Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Think of six impossible things before voting

On this week's Virtually Speaking Sundays, Marcy Wheeler (emptywheel) and Stuart Zechman talked a lot about current foreign policy issues. The hour started with Culture of Truth's Most Ridiculous Thing from the Sunday talk shows, but Stuart thought there was something even more ridiculous when a journalist dropped a bombshell about a leadership policy of trying to get foreign leaders to talk to them so they can say they did everything they could to avoid a war before starting the war they want to start. Then, going back to what David Gregory thought was important, Stuart asked if there were actually legitimate questions about Benghazi. Marcy says there are, but those aren't the ones being asked (and that a really big problem in Benghazi was that there was no fire extinguisher in the safe room). Of course, she also said Obama shouldn't have violated the War Powers Act, that we have become inept at nation-building, that our allies don't trust us because we lie to them about what our intentions are - and before we go into these countries, we should separate dictators from the money they've stolen from their own countries and packed into western banks (money that is never returned to the people who've been looted). Meanwhile, the focus is on all the wrong things because the Republicans have decided to turn Benghazi into a political issue even though none of them are talking about the real issues in any useful way. So, an action-packed hour. (It's clear that Stuart respects Marcy's reporting and analytical capabilities - quite rightly! - so much so that he acted more as an interviewer than a co-panelist, but he's really good at that.) There was also a much more honest examination of the "recovery" than you'll ever hear on the Sunday shows - about the lack of one and the lack of an industrial policy. Among other things. (This encounter between Matt Taibbi and Chrystia Freeland with Bill Moyers may be helpful.)

Bmaz: "There are many symbols emblematic of the battle between the American citizenry and the government of the United States in the war of transparency. One of those involves John Kiriakou. Say what you will about John Kiriakou's entrance into the public conscience on the issue of torture, he made a splash and did what all too few had, or have since, been willing to do. John Kiriakou is the antithesis of the preening torture monger apologist in sullen 'big boy pants', Jose Rodriquez. And, so, people like Kiriakou must be punished. Not by the national security bullies of the Bush/Cheney regime who were castigated and repudiated by an electorate who spoke. No, the hunting is, instead, by the projected agent of 'change', Barack Obama. You expect there to be some difference between a man as candidate and a man governing; the shock comes when the man and message is the diametric opposite of that which he sold. And, in the sling of such politics, lies the life and fate of John Kiriakou."

"Marijuana Legalization More Popular Than Obama or Romney in Colorado." Once again, a policy that Americans increasingly support but that our politicians tell us is "not politically feasible". As with such overwhelmingly popular ideas as universal health care, we are told this can't be done because of "the political climate" - but isn't it long past time people immediately responded to such a claim by saying, "Are you telling me that most people in Congress are opposed to good policy and democracy?" (We know the actual answer to that question, but maybe we should be trying to force them to say it.)

"Coal Miner's Donor [...] The accounts of two sources who have worked in managerial positions at the firm, and a review of letters and memos to Murray employees, suggest that coercion may also explain Murray staffers' financial support for Romney. Murray, it turns out, has for years pressured salaried employees to give to the Murray Energy political action committee (PAC) and to Republican candidates chosen by the company. Internal documents show that company officials track who is and is not giving. The sources say that those who do not give are at risk of being demoted or missing out on bonuses, claims Murray denies." Telling them how to vote is also out there, but I won't be surprised if we start hearing about CEOs leaning over employee's shoulders to watch them fill out their ballots. (via) Of course, where that fails, it always helps if you "invest" in voting machines.

I generally love Charles Pierce, but I have to say I was puzzled and - honestly - somewhat offended - at an essay that blames me and not Obama for Obama's policy choices. I wasn't alone.

"Money & Public Purpose: Government is Not a Household: This second entry in the Money & Public Purpose series features Stephanie Kelton and Randy Wray debunking widely held misperceptions on the relationship of governments to the economy (for instance, that running surpluses is a good idea)."
Neoliberalism kills.
Why It is Essential That Criminal Bankers are Prosecuted

Brad Friedman, "GOP voter registration scandal widens." Gosh, I wonder how a whole bunch of GOP operatives all got the idea to commit election fraud at once.

