Obama's first 100 days

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" sent directly to Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei"

Jebus... took 8 years and a change of administration for someone to actually figure out that Ahmadinejad isn't the leader.

 It's not much, but at least it's a start.

martin dufresne

Family planning cuts irk activists
By: Josh Gerstein and Lisa Lerer. POLITICO
January 29, 2009 08:40 AM EST

President Barack Obama has been in office for just over a week, but already he has managed to upset some top leaders in a key constituency - women's groups - after he personally intervened to get family planning funds stripped from the House stimulus package.

Planned Parenthood led the charge, with President Cecile Richards sending an "urgent" e-mail to supporters on Wednesday decrying the deletion - calling it a "betrayal of millions of low-income women, and it will place an even greater burden on state budgets that are already strained to the breaking point."

"I'm stunned," she wrote, urging supporters to call the White House.

Other prominent women leaders joined in expressing their disappointment at Obama's move - which came after Republicans turned up the heat on Obama by highlighting the family planning proposal in the House bill to spur conservative opposition.

Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization for Women, said she met with Democratic leaders in Congress Tuesday and received repeated assurances that the money will be restored in another way - but she made clear she's watching.

"I think the [Obama administration] should have kept it in there," Gandy said Wednesday in an interview. "But in their political calculus they felt this was something that would pass Congress rather easily as a stand-alone measure and didn't think was worth fighting for in the stimulus."

"I think that poor women's lives are worth fighting for," Gandy said. (...)

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

Doug wrote:

[The Guardian:] The letter would be addressed to the Iranian people and sent directly to Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, or released as an open letter.

This smacks of PR propaganda and grandstanding, not diplomacy.

It's actually a diplomatic insult to the Iranian government; a blatant gesture designed to "go around" the government and pretend to appeal to the population directly, as if there is something illegitimate about the government itself. It's the kind of thing you drop in bulk from airplanes before you start bombing them to hell. It has "ultimatum" written all over it.

Even assurances that the US doesn't want to overthrow the Iranian regime are patronizing and insulting; diplomacy does not deal in talk of overthrowing governments because you don't like their behaviour.

How would Obomba react if, for example, Raul Castro sent an open letter saying "we don't want to overthrow the United States, but we merely seek the following changes in your behaviour." Would that not be interpreted by many as a thinly-veiled threat?

martin dufresne

Funny editorial from Greg Palast:

Obama is a two-faced liar. Aw-RIGHT!
by Greg Palast

January 29, 2009

Republicans are right. President Barack Obama treated them like dirt, didn't give a damn what they thought about his stimulus package, loaded it with a bunch of programs that will last for years and will never leave the budget, is giving away money disguised as "tax refunds," and is sneaking in huge changes in policy, from schools to health care, using the pretext of an economic emergency.

Way to go, Mr. O! Mr. Down-and-Dirty Chicago pol. Street-fightin' man. Covering over his break-your-face power play with a "we're all post-partisan friends" BS.

And it's about time. (...)

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

What explains the new President's two decisions: one to comply with international law and one to violate it? The President has received a huge amount of advice in recent months on the treatment of detainees; [b]he has likely heard little or nothing about international law's restrictions on the use of force.[/b]

In researching [i]The Power and Purpose of International Law,[/i] I looked into what lay behind the changes that took place in America with respect to general international law in the 1960s. American leaders until that decade were well versed in international law and demonstrated great respect for it, if not perfect compliance. By the 1960s, this knowledge and respect were demonstrably slipping away. One reason for the change appears to lie with the influence on U.S. foreign policy of Hans Morgenthau and his students.

[url=http://jurist.law.pitt.edu/forumy/2009/01/president-obama-new-hope-for.p... Ellen O'Connell[/u][/color][/url]


I'm beginning to like this guy.

Classy and symbolic act for his first piece of legislation that he signed into law, a Pay Equity Bill.


And check this out - Obama attacks Wall Street bonuses. Cool


M. Spector M. Spector's picture

[b]ITEM:[/b] [url=http://www.counterpunch.org/hudson01302009.html][color=mediumblue][u]Tri... more public dollars for corporate welfare[/u][/color][/url]

After (1) threatening for eight years that the prospect of a trillion-dollar deficit spread over a generation or so is sufficient reason to stiff Social Security recipients and abolish debts to the nation's retirees, and (2) after the Bush administration provided $8 trillion over the past three months in cash-for-trash swaps of good Treasury bonds for Wall Street junk derivatives, the Obama Administration is now speaking of (3) some $2 to $4 trillion more to be given in just the next week or so.


