Thursday Reads: A Quick Rundown

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Good Morning!!

This is going to be a quick post, because I think my tooth is getting infected. This is the tooth I was supposed to get a temporary crown for on Tuesday. I’m going to have to call the dentist’s office and see if I can get in on an emergency basis. My Mesa Dentist just opened a practice here and she is already on a wait. Probably from all my referrals. She called me personally Tuesday and chastised me for not making my appointment. I can’t wait to hear what she tells me when I call and tell her it is infected. There’s lots of news this morning, so I’m going to give you a quick rundown, and I’ll try to do something more substantive later on.

First, a dispatch from the “forever war,” intelligence sources in the U.S. and Great Britain are claiming that the recent crash of a Russian plane was caused by an ISIS bomb. CNN reports:

Days after authorities dismissed claims that ISIS brought down a Russian passenger jet, a U.S. intelligence analysis now suggests that the terror group or its affiliates planted a bomb on the plane.

British Foreign Minister Philip Hammond said his government believes there is a “significant possibility” that an explosive device caused the crash. And a Middle East source briefed on intelligence matters also said it appears likely someone placed a bomb aboard the aircraft.

Metrojet Flight 9268 crashed Saturday in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula after breaking apart in midair, killing all 224 people on board. It was en route to St. Petersburg from the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.

The latest U.S. intelligence suggests that the crash was most likely caused by a bomb planted on the plane by ISIS or an affiliate, according to multiple U.S. officials who spoke with CNN.

The officials stressed that no formal conclusion has been reached by the U.S. intelligence community and that U.S. officials haven’t seen forensic evidence from the crash investigation.

Intelligence also suggests someone at the Sharm el-Sheikh airport helped get a bomb onto the plane, one U.S. official said.

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We’re never going to get out of the Middle East, thanks Bush and Cheney. Speaking of those two, there’s a new book out in which George H.W. Bush claims that Dubya was betrayed by his advisers–you know, all those long-time Bush family pals that George senior passed on to his son?

In “Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey Of George Herbert Walker Bush,” author Jon Meacham quotes Bush as saying that Cheney and Rumsfeld were too hawkish and that their harsh stance damaged the reputation of the United States, the cable news network said.

Speaking of Cheney, who was vice president under President George W. Bush, the senior Bush said: “I don’t know, he just became very hard-line and very different from the Dick Cheney I knew and worked with,” according to the report….

“The reaction (to Sept. 11), what to do about the Middle East. Just iron-ass. His seeming knuckling under to the real hard-charging guys who want to fight about everything, use force to get our way in the Middle East,” Bush told Meacham in the book to be published next Tuesday….

On Rumsfeld, secretary of defense for most of the two terms served by his son, Bush is even more critical. He is quoted as saying: “I don’t like what he did, and I think it hurt the President,” referring to his son.

“I’ve never been that close to him anyway. There’s a lack of humility, a lack of seeing what the other guy thinks. He’s more kick ass and take names, take numbers. I think he paid a price for that. Rumsfeld was an arrogant fellow,” he was quoted as saying in the biography. Read more about the book and the Bush interview at The New York Times.

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The Democratic Party is in deep trouble, as demonstrated by Tuesday’s election results. Greg Sargent: A brutal reality check for the Democratic Party.

The news that Tea Party Republican Matt Bevin snatched the Kentucky governor’s mansion away from Democrats is a particularly stark reminder of how deep a hole Democrats have dug for themselves at the state level, and of the consequences that could have for the long-term success of the liberal and Democratic agenda.

Bevin will replace Democratic governor Steve Beshear, who was perhaps the leading evangelist for the Affordable Care Act in the South. Beshear famously set up a Kentucky health insurance exchange and opted in to Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion amid a region of hostility towards the law. Bevin has pledged to transition people off of the exchange to the federal one, and to shut down the state’s Medicaid expansion. But in Kentucky, the law has succeeded at its primary goal: Early on it successfully brought health coverage to some of the state’s (and the country’s) poorest and unhealthiest counties, and Gallupfound earlier this year that Kentucky boasted the second largest drop in the uninsured rate of any state in the country.

Now those policy gains may be in some doubt.

Read the Rest at the WaPo. And from Chris Cillizza: Matt Bevin is the next governor of Kentucky. He has President Obama to thank.

Matt Bevin, the Republican nominee in the Kentucky governor’s race, wasn’t a very good candidate.  By all accounts, he was standoffish and ill at ease on the campaign trail, and inconsistent — to put it nicely — when it came to policy.  The Republican Governors Association, frustrated with Bevin and his campaign, pulled its advertising from the state.  Polling done in the runup to today’s vote showed Bevin trailing state Attorney General Jack Conway (D).

And yet, Bevin won going away on Tuesday night. How? Two words: Barack Obama.

