Category Archives: Harry Reid:part of the problem

As the Congress prepares to cut Social Security from poor old widows, while cutting taxes on millionaires, and we support the apartheid and starvation of innocents in the Middle East, it may be time to think about where this “great experiment in democracy” is going as “the greatest country in the world”:

SPIEGEL: Notes on the Decline of a Great Nation: The United States is frittering away its role as a model for the rest of the world. The political system is plagued by an absurd level of hatred, the economy is stagnating and the infrastructure is falling into a miserable state of disrepair.

As an American expat living in the European Union, I’ve started to see America from a different perspective through the prism of the European media.

The European Union has a larger economy and more people than America does. Though it spends less — right around 9 percent of GNP on medical, whereas we in the U.S. spend close to between 15 to 16 percent of GNP on medical — the EU pretty much insures 100 percent of its population.

The U.S. has 59 million people medically uninsured; 132 million without dental insurance; 60 million without paid sick leave; 45 million on food stamps. Everybody in the European Union has cradle-to-grave access to universal medical and a dental plan by law. The law also requires paid sick leave; paid annual leave; paid maternity leave. When you realize all of that, it becomes easy to understand why many Europeans think America has gone insane, particularly as 2 million long-term unemployed Americans are getting ready to lose their jobless benefits as America approaches the year end fiscal cliff.
The sobering assessment of America’s unemployment rate isn’t really 7.9 percent, but close to 20 percent when we factor in the number of people who have stopped looking for work.

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All foreign calls are being tapped. Period. All. Totally.

Attorney General Mukasey is spreading the fear, in order to scare Congress into legalizing Bush’s/telecom’s lawless surveillance. It’s clear why the Bush administration won’t bother with warrants, and it always has been. They just won’t admit it.

All phone calls coming to and from the US are being monitored en masse. It’s a total, mass, automated, all-encompassing system.

They work at the level of the massive trunk lines as they enter and leave the country, not at the level of some individual phone.  So they get ALL CALLS.

Every call. All calls. each call. your call, my call. his call, her call; Russ Feingold’s call…. tous les calls. All the time. All day, all night, weekends. 24/7/365.

That’s why they can’t bother with warrants and probable cause and suspicion and evidence and judges and rights. They have no evidence. They are just sifting through everything. Looking for particular words. Grabbing the words, guessing what thoughts might be behind the words. Policing the minds.

It’s an automated machine. Think of a huge net thrown over the entire ocean: no individual fish has any rights..the net can’t respect any rights. They are wiretapping the calls of every person in the United States, if they talk to anyone overseas. It demolishes the entire idea of freedom from unreasonable search.
And it’s not just a search issue.

In effect, every call is being censored. Think of it. Every call from every journalist in Iraq is being monitored, and so is every elected official in the US who might get any information from overseas. How can anyone talk about the Middle East without using words that would make the alarms go off? He who controls the flow of information controls the public mind.

And it operates in total secrecy. No one knows what words and phrases will trigger the alarms, or what happens next, in terms of lists and investigations, and how you are ever cleared of suspicion. We can be pretty confident that Bush’s Pioneer donor lists are a get out of jail free card, and that Democratic governors are a free fire zone, but that’s about all we can guess.

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Guns or butter? Bombs or healthcare? participatory democracy or plutocracy/fascism?

Washington Post talks about Clinton and Obama tying the economy to the war in Iraq.

That is getting close to what this election is about. This election is fundamentally about the survival of this nation as a good place to live and as a positive force in the world.

There are two directions we can go. The first is the Bush/McCain way. We can allow entrenched multinational corporations to run our country in the best interest of their short term profits. This will involve using our tax dollars to maintain our control of the world and its resources by military might, and we will press on with fossil based fuels that we will try to steal from others. This will require enormous military expenditures, and a virtual fascist state. The world will be our enemy, and we will be perpetually at war. This will entail loss of our freedoms and civil rights, domestic spying, racial and religious intolerance, and turning away from transparency, and from intellectual and scientific pursuits. History and reality will be defined by the ruling class.

Our citizens will do without healthcare coverage, and major illnesses will result in bankrupcy for all but the wealthy.  Our country will eventually go bankrupt, our currency will be worthless, and social security will vanish. We will do nothing to mitigate global warming.

