Archive for January, 2009

Cartoon for January 31, 2009

January 31, 2009

Radical problems call for radical solutions. Sadly, Obama is obsessed with the centrists who’ve gotten everything wrong every single time.

Cartoon for January 29, 2009

January 29, 2009

Obama likes to read up on the Civil War. Compared to Bush, it’s nice to see someone who likes to read. Based on his cluelessness about Afghanistan, however, he needs to expand his reading list.

THIS WEEK’S SYNDICATED COLUMN: Hopelessness You Can Believe In

January 26, 2009

Why Obama is Scarier Than George W. Bush

Dave Eggers preceded his memoir “A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius” with a section titled “Rules and Suggestions for Enjoyment of this Book.” It’s a brilliant attempt to disarm the reader and preempt criticism. Among its warnings, referring to chapter four: “The book thereafter is kind of uneven.” (Disclosure: Eggers edited my work at two magazines in the ’90s.)

Barack Obama shares Eggers’ talent for managing expectations. “There will be false starts, there will be setbacks, there will be frustrations and disappointments,” Obama said upon his arrival in Washington. “I will make some mistakes.” In other words, don’t expect much.

The soaring optimistic rhetoric of the campaign (“yes we can”) is no more, replaced by the sober, string-synced cello strains of Yo-Yo Ma. So is Obama’s million-dollar smile. The Dour One is demanding patience. And he’s getting it, for now: “Most respondents [to the New York Times/CBS News poll taken January 19th] said they thought it would take Mr. Obama two years or more to deliver on campaign promises to improve the economy, expand health care coverage and end the war in Iraq.”

Setting the bar low seems to be working. Seventy-nine percent of Americans say they’re optimistic about the next four years under Obama.

Sad, pathetic Americans! Like a dog that’s been beaten eight long years, they’re so psyched about the fact that their new master doesn’t drool and speaks coherent English that they’ll follow him anywhere. The media is in love with The One and so, therefore, is the public. No one questions him.

Frightening but true: Barack Obama is even more dangerous to liberal ideals than George W. Bush. Obama, who didn’t appoint a single liberal to a senior position, has neutered the left. “Protesters, a fixture of every inauguration since President Nixon’s in 1973, were few and scattered on Tuesday as Barack Obama assumed the presidency,” reported the Times.

The antiwar types have thrown away their signs. The sight of the first black president has the fair weather pacifists goo-goo-ga-gaing over a man who plans to transfer U.S. occupation troops and the carnage they bring from Iraq to Afghanistan.

No demonstrators in the streets. No reporters asking tough questions. A political honeymoon based on nothing. Didn’t we learn anything from 9/11, when 90 percent of Americans, and the media, and Congress, issued George W. Bush a similar blank check?

People think things will be better four years from now, but there’s little reason for hope. America faces radical problems. Radical problems require radical solutions. Unfortunately, Obama’s proposals, and the moderates and conservatives with whom he has filled his cabinet, are woefully inadequate to the challenges at hand.

Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman calculates that there’s at least a $2.1 trillion hole in the economy–an “output gap” between production capacity and consumers’ ability to buy goods. Filling that hole would require direct investment (like Obama’s public works proposal) of at least $1.5 trillion. But Obama’s plan only contains $355 billion, of which only $136 billion would be spent within the next two years. It’s better than nothing, but not by much. Obama wants to plug a gushing artery with a Band-Aid one- tenth the size of the wound.

It’s churlish to predict that Obama’s approach won’t work. But even Obama admits it won’t. He promises to create 4 million new jobs by 2011. But we’re currently losing 4 million jobs every five months. If Obama delivers, 25 million Americans will have lost their jobs by 2011. (The math differential is due to the fact that population growth increases the workforce by 2.8 million jobs annually.) With unemployment figures like that, no one will doubt that we’re in a real Depression: breadlines, suicides, the whole bit.

Obama’s order to close Guantánamo and the CIA’s secret “black site” torture prisons within a year is heartening. But as with his other initiatives, it doesn’t go far enough. The detainees should have been freed, paid a generous compensation package, and received a formal apology by the U.S. government on Day One of his Administration. Gitmo should have been shuttered immediately. All the torture criminals from Bush to the U.S. Navy guards should have been thrown in prison and put on trial.

