Sunday, January 31, 2010

The President Obama we voted for by Joan Walsh
I'll let a smart friend explain why Obama beat the GOP and won back his base, at least for a glorious day.


Thursday, January 28, 2010

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Justice Alito's conduct and the Court's credibility
The Supreme Court's legitimacy depends upon apolitical and restrained justices.
by Glenn Greenwald

J. D. Salinger, Literary Recluse, Dies at 91
Mr. Salinger, the author of “The Catcher in the Rye,” turned his back on success and adulation.

Howard Zinn, Historian, Is Dead at 87 Howard Zinn, historian and shipyard worker, civil rights activist and World War II bombardier, and author of “A People’s History of the United States,” a best seller that inspired a generation of high school and college students to rethink American history, died Wednesday in Santa Monica, Calif. He was 87 and lived in Auburndale, Mass.


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Sunday, January 24, 2010

This Week in Crazy: Clarence Thomas
The Supreme Court judge brings insanity to the campaign finance decision, and inaugurates our new weekly feature
A Supreme Victory for Special Interests By John Dean
The conservative majority of the U.S. Supreme Court, none of whom has been elected to anything, ever, has given a monumental victory to special interests.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Court's campaign finance decision a case of shoddy scholarship
by Ruth Marcus
In opening the floodgates for corporate money in election campaigns, the Supreme Court did not simply engage in a brazen power grab. It did so in an opinion stunning in its intellectual dishonesty.

How the Democrats may solve their health-care problem by E.J. Dionne There is no reason in the world for House Democrats to trust the Senate Democrats at this point, or even to feel very kindly disposed toward them.


Friday, January 22, 2010

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A little history about Haiti


