Posted on 01-09-2013
Filed Under (Foreign Policy) by Rashtrakut

Barack Obama surprised observers yesterday by electing to get Congressional approval for Syria.  He also appeared to go out of his way to assure the American people that this would not be an open ended military involvement.  The climbdown was clearly in response to the growing opposition to war in yet another Middle East quagmire, punctuated by the shocking rebuff to British Prime Minister David Cameron by the House of Commons this week.

Fans of constitutional governance should rejoice.  The decision also forces Congress to declare where they stand on the issue, instead of waiting to see what they could criticize the President for.  Of cours fans of the imperial Presidency are not delighted at the decision.  Warmongerers are unhappy that Obama is not going all in on regime change – still no suggestions from them on what the new regime would look like.

Senator Grumpy lashed out at the thought of the limited war.  His war loving amigo Senator Lumpy agreed.  Former Senator (and still war loving mega douche) Droopy was horrified that the President thought he had to go to Congress before bombing someone in the Middle East.

Left unsaid in all of this is what happens if the initial bombing does not change Assad’s behavior (which is likely).  What happens then?

Barack Obama backed himself into this conflict by drawing his imaginary red lines.  He has wisely toned down the rhetoric after gauging the opposition, but this was a stupid red line that should never have been drawn.  Once again I cannot help but wonder what happens when these lines are crossed by the other Middle East country Grumpy, Lumpy and Droopy want to bomb – Iran.

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Posted on 29-08-2013
Filed Under (Foreign Policy) by Rashtrakut

Maybe it is time to call them Freedom Muffins.  The haggis eating warm beer swillers in the House of Commons delivered a resounding slap to head poodle Prime Minster David Cameron today by rejecting military intervention in Syria. Even though the vote was not binding, Cameron acknowledged the sentiment in the country and Parliament tersely noting:

It is clear to me that the British Parliament, reflecting the views of the British people, does not want to see British military action.  I get that, and the government will act accordingly.”

So much for the special relationship..it cannot work when Britain does not recognize its role as lapdog. In the United States President George W. Bush Barack Obama remained unbowed and indicated that the United States was ready to act alone. Our Congress only wants to be consulted but does not want the responsibility of authorizing the war. The British parliament has learned the lessons of Iraq. Our Washington bubble has not, even though the proposed intervention is extremely unpopular. So, for now the administration is unlikely to suffer the humiliation of David Cameron.

Fareed Zakaria dumbly and stubbornly supported the Iraq war but in the video below cogently sets forth the quagmire and bloodbath facing us (whether or not we interfere).

The do-gooders are united in the need to send Assad a message. Yet apart from a belief in magically identifying in the good guys of the opposition, none of them has identified what the end game is and how we prevent an ethnic bloodbath and install a stable government in Syria. The mistaken urge to maintain credibility is driving us to a war in Syria…and it will do so again in Iran.

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Posted on 21-01-2013
Filed Under (Politics) by Rashtrakut

Well it is official. Barack Obama’s second term has commenced. After an informal swearing in yesterday (to match the constitutional requirement of January 20), the President delivered his formal inaugural address today (along with retaking the oath of office in public).  It appears Chief Justice Roberts did not botch the oath this time.

The tenor of the address is different.  The fiscal crisis has abated.  Even with the best efforts of the tea party wing of the Republican party to sabotage the economy, the recovery should continue.  As a result this address set out a progressive vision of the President’s goals in the second term.  Climate change, immigration, voting reform, gay rights, same-sex marriage and a slap down of Paul Ryan’s “nation of takers” by defending the vision of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security highlighted the speech.

This is a different President.  The hopey-changey stuff has been tempered by the reality of knee jerk Republican opposition to anything the President proposes.  The beltway media hacks will bemoan the lack of bipartisanship without the courage to assign the blame where it belongs.

So the term begins.  Hopefully something can be achieved before lame duck status kicks in and the 2016 campaign commences.

Video of the innaugural address is below:

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Posted on 08-11-2012
Filed Under (Politics) by Rashtrakut

On Wednesday, an emotional Barack Obama thanked his campaign staff who led him to victory in his last political campaign.  Reminiscing about his start as a community organizer and tearing up, Obama spared no praise for the foot soldiers of two of the best run Presidential campaigns ever.  The video below is very touching and worth watching:

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Posted on 07-11-2012
Filed Under (Politics) by Rashtrakut

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Wed, 07 Nov 2012 01:59

OK…turning in for the night as the Tormore is hitting critical mass.  Michele Bachmann still holds on for dear life.  Dems have narrow leads in the MT and ND Senate seats and the Republican incumbent narrowly up in NV.  Not sure why FL has not been called for Obama yet, but it will probably soon be.  If that result holds, Barack Obama won all his states except Indiana and North Carolina – which were very unexpected wins in 2008 to begin with.