Obama is deeply unpopular in Kentucky. He won under 38 percent of the vote in the Bluegrass State in 2012 after taking 41 percent in 2008. In the 2012 Democratic primary, “uncommitted” took 42 percent of the vote against the unchallenged Obama. One Republican close to the Kentucky gubernatorial race said that polling done in the final days put Obama’s unpopularity at 70 percent.

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Again, read the rest at the WaPo. Too bad Obama didn’t stick with Howard Dean’s 50-state strategy, while the Republicans ran with it.

Some updates on 2016 GOP primary campaigns . . .

David Wasserman at FiveThirtyEight: The GOP Primary Rules Might Doom Carson, Cruz, and Trump.

In a few months, after Iowa and New Hampshire begin to winnow the field, the GOP nomination race could boil down to an epic final between a candidate with a more pragmatic image, such as Marco Rubio, Carly Fiorina or Jeb Bush, and a more conservative one, such as Ted Cruz, Ben Carson or Donald Trump.1

If that happens, the moderate finalist — like Mitt Romney and John McCain before him or her — will have a hidden structural advantage: the party’s delegate math and geography.

There are plenty of reasons to be cautious of national polls that show Trump and Carson leading. They may fail to screen out casual voters, for instance, and leaders at this point in past years have eventually tanked. But perhaps the biggest reason to ditch stock in these polls is that they’re simulating a national vote that will never take place.

In reality, the GOP nominating contest will be decided by an intricate, state-by-state slog for the 2,472 delegates at stake between February and June. And thanks to the Republican National Committee’s allocation rules, the votes of “Blue Zone” Republicans — the more moderate GOP primary voters who live in Democratic-leaning states and congressional districts — could weigh more than those of more conservative voters who live in deeply red zones. Put another way: The Republican voters who will have little to no sway in the general election could have some of the most sway in the primary.

As The New York Times’ Nate Cohn astutely observed in January, Republicans in blue states hold surprising power in the GOP presidential primary process even though they are “all but extinct in Washington, since their candidates lose general elections to Democrats.” This explains why Republicans have selected relatively moderate presidential nominees while the party’s members in Congress have continued to veer right.

The key to this pattern: “Blue-state Republicans are less religious, more moderate and less rural than their red-state counterparts,” Cohn concluded after crunching Pew Research survey data. By Cohn’s math, Republicans in states that Obama won in 2012 were 15 percentage points likelier to support Romney in the 2012 primary and 9 points likelier to support McCain in 2008 than their red-state compatriots. Romney and McCain’s advantage in blue states made it “all but impossible for their more conservative challengers to win the nomination,” Cohn wrote.

Read much more interesting stuff at the link.

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Ed Kilgore’s take on Ben Carson from TPM: Why Ben Carson Isn’t Going Away — And What Makes That So Scary.

During the last month the long-awaited, heavily-promoted decline in Donald Trump’s standing in the Republican presidential nominating contest has finally begun to occur. But aside from a small reshuffling of the order in the “lanes” (e.g., Rubio moving past Bush among Establishment Republicans and Cruz moving past Huckabee, Santorum and Jindal among experienced Christian Right candidates) to which the candidates have been assigned by the punditocracy, the big beneficiary of softening support for Trump has been another candidate with no experience in elected office, Dr. Ben Carson. He is running either first or a strong second in virtually everynational poll, and is now routinely leading polls of Iowa as well. His approval ratings, moreover, are extremely high, and best in the field. It’s safe to say he is almost universally admired by GOP voters.

The conventional wisdom is that Carson is beloved for being a genial, soft-spoken figure and a non-politician with a distinguished biography. That may be true, though this does not necessarily distinguish him from many thousands of his fellow Americans. An equally obvious factor is that he is African American, and Republicans frustrated with being accused of white identity politics if not outright racism love being able to support a black candidate who is as conservative as they are.

Less obvious — and finally being recognized by political reporters spending time in Iowa — is that Carson is a familiar, beloved figure to conservative evangelicals, who have been reading his books for years.

Another factor, and one that I emphasized in my own take here two months ago, is that Carson is a devoted believer in a number of surprisingly resonant right-wing conspiracy theories, which he articulates via dog whistles that excite fellow devotees (particularly fans of Glenn Beck, who shares much of Carson’s world-view) without alarming regular GOP voters or alerting the MSM.

As David Corn of Mother Jones has patiently explained, the real key for understanding Carson (like Beck) is via the works of Cold War-era John Birch Society member and prolific pseudo-historian W. Cleon Skousen, who stipulated that America was under siege from the secret domestic agents of global Marxism who masqueraded as liberals. Carson has also clearly bought into the idea that these crypto-commies are systematically applying the deceptive tactics of Saul Alinsky in order to destroy the country from within—a theme to which he alluded in the famous National Prayer Breakfast speech that launched his political career and in the first Republican presidential candidates’ debate.

