Saturday, February 26, 2011

Scott Walker, Wisconsin,busting unions and war in Iraq

Scott Walker has a lot in common with George W. Bush. Bush lied the country into a war with Iraq by lying about the connection between Sadaam and the 911 attacks, and by lying about WMD in Iraq even though there was no hard evidence that it existed. What Bush really wanted was to invade Iraq and get rid of Sadaam and he was willing to use 911 as an excuse to see it done.

Walker is doing the same now with the unions in Wisconsin. We know for a fact that Walker is using the budget problems in Wisconsin as an excuse to do what Republican politicians all over the country want to do if they can -- bust the unions. They want to do it for a number of reasons, not the least of which is to undermine the political support Democrats gets from unions. They also want to do it because they are the party of big business at the expense of working people.

The biggest reason we know Walker is lying about the need to pass the union busting Wisconsin bill is because from the very beginning the unions said they were willing to sit down and talk and negotiate to make concessions to help with the budget problems. Walker refused. Negotiating a solution is not what he wants. What he wants is to strip the unions of their negotiating rights because that's where he is philosophically and the budget problems give him the cover he needed. Or so he thinks.

If Walker needed concessions from the unions they were unwilling to make, stripping them of their negotiating rights might have had some sympathetic supporters as a last resort. But Walker made it the first resort not the last. He doesn't want concessions from the union because that would take away his excuse for busting them. And that is the whole point. And the same is true with John Kasich in Ohio. Its about busting unions and using the budget problems which, by the way were the result of 8 years of incompetent Republican fiscal policy as the excuse.

Its nice to see Democrats in Wisconsin doing something that national Democrats seem to have lost the stomach or the will to do -- fight for something that they believe in without compromise and make it stick.

Congressional Democrats folded when it came to Obama's concessions to Republicans on the tax deal that added $800 billion to the deficit. They folded on Obama's sell out to Republicans in dropping the public option on healthcare. They folded on every sell out Obama made and they paid the price last November. So it's novel to see Democrats in Wisconsin refusing to budge on an issue that is clearly an attempt to use economic problems as an excuse to bust unions.

Senate Democrats in Wisconsin need to continue to stay away. Let the deadline pass and call Walkers bluff. And if Walker has to lay off workers let him do it. Then the Democrats can do something in Wisconsin that Obama and congressional Democrats seem to have been unable to do for the last two years -- hold Republicans accountable for their own actions and the mess they always seem to create.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Obama plays Where's Waldo on Libya.

Is Obama taking my advice and getting it wrong?

A few weeks ago at the height of the Egyptian protests I wrote a piece here titled "Egypt: Why Obama should just shut up".

The piece highlighted all of Obama's statements during the Egyptian protests, their essential emptiness and the constant vacillation, one minute siding with the protestor's demands, the next minute supporting the idea of Mubarak staying in power till elections in September. He didn't seem to know where he stood and I commented that it was his chronic lack of principle and conviction on just about everything that left him in a lurch as to what to do.

He received a lot of criticism and accusations that he would be remembered for being on the wrong side of history for not staunchly supporting the protestors and a swift transition from Mubarak to a new government from the very beginning, a position he tried to claim he held privately all along in a leak to friendly reporters at the New York Times.

But during the Egyptian uprising absent a clear position, I suggested he was doing more harm than good with his vague and vacillating statements and it would be better if he just said nothing.

With the uprisings in Libya which have turned bloody, and more demonstrations in Iran, in contrast to
Egypt when he was making statements on a regular basis, Obama has been strangely silent on Libya and the unrest in Iran.

No speeches, no appearances at a podium, no grand pretentious "we have borne witness to history", statements, no nothing even though history is also being made in Libya.  So far there has just been a statement from Hillary Clinton that violence against the Libyan people is "completely unacceptable", whatever that means, since "unacceptable" usually means the party doing the unaccepting is going to act and actually do something as a result of it being unacceptable.

