05/03/2011 archive

A Message for the US Democratic Party

Voters in Canada went to the polls Monday and returned Conservative Stephen Harper government to power with a 10 seat majority in the Parliament. While the most successful party since Canada became a country, the Liberal Party, was relegated to third place, making way for the new left, the New Democrats, taking position as the opposition party.

Separatist Bloc Quebecois was decimated, holding onto only two of its 47 seats and the defeat of its leader, Gilles Duceppe.

Michael Ignatieff, a former Harvard professor and one of Canada’s leading public intellectuals, says he is stepping down as leader of the Liberal Party after a crushing defeat. The Liberals dropped to 34 seats from 77. Ignatieff even lost his own seat in a Toronto suburb.

The New Democratic Party won 105 seats, well above its previous record of 45.

So, just WTF happened? How did the unpopular Conservatives not only retain power but increased it? How did the Liberal Party fall so far? Simple answer, the Liberals failed because they threw their base under the bus. This article from Jeremy Bloom at the blog, Red, Green & Blue gives this clear, simple explanation:

Canadian Election: WTF happened? “You have to outrun the bear” and other iron laws of politics

You know the classic story: “I don’t have to outrun the bear, I just have to outrun you”?

When you have a shotgun, you turn the shotgun on the bear. You do NOT turn your shotgun on your buddy.

Iggy (Liberal Leader Ignatieff) had a choice in the final week as his party faded. He could have said “Let us show a united front and block the Tories by any means possible.”

Instead, he went the route of “OMG! Scary socialists! Be afraid! Be VERY VERY AFRAID!”

Needless to say, this did not slow down the bear. The bear just kept on coming.

Nor did it stop the Liberal bleeding. The last days of the campaign are the time for you to be solidifying your support with the positive message of why your supporters are voting for you (and no, this is not a winning message either:”Vote for us because we used to be awesome, and we might be again some day! Uh…. Vote for us because your dad did!”)


. . . .when the faltering Liberal support broke in the final days, it didn’t go to their natural ally, Jack Layton (NDP leader). Instead, it went to pad the Tories (Conservatives).

Mistakes were made

And Iggy made them:

   Letting the Tories define him and the issues (Why on earth was he still talking about coalitions last week? That was Harper’s dream issue)

   Forcing an election with lousy numbers and no theme or message

   Banking right (EG Afghanistan, the oil sands) when the right was a monolithic, efficient fortress he was never ever going to break and the flank he needed to shore up was his left

   When the collapse came, lashing out against his ally instead of unifying

Now, Iggy says he’s sticking around. Which just further proves the man has absolutely no political sense whatsoever.

One bright spot: The fact that the Tories have an outright majority saves us from the ultimate indignity: Iggy pandering to Harper, propping up a Conservative minority in the name of “Giving the party time to rebuild” that would actually merely cement their irrelevance.

This is a cautionary warning for the Democratic Party and President Obama who keep pandering to the Tea Party Republicans and throwing the Liberal base under the bus. They are going to make themselves irrelevant in 2012 which might not be a bad thing in the longer run and the election in 2014 and 2016.

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”

Alex Seitz-Wald: Reagan Budget Director: “Absolutely” Raise Taxes, Just Like Reagan Did

As Washington considers ways to rein in the deficit, Republicans have obstinately demanded that any tax revenue increases be taken off the table, claiming that raising taxes during a down economy would doom the recovery. As evidence, they often point to the presidency of Ronald Reagan, claiming his massive 1981 tax cuts caused that decade’s economic boom. But this anti-tax position makes it almost impossible to do anything serious about the deficit, since – despite GOP talking points – the country has a revenue problem, not a spending problem. On ABC’s This Week today, Reagan’s own budget director, David Stockman, exposed the GOP tax cut “theology” for the ahistorical sham it is. Asked by Reuter’s Chrystia Freeland if the economy could “sustain” a tax increase, Stockman said “absolutely,” noting that the economy only recovered under Reagan once he raised taxes in 1982 after “cut[ting] taxes too much” the year before . . . .