The third consecutive President has been re-elected a feat not repeated since Jefferson, Madison and Monroe, as far as I can tell.  Unlike 2000 and 2004 I retire for the night very very happy.

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Wed, 07 Nov 2012 01:54

Jim Matheson (D- Utah) the ultimate political survivor http://motherjones.tumblr.com/post/35191998648/just-cant-beat-him-these-are-the-districts-that

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Wed, 07 Nov 2012 01:48

Looks like Jim Matheson holds the lone Democratic Utah congressional seat over Mia Love, the latest Republican token minority superstar.

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Wed, 07 Nov 2012 01:32

New Hampshire’s governor, and entire congressional delegation are now all women.

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Wed, 07 Nov 2012 01:23

When was the last time 3 consecutive presidents were re-elected?  Has it happened since Jefferson, Madison, Monroe?  Cannot think of another example.

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Wed, 07 Nov 2012 01:14

Dang as I was typing this Bachmann’s lead dropped to 120, she trailed and then jumped back ahead #itsnotthescotch

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Wed, 07 Nov 2012 01:08

The reelection of Obama avoids the nightmare scenario of Romney benefiting from a delayed boom next year a la Bill Clinton in 1993.

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Wed, 07 Nov 2012 01:07

Roseanne got 8000 votes in Florida #WTF

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Wed, 07 Nov 2012 01:05

Obama at 50% of the popular vote.  No 2000 scenario, but that will not stop Republicans from denying a mandate in any case.

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Wed, 07 Nov 2012 01:01

I am happy I am at home swilling scotch in the warmth of my home…part of me wishes I was at the McCormick center.

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Wed, 07 Nov 2012 00:59

Shades of Obama of old in the speech..must be immensely relived his last election campaign is over.

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Wed, 07 Nov 2012 00:52

Obama wants to meet with leaders of both parties…but Boehner has doubled down on tax nuttery.

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Wed, 07 Nov 2012 00:44

Obama refers to his promise of  a dog in his speech four years back, says one is enough.

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Wed, 07 Nov 2012 00:42

Obama mentions working with Romney.  Don’t see that going very far.  The Republican party hates the guy.

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Wed, 07 Nov 2012 00:41

Obama speaking…sounds tired…hope this is a short speech.  Need to sleep.  Makes a nod about the messed up electoral system.

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Wed, 07 Nov 2012 00:38

If memory serves we had exactly same wet cold crappy weather in Chicago 4 years ago #preordained

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Wed, 07 Nov 2012 00:36

Obama coming out to speak.

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Wed, 07 Nov 2012 00:33

Paul Ryan re-elected to the House.

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Wed, 07 Nov 2012 00:29

Democrats Allan Grayson (FL) and Carol Shea-Porter (NH) swept out in 2010, make it back to the House.

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Wed, 07 Nov 2012 00:27

Ballot initiatives

– Tax increases and death penalty ban going down in CA but only 20% reporting.
– Maine, Maryland and Washington (probably) legalize gay marriage.  First states to do that by referendum without a Bradley effect.
– Michigan repeals emergency manager law.
– Florida initiative to reject the Obamacare mandate loses, but wins in Alabama.
– Missouri votes to ban health care exchanges, which means I suppose the Feds do it for them.
– Colorado and Washington legalize marijuana
– Massachusetts legalizes med marijuana; euthanasia referendum tied.
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Wed, 07 Nov 2012 00:23

First person Obama called after Romney conceded was Bubba.

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Wed, 07 Nov 2012 00:16

Only battleground state Obama lost was North Carolina.

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Wed, 07 Nov 2012 00:14

Florida still not called, but Obama up 0.7

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Wed, 07 Nov 2012 00:12

Joe Walsh goes down, Allen West goes down…come on Minnesota make it a trifecta

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Wed, 07 Nov 2012 00:10

Advice for Republicans looking to flee

 

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Wed, 07 Nov 2012 00:08

Looks like Obama coming out to speak soon.  Wonder if I stay up for the Bachmann result.

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Wed, 07 Nov 2012 00:06

Dems hold on to ND Senate seat.

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Wed, 07 Nov 2012 00:05

Mitt Romney gives a gracious concession speech.  Talking heads start the pass time of “if only this guy had run the campaign this way.”

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Tue, 06 Nov 2012 23:57

Romney speaking now.  He should throw a bone to Palin and let her give a concession speech.

