Friday, September 30, 2011

An Amazing Performance

Update: As of Oct 4, Christie has ruled out running this year.  Can't say I blame him.  But Steve Kornacki of writes:  "Already, without even lifting a finger, he was running at 17 percent nationally, according to a just-completed Quinnipiac poll, tied with Romney for first and ahead of Cain (12 percent) and Perry (10). And while it wasn’t quite as rosy for Christie, the ABC/Washington Post survey has had him at 10 percent."

"Some believe it would have been all downhill from there, and maybe they’re right. But think back to that question-and-answer session Christie did at the Reagan Library last week, the one that ended with the woman begging him to run, and the crowd responding with a standing ovation. The performance was vintage Christie. In off-the-cuff-settings — town halls, debates, interviews — he is one of the strongest, most compelling communicators in American politics today. Like him or not, he’s a lot more than the caricature of rage that many mistakenly assume he is. He generates positive personal feelings from audiences, particularly Republican audiences; they like him and they want to be with him — and if that means rationalizing away a less-than-conservative past position or two, they’ll do it. Romney and Perry and most other politicians on the national stage today just don’t have the same effect on people."


Monday, September 26, 2011

Siding with Wall Street

Salon writer Joan Walsh, defending white progressives against charges of racism for being critical of President Obama, writes:
The difference between Clinton's booming economy and today's broken one creates political problems for Obama in another way: He was largely elected due to Americans' fears that we were headed into an abyss, and their faith that he would bring the economic change he promised. Like a pilot taking over with a plane in a nose dive, Obama kept the economy from crashing, but he hasn't lifted it into smooth skies. Maybe it makes me an unrealistic and entitled white progressive -- that's pretty much what black author Ishmael Reed called Obama's white critics -- but I think it's clear that even with a recalcitrant Congress, the president could have done more than he did to dismantle the rigged system that let Wall Street destroy the economy, as well as more to help its casualties.

You don't have to believe every conversation reported in Ron Suskind's "Confidence Men" -- and I don't -- to see that at almost every juncture, the president and his economic team sided with Wall Street and the banks that caused the crash, rather than with the crash's victims. Many politicians share the blame: Democrats and Republicans let the financial sector rig the rules to enrich itself and impoverish the rest of us for the last 30 years. They've gotten increasingly rich by lending us the cash we didn't get in raises since wages stagnated in the 1970s, after the Democrats began running away from economic populism (but that's another, longer story you can read about in my book next year). But given the political opening to challenge that system in 2009, Obama essentially left it intact.

As I wrote last week, Obama appointed the Clinton economic-team veterans most friendly to Wall Street -- most notably, Tim Geithner and Larry Summers -- while excluding and/or marginalizing the Clinton vets most critical, like Robert Reich, Laura Tyson and Gary Gensler. And whether it was the Volcker rule getting commercial banks out of speculative, proprietary trading, or efforts to sell shady derivatives on "exchanges" for the sake of transparency, or a contingency plan to force the toxic behemoth Citibank into bankruptcy, Obama let important reforms either die on the vine or be diluted into ineffectiveness. He had a rare window to change the system radically, and it's now closed.

Meanwhile, over the last decade, progressives -- of every race -- have become far more sophisticated, and outraged, about the naked control Wall Street and corporate America exert over politicians, including Democratic politicians. Obama brought more progressives into the process in 2008 -- Michael Moore and Barbara Ehrenreich moved from Nader in 2000 to Obama -- and they brought with them their higher standards for progressive political change and their critique of corporate America's control. I acknowledge that Moore's recent comment, "I voted for the black guy and what I got was the white guy," betrays some racial ickiness, but so did Cornel West's insistence that Obama fears "free black men" because he's half-white.

The Third Industrial Revolution

Jeremy Rifkin, a very brilliant social analyst and futurist, has a new book out on what he calls 'the third industrial revolution':
The Third Industrial Revolution is the last stage of the great industrial saga and the first stage of the emerging collaborative era rolled together. It represents an interregnum between two periods of economic history -- the first characterized by industrious behavior and the second by collaborative behavior.

If the industrial era emphasized the values of rigid discipline and hard work, the top-down flow of authority, the importance of financial capital, the workings of the marketplace and private property relations, the collaborative era is more about creative play, peer-to-peer interactivity, social capital, participation in open commons and access to global networks.

The Third Industrial Revolution will move apace over the next several decades, probably peaking around 2050, and plateau in the second half of the 21st century. Already, in the shadow of its ascending bell curve, we can see a new economic era that will take us beyond the industrious mode that characterized the last two centuries of economic development and into a collaborative way of life. The metamorphosis from an industrial to a collaborative revolution represents one of the great turning points in economic history.

The democratization of energy has profound implications for how we orchestrate the entirety of human life in the coming century. We are entering the era of distributed capitalism. To understand how the new Third Industrial Revolution infrastructure is likely to dramatically change the distribution of economic, political and social power in the 21st century, it is helpful to step back and examine how the fossil fuel–based First and Second Industrial Revolutions reordered power relations over the course of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Fossil fuels -- coal, oil and natural gas -- are elite energies for the simple reason that they are found only in select places. They require a significant military investment to secure their access and continual geopolitical management to assure their availability. They also require centralized, top-down command and control systems and massive concentrations of capital to move them from underground to the end users. The ability to concentrate capital -- the essence of modern capitalism -- is critical to the effective performance of the system as a whole. The centralized energy infrastructure, in turn, sets the conditions for the rest of the economy, encouraging similar business models across every sector.

The emerging Third Industrial Revolution, by contrast, is organized around distributed renewable energies that are found everywhere and are, for the most part, free -- sun, wind, hydro, geothermal heat, biomass and ocean waves and tides. These dispersed energies will be collected at millions of local sites and then bundled and shared with others over an energy internet to achieve optimum energy levels and maintain a high-performing, sustainable economy. The distributed and collaborative nature of the TIR energies and infrastructure favors lateral rather than hierarchical command and control mechanisms. This new lateral energy regime, in turn, establishes the organizational model for the countless economic activities that multiply from it. In the new era, providers and users aggregate nodally in vast networks and carry on commerce and trade in commercial arenas that function more like commons than markets. A more distributed and collaborative industrial revolution, in turn, invariably leads to a more distributed and collaborative sharing of the productive wealth generated by society.

Obama the Sole Alternative to the Radical Right

Frank Rich, one of the original progressive critics of President Obama, writes in the New York magazine about the rejection of bipartisanship on the part of today's Tea Party/conservative movement, as typified in Rick Perry, and the need for President Obama to rise up to that challenge:
The important thing to remember about Perry is that he’s anathema to Mitt Romney, Karl Rove, and many conservative pundits no less than to liberals. His swift rise does not just reflect his enthusiasts’ detestation of Barack Obama. Perry’s constituency rejects the entire bipartisan Establishment of which Obama is merely the latest and shiniest product. For two decades, the elites in both parties and in the Beltway media-political combine have venerated a vanilla centrism, from Bush 41’s “thousand points of light” to Clinton’s triangulation to Bush 43’s “compassionate conservatism.” They’ve endorsed every useless bipartisan commission and every hapless bipartisan congressional “Gang of Six” (or Twelve, or Twenty, not to mention the new too-big-not-to-fail budget supercommittee). Perry, by contrast, is a proud and unabashed partisan. If he’s talking about gangs, chances are they’re chain gangs, not dithering conclaves of legislators. He doesn’t aspire to be the adult in the room, as Obama does, but the bull in the china shop of received opinion.

