Saturday April 14th brought the intersection of two seemingly irreconcilable groups of political activists in the hometown of Sarah Palin (it is also my hometown, since 1985). On Saturday morning, the Mat-Su Democrats, easily the most progressive area Democratic Party organization, held their presidential choice caucus, and met in their legislative district groups (for the last time, as statewide redistricting will fragment them by the end of June). Saturday afternoon, the Conservative Patriots Group Tea Party of Wasilla, easily the most regressive area Tea Party organization, held their annual tax day protest less than a mile from where the Democrats were winding down their caucus.
I attended the Mat-Su Democrats’ caucus as a party member (and past district and area officer). I was questioned by the State Central Committee Treasurer – a dear friend of mine – as soon as I came in.
“You’re not going to object to the nomination of Obama, are you, Phil?”
I hadn’t thought of what I might do when motions were presented. I asked, “Why?”
“Every other area caucus has endorsed the President by acclamation, and by unanimous consent. If you object, we would be the only group that didn’t do that.”
“Do you want me to STFU?”
“What does ‘STFU’ mean?”
A friend interjected, “It means ‘abstain,” I think.”
“In that case, yes,” replied the statewide treasurer.
I decided to not make waves on the issue and said “Sure.”
I brought a poll with me. I had four questions I wanted to ask both the Wasilla Democrats and Wasilla Tea Party Patriots. I polled 18 of the 78 or 79 people there. I attended my district caucus of 22 people, voted on resolutions for the upcoming state convention in Fairbanks, and signed up to be a delegate.
After the scheduled events were over, I drove over to Wasilla Lake, where the Tea Party event was about to start. I had polled this annual tax day protest in 2009 and 2010. I missed 2011 because of a work schedule conflict. I polled 20 of the 350 people there with the same questions I’d posed to the local Dems. The poll results for both groups are below the fold. [cont'd] Read the rest of this entry →
Jeremy Scahill is one of the most curious, thorough and courageous journalists working anywhere today. As a writer, his book on the growth of military contractors such as Blackwater (now known as Xe Services LLC, uh – Academi), Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army, won the George Polk Book Award. His work with Democracy Now and The Nation is highly regarded by people concerned with the continuing abuse of American imperial power in the Obama administration. Being a realist in terms of how Obama is conducting armed foreign policy has led to his being marginalized by apologists for these policies.
Scahill’s bottom line is that these policies, particularly the killing of hundreds of innocent people (if not more!) by our growing fleet of armed drone aircraft, are counter productive, and against our country’s long-term interests in many ways. His latest article for The Nation, Why is President Obama Keeping a Journalist in Prison in Yemen?, deals with aspects of that bottom line. The article is far more chilling, though, in some of its content and message. It shows quite clearly how the Obama administration’s manipulation of some of the new powers it asserts for the chief executive are beyond troublesome. The secretiveness of this administration is no secret on the real left. Not expressed in Scahill’s article, nor in Glen Greenwald’s thorough assessment of it, is what bothers me most about this administration’s growing uses of secrecy and extra-constitutional powers to go after its perceived enemies abroad – and here:
Once an American chief executive takes on new powers, his successor never backs down from that position. Not even when, as Obama clearly did in 2008, the new president has promised on the campaign trail to ratchet these powers down a notch or two.
Here’s Greenwald’s description of some of what Scahill and others have uncovered, regarding the imprisonment in Yemen of another courageous journalist, Abdulelah Haider Shaye, at the direct behest of Obama. The White House is disturbed that Shaye uncovered a major Obama lie regarding civilian deaths from drone strikes:
There is one reason that the world knows the truth about what really happened in al Majala that day: because the Yemeni journalist, Abdulelah Haider Shaye, traveled there and, as Scahill writes, “photographed the missile parts, some of them bearing the label ‘Made in the USA,’ and distributed the photos to international media outlets.” He also documented the remnants of the Tomahawks and cluster bombs, neither of which is in Yemen’s arsenal. And he provided detailed accounts proving that scores of civilians, including those 21 children, had been killed in the attacks. It was Shaye’s journalism that led Amnesty International to show the world the evidence that it was the U.S. which had perpetrated the attack using cluster bombs, and media outlets to reveal the horrifying extent of the civilian deaths. Shaye’s work was vindicated when WikiLeaks released a diplomatic cable — allegedly provided by Bradley Manning — in which Yemen’s then-President Ali Abdullah Saleh joked with David Petraeus about continuing to lie to the public: ”We’ll continue saying the bombs are ours, not yours.”
