Friday, May 11, 2012
Thursday, May 10, 2012
Wednesday, May 09, 2012
Check out Chuck Todd, NBC's chief White House correspondent, openly speculating that President Obama is going to embrace same-sex marriage because he needs money from gay people. "Gay money in this election has replaced Wall Street money," he reported. NBC's David Gregory agreed. For some reason, neither man seemed to think this theory reflects poorly on the president.
Then the conventional wisdom shifted. Observers were basing their guesses on the fact that HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan and Vice President Joe Biden had both made statements in support of same-sex marriage. The same-sex-marriage supporters who praised these developments were as quickly dismayed when the White House walked back Biden's statements, insisting that like Obama, Biden's views on the subject were still "evolving," a euphemism that seems to mean they'll favor either marriage equality for gays or discrimination against them depending on their moment-to-moment judgments about what's best for them politically.
Sounds like Mitt Romney's position!
Obama tricked anti-war voters into thinking that he wouldn't order American troops into battle unless there was an imminent threat to America or a declaration of war from Congress, then went to war in Libya, violating the War Powers Resolution, even though neither condition was met.
(CBS News) NEW YORK - It's a stunning revelation in the foiled plot to blow up a U.S.-bound airliner: The triggerman chosen by al Qaeda was actually a double agent who was working for the CIA and Saudi intelligence services.
He delivered the explosive device to U.S. intelligence officials and provided information on the whereabouts of Fahd al Quso, the senior commander of al Qaeda's wing in Yemen, who was killed in a drone strike last weekend. It's an intelligence victory, but it came with a cost.
U.S. intelligence officials faced a difficult decision. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula was looking for a suicide bomber. The target: an American jetliner. The only way for intelligence officials to ensure they controlled the plot was to have their own agent volunteer to be the bomber and then hand the bomb to the CIA. The tradeoff: They would lose a source penetrated deep inside the organization - but they would save lives.
There is a balance that needs to be struck when battling terrorism. Indeed, there are several balances to be struck, from the balance of individual freedoms versus the safety of the citizenry to trading a deep cover source to save lives.
Long-time readers of my writings know that I am foursquare against violating individual rights for gaining temporary security and safety. Terrorism is a transient war, at worst, and at it's best, it becomes almost a thing of parody.
This is not to disrespect the families and co-workers of those who have died in any terror attack anywhere, but apart from a few bombs lobbed at ships and Hummers and one or two lucky strikes on American soil, Al Qaeda has hardly made a dent in our collective-- and I stress, collective-- day to day lives.
You want to understand what real terror is like, talk to anyone who lived in Belfast during The Troubles.
Wars against concepts like drugs, or poverty or terror are wars that cannot be won in a traditional sense, but the nomenclature of "war" helps keep the public supporting it. A war against poverty will not eliminate poverty but it can help those who need a hand, and so long as we don't morph "poverty" into "the poor," as the Republicans have, then we might actually have a working society.
Similarly, a war against terrorism is never going to end terrorism. Even if we wipe out Al Qaeda's operative abilities, there will be other terrorists around, and it won't take long for terrorism to spread once more.
A war against terrorism justifies any number of atrocities, but just focus on the fact that under the Bush Doctrine, we've announced to the world that we will march into any nation if we feel they are harboring some nebulous terror group that might have a grudge against us and be willing to act on it.
We've long had the ability to do just that, but until 2001, we've felt it important to respect the sovereignty of most nations, even if we have broken with that vow on occasion, even publicly.
The war on Iraq and, to a lesser extent have demonstrated even that important restraint can be violated willy-nilly now.
Parallel to this new wrinkle in America's posture is a willingness to look inward and harass and even kill American citizens whom we feel might bear us ill will and act upon it. The more we learn that disrespecting civil rights and individual sovereignty abroad bears few repercussions, the more likely we will turn those guns domestically.
After all, look at what two reasonable men have done since 2001. Now imagine someone far more ideological sitting in the White House. It has happened-- John Adams-- and it will happen again. If you think there isn't a possible outcome where a staunch anti-family autonomy President doesn't sit with a Congress willing to do his dirty work, then you have to re-read American history.
Had the underwear bombing been successful, I have no doubt there would have been increased security measures put in place in US airports, from doubling the number of body scanners and pat-downs at airports to who knows what. We would have lost even more civil freedom in the illusion of safety.
So is sacrificing a deep covers friends, allies, and possibly family, is sacrificing a fount of intelligence gathering, worth that price, a little more freedom?
