“What is it, all of the sudden, that this drone program has gotten every Republican all spun up?” Graham asked. He said that many are ‘astonished’ that Obama has continued President Bush’s war on terror. “I’m not astonished, I congratulate him for having the good judgment to understand we’re at war,” Graham added.
“To my party, I’m a bit disappointed that you no longer apparently think we’re at war,” he observed. “Not Senator Paul, he’s a man to himself. He has a view that I don’t think is a Republican view – I think it’s a legitimately held libertarian view.
Graham [also] slammed Paul for failing to sign a resolution in which the Senate professed its refusal to accept a nuclear-capable Iran.
So, are we any closer to progress here? Republicans (some of them anyway) spoke up in support of the filibuster and forgive me if I don’t quite believe they have become converts to the cause of civil liberties. It was simply an opportunity to get on television with the cameras rolling. The Democrats, who might be expected to have a civil libertarian or two among their ranks,* simply circled the wagons around their president and his scary nominee for CIA director. As Glenn Greenwald tweeted yesterday: “4 years ago, Brennan’s advocacy of torture forced him to withdraw for top CIA spot; now, all Dems except 2 vote to confirm him. #ObamaLegacy”.
You should never put faith in a politician to be jury, judge, and executioner.
In the GWOT decade we have seen successive, and mutually exclusive, fatuous personality cults built around whoever was sitting in the White House. Partisans of both parties would do well to put Kirell’s statement on a plaque somewhere in their offices. To me the distinctions between killing Americans on American soil vs. killing them overseas vs. killing non-Americans are really distractions from the major question: does any person, or group, have the right to sentence anyone to death based on secret criteria?
I’m hoping that years from now we will be able to look back on the past decade as an aberration, and we will revert to a time when extrajudicial assassination was, rightly, considered an appalling manifestation of an imperial mindset. Hoping, but not counting on it.
* OK there were exactly two, but one wished for more maybe?
What I appreciate about Romney’s remark, even though this obviously isn’t what he intended it to mean, is that it makes so plain the basically quotidian nature of murder-by-Presidential-decree; it says that ordering hasty acts of war is the equivalent of updating your Outlook calendar or checking your voicemail in the morning, a mundane and repetitive task that everyone performs, just a part of the job, one part Easter Egg roll and one part press conference. Romney is standing in front of the great national Meineke and asking us to laugh at the incumbent mechanic for bragging about offering oil changes and tire rotations. Well, what else would he be doing?
A really good cartoon. I reblogged it secondhand. It originally came from STFU Conservatives, a site whose self-description is as follows:
Basically, we like facts and truth, and we hate ignorance. If you believe in feminism, liberal ideals, civil rights, abortion, marijuana legalization, healthcare access, marriage equality, stopping slut-shaming and fatphobia, ending the wars, and revamping the tax codes
I like all of those things too! Some are more important to me than others: ending wars is a bigger deal than fatphobia, but that’s just me. But I wandered around the site, and if I may be so bold as to generalize, it seems to be all about saying bad things about Republicans and worshipful paeans to the president (Obama’s 11 Most Badass Moments, e.g.) Which is fine, but really? This cartoon? Do the STFU people feel the War on Drugs and War on Terror are essentially or exclusively REPUBLICAN things?
I read on. Wasn’t really convinced. Another post on TPM says overturning ACA would lead to single payer. Who knows? I don’t. I kept at it until I got to the comments, which were not particularly enlightened. One comment made the fairly uncontroversial point that the ACA is a “Republican bill.” And was pounced upon in general. And then, one of my favorite comments of all time came up:
Blah de blah de blah blah blah. Same old progressive purity troll crap, different year. You are exactly the kind of idiot who gave Florida to George W. Bush by convincing people to vote for Nader.
That’s it. Criticize Obama and the Democrats and ultimately the partisans will take the conversation here. At least now I know what I am: a progressive purity troll.
As is typical, the most concise and most biting analysis of the recent Electiontainment Follies comes from Mr. Cockburn over at Counterpunch. “America the Clueless” is guaranteed to raise the hackles of partisans of all stripes (a good thing).
The American people have spoken, but it’s impossible to decode their incoherent message. Drunk with their capture of the House of Representatives, the Republicans thunder that the verdict of ballot boxes from Maine to Hawai’i is clarion-clear: the ultimate evil in America is government, specifically government as led by President Barack Obama. But when exit pollsters questioned voters on their way to those same ballot boxes, as to who should take the blame for the country’s economic problems, 35 per cent said Wall Street, 30 per cent said Bush and 23 per cent Obama. The American people want a government that mustn’t govern, a budget that must simultaneously balance and create jobs, cut spending across the board and leave the Defense budget intact. Collectively, the election makes clear, they haven’t a clue which way to march.