"When I talk about the middle class, I am talking about folks who are currently in the middle class, but also folks who are aspiring to be in the middle class,'' the president said. "You cannot have a strong middle class without a strong labor union.''

In the signing of executive orders, one prevents federal contract dollars from going to companies that try to prevent the formation of unions, one requires workers to be advised of rights.


That's a pretty significant statement. Bill Clinton never said anything quite so complimentary of the American labour movement - at least not outside of a fundraiser.

George Victor

The new president is obviously a dangerous schizoid.

Frustrated Mess Frustrated Mess's picture

Under executive orders issued by Obama recently, the CIA still has authority to carry out what are known as renditions, secret abductions and transfers of prisoners to countries that cooperate* with the United States.

Obama preserves renditions as counter-terrorism tool

*Translation: Police states contracted to provide torture services and dungeons to America.

ETA: Oh, and despite assurances to the contrary, America still tortures. They just outsource it.


George Victor wrote:
The new president is obviously a dangerous schizoid.

Lyndon Johnson on tranquilizers, perhaps.

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

Frustrated Mess wrote:

Under executive orders issued by Obama recently, the CIA still has authority to carry out what are known as renditions, secret abductions and transfers of prisoners to countries that cooperate* with the United States.

And what does the [b]Human Rights Industry[/b] have to say about this?

"Under limited circumstances, there is a legitimate place" for renditions, said Tom Malinowski, the Washington advocacy director for Human Rights Watch.
[- above article.]


Ethically challenged HHS nominee finally withdraws:


"Daschle, the former Senate majority leader, apologized Monday for failing to pay his taxes in full. He said earlier he was "deeply embarrassed" for a series of errors that included failing to report $15,000 in charitable donations, unreported car service and more than $80,000 in unreported income from consulting.

Daschle recently filed amended tax returns and paid more than $140,000 in back taxes and interest for 2005-2007.

A New York Times editorial on Tuesday called for Daschle to withdraw.

The paper's editorial board particularly took issue with Daschle saying he identified the unpaid taxes in June but did not pay them until his nomination for the top post at the Department of Health and Human Services.

The editorial also criticized Daschle for generating a sizable income from health-related industries while working in the private sector."





M. Spector M. Spector's picture

Ghislaine wrote:

"Obama [url=http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/africa/article5600659.ece] leads [/url] US drive to topple Mugabe":

The Obama regime entered office hot-wired to bring down the government of Robert Mugabe, in Zimbabwe, but has been frustrated by the [url=http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2009-01/31/content_10738794.htm][u]recent power sharing agreement[/u][/url] between Mugabe and the main opposition party. In the face of African Union support for the new arrangement in Zimbabwe, [b]the Obama administration has very reluctantly retreated from its hyper-aggressive posture, and is no longer in a position to press the United Nations Security Council to impose tightened sanctions against Zimbabwe.[/b]


Thanks for that update, MS - I had not read that as of yet.

It has been interesting seeing Obama in the news this past week admitting that he has "screwed up" and made mistakes re: his cabinet nominees who cannot seem to pay their taxes at a time of massive, massive deficit.

I wonder if he will ever admit his mistakes re: foreign policy. Afghanistan is "unwinnable" even with the huge addition of troops he is overseeing­. He will undoubtedly be trying to convince Harper to renege on his promise to get us out by 2011 (which is still far too long).  Do you think he will realize his errors by 2011 and try and get US troops out too?

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

A coalition of Democrats and some Republicans reached a compromise that trimmed billions in spending from an earlier version of the Senate economic stimulus bill.

[b]Senators worked late into the night to trim billions from the original stimulus bill.[/b]

CNN obtained, from a Democratic leadership aide, a list of some programs that have been cut, either entirely or partially:

[color=red][b]Partially cut:[/b][/color]

• $3.5 billion for energy-efficient federal buildings (original bill $7 billion)

• $75 million from Smithsonian (original bill $150 million)

• $200 million from Environmental Protection Agency Superfund (original bill $800 million)

• $100 million from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (original bill $427 million)

• $100 million from law enforcement wireless (original bill $200 million)

• $300 million from federal fleet of hybrid vehicles (original bill $600 million)

• $100 million from FBI construction (original bill $400 million)

[color=red][b]Fully eliminated:[/b][/color]

