AMERICAblog NewsA straight-shooting look at US Politics, with a focus on the Obama administration, the religious right, and civil rights, from DC-based political strategist and writer John Aravosis.


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7 years 20 weeks ago

February 21, 2011

From a knowledgeable reader:It is looking like the butchers bill is already in the thousands and will likely reach the tens of thousands before it is done.

Libya is a lot larger by area, but in terms of population is smaller than Tunisia (6.5 million vs 10 million). If the regimes in Algeria and Libya both fall and there are fair elections in all the countries toppled so far, that means a total of about 135 million people living under democracies rather than dictatorships. Or about 2% of the total global population.CNN reports that eastern Libya appears to be under opposition control.Groups of men in civilian clothing, armed with weapons ranging from shotguns to machine guns, guarded streets in eastern Libya on Monday as opposition leaders appeared to be in firm control of much of the region.

Opposition groups formed "popular committees" to maintain some sort of order after pushing out government forces in a spreading revolt against longtime strongman Moammar Gadhafi, who has led the north African country since 1969.From Bloomberg, Qaddafi's son promises rivers of blood.Libya erupted into violence last night after Muammar Qaddafi’s son threatened “rivers of blood” and deployed security forces on protesters, some of whom claimed control of the second-biggest city, Benghazi.

At least 250 people died in Tripoli alone, al-Jazeera reported, citing witnesses. Troops attacked “terror” hideouts and urged citizens to fight back the “organized gangs that are destroying Libya,” state television said. Amid the violence were signs that some officials and troops were deserting.

Categories: Politics
Democratic message guru George Lakoff on Alternet:Above all, the authority of conservatism itself must be maintained. The country should be ruled by conservative values, and progressive values are seen as evil. Science should have authority over the market, and so the science of global warming and evolution must be denied. Facts that are inconsistent with the authority of conservatism must be ignored or denied or explained away. To protect and extend conservative values themselves, the devil's own means can be used again conservatism's immoral enemies, whether lies, intimidation, torture, or even death, say, for women's doctors. Freedom is defined as being your own strict father - with individual not social responsibility, and without any government authority telling you what you can and cannot do. To defend that freedom as an individual, you will of course need a gun.

This is the America that conservatives really want. Budget deficits are convenient ruses for destroying American democracy and replacing it with conservative rule in all areas of life.

What is saddest of all is to see Democrats helping them.

Categories: Politics
I had a bad cold (and still do), but it seems to have done what no one else could do - slow me down.

(H/t to Jed at DKos)

Categories: Politics
Feeling safe now? Remember that this is not the first time and it's likely that there are many more cases that we don't know about. It's a good thing the new budget includes a few hundred million dollars for more porno-scanners. If Washington wants to make a fuss about the budget, maybe they can spend millions on programs that actually work instead of failures like this.

Categories: Politics
How could anything possibly go wrong with this?Texas is preparing to give college students and professors the right to carry guns on campus, adding momentum to a national campaign to open this part of society to firearms.

More than half the members of the Texas House have signed on as co-authors of a measure directing universities to allow concealed handguns. The Senate passed a similar bill in 2009 and is expected to do so again. Republican Gov. Rick Perry, who sometimes packs a pistol when he jogs, has said he's in favor of the idea.

Texas has become a prime battleground for the issue because of its gun culture and its size, with 38 public universities and more than 500,000 students. It would become the second state, following Utah, to pass such a broad-based law. Colorado gives colleges the option and several have allowed handguns.

Categories: Politics
Another day, another new protest against an entrenched government in North Africa and the Middle East.Calls for change sweeping the Arab world have now spread to the kingdom of Morocco, where thousands of people have taken to the streets in the capital to demand a new constitution.

The demonstrators shouted slogans calling for economic opportunity, educational reform, better health services and help in coping with rising living costs during the march on central Hassan II Avenue in Rabat on Sunday.

A protest organiser said the turnout at the rally was more than 5,000. But police said fewer than 3,000 people had marched.

Many in the crowd waved Tunisian and Egyptian flags, in recognition of the uprisings that toppled the two country's long-standing rulers.