Our citizens are already fed up with the corruption and sleazy politics, and our young people are turned off by, and to, the democratic process. Election of John McCain will further entrench those attitudes.

The other way is to elect someone who represents and gives hope to young people, who will go to the polls, who will demand some say in their future, who will demand that their tax dollars buy something useful, like universal healthcare. This way sees the rest of the world as a partner, not a slave or a colony. This way sees change as necessary, and will put money into generating new solutions, rather than holding on to the fossil fuels of the past and present. This approach will revitalize our economy. This is the way (we hope) Barack Obama can lead us. Some fear that he has not had enough experience. What presidents in the past have had “enough” experience? Lincoln? FDR? Teddy Roosevelt? Kennedy? Reagan? By the time you get a candidate with “enough” experience, they are in their sixties, and unable to inspire and lead those to whom the country really belongs.

Barack Obama has a record as an intelligent and responsible leader, and is an inspiring person. He connects with the young; he can bring them into the process. He is the hope of this country and, I dare say, the world. It took me a while to figure out what Obama’s message was about…it seemed like empty rhetoric…but now I get it.  This is about mobilizing our people, and taking back our country.  It’s leadership. Hillary Clinton is not the person who can do this. She represents the aspirations of millions of women, but she just can’t inspire large numbers of people to enter the system. Perhaps that is sad. Already she has become a less admirable figure, because of the lies and slurs she has employed in the campaign.  She cannot bring more people into the process and she cannot win against John McCain, even if she were to defeat Obama for the nomination by sleazy tactics.

It seems ironic that Texas would be the state that can decide the issue. A year ago, who would have expect that an African American could win a primary there? No one who has ever lived there, I can tell you that. But let’s see if it happens. It would be a powerful statement.

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“A Victory of the Better America?”

You really should read this; the best piece of writing I’ve seen on the Clinton/Obama race.

Andrew Arato, Dorothy Hart Hirshon Professor of Political and Social Theory, The New School for Social Research, New York

Is it possible? At least we have found a likely leader. The Battle of the Potomac is over. Despite the name that resembles the bloody exchanges of the Civil War, the mini civil war of the U.S. Democrats will hopefully not last very long. I am watching Obama’s victory speech from Madison, Wisconsin, a famous left wing university town. It is his best yet, combining the thoroughness of Harvard Law School and the emotional fervor of the Black Protestant church. Because McCain wants to stay in Iraq a hundred years, we should not give him four years…..The post-imperial candidate laid down his markers. The students (and myself even more) loved what we heard, expressed so clearly and so eloquently. Is it possible for an imperial Republic, after the failure of Athens and Rome, , for the second time in history after the lone British case, to willingly divest itself of a significant part of its imperial possessions that have become so dangerous for what makes the republican core still great? Yes we can is the Obama slogan, even if coined not exactly for the project that I have in mind. His personality and foreign policy ideas fortunately embody it. He was always against the Iraq war. He wants comprehensive negotiations with all regional powers of the Middle East. He wants to withdraw from Iraq relatively rapidly. But, and it is a big but, despite a series of successful battles, he has not yet won. Not yet against Clinton, and more importantly not yet against the other America, against McCain.

If Clinton loses it is not because she is a woman. In the Democratic Party that fact is rather a plus, ideologically and also because there are more women voters and more woman Democrats. It is because she is a woman, that she is still a serious contender in the race. She is losing instead, aside from Obama’s own strengths, because of her unforgivable two votes on the Iraq War in 2002 that already cost John Kerry (now an Obama supporter) the presidency. Making things worse, she still defends not only her positive vote on the Authorization of the Use of Force, but also the negative one on the Levin Amendment that would have required that the U.S. President go to the UN Security Council first, and, in case failure to get Chapter VII authorization under the Charter, to go back to Congress for explicit authorization to go to war. While in case of the Authorization itself, Clinton now says that knowing everything she knows today (i.e. that there are no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and that Bush would abuse the authorization) she would have voted no, she does not say why it was right to trust this particular President and his circle at all, given all the planning for war. But in the case of the Levin Amendment the issue is even more serious. The proposal was eminently sensible as well as deeply constitutional. It is Congress’ constitutional power to declare war. This power cannot be delegated, because it is given by the constituent power. The only possible exception is a Chapter VII war, where under a binding international treaty signed by the U.S. the Security Council is the source of the authorization. This is what happened in the Korean War; the first time the Congressional right to Declare was seriously bypassed. Recently Congressional declarations have been replaced by Authorizations that however do not leave it up to the president to decide whether to go to war or not, as did the Iraq authorization in question. The aim of the Levin Amendment was to replace a “blank check” authorization, clearly unconstitutional, by the choice: either authorization by the Security Council or a more specific, Congressional re-authorization. It is this choice that Hillary Clinton still repeatedly represents in speeches, quite wrongly, as surrendering the powers of the United States to the United Nations. In reality however, she like Bush, wishes to keep the presidential prerogative free of both international and constitutional restraints.

