What If Qaddafi Wins?


Yesterday the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, an unimaginative “securicrat” from oxymoronland (The Defense Intelligence Agency), spoke some accidental truth when he opined that Qaddafi “will prevail” against his own people. 

Already Qaddafi is callously unleashing his Air Force on the freedom fighters, mislabeled as rebels, who are being slaughtered in what is a preview of the carnage to come.  Libya’s freedom fighters, students, engineers, artists, have no military experience and sometimes there is only one rusty Kalashnikov to share among them.  They tend to group around the one guy with military training and that makes them an easy target for the bombs Qaddafi is using on civilian targets with gruesome collateral damage.

A terrible line is being crossed in international indifference to unprecedented depravity, and just like with Rwanda, it looks like too little will be done about it, and too late.  The United Nations will not step up and stop a tyrant from unleashing a modern military killing machine on his own defenseless people. 

Russia and China will veto any Security Council no-fly resolution because they are afraid of losing their sovereign ability to repress Chechens or Tibetans.  But even they do not resort to such naked barbarism, and once this threshold has been crossed, every thug clinging to power will be able to wage modern warfare on defenseless civilians. 

Until now they’ve used secret police first, then internal security forces, or have imposed martial law to intimidate their restive populace.  But sending in the Air Force to bomb your own cities and industries and ordering artillery barrages to soften up suburbs before an assault by tanks and armor, is a new low for even the often feckless World Body to tolerate.

So far Qaddafi’s only friends are Venezuela’s Chavez and Nicaragua’s Ortega, and while that might pry open the eyes of some of their deluded supporters, that is not the company that we and the rest of the world should find ourselves in.  After Qaddafi has murdered 10,000, 20,000 or 50,000 more of his people, will we simply raise the threshold for genocide and say it is not as bad as Rwanda?  How will we get along with the pariah who we condemned but now forgive, because Europe needs his oil?

Clearly Obama is being rolled by his military as they drag their heels with an understandable reluctance to get bogged down in another war in the desert sands.  But he might also be being set up by the Republicans who, in the poisonous partisan climate of the capitol, can’t wait to run against a president who let a tyrannical terrorist escape justice and thumb his nose at the world.

After almost a decade of misrule by an arrogant and ignorant cowboy shooting from the hip, some caution in foreign policy and military action is welcome.  But dawdling in the face of monstrous international criminality, and appeasing a demented despot, might prove more damaging in the long run for a new world order and a second presidential term.   


The DNA of Dirty Tricks


Now that James O’Keefe has struck again, this time stinging another bogeyman of the right wing, NPR, we are left to wonder what is left on the Left to bring down. 

This 26 year old Republican activist, who was mentored by another manipulator of the media, Andrew Breitbart, has already brought down ACORN, targeted the Census, a Democratic senator and a reporter from that bastion of the “liberal media” CNN.

Clearly what these targets have in common, is that ACORN, the Census, NPR and the “liberal media” are long-standing symbols of a mythical power that inflames the right-wing’s delusion that they are an oppressed underclass of beleaguered white men, fighting against a vast left wing conspiracy. 

Having worked at Pacifica radio for years I know better than anyone what a lie that is.  Unlike the well-heeled Right, who really do dominate the media, Pacifica is facing bankruptcy. 

Like the proverbial circular firing squad, “radio powered by the people” is dying from self-inflicted wounds.  Having burdened the only alternative network with an expensive Soviet governance structure designed to create a racist and sexist-free perfect world at a radio network.  They are dying from a crippling competition of identity politics as airtime is allocated by ossified leftist ideologues.  Instead of inspiring their audience to action, as Limbaugh and others in the full spectrum of right wing shout shows do, Pacifica punishes their audience in the name of the revolution.

Meanwhile non-profits like O’Keefe, Breitbart and company can tap into a vast well of tax-deductable funding from movement billionaires who may or may not share the fervent belief system of the far right faithful.  And there is no doubt that the rank and file truly believe America is being led astray by “the liberal media”.  But there is no question that the Koch’s, Murdoch’s, Scaifes, Olin’s and Coors etc. get amazing value for their money, and so does the Republican Party. 

ACORN registered mostly minority voters who are likely to vote Democrat.  Now they are gone, out of business thanks to O’Keefe and a pimp’s costume.  Another target was that bogeyman of the Right the Census, which also enfranchises minorities.  And the only alternative to Limbaugh and right wing radio, NPR, is now facing a financial blow from a sting that struck them just as the Senate was about to vote on a House bill to eliminate the Corporation For Public Broadcasting.

