Friday, April 1, 2011

Juan Cole explains how things are going better than you think in Libya...

..and that a political solution may be coming...from inside Libya:

...the significance of [Libyan Foreign Minister] Kussa’s defection lies in its being a sign of the winds shifting against Qaddafi with his inner circle, which will affect the loyalty of his outer circle of tribal leaders. Many key members of the powerful Warfalla and Megarha tribes have already declared against Qaddafi, and Firjan and others are wavering. Tribes as loose systems of kinship politics, are volatile and fluid, and their allegiances can change rapidly. (Americans might remember that many members of the Dulaim tribe in Iraq fought tooth and nail against US troops in 2004-2005 but by 2006-2007 many were joining pro-American militias, the ‘Sons of Iraq.’) The tribes could turn on Qaddafi in a second, aside from his own and a few loyalists.

In announcing the end of US bombing raids in Libya, Gates “noted that the air attacks are a central feature of the overall military strategy; over time they could degrade Gadhafi’s firepower to a point that he would be unable to put down a renewed uprising by opposition forces…”

That is, Gates hopes that over time, Col. Muammar Qaddafi will simply have fewer and fewer tanks, artillery pieces, and armored vehicles. He has already lost the ability to bomb Benghazi and other cities from the air.

Gates’s premise seems to be that most Libyans don’t want to be under Qaddafi’s rule, and that the only way he subdued Zuara, Zawiya, Tajoura, Ra’s Lanuf, and other cities that had thrown him off was by main force. When his main force is subjected to sufficient attrition, his advantage will suddenly disappear and the opposition to him of the liberation movement will suddenly cascade. I don’t personally think that this cascade requires military means. It happened once largely peacefully, as in Egypt in Tunisia, and can happen again if Qaddafi’s heavy weapons can be neutralized.

People who want the attrition of Qaddafi’s forces to be visited in only a week or two are just being unrealistic. It would happen over weeks and maybe months.

In the meantime, the UN allies (NATO and the Arab League) have as their most urgent mission the protection of Benghazi from any major attack, which can be done aerially.

What bad thing would happen if NATO and the Arab League just proceed deliberately and with patience?

Impatience makes for bad policy. Those who urge Western military troops the ground are making a huge error– that development would never be acceptable to most of the Libyan people nor to the Arab League, nor to the majority on the UN Security Council.

Others of the tribe of the impatient want to put sophisticated weapons in rebel hands. Those who think the US or NATO should arm the rebels, however, are simply paving the way for a civil war and for a long-term cycle of violence. Having a rebel army conquer reluctant cities like Sirt, which still support Qaddafi in the main, is undesirable. Let pro-Qaddafi cities alone. The main task should be to protect the anti-Qaddafi populace from his attacks.

NATO agrees. NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Thursday that his organization differs with those who have suggested that UNSC Resolution 1973 allows the arming of the rebels.

Like with Tunisia, Egypt and Iran (eventually), the lack of hands-on American involvement is actually a good thing. Give the Rebels a fighting chance to do it themselves. Don't arm the rebels...why? Because once you hand one of your allies a gun, that gun don't magically disappear when the mission is over. Guns don't melt into the sand by force of will. Guns, history has shown, tend to stick around. Anyone can pick up that thing, and possibly use it against you (see: Bin-Laden, Usama).

Keep Qaddafi weak. Give the Rebels their chance. Let the tribes finish him off. It won't happen overnight oh ye of convenient short-term memory loss, but it will happen.

UPDATE: 11:10am Pacific: Thomas Ricks has a quick column on why the U.S. arming the rebels is a bad idea, and I'd like to post a reminder that the Administration hasn't made up its mind yet, and it's pretty unlikely to do so as of this morning.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The President's Speech on Energy at Georgetown University (VIDEO)

Gov. Jerry Brown...the Anti-Scott Walker (VIDEO)

I don't want to play like this is good news or anything, but I don't see where Jerry had much of a choice. The simple fact is that you can't bargain with someone who keeps moving the goalposts, and at some point you have to say: Then shut it down.

Jerry just said: then shut it down.

Now, the reason I call Jerry the anti-Scott Walker is simple.  Jerry did at least try to reach out.  He lists Business Leaders, Labor, Farmers, Educators, etc., as being onboard with his budget plan.  He tries to spread the pain out to everybody, and is willing to let the voters decide on the tax increases.

