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Posts Tagged ‘Nancy Pelosi

 

This US Congress is back to high school status: Prostituting politics?

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the U.S. Senate!

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to Congress on March 3rd, 2015.

Standing ovation and frequent standing to applaud plenty of farting statements?

Israeli Prime Minister’s visit inspires bitchy barbs and insults, and nobody came out of this week looking good

Years ago, when I was just starting in this business, I had the privilege to meet a well-known muckraker and columnist. I asked him the secret of his success.

“Two things,” he said.

“One: when you’re hammered after a night out, drink an entire liter of water before you go to bed. An entire liter, do you understand? Otherwise the whole next work day is shot.”

“An entire liter,” I said. “Got it.”

Second, never write about Israel. It just pisses people off. No matter what you say, you lose half your Rolodex.”

I frowned. How he could ignore such an important topic? Didn’t he care?

“Son,” he said, “we’re prostitutes. We don’t enjoy the sex.”

After Netanyahu Speech, Congress Is Officially High School

By March 6, 2015

Mainly by accident, I sort of ended up following that advice, but I did watch the Benjamin Netanyahu speech and its aftermath this week. A few thoughts on one of the more unseemly scenes Congress has cooked up in a while:

Benjamin Netanyahu

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to Congress on March 3rd, 2015. Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty

First of all, the applause from members of the House and Senate was so over the top, it recalled the famous passage in the Gulag Archipelago about the apparatchik approach to a Stalin speech: “Never be the first one to stop clapping.”

Watching it, you’d almost have thought the members were experiencing a similar terror of being caught looking unenthusiastic.

I say almost because in reality, it’s a silly thought, in a democracy: nobody’s getting taken out back and shot for showing boredom.

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But then, no kidding at all, a gif apparently showing Rand Paul clapping with insufficient fervor rocketed around social media.

It got enough attention that the Washington Post wrote about it and Paul himself had to issue a statement on Fox and Friends denying he wasn’t clapping really, really hard. “I gave the Prime Minister 50 standing ovations. I co-sponsored bringing him here,” Paul pleaded. Is the Internet age beautiful or what?

But the telescreens weren’t just watching the Republicans. Cameras also captured Nancy Pelosi looking somewhat south of enraptured during the speech.

Those photos only circulated more after she said she was “near tears” because she was saddened by Netanyahu’s speech, which she termed an “insult to the intelligence of the United States.”

This in turn led to more social media avalanching and a cartoonish response from South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, who told a donor at a fund-raiser: “Did you see Nancy Pelosi on the floor? Complete disgust. . .If you can get through all the surgeries, there’s disgust!”

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the U.S. Senate!

If Kathy Griffin ever bombs out on Fashion Police, Graham will have a job waiting for him.

After Bloomberg traitorously reported on Graham’s locker-room joke about Pelosi’s face, a storm of criticism from Democrat members raged and the Senator was forced to walk his comments back (“I made a poor attempt at humor,” he said, in what is looking like the go-to lawyer-drafted apology line of our times).

All of this preening and adolescent defiance, all these bitchy homeroom-style barbs and insults: has the U.S. government ever seemed more like high school?

Harry Reid, Benjamin Netanyahu and Mitch McConnell
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (L), and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (R), pose with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Washington, DC on March 3rd, 2015. Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty

Indiana Republican Jackie Walorski apparently thinks school’s still in. This is her reacting after Netanyahu’s speech, according to Slate:

“Wooh, baby! That was awesome!”

Around the world, not everyone was so enthused.

Several Israeli diplomats took to Twitter to voice their concerns over Netanyahu’s appearance.

(Everybody tweeted about this speech. There were more Iranian officials on Twitter Tuesday than there were sportswriters at the Super Bowl).

Yigal Caspi, Israel’s ambassador to Switzerland, retweeted a line from an Israeli journalist: “Is it no longer possible to suffice in scaring us here in Hebrew? [Netanyahu] has to fly all the way to the US Congress and tell them in English how dangerous Iran’s nuclear program is?”

Caspi and two other diplomats got the axe for their social media responses to the speech.

