The Powell Memo: Part II

It’s been a pretty straight line from the Powell Manifesto, to Citizens United, to the rise of anonymous billionaire financed Superpacs. As the crowded GOP presidential race has shown, there are no shortage of opportunists willing to prostitute themselves for a place at the table.

Carpet Bombing Agrabah

41% of Donald Trump supporters support the bombing of the city of “Agrabah.” Unfortunately for them, the strategic value of same would be nil, since Agrabah was the capital of Princess Jasmine’s homeland in the animated Disney cartoon, “Alladin.” Ted Cruz voters prefer it be carpet bombing, to see if they could “make the sand glow in the dark.”

What’s In A Name?

17 Nov 2010, Ar Raqqah, Syria --- Sheikh Ghazi Rashad Hrimis touches dried earth in the parched region of Raqqa province in eastern Syria, November 11, 2010. Lack of rain and mismanagement of the land and water resources have forced up to half of million people to flee the region in one of Syria's largest internal migrations since France and Britain carved the country out of the former Ottoman Empire in 1920. REUTERS/Khaled al-Hariri (SYRIA - Tags: AGRICULTURE ENVIRONMENT) --- Image by © KHALED AL-HARIRI/Reuters/Corbis
17 Nov 2010, Ar Raqqah, Syria — Sheikh Ghazi Rashad Hrimis touches dried earth in the parched region of Raqqa province in eastern Syria, November 11, 2010. Lack of rain and mismanagement of the land and water resources have forced up to half of million people to flee the region in one of Syria’s largest internal migrations since France and Britain carved the country out of the former Ottoman Empire in 1920.

What’s in a name? That which we call a turd by any other name would smell as rank.
William Shakespeare [with apologies thereto]

In the aftermath of the horrific terrorist attack on Paris last week, GOPer presidential candidates are wetting themselves over the opportunity to change their image as clueless opportunists to macho champions of national security. A pissing contest has developed among the majority over whom would be tougher on the terra’ists than the feckless, petulant, secret Muslim in the White House. The centerpiece  of this emerging strategy is to put tens of thousands of combat troops into the Syrian meat grinder. (Time for a reprise of  The Who’s Teenage Wasteland?) Thus far, Senators Rand Paul and Ted Cruz and celebrity entertainer Donald Trump have resisted putting “boots on the ground,” but don’t be surprised if they start walking that back as the campaign heats up.

Another refrain emanating from the right wing noise machine is to attack anyone that won’t accept their rhetorical construction, radical Islamists, to describe terrorists that use a distorted interpretation of the Muslim religion to justify their actions, and to recruit impressionable and disaffected youth. (For a counter-view, see Juan Cole’s Top Ten Ways Islamic Law Forbids Terrorism.)  That includes Senator Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, and President Obama. Framing the conflict that currently exists between less than 0.01% of the world’s Muslims and the largely Christian world as a Clash of Civilizations is part of The New American Century promoted by some of the same neocons that are part of  Jeb Bush‘s foreign policy team— you know, war criminals— like neo-conman Paul Wolfowitz, who helped “liberate” Iraq by toppling Saddam Hussein, setting into motion the very chaos responsible for the crisis that now infects the entire Middle East. (ISIS is the direct descendant of al-Qaeda in Iraq, created in 2004 to fight the US invasion.)

Naturally, the current batch of GOPer presidential candidates are too dense to realize that they are playing directly into the hands of the ISIS/ISIL/Daesh propaganda noise machine. Its operators would love nothing more than to get the non-Muslim world to condemn, by association, one of the world’s great monotheistic religions.

In conjunction with 1) the well-nigh hopeless economic situation facing the vast majority of young Arab Muslims, impoverished by the massive concentration of wealth into the hands of a few autocratic oil sheiks and their families (the ultimate example of wealth inequality); and 2) the history of Western military intervention in the Middle East that included putting military bases in the holy land of Saudi Arabia (which gave birth to the original Al Qaeda), together they provide a terrorist recruitment bonanza.  As former top aide and speechwriter to President George W. Bush and Washington Post opinion writer Michael Gerson writes:

Rejecting a blanket condemnation of Islam is not a matter of political correctness. It is the requirement of an effective war against terrorism, which means an effective war against the terrorist kingdom in Syria and western Iraq.