• $55 million for historic preservation

• $122 million for Coast Guard polar icebreaker/cutters

• $100 million for Farm Service Agency modernization

• $50 million for Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service

• $65 million for watershed rehabilitation

• $100 million for distance learning

• $98 million for school nutrition

• $50 million for aquaculture

• $2 billion for broadband

• $100 million for National Institute of Standards and Technology

• $50 million for detention trustee

• $25 million for Marshalls Construction

• $300 million for federal prisons

• $300 million for BYRNE Formula grant program

• $140 million for BYRNE Competitive grant program

• $10 million state and local law enforcement

• $50 million for NASA

• $50 million for aeronautics

• $50 million for exploration

• $50 million for Cross Agency Support

• $200 million for National Science Foundation

• $100 million for science

• $1 billion for Energy Loan Guarantees

• $4.5 billion for General Services Administration

• $89 million General Services Administration operations

• $50 million from Department of Homeland Security

• $200 million Transportation Security Administration

• $122 million for Coast Guard Cutters, modifies use

• $25 million for Fish and Wildlife

• $55 million for historic preservation

• $20 million for working capital fund

• $165 million for Forest Service capital improvement

• $90 million for State and Private Wildlife Fire Management

• $1 billion for Head Start/Early Start

• $5.8 billion for Health Prevention Activity

• $2 billion for Health Information Technology Grants

• $600 million for Title I (No Child Left Behind)

• $16 billion for school construction

• $3.5 billion for higher education construction

• $1.25 billion for project based rental

• $2.25 billion for Neighborhood Stabilization

• $1.2 billion for retrofitting Project 8 housing

• $40 billion for state fiscal stabilization (includes $7.5 billion of state incentive grants)


[b]Corporate welfare, of course, remains untouched.[/b]

M. Spector M. Spector's picture


President Obama's Justice Department signaled in a San Francisco courtroom Monday that [b]the change in administrations has not changed the government's position on secrecy and the rights of foreign prisoners[/b] - and that lawsuits by alleged victims of CIA kidnappings and torture must be dismissed on national security grounds.

"Judges shouldn't play with fire," Justice Department lawyer Douglas Letter told the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, which is considering a suit accusing a San Jose company, Jeppesen Dataplan, of [b]arranging so-called extraordinary rendition flights for the CIA.[/b]

Once the judges privately examine the government's classified evidence, Letter said, "you will see that this case cannot be litigated."

Letter said [b]the Justice Department's position, previously argued by the administration of former President George W. Bush, has been "thoroughly vetted with appropriate officials of the new administration."...[/b]

Obama's nominee for CIA director, Leon Panetta, said last week that he approved of rendition for foreign prosecution or brief CIA detention, but not for extended confinement. Like his Bush administration predecessors, he also said he would require a foreign government to promise not to torture a prisoner....

"Candidate Obama ran on a platform that would reform the abuse of state secrets, but President Obama's Justice Department has disappointingly reneged on this important civil liberties issue," the ACLU's executive director, Anthony Romero, said after the hearing....

...Sweden recently awarded $450,000 in damages to one of the plaintiffs, Ahmed Agiza, for helping the CIA transport him to Egypt, where he is still being held and allegedly has been tortured....

Agiza and the other plaintiffs - one now imprisoned in Morocco, one held at the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and two who have been released without charges - accuse Jeppesen of colluding in their abduction and torture.

A Council of Europe report in 2007 identified the company, a Boeing Corp. subsidiary, as the CIA's aviation services provider....



The banking programme seems to be yet another child of the failed interventions of the past one and a half years: optimistic and indecisive. If this “progeny of the troubled asset relief programme” fails, Mr Obama’s credibility will be ruined. Now is the time for action that seems close to certain to resolve the problem; this, however, does not seem to be it.



I agree with the writer that it is an issue of solvency and that the new plan just won't cope with that.

Lord Palmerston


THEY GOT blown out in the last two elections. From control of both houses of Congress and the White House, they now control none of the above. They nearly put their party's leadership body in the hands of a man who sees nothing wrong with a song called "Barack the Magic Negro." And the closest thing they have to a national spokesperson is talk radio jackass Rush Limbaugh.

So why are the Republicans dominating the mainstream debate about the top issue in U.S. politics: economic stimulus legislation. And why--why, why, why?--is the Obama administration letting them?

Two weeks after Washington was packed with millions of people celebrating the inauguration of Obama and the beginning of a new era with Democrats in charge, the Republicans--incredibly--have momentum on their side in national politics.