Saleh, perhaps under pressure from the White House, had Shaye imprisoned without charge, tortured and abused:
Despite that important journalism — or, more accurately, because of it — Shaye is now in prison, thanks largely to President Obama himself. For the past two years, Shaye has been arrested, beaten, and held in solitary confinement by the security forces of Saleh, America’s obedient tyrant. In January, 2011, he was convicted in a Yemeni court of terrorism-related charges — alleging that he was not a reporter covering Al Qaeda but a mouthpiece for it — in a proceeding widely condemned by human rights groups around the world. “There are strong indications that the charges against [Shaye] are trumped up and that he has been jailed solely for daring to speak out about US collaboration in a cluster munitions attack which took place in Yemen,” Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa, told Scahill. The Yemen expert, Johnsen, added: “There is no publicly available evidence to suggest that Abdulelah was anything other than a journalist attempting to do his job.”
Shaye’s real crime is that he reported facts that the U.S. government and its Yemeni client regime wanted suppressed. But while the imprisonment of this journalist was ignored in the U.S, it became a significant controversy in Yemen. Numerous Yemeni tribal leaders, sheiks and activist groups agitated for his release, and in response, President Saleh, as the Yemeni press reported, had a pardon drawn up for him and was ready to sign it. That came to a halt when President Obama intervened. According to the White House’s own summary of Obama’s February 3, 2011, call with Saleh, “President Obama expressed concern over the release of Abd-Ilah al-Shai.” The administration has repeatedly refused to present any evidence that Shaye is anything other than a reporter, and this is what State Department spokesperson Beth Gosselin told Scahill in response to his story:
“We are standing by [President Obama’s] comments from last February. We remain concerned about Shaye’s potential release due to his association with Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. We stand by the president’s comments.” When asked whether the US government should present evidence to support its claims about Shaye’s association with AQAP, Gosselin said, “That is all we have to say about this case.”
So it is beyond dispute that the moving force behind the ongoing imprisonment of this Yemeni journalist is President Obama. And the fact that Shaye is in prison, rather than able to report, is of particular significance (and value to the U.S.) in light of the still escalating American attacks in that country. Over the past 3 days alone, American air assaults have killed 64 people in Yemen, while American media outlets — without anyone on the scene — dutifully report that those killed are “suspected Al Qaeda insurgents” and “militants.”
This White House policy is not only stupid, it is dangerously blind. And arrogant in a profoundly un-American way.
It is blind to how history works on a global scale. And, importantly, it is blind to how a possible GOP successor to this president might use these same tools of dictatorship against what he or she perceives to be a threat, foreign – or domestic. During the past few months, Obama and the U.S. Congress have undermined the Constitution in so many ways, it is hard to keep score. Just this past week, we’ve been given the anti-Occupy H.R. 347, that would make our citizens’ protests outside the White House felonies.
I’ve never voted for an incumbent president before. It doesn’t look like that will change. This really sucks, as I’ve got a feeling that the Israel Lobby will be backing whichever jerk the GOP pulls out of their hat in Tampa, and that they might be powerful enough in the 2012 scenario to be the final arbiter of who ends up winning in November.
The dilemma for me is not whether or not I will vote for Obama, but how strenuously I’ll be backing an alternative candidate, such as Dr. Jill Stein, should she get the Green Party nomination.
But – no matter what – I cannot in good conscience consider marking Obama on my ballot.
Here’s Scahill on the Alyona Show last week – America Cannot Kill Its Way to Peace:
I’m posting the video of the president’s speech put up a few minutes ago by the White House. Other versions have already been posted, but it is important to see how many comments coming in already at the president’s own Youtube site are very negative toward the speech and toward ongoing U.S. policy decisions having to do with Israel. Click on the Youtube icon on the video to go to the site.
Although the Pentagon and individual services strongly discouraged active duty military personnel from participating in Monday’s march on the White House by veterans and service members supporting Ron Paul, hundreds of them joined the thousands in the march and White House demonstration.
Standing at the gates of the White House, hundreds of veterans and active duty service members, including Schlegel, turned their backs.
Together, they saluted one second for every service member who has committed suicide during Barack Obama’s presidency.
After eight minutes of saluting, they observed a 21-minute silent prayer – one second for every service member who died abroad during President Obama’s term.
Coverage of this unprecedented event has been light in the mainstream media. So has the fact that Paul has pulled in about twice as much as the president from serving military, and over 20 times as much as his leading GOP rival from this constituency, Mitt Romney.
The group then marched in formation back to the Washington Monument. The numbers of civilians walking behind the official veterans and active duty marching to show that “Ron Paul is the Choice of the Troops” was reported to be over 1,000 family members and supporters. The official march of the troops and veterans themselves is believed to have been an additional over 900 people. It is unclear at this time, how many members of the public may have been in the crowds to observe this historic public statement by our veterans in support of Ron Paul for President of the United States.
