Creating a better world through words and images

Artwork/Political Cartoons
Artwork/Political Cartoons
Artwork/Political Cartoons
Artwork/Political Cartoons

As usual, I find Prof. Krugman’s column an invaluable guide to cutting through political spin in a nonpartisan way — though I wonder that Republicans in particular aren’t more embarrassed at routinely having their claims and accounting methods exposed as wildly unfounded and cynical deceptions by the astute Mr. Krugman (and others in the “Reality Community” — as one Bushie termed it).

Frankly, I depend on Paul Krugman (and a handful of others), because unlike so many of his MSM brethren he is not simply shilling for one party or the other. Unlike Rachel Maddow or Brit Hume, Krugman is consistently and reliably honest (and brilliant), cogently presenting his analysis, buttressed with impressive facts and shrewd observations.

Furthermore, Krugman frequently offers SOLUTIONS, which — over the past decade-plus of reading him — tend to be SPOT ON (re: the Iraq war; the rise of mortgage fraud prefiguring the housing bubble; the catastrophic effects of deregulation and tort “reform;” and (during the Obama presidency) the paltry, compromised “Stimulus” bill; the chorus of corporation-friendly failures Obama has surrounded himself with; and the Democrats’ pathetic excuses for financial and healthcare “reform” bills (weak tea, at best — though the health insurance bill actually does create a good skeleton for future Congresses to build a MUCH better system than the current one).

Rep. Ryan, you should hang your head in shame for your nakedly dishonest claims and your party’s accounting gimmicks. Speaker Boehner, too! (The CBO can’t just be “nonpartisan” and “reliable” when its numbers support your agenda!) You gentlemen need to bring the Republican Party back into the REALITY community!

Grown-up discussions about solving America’s problems will require both liberal and conservative ADULTS — not a bunch of spineless nincompoops too craven to contradict patently irresponsible loonies like Rush, Palin, and Benn Glock (oops — I mean Glenn Beck).

If I’m offending any conservatives out there, please revisit the Q&A from last year, with President Obama and the Republican leadership discussing the “Obamacare” bill (as you prefer to call it). Obama (the timid corporatist) DOMINATED the debate, humiliating the GOP leaders who were caught time and again with their false arguments exposed — right to their faces (and they had NO answers). Do you recall their guilty expressions when confronted with their loony, paranoid rhetoric in describing an approach to healthcare reform (Obama’s) modeled on the prescriptions of the ultra-conservative Heritage Foundation and Mitt Romney’s Massachusetts law?!

It is time to de-politicize the conversation between our leaders. Americans need to insist on FACT-BASED arguments from our elected leaders. And we need to ridicule the politicians (even those we like) when they LIE — like Rep. Ryan just did. And we need to shun them when they invent ugly nonsense like “death panels” to incite fear, anger, and distrust in America (very dangerous). I’m referring now to the John Birchers (John “Birthers”?) who have bizarrely risen to the leadership of the GOP.

Fire Frank Luntz, Repubs (and every other slimy S.O.B. like him) — and this goes for the Dems, too! Screw the no-holds-barred politics of hate and division; America’s future is at stake! Obama was right to call this our “Sputnik moment” — even if he continues to disappoint when it comes to actual policy (the nation’s policies are STILL obviously dictated by the same corporations that owned and operated President Bush).

And thank you, Paul Krugman, for your constancy in providing a model for intelligent, principled, and rational discourse. What would I do without you?