Digby: "If I could ask a question it would be about the recent revelations that the DEA is operating in Africa, ostensibly because "narco-terrorism" is threatening Europe. I have to wonder if Americans agree that's such an important national priority that their grandmothers must eat cat food (skin in the game!) so that the Europeans pay a little bit more for their cocaine and hash."

Dr. Cornel West, who took part in an extended dialog with BAR executive editor Glen Ford, and a panel discussion featuring Margaret Kimberley, Jemima Pierre, Richard Wolff, P. Sainaith, Anthony Monteiro and Marsha Coleman-Adebayo got together and had a talk.

You know, there's a reason why Atrios keeps calling George Osborne The Worst Person In The World. But then, he's an exemplar of a special kind of person - the kind who thinks forcing poverty on his country is a good idea. And if you think it's safe to run away to Britain, think again.

RIP: George McGovern: "That fall, I continued to volunteer with the McGovern campaign doing some door-to-door canvassing. At the time, I was also a member of the WKU ROTC department, on an ROTC scholarship so that made for some interesting discussions in and out of the classes. Election day that year was a cold, rainy day in Bowling Green and I stood outside a voting location from 7AM until 4PM (polls were open 6AM to 6PM local time). I remember this one young woman campaigning with me who stated that she and her parents were all voting for McGovern because 'Nixon had gone communist' by visiting 'Red' China (as it was commonly known in those days). By 5PM, I was at the McGovern headquarters in Bowling Green and watched the networks call Kentucky for Nixon at 5:01 local (Central Standard) time when we still had an hour of voting. About the only election consolation we had was in the US Senate race, Democrat Dee Huddleston defeated former Governor Louie B. Nunn by nearly the same margin in the state that Nixon had defeated McGovern. Small comfort that as I wound up getting drunk that evening. While George McGovern lost the Presidential race in 1972, his career encompassed so much more. One of the 'pre-obits' I read this past week when his condition was first announced stated that he was one of the last of the 'Prairie Populists.' He was a war hero, having been awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross during WWII, who championed peace. I was and am proud that I cast my first presidential vote for Senator McGovern."

75 Tube Stations in One Picture Quiz. Kinda fun - some are really obvious, some take thinking about, many are real groaners, and there are several I haven't worked out yet. (via) If you ever manage to work them out, I suppose you could play the game. Thanks to Moshe for the tip.

3:15 of kinky sex. Or maybe not.


  1. Um, the voting age had been lowered to 18 in 1971 (26th Amendment).

    McGovern was my first Presidential vote (and probably my Mom's second Democratic Presidential vote--she could not stand Nixon).

  2. So was Marcy saying that we were once good at nation building, altruistic in our motives, or that we should be going into these countries, under any circumstances?

  3. I was so excited to "vote" for McGovern a couple of weeks before my 18th birthday at the Kansas caucus on April 8, 1972. I don't know if it's still true, but you used to be able to participate in the primaries as long as your birthday was before the November election) I worked around the clock on his campaign that spring and through the summer and fall. It wasn't my first presidential campaign work (My parents had me leafletting for JFK in 1960) but, I put extra energy into it that year. He was a good man and his campaign was one of the few I haven't regretted in some way or other. I mean, of course there are regrets. But nothing I could have changed!

    That was also the first year of the new, McGovern/Frasier rules for delegate selection. I WISH I'd realized how unfair the caucus system was. That really should have been abolished by the commission. And it was maybe a bad sign that it wasn't.

  4. I've been so pumped at the thought of pot legalization in Colorado (the best state), and then this comes along to suggest that it's not what it's cracked up to be. I'm still inclined to do it, just to show them that the time has come, but these arguments (from the pro-legalization side) give me pause.

    Why does life have to be so complicated? ( I know. If it was simple, I'd be a Republican.)

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  5. 75 tube stations... I hope the burning pit in that lane of the road is Hob's Lane.

    I see the ton, but where's the morning crescent?

  6. Last night's presidential debate was just so much black and white noise.

  7. fan of West i am not. met him a few times, and he's not terribly impressive, imho, or in that of several other af-am scholar friends of mine. more of a showboat, than anything, but smart enough to know when to jump ship from one trend to another to stay seemingly 'hip.' his scholarship is also rather... mild.

    and for all GB may be turning into the euro version of post-patriot act america, i'll still live there, with the Tube and better quality vegetables and nicer people who actually read books and more intelligent TV shows rather than here. sure, you've got to be NYC rich to live in the City, but still. it's much nicer over there.