This was clearly a unique anti-war march by our nation’s veterans and perhaps could be referred to as one of the most unique in recent history. The official march was heard in cadence to: “End the Fed”, “President Paul”, “End the Wars” and “Ron Paul Revolution, Legalize the Constitution”.
There was initially to be active duty also participating in the march. It is unclear after a warning was said to be issued by top military brass in the last couple of days whether the numbers of active duty members that actually marched today was affected by this warning instructing them not to participate.
Here’s video of the gathering at the Washington Monument:
And Here’s video of the march. There do appear to be many active service members there, though one cannot be sure. No doubt the Defense Department and Secret Service are busy going through their photos and videos, trying to determine which people there are indeed active duty. Will they be given the Lt. Dan Choi treatment?
I really like former U.S. Representative Gabrielle Gifford. Her miraculous survival and heroic recovery from the Tucson mayhem of January 2011 has inspired me, along with millions of other people who hate random violence, mayhem, killing and hate.
In yet another break with tradition, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus announced Friday that a new Littoral Combat Ship would be named for Gabrielle Giffords, the Arizona congresswoman who survived a January 2011 assassination attempt.
“The selection of Gabrielle Giffords, designated LCS 10, honors the former Congresswoman from Tucson, Arizona, who is known for supporting the military and veterans, advocating for renewable energy and championing border security,” the Navy said in a statement accompanying the announcement.
Roxanna Green, whose 9-year-old daughter Christina-Taylor Green was killed in the shooting, was named sponsor of the ship.
“Giffords and the ship’s sponsor, Roxanna Green, are sources of great inspiration and represent the Navy and Marine Corps qualities of overcoming, adapting and coming out victorious despite great challenges,” Mabus said.
Giffords, a three-term representative, resigned from Congress on Jan. 25 to continue recovering from her wounds.
Although LCSs recently have been named for cities, Mabus passed up the opportunity to name a ship for Phoenix, Arizona’s largest city, named for the mythical bird that rose from its own ashes to fly again.
The previous Phoenix, a Los Angeles-class nuclear submarine, was decommissioned in 1998.
The Tucson, a submarine named for the largest city in Giffords’ district, is in service with the Pacific Fleet.
The Navy is building 55 LCS ships. The original naming scheme for the type was for patriotic-sounding place or regional names. But after the first two ships were named Freedom and Independence, the scheme was changed to small or mid-sized cities, and the last two LCS names announced were for Montgomery and Little Rock.
Mabus, who as Navy secretary has the authority to name its ships, has garnered criticism for some of his choices. In particular, some conservatives took umbrage when the decision was announced in May 2011 to name a dry cargo and ammunition ship after Latino civil rights and labor activist Cesar Chavez.
A decision in April 2010 to name a landing transport dock ship after deceased Rep. John Murtha, an outspoken critic of the war in Iraq and the Bush administration, continues to rankle conservatives. LPDs previously had been named for small or medium-sized cities or geographic place names.
Last October, Mabus added another wrinkle to the already jumbled scheme for naming new joint high speed vessels when he changed the name of the second JHSV from its Army name of Vigilant to Choctaw County, his home county in Mississippi. The Navy had not used county names for its ships since the 1950s and 1960s.
The future Gabrielle Giffords (LCS 10) will be an Independence LCS 2-class ship. Funded in the 2012 budget, its construction contract is expected to be awarded in the first half of this year to Austal USA in Mobile, Ala.
I find it creepy to name buildings after living people, unless the people the buildings are named after own them.
Naming naval vessels after living people strikes me as strange too.
But to name a ship of a new class, the primary function of which will be to kill swarthy Arabs, Persians, Africans, Latin Americans and others in semi-secret or covert missions, to support our worldwide corporate interests, after such a vibrant, positive, inspirational woman is just plain fucking sick and cynical.
The people whooping it up over this are even sicker. If it were up to me, and I had to choose something to name after Rep. Gifford now, it would be a trauma center, a neurosurgery research school or an institute for disarmament.
Here’s some LCS porn for the O-bots to get excited over:
Conjuring up the image of President Richard Nixon, who once stated “When the President does it, that means that it is not illegal,” Obama recently disclosed secret government information on the Jay Leno Show, and on this past week’s internet forum. Last year, when asked about Army Private Bradley Manning’s status, Obama quipped “If I was to release stuff, information that I’m not authorized to release, I’m breaking the law.” At the time, Manning had not been charged with any crime.