We have seen the consequence of such a liberation from both types of law in Iraq, in Guantanamo, and all places where extraordinary rendition, kidnappings, torture, and detentions without due process have been practiced by U.S. authorities. Hillary Clinton may be an opponent of all that, but she does not attack the problem at its roots even if she goes further than McCain in the one and only case of Iraq. The empire is not only Iraq, and presidential power in an imperial setting would remain a danger also after an Iraqi withdrawal, assuming she would carry it out. As the famous colonel in the film Battle of Algiers said to the assembled French journalists: if you want an Algerie Francaise, you must put up with all that. If you want to protect the American empire as is . . . if you are unwilling to negotiate with all our adversaries without pre-conditions that is of course the pre-condition of orderly withdrawal…then you must put up with the means necessary to protect it. Clinton’s positions on negotiations with Iran indicate that she has not yet learned much from the past, indeed from the war in Iraq itself. And McCain is one of the most aggressive American politicians with respect to both continuing the war in Iraq and risking a new one with Iran. Only Obama, not Clinton, nor McCain in spite of his loud verbal opposition to torture is ready to do what it would take to end the situation in which there is any kind of imperial rationale (however mistaken technically) for torture. Obama (tutored here by Zbigniew Brzezinski) is the only realist among the three candidates still standing, in spite of his soaring rhetoric.

All polls currently indicate that the great majority of the country is with Obama on questions of foreign policy, and has been for two or more years, though they may not yet correctly identify his views on all the issues. But given the threat of recession, the issue of external affairs retreated behind that of the economy. In general this would be an advantage to the Democrats. It is also to Hillary Clinton’s advantage, because of the superior track record of the Clinton administration, her own obvious competence, and better thought out position on very much needed health care reform – where she is an expert paradoxically enough because of her dramatic failure in 1993, that led to the so-called “Republican Revolution in 1994. The Obama idea of “change” has to do mostly with the large issue of identity and foreign policy posture in the world, while Clinton’s slogan experience refers to her managerial abilities in the domestic sphere where there is very little difference between the two equally liberal (in the American sense = social liberal) Democratic candidates. In spite of small, probably tactical differences, they both have dramatic health care reform as the centerpiece of their social program, and they would both pay for it the same way, by refusing to make the outrageous Bush tax cuts that produced huge deficits permanent for the wealthy. They are lucky, because unlike Kerry in 2004 they don’t have to promise to pass new legislation to finance health expenditures . . . all they have to do is the much easier thing, namely to oppose new legislation to make reduction of governmental resources permanent. This will still be called raising taxes by the Republicans; but the stress will be on rescinding tax cuts to the wealthy! In any case, the Democratic electorate is asked to decide whether the more experienced but more polarizing Clinton, or the more novice Obama who is willing to work with Republicans is likely to accomplish a similar domestic agenda. And we still do not know how they will decide this question.

