Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Third Hand...

There’s a concept I’ve been discussing with my Father recently; a concept I’ve given to calling, the “Third Hand”.

When a Political Figure acts against his nature, for whatever reason, there’s usually some other force at work, something we don’t see.

Put a simpler way, you got one hand on Obama pulling him one way, you got another hand pulling him in reverse, and then comes another hand (hint-hint: a Third Hand), which pushes him the way he actually goes.

Think of it like this, if there’s a situation where Obama does something to deliberately anger his base, logic suggests that the alternative, whatever it may be, is far worse.

Thus, we come to the release, or non-release, of those Abu Ghraib Photos, and the President’s reversal on that decision. My fellow Progressives/Liberals are justifiably upset by the decision…or maybe not so justifiably.

Looked at on its own, by itself the decision to withhold those photos is indefensible. Lord knows people I read, admire and respect have been dumping all over it. (Though I will say, David Kurtz in TPM comes very close to the explanation I'm about to give you, and...after all...he's a professional, and got there first, so...kudos.)

But…and I hate to bring the West Wing into anything…but it’s like President Bartlet said in the episode Hartsfield’s Landing (Episode 58, Season 3): “See the whole board…”

What do I mean by that?

Ask yourself, what happened? What made President Obama change his mind, or more to the point, has something changed that would make President Obama change his mind??

I’d say, yes.

Mind you this is just a theory, but at the same time...

Since the last week of April, beginning of May, there has been a considerable uptick in the violence in Pakistan, as the Taliban has moved ever closer to Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan (within 60 miles, so it seems). Now, the United States has been using Aerial drones to ice people across the Pakistani Border. The Pakistani Government has been upset about that, but since Pakistani’s Prime Minister is Asif Ali Zardari (aka Benazir Bhutto’s widower) and Islamist Militants were the ones who killed her, I don’t think he’s that upset…you know what I mean?

(In fact, should I mention that the Pakistani Government wants "ownership" over U.S. Drones? God, I hope we told them "hell, no.")

The situation was so bad that General Petraeus said that Pakistan was two weeks from falling, and the President was asked about the security of Pakistan’s Nuclear Arsenal at his last press conference.

But something has happened into the interim. Pakistan’s population has decided that they don’t much like the Taliban, or Taliban rule. In fact now that the Taliban has closed within 40 miles of the Capital, suddenly, we don’t have to bribe the Generals into defending their own country anymore. They’re actually (finally) pulling troops off the Indian border to get into the fight with the extremists. In fact, it’s creating something of a humanitarian crisis as refugees flee the fighting.

So, we are left with a situation where the Pakistani Military has finally gotten off its collective, and ineffective ass to start dealing some payback to the Taliban. There's popular support for the offensive in mainstream Pakistan, and all this is coming off recent American pressure to do so.

...and into this hyper-mega-combustile mix, some folks want to release some 2000 more photographs of Americans torturing Muslims?!?

Can you say…Danish Cartoons?? Times ten??

The President said that these Photographs were "not particularly sensational, particularly when compared to the painful images we remember from Abu Ghraib." Maybe, maybe not. We only have his word on this. I've heard in some quarters, these photos were pretty bad. They were bad enough to have Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman write the President a letter begging him to not to release the photos. (It's too bad they couldn't have gotten a Democrat to sign that letter. I would have been helpful if it was bipartisan.)

With the Pakistani populace finally seeing things our way, why do we want to go and insert into the discussion something that makes the Pakistanis start thinking that the Taliban has a point?!?

Listen, some of the stories I’m seeing are using a specific word: stall and/or delay. I think the Administration is eventually going to release these photos, on their own accord. Either that, or I wonder how far they'll fight the case in court. Either way, they’re not going to release those photos yet, not until Pakistan stabilizes.

Personally, I want the photos released, too, but I'm personally okay with this decision as long as it's only a stall, or a delay...and not an outright cancellation.

At the end of Hartsfield's Landing, Sam Seaborn (in case you don’t remember, played by Rob Lowe), asks President Bartlet (Martin Sheen), a question. The answer is one that is both simple and complicated all at the same time, and is one of the reasons (I trust) we all voted for the President in the first place:

I don’t know how you... I don’t know the word. I...don’t know how you do it.

You have a lot of help. You listen to everybody and then you call the play.

I think the President might owe us a better explanation than the “safety of American Troops”, which is both true and hollow all at once. But this advice is coming from his Generals (something we all thought Bush didn't do enough of), and its coming from his OLC (who may actually have read a Law Book or two in their careers).

Still, I think the real reasons play across a far wider we all should try to see, but that the President is ultimately responsible for.

Please remember, there was a reason we decided we wanted this man to call the plays.

UPDATE (5:26pm Pacific): For the record, I beat Joe Klein to the punch.

Originally posted at Fort McHenry.

Monday, May 11, 2009

The Stupid Chamber


Among progressives, which I proudly am, a lot of attention and ire gets focused on the extreme right-wing media and their completely fucked-up agenda. I'm talking about your FOX News, WorldNetDaily and Human Events of the world. We spend a lot of our time attacking and exposing their lies, and rightly so. But I really don't think they are the most dangerous part of the media.