    1. West has nothing to do with it - a fan of G. Ford I am.

  8. The electoral fraud scandal is even wider than you think. Though why the authors gratuitously smear ACORN is beyond me.

  9. On edit:
    Boy, do I hate commenting on blogger. No idea how to imbed URL but thought this piece by a Dutch academic might address Digby's perpetual bafflement at why we do the things we do. http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/10/25-8

    Once the history of America’s foreign policy under Obama’s presidency is written, the story of the overthrown Hatoyama cabinet will not be foremost in the minds of the chroniclers, since American media have ignored it altogether, but it does reflect in shrill contours the absence of any desire for constructive new beginnings. American diplomacy all around the world has gradually slipped out of the hands of what used to be diplomatic and foreign policy professionals and into the top levels of the six military ‘commands’ that have been constructed on all continents.

    ...A military not under political control, with industrial complex attached, is not an instrument of a state capable of strategy. There is no strategic logic to what Washington does to a Japanese government, or intends to do with its new bases for the Marines anywhere in Asia and Australia.

    1. For the imbed it's old school. Cutting to the chase just look at that gray box and the blue link next to it under the "this code" and "produces this" columns **here.**

      I'm guessing you're familiar with all this ks but when you previewed your comment the link did not show up with enough of contrasting color for you to see it and you thought it didn't take. That lack of contrast in comments here is why I sometimes add asterisks to either side of the text I'm embedding.

      (Tonight's the first time a link I'm posting in a comment here is showing up clearly in the preview for me. Maybe this improvement is due to Avedon having made an adjustment recently or maybe it's because earlier today I cleared out my own Google Chrome browser cache.)

    2. Thanks CMike. No, I'm only familiar with html when forced so the link above is much appreciated.

    3. In that case I'll mention that the "a href" and the "/a" don't have to be capitalized.

    4. I have to say that Karel van Wolferen's analysis really does not address the root causes of Japan's behavior.

      To understand what is going on, one must understand that its two nearest large neighbors are aggressively imperialist. Thanks to World War II, one hates Japan with a passion. The other has claims on its second largest island. Most ordinary Japanese hate and fear war, but the upper crust of Japanese society include many unreconstructed nationalists. I have found the arrogance of those members I have met to be breathtaking.

      Japan has not taken steps for national defense, like nuclear weapons, that most countries surrounded by aggressive neighbors, would take. Also, Japan is completely dependent on the outside world for resources. A hostile neighbor could send it back to the stone age just by a Cuban-style embargo. In fact, Japan would be much worse off than Cuba, because it's not food self-sufficient.

      Because of the resource issue, it is difficult for Japan to be truly independent. It can either fall into the orbit of Russia, China, or the West. The western relationship has been pretty good. Yes, there was a decade of deep humiliation and hunger. As the saying goes, Europe got the Marshall Plan. But Japan, lacking even minimal resources and suffering horrific war casualties, managed to rebuild itself from the ashes into a wealthy power within 40 years.

      With that context, Japan's actions are pretty understandable, especially given the rise of China. One does not need to posit that the governments are controlled by the US or that this highly intelligent people is unable to form a stable democratic government. They're just between a rock and a hard place, and the US government knows just where to apply pressure. The US government being unwise places the Japanese in a difficult position. If it continues, I predict that Japan will re-align with one of its regional rivals.

    5. Charles, I'd contend that the same internal forces that made Japan a fabulous success story in 1990 make it a cautionary tale 20 years later. Factional politics without core ideologies, an unelected but all powerful bureaucracy, cozy ties with business (exhibit A being the nuclear catastrophe last year).

      Where I'd disagree with Wolferen is in viewing Hatoyama as anything more than the wealthy phony that he was. Or that he's all that unique given that we're poised to see our 7th prime minister in as many years here. Did the US help to cut him down to size with its unrepentant imperialism, of course, but his domestic failures were far more responsible for his plummeting poll numbers. Like Obama, he spouted some righteous shit during the campaign and had a mandate to carry it out--naturally, they were none too pleased when he turned out to be another zero. Sadly, his/his party's ensuing failures will result in the most rightward shift this country has seen in a long time. Have you been following Toru Hashimoto's meteoric rise and now this Ishihara move? As if rightist Shinzo Abe is enough to worry about.

