Remarks And Asides, 9/25/18

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I watched this morning as the United Nations General Assembly laughed, out loud, at Tr-mp. Yeah, sure, they can laugh. They don’t have to live with him. We Americans are sentenced to more unfunny hard times.

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Speaking of sentencing, Bill Cosby, newly anointed as a “sexually violent predator,” will serve three to 10 years in prison for the shameful things he did to women, in this case one woman named Andrea Constand, who trusted him. Slowly, ever so slowly, women are angry.jpgwomen are winning some major battles in the longstanding war against their dignity. The battle over Brett Kavanaugh, who should be impeached rather than given a Supreme bump in status, has yet to be decided. But women are on the rise.

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Speaking of Kavanaugh, Senate Republicans are in hot pursuit of the truth surrounding the allegations against him, including the attempted rape of Christine Blasey Ford. They are such earnest truth-seekers that they have even asked O.J. Simpson to stop his hot pursuit of his ex-wife’s killer and help them find out what the hell is going on with the Boy Scout who said he didn’t drink much or ever, ever, ever have sex in high school and well beyond.

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It’s possible, of course, that Kavanaugh has never had sex with anyone at anytime. Never. His two lovely kids could have been, following the history of the Catholic Church he so fervently follows, immaculately conceived, which is at least as believable as the story he told on Fox last night.

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It turns out that not only are there at least two female accusers of Kavanaugh, there is also Kavanaugh’s old college roommate, James Roche, who said,

although Brett was normally reserved, he was a notably heavy drinker, even by the standards of the time, and that he became aggressive and belligerent when he was very drunk.

As for whether Kavanaugh could have possibly used his penis, belligerently or otherwise, as a potential weapon—which Deborah Ramirez, who also went to Yale with Kavanaugh, alleges—James Roche said:

I cannot imagine her making this up. Based on my time with Brett, I believe that he and his social circle were capable of the actions that Debbie described.

For the record, Tr-mp, the world-class comedian, said Debbie Ramirez was “too messed up” to be believed and that, “This is a con game being played by the Democrats.” Nah. Not a chance. Such a con game would require a) guts and b) organization, two things Democrats often lack. So, uh, no.

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Image result for senate members all men on judiciary committeeIt appears that neither Ramirez nor Roche nor Mark Judge nor anyone else who could help get to the truth of the matter will appear at that sham of a hearing on Thursday, a hearing so shamefully incomplete that it won’t even feature Republican members of the Judiciary Committee making fools of themselves in front of the world. They have now hired a penis-less attorney to do the dirty work for them.

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And, finally, speaking of dirty, it’s not enough that Senate Republicans, at least most of them, don’t give a damn about the truth surrounding Brett Kavanaugh, now we have House right-wingers threatening to impeach Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosensteen-I-mean-stine. As you know, Rosensteen-I-mean-stine’s career is on life support at this point for allegedly proposing a 25th Amendment remedy for our Tr-mp problem and offering to secretly tape the disturbed subversive in the Whites’ House. At this point, Rosensteen-I-mean-stine should welcome impeachment. Maybe that would help us all get his name straight before his career dies.

 

“The Language Of Force”

As the fight against ISIL continues, we are greeted with this headline from The Washington Post:

U.S. and Arab aircraft attack oil refineries seized by Islamic State in Syria

The story reports a rather remarkable fact: “U.S. fighter jets and drones, alongside warplanes from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, struck the refineries in remote parts of the Syrian desert.” It is quite extraordinary that we have partnered with Arab nations to attack the source of much of ISIL’s funding of its uae female pilotjihadist brutality. Quite extraordinary. As NPR reported this morning, “the Saudi’s released photographs of the pilots” involved—two of them “sons of senior princes”—because “the royal family wants to show they are ready to put their own sons on the front line.” The UAE even released a photograph of a woman who is flying missions, which may strike additional fear in the minds of some of the religious fanatics connected to ISIL, because apparently some of them “believe they’ll go to hell if they die at a woman’s hands.”