January 22, 2010
Op-Ed Contributor

To Heal Haiti, Look to History, Not Nature

HAITI is everybody's cherished tragedy. Long before the great earthquake struck the country like a vengeful god, the outside world, and Americans especially, described, defined, marked Haiti most of all by its suffering. Epithets of misery clatter after its name like a ball and chain: Poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. One of the poorest on earth. For decades Haiti's formidable immiseration has made it among outsiders an object of fascination, wonder and awe. Sometimes the pity that is attached to the land — and we see this increasingly in the news coverage this past week — attains a tone almost sacred, as if Haiti has taken its place as a kind of sacrificial victim among nations, nailed in its bloody suffering to the cross of unending destitution.
And yet there is nothing mystical in Haiti's pain, no inescapable curse that haunts the land. From independence and before, Haiti's harms have been caused by men, not demons. Act of nature that it was, the earthquake last week was able to kill so many because of the corruption and weakness of the Haitian state, a state built for predation and plunder. Recovery can come only with vital, even heroic, outside help; but such help, no matter how inspiring the generosity it embodies, will do little to restore Haiti unless it addresses, as countless prior interventions built on transports of sympathy have not, the man-made causes that lie beneath the Haitian malady.
In 1804 the free Republic of Haiti was declared in almost unimaginable triumph: hard to exaggerate the glory of that birth. Hundreds of thousands of enslaved Africans had labored to make Saint-Domingue, as Haiti was then known, the richest colony on earth, a vastly productive slave-powered factory producing tons upon tons of sugar cane, the 18th-century's great cash crop. For pre-Revolutionary France, Haiti was an inexhaustible cash cow, floating much of its economy. Generation after generation, the second sons of the great French families took ship for Saint-Domingue to preside over the sugar plantations, enjoy the favors of enslaved African women and make their fortunes.
Even by the standards of the day, conditions in Saint-Domingue's cane fields were grisly and brutal; slaves died young, and in droves; they had few children. As exports of sugar and coffee boomed, imports of fresh Africans boomed with them. So by the time the slaves launched their great revolt in 1791, most of those half-million blacks had been born in Africa, spoke African languages, worshipped African gods.
In an immensely complex decade-long conflict, these African slave-soldiers, commanded by legendary leaders like Toussaint Louverture and Jean-Jacques Dessalines, defeated three Western armies, including the unstoppable superpower of the day, Napoleonic France. In an increasingly savage war — "Burn houses! Cut off heads!" was the slogan of Dessalines — the slaves murdered their white masters, or drove them from the land.
On Jan. 1, 1804, when Dessalines created the Haitian flag by tearing the white middle from the French tricolor, he achieved what even Spartacus could not: he had led to triumph the only successful slave revolt in history. Haiti became the world's first independent black republic and the second independent nation in the Western Hemisphere.
Alas, the first such republic, the United States, despite its revolutionary creed that "all men are created equal," looked upon these self-freed men with shock, contempt and fear. Indeed, to all the great Western trading powers of the day — much of whose wealth was built on the labor of enslaved Africans — Haiti stood as a frightful example of freedom carried too far. American slaveholders desperately feared that Haiti's fires of revolt would overleap those few hundred miles of sea and inflame their own human chattel.
For this reason, the United States refused for nearly six decades even to recognize Haiti. (Abraham Lincoln finally did so in 1862.) Along with the great colonial powers, America instead rewarded Haiti's triumphant slaves with a suffocating trade embargo — and a demand that in exchange for peace the fledgling country pay enormous reparations to its former colonial overseer. Having won their freedom by force of arms, Haiti's former slaves would be made to purchase it with treasure.
The new nation, its fields burned, its plantation manors pillaged, its towns devastated by apocalyptic war, was crushed by the burden of these astronomical reparations, payments that, in one form or another, strangled its economy for more than a century. It was in this dark aftermath of war, in the shadow of isolation and contempt, that Haiti's peculiar political system took shape, mirroring in distorted form, like a wax model placed too close to the fire, the slave society of colonial times.
At its apex, the white colonists were supplanted by a new ruling class, made up largely of black and mulatto officers. Though these groups soon became bitter political rivals, they were as one in their determination to maintain in independent Haiti the cardinal principle of governance inherited from Saint-Domingue: the brutal predatory extraction of the country's wealth by a chosen powerful few.
The whites on their plantations had done this directly, exploiting the land they owned with the forced labor of their slaves. But the slaves had become soldiers in a victorious revolution, and those who survived demanded as their reward a part of the rich land on which they had labored and suffered. Soon after independence most of the great plantations were broken up, given over to the former slaves, establishing Haiti as a nation of small landowners, one whose isolated countryside remained, in language, religion and culture, largely African.
Unable to replace the whites in their plantation manors, Haiti's new elite moved from owning the land to fighting to control the one institution that could tax its products: the government. While the freed slaves worked their small fields, the powerful drew off the fruits of their labor through taxes. In this disfigured form the colonial philosophy endured: ruling had to do not with building or developing the country but with extracting its wealth. "Pluck the chicken," proclaimed Dessalines — now Emperor Jacques I — "but don't make it scream."
In 1806, two years after independence, the emperor was bayoneted by a mostly mulatto cabal of officers. Haitian history became the immensely complex tale of factional struggles to control the state, with factions often defined by an intricate politics of skin color. There was no method of succession ultimately recognized as legitimate, no tradition of loyal opposition. Politics was murderous, operatic, improvisational. Instability alternated with autocracy. The state was battled over and won; Haiti's wealth, once seized, purchased allegiance — but only for a time. Fragility of rule and uncertainty of tenure multiplied the imperative to plunder. Unseated rulers were sometimes killed, more often exiled, but always their wealth — that part of it not sent out of the country — was pillaged in its turn.
In 1915 the whites returned: the United States Marines disembarked to enforce continued repayment of the original debt and to put an end to an especially violent struggle for power that, in the shadow of World War I and German machinations in the Caribbean, suddenly seemed to threaten American interests. During their nearly two decades of rule, the Americans built roads and bridges, centralized the Haitian state — setting the stage for the vast conurbation of greater Port-au-Prince that we see today in all its devastation — and sent Haitians abroad to be educated as agronomists and doctors in the hope of building a more stable middle class.
Still, by the time they finally left, little in the original system had fundamentally changed. Haitian nationalism, piqued by the reappearance of white masters who had forced Haitians to work in road gangs, produced the noiriste movement that finally brought to power in 1957 Fran├žois Duvalier, the most brilliant and bloody of Haiti's dictators, who murdered tens of thousands while playing adroitly on cold-war America's fear of communism to win American acceptance.
Duvalier's epoch, which ended with the overthrow of his son Jean-Claude in 1986, ushered in Haiti's latest era of instability, which has seen, in barely a quarter-century, several coups and revolutions, a handful of elections (aborted, rigged and, occasionally, fair), a second American occupation (whose accomplishments were even more ephemeral than the first) and, all told, a dozen Haitian rulers. Less and less money now comes from the land, for Haiti's topsoil has grown enfeebled from overproduction and lack of investment. Aid from foreigners, nations or private organizations, has largely supplanted it: under the Duvaliers Haiti became the great petri dish of foreign aid. A handful of projects have done lasting good; many have been self-serving and even counterproductive. All have helped make it possible, by lifting basic burdens of governance from Haiti's powerful, for the predatory state to endure.
The struggle for power has not ended. Nor has Haiti's historic proclivity for drama and disaster. Undertaken in their wake, the world's interventions — military and civilian, and accompanied as often as not by a grand missionary determination to "rebuild Haiti" — have had as their single unitary principle their failure to alter what is most basic in the country, the reality of a corrupt state and the role, inadvertent or not, of outsiders in collaborating with it.
The sound of Haiti's suffering is deafening now but behind it one can hear already a familiar music begin to play. Haiti must be made new. This kind of suffering so close to American shores cannot be countenanced. The other evening I watched a television correspondent shake his head over what he movingly described as a "stupid death" — a death that, but for the right medical care, could have been prevented. "It doesn't have to happen," he told viewers. "People died today who did not need to die." He did not say what any Haitian could have told him: that the day before, and the day before that, Haiti had seen hundreds of such "stupid deaths," and, over the centuries, thousands more. What has changed, once again, and only for a time, is the light shone on them, and the volume of the voices demanding that a "new Haiti" must now be built so they never happen again.
Whether they can read or not, Haiti's people walk in history, and live in politics. They are independent, proud, fiercely aware of their own singularity. What distinguishes them is a tradition of heroism and a conviction that they are and will remain something distinct, apart — something you can hear in the Creole spoken in the countryside, or the voodoo practiced there, traces of the Africa that the first generation of revolutionaries brought with them on the middle passage.
Haitians have grown up in a certain kind of struggle for individuality and for power, and the country has proved itself able to absorb the ardent attentions of outsiders who, as often as not, remain blissfully unaware of their own contributions to what Haiti is. Like the ruined bridges strewn across the countryside — one of the few traces of the Marines and their occupation nearly a century ago — these attentions tend to begin in evangelical zeal and to leave little lasting behind.
What might, then? America could start by throwing open its markets to Haitian agricultural produce and manufactured goods, broadening and making permanent the provisions of a promising trade bill negotiated in 2008. Such a step would not be glamorous; it would not "remake Haiti." But it would require a lasting commitment by American farmers and manufacturers and, as the country heals, it would actually bring permanent jobs, investment and income to Haiti.
Second, the United States and other donors could make a formal undertaking to ensure that the vast amounts that will soon pour into the country for reconstruction go not to foreigners but to Haitians — and not only to Haitian contractors and builders but to Haitian workers, at reasonable wages. This would put real money in the hands of many Haitians, not just a few, and begin to shift power away from both the rapacious government and the well-meaning and too often ineffectual charities that seek to circumvent it. The world's greatest gift would be to make it possible, and necessary, for Haitians — all Haitians — to rebuild Haiti.
Putting money in people's hands will not make Haiti's predatory state disappear. But in time, with rising incomes and a concomitant decentralization of power, it might evolve. In coming days much grander ambitions are sure to be declared, just as more scenes of disaster and disorder will transfix us, more stunning and colorful images of irresistible calamity. We will see if the present catastrophe, on a scale that dwarfs all that have come before, can do anything truly to alter the reality of Haiti.
Mark Danner is the author, most recently, of "Stripping Bare the Body: Politics, Violence, War," which chronicles political conflict in Haiti, the Balkans, Iraq and the United States.

