Saturday, February 21, 2009

The President's Weekly Address


Perhaps our Secretary of State should have thought a moment before dismissing human rights concerns in China.

Friday, February 20, 2009

If only...

This can be mentioned on CNBC...

"The New York Post" Just Doesn't Get It

On Wednesday, The New York Post printed this cartoon on page 6:


This morning, The Post printed this half-assed apology and offered an explanation of what they think they meant to say:
Wednesday's Page Six cartoon - caricaturing Monday's police shooting of a chimpanzee in Connecticut - has created considerable controversy.

It shows two police officers standing over the chimp's body: "They'll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill," one officer says.

It was meant to mock an ineptly written federal stimulus bill.


But it has been taken as something else - as a depiction of President Obama, as a thinly veiled expression of racism.

This most certainly was not its intent; to those who were offended by the image, we apologize.

However, there are some in the media and in public life who have had differences with The Post in the past - and they see the incident as an opportunity for payback.

To them, no apology is due.
But lest there is any ambiguity about what they did, let us be absolutely clear:

1. Two white policemen, suggesting powerful people who are WHITE people,
2. Shooting (assassination is something I think all of us who love Obama deeply fear)
3. a chimpanzee (an historically dehumanizing racial epithet)
4. while suggesting in the caption that the monkey is the President
5. and implicitly suggesting that killing the monkey is some kind of solution to an ambiguously defined problem.

This is the sort of calumny that existed in Jim Crow days. The reversion to overt expression of this kind of psychological imagery at the beginning of the 21st century is incredibly disturbing.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

America Finally Returns to 21st Century

No really, we are! We're no longer telling the rest of the world that being queer is a crime! Ya think?

Taliban's Terror, Awami National Party and "Frontier Gandhi"

Crossposted at MyDD and at MotleyMoose

Some recent attempts in liberal blogs like MyDD to sweeten Taliban's implementation of Shari'ah in Swat valley had perplexed me. I wrote this in a comment to Lotus Bloom's MyDD diary. It also allowed me to correct some of the mistakes that crept in the comment and expand it a bit. I never intended this to be a diary but the comment turned out to be a long ramble...
Maulana Fazlullah and Sufi Muhammed belonged to Jamait-e-Ulema-e-Islami-Pakistan (JUIP) which was created and sponsored by Punjabi led Pakistan Govt. They were supported as a counterweight to the more secular Awami National Party, which is a Pushtoon nationalist party. Incidently JUIP supported the Islamist coalition Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal. MMA's leader Faz-ul-Rahman had been a Benazir Bhutto(who incidently a Sindhi) supporter in the 90s. This same person was resoundly defeated in 2008 election. My reference is the book by Neomatollah Noujumi's Rise of Taliban In Afghanistan (pp 119-120)

Now what happened in 2008? Despite massive terror created by Taliban outfits in support of MMA, ANP won all hands down in NWFP and MMA, and the Islamist coalition suffered major defeats in the election. Since 2007 the Talibans had created massive terror, especially in Swat valley where Radio Mullah (Fazlullah) created a parallel Govt. From 2008, it directly challenged Awami National Party's rule. They have publicly beheaded hundreds of policemen, killed and chased away ANP politicians, burnt scores of girl schools. Their insurgency had led to the fleeing of one-third of 1.5 million Swat valley population from the Valley itself.

What is going on is nothing but a massive power grab by Taliban and overturn of people's democratic wishes.

In legislative elections a year ago, the people of Swat, a region that is about the size of Delaware and has 1.3 million residents, voted overwhelmingly for the secular Awami National Party. Since then, the Taliban have singled out elected politicians with suicide bomb attacks and chased virtually all of them from the valley. Several hundred thousand residents have also fled the fighting.

Also not everybody is elated like the person quoted in LB's diary.

Pakistani legal experts and other analysts warned that the decision by the authorities would embolden militants in other parts of the country. "This means you have surrendered to a handful of extremists," said Athar Minallah, a leader of a lawyers' movement that has campaigned for an independent judiciary. "The state is under attack; instead of dealing with them as aggressors, the government has abdicated." Shuja Nawaz, the author of "Crossed Swords," a book on the Pakistani military, said that with the accord, "the government is ceding a great deal of space" to the militants.

