Posted by: quiscus | May 18, 2010

May 18, 2010

1.  “Miss USA Rima Fakih: Hezbollah babe or just a girl in a bikini?

Yet the tiara had scarcely come to rest on her cascading dark tresses Sunday night when the far reaches of the right wing blogosphere went ballistic.

Debbie Schlussel, a conservative blogger, charged that Fakih was a radical Muslim because she shares her family name with some officials in Hezbollah, the militant Lebanese Shiite Muslim group.

The Jewish Internet Defense Force, a pro-Israeli website, proclaimed it “a dark day for America.”

Daniel Pipes, an outspoken neoconservative author and former adviser to Rudy Giuliani’s presidential campaign, wondered about “this surprising frequency of Muslims winning beauty pageants” — he listed five examples in three countries since 2005 — and suggested that the Donald Trump-owned Miss USA pageant had bowed to affirmative action.

Schlussel, whose biography at says she holds law and business degrees from the University of Wisconsin, and who last week wrote a post titled “Reason #883,254 Not to Eat at Muslim-Owned Falafel Shops.”

Fakih was merely engaging in “deception of the infidels to further the cause of Islam/jihad,” Schlussel wrote Monday.”

2.  “The Responses to the Gulf Oil Spill and to the Financial Crisis Are Remarkably Similar … And Have Made Both Crises Much Worse

The Gulf oil spill and the financial crisis were both caused by excessive risk-taking by industry giants and the “capture” of politicians and regulators by the corporate behemoths.

Moreover, the response to the Gulf oil spill and the financial crisis are remarkably similar.

With regards to the financial crisis, the response has been to cover up the truth:

The same is true for the Gulf oil spill.

As ABC News notes, the White House allowed BP to suppress video of the oil spill for 3 weeks; and a top oil spill expert says that BP’s use of booms around the spill site now won’t really do anything … and is just an exercise in public relations so that it looks like it’s doing something.

BP is also using dispersants to hide the extent of the oil spill. Specifically, as many commentators note, the dispersants cause much of the oil to sink, so that it appears that the spill isn’t that big. But the dispersants are not only highly toxic, but will also probably make the damage from the oil itself even worse.

Moreover, just as the cover-up about the severity of the financial crisis has allowed Larry Summers, Tim Geithner, Ben Bernanke and most of Congress to kill real financial reform, BP and the government’s drastic underplaying of the size of the spill has allowed BP to skate by without taking emergency actions, such as bringing in booms on an emergency basis, or to undertake more pro-active and creative responses.

And just as nothing has changed going forward with regard to the economy since the 2008 meltdown, nothing has changed with regard to offshore drilling.

For example, since the Deepwater Horizon oil drilling rig exploded on April 20th, the Obama administration has granted oil and gas companies at least 27 exemptions from doing in-depth environmental studies of oil exploration and production in the Gulf of Mexico. And a whistleblower who survived the Gulf oil explosion claims in a lawsuit filed today that BP’s operations at another oil platform risk another catastrophic accident that could “dwarf” the Gulf oil spill, partly because BP never even reviewed critical engineering designs for the operation.

Indeed, the industry and government spokespeople have used the exact same word as each crisis – financial and environmental – unfolded. They said the problem was “contained”.

In both cases, we the people are left holding the bag because the giant companies and their campaign-contribution-buddies in DC are trying to sweep the severity of the problem under the rug, to manage the crisis as p.r. campaigns to protect those who let it happen … instead of actually taking steps necessary to solve the problems, and to make sure they won’t happen again.

3.  “Obama and the myth of the public opinion excuse

Fourth, Matt’s argument assumes that Obama really wishes he could restore civil liberties but is simply constrained by public opinion, a proposition for which there is no evidence (and there’s evidence to the contrary, beginning with Obama’s refusal to reverse Bush/Cheney policies regardless of public opinion, contrasted with his pursuit of other unpopular policies, as well as his early opposition to investigations of Bush crimes even in the face of public support for such investigations).  There are a litany of factors unrelated to public opinion that could easily be driving Obama to do what he is doing, including a fear of alienating the military and intelligence communities and/or a genuine desire for the powers he has preserved and is enhancing.  If that’s true, as it appears to be, then favorable changes in public opinion would have little effect on Obama’s conduct.

Fifth, Obama’s anti-civil-liberties record has extended far beyond what public opinion has called for.  I don’t recall any public outcry for a program to assassinate American citizens without due process, or the invocation of new secrecy and immunity claims to protect Bush crimes from judicial review, or the maintenace of secret prisons in Afghanistan.  One would be hard-pressed to claim that the public even knows about, let alone is agitating for, such extremist policies, yet Obama vigorously embraces them.  He must be doing so for reasons other than public opinion.

Finally, and most important:  this Public Opinion Excuse ignores the substantial agency which Obama possesses in shaping our political debates.  Presidents have numerous tools for influencing public opinion, and Obama has used none for the purpose of fortifying support for the new Terrorism policies he vowed during the campaign to pursue.  He’s actually done the opposite:  by advocating for the continuation of so many Bush/Cheney policies, he’s weakened opposition to that approach.  In that regard, Matt has it backward:  Obama isn’t following public opinion on these questions; public opinion is following Obama.