Tuesday, May 08, 2012
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The face of Indiana politics for nearly four decades, Republican Sen. Richard Lugar is battling for political survival against a tea party-backed GOP challenger who says the senator has become more interested in compromising with liberals in Washington than representing conservatives back home.
You read that right, folks: conservatives have been "compromising" with us.
If you don't think this spells the death of the GOP, I'm not alone in that opinion. Other Republicans seem to acknowledge this.
A Greek political party leader who has vowed to rip up the terms of Greece’s international bailout was handed the mandate to try and form a government after Antonis Samaras of New Democracy failed to forge an agreement.
“This is a great moment for the Left, a great responsibility for me,” Alexis Tsipras, whose Syriza party placed second in May 6 elections, told President Karolos Papoulias in Athens today. Tsipras aims to forge a coalition of “leftist” parties that would overturn current bailout policy.
Greece’s Parliament is split down the middle on whether to renege on the terms of the two bailout agreements negotiated since May 2010. With the risk increasing of instability in Greece, the epicenter of the debt crisis, policy makers in Europe urged Greek leaders to quickly agree on a new government.
Austerity measures work only when you can't increase income. If you have a job and owe a lot of money, it's easier to cut your expenses temporarily than it is to go in and ask for a raise. Austerity measures stop making sense when you can take the money you have (or borrow) and get a better economic return on it than you would by holding the line on expenditures.
That might, and I stress, might, make sense for Greece, whose income has been stagnant for years and who hasn't shown a capacity for growing its way out of debt. A balance of careful investment targets coupled with some moderate shifts in spending might buy that nation enough time to get itself out of trouble.
But take a nation like Spain, which is already lurching towards default: here's an economy that was vibrant and growing before the worldwide housing bubble. Indeed, up to 2005, Spain created over one-half of the net jobs created in all of Europe, and was poised to overtake Germany in leadaing the EU in per capita income.
You know the rest: it's the same story as here in the States. Cheap lending rates, people bought and flipped houses they couldn't afford as they were goaded on by the same nefarious criminals as our Wall Street firms employed.
Shouldn't Spain be spared the austerity whipping? Apparently not, although to be fair the EU has put out signals that it may be more lenient on terms with Spain.
Monday, May 07, 2012
Elected, Sarkozy showed himself to be a canny political card player. There was, for example, “l'ouverture” – Sarkozy's carefully-targeted effort to dismantle the Socialist Party by recruiting some of its brightest lights into Sarkozy's new right-wing government as ministers and senior officials. This cut the Socialist Party's leadership off at the knees, demoralized its membership, appropriated some of its best talent, reframed Sarkozy as a big-tent president who would govern for all the French – and left him perfectly free to pursue his policies exactly as he intended to do, validated by some of his most dangerous opponents. Demonstrating, as has occurred many times in politics in many countries before and since (in Britain, in the fate of the Liberal Democrats, for example), that weaving opponents into your team is an excellent way to defeat them.
However, the collapse of the world financial bubble and then the socialization of its losses (one of the greatest transfers of wealth from the poor to the rich in world history) removed the raison d’être of the Sarkozy presidency. In this, it can be said that France dodged a bullet. The country was lucky that it elected Sarkozy relatively late in the era of the madness of the rentiers. He didn't have time to turn France into, say, Ireland or Iceland. And so France was spared the worst. Sarkozy then attempted to reframe himself as the opposite of himself, but it never rang true. He was never a credible “social market” builder.
Despite his best efforts, Sarkozy could not wheel France around into a mini-America fast enough before the people realized what happened. Vive la France et les Francaise!
Sarkozy leaves behind a mess of xeonophobia, of angry workers and young people, and at best a muddled political party with a flimsy and loosely-knit message to oppose the Socialists.
This sentiment has repercussions far beyond the French borders, of course. As a member of the EU and with Sarkozy one of the most influential figures in that Union, the anti-austerity forces can now point to France as a main reason why attempts to shore up flagging economies by imposing "order and discipline" (read that as tax cuts for the rich and services cuts for everyone else).
Indeed, the concurrent elections in Greece, which brutalized the political centre, reinforce this perception.
Que la France va, ainsi va l'Europe. And as Europe goes, so goes America. Think about it.
After all, it was the French Revolution that truly brought power to the people (the American Revolution brought power to the people who were wealthy white land owners, but that changed after the French Revolution filtered through Europe) which toppled dynasties and empires up and down the continent (eventually) and it was Europe's reaction to the Great Depression that eventually saw America get Social Security and other social programs designed specifically for the working classes.