Categories: Politics
NOTE FROM JOHN: I'd like to welcome my friend John Moyers to the blog. John's been a radio and newspaper reporter, and then in late 1998 founded where, among other things, John created a series of "op-ads" for the opinion page of the New York Times. Basically, every week Tom Paine would buy a quarter page ad on the opinion page of the Times. The ads were quite aggressive and smart, and often inspired their own spin-off news stories (for example, John helped us take on Dr. Laura back in 2000, and got a lot of coverage as a result). John escaped DC for Vermont about eight years ago. We're very glad to welcome him to the blog.

John MoyersIn 1513, Ponce de Leon explored what is now Florida in his search for the mythical Fountain of Youth. In modern-day America, pill junkies and the pushers who exploit them find Florida the "Fountain of Use" -- the easiest place to score huge amounts of OxyContin, Xanax and other commonly abused pharmies.

Florida is home to scores of "pain management clinics" where, under the thinnest of pretense, anyone with cash and a bit of patience can get ridiculous numbers of pain pills in one prescription -- literally hundreds in one script. What makes it all possible is Florida's lack of a computerized prescription tracking system like those used in virtually every other state.

Little surprise, then, that people from all over the eastern U.S. flock to the Sunshine State to do a little doctor-shopping before heading back home with bags full of party favors. The consequences are disastrous. For the whole criminally tragic story, check out the compelling, Peabody Award-winning, 2009 documentary from Current TV,The OxyContin Express. The first half reports from Florida, the source, and the second half travels to eastern Kentucky to survey the carnage.

In 2009, after years of complaints from other states, Florida's then-governor, Charlie Crist, finally signed a law that would create a "Prescription Drug Monitoring Program."

And now the news: Florida's current governor, Republican Rick Scott, reportedly intends to repeal the law. Florida will once again be safe for the legalized drug dealers who retail the goods for Big Pharma.

At least one elected official from Kentucky is protesting. "On behalf of my constituents, who continue to suffer from out-of-control and escalating prescription drug diversion originating from your state, I respectfully ask that you reverse your position," wrote Rep. Hal Roders (R-KY) in a letter to Scott.

And White House Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske will tour Kentucky this week to view the problem from there.

Ah, Tea Party Values as personified by Rick Scott: Create a state tracking system so people can't abuse powerful drugs? God forbid the government get in the way of private profit, even if that profit is extracted from the misery of our citizens, and at great cost to all taxpayers.

I need a Valium.

(h/t to CDH in Brooklyn for the tip. When I read CDH's post, the Current TV report came to mind -- it really is a must-watch now.)

Categories: Politics
Ezra Klein is completely correct. The union-blaming has to stop because they did not cause the recession. If the Democrats weren't so reluctant to lay blame where it should be - Wall Street - and implement real policies that would tame the beast, it would be a lot easier to combat such ridiculous attacks by the GOP. The Republicans have blamed everyone from the poor, minorities, Freddie/Fannie and the stimulus for the bad economy but everyone with open eyes knows that the recession and current bad economy had everything to do with excessive gambling by Wall Street.
Let’s be clear: Whatever fiscal problems Wisconsin is -- or is not -- facing at the moment, they’re not caused by labor unions. That’s also true for New Jersey, for Ohio and for the other states. There was no sharp rise in public workers’ wages in 2006 and 2007, no major reforms of the country’s labor laws, no dramatic change in how unions organize. And yet state budgets collapsed. Revenues plummeted. Taxes had to go up, and spending had to go down, all across the country.

Blame the banks. Blame global capital flows. Blame lax regulation of Wall Street. Blame home buyers, or home sellers. But don’t blame the unions. Not for this recession.

Of course, the fact that public employee pensions didn’t cause a meltdown at Lehman Brothers doesn’t mean they’re not stressing state budgets. But the buildup of global capital that overheated the American housing sector and got packaged into seemingly riskless financial products that then brought down Wall Street, paralyzing the economy, throwing millions out of work, and destroying state revenues even as state residents needed more social services? The answer to that is not to end collective bargaining for public employees. A plus B plus C does not equal what Gov. Scott Walker is attempting in Wisconsin.

Categories: Politics
Paul Krugman on the unfolding Cairo in Wisconsin (my emphasis throughout): Last week, in the face of protest demonstrations against Wisconsin’s new union-busting governor, Scott Walker[,] ... Representative Paul Ryan made an unintentionally apt comparison: “It’s like Cairo has moved to Madison.” ...