      That said, US control of Japanese politics is not some loopy conspirary theory. During the first few decades after the war, the socialists were in serious contention for power. Who knows what course Japan might have taken if it weren't for...

      "C.I.A. Spent Millions to Support Japanese Right in 50's and 60's"


    6. This is a very interesting thread, thanks to the participants.

    7. Charles,
      I don't think van Wolferen was saying the U.S. "controls" Japan so much as exploits its divisions and fears without regard for Japanese sovereignty or public opinion. His larger point is that we want "strategic" bases and will use our influence to get them, without having a real political strategy, only the mindless momentum of a military leadership that sees domination as the end goal. Can you imagine this administration ceding control of Subic Bay or the Panama Canal, as Jimmy Carter did?

      In South Korea the military base occupies prime real estate, right in the middle of Seoul. The public hates the effect it has on nearby neighborhoods and negotiations for its closure were underway in the 90's under Kim Young-sam, yet now South Korea is building a base on Cheju-do, reportedly at our behest, against opposition by residents and environmentalists. (Again, internal politics and regional fears are involved and Kim's successor, the left-leaning Kim Dae-jung's, life was saved twice by U.S. intervention in 1973 and 1980 so, yes, relations are complicated and not always exploitative, but what is the point of the new base? Not to foster harmonious relations with the South Korean people.)

      I agree with your and JCapan's points and didn't like the sometimes unclear and unsubstantiated assertions about events (what so and so said to who and why) - his English is not perfect -but think his overall point about the political incoherence of our strategy is a good one.

    8. jcapan, no question about the elimination of the Socialists (and Communists) as a force in post-war Japan. It was a military dictatorship under the suzerainty of a reactionary general. The Japanese are not to blame for that. But it was a long time ago, and Douglas MacArthur is not running things.

      I have been following the emergence of new figures such as Hashimoto. It speaks of a system that is in collapse, with dangerous demagogues emerging (one reason that I warn against the pox on all houses attitude in the US). Japan has no shortage of ultranationalists who think that World War II was a good thing, just poorly executed. If given even the slightest opportunity, they will re-emerge, and Japan will be in deep waters.
      ks, I agree with Wolferen that US policy is bad, but would disagree that it's incoherent. It's very coherent: control everything and everything, because things (i.e., the American empire) are falling apart. One need not go even as far as Korea (although your story is an interesting one) to see how basing decisions weaken the US. Okinawa has been a thorn in the side of the Okinawans, they have offered alternatives, and now (for the umpteenth time) the US military is hated by all for a sexual crime committed because of the sense of impunity that permeates US ops there. The US government bullied the central government into bullying the Okinawans from backing down the last time they tried to change things.

      General correction: "As the saying goes, Europe got the Marshall Plan." should read "As the saying goes, Europe got the Marshall Plan. Japan got the Korean War."

    9. Charles, That's reactionary, not coherent. I used Korea to illustrate how political complications could obscure the basic fact of (currently) favoring a strategy of domination over one of fostering good will because I have some experience of Korea and none of Japan.

    10. Charles, for the record, the CIA program was going on throughout the 50s and 60s, long after D-Mac departed. But you're right about the reemergence of the ultra-right. Their nearly complete rehabilitation as a mainstream force in politics has been aided tremendously by the manner in which history is taught here, what is/isn't in textbooks, facts memorized vs. critical interpretation. One thing that continues to leave me speechless are the young Japanese sporting "fashionable" USAF jackets, completely ignorant of why that might seem insane.

      There's nothing particularly unique about Japan's depressing spectacle--the worst members of any society always wish to keep their peoples ignorant of history. Sadly, the generations that suffered the most during the war and its aftermath are rapidly vacating the stage of debate.

    11. I wouldn't be surprised if there isn't some version of rub-out-the-reds still going on in Japan, jcapan. After all, it's still going on in the US, with lawful, peaceful dissent ending up with people being criminalized and effectively blacklisted. Being blacklisted in the US is very, very bad. In Japan, it's a nightmare.

      I'll echo Stuart. This has been an interesting discussion. I may have to get up some energy and do a post on Japanese politics someday. Something bad is going on, there does not seem to be adequate pushback from the left, and the consequences for Asia--not to mention the American empire-- of a return of ultranationalism could be disastrous.

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