I. GLOBAL WAR on TERROR (GWoT):  D+ [Forget the rebranding; Obama has continued Bush’s strategically and morally bankrupt policy that fuels terrorism and global instability while cementing the worst of the Bush/Cheney legacy: the assault on civil liberties, press freedom, and human rights; the global, lawless, borderless and open-ended wars; and an imperial government that routinely kills civilians and deploys drones, private armies, and “special” operations in 75 nations – 15 more than when Obama took office1]

1. GWoT Strategy:  F [“AF-PAK” has been a catastrophe.  Elevating Gen. McChrystal (the shepherd of Rumsfeld’s lie to the Tillman family; infamous for the torture practiced at Camp Cropper in Iraq), was a predictable disaster; the violence in Afghanistan is at record levels, for both Afghan civilians and allied forces; our warlord, drug-lord, corrupt and extremist Afghan “partners” have provided one setback after another; the Taliban’s influence and territory in Afghanistan have only grown; in Pakistan, per the Brookings Institution, U.S. drones are killing TEN civilians to every ONE militant, destabilizing the government and alienating the population of a crucial ally (59% of Pakistanis see the U.S. as an “enemy” per a recent Pew poll); America continues to directly and indirectly finance the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan (well into the hundreds of millions of dollars over the post-9/11 period); our support of dictatorial and brutal regimes and our failure to lead any credible peace initiative in the Middle East fuels extremism in the region; our counterproductive wars play into Osama bin Laden’s articulated strategy to lure America into quagmires that make us hated and drain our treasury (meanwhile our domestic problems grow), until we eventually collapse like the U.S.S.R.

As a side note, our activities in Somalia and Yemen are similarly counterproductive – antidemocratic and short-sighted; and our accounting of GWoT expenditures remains atrocious.]

2. GWoT Posture/Rhetoric:  C- [Although Obama has been far more image than substance on this front, the improvement over his predecessor is appreciable.  It meant something to the Muslim world when Obama (in his Cairo “New Beginning” speech) referred to the 1953 CIA-orchestrated coup in Iran.  Various other olive branches have had some ameliorative effect on America’s relationships and standing in the world.  Furthermore, despite all of Obama’s belligerent posturing (including his assertion of the “nuclear first strike” option, with regard to Iran and North Korea, and his justification for war while accepting the Nobel Peace Prize2), there is a real sense that the NeoConservatives have a reduced voice in this administration, and that America is less inclined to launch a major attack on another nation at a moment’s notice (faint praise, I realize).  Nonetheless, much of the more positive rhetoric is undermined by America’s continued support for various Middle Eastern dictators and refusal to apply the same standard to state and non-state actors, especially with regard to its primary ally in the region, Israel – even in the wake of the Goldstone report, exposing war crimes (on both sides) in “Operation Cast Lead” or following the Israeli attack on civilian ships carrying aid to Gaza, killing several peace activists including an American citizen.] 

3. GWoT vs. Civil Liberties and Rule of Law:  F [Another Bush debacle embraced, continued, and worsened by Obama.  Along with hyper-secrecy and blanket assertions of official immunity, the president has taken Bush’s evisceration of habeas corpus and the Bill of Rights to new depths, asserting that he has the right to:  continue gathering and hoarding the electronic records of Americans; assassinate an American citizen without any due process; bar an American citizen, uncharged with any crime, from entry into the U.S.3; detain individuals indefinitely without ever charging them with a crime; and kidnap individuals and whisk them off to nations where they are likely to be detained and tortured by American proxies.  He has kept the prison at Guantanamo open (and several detention centers in Afghanistan); he has jailed American soldier Bradley Manning in harsh conditions for more than half a year; he has persecuted government whistleblowers and threatened journalists like no president before him (Vice President Biden was not rebuked for calling Julian Assange a “terrorist”).  Obama has done these things while winking at (and illegally protecting4) crimes committed by Bush officials who authorized torture and corporate criminals, from civilian-slaughtering Blackwater (Xe) to Goldman Sachs and the rest of the Wall Street gang.  In keeping with Bush’s policy of deploying private contractors to police American citizens during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Obama has deployed the U.S. military to prevent journalists from reporting on the scope of the BP oil spill5 – both violations of at least the spirit of posse comitatus (the centuries-old tradition that prohibits the U.S. government from deploying the military against our civilian population).  Furthermore, Obama has continued asserting that a nuclear strike against Iran or North Korea remains “on the table” (a violation of the U.N. Charter) and extended legitimacy to coups in Honduras, Palestine, and Haiti.  Domestically, he has championed the reauthorization of the PATRIOT ACT, with no prescription for curbing the law’s abuses (particularly with regard to the FBI’s infiltration of peace groups6, abuse of national security letters, and entrapment approach to combating “terrorists” – talking disaffected young Muslims into going along with terrorist plots that originate entirely with the U.S. government).]