Mr. Ryan was more right than he knew. For what’s happening in Wisconsin isn’t about the state budget, despite Mr. Walker’s pretense that he’s just trying to be fiscally responsible. It is, instead, about power. What Mr. Walker and his backers are trying to do is to make Wisconsin — and eventually, America — less of a functioning democracy and more of a third-world-style oligarchy. And that’s why anyone who believes that we need some counterweight to the political power of big money should be on the demonstrators’ side. Ah, the Billionaires' Coup (Frank Rich's phrase). The Professor doesn't mince words — he says it all: In principle, every American citizen has an equal say in our political process. In practice, of course, some of us are more equal than others. Billionaires can field armies of lobbyists; they can finance think tanks that put the desired spin on policy issues; they can funnel cash to politicians with sympathetic views (as the Koch brothers did in the case of Mr. Walker). On paper, we’re a one-person-one-vote nation; in reality, we’re more than a bit of an oligarchy, in which a handful of wealthy people dominate.

Given this reality, it’s important to have institutions that can act as counterweights to the power of big money. And unions are among the most important of these institutions. Ah, the Koch brothers; the gift that keeps on taking.

Mr. Krugman points out the "irony" that the fiscal crisis was in fact caused by "the oligarchy" that's now trying to exploit it. Some wouldn't call that irony. Some would call that the plan.


Categories: Politics
The protests continue to spread in Libya and AFP now reports that the state run television station has been sacked and set on fire. Gaddafi's son went on TV last night to warn protesters though he remains an unconvincing force in the country. He's promising the same old reforms that we've heard elsewhere but after decades of rule, who could believe such promises? Al Jazeera's live blog of the news from Libya can be found here.A son of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has promised a programme of reforms after bloody protests against his father's rule reached the capital, Tripoli.

Saif al-Islam Gaddafi also hit out at those behind the violence. He said protests against his father's rule, which have been concentrated in the east of the country, threatened to sink Libya into civil war and split the country up into several small states.

Appearing on Libyan state television early on Monday morning, Seif al-Islam said his father is in the country and backed by the army. "We will fight to the last minute, until the last bullet."

He said his father was leading the fight, although he added that some military bases, tanks and weapons had been seized.

Categories: Politics
Considering the financial links these days between the US and China, there's little chance of putting much pressure on China to right this wrong. The Guardian:The wife of the jailed Nobel peace prize laureate Liu Xiaobo said she and her family are "hostages", according to a friend. The comment is thought to be her first contact with the outside world for four months.

Supporters have been unable to reach Liu Xia since shortly after October's announcement that her husband had won the award. It was initially thought she was under house arrest at the couple's home in Beijing, but it is now believed she may be being held at her parents' house.

Categories: Politics
What another great idea from this group. The protests are completely peaceful and use the office space of the business freeloaders for more useful purposes. (Here's a bit more background from a few weeks ago.)At Tottenham Court Road, one of eight branches of Barclays in London to be targeted, some 40 to 50 people heard comedian Josie Lawrence pledge her support, before a group of people held a two-hour sit-in in the bank.

Supporters of UK Uncut said the plan was not to shut the banks down but to "open them up", occupy them and transform them into "something people need but will be cut".

Ruth Griffiths, 36, a UK Uncut supporter, said: "Today we are transforming the banks into schools, leisure centres, and libraries and forests, because it's society that's too big to fail, not a broken banking system."

Categories: Politics

February 20, 2011

Frank Rich raises a key question:
An opposition this adrift from reality — whether about Obama’s birth certificate, history unfolding in the Middle East or the consequences of a federal or state government shutdown — is a paper tiger. It’s a golden chance for the president to seize the moment. What we don’t know is if he sees it that way.Rich nicely documents that drift:
Glenn Beck’s ratings at Fox News continued their steady decline, falling to an all-time low last month. He has lost 39 percent of his viewers in a year and 48 percent of the prime 25-to-54 age demographic. His strenuous recent efforts to portray the Egyptian revolution as an apocalyptic leftist-jihadist conspiracy have inspired more laughs than adherents.