NYTimes Article

The decision by Pakistan's government appeared aimed at appeasing followers of a radical cleric, Maulana Qazi Fazlullah, who in late 2007 seized control of the scenic Swat Valley. For months, Faz- lullah's fighters have been terrorizing residents of Swat by beheading police officers and burning down girls schools, to which they object on religious grounds. Death threats are routinely handed down by the militants, who use illicit radio broadcasts to dictate Taliban-style social mores.


Monday's deal allows for the imposition of Islamic law in the former tourist resort of Swat and surrounding districts in exchange for an end to a brutal insurgency that has killed hundreds and sent up to 1/3 of its 1.5 million people fleeing. A similar deal in Swat last year collapsed in a few months and was blamed for giving insurgents time to regroup.

Even folks with Swat valley roots living in America are feeling the brunt of their terror as noted in this recent NYTimes article.

Pakistani immigrants from the Swat Valley, where the Taliban have been battling Pakistani security forces since 2007, say some of their families are being singled out for threats, kidnapping and even murder by Taliban forces, who view them as potential American collaborators and lucrative sources of ransom. Some immigrants also say they, too, have been threatened in the United States by the Taliban or its sympathizers, and some immigrants say they have been attacked or kidnapped when they have returned home.

Lastly the genesis of this conflict lies in the Pakistan's ruling political class and the Army which is dominated by Punjabi and Sindhi feudal gentry and a man named Ghaffar Khan or Frontier Gandhi. We hear a lot about how British were triumphed by Pashtuns who viciously defeated the British Indian Army. However that is not altogether true. British-Indian Army soundly defeated Afghans and virtually dictated the terms of Rawalpindi agreement in 1919.
What happened afterwards is important and somehow neglected in the Western understanding of the Pashtuns. Pashtuns are almost caricatured as medieval Islamic tribesmen who live in caves. What is neglected in history is the rise of peaceful non-violent movement for independence led by Badshah Khan and his RedShirts (Khudai Khitmadgars), who were heavily influenced by Gandhi's non-violent movement. This non-violent mass movement triumphed the British oppression in the NWFP. At the genesis of Pakistan, Badshah Khan aligned with India and was very upset that Indian National Congress party left them in the lurch, virtually calling it a betrayal of Pashtun folks. The Punjabi Muslims who dominated the Pakistani Government, and the Army, never trusted Badshah Khan and his sons like Wali Khan. They were listed as traitors and Pashtuns are always treated as suspects by the ruling Pakistani class.

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, who makes it clear he doesn’t view Khan as a Pakistani patriot (which Khan really was not, given his quasi-nationalistic ideal of a Pashtun homeland)

Their movement was banned and they were repeatedly jailed. Out of his 98 years of life, Ghaffar Khan (Badshah) had spent 52 of those in jail. ANP or the secular Awami National Party who are now the officially elected party traces back its origin to the Khans (ANP was founded by Gaffar Khan). No wonder, the Pakistani Govt was supporting the Talibans and their supporters amongst MMA to counterbalance the popularity of ANP amongst Pashtuns. The Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan, Pashtun refugees and Zbigniew Brzezinski's Grand Chessboard Game allowed the Pakistan Govt and Army then led by Zia-ul-Haq to directly expand their influence over Pashtuns and increase Pakistan's Strategic Depth to Afghanistan. The identity of Islam was used to triumph over nationalistic Pashtun identity or other tribal allegiences. Of course, the immediate urgency of the defeat of the near enemy, Soviet Russia, made it easier to unite under the banner of Islam. Thus the rise of fundamentalist Mujahids, Talibans and the rest is history. Wali Khan's wrote a very interesting book called "Facts are Facts" that I hope to find and read one day...
Obama's path to winning over Pashtuns lies not through Pakistani Govt or Pakistani Army but by following the path trailblazed by Badshah Khan and his band of followers. Unfortunately most of American intelligentsia are enamored or suckered in by the Pakistan Government's version of history. Yesterday I was amazed how Dr. Rachel Maddow was taken up by the fools tale from Brzezinski. If nothing, I would recommend Obama's Afghan-Pakistan policy team to at least view this documentary by Terri McLuhan "The Frontier Gandhi: Badshah Khan a Torch of Peace".
"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." George Santayana

Wherein CNBC Jumps the Shark

Did y'all see this hot mess on CNBC this morning?