I know most of you have by now heard President Obama’s remarks in New York yesterday, but I want to highlight two passages that pretty much say it all about terrorism in general and ISIS in particular. First the general statement President made at the United Nations Security Council Summit on Foreign Terrorist Fighters:

Resolutions alone will not be enough.  Promises on paper cannot keep us safe.  Lofty rhetoric and good intentions will not stop a single terrorist attack.

The words spoken here today must be matched and translated into action, into deeds — concrete action, within nations and between them, not just in the days ahead, but for years to come. For if there was ever a challenge in our interconnected world that cannot be met by any one nation alone, it is this:  terrorists crossing borders and threatening to unleash unspeakable violence.  These terrorists believe our countries will be unable to stop them.  The safety of our citizens demand that we do.  And I’m here today to say that all of you who are committed to this urgent work will find a strong and steady partner in the United States of America. 

That last sentence should be emphasized. Without the United States, without a general American commitment to remain a strong and reliable partner with other world nations, the fight against specific terrorist groups will be a feeble one. And as for the specific terrorist group we are fighting in Iraq and Syria, the President made a few things clear, as he spoke before the U.N. General Assembly:

…the terrorist group known as ISIL must be degraded and ultimately destroyed.

This group has terrorized all who they come across in Iraq and Syria.  Mothers, sisters, daughters have been subjected to rape as a weapon of war.  Innocent children have been gunned down.  Bodies have been dumped in mass graves.  Religious minorities have been starved to death.  In the most horrific crimes imaginable, innocent human beings have been beheaded, with videos of the atrocity distributed to shock the conscience of the world.

No God condones this terror.  No grievance justifies these actions.  There can be no reasoning — no negotiation — with this brand of evil.  The only language understood by killers like this is the language of force.  So the United States of America will work with a broad coalition to dismantle this network of death.

That line, “The only language understood by killers like this is the language of force,” may disturb some people who think our actions to degrade and destroy what President Obama called “this network of death” will only perpetuate the violence and breed more terrorists in the future. But the President is right. And for those who think he is wrong, they are obliged to tell us just what alternative language will work to stop the advance of ISIL, to stop the raping of mothers and sisters and daughters, to stop the murder of children, to stop the public beheadings.

In the mean time, here’s to hoping even more women will be dropping bombs or firing missiles at those ISIL bastards. Hell, I hear, has plenty of room.

“A Day Of Shame”

I implore all of you, all of you who care about our once-cherished political institutions, to watch Lawrence O’Donnell’s “Rewrite” segment from Tuesday night’s program (posted below), a segment detailing the Senate’s rejection, by a vote of 61-38, of the United Nations treaty to ban discrimination against people with disabilities. The treaty, which was negotiated under and initially signed by George W. Bush, needed 66 votes to pass.

Missouri’s Republican senator, Roy Blunt, was in the minority, in the minority of “shame,” as O’Donnell, who worked in the Senate for seven years, would have it. So were both senators from Kansas. And bob dole in senate chamberboth senators from Oklahoma. This shameful minority is emblematic of what is wrong with the Republican Party, of what is wrong with a significant number of our fellow Americans who support such extremism and paranoia, as exhibited in that Senate vote.

Before you watch the segment below, I want to relate a personal note. My cousin, Larry, was afflicted with polio as a kid. I thought about him when I heard what Republicans did in the Senate on Tuesday.

More than twenty years ago, when I was a die-hard conservative, Larry sat in his wheelchair, in my living room, and explained to me why parking lot spaces, those closest to a building’s entrance, were rightly reserved for disabled folks and why that was a good thing. Why providing for unfettered access to sidewalks and buildings was also a good thing, and not a big-government infringement on liberty, as I then thought all such things were (yes, again, that’s why this is a “Blog of Repentance”).

Larry, who has since passed away, made me think, and then later convinced me, that I needed to enlarge my perspective and see things from the point of view of someone who had to maneuver through life over and around unnecessary obstacles, obstacles that could easily be removed out of respect for the dignity of folks who, for one reason or another, could not walk and thus could not surmount curbs and other ordinary, but artificial, barriers.

