Friday, May 30, 2008
You would think that advocating indiscriminate killing of people in some Middle Eastern country - any country will do! - just "because we could" would be the kind of thing which would cause people to respond with disgust and revlusion, and perhaps revoke your NYT columnist card. But, as we've learned so many times over the years, there's really nothing you can say or write about the awesomeness of killing Arabs for random reasons which will stop your cocktail party invitations from coming. Friedman, I suppose, was at least not quite as narcissistic as Richard Cohen, who thought killing people in Iraq was a good idea because it would be "therapeutic" for our country. Dead innocent people so Cohen could save a bit on his shrink bill.
But the problem with Tom Friedman is that he's very serious and taken very seriously. Unlike Maureen Dowd whose gibberish has lost its influence over the years, Tommy "Suck On This" Friedman is still The Most Serious Foreign Affairs Man In America. When Tom Friedman speaks, people listen, even as his metaphors become as bad as his advice.
So on Suck On This Day we should do our part to convince as many people as we can that Tom Friedman is a blithering idiot and a moral monster. Suck On This Tommy!
Labels: Tom Friedman
Thursday, May 29, 2008
Fox News: "Buchenwald was a work camp. Not an extermination camp." More photos from Fox New's "Work Camp." Fox News reporters are scum.
Fox News Downplays the Holocaust in an attempt to smear Obama. All these photos are from Buchenwald.. Fox's "work camp."
USING THE HOLOCAUST TO SMEAR OBAMA
by Menachem Rosensaft
I never thought I'd see the day when the Holocaust would be used as a tool for "gotcha" politics. But over the last two days, we have seen John McCain's supporters at the Republican National Committee and at Fox News launch tasteless attacks on Barack Obama. In their attempt to score a few political points, they have diminished the experience of those who suffered and died at Buchenwald, and disrespected the service of the heroic American troops who liberated them.
It started yesterday when the RNC put out a statement slamming Obama for referring to Auschwitz as he related a family story on Memorial Day. Instead of merely asking for clarification, the RNC smeared Obama's "dubious claim," and suggested -- tongue in cheek -- that perhaps Obama's uncle "was serving in the Red Army." They went on to say that the story raised questions "about his judgment and his readiness to lead as commander in chief."
It turns out that Obama's great uncle -- the brother of the grandmother who largely raised him -- served in the 89th Infantry Division of the United States Army, which liberated Ohrdruf, part of Buchenwald. But astonishingly, that only served to fan the flames for those on the right who saw an attempt to use the heroic service of Obama's uncle against him. In their breathless attempt to damage Obama, Fox News has stooped to a level that is truly depressing.
This morning on the program Fox and Friends, one of the hosts said: "It wasn't Auschwitz. It was a labor camp called Buchenwald." Just in case the point was missed, she repeated. "It wasn't Auschwitz, it was a labor camp. You would think you would want to be as specific as possible if you are telling one of these anecdotes." Meanwhile, a news "crawl" at the bottom of the screen reinforced, in bold letters, that this was "a work camp, rather than an extermination camp."
Here are some facts about Buchenwald, which is one of the most notorious Nazi concentration camps. At this "work camp," prisoners were often worked, starved, tortured, or beaten to death. Sometimes they were simply murdered. Roughly 250,000 people were imprisoned there between 1937 and 1945, many of them Jews. Over 50,000 people lost their lives.
At Nuremberg, the world was shocked to learn that some of Buchenwald's victims were skinned, and the human skin was then used to make lampshades, book covers, and other keepsakes. Buchenwald was also a site for the infamous Nazi "medical experiments" on prisoners, which were often nothing more than crude and horrific forms of torture.
To take just one anecdote about the "work" done at Buchenwald, prisoners had to build the camp road, and camp guards used to shoot those who were not carrying stones that were heavy enough. In the final days before liberation, some 10,000 prisoners from Auschwitz and Gross-Rossen were marched to Buchenwald, adding to the horrific scene that awaited American troops.
On April 4, 1945, Ohrdruf became the first Nazi concentration camp to be liberated by American forces. U.S. troops -- including the 89th Infantry Division -- found a scene that was vividly described by the Eisenhower Memorial Commission: "The scene was an indescribable horror even to the combat-hardened troops who captured the camp. Bodies were piled throughout the camp. There was evidence everywhere of systematic butchery. Many of the mounds of dead bodies were still smoldering from failed attempts by the departing SS guards to burn them."