Although they consider themselves journalists, or even investigative reporters, O’Keefe, Breitbart and David Bossie are really hacks, not in the good sense but in terms of how they hack the truth and selectively edit tape to distort and manufacture a story. 

Bossie is famous for “Hillary The Movie” that was the basis for the revolutionary Supreme Court “Citizen’s United” decision that now enable the rich and powerful to buy our elections wholesale.  But Bossie earned his chops on Congressman Dan Burton’s witch hunting committee that was searching for sin in Arkansas to bring down the Clintons.  He edited the prison tapes of hapless Web Hubble to incriminate him in such a flagrant and manipulative way, that Burton was forced to fire him. 

And more recently, O’Keefe manipulated the ACORN  hidden-camera footage, and Breitbart did the same thing with a hit he did on an official with the Agriculture Department who was fired in a panic then apologetically reinstated. 

No such luck for the Schiller’s at NPR who, just like the ACORN employees, seem breathtakingly gullible when it comes to preposterous imposters posing as pimps or terrorists offering millions in phony money from fictitious fronts with flimsy paperwork.

Brietbart claims the Left started this with Abbie Hoffman and Paul Krassner, but one is dead and the other has retired to the desert.  True the garrellous governor of Wisconsin got punked by a prankster but there is no network of dirty tricksters working for the Democrats like the one that works with the Republicans, in perfect sync with their legislative agenda.

And if you look into the DNA of the Republican Party’s stable of dirty tricksters, you see a lineage from Nixon through Bush Senior to Junior and now to the Tea Party and the proliferating network of Astroturf and front groups emboldened and empowered by Bossie’s “Citizen’s United” ruling. 

From the dark recesses of Nixon’s crippled persona his White House drew in a coterie of college Republicans under Chuck Colson.  Colson went to prison but Roger Alies moved on to head up Fox News and David Bossie helped change our politics profoundly and possibly permanently for the betterment of the plutocrats.

These same dirty tricksters later coalesced around Lee Atwater during daddy Bush where Junior, Ailes and Karl Rove honed their skills.  Their scandal-mongering machine went into overdrive when the interloper Clinton got elected, with help from Perot.  And with relentless muckraking they diminished Clinton’s ability to govern, culminating with his impeachment for a private transgression that was demagogued into a political crime and a public humiliation.

Then they managed to get their boy elected with fewer votes than the Democrat, then slimed and defamed the next Democrat who ran against him.  Now they are aiming their arsenal of acrimony at Barack Obama, a decent man who sincerely believes in bi-partisan cooperation, but is routinely demonized as an un-American terrorist Muslim imposter with a fake birth certificate. 

As Edmund Burke warned us, “all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing”.  But in America, we are told that nice guys finish last.  And while the nasty ones might be winning the political wars at the moment, we will all lose in the end. 

Spy Wars in Crackistan

A show trial is underway in Pakistan following the arrest of an American CIA contractor Raymond Davis, who is apparently a pawn caught between warring intelligence services, our CIA and Pakistan’s I.S.I.  And aside from the spy versus spy intrigue associated with this shadow play, it reflects the broader dysfunction of the tortured relationship the U.S. and Pakistan are trapped in.

Yesterday I spoke with Chris Fair who spends a lot of time there, speaks the local languages and knows the country well, including members of the I.S.I. (Inter-Services Intelligence).  And Pakistan’s intelligence service is considered the power behind the throne in a country often described as not a country with an army, but an army with a country. 

As depressing as it is to keep up with the Israeli and Palestinian agony, the India and Pakistan confrontation is even more bitter and intractable.  I am reminded of an academic seminar with Indian and Pakistani academics and outside experts at the UCLA Faculty Club a few years ago that was supposed to be an examination of the enduring Kashmir problem and other bilateral issues.

Instead the LAPD were called after it descended into recrimination and insults and almost turned into a brawl.  For all of the endless bickering between Israelis and Palestinians over a struggle characterized by too much history and too little geography, similar conferences that I’ve attended involving them are love fests by comparison.

The late Richard Holbrooke did try to include the Kashmir conflict in his portfolio when he became president Obama’s special envoy to the region.  But that possibility of removing the Kashmir flashpoint from the equation was scuttled by the India lobby, a new force in Washington that has modeled itself on the Israel lobby.