Yes, Larry made me think. And, God only knows, how much he made me re-think my extreme conservatism, how much he contributed to my release from the prison of reactionary philosophy. So, as you watch the following segment, know that, as I can testify, there is hope for those who disgrace themselves with obscurantist, right-wing zealotry:

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Obama, The Jewish Problem, and Christian Zealots

Christian conservatives claim to love Israel—some seem to love it more than their own country—but they may someday love it to death.

Simply put, if there is ever to be a sustainable, at-peace democratic Jewish state, there has to be a sustainable, at-peace democratic Palestinian state. The destinies of these two peoples are woven together, a reality each has to eventually recognize.

But that reality is not one which American Christian conservatives—the driving force behind the hard-line nature of the Republican Party’s positions on Israeli-Palestinian relations—can recognize. It’s all right there in the Bible, don’t you know.

It’s got to the point that if President Obama dares to even criticize the weather in Israel, he has forsaken the Jews in the minds of GOP Bible-thumpers.  Never mind, as John Heilemann pointed out a few days ago, that Obama is as good a friend as Israel has had among recent presidents and may be, at the proper viewing angle, “every bit as pro-Israel as the country’s own prime minister.”

As Obama and that prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and the rest of the United Nations gather in New York, the talk of the town and the world is the pending, or potentially pending, request by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to have the U.N. recognize “Palestine” as a new member state.

As it stands, 3.5 million Palestinians live in the Abbas’  West Bank, without basic civil rights. 

Netanyahu—whose governing coalition in Israel, as John Heilemann notes, is “held together by far-right nationalist, fundamentalist, and even proto-fascistic elements“— complains that pushing for unilateral statehood is wrong and not conducive to a negotiated settlement between the parties. 

But the problem is those negotiations have stalled, and their history hasn’t been all that successful you may have noticed.  As far as unilateral actions, Gideon Levy points out the “mother of all unilateral steps” is the ongoing construction of Jewish settlements in disputed territory.

Levy also points out that the Palestinians at this point seem to have only three options:

♦ “to surrender unconditionally and go on living under Israeli occupation for another 42 years at least”

 ♦ “to launch a third intifada”

♦ “to mobilize the world on their behalf”

Since they seem to have picked the third option, Levy says that constitutes “the lesser of all evils from Israel’s perspective.” Makes sense to me.

But not to Netanyahu, who many observers believe doesn’t ever want a Palestinian state.  And, unfortunately, it will fall to President Obama to cover for the intractable Israeli leader.

It’s easy to understand the dilemma Mr. Obama faces here. Netanyahu’s failure to seize the several opportunities he has had to achieve progress has put the President in a no-win situation. As Tzipi Livni, leader of the largest party in the Israeli Knesset, put it:

Friends of Israel no longer understand Israel’s policies or what it wants. The prime minister is not believed.

This government’s diplomatic stupidity is putting the US in a corner. America is making sure we won’t be isolated, but what is our government doing? The time has come for the prime minister to stop preventing a diplomatic process. If he does, a vote in the UN won’t be necessary and we will be able to remain a Jewish, democratic state. Netanyahu can still make decisions to prevent the vote in the UN. It’s still not too late.

Failing any last-minute effort by Netanyahu to undo the damage he has done, Obama and the United States will likely veto any effort by the Security Council to honor Abbas’ request for statehood.

Despite the logic of the Palestinian position that Gideon Levy outlined, if Mr. Obama supports that logical Palestinian position, he risks alienating even further an important constituency: the Jewish voter.

As Heilemann points out in his piece, Obama’s approval rating among Jewish voters is falling, from 83 percent after his inauguration, to 55 percent now. Heilemann quotes a “prolific fund-raiser” as saying,

We have a big-time Jewish problem.

