Saturday, June 20, 2009

That Stuff Happening in Iran Just Now

I've been rather excited by what's happening in Iran in the wake of its rigged election. This is really the continuation of the process that was well underway before Bush's attack on Iraq interrupted it. Iranians had grown weary of rule by the mullahs and their sycophants for years, and various shades of "reformers" had swept the last several elections before the Iraq war. "Reformers" belongs in quotes because the Supreme Leader still vets the candidates who are allowed to run. He'd been bowing to public pressure for a few years and allowing less reactionary candidates. Even the hardliners were adopting reformist slogans.

Unfortunately, then came Bush and all of that went away. Ahmadinejad was the candidate of the most reactionary elements inside Iran, an excrescence of the mullahs given power solely by Bush's decision to go play Army in the desert next door. The same dissatisfaction still existed though, and it has been brewing there ever since.

The mullahs still vet the candidates. Mousavi is portrayed as a "reformer" in a lot of the press coverage here and during the campaign, he adopted a lot of the reformist talk, as had other conservatives, pre-war, but before that, he has always been, himself, a conservative, and except for his transformation during the campaign (which could just be political rhetoric, rather than a genuine change of heart), he's representative of the narrow perspective that has traditionally been allowed by the mullahs to take part in the "democratic" process. But for the rhetoric, it's like having a choice between Augusto Pinochet and Rick Warren.

What makes the Iranian situation really exciting is the stupid, clumsy response of the mullahs and their Revolutionary Guards. Fixing an election for their boy in such a transparently obvious way then falling back on the old methods of repression to keep people in line in an age of technology that just goes around their efforts, an age that has totally passed them by and made their reaction look, to all of Iran, to be as outrageous as it is. By their behavior, they've radically escalated the situation and set into motion something that, before it ends, could be their undoing.

Predictably, John McCain, Sean Hannity and a number of other righties in the U.S. are bitching about Barack Obama's very measured comments on these developments. Their criticism is, as is so often the case, deplorable. To state the obvious, if the President of the Great Satan was to come out with a strong condemnation of the election or the mullahs or an endorsement of Mousavi's efforts, it would doom those efforts utterly and completely. The reactionaries in Iran have, from the beginning, put the blame for the "unrest" on agitation from the U.S. Any word Obama may breath in support of the reformers or against the current regime would be used a confirmation of that allegation inside Iran and the reformers would be completely discredited. A Sean Hannity probably doesn't know that--he probably thinks Iran is run by some strongman and couldn't find it on a map--but a John McCain does know these things, and had he been elected president, he'd be behaving exactly as is Obama. His public performance amounts to a lie. He's playing to the base of his party, the people who think the cretinous Sarah Palin falls just after sliced bread in the realm of inventions.

If the hardliners in Iran decide they want to fight about it, we could be looking at another revolution. The youth of Iran, who have emerged in huge numbers and coalesced around Mousavi, seem ready to shrug off the old guard. Mousavi himself probably couldn't contain them now. It's an exciting time.


Thursday, June 18, 2009

Meet the New Boss...

Yesterday, Glenn Greenwald was out with another example of why he's the best political blogger on the internet. "Obama and Transparency: Judge For Yourself." It matches up Obama's promises to end Bush-era abuses with regard to government secrecy vs. the reality, wherein Obama has largely continued those policies. An article well worth a look.

It does give due consideration to the good things Obama has done in this area:
"Balanced against all of that, Obama complied with a court order directing the release of Bush-era OLC memos on torture; issued an Executive Order creating additional procedures before executive secrecy under FOIA could be asserted; and ordered his agency heads to interpret FOIA with a 'presumption' in favor of disclosure. It should also be noted that--as Think Progress documented yesterday--Obama's position in denying access to visitor logs is a direct violation of his statements about the Bush administration's practices in doing the same, and the same is true for his use of the Bush-era version of the state secrets theory."
The record is pretty bad, and, as Greenwald notes, this only deals with the matter of government transparency:
"'s worth emphasizing that the above excerpts pertain only to transparency issues. None of this has anything to do with what The New York Times in May--referring to Obama's Bush-replicating policies on detention, rendition, denial of habeas rights, military commission and the like--described as 'how he has backtracked, in substantial if often nuanced ways, from the approach to national security that he preached as a candidate, and even from his first days in the Oval Office.' No matter how you look at it, this is quite a record."
As the song says, "Meet the new boss..."