But, by the standards of Obama’s statement on Manning, the president has also broken the law. Glenn Greenwald takes this up in today’s column, titled ACLU sues Obama administration over assassination secrecy. The Obama administration, defending its program of assassination of American citizens, and its illegal drone assassinations, and killing of hundreds of innocent people as collateral damage, has stated repeatedly that these programs are so secret that even discussing them is forbidden. Greenwald:
When they face the rule of law, then the program is so profoundly classified that it cannot be spoken of at all — indeed, the administration cannot even confirm or deny that it exists — and it therefore cannot be scrutinized by courts at all.
Worse, they not only invoke these secrecy claims to avoid the ACLU and NYT‘s FOIA requests, but they also invoked it when Awlaki’s father sued them and asked a court to prevent President Obama from executing his son without a trial. When forced to justify their assassination program in court, the Obama DOJ insisted that the program was so secretive that it could not even safely confirm that it existed — it’s a state secret – and thus no court could or should review its legality (see p.43 of the DOJ’s brief and Panetta’s Affidavit in the Awlaki lawsuit).
This is a guy who was actively planning a whole range of operations here in the homeland and was focused on the homeland. And so this was probably the most important al Qaeda threat that was out there after Bin Laden was taken out, and it was important that working with the enemies, we were able to remove him from the field.
“I think that we have to be judicious in how we use drones,” Obama said on Monday, adding that they have been used for “very precise, precision strikes against Al Qaeda and their affiliates.”
Obama went on to say that “obviously a lot of these strikes have been in the FATA,” the acronym for Pakistan’s federally administered tribal areas, and have been used for “going after Al Qaeda suspects who are in very tough terrain along the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.”
“This thing is kept on a very tight leash,” Obama said. The U.S. does not use drones “willy nilly” but in a way that avoids more intrusive military actions, he said.
Obama, by divulging classified information to the public, using his own administration’s tortured arguments, in his own words, “If I was to release stuff, information that I’m not authorized to release, I’m breaking the law,” has done just that.
Greenwald is clearly upset about where we’ve gotten:
It’s extraordinary enough that the Obama administration is secretly targeting citizens for execution-by-CIA; that they refuse even to account for what they are doing — even to the point of refusing to disclose their legal reasoning as to why they think the President possesses this power — is just mind-boggling. Truly: what more tyrannical power is there than for a government to target its own citizens for death — in total secrecy and with no checks — and then insist on the right to do so without even having to explain its legal and factual rationale for what it is doing? Could you even imagine what the U.S. Government and its media supporters would be saying about any other non-client-state country that asserted and exercised this power?
When we voted for Obama, many hoped we’d get another FDR, or at least a JFK. Then we realized we’d gotten something more akin to another Gerald Ford. Now, more and more, it seems what we’ve gotten is a newer version of some of the most uncomfortable aspects of Richard M. Nixon.
The owner and publisher of the Atlanta Jewish Times, Andrew Adler, who suggested Israel should assassinate U.S. President Barack Obama, has resigned from his post, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported on Monday.
Adler, who has since apologized for his article, listed three options for Israel to counter Iran’s nuclear weapons in an article published in his newspaper last Friday. The first is to launch a pre-emptive strike against Hamas and Hezbollah, the second is to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities and the third is to “give the go-ahead for U.S.-based Mossad agents to take out a president deemed unfriendly to Israel in order for the current vice president to take his place and forcefully dictate that the United States’ policy includes its helping the Jewish state obliterate its enemies.”
J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami issued the following statement in response to an editorial written by the publisher of the Atlanta Jewish Times calling for Israel to consider assassinating President Barack Obama:
“J Street condemns in the strongest possible terms the editorial in the Atlanta Jewish Times, written by the paper’s own publisher, that included a call for Israel to consider the assassination of President Obama. Andrew Adler’s remarks are un-American and decidedly not pro-Israel. An apology is insufficient and we welcome news that the US Secret Service is taking the ‘appropriate investigative steps.’
Words can’t express the repugnance that all Americans – Jewish and other – must feel toward someone who could use language like this. It is out of keeping with American and Jewish values.
This incident should serve, however, as more than an opportunity to join in condemning a lone extremist. It should be a wake-up call for the Jewish community that the discourse around the President and Israel, generally, has gotten far out of control.
One problem is that we have allowed the portion of American Jewry who disagrees with President Obama’s policies to too freely call him ‘anti-Israel’ without adequate pushback from the leaders of our largest communal institutions, who know that charge to be untrue.