Instead, Obama’s goons (they’re his now) will keep torturing the detainees for at least another year. Some detainees may still be subjected to kangaroo courts. And Obama’s executive orders contain weasel words that let him take back America’s renewed commitment to constitutional rights with the snap of a finger. The orders, reports the Times, “could also allow Mr. Obama to reinstate the CIA’s detention and interrogation operations in the future, by presidential order, as some have argued would be appropriate if Osama bin Laden or another top-level leader of Al Qaeda were captured.”

Meanwhile, the Bush Administration creeps who personally ordered the murder and torture of innocents kidnapped by the military, including young children, will not face prosecution.

During the campaign, Obama promised there would be “no more illegal wiretapping of American citizens.” He has since changed his mind. Obama will keep the USA-Patriot Act. Habeas corpus, eliminated by the Military Commissions Act, won’t come back.

The biggest reason hope doesn’t stand a chance is Afghanistan, where Obama plans to send the soldiers he wants to pull out of Iraq. The international community, which understands that the 2001 U.S. invasion of Afghanistan had no more to do with 9/11 than the war against Iraq, will not take kindly to this escalation. Moreover, the war against Afghanistan is even less winnable than Iraq. At a time when we can least afford foreign adventurism, Obama plans to pour billions of dollars and thousands of lives into an Afghan charnel house with no prospect of victory.

Bush faced energetic opposition. Obama, on the other hand, is adored by the very people who should be shouting at him the loudest. Conservatives lost their credibility by supporting Bush, leaving Republican voices out in the cold.

Give the man a chance? Not me. I’ve sized up him, his advisors and their plans, and already found them sorely wanting. It won’t take long, as Obama’s failures prove the foolishness of Americans’ blind trust in him. Obama isn’t our FDR. He’s our Mikhail Gorbachev: likeable, intelligent, well-meaning, and ultimately doomed by his insistence on being reasonable during unreasonable times.

COPYRIGHT 2009 TED RALL

Cartoon for January 26, 2009

January 26, 2009

America’s radical problems require radical solutions. Obama’s centrism yields half-assed sops instead.

Cartoon for January 24, 2009

January 24, 2009

The New York Times is selling display ads on its front page, whoring out the Old Grey Lady. What next?

By Order of the Department

January 24, 2009

posted by Susan Stark

This sign was posted in DC a few days before the inauguration. Consider that two million people showed up for the festivities. That’s a lot of customers for the ladies. But hey, your tax dollars at work to print and post that sign.

http://dcist.com/2009/01/dc_tries_to_ban_prostitution_for_in.php

Cartoon for January 22, 2009

January 22, 2009

So much for change you can believe in: the torture continues at Gitmo and will continue at least another year. And nary a word about the NSA’s despicable warrantless wiretapping and espionage program against American citizens.

A Most Interesting Coincidence

January 21, 2009

The following is from Obama’s Inaugural Address:

Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished.

From my column for January 1, 2009:

The United States of America is just as rich today as it was a year or, for that matter, ten years ago. It still possesses the same rich natural resources, the same enviable geography, and the same productive, innovative and energetic workforce. Our country still has enormous intrinsic value.

Thanks to several sharp-eared Friends of Rall for noticing.

Archive Update

January 21, 2009

We’re getting there. Everything is now in the archives except 1995, 1996 and 1997. I just posted 1998, 1999, and 2000. There are a few other years that are not yet keyword searchable, but they’re there to see. I’m kind of amazed at looking at all this stuff so many years later. It’s so different yet so similar at the same time. Anyway, check it out if you have the chance.

TED RALL COLUMN: That’s It?

January 20, 2009

If Bushies Escape Justice, What’s Left of the U.S.?

That’s it? Bush moves back to Texas to dote on his presidential library—while drawing a $197,000 pension? Cheney goes back to Wyoming to fish and work on his memoirs? After committing crimes so numerous and monstrous that bookshelves are already groaning under their weight, the cabal of illegitimate coup leaders who destroyed the U.S. get to tiptoe out of the rubble and go home to a comfortable retirement?

