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Archive for the ‘Current Events’ Category

“The closest toy store to Tiger Woods’ boyhood home is a Toys ‘R’ Us in Huntington Beach, California. There’s a strong chance Earl and Kultida Woods shopped for Christmas presents here when then their son was young, and the store yesterday was girded again for the holiday rush, with Barbies and pottery kits stacked up front. For those on a budget, there was a clearance sale on action figures in the back: the NFL’s Jay Cutler in a Broncos uniform (he’s now a Bear), the NBA’s Ben Gordon as a Bull (he’s now a Piston)—and native son Woods. Regularly $15.99, the Woods action figure had been slashed to $9.98.

“So it goes these days with greatest brand in sports, now that he’s been revealed to be a horn-dog of the highest order. At press time, his major sponsors were behind him. Nike has Tiger’s back. So, too, does Gillette. And it will be hard to tell if Tiger’s travails have any effect on sales of Buicks in the short term. But as it’s Christmas shopping season, the sales of Tiger videogames (through Electronic Arts), action figures (through Upper Deck), and memorabilia offer an immediate window into the scandal’s effect.” (cont’d @ The Daily Beast)

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Bill Moyers, a former advisor to President Lyndon Johnson, who in April, 2010, will retire from his weekly televison program, “Bill Moyers Journal,” on the parallels between Johnson’s decision to escalate the war in Vietnam War and the decision facing Barack Obama in Afghanistan:

“Now in a different world, at a different time, and with a different president, we face the prospect of enlarging a different war. But once again we’re fighting in remote provinces against an enemy who can bleed us slowly and wait us out, because he will still be there when we are gone.

“Once again, we are caught between warring factions in a country where other foreign powers fail before us. Once again, every setback brings a call for more troops, although no one can say how long they will be there or what it means to win. Once again, the government we are trying to help is hopelessly corrupt and incompetent.

“And once again, a President pushing for critical change at home is being pressured to stop dithering, be tough, show he’s got the guts, by sending young people seven thousand miles from home to fight and die, while their own country is coming apart.

“And once again, the loudest case for enlarging the war is being made by those who will not have to fight it, who will be safely in their beds while the war grinds on. And once again, a small circle of advisers debates the course of action, but one man will make the decision.

“We will never know what would have happened if Lyndon Johnson had said no to more war. We know what happened because he said yes.” (more @ The Nation)

Related: Bill Moyers Journal (November 20, 2009)

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clinton_impeach1Andrew Sullivan on what we remember most about Bill Clinton and George W. Bush . . . and the consequences:

bushliar“It occurs to me that the two most famous statements of the last two presidents will be ‘I did not have sexual relations with that woman,’ and ‘We do not torture.’ And both were lies in plain English, were understood to be lies by the two men involved, and yet both were subject to mental and legal asterisks that could give both men some kind of formal, if absurd, deniability.

“For one statement, we impeached. For another, we kept on walking.

“Sometimes history is not tragedy repeated as farce; it’s farce repeated as tragedy.” (via The Daily Dish)

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cheney-panicAndrew Sullivan wonders, “Is Cheney Panicking?”:

“The one thing you saw most plainly in the Plame affair is how obsessed Dick Cheney is with public image, the chattering classes and spinning stories that might reflect poorly on him. The act is the elder statesman, authoritatively reviewing the world scene, soberly making judgments, calmly explaining it later to those pesky people who are required to elect you every four years. The reality is a man who lost it on 9/11, leapt immediately to apocalyptic conclusions, and then, as the dust cleared, was unable to go back on the war crimes he had authorized and so dug in ever more deeply to justify them. I don’t think anyone begrudges that kind of misjudgment at the beginning, although one would have hoped for calmer heads in a crisis, but the attempt to institutionalize the torture of first resort into an entire program of black sites, torture manuals, Orwellian euphemisms, and legal fantasy was bound, like the institutionalization of Gitmo, to collapse under any successor who actually wanted to return the US to the rule of law and the world of civilized nations.

“Did Cheney believe he could hide all this for ever?

“Did he believe that hundreds of randomly seized human beings could be consigned to the black hole of Gitmo for ever? And was he really going to launch this kind of appalling attacks on his successors whenever they tried to move past this stuff or be forced, by the law itself and the Geneva Conventions, to investigate and prosecute violations of core human rights?