As I wrote at MyFiredoglakelast week, and as many others have too, were Mr. Adler Muslim, his options between January 13th and now might have been considerably more limited than merely getting out of the publishing and op-ed/threat business. That being said, the prompt and articulate responses from so many important voices in Jewish public life in the U.S. was quite good to see and not surprising. The lack of attention this story has gotten in the mainstream press is another matter.
Here’s John Cook at Gawker, covering it late yesterday:
Andrew Adler, the owner and publisher of the Atlanta Jewish Times, a weekly newspaper serving Atlanta’s Jewish community, devoted his January 13, 2012 column to the thorny problem of the U.S. and Israel’s diverging views on the threat posed by Iran. Basically Israel has three options, he wrote: Strike Hezbollah and Hamas, strike Iran, or “order a hit” on Barack Obama. Either way, problem solved!
Here’s how Adler laid out “option three” in his list of scenarios facing Israeli president Benjamin Netanyahu (the column, which was forwarded to us by a tipster, isn’t online, but you can read a copy here):
Three, give the go-ahead for U.S.-based Mossad agents to take out a president deemed unfriendly to Israel in order for the current vice president to take his place, and forcefully dictate that the United States’ policy includes its helping the Jewish state obliterate its enemies.
Yes, you read “three” correctly. Order a hit on a president in order to preserve Israel’s existence. Think about it. If I have thought of this Tom Clancy-type scenario, don’t you think that this almost unfathomable idea has been discussed in Israel’s most inner circles?
Another way of putting “three” in perspective goes something like this: How far would you go to save a nation comprised of seven million lives…Jews, Christians and Arabs alike?
You have got to believe, like I do, that all options are on the table.
Adler’s newspaper isn’t what it used to be, and, according to Wikipedia, “After [Adler's] takeover the website jtonline.us ceased to be updated.. This may explain the gap of a week between the editorial’s publication and the pushback, which has begun in earnest today, inducing an apology from Mr. Adler:
The owner of the Atlanta Jewish Times apologized for an opinion column in which he counted President Obama’s assassination as among Israel’s options in heading off a nuclear Iran.
“I very much regret it, I wish I hadn’t made reference to it at all,” Andrew Adler told JTA on Friday.
He said he would publish an apology in his next edition, and that reaction from readers had been overwhelmingly negative.
The option for Israel to assassinate Obama was the third in a series that Adler laid out as choices for Netanyahu to confront the threat posed by Iran. Adler denied that he was advocating that Israel consider ordering Obama’s assassination. He claimed he only wrote the piece to provoke readers.
“I don’t stand behind what I wrote and my intention was never to stand behind it. I just wanted to get a reaction from the local community, to see what they would do,” he told the Forward.
Adler said the reaction had been “very negative.” He vowed to write a column explaining himself, and insisted he has nothing against Obama.
“My view of the President is favorable,” Adler said.
The Secret Service, which investigates threats against the president, did not immediately respond to request for comment.
Adler, who is a member of the Chabad Movement and has been active in the Atlanta Jewish community for years, bought the paper 2-1/2 years ago. It has a circulation of between 3,000 and 4,000.
The National Jewish Democratic Council denounced Adler’s column, calling in the “height of irresponsibility.”
“To dare to give such despicable ideas space in a newspaper … is beyond the pale,” said NJDC President David A. Harris in a statement.
Adler’s column on the 13th begs the question, “Is this one deranged man’s response to the campaign of organized efforts afoot by ardently militant Zionists, to demonize Obama?”
Thursday, both Glenn Greenwald and Justin Raimondo wrote very long columns on how anyone questioning the militant Zionist meme that Iran is indeed developing nuclear weapons is being targeted as “anti-Semitic.” These attacks are centering on a few writers, who Raimondo has called The DC Five:
The tale of the DC Five – the five Beltway bloggers at two prominent Democratic Washington thinktanks who have been smacked down (and one fired) for being insufficiently pro-Israel – is hardly a shock to those who know their history. But before we get into that, a few details on what is only the latest chapter in the story of how the War Party operates in this country.
Both Greenwald and Raimondo, in their articles, give many examples of how a coordinated campaign against Obama, tied directly to the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is seeking to undermine the presidency and reelection of one of the most Israel-friendly presidents in U.S. history, for not being supportive enough of that pesky little country. Adler’s over-reaction may just be one of many. As critical as I am of Obama, I’d give my life to protect his, if the occasion occurred. Likewise Mr. Adler’s life.
This shit is getting way, way out of hand.
A final thought: Had the editor of the Dearborn American Muslim Times (I’m making the name up, so if there is such a paper – sorry) proposed that an option of dealing with any president of the United States might be to have him whacked by Iranian or Pakistani or Saudi or Syrian secret services, do you think that editor would be walking the streets a week later a free man or woman?
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