Earlier this week a senior Pentagon prosecutor openly admitted what has long been known: torture, the lowest and most criminal act any society can sanction, is official U.S. policy. “His treatment met the legal definition of torture,” Judge Susan Crawford told The Washington Post about the alleged “20th hijacker” on 9/11, now being held at Gitmo. The man was so brutalized, Crawford decided, that he could not be charged in court. The same is true of many of those being held at the Guantánamo concentration camp.

None of the Bush Administration officials responsible has faced the slightest inconvenience as the result of his actions.

Donald Rumsfeld, the beast who promoted, botched and joked about a war that has killed more than a million innocent Iraqis, spent the last year as a “distinguished visiting fellow” at Stanford, cogitating about “issues pertaining to ideology and terror.”

John Yoo, the Justice Department hack who wrote the memos that authorized U.S. military and intelligence personnel to torture prisoners of war, is enjoying the cozy ambiance of academe as a UC Berkeley law professor.

Colin Powell, whose 2003 lie to the U.N. (“there can be no doubt that Saddam Hussein has biological weapons and the capability to rapidly produce more, many more”) convinced Americans who were still on the fence to support the invasion of Iraq—a misbegotten project that drove the last nail in the coffin of the U.S. economy—wiles away his days attending the meetings of various corporate boards.

If you were expecting Barack Obama to deliver justice, forget it. “I don’t believe that anybody is above the law. On the other hand, I also have a belief that we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards,” Obama said recently. “Look forward” is Beltwayese for “no accountability.”

Obama went on to assure the men and women who tortured innocent detainees to death that no one will ever bother them about their war crimes. “And part of my job is to make sure that for example at the CIA, you’ve got extraordinarily talented people who are working very hard to keep Americans safe. I don’t want them to suddenly feel like they’ve got to spend all their time looking over their shoulders and lawyering up.”

Is this what we’ve come to? Have Americans become so morally depraved that we condone this level of lawlessness? Have we become so weak and helpless in the face of unconscionable violations of the Bill of Rights—torture, government spies listening to our phone calls, starting wars against countries that never hurt us, looting the treasury—that we just “look forward”?

So much for the land of the free and the brave. See you around, nation of laws.

The meltdown at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, historians say, brought down the Soviet government by exposing its incompetence and powerlessness. Poor design and disaster response turned the accident into a disaster. The regime’s inability to contain the problem and successfully cover it up highlighted its impotence.

“The Chernobyl catastrophe,” wrote Philip Taubman in The New York Times in 1996, “was a manifestation of the political, moral and technological rot that was metastasizing in the Soviet system and would soon kill it.” People stopped believing in the USSR. Then they stopped fearing it.

Should the United States collapse, historians will likely point to two events: 9/11 and Katrina. 9/11 proved the U.S. was a paper tiger, an aggressive power that can blow up the world with nuclear weapons yet can’t scramble a single fighter jet to stop 19 idiots with boxcutters. The inept response to the hurricane that destroyed New Orleans was incompetence personified. The American people don’t think the U.S. government cares about them. Even worse, they doubt the government could help them if it wanted to.

With the American government exposed as stupid and weak, all that remains is the American ideal: the 232-year-old democratic experiment that began with the idea that we are all equal under the law and that all human beings enjoy a set of inherent, inalienable rights—even “enemy combatants” and illegal immigrants.

If we fail to hold the elites who seized the presidency in a 2000 judicial coup d’état to account, if we say torture is no big deal, if we don’t imprison men who lied and conspired to murder more than one million Iraqis and Afghans and Americans and countless others, if we let these individuals golf and fish and deliver lectures to young people as if they have done nothing wrong, then such horrors will happen again and again. I want would-be torturers to “look over their shoulders.” I want them to second-guess themselves.

Even worse than that: If we don’t prosecute Bush and Cheney and Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld and Yoo and Rice and Powell and scores of other top Bush officials who took part in the destruction of fundamental American values, there will be nothing—not even an idea—left of the United States.

COPYRIGHT 2009 TED RALL