Whatever Perry’s 2012 electoral fate, his lightning ascent is final proof, if any further is needed in the day of the tea-party GOP, that a bipartisan consensus in America is as unachievable now as it was after 1964.

This is the harsh reality Obama has been way too slow to recognize. But in his post–Labor Day “Pass this jobs plan!” speech before Congress, the lip service he characteristically paid to both Republican and Democratic ideas gave way to an unmistakable preference for Democratic ideas. Soon to come were his “Buffett rule” for addressing the inequities of the Bush tax cuts and a threat to veto any budget without new tax revenues to go with spending cuts. When he tied it all up in a Rose Garden mini-tantrum pushing back against the usual cries of “class warfare,” it was enough to give one hope. No, not 2008 fired-up hope, but at least the trace memory of it. Should Obama not cave—always a big if with this president—he might have a serious shot at overcoming the huge burdens of a dark national mood and flatlined economy to win reelection.

That Obama has so long held to his faith that “there’s not a liberal America and a conservative America, there’s the United States of America,” as he intoned in his glorious 2004 keynote at the Democratic convention, is in part because that’s who he is. But it’s also because he’s all too susceptible to Washington Establishment groupthink (which is how he was seduced into the jobless Summers-Geithner “recovery” in the first place). From the moment Obama arrived at the White House, the Beltway elites have been coaxing him further down the politically suicidal path of appeasement and inertia even as his opponents geared up for war....

A radical movement controls one of the two parties. That party is so far right that when Ron Paul, now polling third among the GOP contenders, told a debate audience this month that “9/11 came about because there was too much government,” not a single one of his opponents dared object. Like it or not, Obama is the sole alternative to this crowd in 2012....

For Obama to pull it out against a slick conservative populist like Perry—or some yet-undeclared Perry alternative who could still emerge to usurp him among the tea-party troops—he cannot revert to his usual ways. Yet as recently as Labor Day, the White House was sending the message, as the Times reported, that it would “rebrand the president as a pragmatic problem solver prepared to set aside ideology.” Rebrand? That is the Obama brand. Surely someone at even this White House must recognize that it is in danger of being recalled by voters because the country’s problems have not been solved.

Obama can’t change his DNA. He is by definition a conciliatory man of the middle: as a black man raised in white America, as a mediator among warring political factions at The Harvard Law Review, as a community organizer, as a child of divorce. But sometimes blacks and whites, liberals and conservatives, and moms and dads cannot reconcile their differences. Sometimes the negotiations and compromises that are the crux of politics are nonoperative. This is one of those times. The other side has no interest in striking grand bargains or even small ones. It wants not so much to reform government, a worthy goal, as to auction off its parts and distribute the proceeds to its corporate backers....

Back in the real world, no jobs bill, let alone one of those “many bipartisan reform packages” forever floating around the Brookings Institution, has had a prayer of getting through Congress since November 2010. It’s not “stale ideological debates that have paralyzed this country,” but the intransigence of the tea party and the Republican leadership it has cowed. And so, with no legislation possible and no economic miracles in store, Obama’s presidency has shrunk to the bully pulpit. His best hope is to use that pulpit, with all the muscle, talent, and energy at his command, to ferociously define and defend the American values under siege by the revolutionaries at the capital’s gates. That doesn’t mean more eloquent speeches from Washington. It means relentless barnstorming night and day. It means at long last embracing a big-picture narrative.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Pizza Man

So who, exactly, is the political base/constituency of Herman Cain, the black Georgia businessman now running for the Republican nomination?  He just won a Florida Republican 'strawpoll' this weekend, beating out Rick Perry at the last minute (apparently Perry didn't show up).

It's nobody.  Blacks will not vote for him, because, well, he's a conservative Republican.  Tea Partiers and other Republican conservatives will probably not vote for him because he sounds like a southern black man, and racial prejudice is still lurking there in the background (or at least, I think it is).  Moderate Republicans are not likely to vote for him, because he comes across as a loudmouthed, superficial businessman who really doesn't know much about government or governing.  Liberals and independents will not vote for him, because  he's boldly, flamingly conservative, and a slick talker to boot. 

Cain's never won political office, he knows very little about foreign policy, and finally, he's just recently recovered from stage 4 liver cancer.  And no one with the first name of Herman will ever be elected as President of the United States. 

Of course, I like him a lot personally.  He's funny and glib, almost a comedian.  I'm sure that he was a pretty good businessman and sold lots of pizza.  But no way will he ever get closer to the White House than he is right now.

Herman Cain is going nowhere fast.  His time in the sun will be even shorter than Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry.  He's just another conservative Republican flash-in-the-pan.

Jon Stewart on Class Warfare and Protecting the Endangered Rich

Obama Reincarnated

I heard a clip this morning about President Obama giving a speech to some black group.  He was definitely in his campaign mode, giving them a good dose of fervent black 'gospel preacher' talk.  A few days before that, he was at Raleigh, giving that more youthful university audience a good dose of his 2008 campaign-mode rhetoric.  Then he was in Michigan, raising the roof and talking about the middle-class and class warfare.  He pledged to be a 'warrior' for the middle class.

Please, give me a break.  I can't stand it!  It's too schizophrenic. 

It's no accident that his approval ratings are currently WAY down, among liberals/progressives, labor, youth, independents, even among black folk.   Why?  Because he has governed as President in a very disappointing, ineffective manner, that's why.  He's governed more like a Republican than a Democrat, with some even calling him 'Bush-lite'.  He has made horrendous appointments to key positions in the White House and Executive branch.  He has stood back, aloof, providing little leadership (let alone transformational leadership) seeming to think he could come as a mediator at the last moment.   He has been, in short, a disaster as President.

 And now, when the chance for making progress with legislation has evaporated because of disastrous mid-term elections, Obama knows that the only way to win reelection is to do what he's doing right now: try to 'fire-up' the base with slick, fiery campaign rhetoric.

Ron Suskind's new book, Confidence Men, puts flesh on the bones of much of the criticism that has been directed toward Obama.  His appointment of Larry Summers (which I criticized on this blog the day it was made back in late 2008) is perhaps the showcase example of what Obama has done wrong as President.  I knew better, as did many others.  Why didn't he?

Now Obama wants our renewed trust and confidence for 2012.  I can tell you this, at least for me, it's going to take more than what I'm seeing right now.


A commenter writes: "What if the alternative is Rick Perry?"  Good question.  Yes, there are plenty of alternatives that would be worse than Barack Obama.  So can I vote for Obama without 'trusting' him or having confidence in him?  Yes, I can.  I would love to feel good about my vote, but I may have to vote without that luxury.

Flash in the Pan

This is the second 'Tea Party' candidate now that has rocketed into first place and then fell to earth verrrrrrry rapidly.  First, it was Michele Bachmann, and now it is Rick Perry.  Both of them seemed to be willing to say the things 'Tea Partiers' want to hear, yet neither seemed to have any staying power.