Meanwhile, British journalist Jeremy Bowen got caught in the Twitter Punji-trap when he made a comment about Elie Wiesel, the author and Holocaust survivor who sat in the Speaker’s box with Netanyahu’s wife, Sara.

A safe joke to make about Wiesel’s presence probably would have been something along the lines of, “I guess that book Elie was planning on co-writing with Barack Obama is on hold.”

The BBC’s Bowen went in a different direction, bluntly declaring that Netanyahu was “playing the Holocaust card” by bringing the Nobel laureate and camp survivor.

Instantly accused of anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial, Bowen and the BBC insisted that he was just using “journalistic shorthand,” and that the wording was appropriate because Netanyahu was raising the “spectre of another Holocaust.”

As of this writing, Twitter warriors are still feasting on Bowen’s head and should have him skeletonized by nightfall.

Nobody came out of this week looking good.

Regardless of where you stood on a possible nuclear deal with Iran, the whole episode this week made the American government look like what some in the Iranian press apparently called it: a clown show.

Once upon a time, the opposition party pursuing a second line of foreign policy for domestic political purposes was considered unseemly.

Think candidate Dick Nixon submarining the 1968 Vietnam Peace talks behind LBJ’s back, or the fabled October Surprise conspiracy theory.

This was something one did in secret, preferably in trench coats instead of ties, with no press at all present, unless you count Sy Hersh’s future sources.

But this was like the October Surprise as a pay-per-view MMA event.

That this sleazy scheme was cooked up mainly for the political gain of both the hosts and the speaker (who faces an election in two weeks) was obvious in about a hundred different ways, beginning with the fact that the speech was apparently timed so that Israeli audiences could watch it over dinner.

But the gambit only sort of worked for Netanyahu, whose Likud Party has experienced only a modest bounce since the speech, if it got one at all.

American news outlets humorously had different takes on the same polls showing Likud gaining one or two seats (HuffPo: “Netanyahu’s Popularity Rises After Speech to U.S. Congress: Polls”; Washington Post: “Netanyahu’s Speech to Congress Fails to Jolt Electoral Needle At Home”).

Similarly, if the move had any benefit to the Republicans in congress, it was hard to perceive.

Nobody in the media drew a link between Bibi’s speech and the Republicans’ surrender on the Homeland Security funding bill, but on some level there must have been one.

You can’t invite a foreign leader into the House Gallery to accuse a sitting president of being soft on terrorism in an event covered by 10 million journalists, and then turn around the same week and defund the president’s Homeland Security department over some loony immigration objective.

Even worse, the decision to try to conduct their own foreign policy in the shadow of the White House went over so badly with American voters, it actually gave Barack Obama a 5-point sympathy bump in his approval rating.

Put it all together, and the Republicans’ big rollout this week had to be the most self-defeating political pincer move since the Judean Peoples’ Front sent their Crack Suicide Squad to the rescue in Life of Brian.

This was a week that made everyone look bad: congress, the media, Netanyahu, the Tweeting Supreme Leader in Iran, everyone. Obama only came out looking OK because he mostly stayed off camera and kept his mouth shut.

Mostly, however, it was just a depressing, circus-like demonstration of how schizoid and dysfunctional Washington politics have become.

The logical next step after a caper like this is the opening of Republican and Democratic embassies abroad. Let’s hope it’s a long time before anyone tries this again.

Read more: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/after-netanyahu-speech-congress-is-officially-high-school-20150306#ixzz3Toz4FYqK
Follow us: @rollingstone on Twitter | RollingStone on Facebook

 

Iraq’s problems are not timeless. The U.S. is responsible.

With the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS,  faction of Al Qaeda) taking over cities in Iraq one by one, Rosen’s words have proven true. Though, as it turns out, it is the Sunnis going to war against the Shias in power this time around.

(The minority Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein ruled Iraq for 3 decades until the US forces displaced him and succumbed to the Iraqi morass for 8 long years, as long as the Iraqi-Iranian war lasted 2 decades ago).

And, while the Sunnis have not quite been “cleansed” from Baghdad, the Shia/Sunni conflict has been unrelenting, and Nouri al-Maliki’s sectarian policies seem to have prompted the most recent rounds of violence. (Even the Kurds are taking advantage of the conflict to secure land.)