M. Spector M. Spector's picture

[url=http://www.dissidentvoice.org/2009/02/biden-vows-to-continue-bush-policy... Vows to Continue Bush Policy Towards Iran[/u][/color][/url] by Jeremy R. Hammond / February 11th, 2009

U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden last Saturday outlined the Obama administration’s continuation of the Bush administration’s foreign policy towards Iran.

Reiterating the Bush policy of loosely defined “preventive” warfare outlined in Bush’s National Security Strategy, he said that the “U.S. will strive to act preventively to avoid having to choose between the risks of war and the dangers of inaction.”

Echoing the previous administration’s policy, Biden offered an ultimatum, saying the U.S. would be “willing to talk to Iran” but only if Iran acquiesces to the Obama administration’s demands to abandon its nuclear program.

Translated into meaningful terms, this effectively means the U.S. will continue to refuse to talk to Iran, since its nuclear program would be one of the major points Iran would like to negotiate.

martin dufresne

And according to TomDispatch correspondent Dahr Jamail, they are not out of Iraq either, not by a long shot.

Iraq from the Inside of an Armored BMW

Already it's begun -- the endless non-departure from Iraq. The Obama plan, restated many times during the presidential campaign, involved a 16-month schedule for withdrawing not all U.S. forces, but only U.S. "combat troops." Now, his (and, of course, George W. Bush's) generals are showing visible evidence of dragging their combat boots in the sand on the subject. We were given fair warning. Over the last two years, numerous military figures have claimed that, as fast as they got into Iraq, it would be hell just getting all the U.S. stuff now embedded there out -- and that's without even taking into account the political situation in that country. Recently, according to military leaks to the media, "U.S. military planners" have come up with two alternate scenarios to Obama's 16-month plan. One is reportedly 19 months long, the other 23 months long, and -- here's a shock -- the two top generals in charge, Centcom commander David Petraeus and U.S. commander in Iraq, General Ray Odierno, favor the 23-month approach.

"Odierno and Petraeus have said that we really need 23 months to do this without jeopardizing the security gains that we've secured," was the way one typical anonymous official put it. President Obama has yet to show any sign of agreeing to this, but the pressure is evidently only beginning. Gareth Porter of Inter Press Service indicates that a "network of senior military officers is also reported to be preparing to support Petraeus and Odierno by mobilizing public opinion against Obama's [16-month plan]... If Obama does not change the policy, according to the source, they hope to have planted the seeds of a future political narrative blaming his withdrawal policy for the ‘collapse' they expect in an Iraq without U.S. troops." Stab in the back, anyone?

Oh, and in the bargain, the generals are evidently also planning to re-label some of those withdrawable combat forces among the still staggering 144,000 troops in Iraq -- the American invasion force of 2003 was only about 130,000 strong -- as non-combat "support troops" or advisors. They would, Robert Burns of the Associated Press writes, be "redesigned and reconfigured as multipurpose units to provide training and advising for Iraqi security force" and so would "be considered noncombat outfits." What's in a name, after all?

In the end, according to the New York Times, the generals hope to leave one third of American troops, almost 50,000 of them, in Iraq for an undetermined period (and that number, of course, doesn't including private security contractors) after the combat troops are withdrawn.

Dahr Jamail, author of Beyond the Green Zone and TomDispatch regular, is now back in Iraq and, in his typical, incisive way, he offers another view of just what "success" has meant for Americans, at least in Iraq's Sunni heartland. So slip into a well armored BMW with him and check out the scene for yourself. It's the only way a "tourist" is likely to be welcomed in this part of Iraq. Tom

Iraq's "Teflon Don"
The New Fallujah Up Close and Still in Ruins
By Dahr Jamail

Fallujah, Iraq -- Driving through Fallujah, once the most rebellious Sunni city in this country, I saw little evidence of any kind of reconstruction underway. At least 70% of that city's structures were destroyed during massive U.S. military assaults in April, and again in November 2004, and more than four years later, in the "new Iraq," the city continues to languish.

The shells of buildings pulverized by U.S. bombs, artillery, or mortar fire back then still line Fallujah's main street, or rather, what's left of it. As one of the few visible signs of reconstruction in the city, that street -- largely destroyed during the November 2004 siege -- is slowly being torn up in order to be repaved.

