Category Archives: Obama

Alan Gross’s Mission in Cuba: How Much Did the White House Know?: Newsweek

Alan Gross
Jailed USAID contractor Alan Gross, right, poses for a picture during a visit with Cuban Jewish Community leader Adela Dworin, center, and David Prinstein, vice president, at Havana’s Carlos J Finlay Military Hospital September 28, 2012. REUTERS

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“Isn’t it Rich, Aren’t we a Pair?” The Koch Brothers and Pope Francis

What do we find in our Sunday newspaper this morning? An opinion piece that conflates the Koch brothers and Pope Francis as being on the same page.

The Washington Post

The Washington Post

It is clear, we are told, that the Koch Brothers and the pope (who by golly the writers have met) are fighting the same fight–the “preferential option for the poor.”

The authors are John and Carol Saeman, fawning friends and moneyed allies of the Koch brothers, the benevolent pair who oppose climate change legislation and Affordable Health Care, using their billions to support the Tea Party and other ultra right-wing causes, and to control American politics and election outcomes. This ‘umble opinion piece is topped off by photographs of the brothers, David and Charles, flanking Pope Francis.

Yea, as we walk through the valley of American fear, the Koch brothers are our saviors. Progressive social programs, welfare and anything else created since the New Deal are the enemy. No mention of Democrats, or the name of the president, just code–“centralization” and “bureaucrats…collude to protect politically favored companies and crowd out competitors.”

“This phenomenon isn’t found only in Third World Dictatorships. It’s increasingly evident in Washington….”

Not to worry, the Koch brothers are here. “We believe the Kochs are doing more to help the poor than the “social justice” campaigners who so often attack them.”

It is a strange argument and, at the least, difficult to believe.

More about the Koch Brothers?

Daily Show

Rolling Stone

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Filed under 1, Obama, Politics, Republicans

Presidential Fingerprints In Missouri

 

The President Speaks at Martha’s Vineyard. (White House Photo)

Faced with the tense situation that had developed in suburban St. Louis. President Obama performed decisively, even historically, on Thursday. His actions were so subtle that few people acknowledged or credited his role. The chain of events:

  • He scheduled a 12:15 p.m. statement about Iraq and the St. Louis story, and we then learned he was delayed.
  • In the interim, historical perspective was evident. Congressman John Lewis, the conscience of the Civil Rights era, appeared on MSNBC where he told Andrea Mitchell that he heard echoes of the 1960s.
  • President Obama finally came on the air from Martha’s Vineyard, announced and reaffirmed no boots on the ground needed in Iraq and then turned to Ferguson, Missouri, saying he had just spoken with Jay Nixon, the governor of Missouri.

 I expressed my concern over the violent turn that events have taken on the ground, and underscored that now is the time for all of us to reflect on what’s happened, and to find a way to come together going forward.  He is going to be traveling to Ferguson.  He is a good man and a fine governor, and I’m confident that, working together, he is going to be able to communicate his desire to make sure that justice is done….

Despite calls for federalizing the National Guard, no boots were needed on the ground here either.

Within hours, the governor, described as taciturn and avoiding the situation (he had been en route to the Missouri State Fair), diverted to St. Louis and appointed an African-American State Police Captain, Ronald Johnson, to take over policing.

Everything changed. Reporters, including Wesley Lowery, the Washington Post writer who had been arrested by police a day earlier, tweeted they had seen an immediate turnaround. This from the Washington Post:

As a result, the heavy riot armor, the SWAT trucks with sniper posts and the gas masks were gone from the streets of Ferguson Thursday night, and Johnson marched with the crowd, eliciting cheers from the protesters. Johnson vowed to not blockade the streets, to set up a media staging center, and to ensure that residents’ rights to assemble and protest were not infringed upon.

“I’m not afraid to be in this crowd,” Johnson declared to reporters.

Here’s what the New York Times reported:

Captain Johnson, who is African-American and grew up in the area, said: “We’re just starting today anew. We’re starting a new partnership today. We’re going to move forward today, to put yesterday and the day before behind us.”

A New York Times Editorial acknowledged the change, but only said “higher authorities” had wisely prevailed.

Higher authorities wisely stepped into the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Mo., on Thursday after a night that startled the nation with images of police overkill: flash grenades, rubber bullets and huge clouds of tear gas fired at demonstrators protesting the police shooting Saturday of an unarmed black teenager.