Head over to TPM and read the rest.

There’s plenty more news this morning; I’ll try to put a few links in the comments. What stories are you following today?


The Audacity of Unrepentant War Criminals

Rumsfeld tweetThe Elephants of the Republican Party don’t seem to have very good memories. Diaper Dave Vitter, Ralph Reed, and even Mark Sanford seem to have continuing careers despite basic transgressions of civility and law. Words fail me on the convenient memories of the perpetrators of one of America’s greatest sins on its 10th anniversary.

The media and the Bush administration led a whole lot of people–never me–down a garden path filled with imaginary WMDs, mushroom clouds, and Al Quaida Terrorists to support its NeoCon Agenda which has cost this country precious lives and treasure. You’d have to ask the Iraqis if they feel ‘liberated’.  Too bad we can’t poll all the dead innocents because I’m sure they’d have something to say about Rumsfeld and Cheney’s War of Ideological Convenience too. It’s hard to believe they even have the audacity to pop their heads up like some Neo Con Ground Hog Day Rodents let lone make statements like the one above.  None of them can take vacations in Europe any more because most countries realize they belong in the justice system with the other War Criminals. There is nothing like the hubris of absolute gall.

There are so many things that are wrong with the lead-up and the shock-and-awe of the Iraq War that we should make yesterday a national holiday to remember the criminal enterprise that brought us the likes of Cheney, Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle and all the other murderous chicken hawks of the Republican Party.  Voters should be made to remember that Jeb Bush was also a signatory to neocon documents that became policies of the of group of folks that were disgruntled that Poppy Bush didn’t take the initiative to get us into Iraq after the Kuwait Invasion.  That’s another resurrection that shouldn’t happen. PNAC and all its signatories and enablers should go down in history as a list of War Criminals. Judith Miller and various other ‘journalists’ should be added to the list of enablers of war crimes too.

But, back to the absolute mistake and horror that became the Iraq invasion and occupation via Beltway Bob who mentions he got all caught up in the propaganda and complicity of the press at the time too. Even then he was showing signs of the gullibility trait that we like to kid him for around here.   Hence, his nickname. He spoke to Ken Pollack who is one of those people that should shrink into permanent obscurity.

I supported Ken Pollack’s war, which led me to support George W. Bush’s war. Both were wrong. The assumptions required to make them right — Hussein had WMDs, Hussein was truly crazy, Hussein couldn’t be contained, American military planners and soldiers could competently destroy and then rebuild a complex, fractured society they didn’t understand — were implausible.

But saying, in retrospect, that I shouldn’t have supported the Iraq War is easy. The harder question is how to avoid a similarly catastrophic misjudgment in the future.

So here are some of my lessons. First, listen to the arguments of the people who will actually carry out a project, not the arguments of the people who just want to see the project carried out. Who manages a project can be as important as what the project is.

Second, don’t trust what “everybody knows.” There is, perhaps, nothing more dangerous than a fact that everyone thinks they know, because it shuts down critical thinking. In a retrospective for Foreign Policy, Stephen Hadley, Bush’s national security adviser, said, “It never occurred to me or anyone else I was working with, and no one from the intelligence community or anyplace else ever came in and said, ‘What if Saddam is doing all this deception because he actually got rid of the WMD and he doesn’t want the Iranians to know?’ Now, somebody should have asked that question. I should have asked that question. Nobody did. It turns out that was the most important question in terms of the intelligence failure that never got asked.”

People that were that gullible and wrong do not need to be interviewed.  We need a day each year to point and laugh at them and spread national loathing in their general direction. However, I frankly believe that Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld knew there were no WMDS.  They need a completely different sort’ve of treatment. The kind of treatment the court at The Hague dishes and serves cold.  I’m not sure if the President knew because frankly, at that time, he appeared at his most clueless on a scale of almost infinite cluelessness.  But, if you read the current writings of some of the men that should be standing in front of judges at The Hague, you would think that  the now well-known absence of WMDS isn’t even historically relevant. By the way, many Republicans still believe the Iraqis had them so when I say “well-known’ I leave out the cult of cluelessness that is the core Republican base.  Try this rationalization and excuse for size from HuffPo.  Richard Perle says  ‘Not A Reasonable Question’ To Ask Whether Iraq War Was Worth It.

NPR “Morning Edition” host Renee Montagne asked, “Ten years later, nearly 5,000 American troops dead, thousands more with wounds, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis dead or wounded. When you think about this, was it worth it?”

“I’ve got to say, I think that is not a reasonable question. What we did at the time was done in the belief that it was necessary to protect this nation. You can’t, a decade later, go back and say, ‘Well, we shouldn’t have done that,'” Perle responded.