How was Rosen able to make such a prescient statement? While critics blame Obama’s policies for the deteriorating situation, Rosen agrees with Nancy Pelosi, who said the current crisis “represents the failed policies that took us down this path 10 years ago.”

Rosen, who was an independent, unembedded reporter in Iraq on and off for two years, writes:

When Baghdad fell, on April 9, 2003, and widespread violence erupted, the primary victims were Iraq’s Sunnis. For Shias, this was justice. “It is the beginning of the separation,” one Shia cleric told me with a smile in the spring of 2003.

Saddam had used Sunni Islam to legitimize his power, building one large Sunni mosque in each Shia city in the south; these mosques were seized by Shias immediately after the regime collapsed. . . .

Some realignment of power was inevitable after Saddam’s removal, and perhaps not even shared opposition to the American occupation could have united Sunnis and Shias. As it happened, the occupation divided Iraqis between those seen as anti-occupation and those seen as pro-occupation.

For Rosen, the seeds of this conflict were planted from the beginning, and “enshrined” by United States’s attempt to democratize Iraq, as sectarian parties failed to win seats:

The American sectarian approach has created the civil war [in Iraq]. We saw Iraqis as Sunnis, Shias, Kurds. We designed a governing council based on a sectarian quota system and ignored Iraqis (not exiled politicians but real Iraqis) who warned us against it.

We decided that the Sunnis were the bad guys and the Shias were the good guys. These problems were not timeless. In many ways they are new, and we are responsible for them. The tens of thousands of cleansed Iraqis, the relatives of those killed by the death squads, the sectarian supporters and militias firmly ensconced in the government and its ministries, the Shia refusal to relinquish their long-awaited control over Iraq, the Kurdish commitment to secession, the Sunni harboring of Salafi jihadists—all militate against anything but full-scale civil war.

Indeed, in 2003, Juan Cole pointed to the U.S. preference for Shias:

In removing the Baath regime and eliminating constraints on Iraqi Islamism, the United States has unleashed a new political force in the Gulf: not the upsurge of civic organization and democratic sentiment fantasized by American neoconservatives, but the aspirations of Iraqi Shiites to build an Islamic republic.

But in the next breath, he makes it clear how unlikely it was that the Shias could remain in control:

To be sure, the dreams of a Shiite Islamic republic in Baghdad may be unrealistic: a plurality of the country is Sunni (wrong data, the Shiaa are the majority, now and then), and some proportion of the 14 million Shiites is secularist.

And even before the United States entered Iraq, John W. Dower, reflecting on the experience of postwar Japan, told us not “expect democracy in Iraq”: “Put simply, one of the reasons the reformist agenda succeeded is that Japan was spared the type of fierce tribal, religious, and political factionalism that exists in countries like Iraq today.” He writes:

I have no doubt that huge numbers of Iraqis would welcome the end of repression and establishment of a democratic society, but any number of considerations make the situation there very different than it was in Japan.

Apart from lacking the moral legitimacy and internal and global support that buttressed its occupation of Japan, the United States is not in the business of nation-building any more—just look at Afghanistan. And we certainly are not in the business of promoting radical democratic reform. Even liberal ideals are anathema in the conservative circles that shape U.S. policy today.

The central tensions in Iraq, sadly, seem nowhere close to being solved. It is just as true now as it was in 2006 when Rosen was writing, and in 2003 when we entered Iraq, that:

The once confident and aggressive Sunnis now see the state as their enemy. They are very afraid. All Iraqis are.

Photograph: James Gordon

Two buttocks in same pant: Democrat and Republican?

Do Democrat and Republican elites and mass media bosses cover one another back in times of “emergency”? Like mass upheaval and crimes against humanity…, in order to defend an immunity that they might one day need themselves?

This is an excerpt of  published on Nov. 1, under “America’s Elites Look Out for Each Other

“Given the clarity of this law [Article 2 of the Convention Against Torture] and its multiple reiterations, what can explain the resolve of the political and media class to ignore it?

