congress did more damage to the country in 8 years than any foreign enemy has been able to do in more than 200 years.

Bush and the Republican congress destroyed the balanced budget inherited from a liberal president, sent the country into the biggest deficits in history, blew a $5 1/2 trillion budget surplus, ignored warnings that we were going to be hit with a massive terrorists attack, dismissed terrorism as a threat, pushed the country into a pre-emptive war to protect us against WMD that hadn't existed for 10 years, ignored intelligence that said so, mismanaged the war, and brought the country to the biggest economic crisis since the Depression. And conservatives refuse to admit any of it. Which is why when a recent conservative blog asked who were the worst Americans in history, the majority answered FDR.

Which shows Tea Party activists to be not just hypocrites, but walking caldrons of resentment, anger, products of brainwashing and people who are estranged from facts and reality. Angry people who are always about what they dont want other people to have.
That they can influence outcomes of Republican primaries and have any sway at all with Republican voters is just more proof of what motivates the people who elected and then re-elected George W. Bush. And given their druthers they would want more of the same. Which is reason enough for people to go to the polls in November and make sure they lose.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Obama and the Lockerbie bomber

The release of Abdel Al-Megrhai, convicted of the bombing of Pan Am 103, has been getting more attention now then it did at the time of his release a year ago, mostly because of a group of Democratic senators and the press who decided that since it was open season on BP it might be politically advantageous to try and pin the release of Abdel Al- Megrahi on them also.

Blaming BP became so ludicrous that Contessa Brewer, one of the group of anchors on MSNBC daytime who do the news like they should have a sock puppet on their hand, asked two family members of victims of the Pam Am bombing how they felt "knowing" that BP was responsible for Megrhai's release. Brewer who is not known for letting facts get in the way of what she wants to emote, caused these people needless grief by telling them something as fact that was not true.

But she conveniently swept under the rug what was true -- that president Obama, after being given a heads up a year ago that the bomber would be released on "compassionate" grounds, did nothing to try and prevent his release. He lodged a tepid "protest" and then said and did nothing. But Brewer didn't ask the families how they felt about that. Which is more evidence that every day MSNBC tries to be to Democrats what Fox News is to Republicans when what people really want is the truth.

It's become increasing clear that it was the Scottish government alone, and not BP who were responsible for Megrahi's release. And what has been lost in the outrage over his release and the narrow minded questioning of media types like Brewer, was the inaction of Barack Obama a year earlier when he knew Megrhai would be released.

Now that the issue is being looked at again, Obama's role, or lack of one is being either ignored or swept under the rug depending on your point of view.

Obama knew in advance that the Scottish government was going to release Megrhai on "compassionate" grounds. The Obama Administration sent a letter Aug 9, 2009, 11 days before Megrahi was released protesting the release but saying that if Megrhai was released they would "prefer" that he be forced to serve a house arrest in Scotland.
Obama could have made a very loud and public protest over Megrahi's impending release buthe didn't. He could have rallied other countries, like Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy against Megrhai's release. He might have even been able to prevent it had he been forceful enough or threatend consequences. But, unfortunately, as we've seen with everything else Obama does or doesn't do, asking him to take the initiative on something and follow a sense of passion, truth and conviction to ge it done, whether its a public option on healthcare, or real financial reform, or a government commitment to ease unemployment, is just not in his repertoire.
Instead on August 20th, 2009 Obama issued his official public response to the release of Megrhai, that it was "a mistake". That's it. "A mistake". That was the degree of Obama's outrage, anger, and protest over the release on "compassionate grounds" of a man who murdered 270 people by blowing up an airliner.
Obama was well aware of the impending release before it occurred. In a letter to the Scottish government dated August 12, 2009, 8 days before Megrahi's release, the State Department sent an official letter to the Scottish government which enclosed and made reference to, the August 9, 2009 letter from the Obama Administration making a clear, but tepid protest.