Dwight Eisenhower and Omar Bradley would tour the camp in the days ahead. Eisenhower was so moved by the atrocities at this "work camp," that he wrote to his wife Mamie that it was "beyond the American mind of comprehend." He made both his own men and all of the citizens of the German town of Gotha tour the camp. He wanted the Americans to know the evil that they were fighting. He wanted German citizens to see what had been done in their name. After this tour, the Mayor of Gotha and his wife hanged themselves.
Many of the terrible photographs and videos that we have seen of the Holocaust come from these days. Eisenhower said that he wanted, "to give first-hand evidence if ever, in the future, there develops a tendency to charge these allegations merely to 'propaganda.'" The carefully documents attrocities at Buchenwald are thus part of the record that we use to confront anyone who would deny the horror of the Holocaust.
The men who liberated Buchenwald were heroes, plain and simple. That includes Barack Obama's great uncle. In their march across Europe, the 89th Infantry Division suffered over 1,000 casualties, with over 300 men killed. In their liberation of Buchenwald, they put an end to one of the most horrible concentration camps of the 20th century. We must honor them, just as we must remember each and every victim of the criminal Nazi regime.
To those who continue to use this story to damage Barack Obama, I have a simple question: have you no shame? You attempts to diminish his uncle's service for your own political gain says a lot more about you than it does about Barack Obama.
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
I think perhaps the biggest danger facing America today is a new, tubthumping stupidity. Stupidity kills more Americans each year than terrorism, lightning, and bad gravy combined.
Does Dunkin’ Donuts really think its customers could mistake Rachael Ray for a terrorist sympathizer? The Canton-based company has abruptly canceled an ad in which the domestic diva wears a scarf that looks like a keffiyeh, a traditional headdress worn by Arab men.
Some observers, including ultra-conservative Fox News commentator Michelle Malkin, were so incensed by the ad that there was even talk of a Dunkin’ Donuts boycott.
So Dunkin' Donuts pulled the ad, for fear that some Americans would be sent into the streets in a pants-wetting panic that someone in a donut ad might be wearing a black and white scarf that looks sortof like something a Palestinian jihadist would be wearing. You know, if it wasn't a scarf but was a headdress. And if it had a different pattern. And if you were mind-rapingly insane to begin with.
Now, what's important to grasp here is that the scarf in question (see link) is rather clearly just a scarf. It is admittedly black and white, which apparently would be symbolic in the Palestinian world, except I'm not sure if something frilly and paisley can ever really count as being as menacing as we are supposed to believe. And there's clearly no pro-terrorist vibe being intended by Dunkin Freaking Donuts -- Ray is holding a latte, which I'm pretty sure is like kryptonite to jihadists. I don't know, I'm not up on all the comic-book-style interpretations of what we should and shouldn't be afraid of these days.
No, the issue was that there was a scarf that looked sortof like something Islamic. That's it. That was enough to dampen pants and blister typing fingers across the great and paranoid conservative nation. Maybe it was a scandalous example of unintended cultural tolerance? Maybe it was a secret message to terrorists that they could count on Dunkin' Donuts to cater their next meeting? Or, maybe, it was just a goddamn scarf.
So this is what we've (well, I say "we", but I mean a small subset of American patriots who, having absolutely no intention of doing anything meaningful for their country that involves getting out of their chairs, spend their days looking for secret terrorist messages in television commercials) been reduced to. We're examining the fashion statements of donut ads and parsing them for hints of surreptitious Islamic culture. We're locked into a mortal combat against those that casually accessorize without remembering that we are at war; we're mere weeks away from probing the hidden alliances of the doilies on our grandmothers' coffee tables.
We are a nation that sees images of Jesus on toast. Admit it; there was absolutely no possibility that we would not eventually devolve to this point.
The most fearsome message of The Fashion Menace is that it has shown, once again, just how absurdly simple it would be for Osama bin Laden to bring America to its knees. It would be trivial; it requires only a rudimentary knowledge of American culture and social weaknesses.
To bring America to its knees, all Bin Laden must do is make his next video while drinking from a can of Coca Cola. The nation would erupt in chaos; Coca Cola sales would vanish into nothingness. In his next video, he could casually munch potato chips; the entire snack industry would collapse. One after another, he could film himself driving an American car; he could insert himself into a Girls Gone Wild video; he could appear next to a caveman, or a gecko, or Captain Crunch; he could enroll in DeVry University. On the day he refinanced his home at new historically low rates, the United States housing market would collapse irretrievably. One by one, he could decimate the entire economic fabric of America merely by association. Not one person in fifty would be willing to buck social trends and still buy Coca Cola if Bin Laden was seen drinking it; our consumer-based economy would be destroyed.