Why do ostensibly adverse factions leap to one another’s defense even in cases of egregious criminality, with Democrats shielding Republicans, media figures demanding no transparency or accountability for political officials, self-proclaimed populist politicians devoting themselves to the protection of Wall Street?

One easy answer is that those factions are not really adversaries, at least not in any way that counts.

All their members belong to the same class — the powerful and the elite — and thus are motivated to defend an immunity that they might one day need themselves.

But the unanimous support for Bush-era war criminals is motivated by more than just shared self-interest: it has at least as much to do with shared guilt.

Bush officials did not commit their crimes by themselves. Virtually, the entire Washington establishment supported or at least enabled the lawbreaking.

Leading members of the Democratic Party were implicated in various ways.

In July 2008, the reporter Jane Mayer was asked in a Harper’s interview why there was so little push by Democrats — the “opposition party” — for investigations into Bush programs of torture, warrantless eavesdropping, and the like. She pointed out that one “complicating factor is that key members of Congress sanctioned [these activities], so many of those who might ordinarily be counted on to lead the charge are themselves compromised.”

Indeed, key congressional Democrats were contemporaneously briefed on what the Bush administration was doing, albeit often in vague and unspecific ways. The fact that they did nothing to stop the illegal plans, and often explicitly approved of them, obviously gives leading Democratic officials an incentive to block any investigations or judicial proceedings.

In December 2007, the Washington Post reported that, back in 2002, the CIA had briefed a bipartisan group of Congress people on its use of waterboarding and other torture tactics. That group included the ranking members of both the Senate and House intelligence committees: Jay Rockefeller and Nancy Pelosi.

Yet, reported the Post, “no objections were raised. Instead, at least two lawmakers in the room asked the CIA to push harder.”

Similarly, several leading Democrats, including Rockefeller and Representative Jane Harman, were told that the Bush administration was eavesdropping on Americans without warrants. Rockefeller did nothing to stop it, and Harman actually became the administration’s leading defender.

After the illegal program was revealed by the New York Times, Jane Harman publicly stated that the wiretapping was “both necessary and legal.”

Two years after reporter Eric Lichtblau coauthored the story revealing the Bush NSA program, he revealed that Harman had attempted to convince him not to write about the program on the ground that it was so vital. Appearing on MSNBC in June 2008, the law professor Jonathan Turley pointed out the logical result of this bipartisan support for the crimes.

There’s no question in my mind that there is an obvious level of collusion here. We now know that the Democratic leadership knew about the illegal surveillance program almost from its inception. Even when they were campaigning about fighting for civil liberties, they were aware of an unlawful surveillance program as well as a torture program. And ever since that came out, the Democrats have been silently trying to kill any effort to hold anyone accountable because that list could very well include some of their own members.

As Mayer put it, “Figures in both parties would find it very hard at this point to point the finger at the White House, without also implicating themselves.”

The opinion-making elites were similarly implicated. Very few media figures with any significant platform can point to anything they did or said to oppose the lawbreaking — and they know that.

Indeed, some of the nation’s most prominent “liberal commentators” vocally supported Bush’s policies.

It was Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter who became the first establishment media figure to openly advocate torturing prisoners.  Jonathan Alter, in his November 4, 2001, Newsweek column (headlined “Time to Think About Torture”), began by proclaiming that “in this autumn of anger, even a liberal can find his thoughts turning to … torture” and went on to suggest “transferring some suspects to our less squeamish allies.”

It was Alan Dershowitz who argued for the creation of “torture warrants,” proposing for cases such as the proverbial “ticking time bomb” that “judicially monitored physical measures designed to cause excruciating pain” should be made “part of our legal system.”

It was the writers of the Washington Post editorial page who hailed the Military Commissions Act — the single most repressive law enacted during the Bush era, crucial parts of which the Supreme Court ultimately struck down as unconstitutional — as a “remarkably good bill” that “balances profound and difficult interests thoughtfully and with considerable respect both for the uniqueness of the current conflict and for the American tradition of fair trials and due process.”