II. IRAQ:  D [Obama has simply continued the Bush policy, a recipe for future unrest in that U.S.-demolished and fractured country.  While he has continued to drawdown troops (per the SoFA that Bush negotiated with the IUG), Obama has lied about the true status of our remaining troops, declaring that all “combat troops” have left, when they’ve simply been reclassified as “non-combat” troops.  Obama has continued to ignore the causes of Iraq’s ongoing sectarian violence while forwarding Bush’s plans for a permanent, largely military U.S. presence in Iraq, with huge bases in Baghdad, Basra, Mosul, Kirkuk, and Kurdistan, guarded by American military forces and some 8,000 mercenaries, including employees of Blackwater/Xe (despite the Iraqis’ repeated efforts to expel that company from their supposedly sovereign nation).  Obama continues to champion the least representative Iraqis (the Supreme Council which is an Iranian creation, and the overrepresented Kurds, because they share America’s interest in a divided Iraq); while pushing the Iraqis to authorize an extension to our military presence and sign a “Hydrocarbons Law” that gives Western oil companies control of Iraq’s most valuable resource over the next 20-35 years.  In short, thanks to Obama, the U.S. is still in denial about Iraq, still trying to “collect our winnings” while pretending we have not worn out our welcome – still backing barely-representative former exiles over genuinely popular leaders like Moqtada al-Sadr (a less than perfect leader who has been comically vilified in the American press and blamed for the worst crimes of some of our best Iraqi “partners,” the Supreme Council and their “reformed” Badr Brigades).  The debacle continues, with no change in America’s privatization demands or its approach to ethno-sectarian divisions in the country.]

III. CODE PINK comment/instruction

As a peacemaker, President Obama has been an enormous disappointment.

From our perspective, President Bush’s response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, was entirely wrongheaded, from the PATRIOT ACT and the illegal mass-wiretapping of American citizens to the criminal invasions and barbaric militarism that ensued, with its collateral damage, kidnappings, and institutionalized torture. 

Americans voted overwhelmingly in 2006 and 2008 to reject the policies and values of George W. Bush, especially his failed wars and unrelenting assault on the rule of law. 

Tragically, President Obama has wasted (with extreme prejudice) an ENORMOUS mandate for real CHANGE, starting with his opportunity to end the Global War on Terror.  With the American public clamoring for de-escalation of Bush’s wars and a return to Constitutional norms (repudiating the torture-condoning legal arguments of Yoo, Addington, Cheney, and co.), Obama chose to continue those wars – escalating them in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and the Horn of Africa.  He continued making claims of Executive authority consistent with President Bush’s Unitary Executive assertions (Bush’s position that Nixon was basically correct when he claimed that “when the president does it, that means that it is not illegal!”). 

Worst of all, Obama has demonstrated himself to be a believer in Dick Cheney’s version of Executive Power.  He has continued the practice of abusing Presidential Signing Statements, suggesting that the President is exempt from even the laws he signs into existence!  Obama has continued to shroud the government’s illegal actions in official secrecy, waging a war on responsible journalism and legal systems everywhere in order to continue kidnapping, torturing, and violating the civil and human rights of citizens and non-citizens alike… all the while playing right into bin Laden’s hands, reading from the script our enemy has written for us.