“The ratcheting up of the rhetoric – ‘I think you have to be very careful. The world outside there — both our friends and our foes — will be quick to take advantage of a situation if they think they’re dealing with a weak president or one who’s not going to stand up and aggressively defend America’s interests’ – is particularly Weimar. He’s lashing out now, and using his surrogates to write chilling op-eds defending all of it. I see this as a sign of weakness, not strength. Obama draws these people out like moths to the flame.

“That flame is the truth. Let us see it all.”

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gop-govs[“I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!” (Claude Rains in “Casablanca”)]

“The list of governors threatening to decline federal stimulus money last month read like a list of Republicans considering running for president in 2012: Govs. Mark Sanford, Bobby Jindal and Sarah Palin led the anti-stimulus charge. 

“But what began with a bang is ending with something closer to a whimper. . . .

“All three found that praise from the conservative movement in Washington meant nothing to furious state legislators of both parties. And in the end, along with other conservative Republican governors, the three submitted letters in recent days asking to be eligible for federal funds, a spokesman for the White House Office of Management and Budget confirmed.” (more @ Politico.com)

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gonzalez-cartoon“A Spanish court has taken the first steps toward opening a criminal investigation into allegations that six former high-level Bush administration officials violated international law by providing the legal framework to justify the torture of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, an official close to the case said.

“The case, against former Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and others, was sent to the prosecutor’s office for review by Baltasar Garzón, the crusading investigative judge who ordered the arrest of the former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet. The official said that it was ‘highly probable’ that the case would go forward and that it could lead to arrest warrants.

“The move represents a step toward ascertaining the legal accountability of top Bush administration officials for allegations of torture and mistreatment of prisoners in the campaign against terrorism. But some American experts said that even if warrants were issued their significance could be more symbolic than practical, and that it was a near certainty that the warrants would not lead to arrests if the officials did not leave the United States.

“The complaint under review also names John C. Yoo, the former Justice Department lawyer who wrote secret legal opinions saying the president had the authority to circumvent the Geneva Conventions, and Douglas J. Feith, the former under secretary of defense for policy. . . .

Spain can claim jurisdiction in the case because five citizens or residents of Spain who were prisoners at Guantánamo Bay have said they were tortured there. The five had been indicted in Spain, but their cases were dismissed after the Spanish Supreme Court ruled that evidence obtained under torture was not admissible.” (more @ NY Times)

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“Over the last four decades, Powell’s Books has swelled into the largest bookstore in North America — a capacious monument to reading that occupies a full square block of this often-drizzly city [Portland, Oregon]. But this year, growth has given way to anxiety.

“Michael Powell, the store’s owner, recently dropped plans for a $5 million expansion. An architect had already prepared the drawings. His bankers had signaled that financing was available. But the project no longer looked prudent, Mr. Powell concluded — not with sales down nearly 5 percent, stock markets extinguishing savings, home prices plunging and jobs disappearing.

“‘It’s going to take a period of time to recover,’ Mr. Powell said. ‘Whether it’s 2 years or 10 years I don’t know, but I don’t think it’s going to be quick. People are nervous.'” (more @ NY Times)

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The full episode of last night’s The Daily Show featuring Jon Stewart‘s “interview” of CNBC’s Jim Cramer can be viewed here.

Related

UpdateRoubini: CNBC’s Jim Cramer A “Buffoon”

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Dissent editor Michael Walzer considers the options for Israeli-Palestinian relations in the aftermath of the recent Gaza war: 

“No one can say with any certainty that the two-state solution was viable before the war in Gaza. I can imagine arguments that the war made it more viable and also that it made it less viable. But, really, its viability doesn’t have a lot to do with the immediate strategic/political situation. There isn’t any other solution; this one is unique. People keep coming back to it because there’s no other way to go. It survives, therefore, I guess, it’s viable.

“But it isn’t in great shape right now, even though everyone knows what each side would have to do to realize this solution. The Palestinians have to end their civil war, and form a provisional government that recognizes Israel and represses all terrorist activity. The Israelis have to form a government that recognizes the Palestinians’ right to a state of their own, defeats the settler movement, and begins the evacuation of the settlements.” (more @ Dissent)

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johnyooFrom Balkinization, Jack Balkin on “The End of the Yoo Doctrine”:

“The Office of Legal Counsel has just released a series of previously secret opinions from the Bush Administration. Perhaps equally important, it has issued two remarkable opinions, one from October 6th, 2008 and one from January 15th, 2009 which essentially disown the extreme theories of Presidential power offered during the crucial period between 2001 and 2003 when John Yoo was at the OLC. . . .