Either way Obama acted like Gaddifi ordering the military to open fire on protesting Libyans wasnt historical enough or worthy of a statement of principle which once again reaffirms the idea that Obama doesnt have any. ( see the note below for the White House excuse for why Obama didnt make a statement -- an excuse which once again, has backfired).

Perhaps Obama feels chastised by what happened in Egypt where no matter what he said he ended up on the wrong end. Even his calculated leak to the NY Times after Mubarak stepped down blew up in his face since he let it be known he was "furious" about statements from the State Department and VP Biden that the transition in Egypt should be gradual when he himself supposedly supported a swift transition,  only to learn the following day that the Egyptian military rejected a swift transition and that it would be the gradual transition Clinton and others in the State Department publicly supported until there are elections in September.

So Obama may have been licking his wounds over Egypt and keeping quiet while the events in Libya have been dramatic.

To date two members of the Libyan air force defected to Malta rather than follow orders to fire on protesting Libyans and two members of Gaddiffi's government including the Libyan ambassador to the UN has either resigned or come out against him.  It was also learned that two air force pilots bailed out and let their bomber crash rather than follow Gaddiffi's orders to bomb the Libyan oil fields. Obama had nothing to say about any of it.

Again he gives the appearance of someone just not knowing what to do. And after being personally criticized no matter which side he took during the Egyptian revolution, he now seems afraid to come out and make any statements at all in the wake of the history making events in Libya, regardless of the now absurd looking excuses the White House gave for his silence.  More like has been the fear of  again looking like someone with no real clarity or conviction.  But his silence has damaged American foreign policy and it's standing in the world.

Adding to the strange silence is that Obama has been upstaged by the President of Peru, Alan Garcia who announced that Peru was severing diplomatic ties with Libya over the use of force against the demonstrators. The same was announced by the government of Botswanna and French president Sarkozy is proposing harsh sanctions by the EU against Libya. All while Obama continues to play "Where's Waldo"  with his policies dealing with the events in Libya.

 Late Wednesday president Obama finally made a statement on Libya that news organizations were characterizing as "Obama breaks silence on Libya". The end of Obama's Garbo act produced the kind of statement that shows  that maybe he didnt learn anything from Egypt after all. He said nothing that needed saying or that anyone not in a coma didnt already know. He called Libyan police firing on demonstrators and killing hundreds, "outrageous and unacceptable" ( is this guy the conscience of the country or what?). He said that the United States is " doing all we can". (He said the same thing 2 days after the Gulf oil spill). And he said, "the whole world is watching". But he didnt say on which channel. We were also told the reason for why he didnt say anything sooner -- he didnt want to endanger US citizens in Libya. As if Gaddiffy at this point would take Americans hostage or worse.

Underscoring the absurdity of the White House claim that Obama waited to make his statement  until Americans were able to leave Libya so as not to put American lives in Libya at risk is the fact that these Americans still haven't left. Bad weather has been blamed for preventing the ferry carrying those Americans from leaving Libya, so a day after Obama's remarks they are still there.Maybe Obama needs to hire a meterologist as one of his foreign policy advisors.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Obama plays domestic politics with Egypt and it backfires.

An article in Sunday's New York Times is recounting how Obama was "furious" about mixed messages  coming out of the State Department over the revolution in Egypt as it occurred. This "leak" to the media trying to paint Obama as something that he isn't and wasn't, which is a decisive leader who wanted the administration message to be firmly on the side of the protestors but was undermined by his own State Department is Obama, not at his worst since he has been far more duplicitous, dishonest and deceitful about more important issues like healthcare, but perhaps at his most petty.

Leaks like this do not happen by accident. Obama wanted the story to get out now that any seeming support of Mubarak during the revolt leading up to his resignation was not his idea and that he was always firmly on the side of the protestors demands that Mubarak leave.