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Tue, 06 Nov 2012 23:54

Fat lady is singing.  Romney calls Obama to concede.  It may just be the Scotch…

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Tue, 06 Nov 2012 23:53

Krauthammer on Faux saying the Republicans don’t need to change but somehow need to get hispanic votes.  Forgets that Romney closed the gap as Moderate Mitt.

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Tue, 06 Nov 2012 23:50

Dang!!! VA called for Obama.

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Tue, 06 Nov 2012 23:48

Bachmann up only 120 votes, Murphy takes the lead over West.

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Tue, 06 Nov 2012 23:44

Karl Rove offering advice to Obama on Fox.  Dear President Obama pay attention and do just the opposite.

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Tue, 06 Nov 2012 23:43

Karl Rove is spinning an alternate reality on Faux News.

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Tue, 06 Nov 2012 23:42

Bachmann up only 200 votes…please god please…

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Tue, 06 Nov 2012 23:41

Jennifer Rubin’s twitter stream is hanging its hat on the narrowness of the victory.

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Tue, 06 Nov 2012 23:39

Karl Rove trying to justify blowing a billion dollars…too funny.  Stating the case for no mandate.

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Tue, 06 Nov 2012 23:38

Some of the people on the A&M board are nostalgically talking of secession.  They do bbelong in the SEC.  #theSouthshallriseagain

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Tue, 06 Nov 2012 23:34

Liberated and opened up a bottle of Tormore that had been lying forlorn for way too long.

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Posted on 06-11-2012
Filed Under (Politics) by Rashtrakut

Tue, 06 Nov 2012 23:19

Maryland becomes the first state to legalize gay marriage by popular vote.  Not heard about Maine yet.

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Tue, 06 Nov 2012 23:15

Fuck it…going to get the ice and scotch!!!

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Tue, 06 Nov 2012 23:14

Mitt Romney ran a classless campaign…he leaves the same way.  Maybe he is waiting to write that concession speech.  Still waiting on the concession, with NV, IA and CO called it is OVER!!

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Tue, 06 Nov 2012 23:11

Faux calls NV for Obama and CO is officially Obama, it over without Ohio.

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Tue, 06 Nov 2012 23:04

Fox News already talking on no mandate for Obama.

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Tue, 06 Nov 2012 23:01

Fox calls NV for Obama.  Am enjoying watching Faux News for a change.

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Tue, 06 Nov 2012 22:54

Chuck Todd noting the President is leading VA, FL and CO.  Maddow points out Karl Rove has a vested interest in dragging this out.

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Tue, 06 Nov 2012 22:49

Jeff Flake wins Arizona. Martin Heinrich wins New Mexico. Democrats at 51 in the Senate.

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Tue, 06 Nov 2012 22:45

I am currently channeling my inner Cartman against Mitt Romney. Meanwhile Pinocchio is still refusing to concede.

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Tue, 06 Nov 2012 22:37

Donald Trump, classy as ever.

 

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Tue, 06 Nov 2012 22:34

OH has been called for Obama, but Romney not ready to concede.  On Faux News turd blossom pulled out his math to say it was not over.  NV, CO and IA need to end this.

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OK they better hurry up…don’t want to drink at 2 AM.

 

Tue, 06 Nov 2012 22:21

Whew am I glad i don’t have to hide from this post http://rashtrakut.com/blog/2010/03/23/the-biggest-loser-why-health-care-reform-may-have-ended-mitt-romneys-presidential-dream/

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Tue, 06 Nov 2012 22:15

Its….over…..Ohio to Obama per NBC.

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Tue, 06 Nov 2012 22:10

MSNBC calls IA for Obama…fat lady warming up vocal cords.   Maybe Mitt should start working on that concession speech.

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Tue, 06 Nov 2012 22:09

Denver Post calls CO for Obama.  NV and IA could end this without waiting for FL, VA or OH.

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Tue, 06 Nov 2012 22:06

McCain campaign manager Steve Schmidt acknowledging the demographic disaster facing the Republican party from its embrace of Pat Buchanan’s race polarization strategy.  Putting up token minorities is not enough in the long run.

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Tue, 06 Nov 2012 22:02

Pacific states close, Obama at 243 electoral votes.

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Tue, 06 Nov 2012 21:59

Tim Kaine beats George “Macaca” Allen.  To think one slur derailed the career of a man touted as a future Presidential candidate.

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Posted on 06-11-2012
Filed Under (Politics) by Rashtrakut

Tue, 06 Nov 2012 21:55

Faux News noting that demonizing the Hispanic community and chasing out RINO’s was bad politics.