Perle’s refusal to evaluate the question seems to underscore just how little those who made decisions in the lead-up to the invasion want to go back and re-evaluate a choice that most Americans think was a mistake.

The war hawk made some spectacularly wrong predictions and proclamations prior to the Iraq war. Mother Jones reported that Perle claimed Saddam Hussein had ties to Bin Laden days after 9/11, suggested that war with Iraq would be easy (requiring only about 40,000 troops), and claimed that Hussein was “working feverishly” to acquire nuclear weapons. Perle also said that Iraqis could finance their own reconstruction.

Elsewhere in Wednesday’s interview, Monagne asked Perle if it ever crossed anyone’s minds that Iraq’s deception about its chemical weapons could have been directed towards, say, Iran — with which the country fought an eight-year war — rather than the United States.

“I’m sorry to say that I didn’t achieve that insight,” Perle replied.

Perle also cast the toppling of Hussein’s reign of nearly 24 years without any centralized authority as an opportunity. “You can say we left it broken. I think we left it open for opportunity. And then we closed our own opening by moving into an occupation,” he said.

If you really want to be appalled, go read John Yoo who justifies the war by saying “We shared the benefits with the Iraqis“. Why is UC Berkely paying this man to pollute young minds?

And isn’t that what we did in Iraq? We spent billions of dollars in Iraq as damages. We did so not because the war was wrong, but because it was right — and we shared the benefits of the war with the Iraqi people by transferring some of it in the form of reconstruction funds.

It’s at these times when I understand the appeal of an almighty deity that will firmly send such folks to eternal suffering for all their hubris, ignorance, and murderous acts. However, I’d just like to see a little justice done to them here on Earth while we can.  It could start with never, ever letting them show up as experts on anything and absolute excoriation when they try to redefine their mistakes.  I know it’s too much to think the Justice Department would deliver their arrogant asses to a court.  But, I would like to think the court of opinion and the press could treat them with the contempt they deserve.  It galls me to think that they’re moving around press circles trying to spread more lies and resurrect themselves.  What they should be doing is Public Service for the rest of their lives to make living tolerable for Iraqi veterans, their families, and for Iraqis.  None of them should live any kind of life of ease nor should any of us ever let them try to forget that they are Unrepentant War Criminals.


Open Thread: Why oh why won’t Dick Cheney just go away?

I’m so sick and tired of seeing Dick Cheney on TV and listening to his beastly lectures about the efficacy of waterboarding and other forms of torture. Isn’t it bad enough that he hasn’t been tried and put in prison for war crimes? Why does the corporate media feel the need to inflict this dreadful excuse for a human being on us again and again and again?

I don’t care if he wrote a f**king book. Donald Rumsfeld wrote a book too, and we’re not seeing him on the tube morning, noon, and night. At least George W. Bush has had the grace to pretty much disappear from the public stage, but Cheney just won’t quit. He keeps popping up everywhere, flashing his ugly sneer and trying to justify the crimes he and other committed.

This morning on Candy Crowley’s show, Cheney had the nerve to complain because Obama isn’t using the term “war on terror.” He even demanded an apology for something Obama said in his Cairo speech back in 2009!

“When he goes to Cairo and in-effect says we walked away from ideals, we forgot our core principles and values on our (the Bush Administration’s) watch, that’s a big mistake.”

When Crowley asked if he wanted an apology from Obama, Cheney said, “I would. Not for me, but I think for the Bush Administration and that he misspoke when he gave that speech two years ago.”

Watch it:

Jeeze, Obama murdered Osama bin Laden, and he just murdered two American citizens. And that’s still not enough to satisfy Cheney’s bloodlust? Why oh why won’t he just go away and leave us alone?


Donald Rumsfeld’s Book Event Spurs Protests in Boston

Former Bush Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld stopped by Boston on Monday night to sell his book. The event was disrupted by protesters who heckled Rumsfeld and attempted to make a citizen’s arrest for war crimes. From WCVB Channel 5 in Boston:

Several protesters tried to disrupt a forum with Rumsfeld at the Old South Meeting House, shouting and holding up signs as most of the audience shouted and booed them down.

“I went down in front and looked Donald Rumsfeld in the eye and said, ‘I’m making a citizen’s arrest,’ said protester Nate Goldschlag, a member of the group Veterans for Peace, who had to buy Rumsfeld’s book to get into the event.

“He lied us into Iraq. He lied about weapons of mass destruction. He lied about Saddam Hussein being involved in 9/11,” Goldschlag said.

Four demonstrators were dragged out of the hall by police and one person was arrested outside the building for assaulting an officer with a bullhorn, police said.

The event was sponsored by right wing talk radio station WRKO, which explains why most of the 300 people there were supportive of Rumsfeld. Unfortunately for the protesters, they had to purchase copies of Rummy’s book in order to get into the event.