The next time Scott Walker reaches out to anybody but the Koch Brothers will be the first.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Diane Sawyer's Interview with President Obama - March 29, 2011 (VIDEO)

The Mighty Eagle saves the day once again... (VIDEO)

I'm afraid you're going to have to be into Angry Birds to get all the references to this, but its still pretty funny. Even though the ending suggested by the piece is stlll TBD

I myself have yet to purchase the Mighty Eagle, but looking at this, maybe its worth the extra 99 cents.

"Then Shut It Down..." (VIDEO)

This from Brian Beutler:

Just two weeks ago, after he watched 54 of his own members defect from an emergency spending bill to keep the government from shutting down, House Speaker John Boehner realized he was in a fix. The numbers told an important story -- that to keep the federal lights on, Boehner would need help from Democrats just to pass legislation through the House. And that would mean cutting a deal, and enraging his conservative rank and file.

At a jobs forum in the auditorium of the Capitol Visitors Center, he softened his rhetoric and acknowledged his weakened hand.

"It's never been lost on me that because we only control the House there are a lot of other players that we need to work with in order to come to any agreement to keep the government open," Boehner said. "But I'm confident that we'll be able to find a way to cut spending -- which we believe will lead to a better environment for business to hire people in America -- and keep the government open."

Something changed between then and now. This week, Boehner and House Republicans are drawing thick lines in the sand in budget negotiations with Democrats, and the threat of a shutdown -- something Boehner has insisted he wants to avoid -- has spiked. On Tuesday, principals on both sides spoke as if a shutdown wasn't just inevitable, but imminent. Cue finger-pointing.

Does that sound familiar? Well, that's because you have seen it all before, not just a decade ago between Newt and Bubba, but on your TeeVee:

The only difference is I think Harry Reid is going to be the one to say "Shut it down" instead of the President.  Not as sexy for Prime-Time TV, but direct all the same.


So much of this has played out behind closed doors that it's hard to suss out exactly who's right. But we know that Republican rhetoric has stiffened, and that, after weeks of keeping their heads down, Democrats began leaking detailed accounts of the failed negotiations early this week. Republicans dispute these accounts, and say nothing has changed -- but something clearly has. And Republicans don't have a compelling explanation for it.

But the facts are complicated and weedy. So each party's spin machines are gearing up to convince the public that the other party's at fault. Those lines of argumentation are now clear. It's unclear who'll win that spin battle -- but it's worth pointing out that the White House has been prepared for this outcome for a long time.

All I can say is, never bet against the President when he has time to prepare for something. Personally, I knew the Libyan Speech was going to come off well. Why? He had 48 hours to prepare.

And this, he's been preparing for since November.

Busy Night Last Night (Part 5: Just an excuse for a quick Canada joke) (VIDEO)

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Chaos in Chaonada
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogVideo Archive

Busy Night Last Night (Part 4: Lawrence and Rachel hash it out) (VIDEO)

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Busy Night Last Night (Part 3: Anthony Weiner calls bull@#$% on Dennis Kucinich) (VIDEO)

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

For the record, I too, have called bull@#$% on Dennis Kucinich before.

Busy Night Last Night (Part 2: Maddow discovers President being consistent) (VIDEO)

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Busy Night Last Night (Part 1: Jon Stewart's Interview with Mansour O. El-Kikhia) (VIDEO)

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Mansour O. El-Kikhia
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook

Roll The Union On! (VIDEO)

The President's Speech on Libya at the National Defense University of March 28, 2011 (VIDEO)

Thomas Ricks (from Obama on Libya: Watch out, Saudi Arabia):

That's what I thought as I watched President Obama's speech on Libya. It reminded me that about three years ago, when I read a transcript of an interview Fareed Zakaria did about foreign affairs with Barack Obama, then running for the Democratic presidential nomination. The message I took away from that exchange was that if this guy is elected, he will have little time for dictators, despots and the like.

What we saw in the NDU speech was a logical defense of what the president has ordered the military to do and an exposition of what the limits of the action will be. The cost of inaction threatened to be greater than the cost of action, but now we have done our part. Next role for the U.S. military is best supporting actor, providing electronic jammers, combat search and rescue, logistics and intelligence. That was all necessary, and pretty much as expected.

But I was most struck by the last few minutes of the speech, when Obama sought to put the Libyan intervention in the context of the regional Arab uprising. He firmly embraced the forces of change, saying that history is on their side, not on the side of the oppressors.