And let’s not forget that the meme pushed by the right-wing in this country is that Obama’s loyalty is not to our ally, Israel, but to the other side.  Rick Perry, evangelical fanatic, followed Mr. Obama to New York today and, in the words of The Guardian:

The confrontation over the Palestinian bid to win recognition of a state at the United Nations has shifted to the US presidential race as Rick Perry, the leading Republican contender, accused Barack Obama of appeasing terrorists and betraying Israel…

“The Obama administration has appeased the Arab street at the expense of our national security,” he said.

These things are what Netanyahu—who last May publicly tried to humiliate the President and lied about his position on the 1967 borders—would say, if he were free to do so.  Leave it to a Christian zealot, who wants to be President of the United States, to accuse the current president of appeasing terrorists and betraying an ally. 

There is just no shame among American Christian extremists, but neither that, nor the so-called Jewish problem, should stop Mr. Obama from doing the right thing in New York and support some kind of recognition of Palestinian statehood via the United Nations, should it come to that. With input from the U.S. and Israel, the process could be shaped to serve the interests of a long-term settlement.

As Joel Brinkley pointed out, Obama has much to lose and little to gain by a U.S. veto of the Palestinian request for statehood:

Think about it. Even as Israel’s traditional patron state, the United States is making tenuous gains in the Arab world by participating in NATO’s action in Libya and providing aid to rebel groups in Egypt, Yemen and elsewhere.

With the veto, all of that would be undone. The United States would be a pariah once again. In fact, Saudi Arabia, another of Washington’s traditional allies in the region, is warning that it would curtail relations with America and pursue policies that are anathema to Washington.

And besides all that, remember Gideon Levy’s statement of the Palestinian logic: Surrender, launch yet another intifada, or appeal to the world for recognition.

If the United States stands in their way, a possible result—despite Abbas’ pledge not to “return to intifada“—may be more violence, more killing, and a continued threat to a democratic Israel.  Abbas may not be able to control the outcome of a conspiracy between Israel and the U.S. to deny him statehood through the U.N.

If Christian zealots truly love Israel—apart from their Bible-based fatalistic notion that the End of Time is wrapped up in Israel’s unalterable fate—they and Obama should tell conservative Jews a tough truth: it is time to recognize the legitimacy of a Palestinian state, if only for their own good. 

Heilemann sums up the matter precisely:

Given the demographic realities it faces—the growth of the Palestinian population in the territories and also of the Arab population in Israel itself—our ally confronts a fundamental and fateful choice: It can remain democratic and lose its Jewish character; it can retain its Jewish character but become an apartheid state; or it can remain both Jewish and democratic, satisfy Palestinian national aspirations, facilitate efforts to contain Iran, alleviate the international opprobrium directed at it, and reap the enormous security and economic benefits of ending the conflict by taking up the task of the creation of a viable Palestinian state—one based, yes, on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed upon land swaps, with East Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital.

Monday Morning Presidents

“Left unaddressed, the growing instability in Libya could ignite wider instability in the Middle East, with dangerous consequences to the national security interests of the United States.”

                        —Barack Obama, Letter to the Congress regarding the commencement of operations in Libya

 

Each political party is split over Libya.  War does that.

Democrats, some with legitimate concerns about executive branch overreach, are coming down on each side. Dennis Kucinich has even suggested impeachment, although he dialed that back on Monday night. 

Republicans are both for and against the President’s actions, some taking both positions at the same time.  Senator Dick Lugar of Indiana is even worried about the cost of the Libyan action, the years and years and billions upon billions of dollars spent in Iraq-Afghanistan apparently having escaped his notice.

Movement conservatives, as usual, are hysterical, albeit in disparate ways.  Newt Gingrich, when Obama hadn’t acted, wanted him to act. When Obama did act, Gingrich changed his mind. Sort of. 

Frank Gaffney, who has obviously lost command of his faculties, wrote the following on Big Peace, a site created by the morally-defective Andrew Breitbart:

What I find particularly concerning is the prospect that what we might call the Qaddafi Precedent will be used in the not-to-distant future to justify and threaten the use of U.S. military forces against an American ally: Israel.