The right-wing whack-a-doodles in the general public will continue to believe their crazy nonsense whether there is a FOX News or not. My brother isn't going to suddenly see the light on socialized health care (he says that all the rich people in England come here for their health care, despite, you know, the facts) if Bill O'Reilly no longer has a platform for his bloviating every night. It's called the echo chamber for a reason. My dumb ass born-again sibling would still be an uninformed dunderhead, he just wouldn't have a TV legitimizing his screwed up points of view.

No, I think the most dangerous thing about the media today is the so-called "news" that gets reported in what is supposed to be the "legitimate" media. CNN is often put forward (often by themselves) as the centrist or "slightly left-leaning" (which is really laughable knowing they have Lou Dobbs) 24-hour news network. I could argue against these claims all day long, but that's not the real issue.

No, it is that the media is completely dumbed down and distracting the moron masses from the real important stuff of the day. We see stories about the president ordering a hamburger, live as it happens and called "breaking news." I imagine this whole week we will be enduring a whole lot of nonsense about Wanda Sykes being offensive or not. We already seem to be moving beyond the info-tainment we've had for several years and dropping the info altogether.

Case in point. I was flipping through the channels last week or so and I came across Larry King. I despise Larry King, it is hard for me to believe that anybody likes Larry King and can stand to watch him. I can feel my IQ dropping in just a few minutes of his show. He's like the 24-hour news version of Saved By The Bell. Even though I know better, when I come across him I seem to not be able to turn away from the intellectual car accident on my screen. (Which is also just like Saved By The Bell.)

On this particular episode, Larry started off the show with a short segment on the "breaking news" of the medical student who was robbing hookers in hotel rooms to feed his gambling habit and appears to have murdered one of them. And while I believe the too common violence against women should be highlighted in the media, this was just sensationalistic nonsense that involved Larry having on as guest some "friends" of the accused. These friends turned out to be a couple of guys who maybe sat beside him in a lab one time and most of the exchanges involved Larry asking them if they knew he was crazy back then. It reminded me a lot of the old SNL sketch when Buckwheat got shot. (You know the one. "Did you think he's shoot Buckwheat?" "Oh sure, it's all he ever talked about.")

This was just a prelude. That was only the quick, news of the day, put together segment because he guy just got arrested. No, when Larry went to commercial he announced that he'd be "right back with Perez Hilton and Dennis Prager debating Miss California.

Seriously. Perez Hilton, Dennis Prager and Miss California. It sounded like the Jeopardy answer to the question, "which three people would you most like to see knee-capped in the most painful way imaginable?"

How does this crap make it on to TV at all, much less a supposed "news" channel?

No my friends, the right-wing propaganda machine is the least of our problems as I see it. The mindless drivel that comes from the mainstream media today that is there to sell us crap and make our big concern be whether or not our cell phone makes our toast (props to George Carlin) is destroying us much more than Hannity ever could.

Not that Hannity's not trying to catch up.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Thrifty is Nifty

I've been reading lately a whole slew about how thrifty Americans have become all of a sudden. The savings rate, according to an article in the NY Times this morning, has risen from zero percent to a bit over 4, in the last year. We went from a savings rate of 14 percent in the 1970s, to negative 2.7 percent in 2005, meaning Americans were spending more than they made.

Corporations had been salivating on the heels of these numbers. They had finally turned us into super-consumers who were actually brainwashed into living on credit. I recall a conversation I had with a friend in 1997 in which I extolled the virtues of paying off your home as fast as possible. My parents paid off their first home in 7 years, and their second in two. My friend shook her head and proceeded to explain how it's "healthy" to be in mortgage debt, and get to write off the interest at tax time.

Stupid Americans! (I thought). They'd rather pay off a mortgage perpetually and deduct A PERCENTAGE of the interest paid from taxes, than not have a mortgage at all. I never understood it. And never will. Perhaps I'm old school, but my idea is not busting out half my salary on a mortgage for the rest of my life. I'd rather take that $1500/month and store it up for travelling to Italy, Spain, France, Bali, Tokyo, Melbourne....somewhere else.

Now the Econ experts are biatching about how we're all going to railroad the already-struggling economy by not spending. I just shake my head at all of this; they continue to drive into our heads this horseshite that has already bankrupted us. But how to get the economy started again? Spend! Spend what? I think it's time for a new model, fellas.

In any case, I don't believe the majority of Americans have learned their lesson; they'll store away capital out of necessity, not enlightenment. But I am optimistic that our government will regulate bank products such as no-down-payment or no-income-verification mortgage loans and credit lines, thus putting some sort of halt on the Frankenstein that has been created by banks.

And a quick shout-out to all skewed, warped Americans who are now holding their heads in sorrow over the fact that they can no longer afford that third SUV: WAKE UP! "He who dies with the most toys..." still dies.

Let us know how well that overdrive system works in the 9th Circle of the Inferno.