January 18, 2009 archive

An ex-GOP’r responds to a current GOP’r

It’s no secret that I am a former Republican.  So, when I read an article by a current Republican talking about how the GOP needs to reform, I want to see what ideas they have to share.

I was able, due to the individual being a professor, to find his email and respond to him directly.  

My response is below…

Deadly Democracy: Lancet Study Confirms Millions Died From “Shock Therapy”

The world has become so inured to mass death, perhaps the following will merit little comment or outrage among our political punditry, even if the story did make the back pages of the New York Times.

A new Lancet study, “Mass privatisation and the post-communist mortality crisis,” confirms what has been known but little discussed in the past eight to ten years: millions of people, mostly men of employment age, died as a result of the effects of the “shock therapy” transition from a collectivized to a privatized economy in Russia and other formerly “communist” states in East Europe. According to the Times article, by 2007 “the life expectancy of Russian men was less than 60 years, compared with 67 years in 1985.”  

Café Discovery: statuary

Last time I displayed some photos from the Haupt Conservatory at the New York Botanical Garden, which Debbie and I visited on January 8 in order to see the Holiday Train Show.

The Train Show photos will be shown in the future, but that will take awhile since I have 79 of them to pour through…and then there are the ones Debbie took with her camera.

But that’s not all we did while we were there.  There was an exhibit called Kiku:  The Art of the Japanese Chrysanthemum at the LuEsther T. Mertz Library which I wanted to see very much, to add to the knowledge of the Edo Period I gained in my visit to LACMA last summer.

They didn’t allow photos in the museum, so I made do with photos of some public art out in front of the library.

WS now wants to cut SS & Medicare because we can’t afford it.

Guardian:  The classic definition of “chutzpah” is the kid who kills both of his parents and then begs for mercy because he is an orphan. The Wall Street crew are out to top this. After wrecking the economy with their convoluted finances, and tapping the US Treasury for trillions in bail-out bucks, they now want to cut Social Security and Medicare because we don’t have the money.

If there is any effort in Congress to follow-up on this talk about taking away people’s Social Security and Medicare, then there will have to be some very serious pain inflicted on the politicians in Washington. Let’s start with some facts.

Unlike Robert Rubin’s Citigroup, Social Security is solidly funded long into the future. According to the latest report from the Congressional Budget Office (pdf), it can pay all promised benefits through the year 2049, with no changes whatsoever. Even after that date it will always be able to pay benefits that are far higher than what current retirees receive.


(cross-posted in orange)

Torturing His Supporters

Hat tip to Armando this morning, for: AP: Obama Team Debating Violating UN Convention On Torture

The other day, the AP reported:

President-elect Barack Obama is preparing to prohibit the use of waterboarding and other harsh interrogation techniques by ordering the CIA to follow military rules for questioning prisoners, according to two U.S. officials familiar with drafts of the plans. Still under debate is whether to allow exceptions in extraordinary cases.

. . . Obama’s changes may not be absolute. His advisers are considering adding a classified loophole to the rules that could allow the CIA to use some interrogation methods not specifically authorized by the Pentagon, the officials said. They said the intent is not to use that as an opening for possible use of waterboarding, an interrogation technique that simulates drowning.

As Glenn Greenwald points out, such a “loophole” would constitute a violation of the UN Convention on Torture, codified as a crime under US law:

We all know by now, or we should know by now, that Obama has no problem endlessly torturing people who put him where he is with talk of torture loopholes.

The question is are the loopholes he’s talking about big enough to allow even more bush era torture fanatics like Brennan in, to enable Obama to co-opt far right GOP senators and reps?

This is all about gaining “bipartisan” support, and power. Nothing else.

There is virtually no sunlight between the two when it comes to amassing and retaining power, and when it comes right down to it any suggestion that presidential power be limited appears to justify “exceptions in extraordinary cases”, in Obama’s world.

Barack Obama appears to have the same problem (or fantasy, depending on your POV) that George Bush had,  a problem described by Phillip Carter and Dahlia Lithwick at Slate back in October 2007 in

All Wet: Why can’t we renounce waterboarding once and for all?…  

A Walk In The Lost World Of Quintana Roo

cross-posted from The Dream Antilles


The Coast of Quintana Roo, Mexico, between Bahia Soliman and Tankah

In 1958, Michel Peissel, who at age 21 was about to enter Harvard Business School, made a solo journey on foot from what would eventually become Cancun, Quintana Roo, Mexico, down the Caribbean Coast to Belize, which he described in his book, The Lost World Of Quintana Roo.

Join me in this Lost World.