There were many things Obama could have done or at least tried to do, given the powers of the presidency, to prevent Megrhai's release. Aside from rallying world opinion, he could have rallied congress behind him and threatened a variety of consequences, like huge tariffs and duties on goods from Scotland or made by Scottish companies. There could have been the threat of a trade embargo or sanctions or the threat that tourist travel could be banned, or some attempt to explore consequences if Megrhai was released. Any initiatives Obama wanted to take to threaten consquences to the Scottish government if they released Megrhai would have been backed unanimously by the congress.

He could have made a loud noise, explored trade and diplomatic penalties and made a very easy case why there should be no compassion for a mass murderer.

Obama did none of it. And he didn't for a very simple reason. He wasn't moved to. It wasn't a political issue that would affect him at the time, and like with Ahmadinejad and the Iran election protests, he preferred not to meddle. A sentiment echoed to a great extent by the leader of Scotland's Roman Catholic Church, who seemingly oblivous to the fact that the Church has enough problems dealing with serial child sexual molestations around the world, supported the "merciful" release of Megrhai and wrote in a Scottish newspaper with regards to American protests to re-open the case that "we ( the Scottish government) shouldnt be crawling to the United States".

The whole issue of Megrahi's release could open a new can of worms for the Obama Administration. It was only the press and some politicians thinking it was safe to go into the water to kick BP a few more times that brought the issue up again. Now that it is an issue and we know that BP had nothing to do with it, it still remains to be seen if the news media will highlight Obama's role in Megrahi's release. Or lack of it.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Chuck Todd, Obama and how not to talk about race

Recently, in bringing up the race issue, supposedly stirred by the Shirley Sherrod fiasco, Chuck Todd, who as has been pointed out before,has shown a willingness to discard journalistic integrity in return for "access" to the White House and being in their good graces, recently spoke about the tempest caused by the Sherrod firing, and in bringing up the issue of race, called Obama "the country's most eloquent spokesman on race".

Referring to Obama as the country's most eloquent spokesman on race is like calling Sarah Palin the country's most eloquent spokesman on American foreign policy and shows that Todd as well as others in the mainstream media are really unwilling to discuss race in any kind of serious and honest way, instead resorting to what they think is "brand name" recognition on race as a way of actually avoiding talking about the issue. Because to deal with it honestly means that Todd and most in the media would have to face things about themselves that they dont really want to face.

When it has come to race, Obama has been as much of an empty vessel as he has been on every other issue from healthcare reform in which he botched and sold out the public option, to financial reform which isnt what Obama pretends it is and doesnt reform what needed to be reformed, the economy and Afghanistan. If you don't believe Obama has been a no show on race, just ask the Congressional Black Caucus, the NAACP, Professor Cornell West or Al Sharpton.

Chuck Todd calling Obama the country's most eloquent spokesman on race turns a serious subject into a fun house mirror of honest objective journalism.

Obama has put his foot in his mouth a number of times on race. There was the incident involving Professor Gates and a disorderly conduct arrest where without knowing the facts Obama jumped to conclusions and unfairly made accusations and assumptions about Sgt. Crowley, the white cop who arrested Gates. He did the same thing most recently with Shirley Sherrod, where without knowing the facts he gave the thumbs up to firing her because of what proved to be a dishonestly edited video involving race. Obama tried to call each a "teachable moment" but the only person involved in both incidents that needed to be taught a lesson was Obama.

Because of his own politically motivated knee jerk reactions to race, both black and white, Obama managed to insult and do injustice to a white Massachusetts cop just doing his job and female black staff member at the USDA not only doing her job but trying to teach people something important about race from her own experience.

But being straight about race is not how Obama operates. During the 2008 primaries, Obama was trying to deal with problems he faced about race with the release of the Jeremiah Wright YouTubes after saying that his church and pastor "are not controversial". After the videos were released, he had to try and explain why he sat in a church listening to Wright for 17 years while he preached racism, damned the US government, said the country got what it deserved on 911 and accused the US government of creating AIDS to commit genocide against black people in Africa.