If these nuclear armed countries, who have fought three wars, all of which Pakistan lost, could get over it and start trade and cooperation instead of perpetuating a military stalemate, maybe they would stop wasting billions that should be spent on their impoverished peoples.

That was what the Prime Ministers of both countries had in mind when they were about to meet a few years ago before a terrorist attack in Mumbai blew that opportunity.  And it is no accident that it was the I.S.I. who unleashed their attack dogs Lashkar-e-Taiba on Mumbai.

It was also what our strategists had in mind, thinking that a peace settlement would take the subcontinent’s nukes off hair trigger and then free up Pakistan’s army facing India so it could be redeployed to the western border with Afghanistan and help the U.S. out of the quagmire there.

That was the hope, however unrealistic, but the Pakistani army had long ago recruited terrorist groups to conduct guerrilla war on the cheap in Kashmir as a way to even the odds with India by tying down their enemy’s numerically superior army.  But the I.S.I. is not about to give up its asset, Lashkar-e-Taiba.  The same group Raymond Davis was apparently spying on.

Meanwhile in Afghanistan every day our boys and girls are killed by the Taliban; armed, directed and sheltered by Pakistan’s military.  Yet we keep funding Pakistan’s military with billions they waste on building more nukes to the point that now they could have a bigger arsenal than England and France.

And all the while the I.S.I. shelters the Haqqani network who are our most formidable adversaries in Afghanistan, and they are also rumored to be sheltering al Qaeda and Bin laden.  Is the specter of Pakistani nukes falling into the wrong hands worth the cost of maintaining the delusion that Pakistan is an ally in the war on terror?

Meanwhile Pakistanis believe it is America’s fault for stirring up the unrest that is tearing their country apart, and every day they grow more and more anti-American, in spite of the billions we are giving them from the Kerry/Lugar/Berman fund.  Denial is easier than fixing a broken country but unless the Pakistanis want to help themselves, how can we help them? 

Perhaps left alone this feudal kleptocracy will, like the similar regimes in the Middle East, be toppled by its young people yearning for justice and opportunity.  But we should get the hell out of Muslim lands.  That’s the lesson here, reinforced by the recent parting words of Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who quoted General MacArthur, that anyone who sends a land army into Asia needs his head examined. 

So we should not waste another minute or another life on this lost cause.  Whatever instability might follow our exit from Af/Pak, even if jihadis take over, it could not be worse than Iran.  And Iran has to contend with Israel’s nukes aimed at it, just as India’s are aimed at Pakistan.  In any case theocracies eventually implode from within.  Just like Vietnam, the best way to end a war is to end a war.

Women and Children First...into poverty


Today is International Women’s Day, a celebration that was started in Germany by European socialists in 1911, before the Soviets tried to co-opt it.  And today Germany has the world's healthiest economy with Union representatives sitting on corporate boards as a matter of law (imagine that in Wisconsin).  Also German women get free healthcare, pregnancy leave, childcare and six weeks paid vacations, along with everyone else in most of the other advanced democracies, except the United States.

As our money-driven Game Show democracy rapidly become a corporate plutonomy, ruled by oligarchs, we could learn a lot from the social democracies.  But let’s take a timeout today and look at the state of our women and, by extension, our children in America today. 

Last Sunday “60 Minutes” ran a heartbreaking piece that showed families crammed into cheap motels, living hand to mouth trying to survive the recession.  The grim statistic that 25% of America’s children now live in poverty struck me hard to the point I could barely watch the report.

Since a lot of our children don’t have fathers, I suppose we should be grateful they have mothers. But who takes care of the mothers?  Perhaps we could learn from the Native American Cherokee tribe.  Before the white man conquered this continent, they practiced their own unique form of democracy.  While women were not able to vote, they were the ones who chose the candidates. 

As for the white tribe, it is often said that women were only able to run for political office when they got the vote in 1920.  But that misconception ignores the historical precedent of Victoria Woodhall.  She ran for president in the eighteen hundreds, and later Janet Rankin and other women in the western states ran for office.  They were politically active before being able to vote for women. 

Interestingly Rankin was a Republican and back then it would seem that the party had a conscience and a soul.  Today the grand old party is dominated by righteous white men from the Red States, and after extending the tax breaks for their wealthy patrons, their main legislative priority appears to be to ban abortion. 