Why stop at scarves, after all? If Islamic militants wished to truly damage America, they should make pants a symbol of their jihad. All of conservative America would immediately go patriotically pantsless, and the collective loss of American appetites would render the entire nation weak and anemic and ripe for takeover.
And heaven help us all if the terrorists ever converted to Christianity. It would be the ultimate battle plan -- from then on, no American would know what to think. No, we should be grateful that as of the moment, they have only commandeered neckwear and Any Possible Thing On The Planet Shaped Even Vaguely Like A Crescent. So long as the battle is confined primarily to abstract shapes and donut ads, we should be fine.
Bill Clinton now claims there's a "cover up" and that Hillary is actually winning.
posted by Katrina vanden Heuvel on 05/26/2008 @ 10:00pm
Check out CNN.com for Bill Clinton's vent about how a "cover up " is hurting Hillary Clinton's chances of becoming the Democratic nominee. This is a man who has trampled on his spouse's voice every time, in this campaign, that she's found it.
The women of The Nation are the first to deplore the sexism in media commentary this primary season, but a "cover up"?
Hillary Clinton started this race last year as the one to beat--she had the money, the machine and the name recognition that assured her of quasi-incumbent status. And, indeed, she ran as a quasi-incumbent, an establishment candidate in a change- year election. Yes, there were the Chris Matthews and the Tucker Carlsons and the Mike Barnicles and the Rush Limbaughs and the women who were working out their Clinton hatred through Hillary's candidacy.
Betsy Reed's superb May 19th cover story, "Race to the Bottom: How Hillary Clinton's Campaign Has Divided the Feminist Movement," documents those sexist remarks--and explains how Clinton's campaign has divided the feminist movement. But Clinton's losses cannot be attributed solely or largely to a sexism that still runs deep in our political culture.
Clinton made the mistake of running a top-down campaign in a rules-changing year, and acceding to a sexism within her campaign that advised her not to apologize for her disastrous vote supporting Bush's war resolution. Yes, she was in charge. She could have rejected the guys' advice. But Clinton appears to have bought into the idea that a Commander-in-Chief has to play by "men's rules"--and be tougher than the toughest. If she'd been smart and right, not strong and wrong, how in her right mind would she not have said, I made a mistake when I accepted the word of a man who, it is now widely accepted (except in FoxLand), lied us into a war that has gravely undermined the US's security? John Edwards managed to issue an apology--and he was dueling with a media that had pegged him as "the Breck Girl." Could it be that macho boys like Mark Penn and Bill Clinton counseled Hillary that if she issued honest regret she wouldn't be macho enough to be treated as a serious Commander-in-Chief?
If Clinton had listened to alternative voices --if there'd be some "woman- commen-sense" over in her campaign--they might have suggested that she reframe what a commander-in-chief for the 21st century means. That what's needed to deal with the challenges of this world is not more militarism amd macho swagger, but a commitment to smart, principled use of non-military tools. After all, how does military might address genocidal conflicts? Or the worst pandemic in world history (AIDS)? Or staggering and destabilizing global ineqality? Or, for that matter, the spread of weapons of mass destruction?
Hillary might even have given a speech about what it would mean to elect the first women President. She might have given a superb gender speech--one that people, generations to come, might be talking about just as they will be talking about Barack Obama's magnificent speech on race. But she chose not to. Instead, Clinton chose a different route. And while, on some level, I like Clinton's "I'm fighting for you" persona, and her fighter instinct, that stance came too late in the campaign and needed an anchor in a larger fight than the fate and future of her campaign.
So, opportunities lost, squandered. So, it is with sadness that one watches these last days of what began as an energizing and historic campaign.
The last 72 hours of this campaign, I believe, have given renewed meaning to the term "move on." Ironically, that's a term that first gripped the national imagination at a very different moment in the Clintons' political history. It was in 1998, as rightwing forces converged on Bill Clinton, salivating about the possibility of impeaching a President for improprieties that, while grotesque, never rose to an impeachable offense, that the rules-changing internet operation MoveOn emerged on our national landscape.
It is now time to move on, again. That is not to say that Hillary Clinton doesn't have every right to campaign through the last primaries on June 3. After all, it's been a long time since millions of citizens were participants-- not simply spectators--in our mess of an election process. And that is exciting--as is the record-breaking turnout, the grassroots mobilization and registration of new and once-alienated voters in this campaign.