Most people black or white in a similar situation would have walked out and never gone back, but not Obama. Not because he embraced Wright's views but for the reasons Obama does most things --pure politics. Trinity Church was a black church in the district Obama represented when he was a state senator and it was just more politic for him ( or so he thought) to stay there, rather than to walk out in protest.

But that explanation wasn't going to sit well with the people he was trying to bamboozle. He needed something that would be a pill for Keith Olbermann, the Huffington Post, the Nation, and the New York Times and the rest of the media to swallow. And they did.

So with his back to the wall, he decided to give a disengenuous speech on race designed to do one thing -- get him off the hook. It was a speech the Obama campaign billed as " a major speech on race". It was in fact, one of the emptiest, shallowest "I hope this gets me out of hot water" type speeches one could imagine. It was Nixon saying " I am not a crook".

While the mainstream news media were tripping over themselves to praise the speech, ( the now bankrupt Philadelphia Inquirer called it his "Lincoln Moment") more sober observers, like former New York Mayor Ed Koch and a Democrat, called Obama's speech so self-serving that he even threw his own white grandmother under the bus just to try and save his political neck.

It was a tour de force of intellectual dishonesty that the media just ate up because the media has always had a hard time dealing with race in an honest way, and eating out of Obama's hand was not only easier, it was what they thought they were supposed to do -- and Obama knew it. And he fed them. And they ate it up. And to a great extent many still are.

What Obama's speech on race really turned out to be was not a Lincoln Moment but Obama's Eddie Haskell moment, reminiscent of the disingenuous ingratiating character on the old Leave it to Beaver series who tries to glad hand everyone. Almost everything Obama has done as president has been to try and ingratiate himself to an enemy whether it was Amadinjead and "not wanting to meddle" in Iran's affairs during the election protests or right wing Republicans who opposed the public option. The speech was so unmemorable no one can remember or quote a word he said.

Most recently Obama showed just how political and disingenuous he can be on race with something as innocuous as his census form.

With a government publicity campaign trying to get people to cooperate with the census, Obama knew his own census form would be used as an example to others. He knew his census form would be made public. So when he had to indicate his race on the form he did what he's done many times before - he lied and did what he believed was to his political advantage even if it meant once again throwing his own white mother and grandmother under the same bus he threw Shirley Sherrod and Sgt. Crowley

Obama indicated on his census form that his race was black and not mixed which is what he really is. He did it because he knows he is where he is because the media and many whites and blacks made his candidacy a cause celebre based solely on race, calling him the first black president which he isn't. His racial make up is the same as Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter -- a white mother and black father and no one ever referred to Jeter as the Yankees first black shortstop.

One would think being a mixed race president would be a strong enough piece of symbolism but first black president sounded better and that's what the media calls him because race and only race is what motivated the media to get behind him. Which took everything Martin Luther King lived and died for and threw it out the window. Which is why the media is so reluctant to deal with race honestly. If they did they would have to admit a lot of things they would prefer to deny.

Like the fact that what Geraldine Ferraro said during the primaries was true -- that with his less than desireable character traits, lack of any proven ability and no accomplishments in 12 years as a legislator, if Obama had been white he would have been considered a joke as a presidential candidate.

It was the color of Obama's skin, not the content of his character that drove the media and fueled what was nothing less than unconscionable bias by people like Keith Olbermann, the Huffington Post, the Nation, Michael Moore. the New York Times and Jonathan Alter, just to name some of the more egregious and biased members of the media.

The media vilified Ferraro for her statement because it was true and it also exposed the media's own failures and bias when it came to race.

The same thing happened during the Democratic primaries when the press vilified Bill and Hillary Clinton for statements they both made during the South Carolina primaries which rained on their racial parade. So they called Bill and Hillary Clinton "racist" instead of admitting that every word they said was true. (When Obama won the South Carolina primary the press tried to make it sound like this was the definitive moment of the campaign. When Bill said not so fast, South Carolina is known for some strange things politically and it would be a mistake to define the entire primary campaign by what happened in South Carolina, they called Clinton racist. Can anybody say "Alvin Greene"?)