I would say the basic problem with both of them is that they came across in the debates as 'dim bulbs', with not quite the intelligence even highly ideological Tea Partiers ultimately expect from their Presidents.  Michelle Bachmann has always struck me as a sincere but a little goofy Fundamentalist.  Rick Perry's performance in the last Republican debate was dismal, to the point where he was almost incoherent.  It goes to show, I guess, that you can be a tremendously successful politician in Texas without having to have the kind of mental power that most of the rest of the country expects their political leaders to have.

The Republicans have a big problem.  They've got no Ronald Reagan, no person who combines all the elements that they're seeking.  In a way, Democrats have the same problem: they've got no FDR. 

Where, oh where, is our messiah?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Failings of George W. Bush

When I think about the Republicans and the Democrats, President Obama and the Congress, and our current economic crisis, there is one thing we all need to keep in mind, one thing that truly is indisputable and irrefutable.

And that one thing is that when President George W. Bush took office, our budget was in surplus (or headed in that direction).  And when he left office, we were enduring the biggest economic crisis since the Great Depression.

What were the factors in those disastrous 8 years of 2001-2008?  Here are some of them.  Huge tax cuts that benefited primarily the wealthy of this country and that enormously increased the budget deficit.  Two wars and a huge expansion in our military/intelligence complex that were not paid for.  And an enormous Medicare prescription drug benefit that was not paid for.  Add to that the nearly total lack of regulation of the financial system of this country by the Federal Reserve, the SEC, the Treasury, etc, leading to a housing bubble that when it popped, nearly brought down our entire economy.  (I'm sure there were other factors as well that contributed, that are bipartisan in nature, such as the prior legislation repealing the Glass-Steagall Act, which occurred under the Clinton administration.)

So as much as I and others criticize President Obama for his failings in the area of economic and financial policy in the last nearly three years, it is only fair to remember that he was handed this foul mess by his predecessor.


I think the recent repeal of DADT (Don't Ask, Don't Tell) in the Armed Forces is a good thing.  It is one more step in the progress of American society away from prejudice and discrimination of various kinds toward an acceptance of the diversity--racially, ethnically, religiously, sexually--of our society.  And it allows the military to take advantage of the considerable skills and abilities that gays and lesbians bring to the armed forces.

President Obama, in particular, is to be applauded for his slow but steady approach.  This is one policy area where he read it right: get the top military officials on board and then move ahead.  As a result, the new policy of non-discrimination toward gays and lesbians will almost certainly be implemented within the military in a smooth and non-interruptive way.

It's nice to get a little good news once in a while.

Thoughts on the Death Penalty

I am conflicted about the execution of Troy Davis in Georgia. On the one hand, I find the death penalty to be justified for heinous killers (I watched 'Gone Baby Gone' the other night and didn't seemed to mind when Casey Affleck, playing a private detective, executed a young man who had obviously just murdered a young boy). Yet I also know that racial prejudice has sometimes condemned innocent people to death over the years.

It concerns me when prominent folks I respect protest a particular death penalty verdict, yet I also know that if you're going to have the death penalty, then the system at some point has to be respected enough to do its job.

This is one of responsibilities laid upon political leaders that have to be particularly difficult. They have to be the ones in the end to finally decide, 'yea or ney', even if the original decision was made years before way, way down the line.

And which perspective is more respecting of life: that which punishes the destroyer of life by taking his/her life, or that which spares the life of the homicidal killer? There is no easy way out here, I think.

And what is so kind about locking someone up in prison--away from family, friends, etc.--for the rest of their life? Wouldn't death in some ways be kinder?

I have many questions about the death penalty, and I'm not even sure which way I fall. All I know is, either way you go, someone is grieving.

Israel, Palestinians, and Obama at the UN

Steve Clemons piece in The Atlantic, taking issue with the Obama administration's approach to the Palestinians, is an analysis that appeals to me.
Perhaps most disappointing is that President Obama, who in earlier years at the UN chastised Mahmoud Abbas, Benjamin Netanyahu, and George Mitchell for not getting more quickly on a constructive peace track, who felt that achieving an Israel-Palestine two state deal was of such strategic significance to the United States that he made it one of the very first out-of-the gate priorities of his administration, has not only offered nothing new to break the Israel-Palestine negotiations deep freeze but has acquiesced to the very narrative that on the negotiations that Israel embraces. For Israel at the moment, doing nothing is best.

Obama continues to parrot the line that peace can only be achieved between the "two parties", that only they can really bring this global ulcer to a close, when they decide to negotiate. The fact is that the status quo of frozen negotiations is benefiting the dominant, settlement-expanding Israel -- and the US, in promising to veto at the UN Security Council Palestine's bid for official state recognition, is playing guarantor to one side, undermining the aspirations of others on the other side of the equation. What if the US had said to Kosovo -- no statehood, no recognition from the US until you resolve all of your ongoing issues with Russia?

Obama's position on this is dangerous in another sense as well. Obama -- who looked to so many early in his rock star style rise to the Presidency as a leader on the level of a Gandhi, or Martin Luther King, or Mandela -- has assured the rise of Hamas, the legitimation of violence in pursuit of Palestinian political goals, by yet again showing that peaceful, non-violent moderates like Mahmoud Abbas ultimately get nothing -- even if they play the role of the "good Palestinian," the one who listens to his masters, who doesn't get too disturbed when humiliated at Israel's border check points and at UN Security Council meetings.

Abbas was not kidnapping Israeli soldiers nor firing rockets to generate political leverage in favor of getting his country's dilemma back on to the roster of global concerns. This week he is doing what Gandhi did to the Brits, embarrassing the world as Gandhi did to the then globally sprawling United Kingdom for its hypocrisy and inhumanity. Abbas is using peaceful means to move his cause, playing by the rules, and actually taking the same track to attempted Palestinian statehood that the Israelis used.

And Obama is going to say no -- rejecting Palestine's bid at the UN Security Council. It is 2011 of course. 2012 will be an expensive year of political campaigning and this makes riling up some donors in the Jewish American community politically complicated. It should be noted that some enlightened Jewish Americans support a two state solution, peace, and even Mahmoud Abbas' play at the United Nations.
Clemon is probably a little harsh here on the Obama administration . The fact is that the Israel Lobby in the United States is so powerful that no American president can easily oppose it in what it sees as its national interest and expect to survive politically. American Jews need to search their hearts and try to ascertain what is truly in the long-term best interests of both the United States and Israel.

Protecting Wall Street

Ron Suskind's book Confidence Men is a provocative new look, through hundreds of interviews with Obama administration staffers, at what has been happening on the inside of the White House over the past almost three years.  This book, combined with Obama's new populist tone, is a major milestone in our political life, I think.  Suskind, like Bob Woodward, is hard to dismiss because of his past journalistic accomplishments.

The book is still being eaten and digested by journalists, columnists, and bloggers (I've not had a chance to read it, so will have to rely on others who have).  So I'll keep noting the commentary as it dribbles out.