A couple of choice snippets:
On Harry Reid and the bizarre challenge mounted by Ms. Angle:
It should be added that the powerful corporate and labor interests in the state of Nevada , most notably in the gambling and entertainment and construction sector, were all aghast at the possibility that economically stricken Nevada might cease to have its cause promoted in Washington DC by the most powerful man in the U.S. Senate, and instead have as their tribune a racist dingbat with zero political clout. If ever there was a need for the fix to be in, and seasoned fixers available to face the task, it was surely in Nevada. But that said, Angle and the Tea Party may have engineered defeat all on their own.
And the Rand Paul/Reagan nexus (or disconnect):
The second craziest victory speech of the evening came from a Tea Party man, Rand Paul, now the Republican senator from Kentucky. “We’re enslaved by debt,” he screamed at his cheering supporters and followed this by savage diatribes about any constructive role for government. Now it’s possible that Paul, inflamed with libertarian principle, could actually try to filibuster the next vote in the US Senate to authorize an increase in the US national debt. As awed commentators swiftly noted, he could plunge the United States into default, bring economic devastation to the world.
On the other hand, the history of the Republican Party is supposed crazies, like Ronald Reagan who campaigned against the deficit in 1980, coming to heel and plunging the United States into a vast new ocean of red ink, courtesy of his tax cuts. It’s what drives the Tea Partiers crazy. They do know one basic truth – that to govern is to betray and they are in line for betrayal.
Nor does Cockburn sugar-coat things for the strikingly (still!) large contingent of Obama loyalists. (But if the die-hards can overlook the fact that the only peep to emerge from the White House on the night the President’s party was being slaughtered was a statement in praise of the defeat of Prop 19 (“screw you, young people“), this will probably roll off their backs as well):
The landscape has changed. The Republican swing in the House was as dramatic as in 1994, after two years of Bill Clinton. Democrats who entered Congress on Obama’s coattails have now been ousted. What lies ahead is a war of maneuver, between the White House and the Republican leadership. Obama has been weakened — deservedly so, because a large part of Tuesday’s disaster for his party can be laid at his door. He laid down no convincing political theme, mounted no effective offense, relied on a team of advisors of dubious competence, which had run out of steam. He himself tried to run for and against an effective role for government, made the same childish equations of domestic and federal budgets, sent out mixed messages, lost the confidence of the young and of a vital slice of the independents.
All the same, after two years, the polls show Obama is no more unpopular than was Clinton in 1994. By 1996 Clinton had outmaneuvered the Republican leadership and won reelection in 1996. Today the economic situation is far worse than it was in 1994. No effective political and economic strategy for recovery is on the cards in the current atmosphere. As always, these days in America, our last best friend will be gridlock.
He’s saying we can pretty much count on the incompetence of politicians of both classes. I wish I were as optimistic as he is.
“First they came, the invisible whites, and dealt death from afar.”
—Joseph Conrad, An Outcast of the Islands
The murderous rocket attacks by remote-controlled drones being carried out on a nearly daily basis in Pakistan (and Afghanistan and Yemen and Somaila) should be cause for mass revulsion, shame, protests in the streets. But no. Try hard to find a candidate for office from either party criticizing them. Even the scary crazy Tea Party people are down with Obama on this one!
Imagine if, an hour from now, a robot-plane swooped over your house and blasted it to pieces. The plane has no pilot. It is controlled with a joystick from 7,000 miles away, sent by the Pakistani military to kill you. It blows up all the houses in your street, and so barbecues your family and your neighbours until there is nothing left to bury but a few charred slops. Why? They refuse to comment. They don’t even admit the robot-planes belong to them. But they tell the Pakistani newspapers back home it is because one of you was planning to attack Pakistan. How do they know? Somebody told them. Who? You don’t know, and there are no appeals against the robot.
Now imagine it doesn’t end there: these attacks are happening every week somewhere in your country. They blow up funerals and family dinners and children. The number of robot-planes in the sky is increasing every week. You discover they are named “Predators”, or “Reapers” – after the Grim Reaper. No matter how much you plead, no matter how much you make it clear you are a peaceful civilian getting on with your life, it won’t stop. What do you do?