Gov. Jay Nixon — after keeping a low profile for too long — made an urgent tour of the town and replaced local police officers with the Missouri State Highway Patrol. He gave the Highway Patrol an order that should have been given over the weekend: Let protesters who are angry about the shooting protest peacefully, without aggressive demands to disperse, as is their constitutional right.

The change in temperature? Organized quietly, plain, simple and with surgical precision, by the President of the United States. Did anyone happen to notice?

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Before Bombing Syria, Read “The Italian Letter”

Posted on September 4, 2013 by Laurie Garrettcover1 copy

          As Congress debates whether President Bashar al-Assad’s apparent use of sarin gas to kill some 1,400 fellow-Syrians merits retaliatory American military action, many are recalling the “weapons of mass destruction” rationale used to justify U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.
         Though Secretary of State John Kerry has been at pains in recent days to underscore the caliber of intelligence supporting the Obama administration’s claims of Assad genocidal use of nerve gas, there is public doubt.
      We’ve been here before, and Americans are weary not only of war, but also of con artists in positions of power.      Much of the language used to describe the Syrian situation is reminiscent of phrases and claims utilized by the George W. Bush administration to garner intervention backing from the United Nations Security Council, a long list of allies, and the United States Congress.

         So it is inevitable that nine years later, amid chatter of U.S. cruise missile launches to take out Syrian government military stockpiles I should revisit the sorry history of Bush’s drumbeats of war. 

          The Italian Letter is my choice for a brilliantly researched, jaw-dropping book that ought to be on every politician’s reading list this week.  READ ENTIRE POST

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President Obama: “Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago.”

President Obama speaks about the killing of Trayvon Martin at a surprise appearance before the White House press corps.

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obamazimmerman

 

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The Drag of Congressional Hearings

boehner-obamacareThe prospects of paralyzing hearings and pontificating for no reason, other than Republican hatred toward Obama.

The public gets what it wants every two years. Will there be prolonged hearings, will the Republican Congress pursue a witch hunt, or will it fear blow-back in 2014 elections?

From the New York Times (Jonathan Weisman):

G.O.P., Energized, Weighs How Far to Take Inquiries

WASHINGTON — The investigations ensnaring the White House have unified the Republican Party, energized a political base shattered by election losses and given common purpose to lawmakers divided over a legislative agenda.

The most pressing question for Congressional Republicans is no longer how to finesse changes to immigration law or gun control, but how far they can push their cases against President Obama without inciting a backlash of the sort that has left them staggering in the past.

Stay tuned.

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Filed under Elections, Obama, Politics, Republicans

Coming Distractions: The IRS Saga–More Republican Nonsense in a Congress Near You

Gallup Poll Shows Congressional Approval at around 13 percent.

Gallup Poll Shows Congressional Approval at around 13 percent.

In the knee-jerk fraud that masquerades as a Republican alternative, the latest pseudo-drama inside the Beltway will be the sanctimonious months of Congressional hearings about a non-existent conspiracy at the Internal Revenue Service.  Faced with real issues — immigration, health care, gun reform, electoral reform, among them — the wing-nuts that control the House of Representatives have a new excuse to do worse than nothing.

The real agenda is to attack their Democratic opponents, especially the president, and increasingly the leading presidential candidate for 2016, Hillary Clinton.

Succinctly stated, all of this, in a New York Times editorial:

Inevitably, the stumble by the I.R.S. will now be used by the Republicans as a point of attack. They are gleefully promising months of hearings, and the National Republican Congressional Committee is already trying to tarnish Democratic lawmakers with what it calls “the Obama administration’s use of the I.R.S. as a political tool.”

This will serve as the perfect distraction from issues, like the budget, gun control or immigration reform. And it will probably prevent any real progress on campaign finance reform, which, in turn, will make it vastly more difficult for the I.R.S. to prevent abuse of the tax code.

The I.R.S. stumble, if it is one, comes as a result of a highly partisan flawed and democracy-damaging decision by the Supreme Court in the Citizens United case. The I.R.S. began to investigate whether right-wing nonprofits claiming tax exemption were really political fronts for the Republicans who placed the Supreme Court majority on the bench so it could make the damaging decision. “Oh no,” meanwhile, cries the Tea Party, “we’re nonpartisan.”

All of this works very well as long as straight-thinking citizens pay little heed, not even the 22 minutes needed to watch The Daily Show, to check out the sad humor of it all.

I don’t know about you — but it becomes increasingly difficult to even read or watch the news from Washington — so predictable as it is. A moderate majority of citizens appears to have given up. We are left with a Senate tilted to low-population states, a House built by a Republican minority that stacked the deck state by state.