Unemployment is rampant here, the infrastructure remains largely in ruins, and tens of thousands of residents who fled in 2004 are still refugees. How could it be otherwise, given the amount of effort that went into its destruction and not, subsequently, into rebuilding it? It's a place where a resident must still carry around a U.S.-issued personal biometric ID card, which must also be shown any time you enter or exit the city if you are local. Such a card can only be obtained after U.S. military personnel have scanned your retinas and taken your fingerprints. (...)

martin dufresne

Sorry but for some reason, my post shows up in the Comment box but disappears when I try to post it.

Read the story here

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

martin dufresne wrote:

I know! Biden's remarks left me speechless, too!

martin dufresne wrote:

Sorry but for some reason, my post shows up in the Comment box but disappears when I try to post it.

Welcome to the new Elbbab!

Our motto: "Try to think of it as a feature." 

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

[url=http://www.blackagendareport.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&... Will We March Against Obama?[/u][/color][/url]
by Margaret Kimberley

In just three weeks, the Barack Obama administration has demonstrated its determination to hold on to the same presidential prerogatives claimed by George W. Bush. Bush's successor evidently wants the same prerogatives and he wants to get them through by the same means. Obama supporters either don't care or are too deep in denial to admit this now obvious fact.

The much talked about Obama administration changes in interrogation policy and intelligence gathering are nothing more than talk. Leon Panetta, CIA director nominee, made it official during his confirmation hearing....

The American Civil Liberties Union assessed the situation clearly. "The Obama administration's position is not change. It is more of the same. This represents a complete turn-around and undermining of the restoration of the rule of law. The new American administration shouldn't be complicit in hiding the abuses of its predecessors."

"Neither Bush nor Obama cares that much about democracy."

[b]So, when do we march? We have an administration that has officially upheld the lawlessness of the previous administration. The same people who took to the streets or at the very least engaged in righteous indignation over Bush administration actions should not silently sit by and allow Obama to do the same things.

It isn't too soon to protest. He told us right away that there is no change we can believe in. We don't have to wait for bombs to fall on Iran or for more prisoners to be denied their human rights.[/b]

It is not only acceptable but imperative that we speak up now. We must say that Iran has the right to have nuclear power or nuclear weapons or satellites or anything else it wants without being threatened by the United States. We must say that the continuation of Bush administration human rights abuses will not be excused under the guise of giving Obama one hundred magical days to learn his new job.

[b]It is time to take not only Obama to task, but faux progressives to task as well. They are the Obamites who claimed they would hold his feet to the fire if we would just shut up and let him get elected. It is time to protest against them too and call them out for being the hypocrites they are.[/b]

Lord Palmerston

I'm guessing in about five years...after he is re-electd, then maybe just maybe a protest against Obama can at least be considered.

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

[b]ITEM:[/b] [url=http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/editorials/la-ed-faith9-2009feb09,0,... funding for faith-based initiatives[/u][/color][/url] and another broken election promise.


It was no surprise last week when President Obama unveiled his version of President Bush's faith-based initiative. [b]Like his predecessor, Obama has supported providing federal grants and contracts to social-service programs operated by religious groups. The surprise -- an unpleasant one -- is that he is equivocating on a campaign promise to condition such aid on an agreement by religious charities not to discriminate in hiring.[/b]

Obama's revision of a 2001 Bush order establishing an Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives does recognize that some aid to religious groups might blur the separation of church and state. The president directs what will now be called the [b]White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships[/b] "to ensure that services paid for with federal government funds are provided in a manner consistent with fundamental constitutional commitments guaranteeing the equal protection of the laws and the free exercise of religion and prohibiting laws respecting an establishment of religion."

[b]What's missing is a clear statement that faith-based services that accept federal money may not discriminate in hiring on the basis of religion.[/b] Rather than flatly prohibiting such discrimination, Obama's initiative establishes an advisory council, which will refer legal questions about "programs and practices" to the attorney general. That seems to contemplate a case-by-case approach that could confuse some applicants for federal aid and encourage others to hire only church members and take their chances.

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

[url=http://www.dissidentvoice.org/2009/01/obamanocchio-1/][color=mediumblue]... #1[/u][/color][/url]

President Obama made a “surprise visit” to the White House Press Room on Thursday. Undoubtedly, this was not an impulse or an accident, but a calculated attempt to create a new kind of photo-op. The idea was almost certainly to make news about the newness of this President not hiding from public-minded questioning. [b]The assumption must have been that the WH press corp would be so bowled over by Obama’s entrance that they’d fawn and gush over him and pump out puff pieces proclaiming his newness and openness.[/b]

Turns out, the reporters took advantage of the unheard-of chance by actually asking Obama a question!