It did my heart good to learn about this little demonstration–sorry I’m a little late finding this story. Here are some videos from and about the event:


Thursday Reads

Good Morning!! I have a few interesting reads for you today. There isn’t a lot to be happy about in the news these days, but I hope that some of my picks will bring a smile to your face.

Maybe this will do it: Clint Eastwood: ‘I don’t give a f*ck’ if gays marry. The superstar actor and director told GQ Magazine that he considers himself an Eisenhower Republican, and he doesn’t sound too happy with the people running the party these days.

“These people who are making a big deal out of gay marriage?” Eastwood opined. “I don’t give a fuck about who wants to get married to anybody else! Why not?! We’re making a big deal out of things we shouldn’t be making a deal out of.”

“They go on and on with all this bullshit about ‘sanctity’ — don’t give me that sanctity crap! Just give everybody the chance to have the life they want.”

[….]

“I was an Eisenhower Republican when I started out at 21, because he promised to get us out of the Korean War,” he told GQ. “And over the years, I realized there was a Republican philosophy that I liked. And then they lost it. And libertarians had more of it. Because what I really believe is, let’s spend a little more time leaving everybody alone.”

Go ahead, make my day, Clint.

This story is a few days old, but it made me smile: Zakaria destroys Rumsfeld’s Iraq war talking points. Zakaria interviewed Rumsfeld on September 11, and the old goat still tried to claim that al Qaeda was in Iraq before the U.S. invaded.

“There’s no question that al Qaeda and Zarqawi and people were in Iraq,” Rumsfeld argued. “They aggregated there.”

“If we hadn’t invaded, they wouldn’t have been there,” Zakaria pointed out.

“We don’t know that,” Rumsfeld insisted. “You don’t know that. I don’t know that.”

“But they went in to fight us. So since we weren’t there, why would they have gone into Iraq?” Zakaria countered.

“Why have they gone into Yemen and Somalia?” Rumsfeld asked. “Why do al Qaeda go anywhere? They go where it’s hospitable.”

“Right, and Iraq hadn’t been hospitable,” Zakaria said.

ROFLOL! Why is this joke of a man able to get a book contract? Why does anyone want to put him on TV? He’s a complete loon.

Speaking of deserving people getting their comeuppance, deadbeat dad and Tea Party Rep. Joe Walsh was “scolded” by a Chicago judge yesterday for failing to support his children.

A Chicago judge issued a preliminary ruling Wednesday against U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) in his child-support dispute with his ex-wife, ordering the Tea Party favorite to explain why he appears to be $100,000 behind in child-support payments.

Vega did issue a “rule to show cause” — which means Walsh has to tell the court why he shouldn’t be held in contempt for falling so far behind in child support over the past five years.

Laura Walsh argues her ex-husband owes more than $100,000, a number the congressman disputes. But Vega’s ruling means that the burden is now on the congressman to prove that he doesn’t owe the money, attorneys for both Walshes agree.

Laura Walsh has gone into court on numerous occasions since filing for divorce in 2002, seeking court orders to have her ex-husband meet his court-ordered child-support obligations.

What a slug that guy Walsh is!

I came across this fascinating piece by Sarah Jaffe at Alternet: Are Jobs on Their Way to Becoming Obsolete? And Is That a Good Thing? It’s a long read, but I highly recommend you take the time. Here’s just a sample:

Media theorist and author of Life, Inc.: How the World Became a Corporation and How to Take it Back Douglas Rushkoff ruffled some feathers this week when he dared, at CNN.com of all places, to ask that question. It seemed, perhaps, gloriously insensitive to the plight of unemployed workers, of union workers at the U.S. Postal Service, who are struggling like so many others to stay afloat in an uncertain economy while they’re demonized in the press as greedy for wanting a decent job.

[….]

He argues that perhaps we’re going about it backward when we call for jobs, that maybe it’s not a bad thing that technology is replacing workers, and points out that actually, we do produce enough food and “stuff” to support the country and even the world—that, in fact, we produce too much “stuff.”

He alternately harkens back to a past before jobs, when many people worked for themselves on a subsistence level, and forward to a future where we are all busy making games and books and communicating with one another from behind computer screens, with the hours we have to work dwindling.

Rushkoff’s ideas really resonated with me. I haven’t worked a full-time job since 1986, and although I don’t have a lot of money, I have never regretted my decision to quit my 9-5 job and find some meaning in my life by doing things that made me happy. I did find that meaning, first by working on my own problems and issues and then by helping and being a caregiver for my elderly ex-mother-in-law in return for a place to live.