Sarah Palin’s tailspin is also pronounced. It can be seen in polls, certainly: the ABC News-Washington Post survey found that 30 percent of Americans approved of her response to the Tucson massacre and 46 percent did not. (Obama’s numbers in the same poll were 78 percent favorable, 12 percent negative.) But equally telling was the fate of a Palin speech scheduled for May at a so-called Patriots & Warriors Gala in Glendale, Colo.

Tickets to see Palin, announced at $185 on Jan. 16, eight days after Tucson, were slashed to half-price in early February. Then the speech was canceled altogether, with the organizers blaming “safety concerns resulting from an onslaught of negative feedback.” But when The Denver Post sought out the Glendale police chief, he reported there had been no threats or other causes for alarm. The real “negative feedback” may have been anemic ticket sales, particularly if they were to cover Palin’s standard $100,000 fee.Click through for the links that justify those numbers — they're real.

Rich's answer to the question of "what will Obama do?" is not mine, however. For Rich, Obama "coasts" at these junctures or "lapses into a pro forma bipartisanship" that amounts to "inertia". We should be so lucky.

Unfortunately, there's been much talk about a "Grand Bargain". You know, where Obama takes the money-fueled Elevator to 2012, and we take the Shaft, in the form of cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and other things we need.

In other words, I fear an emboldened Obama, not an inertiated one; an Obama who will do unto us (to the third generation) what he and his class would never do unto themselves — cut their income and wealth.

Watch this Grand Bargain as it unfolds. Elizabeth Drew in the New York Review of Books:
But despite all the confrontational rhetoric between the two parties about budget priorities, the White House and Republican congressional leaders, in private talks, have agreed on the need to try to reach a bipartisan “grand bargain” over the budget—a sweeping deal that could include entitlements and tax reforms as well as budget reduction. A Senate Republican leadership aide confirmed this, saying, “In fact, for anything to happen, it will require such a White House/congressional leadership bargain.” The preferred idea is that, just as they did late last year on the tax bill, they would reach an agreement and then unveil it to the public.Mind you, this isn't a deal between Obama and the rest of us; not even between Obama's class and ours. It's a deal between Obama and Mitch McConnell only, one where Obama thinks he gets a deficit pass in the coming $1 billion election, and McConnell knows he gets to paint Obama as the first "Democrat" president to attack "your" Social Security.

It's a deal only a Puppet Master could love. I fear that Obama. I'd kiss the Pope's ring to get Rich's.

A note about means testing Social Security. Many have noted that there's no money in it. But that's not the worst — means-testing takes a program you've already given to, and makes you re-earn your right to get back from it. In other words, it changes the program fundamentally — from a pre-paid insurance program to welfare you have to be a "loser" to receive.

And we all know what "losers" deserve in these United States. Just ask Rick Santelli.


Categories: Politics
Agreed, but that happened the day he decided to hire Geithner and Summers to continue the Bush economic agenda. It's only gone downhill since. When Obama repeats the Republican talking points on issue after issue after issue after issue after issue after issue, it's hard to control the debate. The more he cedes on the dialog to the GOP the worse it will get. This isn't meeting in the middle. It's meeting on the far right fringe and fueling the fire. Bloomberg:
George Soros, a billionaire hedge- fund manager who has donated millions to Democrats, said Democratic President Barack Obama “has lost control of the agenda” on the U.S. economy, leaving it “now in the hands of the Republican Party.”

Republicans “are going to pursue a very strong effort to cut services by refusing to have any tax increases,” Soros said in an interview with CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria GPS” program.

“This agenda will be successful,” though it will be “more directed at cutting services and achieving the ideological purposes of the Republicans rather than to get the economy going,” Soros, 80, said, according to a transcript of the interview released by CNN. “This will have a negative impact on the economy.”

Categories: Politics
BP, meanwhile, is doing so well and is so confident in their future that they're objecting to payouts. As of a few weeks ago they only completed a single full payout out of 91,000 claims. It certainly doesn't hurt when you have so many outspoken friends in power. Is it a surprise that BP's report differs from the reports of scientists?Oil from the BP spill remains stuck on the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, according to a top scientist's video and slides that she says demonstrate the oil isn't degrading as hoped and has decimated life on parts of the sea floor.

