Friday, December 19, 2008

Obama's Carnival of Beasts Continues

"The politics of common ground will not be found on the far right or on the far left. That is not where most Americans live. We will only find it in the firm middle ground of common sense and shared values."
--Barack Obama, approvingly quoting Tom Daschle (11 Dec., 2008)

As Obama now speaks approvingly of the vile triangulation tactics pioneered during the Clinton regime, his carnival of beasts continues. One right-wing pick after another. A few liberals have turned up among them, but they're being given token roles of little real importance. All the big slots are going to the conservatives--after running on "change," Obama has assembled a team that runs the ideological gamut from A to B, from Republican-lite to Republican-outright. It has been a dreadful thing to behold.

His just-announced choice to deliver a benediction at his inauguration is "Pastor" Rick Warren, a reactionary scumbag of the Religious Reich variety who compares legalized abortion to the Holocaust and compares homosexual marriage to incest and pedophilia. This election season, Warren crusaded in favor of California's noxious Prop. 8, which stripped away such marriage rights to gay couples. This is one of the first voices Americans will hear from this administration when Obama is sworn in.

Getting to offer a benediction at an inauguration is a relatively minor thing, of course. Symbolically, though, it's an atrocity, particularly after the last 8 years, and an open insult to every decent, liberal American, after Obama has already dished out to them one insult after another via his choices to run his administration. Whatever his other shortcomings, Obama has always given the impression of being quite intelligent. His choices since election, however, give the impression of a degree of stupidity bordering on the cretinous. What is to be gained by giving a creature like Warren such a prominent national stage? It can only give him greater prestige and that is to the detriment of the United States and everyone in it. The only point seems to be a vain, stupid, doomed effort to curry favor with the right.

After they politically bury him, perhaps they'll send him some flowers.


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

How Offensive!!!

When he chucked his shoes at "President" Bush this week, Iraqi journalist Muntader al-Zaidi proved he understood the key to getting lots of press: give good visuals. The cable news networks are running to ribbons the footage of his shoe-throwing protest. It's one of the most entertaining things many of those programs have ever aired. Less entertaining is some of the reaction the incident has drawn in the U.S..

Reg Henry, who isn't a Bush supporter, had this to say about it (writing in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette):
"...when anyone, especially a foreign national, physically attacks the president of the United States, be it with shoes, sandals, socks, bras, jockstraps, cream pies or anything else absurd or smelly that comes to hand, then it is an assault on the dignity of all of us, even if some of us are not very dignified.

"This rule applies to any president and I will brook no opposition on this point. The office demands respect even when the person doesn't."
Juan Williams isn't a liberal, but he plays one on TV. He's one of the regular stable of faux lefties imported onto such programs to give a phony sense of balance. In one such appearance on Bill O'Reilly's wretched Fox News freak-show, this was his reaction to the flying footwear affair:
" many American lives have been sacrificed to the cause of liberating Iraq? How much money has been spent while they’re not spending their own profits from their oil? American money. So I just think it’s absolutely the act of an ingrate for them to behave in this way. Just unbelievable to me."
Ah, the voice of Offended Empire... "Those ungrateful darkies! And after all we've done for them!"

Of course, what Bush really did for them was concoct a noxious faragoo of lies to rationalize a massive campaign of slaughter inside their country, the home of Muntader al-Zaidi. What a grave national insult it is that this fellow--failing to realize he's only supposed to think badly of that sort of behavior when it comes from brown people with funny names like Saddam Hussein--took offense at it and committed the unpardonable sin of throwing a shoe at our brave Maximal Leader! Even our "liberal" commentators say so!

Bush and his lies murder thousands; a fellow throws a pair of shoes. Outrageous!

My own reaction: Too bad it wasn't a brick.


Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Liberals Argue Over the Merits of Disappointment

On MSNBC's COUNTDOWN last night, Keith Olbermann said Obama's foreign policy apparatus, publicly rolled out yesterday, isn't just a "team of rivals"--it amounts to "a coalition government."

Bad news for those who thought they'd be getting "change" from an Obama administration.

But some people are loving it. Jeremy Scahill has a good piece out today noting that Obama's picks are finding much favor on the right:
"Karl Rove, 'Bush's Brain', called Obama's cabinet selections, 'reassuring', which itself is disconcerting, but neoconservative leader and former McCain campaign staffer Max Boot summed it up best. 'I am gobsmacked by these appointments, most of which could just as easily have come from a President McCain,' Boot wrote. The appointment of General Jones and the retention of Gates at defence 'all but puts an end to the 16-month timetable for withdrawal from Iraq, the unconditional summits with dictators and other foolishness that once emanated from the Obama campaign.'
"Boot added that Hillary Clinton will be a 'powerful' voice 'for "neoliberalism" which is not so different in many respects from "neoconservativism."' Boot's buddy, Michael Goldfarb, wrote in The Weekly Standard, the official organ of the neoconservative movement, that he sees 'certainly nothing that represents a drastic change in how Washington does business. The expectation is that Obama is set to continue the course set by Bush in his second term.'"
Most of Scahill's comments are dead on target but there is one puzzler in the pile. Consider this passage:
"We were told repeatedly during the campaign that Obama was right on the premiere foreign policy issue of our day--the Iraq war. 'Six years ago, I stood up and opposed this war at a time when it was politically risky to do so,' Obama said in his September debate against John McCain. 'Senator McCain and President Bush had a very different judgment.'"
Obama has been an opponent of the Iraq war since before he entered the Senate and that campaign rhetoric was consistent with his record. Try to make that passage fit with this though:
" is also disingenuous to act as though Obama is engaging in some epic betrayal. Of course these appointments contradict his campaign rhetoric of change. But move past the speeches and Obama's selections are very much in sync with his record and the foreign policy vision he articulated on the campaign trail..."
Scahill's judgment that "there is not a single, solid anti-war voice in the upper echelons of the Obama foreign policy apparatus" is a correct one. How can that be "in sync" with his previous record and his campaign rhetoric?