Not to be outdone by their Congressional colleagues, currently some 28 Republican governors and one Democrat have stated that, despite President Obama’s pledge to accept ten thousand Syrian refugees, a paltry sum compared to the commitment of individual European countries (Turkey is already hosting two million), they’re going to pull a Lester Maddox and block the “golden door ” of immigration with a big fat pick ax handle.  At least thirteen governors,  12 Democrats and one Independent, have said they would accept the refugees. While the Refugee Act of 1980 prevents states from refusing admittance, that won’t stop the Republican governors from posturing the hell out of the issue. Look for them to dump the mechanics of changing the law on Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell. Since 9/11/2001, none of the 784,000 refugees admitted into the country, some 35-40% of which are children, have ever been arrested on terrorism charges. Thus far, the federal government’s vetting procedures have worked just fine, thank you. (EDIT: By another accounting of approximately 785,000 refugees, a dozen have either been arrested or removed; none were from Syria.)

Furthermore, Wingers are attacking Bernie for saying Climate Change is the USA’s number one national security issue, despite reports from the national security community affirming same. (See also On the Record: Climate Change as a National Security Risk According to U.S. Administration Officials.) Instead of acknowledging that these reports even exist, Wingers resort to outrage and personal attacks, accusing Sanders of being weak on defense.

Most wars are the product of resource scarcity. In the case of Syria, a devastating drought forced rural farmers to abandon their farms and migrate to the big cities to feed their families. This created social pressures that resulted in a number of peaceful demonstrations that asked for greater governmental support. These pleas for humanitarian assistance were met with extreme violence from the government of Basshar Al-Sadad, and rapidly devolved into a catastrophic civil war. Initially, Sadad sent in his goon squads to suppress the protesters. When that didn’t work, he upped the ante. Among other war crimes, he denied food and medicine to desperate civilian enclaves, and dropped barrel bombs on them from helicopters, some of which are believed to have contained chlorine gas, according to the Syrian American Medical Society.

Funny how one thing leads to another. The same mindset that denies anthropogenic climate change as a factor leading to regional wars, denies that US the Exceptional is no longer capable of being the world’s policeman. They’d rather pursue their own ideological crusade. Some day maybe they’ll reach the same level of  insight that the great philosopher Pogo reached when he observed: “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”

If Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz had their way, they’d amend Emma Lazarus‘s poem affixed to the Statue of Liberty as follows:

“Give me your tired, your poor,  (so long as they’re Christian)
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free (except the chlorine gassed, who might be terrorists in disguise),
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. (maybe not Anders “I’m 100% Christian” Breivik, though)
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me: (Muslims need not apply, despite what the Constitution says about religious tests)
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.” (Sorry, out of order)

 

Mad To The Max: Paul Ryan, Beyond Blunderdome

Paul Ryan Beyond Blunderdome

The barn door has closed on yet another episode of CPAC’s Wingnut Woodstock, the annual conclave of conservaschism‘s most extreme proponents. (See our archives for previous entries.)

Among the 70+ speakers were the party’s last two failed GOP Veep candidates, Rep. Paul Ryan (R- Gault’s Gulch), who couldn’t be bothered to even mention his former running mate, Mitt Romney, who was also there;  and Sarah Palin (R-Alaskan Quitter), who couldn’t resist sucking up some sugar water poison from a Big Gulp and throwing some red meat to the Birthers while attacking Karl Rove:

“If these experts who keep losin’ elections and keep gettin’ rehired and gettin’ millions — if they feel that strong about who gets to run in this party, then they should buck-up or stay in the truck.”

Rand Paul, who won the presidential straw poll beating Marco Rubio, 25%-23%, also implicitly took a shot at Rove and the establishment wing of the party, calling it “stale and moss covered,” in need of a complete do-over.  Rubio took the opposite tack, saying that the party just needed better packaging, everything else is just fine… except maybe their attitude toward immigration, a word that curiously never passed his lips.  Ted Cruz responded politely to GOP’s “grey eminence” John McCain, after McCain called him a “whackobird” for supporting Paul’s 13 hour filibuster against extra-judicial targeted killings, ala drone strikes.