You, as a typical American, even a highly educated one, say well, that is crazy. Sure, mistakes happen in war. Heh. The United States armed forces are the best trained and most moral soldiers in the world. You know it is a fact that we are taking Every Precaution to Minimize Collateral Damage.
That doesn’t exactly jibe with a number mentioned by Hari here, or more accurately, a ratio. Although old news, it really jumped out at me. Fifty to one. That is the ratio cited by David Kilcullen, a counterinsurgency adviser to Gen. David Petraeus from 2006 to 2008, in a New York Times op-ed last year. According to Pakistani sources, wrote Kilcullen, the drone strikes kill “50 civilians for every militant killed, a hit rate of 2 percent–hardly ‘precision.'”
The Pentagon of course doesn’t agree with these numbers, but hmm, who to believe? (And remember Tommy Franks’ “We don’t do body counts”?) Maybe it’s 2 percent or ten or twenty percent “precision,” but any way you look at it, these drone attacks leave a lot of bodies, and body parts, littering the ground. And you can’t blame Bush for this anymore. The drone attacks are very much the current administration’s baby.
Apparently, the president rarely mentions the drone attacks at all. Except on one occasion, when he cracked a joke about them. The Pakistan Daily reports on the White House Correspondents Dinner in May:
“[The] Jonas Brothers are here, they’re out there somewhere,” President Obama quipped as he looked out at the packed room. Then he furrowed his brow, pretending to send a stern message to the pop band. “Sasha and Malia are huge fans, but boys, don’t get any ideas. Two words for you: predator drones. You’ll never see it coming.”
What a card. Nice one, President Peace Prize! He might have mentioned that statistically, the drones would not only have taken out Kevin, Joe and Nick, but 150 members of their family and entourage, and whoever else might have been in the neighborhood.
Kilcullen’s point, and Hari’s, is still to my mind a little obtuse. Hari again:
I detest jihadism. Their ideology is everything I oppose: their ideal society is my Hell. It is precisely because I want to really undermine them – rather than pose as macho – that I am against this robot-slaughter. It enlarges the threat. It drags us into a terrible feedback loop, where the US launches more drone attacks to deal with jihadism, which makes jihadism worse, which prompts more drone attacks, which makes jihadism worse – and on and on.
I would suggest these attacks are counterproductive only if you take at face value the idea that America’s mission in its wars is to wipe out this jihadism. (I would side with Robert Pape, who has demonstrated pretty well that “The central fact is that overwhelmingly suicide-terrorist attacks are not driven by religion as much as they are by a clear strategic objective: to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from the territory that the terrorists view as their homeland.”)
“Sometimes you’re dealing with tribal chiefs. Often they say an enemy of theirs is al-Qa’ida because they want to get rid of somebody, or they made crap up because they wanted to prove they were valuable so they could make money.”
That’s right: Barack Obama is killing hundreds of innocent civilians in Pakistan on the basis of crap made up for money. Made-up crap. For money. That’s why a child who is just as precious as your child is to a parent who is just as real a person as you are was killed this week, by Barack Obama and the Democratic Party and the entire bipartisan foreign policy establishment of the United States of America: crap made up for money.
And of course, it’s not just tribal chiefs making up crap for blood money: the entire aforementioned bipartisan foreign policy establishment is now and has for years been making up crap ‘so they could make money’ — for themselves, for their corporate patrons, for their government agencies, for their defense and ‘security’ stockholdings, for the perpetuation of their bloated, belligerent, pig-ignorant domination of world affairs and American society — by killing innocent people all over the world.
I woke up this morning thinking I would be writing about the horrible fact that Americans in general, and Kentuckians in particular, are appallingly blase about the ongoing destruction and desecration of irreplaceable mountains and streams via the practice of Mountaintop Removal Mining. And how sad (really, that’s the only word) it is that there are no political candidates in this state willing to confront the coal industry over this. The parallels to the drone attacks are obvious and dispiriting. Only three percent of Americans are concerned about a metastasizing war entering its second decade. The most awful aspects of our American lives are a bipartisan effort.
Well, all righty. It’s now clear that the proliferation of Hippie-punching comments from the White House is not just a series of off the cuff remarks, not just blowing off steam, but an actual Campaign Strategy.
Blame the whiners and those who cling to their quaint literal understanding of the word Change. For it is they who are at fault for the Democrats’ impending electoral doom.
And none of these phrases motivate me to want to vote, canvass, give money, phone bank, blog, you know, generally take time away from putting food on my family to pull the lever for Democrats in November.On the other hand, these would do the trick.