William Rivers Pitt: My Alabama

When I was a toddler, we lived for a time in a small house in Tuscaloosa. At this moment, I have no idea if that house still exists. The tornadoes took so much, did so much damage, were so horrifically lethal. One of them came unimaginably close to my father’s home, and I was frantic until I heard from him. My step-brother has given himself over to the grisly work of recovery and clean-up, and flights of angels will sing his name when he is done. I wish I was there with him, but so many have volunteered to help that they have been turning people away. That is Alabama, too.

I am a Boston boy through and through, but the red clay of Alabama is still under my fingernails, and the boy I was is still there, lost in adolescence and memories yet to be. It is a place of singular beauty, my father’s home, like his father’s fathers before him. He is still there, as is the oak tree, and the rivers, and the old country road. The tornadoes didn’t take everything.

Alabama, you are in my prayers. We are all your sons and daughters today.

Jonathan Capehart: Trump deserved every lump at correspondents’ dinner

“TRUMP sat stone-faced at the WashPost table at last night’s White House Correspondents’ Association dinner as Seth Meyers of ‘Saturday Night Live’ ripped him brutally. Definitely laughing at him, not with him. Was so awkward that some folks at his table stopped laughing and applauding.” From Politico Playbook on Sunday

Had I been at that table I would not have stopped laughing and applauding for one second. Donald Trump deserved no such courtesy.

Trump’s faux candidacy for the Republican nomination for president leads in some polls, thanks to his willful embrace of the disgusting, dangerous and racist birther conspiracy lie that President Obama was not born in the United States and, thus, the illegitimate occupant of the White House. And when that was proved wrong – again – last week by the release of Obama’s long-form birth certificate, Trump doubled down by questioning the qualifications of the president to go to Columbia and Harvard universities. This was another ugly insult in his ceaseless quest for attention.

E.J. Dionne Jr. Yes, we can turn the page

It seems appropriate that my wife and I got the news of the death of Osama bin Laden from our son last night. We had gone to bed early and he roused us to report what had happened.  It seemed a fitting way to get the news because the political consciousness of an entire younger generation of Americans – our son was 8 on Sept. 11, 2001, and our daughters are, respectively, two and five years younger – was so heavily shaped by the events of that day and all that came after.

While no one pretends that the threat of terrorism has gone away, one would like to hope that the country can now turn a page, to use the phrase Barack Obama invoked so powerfully during the 2008 campaign.  It’s why I think young Americans were especially animated by the news of bin Laden’s death. They do not want to be the generation whose experience is characterized by their country’s engagement in what seems like an endless series of foreign wars.  But neither do they relish coming of age at a moment when so many speak of the possibility of American decline. The events in Pakistan are not so much a remedy as a sign of hope that the United States can avoid both fates.

Laura Flanders: Searching for Closure at Ground Zero

Hours after the attack on the Trade Towers in 2001 I walked down to the site. I returned there again last night and found a loud crowd shouting mostly the words “USA, USA,” in the darkness to a clutch of news cameras.

While different in almost every other respect, what I found on both occasions were people searching. A decade ago, dust still on their skin, people were looking for safety, for loved ones, for explanation. This time, with a whole lot more breath in their lungs, people were looking once again-for others to be with and for closure.

James Harris: Second-Class Students

In a recent interview, Oakland Unified School District Superintendent Tony Smith shared with me one of the most mind-numbing statistics I have ever heard: According to the Alameda County Health Department, a black child born in West Oakland will, on average, die 15 years before a white child born in the hills of Oakland.

“Surely this must be enhanced or inflated for shock value,” I said to Smith. “This can’t be real.”

“That is a real statistic that exposes serious inequity along racial lines in Oakland,” said Smith. We sat for a minute talking about our hopes for our children and our hopes for Oakland schools, but the statistic stung me with a viscous dose of reality, which quickly transformed into deep concern and doubt about Oakland’s education system.

Richard A. Clarke: Bin Laden’s Dead. Al Qaeda’s Not.

THE United States needed to eliminate Osama bin Laden to fulfill our sense of justice and, to a lesser extent, to end the myth of his invincibility. But dropping Bin Laden’s corpse in the sea does not end the terrorist threat, nor does it remove the ideological motivation of Al Qaeda’s supporters.