But when the polls close on June 3, superdelegates should move, expeditiously, to make their decision so that this campaign can refocus on what is at stake in this defining election. And their decision should follow the will of the people--that is, the pledged delegates who are the backbone of a party that --under Howard Dean has crafted a spirited fifty-state strategy seeking to connect with ordinary Americans in every part of this country. That decision, to follow the will of the pledged delegates is in sync with a party that should see its future linked to throwing off the establishment mantle that is truly elitist. After all, as The Nation's Ari Berman has reminded us in his close reporting on the delegate race this charged season, those supers were created as a firewall to protect the party establishment.
And at the end of the day, while Hillary Clinton has the grit, she ain't got the numbers. And the longer her fight drags on--with outlandish attempts to equate the status of the Michigan and Florida delegations with the fraudulent Zimbabwean elections or with the fraudulent Florida recount of 2000--the greater the disservice to the party, the people and the country.
Bill Clinton liked to say-and let me paraphrase-- we are a country in which people who play by the rules should get ahead.
The rules were the rules when the DNC laid them down to all the campaigns. At the time, the Clinton team, like all the others, agreed to abide by them. The rules are rules. Yet, in these last days, with Bill Clinton out there crying "coverup," it's as if Team Clinton has moved the goalposts so often, they're not even in the ballpark--they're somewhere out in the parking lot.
We have big issues and big differences to thrash out in this election. On June 4, I hope Hillary Clinton exits this historic race, gracefully, with dignity. That exit should win her the respect due her from all those in the Democratic party, whether they are Hillary or Barack supporters. It is an exit that is in the interest of the party and the nation. And she must know that how she exits will define the winner in November 2008.
It is time to for this election to turn to the defining issues.
The RNC seized the opportunity to fire off a news release, saying that “unless his uncle was serving in the Red Army, there’s no way Obama’s statement yesterday can be true. Obama’s frequent exaggerations and outright distortions raise questions about his judgment and his readiness to lead as commander in chief.”WHAS needs to stop uncritically reading RNC memos. It took me 5 seconds to find out that this wasn't a "frequent exaggeration" or "outright distortion". I see no mention of it on their website, and I don't expect a correction.
The Obama campaign soon acknowledged that the Democratic candidate made a mistake. It explained that Obama’s great-uncle was in the 89th Infantry Division that helped liberate another notorious death camp, Buchenwald. Obama, the campaign said, “is proud of the service of his grandfather and uncles in World War II -- especially the fact that his great-uncle was part of liberating of one of the concentration camps at Buchenwald.”
All of which raises the question: What's worse, Obama's apparent gaffe or the RNC pouncing on a Holocaust-related historical mistake for political advantage?
See.... It's not just me who thinks Hillary acts like Bush.
We all saw it. Indeed, that was the whole point. In the US, the networks stopped regular programming so we had little choice. The White House wanted to make sure we caught the full dramatic impact of the US president landing on the USS Abraham Lincoln in a navy jet against a backdrop of a clear sky and the sign "Mission Accomplished". America the beautiful. America the invincible.
The soundtrack to this most flamboyant and flawed of photo opportunities was similarly unequivocal. "Major combat operations in Iraq have ended," said President George Bush. "The battle of Iraq is one victory in a war on terror that began on September 11 2001 and still goes on."
"We are all capable of believing things which we know to be untrue," wrote George Orwell in his essay In Front of Your Nose. "And then, when we are finally proved wrong, impudently twisting the facts so as to show that we were right. Intellectually, it is possible to carry on this process for an indefinite time: the only check on it is that sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a battlefield."
And so it was, this month, that on the fifth anniversary of that stunt the White House spokeswoman, Dana Perino, insisted we did not see what we thought we saw. Indeed, we were all mistaken. The president wasn't referring to the Iraq war as such. Instead, claimed Perino, he made all that effort and secured all that airtime to congratulate just that "particular" crew on having accomplished its "particular" 10-month mission.
"President Bush is well aware that the banner should have been much more specific and said 'mission accomplished' for these sailors who are on this ship on their mission," she explained. "And we have certainly paid a price for not being more specific on that banner."