“Why, Mr. President, are you nominating the Raytheon Corporation lobbyist William J. Lynn III to serve as Deputy Secretary of Defense? Isn’t that an egregious violation of your campaign promise and subsequent Executive Order to stop doing this kind of thing?”

Obama's answer? Not so new:

“The president brushed [the question] off, saying he would not return “if I’m going to get grilled every time I come.”

So, in other words, this “surprise visit” was old wine in a new bottle, a staged event all about coercive image-making, with no connection whatsoever to any new openness. If the Press Room is going to ask President Obama questions, then he’s not coming there. Simple as that.


[url=http://www.consumertrap.com/?p=839][color=mediumblue][u]Obamanocchio #2[/u][/color][/url]

Of course, there is nothing complicated at all about Guantanamo. The United States illegally abducted scores of people it thinks are prone to terrorism and has illegally warehoused them for years, in the starkest possible contradiction to our alleged ideals and the simple rule of law.

Now, in order to live up to the rule of law, somebody has to admit that past violations of it have heightened ordinary Americans’ chances of being victims of future terrorism. Being illegally arrested and imprisoned does not generally calm one down.

Is Obama willing to show us clarity and respect and tell us the simple truth here?

Obviously not. Instead, we’re getting promise about the future designed to “signal a sense of motion, a sense of ferment and activity and direction.” Below the signals, there lies “the same argument Mr. Bush used to keep the prison open.”



Nearly $800 billion stimulus package passes Congress.




So much for Obama's idea of bipartisanship. It seems like it was a good strategy, as at least he gave it a shot, and will be remembered for it.


Republican Taliban declare jihad on Obama



The president wants bipartisanship; the right has promised him all-out war



From the outset, the Republicans in Washington pored over the bill to find trivial issues to make hay with. They found some small funding for HIV and sexually transmitted diseases prevention; they jumped up and down about renovating the national mall; they went nuts over a proposal - wait for it - to make some government buildings more energy-efficient; they acted as if green research and federal funds for new school building were the equivalent of funding terrorism. And this after eight years in which they managed to turn a surplus into a trillion-dollar deficit and added a cool $32 trillion to the debt the next generation will have to pay for. Every now and again their chutzpah and narcissism take one’s breath away. But it’s all they seem to know.

John McCain gives you the flavour. Fresh from a dinner in his honour hosted by Obama, he abruptly dismissed the stimulus package as the “same old” spending of the distant Democratic past. His closest Republican ally, Senator Lindsey Graham, declared: “This bill stinks.”

Pete Sessions, chairman of the Republican congressional committee, explained that the Republican strategy was going to be modelled on jihadist insurgency. “I’m not joking,” he added. “Insurgency we understand perhaps a little bit more because of the Taliban.”

Rush Limbaugh, the dominant figure among the Republican base, fresh from broadcasting a ditty called Barack, the Magic Negro, declared in the first week of the new Congress that he hoped the new president would fail. The stimulus bill got no Republican votes in the House, and only three Republicans - all from the Obama-voting states of Pennsylvania and Maine - backed him in the Senate. McCain went to the floor of the Senate to growl that three votes did not make the bill bipartisan.

Bitter? At the end of last week we saw just how bitter. One of the Republicans who had agreed to serve in Obama’s cabinet, Senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, abruptly pulled out, after what he described as “fair warning” to the president.

Gregg had been under intense pressure from the Republican base, especially in his home state, for cooperating with the devil. He claimed the reason for his sudden withdrawal was that he couldn’t stomach the stimulus. Yet only a week earlier he had said: “We need a robust [stimulus package]. I think the one that’s pending is in the range we need. I do believe it’s a good idea to do it at two levels, which this bill basically does, which is immediate stimulus and long-term initiatives which actually improve our competitiveness and our productivity.” He then tried to argue that his authority over the 2010 census as commerce secretary had been compromised. But that turned out not to be true, either: it was just that a census that could well add millions of Hispanic voters to the rolls had the Republicans eager to prevent a Republican imprimatur on it.

Gregg was a victim of fast-shifting Republican politics. Reeling from the election, watching a new president coopt some of their number and get alarmingly high approval ratings from the public, members of the opposition party made a decision to become an insurgency.