Andrew Sullivan (from "America Is Different"):

That, it seems to me, was the core message of the president's speech on Libya. America is simply incapable of watching a slaughter take place - anywhere in the world - and not move to do what we can to prevent it. It is against our nature to let evil triumph in such a fashion. The Libyan example was particularly vital because a rare constellation of forces came together to make turning away even harder: European and Arab support for preventing mass murder; UN permission; America's "unique" capabilities; and an imminent massacre in Benghazi.

Obama the Niebuhrian put the moral in realism. Yes, we could not do this everywhere all the time; but we could do this when we did; and that was good enough. There was some sleight of hand here. Citing the UN Resolution as an external reason for war - when the US lobbied hard for it - was a touch too neat. But essentially Obama was challenging those of us who opposed this decision to ask ourselves: well, what would you do? If the US had insisted on looking away, America would have seemed morally callous, even compared with the French. The mass graves of Benghazi would take their place alongside the horrors of Srebrenica. And the impact on Arab opinion, especially on the younger generation that is so key to the future, would be fatal to America's long term interests.

I do not know whether the last is actually the case, or whether most young Arabs are understandably focused on the regimes they labor under rather than the murderous nutter in the North African desert. But secretary of state Clinton was in the region at the time and believed otherwise. And, yes, one appreciates that doing nothing represented a choice as well as doing something. And it too would have had unknowable consequences.

Was I persuaded? Not completely. The major objection - what happens now? - was not answered affirmatively by the president. It was answered negatively: there would be no military effort at regime change, as in Iraq; NATO, not the US, would soon be leading the mission; and, er, it may last a while. It is way too soon to celebrate a new model of international cooperation; but it seems striking to me that the rationale Obama invoked was very much GHW Bush in Kuwait rather than GW Bush in Iraq. That left Saddam in power for more than a decade. And yet Obama spoke as if Qaddafi's days were obviously numbered. I sure hope they are.

And yet (this from Greg Sargent):

For the past two years, the right has alleged that President Obama does not believe in American exceptionalism, which holds that America plays a unique role in the world, defined by National Review’s Rich Lowry and Ramesh Ponnuru as an “exemplar of freedom and a vindicator of it, through persuasion when possible and force of arms when absolutely necessary.”

After Obama’s speech last night justifying the intervention in Libya, anyone who alleges the president doesn’t believe this deserves to be laughed out of town.

Peter Beinart:

Obama’s is a different version of American exceptionalism. For men like Bolton, American virtue is a given. American presidents should never apologize because America never has anything to apologize for. Our mistakes are never crimes, and if others don’t see our moral greatness that just proves their moral cynicism.

Obama, by contrast, because he can see America through post-colonial eyes, knows this is a fable. He knows that in many places on earth, America has abetted dictatorship and corruption and slaughter. In some cases he has apologized, which has led men like Bolton to claim that he sees America as no different from any other great power.

But they don’t get it. For Obama, American exceptionalism is not a fact; it is a struggle. Bolton and company like to invoke World War II and the Cold War because in those conflicts we fought the evil that lay out there. Obama, by contrast, often invokes the civil-rights movement: a struggle against the evil within. That’s what makes his Libya decision powerful. He knows that there are good reasons for Middle Easterners to fear when they see American planes overhead. And yet he is acting to show that it does not have to be that way.

The complete text of the speech can be found here:

Monday, March 28, 2011

Described this as one of the more frightening bits of video from the Tsunami, and you know what? That's right. It is. (VIDEO)

Got this from Jalopnik, one of the many, many Gawker Media sites (I actually have no idea what Jalopnik specializes in).

Anyway, they described this as one of the more frightening bits of video from the Tsunami, and you know what? They're right.

I get the feeling the Cameraman went to the top of that building because he (or she) was advised this was a solid safe spot to avoid the water.

But about three minutes in, despite being surrounded by concrete, brick and sturdy foundation, tell you feel safe?

Only in America, will we reward someone for slitting our own throats. Only in America are people rewarded for destroying us. (VIDEO)

One of the things that's been on my mind is the fact that the average American doesn't understand that much about Economics.

They think they do, but demonstrate time and time again that really don't.

How else do you get Americans actively lobbying on behalf of corporations, or telling the Government to keep their hands off Medicare, or demanding they they go after Unions on behalf of the Corporate master, or fight for Budget talks in which no talk of raising taxes is to be allowed, or demanding cuts to Social Security...right up until the point the axe is about to fall.