All told, over 70 speeches were given.  And while Donald Trump said nothing of substance, he will be remembered for making a further investment in self-parody, talking to a room full of empty chairs after tweeting enthusiastically about how the sponsors were expecting a standing room only crowd for the pleasure of his company.

Empty chairs TrumpSquint real hard and you might see Trump holding court for a handful of starstruck suckups

Noticeable for their absence were Past GOP luminaries New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Virgina Governor Bob McDonnell weren’t invited this year because they had committed the unforgivable sin of, you know, actual governance, an activity antithetical to the overriding mission of modern conservatism— the wholesale dismantling of the US government (except as it benefits the 1%).

Which brings us to the substance of Paul Ryan’s speech, his proposed 2014 budget confabulation. The zombie eyed granny starver once again tried to disguise his Ayn Randian flavored social Darwinism as deficit reduction, framing his argument as the only rational approach to a country teetering on the edge of the apocalypse:

Unless we change course, we will have a debt crisis.  Pressed for cash, the government will take the easy way out:  It will crank up the printing presses.  The final stage of this intergenerational theft will be the debasement of our currency.  Government will cheat us of our just rewards.  Our finances will collapse.  The economy will stall.  The safety net will unravel. And the most vulnerable will suffer.

But it’s not too late.  This budget provides an exit ramp from the current mess— and an entry ramp to a better future.  Unlike the President’s last budget, which never balanced, this budget achieves balance within ten years.

Washington Post and MSNBC economic policy wonk Ezra Klein comments:

These are tremendously important paragraphs. They’re emphasized a few pages later, in the first real section of the budget, which is entitled “The Debt Crisis Ahead.”  These paragraphs matter because they serve as Ryan’s justification for his budget.  They are why we need to throw 35 million people off health insurance.  They are why we need to cut deep into education and infrastructure and food stamps and housing assistance.  They are why this budget is an act of mercy rather than cruelty — because if this future is the only alternative, then this budget is painful but necessary medicine.

But it’s not.  Ryan’s nightmare scenario isn’t likely even in the absence of new policy.  A reasonable assumption of future debt is about 112 percent of GDP come 2037 — and that’s assuming the repeal of the sequester.  That’s too high for comfort, and there’s some evidence that debt at that level could harm the economy.  But there’s no evidence that it would create the kind of Mad Max-style scenario Ryan paints.

Ryan’s GOP budget takes a meat ax to the social safety net for the old, poor, and infirm, all the while sparing the military/medical/prison/financial industrial complex or any other corporate interest group from any sacrifice whatsoever. Ryan ignores deficit expanding tax expenditures that overwhelmingly favor the wealthy, which in 2009 cost the federal government a cool trillion; says nothing about eliminating tens of billions of dollars in direct taxpayer subsidies to hugely profitable industries like the oil companies and Big Ag, many of whom don’t even pay any income tax thanks to lobbyist provided loopholes; and lowers tax rates across the board, which again, overwhelmingly favors the rich.MORE. . .

If Only…

President Obama is on a mission “to annihilate the Republican Party,” said The Boner in an address to the Ripon Society Tuesday.

HuffPo has the details:

“Given what we heard yesterday about the president’s vision for his second term, it’s pretty clear to me — should be clear to all of you — that he knows he can’t do any of that as long as the House is controlled by Republicans. So we’re expecting over the next 22 months to be the focus of this administration as they attempt to annihilate the Republican Party.”

Boehner continued, claiming that the broader goal of the administration was “to just shove us into the dustbin of history.”

Have broom, will travel.

O, The Boner, & FDR

TehBoner2 againPlan B Boner has a sad

The only thing preventing President Obama from once again becoming a pariah among progressives is the Teabagger python that squeezes the GOP harder every time it even contemplates the word “compromise.”