OK, so that's not exactly what happened... But it's not too far off.

I’m sure some of you have heard or seen the absolute RANT by one of CNBC’s on air personalities, Rick Santellil. Rick, probably the biggest corporate and wealth whore next to Larry Kudlow and the "money honeys" went on about a five minute rant right in the middle of the Chicago trading floor about Pres Obama’s housing proposal and how Obama’s just giving hard earned tax money away to people who are essentially welfare kings and queens, you know, anyone make less than Santelli and all his rich buddies. He then turned to a group of traders and asked basically if they wanted their hard earned tax dollars to go to their neighbor who has one more bathroom than they do in their house and won’t pay their mortgage. If you asked that question to 100 people, 99 would probably respond just like the guys actually did respond...boos and yelling. He then turned to the camera like Tony Montana, held up his hands and then yelled to the camera "President Obama are you listening". Obviously the way he phrased the question he knew the response that he was going to get.

Basically, this has confirmed a suspicion I've had for quite a long time. CNBC has become nothing more than "Faux News Lite" with occasional "business news". I used to appreciate their financial reporting, but now I hardly ever watch that network. Why? All they ever do these days is parrot GOP talking points!

At least "The Real Housewives" don't pretend to be anything more than socialites and socialite-wannabes. CNBC, on the other hand, pretends to be a legitimate "news network". So why has Rick Santelli been going all over the teevee channels today to trash President Obama's mortgage plan?

Now don't get me wrong, I certainly have no problem with questioning authority. Honestly I myself may agree with this New York Times editorial that President Obama's mortgage plan may not be enough, as it helps the homeowners fast approaching foreclosure but not the homeowners with "upside-down mortgages" who aren't that much farther. Nonetheless, I can't stomach any more of the lies from the CNBC talking heads! Obama's plan is not "welfare for lazy people", and it doesn't "redistribute wealth to people who can't afford it". Again, we need to be doing MORE to prevent further collapse of the housing market, not less!

So if you're as sick and tired of the right-wing hijack of CNBC as I am, please let them know.

900 Sylvan Avenue
Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey 07632
United States

CNBC Viewer Services:

CNBC "Customer Support" Email Page

And as long as they keep pulling this crap, stick to Bloomberg for financial news. At least they report it instead of trying to make it.

Health Care is a Priority for OMB Director Peter Orszag

Here's some very good news about what could be in store from the Obama administration.

Peter Orszag, the director of Obama's Office of Management and Budget, was seen as a key figure in negotiating the bailout compromise. Known as an academic, Washington insiders were surprised by how effective he was. But the most exciting about Peter Orszag is that he is dedicated to health care reform. From Ben Smith's Budget to kick off health care:

And the bill spends more than $1 billion on Orszag's pet cause, research on the effectiveness of medical practices, which he sees as an opening to reforming American health care through sheer analytical will.

So we're already getting the benefit of his expertise and interest in health care. And apparently there is more to come:

He's signaling that the moves in the stimulus package are just a hint of what's to come in a budget that will begin in earnest the arduous process of health care reform.

"What has already been accomplished is a huge start toward a more efficient [health care] system, and I think you're going to see more in the budget next week," he told Politico.

Even more promising is his view of health care, Social Security, Medicare, and budget priorities:

Orszag's other key agenda item next week will be an effort to change the debate on Medicare and Social Security.

Orszag's long-running project -- something that has made him the left's favorite Cabinet member -- has been replacing talk of an "entitlement crisis" with his argument that Social Security requires only modest tax hikes and benefit cuts, while Medicare and Medicaid have much more dramatic fiscal woes.