Joan Walsh, a writer and, as I remember, a Hillary Clinton supporter, is quite critical of Obama, as would be expected.  But her critique is one I basically have shared since Obama first appointed Geithner and Summers in the fall of 2008.
Bold visionary Obama periodically sides with staffers pushing big moves to break up what Suskind memorably describes as "the debt machine": the financial sector contraption that seized the American economy, almost destroyed it in 2008 and yet, tragically, still runs it in 2011. The book's good guys -- former Fed chair Paul Volcker, consumer protection visionary Elizabeth Warren, Commodity Futures Trading head Gary Gensler, Council of Economic Advisors chair Christina Romer, adviser Austan Goolsbee and the FDIC's Sheila Bair -- turn up regularly with good progressive ideas to beat back financial sector treachery that catch Obama's attention and win his backing ... for a while.

But in the end, whether it's "Volcker's Rule" keeping banks out of speculative, proprietary trading; Gensler's effort to force the trading of poorly understood derivatives on "exchanges" where their shady contents could be better examined; or Bair's push for a contingency plan to force the toxic behemoth Citibank into bankruptcy; the tough reforms never materialized. They were watered down to insignificance, or as in the case of the Citi breakup, abandoned completely.

The book's most controversial revelation, strenuously denied by the White House, is that Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner either "slow-walked" or absolutely ignored the president's directive to come up with a plan to break up the spectacularly failing Citibank. It's become a big story, because it serves a couple of narratives: It provides Obama admirers with evidence that the president had progressive priorities and values, but his underlings thwarted them. It provides his critics (on left and right) with more fodder for the view that the president is in over his head, unready for the job we gave him.

The fact is, the material Suskind presents is inconclusive. By the president's own admission, the "instructions" to draw up a contingency plan to dismantle Citi were vague enough that his different advisors could legitimately disagree about his real intent.

When Suskind asks Obama if he was "agitated" by Geithner's failure to develop a plan for Citi, his answer is classic no-drama Obama, Zen Man:

"Agitated may be too strong a word. During this period what we are increasingly recognizing is that there are no good options."

He goes on:

"What's true is that I was often pushing hard, and the speed with which the bureaucracy could exercise my decision was slower than I wanted. But I don't think, it's not clear to me -- and I'll have to reflect on this at some point -- it's not clear to me that that was necessarily because of a management problem, as it was that this is really hard stuff."

Frankly, given Obama's answer, I'll give that one to Geithner. There's no hard evidence he ignored a firm directive from his boss -- and if he did, it obviously wasn't a big deal, because Geithner is one of the few people from the president's original economic team still employed at the White House. If the president wanted a tougher approach with Citibank, or with any other malefactor of great wealth, he'd have forced his subordinates to develop one, and fired them if they didn't.

Whatever happened with Citibank, it's clear that at every turn, Obama made choices that protected the Wall Street status quo, and Geithner was behind every single decision.

Geithner worked hard to protect the debt machine and its masters. He opposed limits on executive compensation at firms receiving TARP funds, insisted on paying AIG's debts at 100 percent (instead of a smaller sum like creditors would have had to accept in a bankruptcy proceeding), squashed a tax based on bank size (to discourage "too big to fail" titans). One prominent banker tells Suskind his colleagues expected much harsher treatment from the Obama administration in the administration of TARP and other decisions. "For Washington to not demand anything when it saved us, even stuff that we know is for our long-term good, was one of the stupidest moves in modern times ... I feel like I should go over and hug Tim. It's a shame we can't pay him, 'cause that's a guy who really earned a big-time bonus."

The Girlfriend of Lee Harvey Oswald

Over the years, one of the ways that I have come across some of my best new ideas is to walk down the aisles in whatever university library I happen to be in and just browse for books on the shelves.  I have come upon more interesting authors that way, that I never would have encountered any other way.

These days I find myself doing the same thing except now it's mostly on the internet.  I'll see an unusual article somewhere, which will lead me to a different story/link, which will take me to another link, and I finally end up with something I find very interesting, challenging, and provocative.

That happened yesterday when I encountered the following interview with Judith Vary Baker, the girlfriend of Lee Harvey Oswald.  I had never heard of her before, but in this recently recorded interview, she basically tells the story of her intimate relationship with Oswald in the months and years before he died in connection with the JFK assassination.

According to Judith (who, even in her old age, has been forced to leave the United States and live in exile abroad, out of fear for her life), Oswald was (1) a member/asset of the Marine Corp/FBI/CIA; (2) preparing to help assassinate Fidel Castro; (3) a sophisticated and well-educated man; (4) set up as a patsy to take the blame for the Kennedy assassination by the CIA/FBI.  There are other revelations here as well.

As with everything else, you have to decide for yourself what you're going to believe or not believe in terms of what someone says, and that is never easy.  Although Judith starts off slow and unconvincing, as the interview goes along and relaxes, she becomes more credible sounding, and I have to say she's sounds credible, and her story is in line with other things I read about the assassination of JFK.  But it is a shocking, even jolting interview.  Know that you may be taking the 'red pill' if you listen to this (The Matrix).

For all of my JFK posts, click here.

A 'Jersey Girl' at the 10th Anniversary of 9/11

With the tenth anniversary of 9/11 having come and gone, I've been wondering about the so-called 'Jersey Girls', that group of 9/11 widows who did so much to push for the original 9/11 Commission, in the face of much opposition and inertia from the Bush administration.

So, I ran across this podcast interview with Lorie Van Auken, one of original Jersey Girls, on Sibel Edmonds show 'Boiling Frogs'. 

It seems to inevitably happen that I always find a gold nugget or two in every one of these interviews.  In this one, I learned that high-level military officers have anonymously (out of fear of prosecution and ruined careers) told Sibel Edmunds (who was herself an FBI whistleblower) that they 'know' that Flight 93 that crashed in Pennsylvania was actually shot down by the Air Force.  I've always believed that this was the case, based on the weird situation of very little debris at the crash site, according to videotaped journalistic eyewitnesses at the scene.  This of course undercuts the entire heroic myth that has developed around Flight 93.

The other thing I learned (or was reminded of) was that Anne Coulter, who criticized the 9/11 widows for their commission insistence, is such a disgusting person. 

Take the time and listen to the interview, and weep for our nation.

Podcast Show #51

Another nugget out of that interview was this first-hand account by one of the participants.  Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was testifying to the 9/11 Commission and was asked to respond to this question from Commission Counsel Ben-Venisti: Did you order jet fighters to protect the Pentagon from attack?  Rumsfeld paused, looked around the room and with that Rumsfeldian smile on his face, said: "Did I order jet fighers to protect the Pentagon?"  At which point, Commission Co-Chairman Lee Hamilton interrupted and said, "Times up.  Let's go on to the next question."

Nobody Got Rich On His Own

I have liked what I sensed to be the integrity and passion of justice exhibited by Elizabeth Warren over the past few years, as she tried to be an advocate for the common person against the financial oligarchy.  And I also disliked the ambivalence toward her that I sensed from the Obama camp.