Forget the separation of Church and State laid down by the founding fathers they purport to revere.  The parliament and the pulpit are one for these hirelings who appear to hide behind the sacred texts of social conservatism to obscure their real agenda that they faithfully execute as whores for the rich and powerful.

As much as they want to keep women in their place, their main victims are children.  One quarter of our children are now growing up in poverty and God knows how many more will do so in the future.  When John Boehner weeps about the crappy jobs he had to take as a young man, he omits the fact that he grew up with a roof over his head and food on the table. 

But let’s not let an uncomfortable statistic get in the way of a sentimental homage to the greatest country on earth.  A patriotic flourish feels so much better than the bleating of the bleeding hearts, spreading gloom over the shining city on the hill with their irritating facts.

To understand the Republican assault on women you just have to look at the fine print in the Wisconsin governors budget.  He has zeroed out funding for Planned Parenthood.  Apparently Union busting and women bashing go hand in hand. 

So on this International Women's Day, as the Republican House moves to eliminate funds for child nutrition and prenatal care for poor women, get ready for the new America.  An America where desperate young women in the Red States have to slip past a cordon of “Christian” vigilantes checking their papers at bus stations, to escape to Blue States to end pregnancies caused by the lack of contraception and the absence of sex education. 

But of course these pious white men want to force the young women to have the babies they are cutting the funds for.  Enraptured in insulated zeal, these right-to-life crusaders are enjoying a moral free ride.  They can be against killing babies before they are born.  But once they are, they’re someone else’s problem. 

The Contest of Calumny


Although it is close to two years away, the race for president is on, and while it will be the costliest in history, it is already shaping up to be the nastiest.

Although now unopposed, Obama might have a challenge from the Left, and there is something of a tradition of electoral suicide going back to 1968, when liberals abandoned Humphrey and helped elect Nixon, then shunned Carter in favor of Kennedy in the primary then Anderson in the general helping Reagan. Then in Florida 2000 Nader helped elect G. W Bush etc.  

But at this point it is clear that most of the competition will be among Republicans and their jostling for attention already looks like a race to the bottom.  From the founding fathers on there has been plenty of political mudslinging, including the more recent history of Father Coughlin and Colonel McCormack’s peddling reactionary poison.  But never before has hate been manufactured and marketed so shamelessly.

And it is the good “Christians” who are doing it!  We all know Sarah Palin speaks to God in tongues and to man in trash.  But good ol’ Mike Huckerbee seemed to have some intelligence and decency, until last week when he said of Obama…

”If you think about it, his perspective growing up in Kenya with a Kenyan father and grandfather, their view of the Mau Mau Revolution in Kenya is very different than ours because he probably grew up hearing that the British were a bunch of imperialists who persecuted his grandfather.”    

And it won’t be long before Mitt weighs in with more ridiculous racist lies dressed up as campaign rhetoric, not that his latest barefaced lies about national security issues aren’t whoppers.  But like a CEO reassuring the shareholders, Mitt does have that button-down corporate sincerity.  His lies flow off the tongue like commercials for oil companies claiming how much they care about the environment.

So with Gingrich already a serial liar, now dressed up in Catholic piety, the field of nightmares is just warming up.  I can see Murdoch shouting the order “start the presses” as Fox and the dominant illiberal Press start to pump it up and pile it on, all the way to November 2012. 

I remember PBS before the commercials when William F. Buckley debated George McGovern from Yale.  There used to be a political discourse that challenged ideology and tested ideas.  Now we are trapped in the electoral checkout line surrounded by tabloid headlines, each more outrageous than the last.  And Huckerbee’s recent example of “the headless girl in a topless bar” is mild compared to what’s coming, as the Republican candidates court the rabid Right.

But let’s take a timeout for a reality check.  Obama almost never saw his father, only very briefly.  He grew up with the only father figure who was a white Republican from Kansas while his Kenyan father drank himself to death living in fear of the post-colonial ruling party who hounded him until his death.  If anything Obama is likely to be influenced by an anti Mau Mau perspective, not to mention the white folks from the heartland who actually nurtured him.

But the truth obviously does not matter; as Frank Luntz recently learned when half of the prospective Republican voters he polled said Obama was a Muslim with a fake birth certificate.  Maybe Congressman Peter King will bring this up on Thursday when his Homeland Security Committee looks into Muslims lurking amongst us. 

Man up Congressman King and impeach the President!  Do something about that foreign-born terrorist in the White House.  If you believe what you say, then isn’t this much more serious than a stain on a dress?