The press and Obama tried to use race as a racial wedge -- if you were for Obama you were a good person and if you were against him you were a racist. That cowed a lot of weak impressionable people, black and white, in and out of the news media.

When Obama had to officially state his race on a census form he lied because mixed race isn't what the news media was excited about . And he knows it. It was "first black president" and he was going to keep that up for political reasons even if it meant denying the existence of a white mother and white grandmother, the people who brought him up and denying 50% of who he is.

This is who Chuck Todd called the country's most eloquent spokesman in the country on race. And this is why the media is where it is.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Tim Kaine and the DNC in denial

In public life whether its politics or those in the media who cover it, or for that matter most other activities in life, the one thing that remains unforgivable is stupidity.
People make mistakes. Things don't always turn out the way its planned ( though for people in positions of high responsibility that should not happen and if it does should not happen again) but stupidity is not something that can be generally acceptable and always leads to disaster.

Tim Kaine, the Democratic National Chairman exhibited what can only be called stupidity the other day when he said about the coming election, "Democratic candidates who distance themselves from the president do so at their own peril". He also said, "If you distance yourself from the president, you can pour cold water on the excitement about what he is doing."

the problem with what Kaine said, is, what in the world is he talking about? What excitement? The only people excited about Obama going into the fall election are Republicans.

As for Kaine's statement that Democrats distancing themselves from Obama do so at their own peril, the only peril facing Democrats seeking election now is Obama himself, and the fact that Democrats, liberals and independents have shown in poll after they poll that they are fed up, angry or disgusted with Obama.

And for good reason. Obama has messed up the best opportunity the Democrats have had in a century to affect real change and so far he's blown it. And it seems, everyone but Kaine, the White House and some media sycophants know it.

Given the biggest congressional majority any president has had in 100 years, Obama wasn't able to produce real healthcare reform ( as Howard Dean pointed out, it wasn't reform at all), was totally bamboozled by Joe Lieberman on healthcare, blew the public option, a program that 57% of the American people wanted and which still could have been passed with reconciliation if Obama had political skill or any conviction, watered down and weakened financial reform, pushed through a stimulus that was half of what most economists said it should be for political reasons and which has done nothing to help unemployment, and Afghanistan is a mess. No wonder Republicans are excited.

It is understandable that as the chairman of the DNC, Kaine has to be a bit of a cheerleader. But its also his job to see what is front of his face as well as seeing to it that as many Democrats get elected or re-elected as possible. And to try and cheerlead for Obama at the expense of getting Democrats elected is just stupid.

It's also stupid if he believes what he says. Because for most Democrats in a close election the only way they will win is, like Joe Sestak in Pennsylvania, show that while they believe and support the principles of the Democratic party they are anything but Obama Democrats. Because Obama represents to most Democrats, liberals and independents, a major failure of accomplishment,a failure of character and a failure of conviction. Obama's problems is not that he was too liberal. It was that he hasn't been liberal enough because of his own political fears and its costing him dearly in his own polls.

Kaine's advice for Democrats not to distance themselves from Obama because of his sinking poll numbers is nonsensical . Kaine doesn't seem to understand is that the reason behind Obama's plummeting approval ratings are all the things cited above. It is Obama's performance and how Democrats and independents feel about it that is driving the low approval ratings based, not on what he's done but what he hasn't done but should have.

The best advice anyone can give a Democrat now running for anything is to ignore Tim Kaine's advice.