Anyway, here is a video of her making what I think as the strongest common-sense argument for the rich paying their fair share of the public costs of this nation. She is running for the Senate from Massachusetts, against Senator Scott Brown. Needless to say, she is hardly your typical politician, and therefore may get tripped up. But God willing, her tribe will increase!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Ron Suskind Interviewed on Morning Joe about Obama White House

The first interview I've seen with Ron Suskind, author of Confidence Men (topic of the previous post), on Morning Joe:

My take from this interview is that Suskind feels that Obama has grown in office.  Initially, he was a policy wonk without good management skills (getting things done).  Now he's better at management and has the team he wants.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Confidence Men

Journalist and writer Ron Suskind was a major scourge of the Bush administration.  Now he is doing the same thing to the Obama administration in his soon-to-be released book, Confidence Men.  Several political writers have already read it in pre-publication edition or comment on those who have.  In any case, it's a devastating portrayal of the White House and the man who's supposed to be running it.

Michael Tomasky, a respected Democratic political analyst who writes for the Daily Beast and the New York Review of Books writes:
Confidence Men...confirms what we knew about Obama’s White House: that the president appointed the wrong economic team from the start, failed to crack down on the banks, and was Solomonic to a fault when formulating responses to the financial crisis (oh, and news flash: Larry Summers is hard to work with!).

That would be interesting without being shocking. But the indictment goes one mortifying step deeper: Geithner and Summers and Rahm Emanuel, and perhaps others, sometimes ignored Obama, refused to carry out his orders, and, in Summers’s case, mocked him, saying at one point to then-Budget Director Peter Orszag that “there’s no adult in charge” in the White House. And while I don’t yet know whether Suskind emphasizes this point, let’s carry the critique one step further: They did so, as far as we know, without suffering any consequences at all....

Obama was afraid to be the president. He listened to a dozen viewpoints and tried to come up with something that made everyone happy. Unfortunately, “everyone” included people on his team who were looking out for the banks more than for the public (or for their own boss), and it included people on Capitol Hill whose clear agenda was Obama’s political destruction. It’s the central—and depending on how the next election turns out, possibly decisive—paradox of this president: In trying way too hard to look presidential in the sense of “statesmanlike,” he has repeatedly ended up looking unpresidential in the sense of not being a leader.
Civil libertarian lawyer Glenn Greenwald of makes a similar point to Tomasky's, then goes on to say that President Obama talks like a progressive but walks like a Wall Street conservative:
Perhaps most notable about the Suskind chapter on which Kakutani focuses is the process by which Obama featured progressive economists during the campaign, only to immediately subordinate them to Wall-Street-subservient officials once in power. Feigning progressive leanings for political gain is Obama's modus operandi, as Matt Taibbi recently put it in explaining why he no longer listens to Obama's speeches....

That's why -- after 2 1/2 years -- we suddenly see an outburst of "fighting for jobs" and, now, a call to raise taxes on the rich. He does that precisely because everyone -- especially the rich -- knows it will not and cannot happen. We're now formally in (re-)election season, so it's time again to haul out the progressive music. Some Democrats are honest and cynical enough to acknowledge that Obama is doing all these things purely for political gain and -- because his re-election is their top priority -- to celebrate it even while acknowledging it will never become reality (see here and here as examples). From that perspective, I suppose having him give speeches where he advocates for jobs and taxes on the rich is preferable to his endorsing austerity and Reaganomics as he had been doing for months But whatever else is true, none of this presages an actual change in how the government functions or, especially, on whose behalf it labors. That's precisely why he feels free to advocate such things without alienating his funding base. It's still the government of Tim Geithner and his bosses/owners; election season (combined with rising elite fear of social unrest) just requires a bit more pretense to obscure that fact.
That's a very harsh criticism, no doubt, from one who has mostly been critical of Obama from a civil liberties, not economics, perspective.

Is all this true?  Is Obama basically more a pleaser than a leader?  Even worse, is the nice-sounding recent rhetoric on the campaign trail little more than political pretense?  Can we possibly be that cynical about the President of the United States?

Yes, we can.


I looked up Ron Suskind on Wikipedia to see his credentials.  Here's what I found:  "Suskind was born in Kingston, New York, to a Jewish family.[2] He attended the University of Virginia, was a brother of the SPE fraternity, lived on The Lawn during the 1980-1981 school year, and was the university's 2005 valediction speaker. He received a master's degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in 1983."

"In 1990, Suskind began working for the Wall Street Journal, and became its senior national affairs reporter in 1993. He remained in this position until 2000 when he left the Journal. While working for the Journal, Suskind published a series of articles chronicling the aspirations of Cedric Jennings, and his efforts to escape his blighted upbringing by going to Brown University. In 1995, Suskind received the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing for these articles. In addition to his four books, Suskind has contributed to numerous periodicals, magazines and journals including Esquire and The New York Times Magazine. In 2004, he appeared on CBS's 60 Minutes to discuss his book, The Price of Loyalty. In 2006 while promoting his book The One Percent Doctrine he was interviewed on the Colbert Report, and in 2008 he appeared on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart to discuss his book The Way of the World.[3] Other notable television interviews include NBC's "The Today Show", ABC's Nightline and PBS's Charlie Rose. In 2001 and 2002, he was a regular contributor to "Life 360," a series that blended journalists and performers that was a joint production of ABC and PBS. Between 2004 and 2008, he appeared frequently on Frontline, the award-winning PBS series."

Looks like Suskind's not some fly-by-night tabloid writer, and therefore much harder to dismiss.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Is It Stupid to Not Believe in Evolution?

Given the recent hubbub over the Republican candidates and the theory of evolution, and at the serious risk of greatly over-simplifying a very complex subject, let's discuss the issue, shall we.

A fairly recent (2009) Gallup Poll found that 39% of Americans definitely believe in the theory of evolution, 25% definitely don't believe in the theory of evolution, and 36% have no opinion either way.  So, in other words, a fairly large majority of Americans (61%) either don't believe in evolution or don't have an opinion on the subject!

So what is this telling us?  It's telling us that unlike most other scientific theories--for example, the heliocentric theory of the solar system or the Big Bang theory of the universe, for which a huge majority of Americans would almost surely say, "yes, I can believe that"--there is something about the theory of evolution that causes a majority of Americans to withhold their affirmation.

And that 'something' is the understanding on the part of both most scientists and the American people that the theory of evolution, unlike most other scientific theories, is somehow bound up with atheism and the rejection of religion.  That, my friends, is going to be controversial in America, the most religiously inclined of all developed industrialized nations!

It is no accident that the best known atheist of the past decade, a scientist who exudes an almost missionary zeal in his public denial of God and religious faith, is Richard Dawkins, the well-known English evolutionary biologist.

Up until the 19th century, it was conventional wisdom throughout the West--even within the scientific community--that the earth and all life on it was created merely thousands of years ago and in a very short time, conforming to the creation account of the biblical book of Genesis.  Now, perhaps some Greek natural philosopher back in Athens in the 4th century BCE may have postulated a very old earth, but that was never the conventional wisdom since the Christianization of the West in the first few centuries after Christ.  So a young earth, with life created instanteously and miraculously at the spoken Word of God, was the assumption of even most educated people up until quite recently.

Everything changed with the 19th century scientific revolutions in geology and biology.  In geology, theories put forward by Scottish James Hutton and English Sir Charles Lyell in the early 19th century asserted an 'old' earth, created by a uniform, gradual process.  This in turn influenced Charles Darwin, who, in his original theory of evolution contained in On the Origin of Species in 1859, proposed that all living species of plants and animals descended from common ancestry by a process called natural selection.  Within a decade, most educated persons in in the West had accepted these new geological and biological theories of the origin of the earth and its life.