Scott Brown Wins Mass. Race, Giving GOP 41-59 Majority in the Senate
By Roy Edroso

​The election of Republican Scott Brown to replace the deceased Ted Kennedy in the Senate from Massachusetts yesterday destroys the Democrats' 60-vote supermajority, widely presumed to be needed for passage of a health care bill, or so it would seem from headlines ("House Dems largely reject idea of passing Senate health care bill"), from Republicans who cheered "41!" at Brown's victory as if it were some kind of milestone, and from conservative Democrats like Evan Bayh, who portrays the election as a "wake-up call," indicating that Democrats should propose a weaker health care bill that will not piss off insurance lobbyists and other powerful Republican constituencies.

New York congressman and former mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner said before the election that "I think you can make a pretty good argument that health care might be dead" if Brown were to win; after Brown's victory, Weiner has come out with, "We shouldn't show the arrogance of not getting the message here," "I don't think it would be the worst thing to take a step back," and other gutless whinges.

Conservatives are delirious. "Waterboarding wins," exults National Review's Marc Thiessen, noting that Brown "spoke out forcefully in favor of enhanced interrogation." Michael Graham calls it a "once-in-a-generation, never-saw-it-coming, dance-in-the-streets victory for democracy." Brown is expected to be seated quickly, and Republicans to move as quickly to pass legislation with their 41-vote majority.

The lesson, as always, is that when Democrats win, they lose, and when they lose, they are obliterated.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

re: Scott Brown

(from today's NY Times online)

Marlene Connolly's rationale for voting Republican is a sorry one. If she and similar voters think Scott Brown and the Republicans are going to do better at creating jobs, reforming health care, conducting (permanent) warfare, reining in spending, and any number of other things high on Americans' list of important issues, she's delusional. She cast a frying-pan-into-the-fire vote. She voted for a bonafide, morally challenged idiot.

That said, as a progressive I think it's good Coakley lost. She wouldn't have changed anything in DC more than Brown will. This election was not about health care. It was mainly about Obama, about his myriad broken promises, about his rolling over for Wall Street and appointing its lobbyists to his administration, most of all about his utter failure to lead. It was also about a Congress bought and paid for by banks and insurance companies and big pharma, about a Senate majority leader who is as firm as a limp noodle.