Michael Bennett, an incumbent backed by Obama narrowly beat Andrew Romanoff , an insurgent who, like Joe Sestak had been offered a job by the administration not to run.
Romanoff had pubicly complained that the DNC , instead of being neutral in a race between Democrats, provided phone banks and money that has come from outside Colorado to support Bennett. Romanoff had to sell his house to pay for last minute TV commericals.
With all that fire power behind him and a slanted playing field the fact that the Obama backed incumbent candidate narrowly beat the Democratic insurgent challenger isnt exactly a feather in Obama's political cap though the media will play it that way.
But one thing that needs to be remembered is, the last time the DNC interfered with the will of Democratic voters was when they rigged the playing field on behalf of Obama during the 2008 Democratic primaries, something that no honest member of the DNC would not say they now regret.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Chuck Todd shows everything that's wrong with political journalism

Chuck Todd the "senior" MSNBC political editor ( I have no idea who the "junior" editors are) appeared on MSNBC recently and gave a stupefyingly inaccurate take on congressional Democratic anger at Robert Gibbs statement on Meet The Press that "without a doubt the Republicans can win back the House".

Todd referred to the anger of congressional Democrats and Nancy Pelosi as " the Democrats circular firing squad". He had nothing to say about the political stupidity or the potential consquences of Gibbs' statement coming from the White House.

That assessment was, as we say in Brooklyn, not just dumb but stupid. But Todd seemed to think that Obama and Gibbs were blameless in what was an act of political ineptitude not to mention a political tin ear on the part of the Obama Administration. Mocking the Democrats reaction seemed to indicate that in Todd's political world the Democrats should have what? Kept their mouths shut? Agreed with an assessment that three months before the election was specious to say the least?

The accepted wisdom now, both by Democrats and the White House was that it was a stupid thing to say, and the White House, and Gibbs tried to back track. Humorously, Joe Biden tried to undo the damage by saying the Democrats would "shock" people by retaining both houses of congress. Biden's statement that it would be a "shock" didn't endear the White House to congressional Democrats either. He sounded more like a befuddled sitcom dad trying to say the right thing and making it worse.

But getting back to Todd,we soon found out why Todd blamed congressional Democrats and mocked them for their reactions to Gibbs comments and not the White House for making them. Todd had a scheduled one on one television interview that afternoon with president Obama. Which explained everything.

Maybe Todd didnt understand the incredibly stupid blunder made by Gibbs and Obama or didnt want to admit that the reason the Democrats have an uphill battle at all is because of Obama's excruciating failures in healthcare reform ( selling out the public option), financial reform in not reforming the things that caused the crisis in the first place, not to mention persistant high unemployment and the fact that most independents and liberals are fed up with Obama and the job he's done, something Todd would never point out since he was going to meet with Obama that afternoon.

For Todd and everyone else covering Washington its called "access" and its the coin of the realm which is why 95% of the reporters covering Obama have and will continue to sell out any pretext to journalistic integrity so as not to endanger their "access".

This is not a partisan thing in spite of the right wing's constant complaints about a liberal press. The mainstream media did the same thing for 8 years with Bush, behaving like lap dogs because the Republicans controlled the White House and congress. What mattered then to the press is the same thing that matters now and that is "access".

The press clearly had an agenda during the Democratic primary to see Obama get the nomination making race a cause celebre trumping character and qualifications, and turning a blind eye to short comings in Obama that would have sunk any other candiate. Most are now reluctant to admit their mistake. Journalists never like to admit mistakes. Which is why the mistake appears on page one and the correction on page 31.
But what we saw with Chuck Todd the other day, attempting to absolve the White House of one of the more stupid political blunders of the year and try to turn it on congressional Democrats knowing he had the Obama interview that afternoon, gives more proof as to why the mainstream news media cant be trusted. Or rather the people in it. ( It should be said that Chris Matthews while I dont agree with him half the time, is an exception. He has no problem telling a guest what he really thinks and doesnt care whether they like it or not.)

Someone named Shira Toplitz, a political reporter at Politico recently extolled the virtues of Chuck Todd by saying:

"Chuck Todd is a genius, and I probably didn't even fully realize it at my young age -- when I was working there -- just how much of a genius he is. And now the whole world can see it on Twitter and MSNBC every day. . . . Not only does he know politics in every district so well, he also knows the news business. . . .He gets this town, he gets how it operates, he knows how politics work, and he knows how to inspire young writers, particularly, to go after stories." Ahem.