Often forgotten amid the ugly violence of Al Qaeda’s attacks was that the terrorists’ declared goal was to replace existing governments in the Muslim world with religiously pure Islamist states and eventually restore an Islamic caliphate. High on Al Qaeda’s list of targets was Egypt’s president, Hosni Mubarak. The protesters of Tahrir Square succeeded in removing him without terrorism and without Al Qaeda.

Thus, even before Bin Laden’s death, analysts had begun to argue that Al Qaeda was rapidly becoming irrelevant. With Bin Laden’s death, it is even more tempting to think that the era of Al Qaeda is over.

Perspective and a New Face

The new face of the Arab World is now the young people in Egypt and Tunisia and all the Middle Eastern countries where freedom rises up. Now, let’s bring our troops home.

What Debate?

Budget debate’s center tilts to left

Robert Reich, San Francisco Chronicle

Sunday, May 1, 2011

In my view, even the president doesn’t go nearly far enough in the direction most Americans would approve. His plan doesn’t really increase taxes on the rich. It merely ends the Bush tax windfalls for the wealthy – which were originally designed to be ended in 2010 in any event – and closes a few loopholes.

But if we’re in a budget crisis, why shouldn’t we go back to the tax rates we had 30 years ago, which required the rich to pay much higher shares of their incomes? One of the great scandals of our age is how concentrated income and wealth have become. The top 1 percent now gets twice the share of national income it took home 30 years ago.

If the super-rich paid taxes at the same rates they did three decades ago, they’d contribute $350 billion more per year than they do now – amounting to trillions more over the next decade. That’s enough to ensure that every young American is healthy and well educated and that the nation’s infrastructure is up to world-class standards.

If Americans understood how much they’re paying for defense and how little they’re getting, they’d demand a defense budget at least 25 percent smaller than it is today.

I’d wager that if Americans also knew that the Ryan plan would channel hundreds of billions of their Medicare dollars into the pockets of private for-profit heath insurers, more would be against it.

If people knew that two-thirds of Ryan’s budget cuts would come from programs serving lower- and moderate-income Americans while more than 70 percent of the savings would fund tax cuts for the rich, even more would oppose it.

And if they knew that combining the tax cuts for the rich with the budget-cuts plan would produce almost no deficit reduction at all, just about everyone would be against it. The plan is little more than a giant transfer from the less advantaged to the super advantaged.

Finally, the president’s proposed budget – which, again, is considered the extreme liberal end of the field – doesn’t begin to remedy the scandal of the nation’s schools in poor and middle-class communities. Most teachers in these schools are paid less than $50,000 a year, and classrooms are crammed.

According to the most recent Washington Post-ABC News poll, 78 percent of Americans oppose cutting spending on Medicare as a way to reduce the budget deficit. Meanwhile, raising taxes on the wealthy is supported by 72 percent. That includes 68 percent of independents. Even a majority of registered Republicans – 54 percent – say taxes should be raised on the rich. A majority of Republicans!

The Ryan Republican plan shouldn’t be considered one side of a great debate. It shouldn’t be considered at all. Americans of all political persuasions – including a large percentage of registered Republicans – don’t want it.

Are we through yet?

Costly Afghanistan Road Project Is Marred by Unsavory Alliances

By ALISSA J. RUBIN and JAMES RISEN, The New York Times

Published: May 1, 2011

The money paid to Mr. Arafat bought neither security nor the highway that American officials have long envisioned as a vital route to tie remote border areas to the Afghan government. Instead, it added to the staggering cost of the road, known as the Gardez-Khost Highway, one of the most expensive and troubled transportation projects in Afghanistan. The 64-mile highway, which has yet to be completed, has cost about $121 million so far, with the final price tag expected to reach $176 million – or about $2.8 million a mile – according to American officials. Security alone has cost $43.5 million so far, U.S.A.I.D. officials said.

Despite the expense, a stretch of the highway completed just six months ago is already falling apart and remains treacherous. The unfinished portion runs through Taliban territory, raising questions about how it can be completed. Cost overruns are already more than 100 percent, all for a road where it was never certain that local Afghans wanted it as badly as the American officials who planned it.