Now the Times is telling me in a headline that "Obama Weighs Shift in Health Plan, Seeking G.O.P. Backing". What a joke! The guy is clueless. Still with the bipartisanship. Did anyone ever explain to him that politics is all about partisanship? That without partisanship there is no progress? That the only things in the middle of the road are yellow stripes and dead armadillos? He's doing the exact opposite of what he should do - rather than setting a progressive agenda and doing all in his power to achieve it, he's rolling over to expose his soft underbelly to a party that has no ideas, no philosophy, and buckets of hypocrisy - and Scott Brown is their poster boy. The Obama administration is being eviscerated by the political equivalent of the Three Stooges. What does that say about the governing competence of Democrats?

Beyond defaulting on every promise he's ever made - and worse, causing people to lose the hope he created in them - Obama doesn't deserve to hold power. I'm done with Clinton-Obama Democrats, and (for the third or fourth time in my voting life) lesser-of-the-evil votes. From now on, it's progressive candidates only. If unprincipled Democrats lose because I and enough others refuse our votes, it's on their heads.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Drew Westen: Obama Finally Gets His Victory For Bipartisanship
It is a truly remarkable feat, in just one year's time, to turn the fear and anger voters felt in 2006 and 2008 at a Republican Party that had destroyed the economy, redistributed massive amounts of wealth from the middle class to the richest of the rich and the biggest of big businesses, and waged a trillion-dollar war in the wrong country, into populist rage at whatever Democrat voters can cast their ballot against.


Coakley's Loss: Pie on the President's Face
William Greider: Martha Coakley's loss in Massachusetts put on display the monumental miscalculations by which Obama has governed.

Katrina vanden Heuvel: The Massachusetts Lesson: Go Populist Now
Robert Scheer: What Massachusetts Got Right

What would the GOP do?
By Joe Conason
Democrats should consider the behavior of Republicans: They often lose, but never, ever retreat.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Great Tea Party Rip-Off by Frank Rich
The tea party movement is being exploited, not just by marketers, lobbyists and corporate interests, but by Republican Party leaders.


Thursday, January 14, 2010

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Cheney family values
Liz Cheney owes her prominence as a TV talking head to her daddy. But nepotism can be dangerous as well as annoying
by Joe Conason

Crazy like a Fox News pundit
Bill O'Reilly introduces the rouged rogue to the media dog pile. Welcome to hell, Sarah.
by Heather Havrilesky


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Monday, January 11, 2010

A Democrat's gaffe, the GOP's shame
Harry Reid chose his words poorly, but equating it with saying a racist would have made a good president is idiocy.
by Joan Walsh

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Partisan Hysteria Hypes (and Helps) Al-Qaida By Joe Conason —
The latest terrorist attack against the United States proves that the Republican exploitative response to terror is as predictable as al-Qaida’s urge to kill.


Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Go Inside the Battle Over Global Warming
How Big Oil and Big Coal mounted one of the most aggressive lobbying campaigns in history to block progress on global warming. Plus, meet the 17 polluters and deniers - from Warren Buffett to Rupert Murdoch to John McCain - who are derailing efforts to curb the climate catastrophe.

Dodd's last chance to lead
Wall Street's favorite senator doesn't have to raise money anymore. Time for him to stand up and be counted
by Andrew Leonard

Poll: With Dodd's exit, Dems better off
The Democrat running to replace the retiring senator holds a lead of at least 30 points in one survey
by Alex Koppelman

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

After the Underwear Bomber, Republicans Have Shown Their True Color: Weakness
by Mitchell Bard
Where are the tough-guy Republicans now? When did fear and whining replace the gunslinger persona? The Republican reaction has been to give the terrorists exactly what they want.

Conservative backlash against "Avatar"
A right-wing nightmare: The free market has spoken -- anti-American lefty green propaganda sells!
by Andrew Leonard

Monday, January 04, 2010

The Power of Nightmares
This film explores the origins in the 1940s and 50s of Islamic Fundamentalism in the Middle East, and Neoconservatism in America, parallels between these movements, and their effect on the world today. From the introduction to Part 1:

"Both [the Islamists and Neoconservatives] were idealists who were born out of the failure of the liberal dream to build a better world. And both had a very similar explanation for what caused that failure. These two groups have changed the world, but not in the way that either intended. Together, they created todays nightmare vision of a secret, organized evil that threatens the world. A fantasy that politicians then found restored their power and authority in a disillusioned age. And those with the darkest fears became the most powerful. " The Power of Nightmares, Baby It's Cold Outside.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

The degrading effects of terrorism fears
The expectation that government provide absolute safety is both dangerous and irrational. by Glenn Greenwald


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