Because my expenses were low, I was able to return to college and get a bachelor’s degree, then go on to graduate school and earn an MA and a PhD. During graduate school and after, I have worked as a teaching assistant and have taught a number of courses. But now that I’m finished with my education, I’ve been reluctant to search for a full-time teaching job.

Lately I’ve survived mostly on my Social Security and selling my huge accumulation of books on the internet with a few teaching jobs thrown in. I will also have another small source of retirement income from my days as a full-time office worker when I choose to take it. I’m enjoying the time I’ve had to follow politics closely and blog about it. I’ve never been all that ambitious. I went to school simply for the joy of learning. I do want to find ways to give back, but I don’t care that much about making piles of money. I might have to check out Rushkoff’s book.

At Truthout, I learned that liberal economist Dean Baker has also written a book, and you can even download it free! The book is called “The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive. From the Truthout article by Keane Bhatt, Dean Baker: Why Didn’t We Make These Guys Run Around Naked With Their Underpants Over Their Heads?

KB: Your book argues that financial crises don’t have to lead to “lost decades” of massive pain and suffering and, even more importantly, that the US never even experienced a true financial crisis.

DB: There’s a lot of real sloppy thinking here. The main promulgators of this view are Kenneth Rogoff and Carmen Reinhart and they say that they look back over 600 years of history and find that in almost all these cases, countries took over a decade to recover. It’s painful, because I’d like to think – and one would expect that they’d like to think – that we know more economics than we did 600 years ago. If we don’t – and we really haven’t learned anything – why do you guys get paid high salaries? I say that only partially facetiously. If we were to look back through time, a very high percentage – probably the majority – of newborn babies didn’t survive to age 5. You’d be an idiot to say that the past trend holds today – we have modern medicine, so we have a very good reason to expect that the overwhelming majority of children will survive to age 5. We have learned something in economics over six centuries, so it’s not some curse, they’re concrete problems.

Finance gets very mysterious and complicated. There are instruments that are hard for people to understand; they’re hard for me to understand. The basic story is not complicated: we need demand. As I say in the book, there’s very little about the financial crisis that explains where we are today. People who want to buy homes have no problem getting credit – you can’t go 0% down, but someone who, say, 15 years ago was able to get a home mortgage can expect to get a home mortgage today. In terms of businesses, the US, unlike Japan, has a very large capital market where firms can directly access capital through commercial paper and bond financing. The current rates are extraordinarily low in both nominal and real terms. So the idea that the banks being crippled would impede the economy doesn’t follow when hundreds of the largest firms can go straight to the market and get financing.

Let’s imagine that the big firms can get credit but the small ones can’t. That would create a situation in which the big firms are running wild, grabbing market share at the expense of smaller competitors crippled by lack of access to capital. This is not happening.

There’s a survey that the National Federation of Independent Business has done for a quarter century that asks businesses what are the biggest problems to expanding. And currently, almost no one mentions finance – either access or cost. So clearly the problem is not finance.

Read the whole interview if you can–it’s well worth it.

I’m going to end with a story that won’t necessarily make you smile, but it’s a story that puts the lie to the Bush/Cheney claims that torture helped make us safer. I think that’s a good thing. In fact, author and former FBI interrogator Ali H. Soufan argues that the opposite is true, and that in fact 9/11 could have been prevented with traditional interrogation methods. Watch his interview with Keith Olbermann:

So…what are you reading and blogging about today?


Twisting Personal Tragedy to Advance Unrelated and Evil Public Ends

Yesterday, Minkoff Minx wrote a beautiful and eloquent post that described her personal experience of the tragic events of September 11, 2001. I was so grateful to read what she wrote, because she simply described her own experience and emotions about what happened. She didn’t try to speak for her husband or any of the the other survivors–just herself. She also shared some wonderful resources for getting in touch with how we felt on that day ten years ago, when our country was attacked by foreign terrorists.

On September 11, 2001, nearly 3,000 people lost their lives to terrorist attacks as they were either beginning their days at work at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon or traveling on airplanes scheduled to fly from Boston to Los Angeles, Washington D.C. to Los Angeles, and Newark to San Francisco. For the families and friends of those who died, life would never again be the same. Thousands of others, like Minx’s husband, survived, but their lives and those of their families were also forever altered.

Thousands more were either directly impacted by the trauma of witnessing the attacks close up from their homes in New York or Washington, DC. Thousands of first responders were also directly affected by the attacks and their aftermath, including people who traveled to NYC, DC, and PA to help search for survivors or to support first responders.

Those of us who helplessly watched the events as they played out on television were affected too, although few of us probably suffered from post-traumatic stress as a result. But we empathized with those who were directly impacted, and we felt the terrible shock of having our country attacked. I can remember how shocked I was that day. I was on vacation at a Rhode Island beach with my family. It was a gorgeous day and I was out sightseeing with my parents and my sister when we heard the news. My sister had spoken to someone in a museum store and heard that a plane had flown into the World Trade Center. We headed back to the beach house as we listened to reports on the radio. My brother and his wife were watching TV at the beach house when we got back.