Two of the prime deck-stackers, the Koch Brothers, by the way, are now trying to purchase the Los Angeles Times and the rest of the Chicago Tribune’s assets. Then, they’ll even be able to control the message better than they already have.

Failing broader outrage from a gerrymandered public, laughter and mockery is probably the best way to go.

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Filed under 1, Elections, Journalism, Obama, Politics, Republicans

G.W. Bush–The Foolish Rewrite

Bush-Library-3The rehabilitation of G.W. Bush this past week requires participation of very, very gullible people with bad memories. Worst-best ratings, and polls aside, G.W. Bush took the United States to war on fraudulent grounds.

To this hour, too many Americans accept the incessantly repeated phrase about Iraq — “he was acting on the best available intelligence at the time.”

That is not true, mightily disproved, for instance, in my book, The Italian Letter, which I wrote with my colleague Knut Royce. We show, quoting officials by name, that Bush’s 16 words uttered in his 2003 State of the Union message were a lie:  “The British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa .” I later summarized the case in the Washington Post.

Bush and his former aides have been on the hustings once more during the period leading up to inauguration of the George W. Bush Presidential Library at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. They had the same talking points, praising Bush because he “made decisions…presidential decisions.”  The tautology must be a joke. Of course he made decisions,  indeed, presidential decisions, because he was president.

But the decisions were wrong. Hundreds of thousands of lives lost or changed, one trillion dollars gone, those were the results of presidential decisions. The stupidity of it all and the presidential civility of the week were well-covered  by Chris Hayes on MSNBC.

Harsh but apt words for “the decider,” including an assessment in the MSNBC story from Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff for then-secretary of state Colin Powell. The retired colonel is one of the sources for The Italian Letter. Wilkerson, along the way, casts as much blame on the American people, for succumbing to apathy. He finds that nothing has changed.

We may be doomed, thinking of George Santayana, not only failing to learn from history, but disinterested and badly informed as others produce a fake rewrite.

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Filed under 1, Bush, Journalism, Obama, Politics, Republicans, State of the Union

Torture and US

Almost lost in the news is a report  from a blue-ribbon bipartisan Constitution Project commission that states bluntly that the U.S. government has conducted torture in violation of law.

The commission found there is “indisputable” evidence that U.S. government officials bear responsibility for mistreatment of detainees. Members reached unanimous consent on their findings, although they were stonewalled in receiving some official documents and full interviews with officials of the administration of George W. Bush. The committee includes Democratic and Republican former lawmakers, jurists, academics and retired and decorated high-ranking military officials. They cannot be dismissed on political grounds.

The commission said in a 560-page report:

“U.S. Forces, in many instances, used interrogation techniques on detainees that constitute torture. American personnel conducted an even larger number of interrogations that involved ‘cruel, inhuman and degrading  treatment.’  Both categories of actions violate U.S. laws and international treaties. Such conduct was directly counter to the values of the Constitution and our nation.”

Among other things, the report debunks the notion that so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” — the euphemism for torture — obtain useful information. The report concludes:

“The nation’s most senior officials … bear ultimate responsibility for allowing and contributing to the spread of illegal and improper interrogation techniques used by some US personnel on detainees in several theaters.”

The commission was hampered by the lack of subpoena power to get to the bottom of the systematic decision during the Bush administration to torture detainees. The commission says authorization of subpoenas should be the next step, a step that might lead to something akin to what many people have advocated for years — a Truth Commission.

Here’s what the organization Human Rights said about the commission report:

“The American people deserve a full accounting of the torture conducted in their name…The work of this private, bipartisan commission sends a clear message that full disclosure is an issue of great importance to all Americans, no matter their political leanings.”

Will Americans demand accounting or will they be complacent to the techniques of torture practiced in their name?

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Inauguration 2013

IMG_2453
With all the high-powered analysis and frivolous reviews of gowns and hair-styles, what more is there to say about the inauguration of President Obama? I stood on the National Mall among one million people in festive mode and could only ask a simple question: what would happen if the energy against the president might be turned into common dedication and statesmanship for the national good?

We have every reason.

The poet Richard Blanco said it in his own poignant way, poetry that echoed through the crowd:

“One sun rose on us today, kindled over our shores,
peeking over the Smokies, greeting the faces
of the Great Lakes, spreading a simple truth
across the Great Plains, then charging across the Rockies.
One light, waking up rooftops, under each one, a story
told by our silent gestures moving behind windows.

” My face, your face, millions of faces in morning’s mirrors,
each one yawning to life, crescendoing into our day…..”

Much in common….

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