This in turn begat a serious crisis in theology and the church in the last quarter of the 19th century.  Up until that time, most Christians--and most Christian theologians--accepted the creation account in Genesis in a very literal way, as a description of what actually happened a few thousand years ago.  Now, with the new scientific theories, that was nearly impossible to sustain, so new interpretations of Genesis, based on a variety of metaphorical and non-literal methods, became commonly accepted within the Christian faith. 

Refusals to accept the new scientific theories and new biblical interpretations existed, but mostly within a narrowing subset of Christianity which came to be known as Fundamentalism.  The most famous example of the conflict between the new and old ways of understanding in these matters occurred in the 1925 Scopes 'Monkey Trial' in Tennessee, where a smart but fundamentalist William Jennings Bryan went head to head with modernist Clarence Darrow.  Evolution lost that battle (Scopes and his teaching of evolution was found guilty) but won the war.

Today, the geological sciences are based on an understanding that the earth is about 4.5 billion years old.  And the biological sciences have evolution as their primary core theory.  And in some ways, the life of every American is based on this new science, if you do something as simple as go to the doctor and gets a new life-sustaining drug based on the new Biology.

Yet 61% of Americans say they aren't sure about evolution.  Why?  I think it is because evolutionary evangelists like Richard Dawkins have told us that if you believe in evolution, you can't believe in God, and vice versa.  And most Americans, the vast majority of whom say they believe in God, are more ready to question the theory of evolution than they are to question the existence of God.  It's really that simple.

Question: does evolution have to be atheistic?  That to my mind is the basic question at the heart of this entire controversy.  And I am hardly qualified to answer it, of course.  But my common sense, non-expert answer is no.  You can believe in modern science, including evolution, and still believe in God. 

Many scientists do just that, of course.  One of the best known biologists of recent times--a world-famous geneticist named Francis Collins--has written a book well worth reading entitled: The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief.  In it, he states this: "This book aims to dispel that notion [that a rigorous scientist could not also be a serious believer in a transcendent God], by arguing that belief in God can be an entirely rational choice, and that the principles of faith are, in fact, complementary with the principles of science."

Other thinkers have put forward a theory called 'Intelligent Design'.  This philosophical movement argues that nothing in science prevents us from believing that the natural world, including all life, was in some way designed by some intelligent divine force which science alone is unable to know or deny.  Indeed, the immense complexity in nature almost demands some kind of theory of this kind.

There are other theories which attempt to do what Professor Collins is trying to do in his book, and I shall not go into them here.  Suffice it to say that the struggle to integrate modern science and religious faith goes on.

One last thought.  The media elites do not help matters when they just lampoon or caricature the American people as 'stupid', for questioning the theory of evolution.  Indeed, science is itself partly to blame for this state of affairs, in the effort on some scientists' part to denigrate or deny the simple religious faith of average people. 

It seems to me that when the American people are helped to understand that accepting the theory of evolution does not necessarily mean rejecting their faith, then perhaps it will cease being a controversial political issue.  And Presidential candidates will stop having to answer questions about evolution, which I'm sure would please most of them!

Smart and Dumb in Politics

As usual, Kathleen Parker, lately of Parker/Spitzer on CNN but prior to that and still a Washington Post columnist, has insightful things to say.  She's supposed to be a 'conservative', but I don't know about that.  She certainly doesn't agree with much that the editors and writers of the Weekly Standard or the National Review normally say, because if she did, I wouldn't read her very much.  But as it is, I read her regularly.  I just think she's got good common sense.

In her WaPo column today, she writes about the issue of smart versus dumb in politicians, referring specifically to Gov. Perry vs. our brainy, Ivy-League educated President.
There are, of course, lots of ways to be smart and lots of ways to be dumb. We often talk about book smarts and street smarts, as though the two are mutually exclusive. We know from experience that brilliant book people can be nincompoops when it comes to common sense, while people lacking formal education can be brilliant problem-solvers.

We know these things, yet we seem to have fallen in love with the notion that only book smarts matter when it comes to the nation’s problems. At least Democrats have. Republicans, despite having a few brainiacs in their midst, have taken the opposite approach, emphasizing instead the value of being just regular folk. In GOP circles, being an ordinary American is viewed as superior to being one of those egg-headed elitists.

Distilled, this is really a brains-vs.-gut question — erudite theorist vs. plain-spoken doer — not that the two need be mutually exclusive. Would it be too much to ask that a well-read mind come packaged in a human vessel that also has had some experience in the trenches of ordinary life?
As for me, I will never again cast a Presidential vote for someone so young and so lacking in life experience of a practical kind. Of course, age and the accompanying practical wisdom doesn't guarantee anything--just look at Dick Cheney, for example. But in this age of celebrity, we can so easily be seduced by looks or personality or rhetoric that we easily pass over the most important factors that make an effective political leader.  True discernment is difficult but necessary.  Which means we're probably in a heap of trouble.


Maureen Dowd, columnist for the New York Times and a writer no one has ever thought was a conservative (though she seems an equal opportunity critic of every President), writes today about Rick Perry:
Traveling to Lynchburg, Va., to speak to students at Liberty University (as in Falwell, not Valance), Perry made light of his bad grades at Texas A&M.

Studying to be a veterinarian, he stumbled on chemistry and made a D one semester and an F in another. “Four semesters of organic chemistry made a pilot out of me,” said Perry, who went on to join the Air Force.

“His other D’s,” Richard Oppel wrote in The Times, “included courses in the principles of economics, Shakespeare, ‘Feeds & Feeding,’ veterinary anatomy and what appears to be a course called ‘Meats.’ ”

He even got a C in gym.

Perry conceded that he “struggled” with college, and told the 13,000 young people in Lynchburg that in high school, he had graduated “in the top 10 of my graduating class — of 13.”

It’s enough to make you long for W.’s Gentleman’s C’s. At least he was a mediocre student at Yale.

Israel and Palestine

With regard to the Israeli-Palestinian issue, the Israel lobby is so powerful in the United States that CNN's notion of opinion balance on this issue is 3 to 1.  (And that understates the imbalance, because of Jewish hard-core neo-conservative ideology.)

On Fareed Zakaria GPS, a normally very ideologically balanced show, a panel discussion this morning of the Palestinian drive for recognition in the UN had three Jews and one Palestinian.  And two of the Jews were what I can only call rapid Zionists and neo-conservatives: Bret Stephens, formerly editor of the Jerusalem Post, and Elliot Abrams, foreign policy staffer in the Reagan and George W. Bush administration (who was also convicted of crimes in the Iran-Contra affair during the 80s).  The third Jew was Gideon Rose, a moderate by today's ideological standards, who edits Foreign Affairs magazine for the Council on Foreign Relations.  The lone Palestinian was a Columbia professor named Rashid Khalidi, a very moderate Palestinian in every way.

I will say that it was a constrained, self-disciplined discussion, thanks no doubt to the respect all of the panelists have for Fareed.