"Social Security faces an actuarial deficit over the next 75-100 years. In the past, I've resisted the term `crisis' to describe that kind of situation," he said. "This is not quantitatively as important as getting health care done."

Hooray! Orszag doesn't just understand the number crunching, he understands the importance of framing the debate in the proper terms in order to control the dialog and push forth an agenda. Health care is my number one issue this is exactly what I'm hoping for in the Obama administration. I have very high hopes for what can be accomplished with Orszag running the OMB.

Broderella's Soap Opera Continues

Is this pathetic or is this pathetic?

Take the Money?

Wow. Some GOP Governors just don't get it. Or do they? Whatever their "political skill", it seems they're willing to put politics ahead of people's lives by rejecting stimulus funds (only to likely be overriden by the state legislatures).

Too bad they have the "luxury" to say no. Want to give that extra money to save California from total catastrophe?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Why Don't Republicans Represent Republicans Better?

That's what I'd like to know.

Another Bailout for GM?

I guess? To save jobs? But wait, why is GM saying it plans to cut more jobs? And produce more of the cars that we don't want? How about them making some responsible choices before we give them more money?

Is Obama Changing His Tune on Torture?

Glenn Greenwald has some good (if alarming and really bad) food for thought.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Tough Question

Does Roland Burris need to leave the Senate for good?

And in other news...

California's about to go bankupt. Yippee.

ACTION ALERT: Tell Obama to Keep His Word on Social Security & Medicare!

UPDATE: Jane Hamsher's also reporting this at FDL, so this isn't a "silly rumor" anymore. This is serious, so let's go work those phones & keyboards!

For everyone who thought I was some insane "boy crying wolf" yesterday, this should prove them wrong. Just as I warned and many folks "in the know" had previously reported, President Obama may be open to supporting the creation of an commission that could force some undemocratic, unfair, and unstimulative proposals including cuts to Social Security and Medicare.

However, President Obama still says on the White House web site that he opposes the very measures that supporters of this "fiscal responsibility commission" support, like raising the retirement age and any type of privatization effort. So what are we to believe? We need for the White House to clarify to us and to the entire nation what they intend to do on "entitlement reform".

Please email the White House here or call them at 202-456-1111! And if you need any ideas on what to say, please let my comments inspire you.

Dear White House,

I am quite disturbed by this new report that the White House is considering a very undemocratic proposal that would force Congress into an "up-or-down vote" on legislation that could end up weakening Social Security and Medicare.

Is this true? Is President Obama considering supporting cuts to Social Security and Medicare? And is he changing his mind on privatization? We need to know.

My father depends on his Social Security and Medicare to just get by. It would be awfully unfair to "balance the budget" on the backs of seniors and disabled people like my dad, and it would be counterproductive to the President's goal of stimulating the economy. Please, please let us know that the President will not allow the theft of Social Security and Medicare funds in the name of "fiscal responsibility". That would not be responsible in any way, and I hope this is the message we soon hear from President Obama.

On "Populism"

It looks like the GOP is trying to rebrand itself as "populist". So what should we do? How about offering some popular solutions of our own? How about health care? Employee free choice, anyone?

Monday, February 16, 2009

History Lesson, Anyone?

No wonder why the corporate media just don't get it. Try asking them about Sir Winston Churchill. No wonder why they never bothered to ask Bush how exactly he was like Truman.

Finally, Some Good Ideas for Saving the Economy!

James Galbraith is actually one of those economists who understands economics. Go figure! So really, it's a relief to see he's thinking up good ideas for real stimulus.

– make aid to states and localities flexible and open-ended. The goal should be to stop all cuts in public services and layoffs of staff. States and localities should be offered a simple deal: no service cuts and no changes in tax rates. In exchange, the federal government will cover the gap in their revenue for the duration. Alternatively, the federal government could simply offer general revenue sharing on a per capita basis.

– establish and fund a full-fledged National Infrastructure Fund with the capacity to finance and to coordinate public investment projects on an ongoing basis. Congress would therefore largely delegate decisions over the type of local capital investment, including school construction which was cut from the Senate bill for no defensible reason.