“The October 2008 and January 2009 memos are the Bush OLC’s way of distancing itself from its conduct during the period when John Yoo was at OLC and when the Cheney/Addington/Yoo theory reigned supreme. It is important to recognize that these two memos are largely concerned with disowning particular broad claims of constitutional law, and they do not disown any of the Bush Administration’s specific policies regarding surveillance, detention, and interrogation. Indeed, after John Yoo left the OLC the Bush OLC was able to justify many of these policies without the Cheney/Addington/Yoo theory, by arguing for example, that applicable legislation should be read very narrowly or that Congress had authorized what the Bush Administration wanted to do in the September 18, 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force. No one should confuse these memos with a reversal of Bush Administration policy– instead, they are an attempt to disown a particular theory of unlimited Presidential power that was an embarrassment to the professional standards of the OLC. In this sense what is remarkable about these two memos is not that they change any concrete practices but that the OLC felt the need to reverse itself years later and to disavow a particular type of reasoning– reasoning which sought, in secret, to justify a theory of Presidential dictatorship.” (via The Daily Dish)

RelatedJohn Yoo is sorry for nothing

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Blagojevich MoneyGlenn Selig, a publicist for Rod Blagojevich, says the recently impeached former Illinois governor signed a six-figure deal on Monday to write a book “exposing the dark side of politics.” (via The Huffington Post)

Update: (3/9) BLAGOJEBOOK

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obamunism“Conservatives might be seeking a spiritual leader, organizing principle and fresh identity, but they at least seem to have settled on a favorite rhetorical ogre: socialism.

“As in, Democrats are intent on forcing socialism on the ‘U.S.S.A.’ (as the bumper sticker says, under the words ‘Comrade Obama’).

“It seems that ‘socialist’ has supplanted ‘liberal’ as the go-to slur among much of a conservative world confronting a one-two-three punch of bank bailouts, budget blowouts and stimulus bills. Right-leaning bloggers and talk radio hosts are wearing out the brickbat. Senate and House Republicans have been tripping over their podiums to invoke it. The S-bomb has become as surefire a red-meat line at conservative gatherings as ‘Clinton’ was in the 1990s and ‘Pelosi’ is today.” (more @ NY Times)

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spockvulcanMaureen Dowd on President Obama’s Mr. Spock-like cool:

“Mr. Obama has a bit of Mr. Spock in him (and not just the funny ears). He has a Vulcan-like logic and detachment. Any mere mortal who had to tell liberals that our obligations in Iraq and Afghanistan are far from over and tell Republicans that he has a $3.6 trillion budget would probably have tears running down his face.”

Related: Obama is Spock: It’s quite logical

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orwell“The longlists for the 2009 Orwell Prize for Political Writing were announced today, and for the first time the award includes a category for bloggers. Along with the traditional Book and Journalism submissions, this year the judges received entries in the form of YouTube videos and Twitter tweets. From eighty-three entrants for the Blog Prize . . . the judges selected a choice twelve, mixing the professional with the amateur, the politically affiliated with the politically free-wheeling:

“Alix Mortimer’s ‘The People’s Republic of Mortimer’; Andrew Sparrow’s Guardian Politics Blog; Chekov’s ‘Three Thousand Versts of Loneliness’; Hopi Sen’s Blog from the back room; Iain Dale’s Diary; Jack Night’s ‘Night Jack’; Mark Easton’s BBC News blog, ‘Mark Easton’s UK’; Neil Robertson’ ‘The Bleeding Heart Show’; Oliver Kamm’s Times Online blog; Paul Mason’s ‘Idle Scrawl’; The Heresiarch’s Heresy Corner; and Tom Harris’s ‘And another thing…’.

“While the Books and Journalism prizes have taken as their mantra Orwell’s ambition to ‘make political writing into an art’, the Blog Prize has looked to the day-to-day reflections in Orwell’s diaries for its criteria.” (via Granta)

[The March 12, 2009 issue of The New York Review of Books includes Julian Barnes’s essay, “Such, Such Was Eric Blair,” on George Orwell’s political writings. On his blog today, Andrew Sullivan writes of Barnes’s essay: “I’ve read a lot of Orwell and almost as much about him. This essay captures his Britishness – and avoids hagiography – as well as any I’ve read.”]