For the next couple of days we quietly read newspapers or watched TV. My sister’s husband drove out from Indiana to get her because the planes weren’t flying and she was very frightened. I had to go back to Boston to start teaching classes a couple of days later, and I recall that I felt nervous and jumpy while driving alone. Like many others, I was fearful of more attacks. At the time, everything was so confusing, I didn’t know what to expect. I also felt shame that two of the planes used in the attacks flew out of Logan Airport in Boston.

Most of us probably have clear memories of where we were and what we were doing that day and following days. We’re told told Americans pulled together after September 11, 2001, although I don’t really recall feeling that myself. But I have no doubt that millions of people empathized with those who were directly affected. As I mentioned above, many people took action by traveling to the places that were attacked to help in any way they could. Nothing that has happened since can change the basic caring and good will of the American people.

Yet for the past week, I’ve felt anger every time I saw the upcoming anniversary of September 11 being hyped on TV–the endless replaying of the videos of the planes hitting the towers; the preachy fake patriotism of the talking heads; the sudden reappearance of disgraced politicians George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld; the constant talk of “security” and the repetition of the words “the homeland,” which is so reminiscent of the Nazi term “the fatherland.” How could I not be angry after all that our government has done in the past ten years to supposedly avenge the lives lost on 9/11?

First there was the attack on Afghanistan, supposedly to catch Osama bin Laden. But when there was a chance to capture or kill bin Laden, Bush decided not to. Next came the barrage of lies from the Bush administration and from media sources like The New York Times and Washington Post, in order to get us into a second war in Iraq. Those wars have killed far more than 3,000 young American soldiers and perhaps hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and Afghanis–and for what? No effort was made to confront Saudi Arabia–where most of the perpetrators and the financial support for the attacks came from. Over the past ten years we have seen the progressive erosion of our Constitutional rights in the name of “security” and “safety.” We have learned that our government captured and imprisoned people–often completely innocent people–without evidence or charges at Guantanamo, at Abu Ghraib, at Bagram, and untold other prisons around the world. We know that many of these people were tortured and killed. Americans voted for Barack Obama in hopes that he would end the pointless wars and stop the rendition and torture. Instead, he has continued the wars and continued to rendition people to foreign prisons where they will be tortured. He has ordered drone attacks in Pakistan and Yemen. He has continued the erosion of our Constitution rights and defended the Bush administration at every opportunity. These are the reasons I felt angry at the jingoistic celebrations of the tenth anniversary of September 11, 2001.

And what has become of the survivors of the 9/11 attacks? Every effort was made to keep any compensation they received to a minimum. And what of the first responders who were exposed to the toxic environment at Ground Zero in NYC? They have been denied the help they need along with the recognition of what they suffered. The Bush administration resisted any investigation of why the attacks were not prevented, and when they finally allowed a 9/11 commission–largely because of the efforts of four 9/11 widows (The Jersey Girls), they kept the Commission from from going “too far” in holding anyone in the administration accountable.

It was healing for me to read Minkoff Minx’s post, because she spoke of her personal pain and losses and how she was living with the aftereffects. I was able to recall my pure memories of that day, and how I worried about the reactions of my students, how I tried to get discussions going in my classes so we could share our reactions. For a short time as I read yesterday morning’s post, I was able to recall the pure feeling of loss from that day ten years ago before the tragedy was twisted to start wars that would decimate our economy and pass laws that would erode our individual rights and freedoms.

Yesterday morning, Paul Krugman wrote a brief but heartfelt blog post expressing some of the feelings I’ve tried to express with my post today. I’m going to take the liberty of reproducing Krugman’s statement here:

September 11, 2011, 8:41 am
The Years of Shame
Is it just me, or are the 9/11 commemorations oddly subdued?

Actually, I don’t think it’s me, and it’s not really that odd.

What happened after 9/11 — and I think even people on the right know this, whether they admit it or not — was deeply shameful. The atrocity should have been a unifying event, but instead it became a wedge issue. Fake heroes like Bernie Kerik, Rudy Giuliani, and, yes, George W. Bush raced to cash in on the horror. And then the attack was used to justify an unrelated war the neocons wanted to fight, for all the wrong reasons.

A lot of other people behaved badly. How many of our professional pundits — people who should have understood very well what was happening — took the easy way out, turning a blind eye to the corruption and lending their support to the hijacking of the atrocity?

The memory of 9/11 has been irrevocably poisoned; it has become an occasion for shame. And in its heart, the nation knows it.