FOOTNOTES:

1 David Swanson:  “State of Our Union:  War Rages On, Dissent is Repressed. We Need to Bring Our War Dollars Home and Invest in Rebuilding America”

2 Swanson

3 Swanson

4 Swanson

5 Swanson

6 Swanson

When competing ideologies are apparently irreconcilable and political expression is increasingly toxic (as in the current environment), there is only one sane response: informed, rational, cool-headed PRAGMATISM.

IF ONLY an American leader would emerge and make the case for proven solutions!

Using Prof. Krugman‘s example of the abortion debate: The “pro-life” and “pro-choice” factions will NEVER agree on the question of abortion’s legality/morality. Yet there is widespread agreement on the desirability of reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies and abortions in America.

I have spent the past two decades wishing that some Solomon-like politician would simply present the case for dramatically reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies in this country using proven methods: sex education and universal health care.

Implementation of such solutions would reduce the frequency of abortion to a mere fraction of the current frighteningly high rate (some 1 in 4 American women have an abortion at some point in their lives; a disgrace in our wealthy nation).

Similarly, I would love to see President Obama (or some centrist Republican) make the clear case — based on innumerable historical and global examples — that neglecting the least fortunate in our society will ultimately destroy our economy.

Just as America has been well served by the enforcement of minimal labor and environmental standards, it is also in our best interest to treat and prevent societal ills before they metastasize… lest we devolve into the Third World kleptocratic and anarchic state we increasingly resemble (after decades of massive privatization and deregulation).

Leave ideology out of it! No single ideology will ever “prevail” — and everyone is entitled to his/her opinion. We need to revive America’s capacity for logic and reason (the forces of unbridled greed have nearly reduced us to two tribes of unthinking animals — divided and nearly conquered — but it’s not too late!).

The Bush-Obama years have alerted Americans that our way of life and prosperity are threatened. Americans are ready to listen to a true voice of hope… hope we can truly believe in (not some mere slogan).

It’s time to have an adult discussion about WHAT WORKS, instead of continuing to pursue utterly failed policies like border walls, torture, spying on our citizens, drone assassinations, and illegal wars — not to mention the willy-nilly criminalization of everything from abortion to soft drugs to muckraking journalism to radical expression (Islamic or otherwise).

Such policies have demolished America’s moral credibility in the world while nearly bankrupting us and more than doubling our prison population — making us #1 in the world for incarcerating our own citizens… meanwhile we neglect to educate our citizens and provide each and every American with basic health care and services; a sure path to the bottom.

[SUBJECT] Contributing to Obama and the Democrats…

…is something I can no longer do, in good conscience.  Obama’s foreign and domestic policies largely represent continuity from his predecessor (or worse, such as the president’s assertion of the right to execute American citizens without a shred of due process). 

I did not canvas neighborhoods in Missouri, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. and donate hundreds of dollars to elect this corporatist party — and yet that is what I have received for my efforts: a “Democratic” party that scorns progressive values and fights its base, tooth and nail, to advance GWB-style conservatism: tax cuts for millionaires and hikes for 40 million low-income Americans; millions illegally foreclosed upon; Mitt Romney’s health care “reform;” persecution of journalists (Assange) and whistleblowers; and a wholeheartedly NeoConservative foreign policy, continuing the policies that erode civil liberties at home and create terrorists at home and abroad. 
 
It would be easier to take if I had seen this president fight — just once — on the side of liberals, instead of against us (such as when the Public Option was clearly within reach; or reform of the financial industry’s fraudulent, plundering practices). 

I will never make the same mistake again. 
 
I am presently devoting all my efforts to persuading progressives to abandon these Wall St-first Democrats and seek a LIBERAL standard bearer to support in the next election.  I hope that you who are reading this will consider my arguments (www.invitation2artivism.com) and join my cause.  In the coming months, I will explain my strategy for dealing the corporate-duopoly (Rs and Ds) a major setback and making progressives (and true conservatives) relevant again.
 
Thank you,
James O’Donnell III
 
P.S. And now, regrettably, I must unsubscribe from your service.