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Sarah Palin: Thin-Skinned Cretin, or How I Get Banished From Message Boards

Groucho Marx once said he wouldn't belong to any club that would have him as a member. When I took part in such things on a more regular basis, I got thrown off a lot of message boards, discussion lists, forums. It isn't that I'm particulary mean or unfair. I just have a low tolerance for stupidity and a poor track record of holding my tongue when confronted with some of the more extreme manifestations of it. I should probably know better, for example, than to go into a forum full of fellows who openly lust after Sarah Palin, to the point of posting lots of photoshopped images of the Alaskan governor's head transposed on to the nude bodies of porn stars for wanking purposes. I should know better. And I should definitely know better than to go there and post one of my modest, reasonable estimations of said governor's intellectual capabilities in the wake of her public fight with yet another comedian. But I did it anyway. And--big surprise--it was deleted by the Palin fan who runs the joint and who characterized it as inflammatory, while he replaced it with yet another of those much more respectable threads devoted to Sarah porn (to which no one could possibly object).

Such is life. I've sort of adopted an informal zero-tolerance policy toward this sort of thing, so I won't be back to that particular board and I suppose I can add it to the list of clubs from which I have, in effect, been excluded. Here, for posterity, is the post that did the deed:

I know it must be difficult to be as cretinous an imbecile as Sarah Palin. She's forever trapped in a world she can't understand. The simplest things appear to her to be great, unsolvable mysteries. That is no bar to success in the Republican party though, and she's made very clear she has ambitions. Can't she at least hire some handlers who, if incapable of explaining the facts of life to such a dullard, could at least tell her to stop when she's embarrassing herself so badly in public?

That's what she did during the election and that's all she's done since. Her interview with Katie Couric last year became a nationwide story when, asked what news sources she read, Palin was incapable of naming a single one. As bad as that is, she's then spent the last year whining about it, lying about it (describing it as a "gotcha' question") and trashing Couric personally. She dumped on Tina Fey for Fey's dead-on caricature of her on Saturday Night Live. She explained that she was a victim of these people, exploited by them. She's whined about her press coverage! A few weeks ago, she jumped into a public fracas with the father of her grandchild. Then, she became involved in a stupid public dust-up over a Republican fundraiser in Washington. And now, she's back to whining about yet another comedian, this time David Letterman.[*] Even after it was clear she was just embarrassing herself further, she kept right on, dragging the matter out for more than a week. In an attempt to diffuse the situation, Letterman has even apologized. Twice. In response, Palin issued a statement that sounds like some government press release from a Third World dictatorship, praising the brave American soldiers who defend the right of someone like Letterman to make jokes.

That last is interesting in another way, as Palin set forth her own, um... unique view of "free speech" during the campaign, when she said that press criticism of her amounted to an attack on her right to free speech.

It's one of the cardinal rules of politics that, when you want to pick a public fight, pick it with someone bigger than yourself. Palin has chosen a reporter, a teenager, and some comedians. Since she was picked by McCain in a vain, misguided effort to attract Hillary Clinton voters, Palin has been as incredibly popular with the Republican base as she has been a consistent embarrassment to them, their party and U.S. politics in general. Is this really what the Republican party has come to? Is this what American politics have come to?



[*] And contrary to her claims, the joke wasn't even aimed at Palin's family. It was aimed at Alex Rodriguez. Palin falsely asserted it was aimed at her 14-year-old daughter, who, in reality, hadn't even been mentioned, and went around telling the press Letterman was a dirty old man making jokes about the sexual exploitation of underage girls.