I don’t usually do this, but my friend Jack turned me on to this guy, and I swear to gawd I thought I was listening to Enrico Caruso for a minute. The same vocal quality, the same emotional control. Or am I imagining it? You tell me.
At Michael Tedesco’s invitation, I’ve been blogging at Comments From Left Field the last week or so, off and on, and will be temporarily abandoning Witness to take his place for a week or so in October while he goes windsurfing on Lake Titicaca.
The last couple of days I’ve been embroiled in a discussion of Democratic culpability for the mess we’re in with Kyle Moore, and I think between us, and with the help of commenters like matttbastard, we’ve put some perspective on the problem and begun to evolve the core of the debate that needs to happen. You can read Kyle’s post here and my response here.
I hope you’ll join us. In the meantime, a jab in the ribs from Ted Rall to keep the blood flowing.
Everybody wants to give the team of Crocker & Petraeus credit for not lying more than they did. The Washington Post’s Fred Hiatt was all over the Crocker half of the sketch, gushing that he “deserves credit for frankly and soberly delivering a message this week that neither his audience in Congress nor his superiors in the Bush administration wanted to hear”, blithely managing to sidestep the implication that the telling of uncomfortable truths by Administration lap-dogs is, you know, rare and kind of risky.
He was particularly encouraged by M Crocker’s comment where he claimed to be seeing “seeds of reconciliation” in Iraq’s political leaders even though he didn’t name them and conceded they weren’t “readily apparent from Washington”. Which is understandable given that Iraq’s political leaders have been throwing spitballs and each other for months and that most of them are not currently on speaking terms.
In my recent posts about the Democrats I’ve said more than once that the hold of the minority conservative leaders currently controlling the party could be broken if the majority of liberal/progressive Dems currently under their thumb staged a revolt. Well, according to The Hill, one has - in a mild, non-revoltish sort of way.
Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.) is encouraging anti-war activists to find challengers to centrist Democrats, with the aim of moving the party to the left and ramping up opposition to the war in Iraq, to the chagrin of top Democratic aides.
“You folks should go after the Democrats,” Woolsey said in response to a suggestion from an activist during a conference call last month organized by the Network of Spiritual Progressives.
“I’d hate to lose the majority, but I’m telling you, if we don’t stand up to our responsibility, maybe that’s the lesson to be learned.”
OK, so she’s one legislator. We don’t have a headdress yet but we’ve got our first feather and the first crack in the wall.
There are a lot of 9/11 retrospectives and remembrances kicking around, as there always are, but few of them are as brutally honest and as trenchantly powerful as Kyle Moore’s at Comments from Left Field.
In examining the little contretemps between a Bush trying to slide out from under direct responsibility for the single worst decision in the whole Iraq mess and a Bremer determined not to play fall-guy for a president who didn’t think twice about throwing him under the bus to save his own precious neck, Fred Kaplan at Slate isn’t as forgetful about Chalabi’s early role as Blumenthal, but he does miss Chalabi’s later role and, for some reason, comes over all coy about assigning the decision to Cheney even though the evidence is right under his nose.
Bremer is right about one thing: It wasn’t him. Though he wouldn’t be so self-demeaning as to admit it, he was a mere errand boy on this point. He arrived in Baghdad on May 14, 2003. The next day, he released CPA Order No. 1, barring members of the Baath Party from all but the lowliest government posts. The next day, he issued CPA Order No. 2, disbanding the Iraqi army.
In his memoir, published last year, Bremer wrote that he was handed the orders—and told to announce them as soon as possible—by Douglas Feith, undersecretary of defense for policy. “We’ve got to show all the Iraqis that we’re serious about building a new Iraq,” Feith reportedly told him. “And that means that Saddam’s instruments of repression have no role in that new nation.”
Bremer’s version rings true, and if it is then the orders came from Cheney. Period. Feith was L’il Dick’s boy and wouldn’t have dared make a move like that without the Veep told him to. Maybe Kaplan has some doubts about Bremer’s tale, but he doesn’t say what they are.
Somehow I missed this, but three weeks ago legendary local jazz trumpeter Herb Pomeroy passed away, a victim of cancer at 77.
I never met Herb but my trumpet teacher had been one of his students, and I went to hear him play whenever I could get to Boston. He was an astounding talent with a combination of technical agility and improvisational originality that was as rare as it was exciting to listen to. I wasn’t particularly surprised to learn that the memorial service held for him yesterday featured the same property of synthesizing opposites that made Herb so special.
Memories in America, trained by tv, are remarkably short even when they belong to otherwise intelligent reporters. Two recent articles - one by Sidney Blumenthal in Salon, the other by Fred Kaplan in Slate, both usually reliable - made it clear to me that we need to go back over some fundamental history of the Second Gulf War, key elements of which both seem to have forgotten or lost track of. We’ve covered this ground already but it was several years ago, so it bears repeating.
If you ask, “Why is it important to go through all this again? And why are these picayune details significant anyway?” The answer is, “Because we need to get it into our heads once and for all that conservatives are naive, gullible children, easily led over cliffs by anyone who feeds them what they want to hear.” The real story of the twisted intelligence that led to the SGW and idiotic decisions like de-Ba’athification isn’t just about arrogance, incompetence, and ignorance. It’s also - and crucially - about misplaced trust and a dangerously juvenile credulity that allows conservatives to believe demonstrably false ideas and foist them on the rest of us just because those ideas are appealingly melodramatic.
What Digby would call “the Kabuki” at the heart of the Larry Craig Show doesn’t interest me much. These days, what’s one more Republican hypocrite more or less? There are so many. Practically all of them if you count the ones what ain’t been outed yet.