A few days ago, I slammed Glenn Greenwald for feigning bewilderment at liberal disappointment with Obama's appointments to date. He was, in my view, grossly overstating his case and he, himself, must have eventually come to the same judgment of what he'd written, because he returned a few days later with a new piece in which he outlined Obama's liberal Senate record and campaign rhetoric on subjects such as the use of torture, the Guantanamo Bay concentration camp, trial by "military commissions," illegal surveillance and other items, and noted that Obama has recently shown "some conflicting signs" on these issues "that create some uncertainty." What does Greenwald see as "conflicting signs"? In almost every case, it's Obama's choice of rightist appointees who completely contradict his own views on these subjects.

It seems a little disappointment is in order after all.


Monday, December 1, 2008

The CIA & Obama's Would-Be "Cure" For It

Until recent days, John Brennan, who has been Barack Obama's top advisor on intelligence matters, had been the President-elect's assumed choice to head the CIA. Brennan is a vile rightist, one of George Tenet's long-serving hecubi who spent a few years as Deputy Executive Director of the CIA during the outgoing Bush's administration. Among other things, he has supported and defended the Bush administrations' use of torture and of "rendition" (shipping people to foreign countries where they can be horribly tortured with impunity) pimped for Bush's illegal wiretapping scheme and for immunity for telecoms who collaborated with Bush without regard to the law or their customers' rights. After a minor firestorm of controversy erupted over Brennan's potential appointment, he wrote a letter to Obama on Nov. 25 withdrawing his name from any potential intelligence-related post.

The real story isn't that he has now withdrawn. It's that he was ever even a contender in the first place.

The CIA is a mess at the moment. It has been subject, under the Bush administration, to the same sort of ideological purge as was the Justice Department and other agencies. Quality intel pros--those charged with gathering and making sense of the data necessary to, among other things, protect the U.S. from terrorist attacks were given the heave-ho because they weren't "loyal" enough, or conservative enough. The corporate press has virtually ignored this but Porter Goss was named by Bush to head of the agency with explicit instructions to carry out such a purge. From Newsday, in 2004:
"The White House has ordered the new CIA director, Porter Goss, to purge the agency of officers believed to have been disloyal to President Bush or of leaking damaging information to the media about the conduct of the Iraq war and the hunt for Osama bin Laden, according to knowledgeable sources.

"'The agency is being purged on instructions from the White House,' said a former senior CIA official who maintains close ties to the agency and to the White House. 'Goss was given instructions... to get rid of those soft leakers and liberal Democrats. The CIA is looked on by the White House as a hotbed of liberals and people who have been obstructing the president's agenda.'"
This was done and in very ugly fashion. As it progressed, one senior administration official told Knight-Ridder that the purge "appears to be directed at 'everybody who said there was no connection between Iraq and al-Qaida and everybody who they think leaked information that undercut what the administration was claiming.'"

"This is a classic case of shooting the messenger," said one senior official. 'Unfortunately, they're the same messengers we're counting on to warn us of the next al-Qaida attack.'" 

Robert Dreyfuss has been one of the few journalists who tracked this sorry affair in any detail:
"Since Goss took over, between 30 and 90 senior CIA officials have made their exit, according to various sources, some fleeing into retirement, others taking refuge as consultants. Others, unable to retire, have stayed, but only to mark time at the agency. Morale, already low after several years during which the CIA was accused of a series of intelligence failures related to September 11 and Iraq's nonexistent weapons of mass destruction, is now at rock-bottom. The agency's vaunted Near East Division, in particular, which served as the 'pointy end of the spear,' as one CIA veteran put it, in simultaneous wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and the 'global war on terror,' has been decimated."
That entire Dreyfuss article is worth a read.

Within only months of Goss's appointment, nearly the entirety of the senior management of the clandestine services--the branch which handles the spies--had been fired or had quit.

Goss eventually left. The purge, unfortunately, didn't. Under Michael Hayden, his successor, the CIA inspector general launched an investigation into the administration's detention and "interrogation" practices. Hayden's response was the launch an investigation of the inspector general.

This is what's been happening at CIA. Longtime, high-ranking intel pros being eliminated in a political purge and replaced with Bush yes-men. This is the agency that will confront Obama when he is sworn in.

And Brennan was his solution?