“We’ll fight to add the public option to the health care bill.”
“We’re getting out of Afghanistan.”
“We are pulling the remaining 50,000 troops out of Iraq.”
“We’re going to cut the approximately $1T annual defense budget in half and use the remainder to fund US infrastructure projects, including high speed rail.”
“We will roll back the Bush/Cheney executive power grabs.”
“We will repeal DADT.”
“We will fight for marriage equality.”
“We will reform the Senate and eliminate the filibuster.”
The damage that Republican Supreme Court judges like Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, to name only a couple, have done is truly incalculable. If appointing a justice who could be counted on to undo and clear away some of that right wing wreckage is too much to ask, what does it say for the main reason, the clinching reason given for supporting Democratic presidential candidates?
This is a crucial and defining moment for the presidency of Barack Obama, the instant at which he leaves his mark on the high court for perhaps twenty or thirty years to come. Retiring justice John Paul Stevens is indisputably the most “liberal” voice on the court, a man with a clear record of opposing many racist practices and authoritarian tendencies. Stevens is the liberal anchor of the court. To replace that liberal anchor with anyone less committed to upholding the rights of the poor and powerless is to unleash and further empower the likes of Roberts, Scalia and Thomas. That’s precisely what President Obama accomplishes with the appointment of Elena Kagan.
Except maybe to mention that other putative trump card for partisan Dems, abortion rights. But the party is not doing such a great job defending the Right to Choose, it seems. This sad, and entirely predictable, state of affairs leads a Firedoglake diarist to lament that “history will show that Obama threw away over 35 years of pro-choice blood, sweat, and tears to give health insurers $474 billion over 6 years… and set us down the path to a country where most women will live in the pre-Roe world.”
I’m still waiting for those public forums on C-SPAN that Obama promised when campaigning. You know, where all parties come to the table, instead of legislation based on a series of shady back-room deals with insurance and pharmaceutical execs and lobbyists.
[Y]eah, I think the hospital industry’s got a deal here. There really were only two deals, meaning quid pro quo handshake deals on both sides, one with the hospitals and the other with the drug industry. And I think what you’re interested in is that in the background of these deals was the presumption, shared on behalf of the lobbyists on the one side and the White House on the other, that the public option was not going to be in the final product.
It was back in 1971 and President Nixon was concerned that he would once again have to face a Kennedy in the next year’s election — in this case a Kennedy with a proposal to extend health care to all Americans. Feeling the need to offer an alternative, Nixon asked Congress to require for the first time that all companies provide a health plan for their employees, with federal subsidies for low-income workers. Nixon was particularly intrigued by a new idea called health maintenance organizations, which held the promise of providing high-quality care at lower prices by relying on salaried physicians to manage and coordinate patient care.
At first, Kennedy rejected Nixon’s proposal as nothing more than a bonanza for the insurance industry that would create a two-class system of health care in America. But after Nixon won reelection, Kennedy began a series of secret negotiations with the White House that almost led to a public agreement. In the end, Nixon backed out after receiving pressure from small-business owners and the American Medical Association. And Kennedy himself decided to back off after receiving heavy pressure from labor leaders, who urged him to hold out for a single-payer system once Democrats recaptured the White House in the wake of the Watergate scandal.
But it should tell you how far the country has moved to the right that the various proposals put forward by a Democratic president and Congress bear an eerie resemblance to the deal cooked up between Kennedy and Nixon, while Nixon’s political heirs vilify it as nothing less than a socialist plot.
Yes, we’ve come a long way, in an icky direction. But the Republicans’ appalling behavior is really the sputtering of the powerless. The GOP and its elected functionaries are simply obstructing a deal they wish they had struck. As for their shock troops, the dissonance is simply too much and they are bellying up to the table and scarfing down vast quantities of their peculiar comfort food: paranoid ideas of a super-powerful government and, that old standby, race-based vilification. They are burrowing deeper into their crazy places than I had thought possible.
But the lunacy of certain powerless factions, while capable of generating horrific acts, is a sideshow.
The main event is this: the party in power made a bargain with industries with a proven record of doing actual harm to the health and well-being of the electorate. The president spoke in favor of a public option while in private reassuring insurance and pharma that it ain’t gonna happen on his watch. Really. He did. There is no electoral justification for this strategy, as the Republicans were going to oppose anything he put forward anyway.