– increase Social Security benefits across the board. The purchasing power of the elderly as a group is now gravely eroded by the collapse of stock market values, and the policymaking community needs to realize that the grand experiment in funding retirements via the stock market is ending. For the future we will need more Social Security, not less. And that means that the historic political link between Social Security benefits and the revenues from the payroll tax should be suspended.

– declare a full payroll tax holiday for the duration of the crisis. A holiday has advantages over the credit scheme, as it can be implemented at once for all workers and employers. The holiday could be made subject to a trigger, so that when the economy does begin to recover rapidly, part of the tax can be restored.

– pursue the foreclosure moratorium just announced, establishing the equivalent of a Home Owners Loan Corporation to deal with troubled mortgages, via renegotiation or conversion to rentals. This can be done, largely, through Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Federal Reserve Board, but it will require sufficient staff to inspect and supervise mortgages at the retail level. Apart from this, and the ongoing nationalization of commercial paper markets, there isn't much more to expect from the Federal Reserve at this point.

Why can't the media give folks like him who get it right more of the attention he deserves?

President Obama, Please Don't F*ck Up Our Social Security

This frightens me. I'm sorry, but I just can't ignore it any longer. I need to ask this question. Is President Obama considering privatizing Social Security and/or Medicare?

Ever since I read Dean Baker's last HuffPo diary, I've been worrying.

Word has it that President Obama intends to appoint a task force the week after next which will be charged with "reforming" Social Security. According to inside gossip, the task force will be led entirely by economists who were not able to see the $8 trillion housing bubble, the collapse of which is giving the country its sharpest downturn since the Great Depression. [...]

[...] Due to the reckless policies of the Rubin-Greenspan-Bush clique, this cohort has just seen [baby boomers'] housing equity wiped out with the collapse of the housing bubble. Tens of millions of baby boomers who might have felt reasonably secure three years ago are now approaching retirement with little or no equity in their homes. [...]

In short, the vast majority of baby boomers will be approaching retirement with little other than their Social Security and Medicare to support them. And now President Obama is apparently prepared to appoint a commission that will attack these only remaining pillars of support.

It is especially infuriating that this task force is likely to headed up by economists who somehow could not see an $8 trillion housing bubble. The incompetence of such economists has inflicted enormous pain on billions of people around the world. However, unlike people who fail in other professions, economists who mess up on the job just get promoted so that they can do even more harm.

And if that's not scary enough, take a look at William Greider's story at AlterNet!

Governing elites in Washington and Wall Street have devised a fiendishly clever "grand bargain" they want President Obama to embrace in the name of "fiscal responsibility." The government, they argue, having spent billions on bailing out the banks, can recover its costs by looting the Social Security system. They are also targeting Medicare and Medicaid. The pitch sounds preposterous to millions of ordinary working people anxious about their economic security and worried about their retirement years. But an impressive armada is lined up to push the idea--Washington's leading think tanks, the prestige media, tax-exempt foundations, skillful propagandists posing as economic experts and a self-righteous billionaire spending his fortune to save the nation from the elderly.

These players are promoting a tricky way to whack Social Security benefits, but to do it behind closed doors so the public cannot see what's happening or figure out which politicians to blame. The essential transaction would amount to misappropriating the trillions in Social Security taxes that workers have paid to finance their retirement benefits. This swindle is portrayed as "fiscal reform." In fact, it's the political equivalent of bait-and-switch fraud.

Oh yes, none other than Mr. "IOUSA", Republican billionaire Peter Peterson, is out on a mission to finish what George W. Bush started in destroying the bedrock American social safety net. And why is he out to take away working people's right to a poverty-free retirement? Bascially, he and his fellow "market fundamentalist" buddies hate The New Deal. They hate the fact that "socialist" policies have kept the American capitalist system intact, so they're out to dismantle our social safety net so they can have their laissez-faire nirvana.

But why is President Obama cozying up to this? Hasn't he promised us that he will protect Social Security and Medicare? Yes, he has. So why are we even talking about this "fiscal responsibility summit" that's nothing more than a radical right scheme in disguise? That's what we need to know.