From the disciplined House vote against any stimulus bill to the Gregg withdrawal, they are busy trying to revive the clear ideological warfare of the 1990s. As they did with Clinton 16 years ago, they are going to war. The context – the worst global downturn in decades - is irrelevant. If you have safe Republican seats in a party dominated intellectually by rigid ideologues, then your path of least resistance is total political warfare. It is certainly easier than forging difficult and messy legislative compromises that might even redound to the president’s advantage if the economy recovers.

It’s not clear, however, that total war on the president is going to be a better way forward. Before the latest twist, a Gallup poll found that Obama’s handling of the stimulus package had almost twice the public support of the Republicans’. In a period of acute economic anxiety, Americans outside the Republican base may not be so thrilled to find a replay of the 1990s. Obama won in part because he seemed not part of that drama.

The Democrats and the liberal base have responded to all this with a mixture of cynicism and their own partisanship. They rolled their eyes at Obama’s outreach to Republicans; they hated the inclusion of the other party in the cabinet and had to swallow hard not to complain about the postpartisan rhetoric. Their cynicism is well earned. But my bet is that Obama also understands that this is, in the end, the sweet spot for him. He has successfully branded himself by a series of conciliatory gestures as the man eager to reach out. If this is spurned, he can repeat the gesture until the public finds his opponents seriously off-key.

Ask yourself this question: who, in the end, won the partisan warfare of the 1990s - Clinton or the Republicans? In 1993 the Republicans thought they had dispatched Clinton for good; he won re-election hands down three years later and left office, even after Monica Lewinsky, with high ratings. Obama may not believe that history repeats itself. But he’s surely aware that it often rhymes.


saga saga's picture

U.S. Secret Service have relented on their request to have Parliament Hill completely cleared and are now allowing some Canadians to gather on the hill (after an extensive search, of course) to get a brief glimpse of the president. Despite Obama's massive fan base in Canada, there won't be a quarter million people showing up, like there was in Berlin last summer.


Interesting ... I assumed that the secrecy and security was because our politicians didn't want us going to Ottawa to remind them that Obama is more popular then them! However, it appears they are blaming it on US "security".

I think it's bs. I do not believe that the US would order Canadians away from the Hill that day. I believe the order came from Harper sent via the RCMP.

btw ... thread drift ... It is an abomination that RCMP officers are still politically driven and controlled. They have no real recourse to avoid political directives, even illegal orders like, for example, the OPP have.

The entire RCMP needs a housecleaning, imo.

However, I believe what we saw was not an order from US security, but from the RCMP and Harper. Now they've had to backtrack ... Imagine thinking they could order us off the Hill! YellNOT!!! Laughing

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

saga wrote:

I do not believe that the US would order Canadians away from the Hill that day. I believe the order came from Harper sent via the RCMP.

On the contrary, the US secret service is notorious for barging into other countries before presidential visits and insisting on all sorts of restrictions and conditions, as well as insisting that they be allowed to carry concealed handguns.

When the Emperor comes to visit you bloody well better kow-tow and avert your eyes!


Hey, this is a picture I took of a Toronto restaurant on Bloor West (between Christie and Ossington stations) with a picture of the Obamas painted on their window in honour of Valentine's Day and Black History Month.



And in contrast here is another Obama-ordered Drone attack in Afghanistan, with 15 killed this time. Not sure this strategy is going to win him many friends.


ISLAMABAD: In a second major strike in last four days, the US drones targeted a Taliban hideout in Pakistan's restive Kurram tribal region, killing


at least

15 people and wounding several others.

The drone fired two missiles at the hideout, where a meeting of the banned Tehrik-

e-Taliban Pakistan was being held, TV channels reported.

There was no official word on the incident. Though US drones target Taliban and al-Qaeda bases in Waziristan region, this was the first such attack in Kurram Agency.

Minutes after the strike, Taliban militants surrounded the area and were not allowing locals to approach the scene of attacks.

The missile strike came two days after another US drone attack in South Waziristan tribal region killed 32 people, most of them Uzbek supporters of al-Qaeda.

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

[b]ITEM:[/b] [url=http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/18/washington/18web-troops.html][color=me... troops to Afghanistan[/u][/color][/url]

President Obama said Tuesday that he would send an additional 17,000 American troops to Afghanistan this spring and summer, putting his stamp firmly on a war that he has long complained is going in the wrong direction.

The order will add nearly 50 percent to the 36,000 American troops already there. A further decision on sending more troops will come after the administration completes a broader review of Afghanistan policy, White House officials said.