The outright lie of that position could be read right here, when, in an article called " Egypt: Why Obama Should Just Shut Up", at the height of the revolt, I commented how Obama's statements were not only contradictory but virtually empty, one minute seeming to side with the demonstrators, the next with Mubarak and not having any clear idea which way to go. I commented at the time that this was the result of who Obama is -- someone with no convictions and no principles, something he has demonstrated his entire political life on almost every issue in which he played a part.

Ostensibly no one was twisting his arm or putting words in his mouth when he made such empty, vague and/or contradictory statements. His statement about how "transition" must happen "now" said nothing about what that transition was to be. Presumably if he meant it he had the capacity to say that Mubarak should step down. But he never did. Now according to the information "leaked" to the New York Times by nameless Obama sycophants in the White House to their sycophantic partners at the Times, we are supposed to believe that Obama supported the protestors all along and that he was "furious" and "unhappy" with statements from Biden, and especially Frank Wisner, his envoy to Cairo who made statements to the effect that Mubarak was "indispensable to any transition" and was echoed by Hillary Clinton who stated that transition would take time, while Obama was saying things should happen "now".

Except Obama never said in any statement what form the transition should take "now", and it seemed at the time that when Obama made his statement, which came after a degree of power was given to Egypt's vice president and parliament had been disbanded that some kind of a transition had taken place. The problem was that wasn't good enough for the demonstrators who demanded Mubarak resign and never once did Obama publicly take that position. Now we are supposed to believe that he took that position privately all along.

This is Obama simply trying to save face, trying to claim this is what he meant and wanted all along even though his public statements were to the contrary. He is trying to save face because during the height of the revolt when he was clearly trying to play both ends against the middle, unsure of the outcome and wanting to be sure he was on the winning side, his responses were tepid, lukewarm or empty and contradictory, the product of a president with no real convictions or principles to guide him, and many people were saying that when all was said and done and Mubarak was replaced Obama would be regarded as having been on the wrong side of history especially by the Egyptians themselves who finally forced Mubarak out.

Now Obama is trying to rewrite history by having it "leaked" that somehow the mixed messages coming out the White House were not his fault and not his doing, that they were the result of the Vice President, Special envoy to Cairo, the Secretary of State and others in the State Department just wandering off on their own making uncoordinated statements regarding policy in the midst of the biggest revolution ever seen in the middle east.

If you believe that, you must have supported Obama for the Democratic nomination while buying pieces of the Brooklyn Bridge Obama sold you ( as for the general election no Republican was going to get elected after 8 years of Bush).

Obama was on the wrong side of history in not supporting the demonstrators unequivocally and trying to figure out a way to persuade Mubarak to leave ( like offering him any number of face saving alternatives). In the end Mubarak cut off communication with Obama who he clearly found useless, and the demonstrators, who found Obama equally useless, finally accomplished their goal.

The New York Times reporters, perhaps channeling Judith Miller, were showing their bias and unreliability by claiming that "Obama was caught between his idealism and pragmatism": And what idealism was that?  His idealism that caused him to sell out the public option to healthcare lobbyists in a backroom deal? His idealism that made speeches about how "every voice must be heard" while doing everything he could during the Democratic primary to silence the voices of almost 2 million voters in Florida and Michigan because they voted against him? The idealism that, while Iranian demonstrators were being shot in the street by Ahamdinejad he took the position that he " didn't want to meddle"?

What has become ironic as well as amusing is that Obama's attempt to rewrite history has backfired. His "leak" that he supported the demonstrators demands all along that the transition be swift has put him in a very awkward position. Because the Egyptian military has just announced that it is rejecting the demands of protestors for a swift transfer of power and immediate elections and will rule by decree and martial law until elections are held in September when power will be transferred to a civilian authority. In other words they have decided on a gradual transition not a swift one. The gradual one advocated by Biden, Frank Wisner and Hillary Clinton.

So now we will see how "furious" Obama gets with the Egyptian military, we will see what statements he makes demanding that the transfer of power happen "now", that elections happen "now", and we will see what statements Obama makes rejecting the military ruling by decree until elections are held in September.