So far, before the three Potomac Primaries, the young, the educated, men and most dramatically blacks were with Obama, older voters, the less well educated, women, and Hispanic-Americans were with Clinton. Obama could win the majority of whites in caucus states where the politically active vote in a kind of township meeting setting that suggests participatory democracy, and where the young and the educated have an advantage. Clinton won the whites in the primary states, where normal elections with secret ballots take place, the form also favoring the Brady (a former losing black Mayor candidate in Los Angeles) effect: the voter tells the pollster that he or she votes for the black but does not do so under the veil of secrecy. This was probably the reason for the huge discrepancy between polls and results in New Hamphshire and California, lost by Obama. Now in Virginia and Maryland, two primary states, the white vote was evenly split and there was no Brady effect! (There may be now a Haile Berry effect, still racist of course: “she is the one black that I would marry”). Admittedly there is also Hillary hatred, but this is measured by the polls; since we still allow substitute languages for misogyny but not for racism: as “she is so aggressive” or “she is such a know it all”. It seems however that her collapse in Virginia and Maryland where she is liked and where she used to be leading is due simply to the rise of Obama.

Obama will most likely take Wisconsin, powered by the young and the educated. Then the big three hurdles will be Ohio, Texas and Pennsylvania. If his current momentum is real he may take all three or two out of three. If he takes both Ohio and Texas on March 4, or one of them and later Pensylvania he has won, and the so-called super delegates will have to fall into line with Carter, Gore and Pelosi leading the pack. If Clinton takes all three she will win, narrowly perhaps depending on the size of her win in proportional elections, to the tremendous disappointment of Obama’s young army, and the super-delegates whose majority is now with her will also fall into line. She would do well in that case to offer the vice-presidency to Obama in a convincing manner, if she wants to win against McCain. If Obama wins only one of the three, and is narrowly ahead, the super-delegates may still want to decide for Clinton. There may even be attempts to illegitimately give Clinton the delegates from the Florida and Michigan primaries where Obama chose not to compete on the orders of the DNC. In either case, in August we will have riots in Denver, the site of the Democratic Convention, that will resemble the siege of Chicago in 1968, and with Clinton playing the role of Hubert Humphrey the Democrats will go on to lose the election. So if Obama has a narrow majority in the end, the party leaders better quickly shift to him and manage some deal. Their choice will be also motivated by electability (that does not = Hillary hatred, pace Stanley Fish!) as an issue, namely the legitmate concern regarding who does better against McCain in the polls. Today it clearly seems to be Obama, but how much of a Bradley effect is hiding in the numbers? Noone knows. Clinton however is more vulnerable on the question of Iraq, exactly like Kerry was, than is Obama with his far greater consistency on the issue.

The electoral results will in any case be all important. Conventionally two things are said: First, that the one with momentum wins and that is now Obama, and, second, the one who can break through his or her prior demographic constraints wins, and that is Obama too, though only marginally. Clinton cannot hope to get the young, or the blacks or the educated to vote against Obama. But in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas she may not have to. If she can continue to get huge majorities among white women, the less educated, and among Hispanic Americans that may be enough. It is Obama who needs to break through his previous demographics, and he has not yet done so enough. Whether the momentum will do it for him remains to be seen.

If he does make it, the Democrats, unlike last time, will have a great convention, one for all the ages. And then debates will be incredibly exciting. McCain already admitted he knows little about the economy and economics, but has read Alan Greenspan’s book. Now that two bubbles (finance and real estate) Greenspan helped to create have burst, that should not be enough. Flip-flopping on taxes (first I was against them as unfair and unwise, before I was for making them permanent) and staying in Iraq permanently will not go over well in the debates with a clever lawyer like Obama. Just one issue remains for McCain: that of commander in chief in wartime, if we are willing to forget that we should not be in any war at all. And here McCain with his military experience looks more like such a figure, however wrong his policies! Obama will undoubtedly show that staying in Iraq even 5 and not 10 or 100 years makes the United States weaker in Afghanistan, weaker against the terrorists, less able to deal with new crises, more and more unpopular in the world and especially the Islamic world. What he then must be ready for is two things. To give a convincing answer to the question of how to withdraw from Iraq in a way that is not catastrophic for Iraq itself, and to deal with crises situations, external or internal, real or manufactured that probably will arise during the campaign, and do so in a very effective and presidential manner. He should be able to do these two things, but the other side that should have certainly lost in 2004 already cannot be underestimated.