On the substantive issue of Israel and Palestine, it has been the official position of the US since the founding of Israel in 1948 that there should be a two-state solution, with the splitting of the total original territory of Palestine into an Israeli state and a Palestinian state.  Yet, some 63 years later, Israel is the only state, and they are deliberating planting settlements in as much of the rest of the territory, trying to accomplish a fait accompli on the ground.  It appears that they won't negotiate in good faith, certainly not with the current Israeli administration of Benjamin Netanyahu in charge, except to drag things out until they have effectively annexed all of Palestine into Greater Israel.

Given all these facts, I don't blame the Palestinian at all for pushing the UN for political recognition.  Given the power of the Israeli Lobby in Washington, no American administration can support the Palestinians in this without committing political suicide.  But that doesn't mean it's the right thing to do, and I don't support it.

And supporting the Palestinians doesn't mean you hate or oppose Israel.  I've toured Israel twice, and I support the notion of a Jewish homeland.  But at the same time, the rights of the Palestinians for self-determination and political freedom cannot in good conscience be denied either.

And frankly, religious arguments from the Old Testament do not change any of this.  It is a bit ridiculous, in my opinion, to argue from the ancient prophet Isaiah or Daniel to try and determine this 21st century political/foreign policy issue.  We wouldn't and shouldn't do it on any other issue, so let's not do it with regard to this one.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Stealing of Retirement

Here's a very good article on pensions (being stolen by management) in
America is in the midst of a retirement crisis. Over the last decade, we've witnessed the wholesale gutting of pension and retiree healthcare in this country. Hundreds of companies have slashed and burned their way through their employees' benefits, leaving former workers either on Social Security or destitute -- and taxpayers with a huge burden that, as the baby boomer generation edges towards retirement, is likely to grow. It's a problem that is already affecting over a million people -- and the most shocking part is, none of this needed to happen.

As Ellen E. Shultz, an investigative reporter for the Wall Street Journal, reveals in her new book, "Retirement Heist," it wasn't the dire economy that led these companies to plunder their own employees' earnings, it was greed. Over the last decade, some of the biggest companies -- including Bank of America, IBM, General Motors, GE and even the NFL -- found loopholes, abused ambiguous regulations and used litigation to turn their employees' hard-earned retirement funds into profits, and in some cases, executive compensation. Schultz's book offers a relentlessly infuriating look at the mechanisms they used to get away with it.

Obama, Hire This Man!

Jeffrey Sachs, economist at Columbia University, writes about the fact that neither political party is giving us true, long-term solutions to the jobs crisis:
With President Obama's speech on Monday and Speaker Boehner's speech yesterday, we can put the Democratic and Republican Party economic plans side by side. What is stunning is that neither side offers a serious diagnosis or a solution. The truth this time is not in the middle, a compromise of the two views. The truth, alas, requires a new view, and probably a new party.

The President's plan is another example of short-run gimmickry. The President wants to cut taxes in 2012 and raise them afterwards. The idea is to give a quick jolt to the economy, on the theory that the economy mainly requires a temporary stimulus to get it back on track. This is the same stimulus approach that has been tried since 2009. We have a learned the obvious: a series of short-term gimmicks does not add up to a long-term strategy.

The Republicans want a long-term strategy, but one that would take us in the wrong direction. The Republican mantra, repeated relentlessly since 1980, is that tax cuts and deregulation are the solution to growth and employment. The Republican tax theory is simple: higher taxes reduce economic growth and job creation. Since government spending must be paid for with taxes, either now or in the future, cutting government spending is necessary for tax cuts and job creation. The problem with the Republican position is simple: it's wrong....

America's revival will come through a new political movement, one that isn't on the political take, one in which the incumbent President doesn't feel the compulsion to raise $1 billion in campaign contributions while the leading opposition candidate isn't yet another corrupt Texas crony of the oil industry. The new third party will thrive on free social media, will wade boldly into minority communities and into run-down neighborhoods of the white working class, and will wage a campaign to tax the rich and the corporations to rebuild America at home, not to build the bank accounts of the super-rich in the Cayman Islands and other favorite tax hideaways.

The Circus Crowd

Marcos Hardy comments on a New York Review of Books article on the recent CNN/Tea Party debate, which was, to put it mildly, not your typical Presidential debate:

...this nation has begat this blood-lusting, solipsistic crowd. (It is this the first time that I think of a crowd as solipsistic!) They are the problem. Today they dress in gingham and denim and belt buckles with Harley-Davidson engraves, yesterday they were cladded in tattered togas and sandals, later in brown and black shirts, breeches, jackboots and belt buckles that stated "Gott mit Uns" ("God is with us.")

They are the circus crowd.

They cheer to the prospect of a man dying because of lack of health insurance. Applauds at the mere mention of the number (<200!) of Texas government-mandated executions . This crowd would rather have their teenage daughters die of HPV-induced cervical cancer than have them vaccinated. This is the pseudo-Christian crowd that wants to do away with universal health care insurance, Social Security, Medicare, Human Rights, the EPA, education, culture and science. This crowd wants the shift of the wealth of the nation to the wealthy ones.

They equate gun ownership with freedom. They just cherish death. This is the same crowd that went deliriously happy when in a 1938 rally von Schirach, head of the Hitlerjugend, took his gun out of his holster and waving it exclaimed "Wenn ich Kultur höre entsichere ich meinen Browning!" ("When I hear the word culture I release the safety of my pistol!") Is the same crowd that in 1936 in a rally at the University of Salamanca excitedly cheered Millán Astray, the pious ultra-christian head of Franco's Foreign Legion, when he proclaimed ¡Muera la inteligencia! ¡Viva la muerte!" ("Death to intelligence! Long live death!!")

This crowd is the Republican/Tea Party mob. Perry's and Bachmann's and Romney's and Santorum's and Gingrich's and the Pizza Guy's crowd. And this crowd will elect the next President of the USA, fulfilling their death wishes, fostering the extinction of this nation.

The Republican/Tea Party is not the party of life, it is the party of death. What a sad moment for the USA! Welcome to Blood Night at the Colosseum! As Gene Wilder said in Blazing Saddles, "they are the common people, the salt of the Earth... morons." Criminal morons, one might add. And they are very dangerous.
Perhaps an exaggeration, but people have long been predicting our own home-grown fascist movement, wrapped in a flag and wearing crosses.  Maybe it's arrived.

Friday, September 16, 2011

CNN, That's What I Was Thinking

Jon Stewart on the CNN/Tea Party Republican Party Debate:  

Solyndra Loan Gone Bad

Jon Stewart tells us all we need to know about the growing scandel over the Solyndra company government loan.

The Great Contraction: How We Got Here, And Where Do We Go From Here

I've been rereading some of my past posts on the economic crisis on my blog 'The Rude Awakening' (now that was a prescient title, I'd say), which I've been writing now for three years, since the start of the Great Contraction. 

There are two posts in particular I want to 'reshare' with you here, because the first one diagnoses our economic crisis, and the second one gives some broad, common-sense solutions for the future.

All of my posts on the economic crisis, all 171 one of them, can be browsed here, if you're interested.

Why reinvent the wheel, I say!