 Just dont hold your breath waiting. Obama is probably now in his chair in the Oval Office, contemplating the decision by the military after his "leak" ran on the front page of Sunday's New York Times, and he is muttering,"shit".

Obama is now caught in a web of his own deceit because of his efforts to try and make himself look good, trying to shift the blame from himself and his own lack of principles and leadership to others and trying  to pretend a "swift transition" was what he was pushing for all along. But now ironically, it is the judgement of others that Obama was trashing to the New York Times just two days ago,  that has become and will be the reality in Egypt not the "swift transition" Obama was trying to claim was his desire all along. And along with it, we also see how the New York Times,still acting as Obama sycophants,has been  transformed from the "paper of record" to a broken record.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Celebrating Reagan: the lies, the myths and the catastrophies

Republicans, conservatives and the ever compliant press are now engaging in a an exercise in nostalgia, fabrication and a rewriting of both history and reality in celebration of Ronald Reagan's 100th birthday. How fitting.

That Reagan remains the standard bearer for conservative Republicans, especially conservative candidates and members of congress is all too appropriate. It is also appropriate that Barrack Obama let it be known through his press secretary that he was reading Reagan's biography. Because once the PR and the lies are washed away, what is left is a president who made some of the most catastrophic, costly and incomprehensibly stupid decisions in the history of the United States, and at least two of them were mistakes that the country is still paying for and paying dearly.

I would be the first to admit that Reagan was as affable a fellow as there has been in the White House. And I don't believe there was an insincere bone in his body. But there continues to be a kind of infantile dishonesty surrounding Reagan and his presidency perpetrated by Republicans, not Reagan himself, and then regurgitated by pandering journalists like Candy Crowley and Wolf Blitzer on CNN just to name two who continue to pander to Republican PR and a rewriting of history that Reagan was both an extraordinarily popular and effective president. Reagan as a symbol stems from the fact that he succeeded in getting elected as an unabashed conservative and so has become some kind of role model for conservative and Republican politicians,. The problem is Reagan and his policies were a disaster for the country.

As for his much ballyhood popularity it should be noted that Bill Clinton on the day he was impeached by the Republican majority in the House scored a job approval rating of 66%, something Reagan never approached. And of course there remains the Republican hoax that Reagan was responsible for the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Believing that Reagan was responsible for the Soviet collapse is like thinking that the rooster's crowing is what brings the sun up in the morning. The Soviet Union imploded under the weight of its own failed ideology and that happened because of the policies of every president since Harry Truman, every dollar in taxes paid by every American since 1946 and because of every member of the armed forces who served from 1946 until the Soviet Union collapsed. And if there was any one single individual who was instrumental in the Soviet collapse it was Mikhail Gorbechev who recognized that the Soviet Union could not sustain itself and orchestrated the reforms, not Reagan.

When it came to the U.S. economy, Reagan's policies were derisively called "Reaganomics" and it was an unmitigated failure. It was even derided by his future vice presidential running mate George HW Bush who called Reagan's economic ideas "voodoo economics". The "trickle down" theory that if you cut taxes of the wealthy the benefits trickle down to the peons below was a disaster. It didn't work with Reagan and it had catastrophic consequences for the economy when George W. Bush applied the same idea with his reckless tax cuts that destroyed the balanced budget, destroyed the surpluses left by Clinton and sent the country into the worst deficits and economic collapse since the Depression. That is also part of Reagan's legacy.

During the 1988 presidential campaign there was only one candidate who warned of the growing deficits left by Reagan and only one candidate that said that " we can't continue living on a government credit card". And it was not a darling of the Tea Party. It was Democratic candidate Michael Dukakis. And his advice was ignored by Republicans and George HW Bush who continued much of Reagan's failed policies until he realized he had to go back on his pledge of :"read my lips - no new taxes". It spelled the end of Bush's presidency.