Then there is the even more significant fact that what were once viewed as controversial right-wing, Bush/Cheney Terrorism policies have been transformed, under Obama, into bipartisan consensus.  Whereas the vast majority of Democrats spent the last eight years claiming to vehemently oppose policies such as indefinite detention, military commissions, and secrecy claims, they now actively defend them or (at best) remain meekly silent because it’s now their political party, rather than the GOP, that is responsible for them.  By embracing as his own many of the very policies he vowed to uproot, Obama has gutted the core of public opposition to those policies. Is it really a surprise, then, that public opinion on these questions has worsened under Obama [as but one example, compare the CNN poll on whether Guantanamo should be closed:  before Obama’s inauguration, a majority wanted the camp to be closed (51-47%); now, a year into Obama’s presidency and yet another year removed from the 9/11 attacks, a large majority (60-39%) wants it to remain open]?

One other point that should always be emphasized about civil liberties and public opinion:   a primary reason for these Constitutional protections is to safeguard the rights of minorities, particularly the most scorned segments of society, from oppression supported by majoritarian sentiment.  For that reason, civil liberties is the last cause whose sacrifice can be justified by appeal to public opinion.  As countless historical examples demonstrate, the whole point of those liberties is that they are as vital — indeed, more vital — when majorities are eager to trample upon and abolish them in the name of a hated, fear-inducing Enemy.”

4.  ”

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Bill for Afghan War Could Run into the Trillions

5.  “Did Vladimir Lenin Predict The Banking Disaster Of 2008?

“Imperialism the Highest Stage of Capitalism”

Lenin enumerated the following five features characteristic of the epoch of imperialism:

The epoch of imperialism opens when the expansion of colonialism has covered the globe and no new colonies can be acquired by the great powers except by taking them from each other, and the concentration of capital has grown to a point where finance capital becomes dominant over industrial capital. Lenin enumerated the following five features characteristic of the epoch of imperialism:

(1) the concentration of production and capital has developed to such a high stage that it has created monopolies which play a decisive role in economic life;

(2) the merging of bank capital with industrial capital, and the creation on the basis of this “finance capital”, of a financial oligarchy;

(3) the export of capital as distinguished from the export of commodities acquires exceptional importance;

(4) the formation of international monopoly capitalist associations which share the world among themselves, and

(5) the territorial division of the whole world among the biggest capitalist powers is completed.

Imperialism is capitalism at that stage of development at which the dominance of monopolies and finance capital is established; in which the export of capital has acquired pronounced importance; in which the division of the world among the international trusts has begun, in which the division of all territories of the globe among the biggest capitalist powers has been completed. [Lenin, Imperialism the Highest Stage of Capitalism, LCW Volume 22, p. 266-7.] “

6.  “Texas Schools Board Rewrites US History with Lessons Promoting God and Guns

US Christian conservatives drop references to slave trade and sideline Thomas Jefferson who backed church-state separation

Conservatives have been accused of an assault on the history of civil rights. One curriculum amendment describes the civil rights movement as creating “unrealistic expectations of equal outcomes” among minorities. Another seeks to place Martin Luther King and the violent Black Panther movement as opposite sides of the same coin.

“We had a big discussion around that,” said Knight, a former teacher. “It was an attempt to taint the civil rights movement. They did the same by almost equating George Wallace [the segregationist governor of Alabama in the mid-1960s] with the civil rights movement and the things Martin Luther King Jr was trying to accomplish, as if Wallace was standing up for white civil rights. That’s how slick they are.

“They’re very smooth at excluding the contributions of minorities into the curriculum. It is as if they want to render minority groups totally invisible. I think it’s racist. I really do.”

7.  “Foreclosure Victims “Want a Homeless Life”

You see, for both Springs’ Republicans and the Republican Party nationally, federal deficit spending on huge defense contractors as AOK. But deficit spending on jobs for the unemployed or basic safety-net services for the very poor in a city that has experienced a big jump in homelessness?

Well, Republicans are against that because, according to the Springs’ Republican mayor, Lionel Rivera, poor people want to be poor.

That last part sounds like I’m extrapolating the mayor’s comments, but unfortunately it’s exactly what he said. Check this out from the Denver Post‘s Susan Greene today, quoting The Springs’ mayor:

Thumbing his nose at federal assistance seems to abdicate his responsibilities to the Judd Hesses of his community and others who are down and out, living in tent colonies, arguably not because they want to.

“Some people want a homeless life,” counters (Mayor) Rivera, a financial adviser. “Some peopl, they really do.”

So there you have it: According to the conservative leader of one of the most conservative cities in America, those thrown out of their homes in this Great Recession actually want to be homeless, so we shouldn’t spend money or — gasp! — dare to raise taxes on the super-rich to generate revenue for programs to help the homeless get back on their feet.

I’d say that’s about as frank an admission about the Republican Party’s callous attitude these days as any. Give the Springs’ conservative leadership credit — at least their honest in their heartlessness and their extremism.”

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