Obama is indeed a walking Rorschach test, but I would humbly submit that he is not the Hitler/Stalin/Chavez/Satan composite of the teabaggers’ fevered imaginings. Just as important, some of his partisans need to get a clue. He falls waaaaaaayyy short of being a heroic champion of progressive values.
This bill, if it ever gets enacted, four years down the line, might be a step in the right direction. Or, even its supporters must accept, it might not. It’s a mess. As Michael Moore points out, some will benefit hugely, but, as Donna Smith, a blogger on his site, also notes, in the near term, people will keep dying by the thousands for the crime of not being able to pay for health care. “The dead SiCKOs would still die; the bankrupt and broken would still break; and the ill would still suffer.” In large part this is because the President and Congress suddenly value thrift with the national budget (except, uh, it need hardly be said, here) and the patronage of cronies over their voters’ lives.
The Democrats can count their blessings that they exist at the same time as the current version of the Republican party, which has pretty much gone completely crazy. In the presence of such batshit opposition, they get a pass for being merely appalling.
With the groundswell of support and good will they had in the 2008 elections, the sky was the limit, but they took single payer off the table immediately, and cut a deal eliminating any kind of public option (while singing its praises, and fretting that they didn’t have the votes). We’re still going to have a single payer system in this country. We could have done it this year, but it will have to wait until millions more are overwhelmed by the costs of health care, which this legislation does nothing to contain.
It’s a complex, nuanced piece, and well worth reading in its entirety, but a point Ackerman makes in his conclusion screams out for comment.
This is not an argument about whether Obama “pushed hard enough” on this or that, or whether Harry Reid sold out such-and-such. The obsession with this kind of short-term thinking is the whole reason why we’re in this mess. It’s quite possible Obama couldn’t have gotten elected if he’d proposed anything more ambitious than the “Demo-plan.” And once in office he may not have been able to get his Demo-plan passed without dropping the more liberal features.
But all of that is beside the point. Whether or not a better health reform plan could have passed at this precise moment is a secondary issue. The larger question is what this bill tells us about this precise moment. Obama came into office with every whim of history leaning in his direction: a discredited Republican predecessor, a crisis of deregulated finance that reached a crescendo literally weeks before the election (what luck!); the largest Democratic majorities in decades (in a sense, even larger than the 1965 majorities; not counting southerners, the Democrats had 47 Senate seats in 2009, versus 40 in 1965). Such a clear shot will not return for decades.
And the result: The Democrats shot their historical wad on health care by re-introducing Bob Dole’s bill from 1994 and justifying it as a free-market solution. How is that a “huge progressive victory”?
Wait? Uh, what? Bob Dole’s bill from 1994? Ackerman just sort of snuck that in there. But take a look at this “executive memorandum” from the Heritage Foundation, “Dole’s Health Care Compromise: A Prudent Foundation for Reform”:
[Dole’s] bill requires insurers to renew policies and prohibits pre-existing condition limitations in new policies, while protecting insurers by allowing reasonable waiting periods. It also limits premium variations to differences based on age, family size, geogra- phy, and other risk factors, but not health condition. Further, the bill blocks states from mandating insurers to include costly benefits that buyers do not want. It introduces malpractice reforms to reduce legal costs, and reforms the antitrust rules to make it easier for groups of physicians or other providers to do business.
The bill also encourages the creation of purchasing groups, including non-employer associations, to bargain for good insurance rates. But wisely, it does not mandate health alliances, or force- employers to pick plans for their employees. Thus, Americans could join health insurance purchasing associations based on, say, a church, a union or a farm bureau, not just an employer-sponsored pool.
Mmm. Yes. That does look vaguely familiar. Wow. Obama sweeps into power with “every whim of history leaning in his direction,” and an unprecedented opportunity to push for real reform, and we get… Bob Dole.
And if you, like me, are sick and tired of hearing “it’s a start” and “it’s better than doing nothing,” there’s this:
But it gets worse. The decentralized private payment system will inevitably start crowding out the public insurance we already have, especially Medicare. With continued double-digit medical inflation, the slow-motion dismantling of Medicare isn’t a possibility, it seems like an eventual certainty. (Just look at the current deficit hysteria, which is now being propitiated by the White House and its independent commission.) We are on a moving train going in the wrong direction; instead of turning the train around, this bill tries to solve the problem by having us all run towards the caboose.
Barring some sort of divine intervention, whatever version of health care reform that passes will be an unmitigated disaster for America. I didn’t vote for Obama (or, I should not have to add, McCain), and wasn’t expecting much, but this tops my most pessimistic imaginings.