That report is at odds with a recent report by the BP spill compensation czar that said nearly all will be well by 2012.

At a science conference in Washington Saturday, marine scientist Samantha Joye of the University of Georgia aired early results of her December submarine dives around the BP spill site. She went to places she had visited in the summer and expected the oil and residue from oil-munching microbes would be gone by then. It wasn't.

Categories: Politics
The party needs to end between Western governments and Gadaffi. He's always been a thug and always will be a thug. Forget the oil contracts and let's face the fact that he's another murderer who needs to be isolated. Unfortunately, much like Wall Street, Big Oil also enjoys protected status so Western leaders will struggle to find a backbone. The death toll is now over 100 in Libya since the protests started less than one week ago.Libyan security forces have reportedly opened fire at a funeral in the eastern city of Benghazi, killing at least 15 people and injuring scores more as protests against Muammar Gaddafi, the country's long-time ruler, continued.

The victims on Saturday were mourning the loss of protesters who had been killed during anti-government demonstrations in the city during the past week, witnesses said, bringing the death toll to more than 100 in six days of unrest, according to opposition groups.Today the death count went up again. New estimates report at least 200 dead.

Categories: Politics
They should be very nervous. It's clear that when the unemployment falters - and it will - China faces serious problems with unemployment. They're bad enough now so when you add millions to the unemployment problem, it's a serious problem.Jittery Chinese authorities staged a show of force Sunday to squelch a mysterious online call for a "Jasmine Revolution" apparently modeled after pro-democracy demonstrations sweeping the Middle East.

Authorities detained activists, increased the number of police on the streets and censored online calls to stage protests in Beijing, Shanghai and 11 other major cities. Citizens were urged to shout "We want food, we want work, we want housing, we want fairness" — a slogan that highlights common complaints among ordinary Chinese.

Many activists said they didn't know who was behind the campaign and weren't sure what to make of the call to protest, which was first posted on the U.S.-based Chinese-language advocacy website

Categories: Politics

I wish he was my Congressman instead of my pathetic D-Comcast halfwit. A few Teabaggers have opted not to take the government run health care but too many of them are getting way with being hypocrites. It's good to see Weiner calling them out. As he says, "this is your chance, don't blow it."

NOTE: John will be on CNN's Reliable Sources today, around 11:20am Eastern to 11:30am, discussing WI, Chris Christie in NJ, and the coverage of the Obama budget.

Categories: Politics

When she's on, she's on.

I'm still looking at what's happening in north Africa and the Middle East and can't believe it. The last administration (and to a degree to current one as well) had a firm belief in revolution via the barrel of a gun. During those days I heard the classic (often false) American line that if people wanted change, they had to rise up on their own. Of course, that's not quite the way it happened in our own country though too few like to admit it. There was a small, irrelevant country with a little known musician who helped finance the Americans as well as send a few troops and a few people in a few boats who played a minor roll in the victory at Yorktown. I mean really. What's the big deal about blocking reinforcements for one of the strongest world power armies of the time?

So here we actually see people rising on their own, being murdered by tyrannical government leaders yet somehow we aren't seeing a firm stance by our government against the tyrants. We even have some clowns on the far right who are upset with the uprisings. I certainly hope that there's a lot more going on behind the scenes to help these amazing people. The people who are risking their life need to be supported much more. Tying bread to the head or wearing a tin pot is all many have for protection. What an amazing time. It's like a modern 1848 for the Middle East and Africa.

Categories: Politics
This group is tough as nails. When you think about the extreme violence inflicted upon this group by the king, they know what may likely be ahead today or tomorrow. Even so, they continue.A landmark junction in the heart of Bahrain's capital, Manama, continues to be occupied by opposition protesters, hundreds of whom spent the night there after another day of anti-government demonstrations in the tiny Gulf state.

Some woke early on Sunday morning in the Pearl Roundabout area and staged a noisy protest, chanting "Get out Hamad" as they pressed their demand that the king, Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, should step down.

A small tent village has sprung up complete with stalls selling hot milk, scrambled eggs and tomatoes - catering to the hundreds who decided to stay overnight in the public square.

The protesters reclaimed on Saturday the junction that they had previously used as a focal point for pro-reform protests, but which was then violently taken back by security forces.

Categories: Politics