Now's a good time for us to contact President Obama and our members of Congress, before any "fiscal responsibility" ponzi scheme takes hold. Again, we need to remind them that they work for us, not the "Broder-Friedman media establishment". We defeated Bush's privatization program in 2005, and we can defeat it again in 2009. With so many other crises to tackle, like health care and climate change, there's no reason to rush into the non-crisis of Social Security & Medicare.

We elected President Obama & the new Congress on the promise that they will bring change to Washington. So why should we let Washington change them? Let's remind them who they're working for and what kind of change we want to see on "entitlement reform".

Saturday Night Live: Is It Too Soon to Impeach Obama?

Woman misses plane and breaks down hysterically crying

Reuters reports:
A Chinese woman who freaked out at Hong Kong's international airport after missing her flight has hit the big time on YouTube after her hysterics were filmed and uploaded to the video sharing website.
The article says the woman was able to catch a later flight.

President Clinton interviewed on the "Today Show"

The President makes clear that Obama is cleaning up Bush's mess and that there would not have been a mess if Clinton had been the president during the last eight years.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Survey of Historians Ranks the Presidents

C-Span invited 65 historians and observers of the presidency to rank the presidents of the United States. Perennial greatest president of all time, Abraham Lincoln, continues to hold first place in their estimation. Franklin Roosevelt and George Washington always seem to vie for second place, and while Roosevelt held the number two spot in 2000, he has exchanged places with Washington in this year's survey: Washington now is number two. Here are the ranking of the presidents; note the position of the Prince Idiot, whom I have placed in bold; a little more on the Moron-in-Chief's contribution after the list:

1. Abraham Lincoln
2. George Washington
3. Franklin D. Roosevelt
4. Theodore Roosevelt
5. Harry S. Truman
6. John F. Kennedy
7. Thomas Jefferson
8. Dwight D. Eisenhower
9. Woodrow Wilson
10. Ronald Reagan
11. Lyndon B. Johnson
12. James K. Polk
13. Andrew Jackson
14. James Monroe
15. Bill Clinton (Clinton and Monroe are tied in the list)
16. William McKinley
17. John Adams
18. George H. W. Bush
19. John Quincy Adams
20. James Madison
21. Grover Cleveland
22. Gerald R. Ford
23. Ulysses S. Grant
24. William Howard Taft
25. Jimmy Carter
26. Calvin Coolidge
27. Richard M. Nixon
28. James A. Garfield
29. Zachary Taylor
30. Benjamin Harrison
31. Martin Van Buren
32. Chester A. Arthur
33. Rutherford B. Hayes
34. Herbert Hoover
35. John Tyler
36. George W. Bush
37. Millard Fillmore
38. Warren G. Harding
39. William Henry Harrison
40. Franklin D. Pierce
41. Andrew Johnson
42. James Buchanan

Note that only one president of the 20th century, Warren Harding, ranked below George W. Bush. Even Herbert Hoover outpaced the Prince Idiot. From that perspective, it is at least conceivable that a survey of historians at the beginning of the 22nd century well might rank George W. Bush as the 21st century's worst president. And of course, the magnitude of Bush's failure has yet to be measured. If we never recover from the catastrophe that engulfs us, Bush surely will rival James Buchanan for the bottom wrung of the ladder.

Specific areas of Bush's incompetence in the survey included:

Public persuasion: 36th out of 42
Crisis management: 25th out of 42 (just below John Quincey Adams)
Economic management: 40th out of 42 (just one ahead of Herbert Hoover)
Moral authority: 35th out of 42 (he edges out Millard Fillmore)
International relation: 41st out of 42 (Poor William Henry Harrison, who lived just a month is the only one below W.)
Administrative abilities: 37th out of 42 (sandwiched between Grant and Buchanan)
Congressional relations: 36th out of 42 (edges Richard Nixon)
Vision: 25th out of 42 (the luminous visionary Zachary Taylor just barely outpaces him)
Pursued equal justice for all: 24 out of 42 (tied with Grover Cleveland)
Performance with context of times: 36 out of 42 (Fillmore barely beats him)