We are not there yet. But it is already another country. I did not think I would say it so soon. After years of shame, I am proud of our democracy again. To nominate a very liberal black or a liberal woman, to force even the other America to choose someone with a human face, though largely the wrong policies that are not yet sufficiently known, is a clear repudiation of the politics of 2001-2008. The driving force behind all this is American civil society, and mostly the self-organizing young, and the gods of history have given us a perfect candidate to carry their message and their hope. The activists must not be disappointed by the eventual victory of McCain, or even Clinton. But the future is actually in their own hands. It is they who need to take their country back!

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Why is Waxman having baseball hearings?

Doesn’t strike me as the Oversight Committee’s highest priority. Strikes me as a Republican-like “oh, look over there….” kind of cover for not doing the real work…am I wrong?

Like, how about a little more attention to this?

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Telecom immunity/wiretapping: another temporary fix?

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is contemplating another extension of the FISA revision/telecom immunity bill, this time for 18 months, effectively ending consideration of a permanent fix until a new president and congress are in office.

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If choosing a campaign strategist is a measure of Hillary Clinton’s judgement, she’s wouldn’t be much of a president

Mark Penn, the Clinton strategy guru, has singlehandedly blown up the best laid plans of Hill and Bill. He touted “same”, while the country was just so fed up with Washington it couldn’t even bring itself to impeach Bush. And the senator isn’t getting any younger, people…and neither are her clothes or her hairstyles. So Hillary became “same-old…”.

Now of course, she’s yelling “change, change….” more often then Rudy Giuliani rants “9/11,” but I think she’s a little behind the curve. America has “moved on.” You remember Move-on, don’t you, Hill?

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US surveillance of citizens similar to Russia, China

via Glenn Greenwald:

…the annual survey of worldwide privacy rights conducted by Privacy International and EPIC has been released for 2007, and the U.S. has been downgraded from “Extensive Surveillance Society” to “Endemic Surveillance Society,” the worst possible category there is for privacy protections, the category also occupied by countries such as China, Russia, Singapore and Malaysia. The survey uses a variety of objective factors to determine the extent of privacy protections citizens enjoy from their government, and the U.S. now finishes at the bottom for obvious reasons.
Evidence that we are becoming a lawless surveillance state is abundant. But let’s forget all of that and figure out how we can best micro-manage the internal affairs of Pakistan and Iraq and Russia and Iran so that we can preserve Freedom and Democracy for the world.

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Harry Reid has to go. period.

The senate majority leader is becoming the minority leader. Though he supposedly hates Bush, he tolerates the truly record-breaking numbers of filibusters and “holds” by the Republicans, who have actually begun to brag about their obstructionism; see today’s Wall Street Journal front page:

Stopping stuff is Sen. Coburn’s specialty. In a Congress that has had trouble passing even the simplest legislation, Sen. Coburn, who proudly wears the nickname “Dr. No,” is a one-man gridlock machine. This year, the senator, who indeed is a medical doctor, single-handedly blocked or slowed more than 90 bills, driving lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to distraction.

It is one thing to have one’s hands tied by the numbers; it is another to let the obstructionists succeed, without making them pay a price in the media. Reid has been a complete failure in this regard.

And now, at the same time he rolls over for Republicans, Reid not only fights the leading senators of his own party, he disses them in the press:

Via Glenn Greenwald:

Jim Manley, Reid’s spokesman, was speaking the truth as Harry Reid viewed things. Reid could have pushed the FISA bill through if he wanted to, over Dodd’s objections, but it would have taken time, several days. Reid decided to wait till mid-January.

A little noticed statement Reid made to reporters on Tuesday: he said that by mid-to-late January, when the Senate takes up FISA again, it’s likely the presidential campaign will be finished. That was a not-so-subtle dig, I think, at Dodd, who some Democrats believe was grand-standing to try to gain attention for his floundering ’08 campaign. Don’t yell at me for saying this, this is what some Democrats here on the Hill believe.

Eventually, in a month or two, it’s extremely likely the Senate will pass a FISA reauthorization with telecom immunity, so Manley’s comment in that regard was accurate. So those of you in the blogosphere attacking Jim should understand, he’s channeling Reid when he says that.

Reid continues to allow Bush to act as a virtual dictator, and therefore has failed in his position, has failed our country, and is a liability for the Democratic Party.

He needs to step down.

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