But the worst and most catastrophic decisions of Reagan's presidency were foreign policy decisions that we are still paying for today and displayed probably the worst judgement of any president of any that had preceded him.

First, in 1982, Israel sent fighters into Iraq and took it upon themselves to bomb and destroy the nuclear facility being built by Sadaam Hussein. At the time the entire world community condemned Israel for the attack and so did Reagan. The United Nations condemned the attack and Reagan, issued instructions for the US to vote yes on the UN resolution condemning Israel for the "act of aggression" against Sadaam, an act that less than 10 years later the world will be thankful was carried out.

And the reason for Reagan's condemnation of Israel at the time was because of his blind alliance with none other than Sadaam Hussein. Sadaam was at war with Iran, an avowed enemy of the U.S. and Reagan, applying the Arab philosophy that the enemy of my enemy is my friend, supported Sadaam. And he did it in a way that was as incomprehensibly stupid a decision as has probably ever been made in American foreign policy. Because it was Reagan who gave Sadaam his biological and chemical weapons.

Sadaam received weapons grade anthrax from Reagan in the form of starter cultures so he could grow more of his own. He received other chemical and biological weapons help including, many believe, the mustard gas that Saddaam used to kill 60,000 of his own people.And when Sadaam used the mustard gas to kill 60,000 men, women and children, the Great Communicator as Reagan was called, communicated nothing.

There can be no rationale, no excuse, no foreign policy that could ever justify the United States aiding and abetting the proliferation of WMD to anyone much less a proven mad man like Sadaam Hussein. And the fact that it was Reagan who gave Saddaam his biological and chemical weapons starter kits is not something you will hear from Sarah Palin or Newt Gingrich when they talk about Reagan. What do you think they would be saying now or then for that matter had it been a Democratic president who gave Sadaam his WMD?

The fact that it happened under Reagan and was ordered by him, is nothing you will hear about when conservatives start bellowing and getting teary eyed about Reagan's virtues. Which re-enforces even further the truth that conservatives have no real values or principles, just dishonest political slogans designed to bamboozle people to win elections. Something they have in common with Obama.And the fact that it was Reagan who gave Sadaam his WMD probably wont be mention either by those courageous souls we call political journalists. After all they are not going to want to spoil the party with the truth.

Reagan's decision was a foreign policy catastrophe we are paying for to this day. Had Sadaam not had WMD, George W. Bush would not have had the excuse to lie the United States into a war with Iraq using 911 and WMD as the pretext. That war, which has raged on for 8 years can be laid at Reagan's feet as well as George W. Bush.

But there was another catastrophic decision by Reagan, also one we have been paying for ever since,.and are paying for today and one that also re-enforces Republican and conservative dishonesty and hypocrisy, and it regards terrorism.

In 1982 Hezbollah in Lebanon launched a terrorist attack against a US Marine barracks using a truck bomb. It killed over 240 U.S. Marines. Reagan's response was to do what Republicans have called when it relats to Democrats, "cutting and running". Reagan pulled out all US forces in Lebanon as a response to the terrorist attack and did nothing in terms of retaliation. Had it been done by a Democratic president, ut would have set Republicans and conservatives howling about weakness and they would be talking about it to this day. Instead its just one more Reagan decision to sweep under the rug.

There is not an expert in Islamic terrorism anywhere who will not say that it was Reagan's decision to pull out in the face of the Hezbollah attack in Lebanon, that gave the terrorists the idea that America did not have the stomach to fight back against terrorism and that terrorist attacks against America, especially those that produce mass casualties, would succeed in achieving the terrorists political aims of driving the United States out of the middle east.

The country has paid for that Reagan decision ever since, and paid the highest price on Sept 11,2001 which in turn sent American troops into Iraq and Afghanistan where they are still fighting.