Bread and Roses (New Deal TRAP Murals)

I’ve been thinking that some exploration of the public works of the New Deal might be useful.  And right away, I stumbled upon a program I’d never heard of.  Under the auspices of the Treasury Department, TRAP placed murals in post offices around the country.


Mexican muralist (& “class warrior”) Diego Rivera was an important inspiration for the project.  This is one of his works from Mexico City.


He was commissioned to do a mural at Rockefeller Center, but that didn’t work out so well.  JD’s spawn objected to VI Lenin appearing in the work, and ordered it destroyed.  A smaller version was recreated in Mexico.

Cross-posted at Daily Kos

Organizer-in-Chief 2.0

A couple of months ago I wrote about Obama as the Organizer-in-Chief, noting how he incorporated his experience as a community organizer in mobilizing millions of people all over the country into a grassroots movement to win the election.

Many have been speculating since the election about what Obama will do with this movement once he got into office and how being an organizer will affect the way he governs. On Saturday, we got some initial word on that.

Sunday music retrospective: The Point!

The Point! by Harry Nilsson

Everything’s Got ‘Em

Me and My Arrow

Change of Culture at VA Called For

From: Veterans for Common Sense

During Confirmation Hearing for New Veterans Secretary

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) questioned Retired General Eric Shinseki, President-elect Barack Obama’s nominee to be the next Secretary of Veterans Affairs, about challenges facing the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).  Senator Murray, a senior member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee and an outspoken leader in fighting for veterans’ benefits and care, discussed changing the overall culture at the VA, improving care for women veterans, and working to make the VA a more proactive agency. Secretary-Designate Shinseki”s nomination is expected to be voted on by the full Senate as part of a package of Obama administration nominees on January 20th.

Docudharma Times Sunday January 18

Just Two More Days

And Bush Is Gone

Sunday’s Headlines:

US Airways pilot knew ‘we’re gonna be in the Hudson’

North Korea issues nuclear threat

Taliban’s deadly ‘justice’ cows Pakistan

Tsvangirai back in Zimbabwe for fresh talks

Somalia: Islamist Insurgents Attack Ethiopian Military Bases in Southern Somalia

Germany threatened in ‘al-Queda’ video

Russia and Ukraine reach gas deal

Israel hopes Iran and Hezbollah get message of Gaza offensive

U.N.: Hundreds of migrants feared drowned

Israel calls a halt to its assault on Gaza

• Hamas ‘to fight on’ after ceasefire

• Olmert says war aims ‘fully attained’

Chris McGreal in Jerusalem

The Observer, Sunday 18 January 2009

Israel called a halt to its bombardment of Gaza last night after winning American and European pledges of support to shut down the Hamas weapons supply pipeline.

The Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, in effect declared Hamas was broken, saying that its power is diminishing. “The conditions have been created that our aims, as declared, were attained fully, and beyond,” he said in a televised address. “The campaign has proven Israel’s power and strengthened its deterrence.”

But Hamas said it would keep fighting for as long as Israeli troops remained in Gaza. “A unilateral ceasefire does not mean ending the aggression and ending the siege,” a spokesman said. “These constitute acts of war, so this will not mean an end to resistance.”

Rupert Cornwell: Obama: In the footsteps of Abraham Lincoln

Out of America: Barack Obama prepares to swear on Tuesday to ‘preserve, protect and defend’ the constitution of the US, but so much more rests on his shoulders. Can he fulfil the huge expectations?

Sunday, 18 January 2009

America is living a strange and magical moment. In a fickle universe, US presidential inaugurations are a quadrennial rock of predictability, like leap years and the football World Cup. But never has there been one quite like the inauguration this week of Barack Obama.

The event is always a republican version of a coronation, quasi-ecclesiastical even as it flaunts its populist trappings. But when Obama takes the oath of office at noon on Tuesday from John Roberts, the Chief Justice, the occasion will be far more, a beacon of hope in a tempest of fear. The closest in modern times was in 1961, when John F Kennedy brought hope and renewal. But back then the country was not terrified, merely jaded, in an era when the fundamentals of American civilisation seemed immutable.



Poll Finds Faith in Obama, Mixed With Patience


Published: January 17, 2009

President-elect Barack Obama is riding a powerful wave of optimism into the White House, with Americans confident he can turn the economy around but prepared to give him years to deal with the crush of problems he faces starting Tuesday, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News Poll.

While hopes for the new president are extraordinarily high, the poll found, expectations for what Mr. Obama will actually be able to accomplish appear to have been tempered by the scale of the nation’s problems at home and abroad.

Obama’s Cabinet: Who Runs What After Tuesday

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