When it comes to media figures who cheered on Bush’s lawlessness and then self-serve demanded that there be no investigations, the Washington Post’s David Broder is a particularly illustrative case. In April 2009, he wrote a column dramatically denouncing the Bush presidency as “one of the darkest chapters of American history, when certain terrorist suspects were whisked off to secret prisons and subjected to waterboarding and other forms of painful coercion in hopes of extracting information about threats to the United States.”

Despite this acknowledgment, Broder in the same column opposed any criminal investigations of the Bush torture regime, proclaiming Obama “right to declare that there should be no prosecution of those who carried out what had been the policy of the United States government.”

Given Broder’s acknowledgment of how horrific Bush’s presidency had been, what explains his simultaneous opposition to investigations? Like most of his journalistic colleagues, the dean of the Washington press corps never sounded the alarm while this lawlessness was taking place, when it mattered. He did the opposite, repeatedly mocking those who warned of how radical and dangerous the Bush administration was.

As torture went on, David Broder continuously defended what Bush officials were doing as perfectly normal and well within the bounds of legitimate policy.

After the 2004 election, Broder dismissed those who were arguing that Bush and Cheney had succeeded in entrenching presidential lawlessness. “Checks and balances are still there,” he insisted. “The nation does not face ‘another dark age,’ unless you consider politics with all its tradeoffs and bargaining a black art.

In 2006, he derided those who warned that the “war on terror” had ushered in an era of extreme lawlessness by sarcastically proclaiming, “I’d like to assure you that Washington is calm and quiet this morning, and democracy still lives here,” and Broder denounced Bush critics “who get carried away by their own rhetoric.”

Broder’s 2009 recognition that the Bush presidency was “one of the darkest chapters of American history” came, of course, with no acknowledgment of his 2004 declaration that “the nation does not face ‘another dark age.’”

So when these media and political elites are defending Bush officials, minimizing their crimes, and arguing that no one should be held accountable, they’re actually defending themselves as well. Just as Jane Harman and Jay Rockefeller can’t possibly demand investigations for actions in which they were complicit, media stars can’t possibly condemn acts that they supported or toward which, at the very best, they turned a blissfully blind eye.

Bush officials must be exonerated, or at least have their crimes forgotten — look to the future and ignore the past, the journalists all chime in unison — so that their own involvement might also be overlooked.

In this world, it is perfectly fine to say that a president is inept or even somewhat corrupt. A titillating, tawdry sex scandal, such as the Bill Clinton brouhaha, can be fun, even desirable as a way of keeping entertainment levels high.

Such revelations are all just part of the political cycle. But to acknowledge that our highest political officials are felons (which is what people are, by definition, who break our laws) or war criminals (which is what people are, by definition, who violate the laws of war) is to threaten the system of power, and that is unthinkable.

Above all else, media figures are desperate to maintain the current power structure, as it is their role within it that provides them with prominence, wealth, and self-esteem. Their prime mandate then becomes protecting and defending Washington, which means attacking anyone who would dare suggest that the government has been criminal at its core.

The members of the political and media establishment do not join forces against the investigations and prosecutions because they believe that nothing bad was done. On the contrary, they resist accountability precisely because they know there was serious wrongdoing — and they know they bear part of the culpability for it.

The consensus mantra that the only thing that matters is to “make sure it never happens again” is simply the standard cry of every criminal desperate for escape: “I promise not to do it again if you don’t punish me this time“.

And the Beltway battle cry of “look to the future, not the past!” is what all political power systems tell their subjects to do when they want to flush their own crimes down the memory hole.

In the long run, immunity from legal accountability ensures that criminality and corruption will continue. Vesting the powerful with license to break the law guarantees high-level lawbreaking. Indeed, it encourages such behavior. One need only look at what’s happened in the United States over the last decade to see the proof.” End of the excerpt.

Note 1: With Liberty and Justice for Some: How the Law is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful by Glenn Greenwald, published October 25th by Metropolitan Books, an imprint of Henry Holt and Company, LLC. Copyright © 2011 by Glenn Greenwald. All rights reserved.

Note 2: https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2010/09/26/part-3-election-laws-regulations-and-procedurescan-capitalist-systems-be-reformed/


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