Osama Bin Laden did not send those planes into the World Trade Center because he wanted American bombers and ground forces invading Afghanistan, destroying Al-Qaeda sanctuaries and training camps, and making him the most hunted man in the world, forcing him to live on the run. He ordered those attacks because he didn't think there would be that kind of retaliation and he didn't think so because of Reagan's decision to pull out of Lebanon.

Conservatives and Republicans are now complaining that America is no longer in step with Reagan's values and pledge to bring them back. I dont know about his values but America could not take any more of his policies.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Egypt: Why Obama should just shut up.

A day after Obama made what most analysts called even before he made it, a senseless unnecessary public statement on Egypt, the opposite of everything Obama called for has exploded.

From the beginning it was clear that Obama just didnt know what to say and everything he did say turned out wrong.

At first he seemed to support Mubarak while at the same time acknowledging the rights of the Egyptians demonstrators to protest. That angered many Egyptians who wanted Mubarak out immediately and felt Obama and the U.S. were supporting Mubarak. More than one analyst claimed that Obama's position would show him on the wrong side of history.

Then the demonstrations escalated, became violent and Obama seemed to reverse his position without saying so, saying that the transition in Egypt should happen now.  It was Obama once again talking out of both sides of his mouth and managing to alienate everyone. Obviously the demonstrators no longer trusted him and now Mubarak doesnt trust him and practically said as much in an interview with ABC News where Mubarak said Obama doesnt understand Egyptian culture.

Analysts and journalists were virtually unanimous is their feeling that there was no reason for Obama to make the statement that he did the second time, saying that there must be a transition now. What does that mean? He did not say Mubarak should step down now, even though presumably he knows how to mouth those words. So if he isnt calling for Mubarak to step down now which is what the demonstrators want, what exactly is he calling for?
In his February 1st statement, Obama said, " it is my belief that a transition in Egypt must be meaningful, peaceful and it must happen now".

No one knows what kind of transition he is talking about, nor what "meaningful" is supposed to mean.

Obama had a 30 minute phone conversation with Mubarak prior to his statement,  but whatever was said, only a few hours later, pro Mubarak demonstrators were on the streets throwing Molotov cocktails.

These are the same people Richard Engle of NBC News said he had witnessed over the years stuffing ballot boxes for Mubarak in rigged elections. They were trucked to the sites of the demonstrations and began throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails. Automatic weapons fire could also be heard and there have been reports of serious injuries. All at the hands of Mubarak and his "supporters".

So what is the U.S. position? That Mubarak step down now as the demonstrators want? If so Obama refuses to say so in so many words. It is for the "orderly transition" Mubarak wants with elections in November? What does "now" mean for Obama? No one seems to know and Obama isnt saying.

 Obama had every opportunity when the revolt first began to call for Mubarak to step aside and to try and use whatever leverage or influence the U.S. had to see that it happened. Instead the result was a mish mash of a response, saying one thing one day and alienating the demonstrators and saying the opposite the next, this time alienating Mubarak.

In Egypt, the violence is getting worse by the hour.  The cliche ridden statements coming from the White House today "condemning" the violence are almost satirical. And Robert Gibbs in today's press briefing said that "no one a few days ago could have forseen the violence that is taking place now". Really? No one? It was not even considered a possibility?

While no one knows how it will all turn out, the best option for Obama and the events in Egypt, given that his statements and positions have had no positive affects on anyone, and just seems to confuse the U.S. position, is to just shut up.  Since the revolt began we've heard that Obama's statements and positions in support of Mubarak have angered Egyptians on the street. Now supposedly, his statements and positions have angered Mubarak who has given no indication that Obama can influence him at all. So the best thing for Obama now is to just keep quiet. At least then we know he wont make things worse.

UPDATE: President Obama made a new statement on Egypt, today February 4. In it he said that there must be an "orderly transition that must lead to free and fair elections" ( didnt Mubarak say that 5 days ago?) that the transition must be "meaningful" ( but  again, since he didnt say what "meaningful" means, it's meaningless) and that" the future of Egypt must be decided by the Egyptian people". Oh.