I will spare you the details of this Beckian conspiracy, but suffice it to say that the whole Libyan thing is a pretext for “raining down cruise missiles on Israeli targets in the West Bank.”

Joe Scarborough, whose rantings this morning were not a substitute for a coherent position, said this morning that Obama handled the crisis perfectly last week but this week he “stumbled into an African civil war.” 

Scarborough, like others, played the “double-standard” card, asking why we aren’t in Bahrain, Yemen, Syria, and on and on.  Never mind that the Arab League or the United Nations or Europe aren’t interested in going into those places and thus we would have to do it alone, something Scarborough claims, speaking out of the other side of his mouth, we cannot do.

Or Scarborough and others ask why we didn’t go into Rwanda or Sudan or, again, on and on.  Never mind that Barack Obama was not president during those times and thus is not responsible for our failure to act at the time.  In any case, does the fact that we failed to do something we maybe should have done in our history obligate us to keep on not doing it? Huh?

Pat Buchanan claimed, and received much agreement among Morning Joe panelists, that Obama’s actions, including bombing Kaddafi’s Bab al-Azizia military compound in Tripoli, went beyond the U.N. resolution authorizing the Libyan assault.  Except that all one has to do is read that resolution and see how wrong Buchanan and others are about that. 

While the Security Council excludes “a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory,” it does authorize “all necessary measures” to “protect civilians.”  Before going on television and spouting such nonsense, these people should at least read the damn document.

I heard some say that since Obama claimed Kaddafi “must go,” if we fail to get him to go, the mission is a failure. Anyone who thinks that doesn’t understand the difference between the President’s desire and the objective of the actual mission.  Nowhere in Obama’s direct statements about the mission does he say the point is to remove or kill Kaddafi.

I confess that the more I listen to Obama’s critics, both left and right, the more I am convinced his actions were wise—under the circumstances.  This is one of those times when there is an intersection between our national interests—regional stability including oil price stability during these tenuous economic times—and our concern for humanitarian interests.  And in his letter to Congress, Obama made both of those points:

U.S. military forces commenced operations to assist an international effort authorized by the United Nations (U.N.) Security Council and undertaken with the support of European allies and Arab partners, to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe and address the threat posed to international peace and security by the crisis in Libya.

And,

Left unaddressed, the growing instability in Libya could ignite wider instability in the Middle East, with dangerous consequences to the national security interests of the United States.

Sure, we have interests in the Middle East, most of which revolve around our dependence on oil and thus our dependence on relatively stable and predictable oil prices.  There’s not a damn thing wrong with the United States protecting its interests, economic or otherwise. 

What galls some on both sides of the ideological divide is that we are also making the argument that our actions are based on humanitarian considerations. They claim we are being hypocritical. No. We’re not.  As the Obama quotes above make clear, we are acting for both reasons.  And we are acting in concert with Britain and Europe and the Arab world.  For a change.

As Ed Rendell pointed out this morning, what would these critics of the Libyan intervention be saying today if instead of acting, we would have stood by and watched the slaughter of thousands upon thousands of civilians at the hands of a man who vowed to show no mercy to them?  Many of the same critics would ask why we let that happen, when all we had to do was institute a no-fly zone. 

Clearly, Mr. Obama’s worst critics, as usual, want to have it both ways. He dithered. He stumbled. He waited on the French. Yet, he acted too swiftly. He violated the Constitution. He should have waited on a vote of the Congress.

Except that the time had run out. It was either act or likely thousands would have died.  As I have said previously, I could understand the motive to both act and not act.  But now that I have heard the Monday morning presidents talk, it appears to me that Mr. Obama—so long as he remains true to his statements about the limited nature of our actions—has done the right thing.

And now that the immediate mission seems to have succeeded, the President needs to clarify what our mission is going forward. There is still a messy civil war going on in Libya and certainly we have taken sides.  Just how much more we will do on behalf of the rebels is the great uncertainty at this point.

It remains for Mr. Obama to explain what comes next, if anything.

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