Chuck Todd demonstrated he does know Washington and how the news business works (emphasis on "business" not journalism) and knows how to temper and twist what he says so as not to offend anyone he wants access to. That is what he knows about the news business. Not that he is alone in this. Its become the modus operandi of most journalists covering Washington. If you offend someone with the truth you can usually forget about "access" in the future. Or having them come on your show as a guest.

Toplitz' starry eyed impressions of Todd is also a reason why there is no real hope in sight that anything will be different anytime soon. There can only be two reactions by people in their 20's who might consider journalism as a career watching how it's currently practiced. Either its "This stinks, who wants to do that?" or " Wow, I want to do that". Its safe to assume the only people going into journalism over the last ten years are the ones saying " I want to do that". And it shows.

But if more who look at journalism and say "this really stinks" decide they want to reform it and get it back to its first amendment roots, it's possible journalism will change sometime in the distant future. Maybe.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

13 keys that make Obama's re-election defeat a certainty.

There has been some press recently about Professor Allan Lichtman's assertion based on 13 political keys which Lichtman says has never been wrong, that indicate that President Obama's re-election in 2012 is a certainty.

But while Lichtman's 13 keys may very well be valid, a closer look at Lichtman's analysis of those keys and his answers, actually proves that far from Obama's re-election being a certainty, it is his defeat, based on Lichtman's keys, that is a certainty.

According to Lichtman's formula of 13 keys, 6 or more "FALSE" answers result in the certainty of an incumbent being defeated and 5 or less indicates the certainty of victory. Lichtman says this formula has never been wrong.

Taking that at face value Lichtman comes up with only 5 "FALSE" designations for Obama indicating to him the certainty of an Obama 2012 victory.

But in looking at Lichtman's keys and his answers, there is a very different analysis, one that is far more realistic, that comes up with at least 6 "FALSE" answers for Obama, and the potential for up to 10, which would indicate based on Lichtman's keys, the certainty that Obama would lose a re-election bid.

Lichtman's assigning a "TRUE" or "FALSE" designation to many of the "keys" in many instances relies more on Lichtman's opinion, or even wishful thinking, and not facts. And in some cases his opinions and prognosis are completely wrong.

In looking at the same set of keys I gave Obama 6 certain "FALSE" designations with many of Lichtman's "TRUE" designations clearly pre-mature and likely to be false by the time the 2012 elections arrive. There is a very real possibility of Obama getting up to 10 "FALSE" designations but only 6 is needed to assure defeat.

Here are Lichtman's 13 keys, his designations which he claims indicates the certainty of an Obama victory, and mine, indicating the opposite:

• KEY 1 (Party Mandate): After the midterm elections, the incumbent party holds more seats in the U.S. House of Representatives than it did after the previous midterm elections. Lichtman - (FALSE) - Me ( FALSE) (it will be enough for the Democrats to retain control. They will certainly lose seats)

• KEY 2 (Contest): There is no serious contest for the incumbent-party nomination. Lichtman -(TRUE) -Me ( potentially FALSE. No one can possibly say this is true at this point. It's too soon to tell and cant go into the TRUE category. As Obama's poll numbers continue to sink they re-enforce much discontent within the Democratic party with Obama. It is very possible there could be a credible challenge to Obama in a presidential primary in 2012 if Obama runs again).