This kind of thing gives chutzpah a bad name. And yet, with this administration it is a practice with which we have become all too familiar. As median wages fall, Bush tells Americans they are better off; as the torture continues at Guantánamo Bay - the only part of Cuba Bush actually controls - he calls on Raul Castro to honour human rights; as he cuts taxes and starts wars, he calls on Congress to practise fiscal rectitude. Not content with pissing on your leg and telling you it's raining, he tries to convince you that your leg has been dry all along.
As the primary season draws to a close it has become increasingly apparent that Hillary Clinton has run her campaign with the same contempt for intelligence, decency and democracy that Bush has run the country. Like the Bush administration, her campaign has been sustained by cynicism, divisiveness and fear-mongering, leaving a toxic and rancorous rift in its wake. Like the White House, her aim has been to win at all costs. And like the White House, it has produced the same result. Failure.
It is a continuum not of policies - on that front she is closer to Barack Obama than either of them would concede - but a mindset that has served America ill these past seven years. Creating a bespoke reality out of whole cloth and then hoping people will not just buy it, but wear it.
In a last, desperate bid to resuscitate her campaign, Clinton will put her case for the ratification of the results of the Michigan and Florida primaries to the Democratic National Committee rules and bylaws committee later this week.
Both states held their primaries in January, in defiance of Democratic party rules. The party warned them beforehand that their delegates would be disqualified if they went ahead, and asked the candidates not to campaign there. The candidates obliged. The states went ahead anyway. Clinton won both. Her senior adviser, Harold Ickes, was on the committee that voted not to recognise them. Obama's name was not even on the ballot in Michigan.
Back in October last year Clinton said uncomplainingly of Michigan: "It's clear, this election they're having is not going to count for anything."
But then she won both. Now everything is different. Speaking before a crowd of senior citizens in Boca Raton, Florida, last week she went into metaphorical hyperbole, comparing the battle to seat the delegates from Florida and Michigan to the suffragettes, the civil rights movement and Zimbabwe - where more than 40 people have been killed in election-related violence. "We're seeing that right now in Zimbabwe," she explained to a crowd of senior citizens. "Tragically, an election was held, the president lost, they refused to abide by the will of the people. So we can never take for granted our precious right to vote."
Clinton insists she is winning the popular vote. She's right. But only if you tally votes with the same degree of selectivity as Robert Mugabe. For her claim to make sense, you would have to count the discounted Florida and Michigan primaries and discount the legitimate caucuses in Iowa, Nevada, Maine and Washington state, three of which Obama won. These four states do not reveal popular vote totals. It's like saying if you include your goals that were ruled offside and don't recognise your opponents' headers (it is football after all) then you really won the game.
The reason Clinton has had to resort to this sophistry reveals another trait she shares with Bush - hubris. She believed she would have the nomination sewn up by Super Tuesday. She woke up on the following Wednesday out of money, ideas and volunteers. It was a month and nine contests before she won again. By then the momentum was Obama's and, though he has stumbled, he has been running with it since. By most reckonings he leads by about 190 delegates and 400,000 votes. Even if Michigan and Florida were counted, she would still trail in delegates.
And, like Bush, she has appealed to the basest instincts of the electorate to dig herself out of a hole. First came fear. "It's 3am in the morning and your children are safe and asleep. Who do you want answering the telephone [in the White House]," went her ad.
Then there is racism. The most recent example of which was her claiming that Obama's "support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again", as evidence of her own viability. Later she would concede that equating "white" and "hard- working" was a "dumb comment".
On Friday she was lambasted for intimating that she was staying in the race because, like Bobby Kennedy, Obama may yet be assassinated. It was clumsy. But a reasonable reading of the context shows she neither said nor meant anything of the kind. Her problem is that by now the general impression is that there is almost nothing she wouldn't do or say. It would indeed take something that dramatic and tragic for her to win.
Like the Bush administration, the issue is no longer whether she leaves the stage with her reputation irreparably tarnished, but what state she leaves it in and how many people she is prepared to take with her.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Woot! Go Kentucky! Ditch Mitch.
By Eric Kleefeld - May 27, 2008, 8:49AM
The Senate Republicans are expected to have a rough time of it this year, but even this is big news: A new Rasmussen poll puts Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) behind his Democratic challenger, businessman Bruce Lunsford:
Lunsford (D) 49%
McConnell (R) 44%
Sample size: 500 likely voters.
Margin of error: ±4.5%
Party leaders are often considered safe bets for re-election, but McConnell's ties to President Bush obviously haven't helped his own prospects even in this red state. And with the DSCC out-raising their GOP counterparts, expect the Dems to make a play for this seat and others all over the map.