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Tue, 06 Nov 2012 21:53

Michele Bachmann and Allen West narrowly leading very tight races.

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Tue, 06 Nov 2012 21:51

Basically Obama has to win FL or OH or two of CO/IA/VA and he wins. He will likely win NV.

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Tue, 06 Nov 2012 21:41

Scott Brown concedes…probably hoping Kerry leaves to become Obama’s Secretary of State

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Tue, 06 Nov 2012 21:15

One asswipe gone from the House – Joe Walsh loses to Tammy Duckworth

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Tue, 06 Nov 2012 21:10

Faux News backing away from poll trutherism.

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Tue, 06 Nov 2012 21:07

Todd “magic female body parts” Akin loses to Claire McCaskill.

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Tue, 06 Nov 2012 21:01

IA, MN, NV too early to call but Obama up.

Romney wins Utah and Montana

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Tue, 06 Nov 2012 20:59

David Axelrod keeps his moustache

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Tue, 06 Nov 2012 20:58

How historic is the election of Tammy Baldwin?

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Tue, 06 Nov 2012 20:52

Faux News calls WI Senate for Tammy Baldwin.  Dems have a shot of increasing their Senate majority.

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Posted on 06-11-2012
Filed Under (Politics) by Rashtrakut

Tue, 06 Nov 2012 20:45

Indiana was a closer win than expected for for Donnelly.  The libertarian candidate got about 6% of the vote there.

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Tue, 06 Nov 2012 20:36

Tammy Baldwin leading Tommy Thompson in WI.  Paul Ryan loses his home state too.

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Tue, 06 Nov 2012 20:34

Sherrod Brown beats his pre-pubescent opponent in Ohio.  A lot of super-PAC money down the drain.

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Tue, 06 Nov 2012 20:34

Some Dick Morris humor

1 hour ago

15 minutes ago

5 minutes ago

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Tue, 06 Nov 2012 20:29

Obama wins Wisconsin.  VA could end this night quickly.

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Tue, 06 Nov 2012 20:23

Uber asshole Allen West locked in a tight race.  Not seen results for Michele Bachmann yet.

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Tue, 06 Nov 2012 20:22

Ok Virginia hurry up and get called for Obama…I want to start warming up the ice cubes.

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Tue, 06 Nov 2012 20:16

Obama wins PA…yet another election cycle a Republican candidate parks in the state just before the election with no win.

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Tue, 06 Nov 2012 20:10

Down goes Scott Brown..down goes Scott Brown.

Meanwhile Romney has lost his second home state – MI.

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Tue, 06 Nov 2012 20:07

Dana Perino does not understand that Republicans did quite enough to piss of Latinos without abortion being a factor.

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Tue, 06 Nov 2012 19:57

I would like to watch CNN, but Wolf Blitzer profoundly annoys me with his inanities.

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Tue, 06 Nov 2012 19:53

I am profoundly disgusted at how enthusiastically Republican election officials have tried to make it for traditional Democratic constituencies to vote.  People still standing in lines in FL and VA.

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Tue, 06 Nov 2012 19:48

Uberhack Ken Blackwell who tried to rig Ohio for George Bush bullshitting about the balanced 2004 election. Trying to defend our totally broken electoral mechanism.

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Posted on 06-11-2012
Filed Under (Politics) by Rashtrakut

Tue, 06 Nov 2012 19:25

Working out the kinks, new thread is here.

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Tue, 06 Nov 2012 19:10

Democrats leading the Senate races in MA, PA, MO and OH.  Obama may be leading the Ohio vote.

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Tue, 06 Nov 2012 19:03

OK, TN, MS to Romney.  IL, RI, DE, MA, CT, ME to Obama but no call on the single electoral vote.  Romney loses his first home state.

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Tue, 06 Nov 2012 19:01

PA to early to call with Obma leading.  IL to Obama..yaay my vote counts.

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Tue, 06 Nov 2012 19:00

Democrats pick up the Indiana Senate Seat.  Thank you tea party.  Wonder if Dick Lugar is sipping champagne.

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Tue, 06 Nov 2012 18:56

WV to Romney too as Appalachia votes against Obama  #shock

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Tue, 06 Nov 2012 18:55

Ok catching up so far..no real surprises.  Romney has won KY, IN, SC and will soon win GA.  Obama has won VT.  VA, FL, OH and NC too close to call.  The last one is not surprising based on early turn out, but will not bring smiles in Romney headquarters.