And then there's this:

It's amazing to me that we live in a country where this is acceptable.

Not only is G.E. being allowed to pay $0 in Federal Income Taxes, American Voters are working very hard to make sure that politicians (in both parties mind you) are rewarded for making sure this happens. Only in America, will we reward someone for slitting our own throats. Only in America are people rewarded for destroying us.

Which brings me to Ray Buursma, writing for the Holland Sentinel. You probably haven't heard of the Holland Sentinel (I hadn't either) or of Holland, Michigan in particular, but Mr. Buursma said some things that really hit home for me. It's nothing that hasn't been said in this space (that we are to blame for our Economic woes), but it's always nice to hear someone else say it as well.

I'm never sure what to do with pieces like these. As a blogger, you look for a place to start and end to give you a taste of what the writer has intended, but sometimes when you come right down to it, there's no place to cut, and the piece has to present itself on its own terms.

Thus, it is with extreme pleasure, I present Ray Buursma column for the Holland Sentinel, American workers got what they deserved:

Are you an American employee? If so, today’s column will likely offend you. If you’d rather not be offended, read no further. If you continue and then complain, I’m sorry, but that simply proves you’re, well, stupid. But then again, stupidity plays a large role in today’s topic.

Still reading? OK. You’ve had fair warning.

So you’re an American employee. Maybe you make car parts. Maybe you’re an engineer or designer. Maybe you’re an accountant, store clerk or tradesman. Whatever you do, you’re probably stupid or lazy. Yes, I wrote it, and I mean it. You are either stupid or lazy. Maybe both.

Now, I’m not referring to your work ethic or job performance. No, most of you are competent and devoted to your profession or vocation. I’m addressing the way you view economics and employment. I’m challenging your gumption to advocate for yourself and your fellow Americans. Here’s what I mean.

Remember the Reagan standard? Are you better off today than you were a decade ago? Two decades? Three? Unless you make more than $380,000 a year, the answer is no. In fact, your standard of living over the last quarter century has actually decreased while millionaires have added 30 percent to their net wealth. Why? Two reasons.

First, hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs went overseas while the politicians you elected did nothing to stop them. Yet you continue to elect leaders who offer nothing but tax cuts, as if that would stem the flow of disappearing jobs.

Did you demand your leaders address America’s trade imbalance or continuous outsourcing of jobs? Did you demand your leaders require foreign countries to buy a dollar’s worth of American goods for every dollar of goods they sell here?

No and no. You didn’t bother. You simply crossed your fingers and prayed, “I hope my job’s not next.” You made concessions to your employer and hoped that would stem the exodus of jobs, or at least yours. How’d that work for you?

Second, you bought into the myth that unions are the cause of America’s demise. You didn’t bother to learn America became a world power when union membership was at its peak. You didn’t bother to learn America became the envy of the world while 1 of every 3 Americans was a union member.

So, how are things going for you? How do your benefits compare to a quarter century ago? Are you paying a higher or lower percentage of your income for health insurance? Does your company offer a pension plan, or do you now fund your own 401(k)?

Maybe you’re thinking, “I’m not a union worker, so this doesn’t affect me.”

Stop being stupid. Union benefits provide a standard other companies have to match, or at least come close to. When those benefits are cut, yours are, too. Or do you think you operate in your own little employment vacuum?

To make matters worse, you’re again being played for a chump. The same puppets who did nothing while your standard of living decreased are now using the oldest gimmick in the book — jealousy — to continue their assault on American workers. Rather than protect Americans’ jobs, they deflect your attention through jealousy.

“Cut the pay of government workers,” they cry. “Increase their health premiums. Decrease their pensions. Break their unions. After all, you’ve suffered so they should suffer too.” And in your misery, you buy their argument while more jobs head oversees. Pretty stupid, eh?

If their antics weren’t so pathetic, if the consequences weren’t so dire, if they didn’t prey on your stupidity, and if you didn’t buy into their convoluted reasoning, this whole situation would be laughable. But of course it’s not.

I warned you I’d likely offend you, and I suspect I did. But once you overcome your anger, consider my analysis. Then, either wise up and do something about it, or resign yourself to a lower standard of living for the next decade.

I've made two discoveries in the last few weeks. Rick Ungar of Forbes Magazine (yeah, I know Forbes...but he's on our side) and now Mr. Burrsma. They're both pro-worker and always worth your time.