The $787.2 billion economic recovery bill — to be signed by President Barack Obama on Tuesday — dedicates $8 billion to high-speed rail, most of which was added in the final closed-door bargaining at the instigation of White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel.



While I didn't think that the whole stimulus bill came out as well as I'd hoped, this is nice.


Great pic Michelle.

Here is some more good news.

Ridge: We were wrong to torture


M. Spector M. Spector's picture

More good news??

Tom Ridge is a self-confessed criminal. Why is Obomba allowing him to walk free?


President Obama is putting the finishing touches on an ambitious first budget that seeks to cut the federal deficit in half over the next four years, primarily by raising taxes on business and the wealthy and by slashing spending on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, administration officials said.


Which seems to assume, perhaps wrongly, that the situation in Afghanistan will improve quickly in response to the additional resources being added now.

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

[b]ITEM:[/b] [url=http://mrzine.monthlyreview.org/sahimi210209.html][color=mediumblue][u]L... about Iran's nuclear program[/u][/color][/url]

Since February 2003, Iran's nuclear program has undergone what the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) itself admits to be the most intrusive inspection in its entire history. After thousands of hours of inspections by some of the most experienced IAEA experts, the Agency has verified time and again that [b](1) there is no evidence of a nuclear weapons program in Iran; and (2) all the declared nuclear materials have been accounted for, and there has been no diversion of such materials to non-peaceful purposes. Iran has a clean bill of health, as far as its nuclear program is concerned.[/b]

This is not what Israel, its lobby in the United States, and its neoconservative allies had expected. Such a clean bill of health deprives them of any justification for advocating military attacks on Iran. The illegal act of sending Iran's nuclear dossier to the United Nations Security Council and the subsequent, highly dubious UNSC resolutions against Iran have also not been effective. [b]So what is the War Party to do?

It has resorted to an international campaign of exaggerations, lies, and distortions. This campaign involves planting lies in the major media and on the Internet, making absurd interpretations of what the IAEA reports on Iran, and issuing dire -- but bogus -- warnings about the speed at which Iran's uranium-enrichment program is progressing.[/b] Such warnings have been around for over two decades.


President Barack Obama plans to order that all U.S. combat troops be withdrawn from Iraq by August 2010, administration officials said Tuesday, ending the war that defined his upstart presidential campaign three months later than he had promised.

Obama's plan would pull out all combat troops 19 months after his inauguration, although he had promised repeatedly during the 2008 campaign that he would withdraw them 16 months after taking office. That schedule, based on removing roughly one brigade a month, was predicated on commanders determining that it would not endanger U.S. troops left behind or Iraq's fragile security.



I like this idea and hopefully the new president is listening    Barney Frank to Obama: Cut Military Spending


Representative Barney Frank is one of the most powerful Democrats in the House of Representatives. As chairman of the Financial Services Committee, he's overseeing the spending of hundreds of billions of dollars to bailout Wall Street and stave off the mortgage crisis. The White House needs him, and he's been a dependable ally so far. Now he's leaning on President Barack Obama to cut the Pentagon budget.

On Tuesday, two days before Obama presents a proposed budget to Congress, Frank (D-Mass.) and other House Democrats called on the Obama administration to reduce military spending, setting up a potential clash between House liberals and the White House. At a White House summit on fiscal responsibility the day before, Obama had cast doubt on the future of an $11.2 billion project to upgrade the fleet of presidential helicopters. But Obama has shown no indication that he plans to reduce, or even freeze, overall defense spending, which will be around $650 billion this fiscal year.


Listening to Obama address Congress  - he is pushing a lot of the right buttons. I just hope he means it. He is going to have to kick a lot of sorry asses though. I really hope they don't kill him. Boody friggin' mess Bush & Co left him.


President Obama plans to fund his ambitious plan to overhaul the nation's healthcare system with $634 billion in new taxes on wealthy Americans and cuts in Medicare spending over the next 10 years, administration officials said today.

The money will help the administration to begin paying the large costs of bringing healthcare to the more than 47 million Americans currently without insurance.



So it's not quite clear yet what exactly universal health care in the US will look like, but the money part of it is starting to get sorted out.


Woo! Hoo!

Nobody's perfect but what a refreshing change.

Obama Budget Taxes Richest to Help Pay for Health Care



Uh oh.

RevolutionPlease RevolutionPlease's picture

Holy elbbaB! Batman.


It's not *that* exciting. It probably won't even be single-payer, but improvement is improvement. Smile


Long thread, continue here.


Topic locked