In the latest round of budget negotiations, Obama has broken his campaign promises to:

1. Exempt the first $250k of everyone’s income a slight rise in taxes, back tothe rates that prevailed during the go-go years of the Clinton Administration. Instead, he raised the threshold to $400k, reducing government revenues by $300 billion in the process.

2. Hold discretionary budget cuts to $1 trillion. Instead, he added another $300 billion in order to pay for the loss of revenues above.

3. Keep Social Security off the table. Agreeing to cut cost of living increases by adopting a “chained CPI” accounting formula. As Jane Hamsher at The Lake explains, no one should be surprised by Obama’s willingness to “adjust” SS benefits, despite what he said during the campaign, given his track record on the subject.

Add to that the additional $1.5 trillions of cuts Obama agreed to in 2011, and Obama has offered to cut the budget a whopping $2.8 trillion. You’d think that the Rethugs would have jumped at the chance to reduce the size of government by the largest amount in history. Then again, they and their billionaire sponsors are far more interested in individual tax cuts than reducing the debt, as the last 20 years of Republican administrations have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt.

Which brings us to the latest riot in the asylum known as the House of Representatives. Unable to muster any support whatsoever for Obama’s latest capitulation negotiation, Speaker of the House John Boehner instead hatched his own plan he named “Plan B.” (Plan Boner? Plan Bourbon? Plan Bust?) The Boner Plan did finally accept an increase in income taxes, but only on the uber rich, i.e. the top .2%. Blowing past the 250k and 450k thresholds, he raised it to $1 million, starving the government of revenues even more, without even mentioning off-setting budget cuts, let alone specifying which ones. [Edit/Update: ThinkProgress has a side by side comparison here.]

Boehner was under no illusion that it would ever pass the Senate, let alone survive a veto by the president. Thus it was a strictly political maneuver, probably meant to signal that he could deliver his caucus despite the caterwauling from his wingnut right. He went before the cameras, speaking confidently that he had enough votes for passage. He could thus leave town for the holidays, the ball in the president’s court.

Unfortunately for The Orange Man, he can’t count, can’t count on his own party to back his play. (Why he thought the no-tax-at-any-cost-crowd would all fall on their swords in a futile gesture is beyond me.) At the last minute, he pulled the bill from the floor, admitting that he didn’t have the votes. Hand that man an exploding ceegar…

How Washington has become so utterly paralyzed is detailed by Robert Ornstein (American Enterprise Institute) and Thomas Mann (Brookings Institute) in their book “It’s Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism.”  They continue their analysis in a recent WAPO op-ed “Let’s just say it: The Republicans are the problem“:

We have been studying Washington politics and Congress for more than 40 years, and never have we seen them this dysfunctional. In our past writings, we have criticized both parties when we believed it was warranted. Today, however, we have no choice but to acknowledge that the core of the problem lies with the Republican Party.

The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.
When one party moves this far from the mainstream, it makes it nearly impossible for the political system to deal constructively with the country’s challenges.

Something that’s been obvious to progressives for decades seems to be finally seeping into the sclerotic brains of The Beltway Village People. Here’s what Ornstein and Mann say about the enabling contributions of The Fourth Estate, who have fully internalized the fallacy of false equivalency:

“Both sides do it” or “There is plenty of blame to go around” are the traditional refuges for an American news media intent on proving its lack of bias, while political scientists prefer generality and neutrality when discussing partisan polarization. Many self-styled bipartisan groups, in their search for common ground, propose solutions that move both sides to the center, a strategy that is simply untenable when one side is so far out of reach.

Conservative ideology itself plays a substantial role in the dysfunctionality that has turned the US government into a chaotic three ring circus that has the rest of the civilized world shaking their heads in disbelief:MORE. . .

Listen…

“If there’s even one step we can take to save one child, or one parent, or one town from the grief that has visited Tucson, and Aurora and Oak Creek and Newtown and communities from Columbine to Blacksburg before that, then surely we have an obligation to try.

“In the coming weeks, I’ll use whatever power this office holds to engage my fellow citizens, from law enforcement to mental health professionals to parents and educators in an effort to prevent more tragedies like this.  Because what choice do we have?”

— President Barack Obama