Anyway, what difference if Larry stay or if he go?
David Sirota has another round-up of the latest on the secret trade deal the Democratic leadership is developing with Bush out of the range of cameras or witnesses - or its own rank and file. The deal as a whole involves Peru, Panama, South Korea and Columbia, with different provisions that apply to each country separately as well as a group of provisions they hold in common. Sirota lists half-a-dozen articles and they’re all disturbing but I want to key on the one that is most indefensible: the deal with Panama.
Economist and investment/globalization specialist Peter Riggs of the Tax Justice Network, which describes itself as an outfit devoted to “combating tax evasion by corporations and the rich”, took a good long look at the Panama trade deal. After noting that the Panama and Peru deals have been considered “relatively non-controversial and will probably pass”, he explains that the deal with Panama has nothing to do with trade.
Indeed, the proposed bilateral trade agreement with Panama has skated through without much attention at all. But the agreement with Panama is highly significant. The problem is, the trade agreement with Panama isn’t really about trade. It’s about foreign investor rights, money laundering, and tax dodging. And the United States should in no way reward this notorious offshore tax haven with a “gold star” Free Trade Agreement.
Panama has two major areas of “economic comparative advantage” in the region. One, obviously, is the Canal. But the other is much more insidious-and major U.S. corporations are hoping that no one draws any attention to it.
Panama’s other economic comparative advantages are in the area of tax and banking secrecy, and the ease with which U.S. companies can create subsidiaries in Panama for purposes of dodging taxes.
Panama is already home to a lot of U.S. corporate subsidiaries. How many? Tens of thousands of U.S. corporations have hung out a shingle-or should we say, set up an email box-in that country.
Panama boasts a total of 400,000 registered corporations-second only to Hong Kong as a home to corporations and corporate subsidiaries. Subsidiaries whose sole purpose, in many cases, is to help transnational companies avoid taxes.
In the last few years, Panama has been consistently condemned by the G-7’s Financial Action Task Force for “resisting international norms in combating tax evasion and money laundering.” The Clinton Administration several times “vigorously expressed its concern about loose corporate accountability standards in Panama, and the murkiness of the Panamanian banking sector.” But the Bush Administration’s deal with Panama - a deal the Democratic leadership is pushing hard - is not only enshrining those low standards and “murkiness” in law, it’s going one step further and allowing corporations to evade both trade laws and courts.
England is a land with a long sad history of brutal, stupid, and outright crazy kings, so it’s not perhaps unusual that a Brit should see more clearly than we do how monarchical George Bush has made America. Last week in the Nation, Simon Prentis laid it on the line.
To those of us here in Britain, there is an Orwellian edge to the news that George Bush is invoking executive privilege to protect his policies from Congressional investigation. Just like that scene in Animal Farm, when the newly liberated animals start to believe that some are more equal than others, it sounds like the President of the United States has reverted to the divine right of kings.
Actually, it’s more like the divine right of emperors but why quibble. The supposed divinity of emperors rests on the supposed divinity of kings, one simply an extension of the other. Prentis’ basic point is dead on: while the corporatocracy and its conservative handmaidens want to return America to the Glory Days of the Robber Barons after the Civil War, Bush and his right-wing enablers have pushed the clock even further back - to before the Revolution, before Washington and Jefferson and Adams, when America was ruled by a monarch who threw people in jail whenever he felt like it for any reason or no reason at all, when the Colonies were vassals of an unstable, very sick king (porphyry, they say, which afflicts its sufferers with fits that resemble insanity not a little) and who had no political representation and were subject to arbitrary punishments and ludicrous laws.
For some reason, we still, 230 years later, have Tories - monarchists - in our midst, and two of them are running the country. Prentis asks, “Wasn’t that something you guys fought so hard to escape from?” and the ironic echo of the question bounces between the walls of conscience like the condemnation of a friend betrayed. Yes, we did. And now we have finally turned against our beginnings, our founders, and our tradition by allowing a self-appointed, self-anointed king to build himself a throne in our very capital.
In a comment to the last post, Laura asks that and it’s a fair question.
What do you think WE can do? I realize optimism isn’t your strong suit, but since you write, I’ll assume you hope. Any strategies you might recommend…?
Of course. I’ve been sort of making tactical suggestions all along, piecemeal as it were, but maybe it’s time to put it all together and fill in the gaps.
First, I need to stress that there’s nothing magical about what needs to be done. It’s all obvious, fundamental shit, and it’s called “being a citizen”. Second, “hope” has nothing to do with it. I’m an analyst, basically. That’s how I think. As a reasonably capable analyst, I can assure you these tactics/strategies will almost certainly work - barring a military response that turns the US from a virtual dictatorship into an overt dictatorship, which is unfortunately possible but fortunately unlikely for a variety of reasons.
“Hope” has to do with a single question: Will enough people get off their asses to make a difference? My cynicism tells me they won’t, but I hope they will. eRobin, an activist and expert optimist thinks different.
The thing that gets me about us is that we as a nation do respond when challenged by our leaders. FDR did it. Kennedy did it. Even History’s Greatest Monster, Carter, did it and we set peak oil back a decade.
With the right leader, (our greatest sin is that we are dependent upon being led) we would rise to the challenge of universal single payer health care, global warming and the need to remake our economy and go green instead of turning into a nation of service workers.
Well, we don’t have real political leaders any more. We have, in both parties, corporate employees who are beholden to the corporatocracy that buys them with campaign money because of the way we insist on funding elections with private bucks, so the leaders are going to have to come from the bottom. From us. As I’ve said time and again lately, we’re going to have to do it ourselves. We’re on our own.