• KEY 3 (Incumbency): The incumbent-party candidate is the sitting president. Lichtman (TRUE) Me (TRUE)

KEY 4 (Third party): There is no significant third party or independent campaign. Lichtman (TRUE) Me ( probably FALSE).This is impossible to put into the TRUE category at this point and likely will go into the FALSE category.An article by Reuters dated July 18th talks about the real possibility of Michael Bloomberg running as an independent. He has a 57% approval rating and as a billionaire, like Ross Perot, could easily finance his own campaign and if the economy has not recovered a Bloomberg 3rd party candidacy is more than likely because he could win. A head to head contest in New York between Bloomberg and Obama would easily be won by Bloomberg and no Democratic candidate could win the presidency without New York)

KEY 5 (Short-term economy): The economy is not in recession during the election campaign. Lichtman (TRUE) Me ( Too soon to know and very possibly FALSE). Many economists are concerned about a double dip recession and there is the liklihood that unemployment will stay high. To call this TRUE is radically premature and could easily be false by 2012).

KEY 6 (Long-term economy): Real per-capita economic growth during the term equals or exceeds mean growth during the previous two terms. Lichtman (FALSE) Me (FALSE)

•KEY 7 (Policy change): The incumbent administration effects major changes in national policy. Lichtman (TRUE) Me( FALSE) Almost everyone has criticized the healthcare reform bill as not reform at all. Howard Dean said it wasn't reform but an extension of the old system. People are angry that Obama blew the public option. There is universal criticism of the financial reform bill that it doesn't reform the problems that caused the economic crisis in the first place. The left has criticized Obama on Afghanistan and many feel he is just extending the Bush policies and its going badly and nothing has been done on immigration reform).

KEY 8 (Social unrest): There is no sustained social unrest during the term. Lichtman(TRUE) Me ( Too soon to know. )One might disagree about a lack of social unrest watching the town hall meetings and the crazies on health care. Immigration reform is already causing social unrest on both sides of the issue and if the unemployment picture doesn't change dont be surprised to see the middle class unemployed hitting the streets demonstrating against Obama and high enemployment.)

KEY 9 (Scandal): The administration is untainted by major scandal. Lichtman (TRUE)Me ( TRUE now but too soon to know by 2012)

• KEY 10 (Foreign/military failure): The administration suffers no major failure in foreign or military affairs. Lichtman (TRUE) Me (FALSE) Obama has failed at every foreign policy initiative he has tried from total rejection of his economic policies at the G20 summit,failure on an international climate control treaty, Israeli-Palestinian negotiations at a stand still, no progress on Iran and the war deteriorating in Afghanistan).

• KEY 11 (Foreign/military success): The administration achieves a major success in foreign or military affairs. Lichtman (FALSE) Me (FALSE)

KEY 12 (Incumbent charisma): The incumbent-party candidate is charismatic or a national hero. Lichtman (FALSE) Me (FALSE)

• KEY 13 (Challenger charisma): The challenging-party candidate is not charismatic or a national hero. Lichtman (TRUE) Me (TRUE).

Based on my count, Obama gets only 4 knowable TRUE designations with 6 definite FALSE designations, enough according to Lichtman's keys to guarantee Obama's defeat. But along with the 6 there is a potential, and a likelihood for 4 more likely FALSE designations for a total of 10.( the 4 potentially FALSE are a primary challenge, a third party candidacy, the economy still in recession with high unemployment, and the potential for social unrest either because of the economy, immigration issues or both.

Based on Lichtman's keys which he says has never been wrong and eliminating the keys that are only potentially FALSE, there are 6 definitive FALSE designations which indicates that Obama is certain to lose re-election if he is the candidate, not win.

With Obama's approval ratings plummeting and both Democrats and independents understandably unhappy with Obama's performance to date and no indication it can get any better, it is becoming more likely that someone will challenge Obama in a Democratic primary. And if the challenger is legitimate, he or she may be the Democrats only hope of holding onto the White House.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Obama's senseless Afghan policy

David Wood, a chief military correspondent traveling with the 1st Platoon in Afghanistan recently quoted Sgt. Eric Price in one of his dispatches as telling him, "If we go out tonight and kill some Taliban, it will make every minute of this deployment worthwhile.''

Wood went on to report that, far from combat with the Taliban, the 1st Platoon's next assignment after meeting with some local Afghan elders was to help build a retaining wall next to an irrigation ditch which could be used as a male restroom. After latrine duty, the 1st Platoon's next assignment was to help dig a well for an Afghan village.

