Thursday Mashup (3/25/10)

March 25, 2010

Timothy Egan of the New York Times opined as follows here…

Unfairly or not, the defining images of opposition to health care reform may end up being those rage-filled partisans with spittle on their lips. Whether the outbursts came from inside Congress — the “baby killer” shout of Rep. Randy Neugebauer, and his colleagues who cheered on hecklers — or outside, where protesters hurled vile names against elected representatives, they are powerful and lasting scenes of a democracy gasping for dignity.

Now, ask yourself a question: can you imagine Ronald Reagan anywhere in those pictures? Or anywhere in those politics? Reagan was all about sunny optimism, and at times bipartisan bonhomie. In him, the American people saw their better half.

I would expect to read something like that at the Fix Noise site; it’s a shame Egan apparently never read Paul Krugman, who once said the following here…

The Reagan economy was a one-hit wonder. Yes, there was a boom in the mid-1980s, as the economy recovered from a severe recession. But while the rich got much richer, there was little sustained economic improvement for most Americans. By the late 1980s, middle-class incomes were barely higher than they had been a decade before — and the poverty rate had actually risen.

When the inevitable recession arrived, people felt betrayed — a sense of betrayal that Mr. Clinton was able to ride into the White House.

Like Ronald Reagan, President (George W.) Bush began his term in office with big tax cuts for the rich and promises that the benefits would trickle down to the middle class. Like Reagan, he also began his term with an economic slump, then claimed that the recovery from that slump proved the success of his policies.

And like Reaganomics — but more quickly — Bushonomics has ended in grief.

Also, it should be noted (as has been by Will Bunch, among others) that the ‘60s Reagan with his slicked-back hair, perpetual snarl (shown above) and venomous language (who said in this 1964 speech campaigning for Repug presidential candidate Barry Goldwater that, “We were told four years ago that 17 million people went to bed hungry each night. Well that was probably true. They were all on a diet.”) is a far cry from the sunny, doddering dunce that we saw inhabit An Oval Office while James Watt waged war on the environment, our Marine barracks blew up in Beirut, and Ollie North and his secretary Fawn Hall did all they could to cover up Iran-Contra while Attorney General Ed Meese shredded the evidence.

Also, I give you the latest comedy stylings from former Laura Bush employee Andrew Malcolm (here)…

“Instead of embracing an opportunity to enter a new era,” Obama said…, “Cuban authorities continue to respond to the aspirations of the Cuban people with a clenched fist.”

As recently as last summer at a Caribbean summit, Obama and Raul Castro talked separately of opening discussions on a wide range of issues including human rights. The country’s semi-retired revolutionary leader, brother Fidel Castro, had warm words when Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in the autumn.

But then in December the Cuban icon said Obama’s warm smile could not be trusted.

Today, about seven months out from November’s midterm elections, Obama responded (denouncing Cuba on human rights).

The lack of response to Obama overtures from Iran have not prompted similar White House outbursts.

What a shame that Malcolm didn’t bother to use that Google thingie to find out the following (here, from last June)…

(Iran’s) election result has disconcerted Western powers trying to induce the world’s fifth-biggest oil exporter to curb its nuclear programme.

U.S. President Barack Obama had urged Iran’s leadership “to unclench its fist” for a new start in ties.

So not only did Obama criticize Iran over its fraudulent election last year, he did so using the very same language as he did yesterday.

I guess, though, that this is only mildly dishonest for Malcolm, as opposed to his more extreme dishonesty on display here.

Finally, it seems that Repug U.S. House Rep Darrell Issa of California wants a special prosecutor to look into the possibility that the White House offered PA Dem Senatorial candidate (and current U.S. House Rep) Joe Sestak a job so he would drop out of the PA Dem primary against Snarlin’ Arlen Specter (here).

I’ll tell you what, Issa. You drop this idiotic, partisan waste of time and taxpayer dollars in a cheap effort to grab headlines and I’ll stop calling for you to testify under oath about what it was exactly that you said and discussed with Syrian President Bashar Assad in 2007 (here) on the same trip where Dem House Speaker Nancy Pelosi met with him and was ridiculed all over the place for it (and for good measure, Joe Pitts should get the same treatment for doing the same thing).

Some Hope In The “Audacity” Of Russia’s Human Rights Struggle?

July 1, 2009

This post from The Weekly Standard presents a letter written by a number conservative “fellow travelers” urging President Obama to “focus on democracy and human rights when meeting with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev next week.”

I have to admit that it’s hard to find fault with such a gesture, but I must tell you that when I see anything in written form attributed to the likes of Max Boot, Robert Kagan and Danielle Pletka, among others of that ilk, the hair on the back of my neck instinctively stands up.

Also, I performed a cursory Google search to find out if these people made any such entreaties of Obama’s predecessor, and I could not locate anything (not saying it couldn’t have happened, only that it’s unlikely).

And speaking of Number 43, let’s review his own record on this score, which is decidedly mixed, at best.

This tells us that Dubya gave a speech in advance of a meeting with former president (now prime minister) Vladimir Putin about two years ago, in which he proclaimed that Democratic reforms in that country were “derailed” (another master-of-the-obvious moment). However, as noted here (from about that same time)…

The Bush administration’s proposed 2008 budget calls for drastic cuts in its support for civil society and human rights in Russia. The 2008 budget reduces funding for civil society programs by 52 percent (from US$28.7 million to US$13.8 million) and human rights programs by 44 percent (from US$1,497,000 to US$832,000).

“US support for civil society in Russia has never been more important,” said (Holly) Cartner (Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch). “The proposed cuts would generate trivial savings for the US, but it would be devastating to Russian civil society struggling for its survival.”

Rampant human rights abuses in Chechnya are another serious concern that should be at the top of Bush’s agenda next week. Torture by government forces, including pro-Moscow Chechen forces under the leadership of Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov, is widespread and systematic. Enforced disappearances continue, with human rights groups estimating that between 3,000 and 5,000 people “disappeared” since the most recent conflict in Chechnya began in 1999.

In the last year, Russia has seen a rise in racism and xenophobia, encouraged at least in part by the racist rhetoric and policies of politicians. Just this month, police arrested more than 40 people following what they called coordinated attacks on minorities from the Caucasus and Central Asia. In October and November, the Russian government expelled more than 2,500 ethnic Georgians from Russia following a political row with the Georgian government. In August, residents of the northwestern Karelia Republic perpetrated a string of attacks against ethnic minorities in retaliation for the killing of two Russians by Chechens after a restaurant brawl.

And this tells us of what I personally would consider three developments that, to one degree or another, gave Russia the “green light” to invade Georgia last year (one was our silence in response to the murders of Russian journalists including Anna Politkovskaya; the first item in this post tells us that, though four individuals not directly responsible for her death were acquitted, their case will be retried – such is the murkiness of the case that her friends and family were satisfied with that verdict and wished to go after those directly responsible instead, but now the retrial will make that more difficult).

I’m not sure that, given our economic uncertainty and the commitments Obama faces that he inherited from Former President Highest Disapproval Rating In Gallup Poll History, he can persuade President Medvedev to initiate the reforms that Putin chose not to pursue. The signs noted here, though, are promising, and maybe Obama can find a way to build upon that, something that eluded both leaders’ predecessors.

(On an unrelated note, I should mention that, with the exception of a video or two, this will probably be the last post for a little while, at least through the holiday weekend; this will be happening sporadically through July, and there will be no posting at all for the week of the 13th.)

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