Kevin Phillips, Prophet of the Great Contraction

It is so hard to get a handle on this economic crisis we are living through. However, for a very sophisticated and, I think, accurate analysis of how we got here, you couldn't do much better than this video of Kevin Phillips, one of the truly prophetic national analysts of our day. He came to prominence as an aid to President Nixon, and since then has been writing as a social analyst of our emerging political, economic, and cultural patterns. The following video is of a lecture he gave in April of 2008, before the crash the following September.  He was spot on. (Since 2008, he has virtually disappeared from sight, and I don't know why.) He has several books out, if you want to read more, including Wealth and Democracy, American Theocracy, and Bad Money. [I've posted it before last December, but it is so important that I'm posting it again.]

="" <="" allowfullscreen="true" allowscriptaccess="always" embed="">

The Obamas and the CIA

This is an interesting, extended--and obviously highly speculative--case for the theory that Barack Obama's father and mother--and grandparents too--were involved at times in work for American intelligence.  Written by investigative reporter Wayne Madson, it gets highly technical about how the CIA has operated over the last 60 years.  If nothing else, you may learn something about the CIA that you didn't know before.  (Another great book on the subject of the CIA is Legacy of Ashes by Tim Weiner of the New York Times.)  It may all sound crazy--and maybe it is crazy--but this is a crazy world indeed, especially inside the 'Matrix'-like world of the global intelligence services.

I'll excerpt just a few paragraphs.
Barack Obama, Sr., who met Dunham in 1959 in a Russian language class at the University of Hawaii, had been part of what was described as an airlift of 280 East African students to the United States to attend various colleges – merely “aided” by a grant from the Joseph P. Kennedy Foundation, according to a September 12, 1960, Reuters report from London. The airlift was a CIA operation to train and indoctrinate future agents of influence in Africa, which was becoming a battleground between the United States and the Soviet Union and China for influence among newly-independent and soon-to-be independent countries on the continent.

The airlift was condemned by the deputy leader of the opposition Kenyan African Democratic Union (KADU) as favoring certain tribes – the majority Kikuyus and minority Luos – over other tribes to favor the Kenyan African National Union (KANU), whose leader was Tom Mboya, the Kenyan nationalist and labor leader who selected Obama, Sr. for a scholarship at the University of Hawaii. Obama, Sr., who was already married with an infant son and pregnant wife in Kenya, married Dunham on Maui on February 2, 1961 and was also the university’s first African student. Dunham was three month’s pregnant with Barack Obama, Jr. at the time of her marriage to Obama, Sr.

KADU deputy leader Masinda Muliro, according to Reuters, said KADU would send a delegation to the United States to investigate Kenyan students who received “gifts” from the Americans and “ensure that further gifts to Kenyan students are administered by people genuinely interested in Kenya’s development.”

Mboya received a $100,000 grant for the airlift from the Kennedy Foundation after he turned down the same offer from the U.S. State Department, obviously concerned that direct U.S. assistance would look suspicious to pro-Communist Kenyan politicians who suspected Mboya of having CIA ties. The Airlift Africa project was underwritten by the Kennedy Foundation and the African-American Students Foundation. Obama, Sr. was not on the first airlift but a subsequent one. The airlift, organized by Mboya in 1959, included students from Kenya, Uganda, Tanganyika, Zanzibar, Northern Rhodesia, Southern Rhodesia, and Nyasaland.

Reuters also reported that Muliro charged that Africans were “disturbed and embittered” by the airlift of the selected students. Muliro “stated that “preferences were shown to two major tribes [Kikuyu and Luo] and many U.S.-bound students had failed preliminary and common entrance examinations, while some of those left behind held first-class certificates.”

Obama, Sr. was a friend of Mboya and a fellow Luo. After Mboya was assassinated in 1969, Obama, Sr. testified at the trial of his alleged assassin. Obama, Sr. claimed he was the target of a hit-and-run assassination attempt after his testimony.

9/11 Conspiracy Theory in Less Than Five Minutes--and Funny Too

This was an interesting summary of the 9/11 'truth' position:

Where Things Stand...September 16, 2011

Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee have dealt a huge blow to the Northeast, with major flooding across the region.  This has largely gone unnoticed by the major media, as far as I can tell, but there will be thousands of families who will be struggling to recover from this, since most home insurance doesn't cover flooding.  Why not?  Why shouldn't typical homeowners insurance cover flooding?  It's crazy.

President Obama has proposed a major jobs bill and gone on the hustings to push it.  Unfortunately, the timing of this has a political resonance to it that will probably prevent any significant part of it from enacted.  Republicans will refuse to raise taxes, as the President says he wants, and so the legislation will probably come to a standstill in the Congress.

Both the Republicans and President Obama have taken major hits this week from within their own parties.  A longtime Republican staffer in Congress, Michael Lofgren, has retired and struck out with a sharp attack on the Republican party, calling them a party of 'lunatics'.  Likewise, some anonymous Democrat has put together a video that calls into question the record of President Obama and whether he should run for reelection.  Other Democratic writers like Matt Miller and Matt Taibbi have expressed serious reservations about Obama.

While it is very unlikely that any challenger will be able to dislodge Obama, the Republicans remain very unsettled in their race for the nomination.  Rick Perry has, over the last two weeks, taken the lead in the polls over the former frontrunner Mitt Romney.  Perry has considerable strengths to get the Republican nomination, while at the same time, considerable weaknesses for the general election.  Yet, Obama is very weak, given that the chances of his winning North Carolina, Virginia, and several other states that he won in 2008 are, in my opinion, very small. 

Romney has improved his 'game', I think....I have been impressed with his ability to articulate his positions and appear 'Presidential'.  But he remains unimpressive to many Republicans, especially on the more conservative side, which is now most of the party!  So it will be interesting to see he and Perry battle it out.  It would appear that most of the other candidates are out of the game, including Sarah Palin.  It's hard to imagine anyone else getting in now.  If I were a betting man, I would place it on Rick Perry.  Republicans want a 'strong' man, not a reasonable man.

Would it be such a terrible thing if someone like Perry won the Presidency?  After all, with a few exceptions, Obama has governed like George W. Bush, in both his foreign and domestic policy.  I suppose that's a debatable conclusion, but the basic point has been made by numerous observers recently.  So, rather than having a Democrat govern like a Republican, why not have a Republican govern like a Republican?  Then, when people realize how dreadful that is in terms of its impact on ordinary people, the Democrats can possibly get their act together and actually elect someone who will govern like a real Democrat!!  (Which is what we thought we were getting with Obama, but as the guy in the previous video puts it, he pulled a 'bait and switch' on us.)

Meanwhile, the economy continues to weaken, and people grow more desperate.  And no one seems to know what to do.  I've been saying this for years now that this is probable course of events, so I'm not surprised.  Deeply saddened, of course, but not surprised.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

A Challenge to President Obama from a Democrat

I haven't posted anything in a while, partly because it's just easier to plop it on my Facebook page.  But I've decided to get back to my blog, if only because it's a better, longterm repository for my thoughts and ideas than Facebook, .  And to start off, I want to post a video that I just watched, entitled 'Joe Mason for President.'  I came across it on James Fallows blog, and it expresses exactly--and powerfully--what I've been feeling about President Obama since the election.