Here lies the fundamental problem in the strategy. And why the policy will fail. The soldiers deployed to Afghanistan want to go out and kill Taliban. The American people think the job of American soldiers in Afghanistan and the only reason they are there is to defeat the Taliban. It was the Taliban who gave safe haven to Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda both before the 911 attacks and after. It was the Taliban that protected Al-Qaeda and gave them land for their training camps. It was the Taliban who threw acid in the faces of 8 year old girls who defied Taliban law by going to school.

Americans see the Taliban as a violent enemy of not just the United States but of human rights and both the American people and the soldiers themselves think their job in the defense of the United States is defeat them.

The Administration on the other hand has given their stamp of approval to a strategy deploying American soldiers to build restrooms and dig wells the purpose of which is to win over the people in Afghan villages. And the problem with that is, it's the "hearts and minds" strategy tried in Vietnam and applied to Afghanistan. It failed miserably in Vietnam for a lot of logical reasons, and there is no indication it will or can be any different in Afghanistan.

There might be good reasons why the American people would support American soldiers in Afghanistan. Building retaining walls for restrooms and digging wells for Afghan villages isn't included. This is Peace Corps work, not what American soldiers should be doing in the name of national defense. But it is the major part of the Afghan strategy.

What these soldiers are doing is what American soldiers did after WWII, after the enemy was defeated when America helped rebuild Germany and Japan. During both wars in Bosnia and Kosovo, the American military defeated the enemy militarily then left.

Unfortunately, in spite of all of Obama's endless shortcomings, the reason we are still there is because the Bush Administration (Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld) blew it by ignoring Afghanistan when it mattered most, when Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda were cornered in Tora Bora, when the target for America retaliating for 911 should have been Afghanistan, the Taliban and Al-Qaeda not Iraq. And that should never be forgotten. At one point we had the Taliban defeated. Bush diverted troops to Iraq and the Taliban made a come back which is why we are there now.

We were never there to nation build. And the hearts and minds strategy which failed in Vietnam and which Obama is embracing shows not only a lack of imagination but, as we have seen before from Obama, a lack of judgement and an ignorance of history. And one big reason for that is that domestic politics rules almost every decision Obama makes and it always blows up in everyones face.

Obama's original decision to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan was politics not policy. Announcing the addition of 30,000 troops while at the same time announcing their withdrawal and a date for their withdrawal was a Groucho Marx "Hello, I must be going" strategy.

Giving McChrystal 30,000 more troops satisfied the right and at the same time, by announcing when they'd be leaving, Obama tried to satisfy the left and predicatably angered the right ( when you make decisions based on trying to please everyone, even people who shouldnt have to be pleased, you please no one).

Biden tried to defend the policy of announcing the withdrawal date by saying it sent a message to Karzai that the commitment was not open ended and there was a deadline. That is nonsense. Obama could have made that point privately in a phone call to Karzai. He didn't have to announce it at West Point. The purpose of the announced withdrawal date was all politics. And making decisions of this magnitude based on politics never works and always results in disaster.

One of McChrystal's biggest complaints with Obama which led to his dismissal when it was made public, was the feeling that no one at the White House was in charge, a complaint the news media, still in Obama's pocket, virtually ignored. But it was the same complaint congressional Democrats made about Obama during the healthcare fiasco when the only thing that mattered was getting a public option and Democrats complained Obama showed no leadership. And we know how that turned out.

There is only one reason to be in Afghanistan -- to defeat the Taliban to prevent Al-Qaeda from regaining a base from which to plan more attacks. Defeating the Taliban by having American soldiers build restrooms and wells is not going to work because it has never worked.

If we are not there to destroy the Taliban militarily,then the soldiers should come home and let drones carry on the attacks while letting the Taliban know if they commit any acts of terrorism we are capable of coming back and finishing the job. What Obama is doing now, and which has failed up till now,will continue to fail as it did in Vietnam.