For this brief blog post expressing his personal sadness over the way government, politicians, and media have twisted private tragedy to accomplish their own unrelated and corrupt ends, Paul Krugman has been attacked by right wingers and Islamophobics all over the internet. He has been called every name in the book for simply speaking his own truth. He has also gotten some support from liberal blogs, and other bloggers have discussed their own misgivings about the changes in our country after 9/11. I want to share a few of those reactions.

Nicole Belle at Crooks & Liars: While Thinking People Grapple With 9/11 Legacy, RWNJs Shoot The Messenger

Cliff Schecter at Al Jazeera English: 9/11 and Its Great Transformations

Kristin Breitweiser: No Place To Go But Up: Howard Schultz’ Upward Spiral 2011

Blue Texan at FDL: Krugman is Right: We Should Be Ashamed of What Happened After 9/11

Dave Weigel at Slate: Get Krugman!

I guess what I’m trying to say in this post is that ten years after September 11 2001, I still have faith in the basic goodness and caring of the American people, but I am even more suspicious of and cynical about the U.S. Government and the U.S. Media than ever before. I do think we need to be eternally vigilant, not about physical danger from foreign terrorists but from the constant psychological manipulations emanating from those who claim to be protecting and informing us.


Suing Donald Rumsfeld

There’s been little justice for innocent folks scooped up as enemy combatants in the never-ending, costly War on Terror.  Who could forget those pictures of US marines dragging naked men around by dog leashes? Instead of opening the sordid affair to daylight, the Obama administration adopted the posture of putting it all behind us.  This includes defending Donald Rumsfeld.  Rumsfeld is one of the architects of enhanced interrogation techniques. He recently has been out on the talking head circuit with a book and an image boosting tour.  News today says that he may have retired by he can’t run away from his decisions as Secretary of Defense. A judge has allowed an US Army veteran to sue Donald Rumsfeld over torture. The veteran claims that he was tortured and unjustly imprisoned. The man was a translator and is unnamed in the law suit.

Lawyers for the man, who is in his 50s, say he was preparing to come home to the United States on annual leave when he was abducted by the U.S. military and held without justification while his family knew nothing about his whereabouts or even whether he was still alive.

Court papers filed on his behalf say he was repeatedly abused, then suddenly released without explanation in August 2006. Two years later, he filed suit in U.S. District Court in Washington arguing that Rumsfeld personally approved torturous interrogation techniques on a case-by-case basis and controlled his detention without access to courts in violation of his constitutional rights.

Chicago attorney Mike Kanovitz, who is representing the plaintiff, says it appears the military wanted to keep his client behind bars so he couldn’t tell anyone about an important contact he made with a leading sheik while helping collect intelligence in Iraq.

“The U.S. government wasn’t ready for the rest of the world to know about it, so they basically put him on ice,” Kanovitz said in a telephone interview. “If you’ve got unchecked power over the citizens, why not use it?”

The Obama administration has represented Rumsfeld through the U.S. Justice Department and argued that the former defense secretary cannot be sued personally for official conduct. The Justice Department also argued that a judge cannot review wartime decisions that are the constitutional responsibility of Congress and the president. And the department said the case could disclose sensitive information and distract from the war effort, and that the threat of liability would impede future military decisions.

At the heart of the suit are personal damages claim against Rumsfeld for approving interrogation methods of US army at Camp Cropper.

District judge James Gwin rejected those arguments and said US citizens were protected by the constitution at home or abroad during wartime. “The stakes in holding detainees at Camp Cropper may have been high, but one purpose of the constitutional limitations on interrogation techniques and conditions of confinement even domestically is to strike a balance between government objectives and individual rights, even when the stakes are high,” he ruled.

In many other cases brought by foreign detainees, judges have dismissed torture claims against US officials for their personal involvement in decisions over prisoner treatment. But this is the second time a federal judge has allowed a US citizen to sue Rumsfeld personally.

District judge Wayne Andersen in Illinois last year ruled that Donald Vance and Nathan Ertel, Americans who worked in Iraq as contractors and were held at Camp Cropper, could pursue claims that they were tortured using Rumsfeld-approved methods after they suspected the security firm they worked for of engaging in illegal activities.

The US supreme court sets a high bar for suing high-ranking officials, requiring they be tied directly to a violation of constitutional rights and must have clearly understood their actions crossed that line.

There may be little chance for justice for all the victims of the enhanced interrogation program.  I am sure this will again stir up the hornet’s nest of how fascist methods are justified in the face of unmitigated acts of terrorism.   I’m not a lawyer so I can’t really speak for the merits of the case itself.  I do, however, feel that Benjamin Franklin said it best.

Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.

BTW, I hope you noticed that Mittens Romney has hired the torture lawyer Steven Bradbury along with the nasty Robert Bork as campaign advisers. Romney also went to Harvard Law School.  Haven’t we had enough Harvard idiots already for one century?