Within weeks of starting work, a construction camp was hit with rocket-propelled grenades, said Steve Yahn, the former chief engineer for the Gardez-Khost Highway project. Afterward, the provincial governor and the police chief told the Americans that if they had hired the right people for security, the attack would never have happened. “We got the message,” Mr. Yahn said.

That is when Mr. Arafat and 200 of his men were brought in to protect work crews. He was recommended by tribal elders from the Zadran tribe, said Paktia’s governor, Juma Khan Hamdard.

“On paper, the G.K. road was paying an enormous security detail of local-hire Afghans,” said one United States official. The highway contractors “would make a big deal out of their camps’ getting hit from time to time, and some of their guys would get shot in night attacks, but every instance I ever heard about coincided with payment negotiations with the Afghan security detail, of whom Arafat was the chief point of contact,” the official said.

It is impossible to determine how many of the attacks on the highway may have been staged by Mr. Arafat or his men. Despite all the money spent on security, however, there have been 364 attacks on the Gardez-Khost Highway, including 108 roadside bombs, resulting in the deaths of 19 people, almost all of them local Afghan workers.

“Since I have left the security of the road, it’s chaos there,” Mr. Arafat said. In fact, security officials have not seen any significant incidents since Mr. Arafat’s departure, they said.

A military officer who asked not to be identified said that contractors working in remote stretches of Afghanistan constantly faced such dilemmas. Do you keep paying off insurgents, or others, to keep the peace, even though they could use the money to buy weapons and sustain the insurgency?

“It’s a tradeoff,” said the officer. “It’s Afghanistan; there is never a good answer.”

On This Day In History May 3

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

Click on images to enlarge

May 3 is the 123rd day of the year (124th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 242 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1919, Pete Seeger, folk singer, activist, environmentalist was born in NYC.

On July 26, 1956, the House of Representatives voted 373 to 9 to cite Pete Seeger and seven others (including playwright Arthur Miller) for contempt, as they failed to cooperate with House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) in their attempts to investigate alleged subversives and communists. Pete Seeger testified before the HUAC in 1955.

In one of Pete’s darkest moments, when his personal freedom, his career, and his safety were in jeopardy, a flash of inspiration ignited this song. The song was stirred by a passage from Mikhail Sholokhov’s novel “And Quie Flows the Don”. Around the world the song traveled and in 1962 at a UNICEF concert in Germany, Marlene Dietrich, Academy Award-nominated German-born American actress, first performed the song in French, as “Qui peut dire ou vont les fleurs?” Shortly after she sang it in German. The song’s impact in Germany just after WWII was shattering. It’s universal message, “let there be peace in the world” did not get lost in its translation. To the contrary, the combination of the language, the setting, and the great lyrics has had a profound effect on people all around the world. May it have the same effect today and bring renewed awareness to all that hear it.

Six In The Morning

Robert Fisk: Was he betrayed? Of course. Pakistan knew Bin Laden’s hiding place all along

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

A middle-aged nonentity, a political failure outstripped by history – by the millions of Arabs demanding freedom and democracy in the Middle East – died in Pakistan yesterday. And then the world went mad.

Fresh from providing us with a copy of his birth certificate, the American President turned up in the middle of the night to provide us with a live-time death certificate for Osama bin Laden, killed in a town named after a major in the army of the old British Empire. A single shot to the head, we were told. But the body’s secret flight to Afghanistan, an equally secret burial at sea? The weird and creepy disposal of the body – no shrines, please – was almost as creepy as the man and his vicious organisation.

DocuDharma Digest

Regular Features-

Featured Essays for May 2, 2011-


Senator Lindsey Graham: Epic Fail! 20110502

I usually do not write about pure politics because many others here do it much better than I.  Whilst I keep up with politics, those of you who read my three regular, weekly series know that I am much more of and academic and a storyteller.  However, this is different.

He, and the despicable Sean Hannity have decided that it was wrong to give a proper burial, following the Muslim tradition, of Usama bin Laden was the wrong thing to do.  Nothing could be further from the truth, and I shall use their own favorite catch phrase to nail them.

Grahan and Hannity, and others of a similar mind, are drunk with the passion for revenge.  That is not supposed to be our way.  Justice, not revenge, is the American way, or at least is purported to be so.