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Obama GOP ReactionFrom TPM, evidence that the story told Tuesday night by Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal during his GOP response to President Obama’s speech to Congress — “about how he backed a tough-talking sheriff’s efforts to rescue Katrina victims, government red-tape be damed [sic]” — was not true.

The full text of Governor Jindal’s speech can be found here.

obamacongressMeanwhile, Peggy Noonan saw Obama’s speech as a defining moment:

“A mysterious thing happened in that speech Tuesday night. By the end of it Barack Obama had become president. Every president has a moment when suddenly he becomes what he meant [sic] to be, or knows what he is, and those moments aren’t always public. . . .

“So with Mr. Obama, about four-fifths of the way through the speech. He was looking from the prompters to the congressmen and senators, and suddenly he was engaging on what seemed a deeper level. His voice took on inflection. He wasn’t detached, as if he was wondering how he was doing. He seemed equal to the moment and then, in some new way, in command of it.” (via Wall Street Journal)

A transcript of President Obama’s Address to Congress can be found here.

[As for that other influential GOP spokesperson, a video of “Joe the Plumber”‘s response to Obama’s speech can be found here.]

Update: (2/27) Jindal Admits Katrina Story Was False

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texasborderbadge“In a controversial program aimed at enhancing border security, Texas sheriffs have erected a series of surveillance cameras along the Rio Grande and connected them to the Internet.

“Thousands of people are now virtual Border Patrol agents — and they’re on the lookout for drug smugglers and illegal immigrants.

“Robert Fahrenkamp, a truck driver in South Texas, is one of them.

“After a long haul behind the wheel of a Peterbilt tractor-trailer, he comes home, sets his 6-foot-6-inch, 250-pound frame in front of his computer, pops a Red Bull, turns on some Black Sabbath or Steppenwolf, logs in to www.blueservo.net — and starts protecting his country.

“‘This gives me a little edge feeling,’ Fahrenkamp says, ‘like I’m doing something for law enforcement as well as for our own country.'” (more @ NPR)

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richrain“One of the most persistent cultural tics of the early 21st century is Americans’ reluctance to absorb, let alone prepare for, bad news. We are plugged into more information sources than anyone could have imagined even 15 years ago. The cruel ambush of 9/11 supposedly ‘changed everything,’ slapping us back to reality. Yet we are constantly shocked, shocked by the foreseeable.” (via NY Times)

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bibi“Can a hawkish Binyamin Netanyahu . . . surprise the world and sprout dovish wings?”

( via Foreign Policy)

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“The crash of 2008 continues to reverberate loudly nationwide—destroying jobs, bankrupting businesses, and displacing homeowners. But already, it has damaged some places much more severely than others. On the other side of the crisis, America’s economic landscape will look very different than it does today. What fate will the coming years hold for New York, Charlotte, Detroit, Las Vegas? Will the suburbs be ineffably changed? Which cities and regions can come back strong? And which will never come back at all?”

(via The Atlantic)

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While the completion of the final 670-mile stretch of security fence along the U.S.-Mexico border continues to be slowed by political and engineering issues, across the more than 600 miles of fence already completed (“a hodge-podge of metal panels, wire mesh and steel posts”) “drug smugglers . . . continue to breach the fencing that is up, forcing Border Patrol agents and contractors to return again and again for repairs. The smugglers build ramps to drive over fencing, dig tunnels under it, or use blow torches to slice through. They cut down metal posts used as vehicle barriers and replace them with dummy posts, made from cardboard.”

Teddy Cruz, reporting for “The Nation,” writes that “no matter how high and long the post-9/11 border wall becomes, it will never stop the migrating populations and the relentless flows of goods and services back and forth across the formidable barrier that seeks to exclude them.” Yet from the southward flow of materials something remarkable is being created – “while human flow mobilizes northbound in search of dollars, the urban waste of San Diego moves in the opposite direction . . . The leftover parts of San Diego’s older subdivisions — standard framing, joists, connectors, plywood, aluminum windows, garage doors — are being disassembled and recombined just across the border. A few miles south, in Tijuana, new informal suburbs — some call them slums — spring up from one day to another. This river of urban waste flows across the Tijuana-San Diego [sic] to make something dramatically new.”

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