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Tue, 06 Nov 2012 18:46

Finally get to try out my newly installed live blogging plugin after a delay getting home due to someone who got his car on the train.  Get to try out my shiny.  Still Scotch free…whether the ice-cubes are warmed up in joy or despair remains to be seen.  So here goes.

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Posted on 22-10-2012
Filed Under (Politics) by Rashtrakut

President Obama delivers a brutal rejoinder to Mitt Romney’s silly nostalgia for a ship count of the dreadnought era.  Video below:

 

 

UPDATE: And yes this is another bullshit Romney/Ryan comparison.

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Posted on 16-10-2012
Filed Under (Politics) by Rashtrakut

The highlight of tonight’s debate, Mitt Romney repeats the right wing alternate reality that it took two weeks for the President to acknowledge that the Libya attack was an act of terror.  He then (to my immense surprise and delight) gets fact checked on live TV by Candy Crowley.  The amount of bullshit Mitt spewed tonight hints at another long list by Steve Benen on Friday.  Obama then sticks the knife in by joking that Crowley should repeat it louder.  Video below:

 

 

Great debate for the President.  The obnoxious Mitt Romney of the primary debates emerged (petulantly calling for debate rules but ignoring them when they applied to him).  He was on the defensive most of the night and was clearly rattled by the Libya exchange – which he should have won.

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Posted on 12-10-2012
Filed Under (Politics) by Rashtrakut

The video below offers up a vivid display of ODS. The wingnut is confident that Obama is a commie but cannot articulate why. The bit of him being un-American typifies the typical racial dog whistle to this blogger.

It is easy to note that George W. Bush faced some vituperative outrage too. The key difference is that rage of this nature like the 911 truthers did not receive the tacit support from Democrats in office. Mitt Romney’s campaign has trafficked in these themes before, rather than challenge what Chris Christie would call the crazies. Video below:

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Posted on 13-09-2012
Filed Under (Foreign Policy) by Rashtrakut

David Frum has an odd article up criticizing Barack Obama for his “Foolish Embrace of the Muslim Brotherhood.”  According to Frum:

Nobody remembers now, but after Mubarak’s fall there was much debate whether the Muslim Brotherhood should be allowed to participate in Egypt’s new political system. It is hardly illiberal to ban a party that aims at the overthrow of a liberal state. West Germany banned neo-Nazi parties after 1945; the post-1989 Czech Republic forbade former communist officials to hold government jobs – and both democracies are stronger for it. In the end, the Muslim Brotherhood escaped the ban by promising not to run a candidate for president, a promise it promptly broke.

First let us begin with the prime fallacy in Frum’s argument.  Unless he intervened in the debate like prior American interventions in Latin America (and thankfully he did not do something that silly), this was not America’s decision to make.  American intervention here would have backfired badly on all concerned.  Years of blind American support for Mubarak has led to widespread distrust of America on the Egyptian street.  Obama did the wise thing, he stayed the hell out of another country’s political debate.

Let us also dismiss the comparison to the Nazi ban in Germany.  That is an extremely unique situation based on the horrors of the Second World War and German determination to prevent such extreme groups from ever returning to power.  It is rarely duplicated in western democracies (the American ban on the Communist Party in the height of Cold War paranoia is an exception) for a very good reason, because it is an extremely illiberal act.  The ban in Germany is also sustainable because the neo-Nazis are a fringe group despised by German society at large.  The Muslim Brotherhood is not a fringe group and has mass support.

The problem with quasi-secular incompetent dictatorships like Mubarak is that they often leave religious fundamentalists as the most organized opposition to the regime.  Not co-opted by the tools of the autocratic regime and often subject to persecution, Islamic groups often emerge as the most coherent opposition to dictatorship.  Perversely, the dictators often allowed the Islamists to remain the only organized opposition to marginalize secular opponents and to gain support in the west from fears of the Islamist bogeyman – Mubarak did both. Iran under the Shah was another example.

It is true that the participation of the Muslim Brotherhood in politics did cause unease.  They were the most organized political opposition to Mubarak and that gave them a huge advantage over the rest of the fractious opposition.  To soothe such fears they promised to not run a candidate in the Presidential elections.  As Frum notes they broke that promise.

Banning the Muslim Brotherhood would have been a profoundly stupid move that would have triggered significant unrest.  It would have given them instant martyrdom.  Given the lack of administrative experience of the opposition, it is very likely that when they eventually came to power it would have been in an even stronger position.

Turkey demonstrates this scenario very well.  The regime instituted by Ataturk aggressively excluded devout Muslims from the public sphere – to the extent that women were not allowed to wear headscarves in government buildings.  The military was the power behind the throne and repeatedly intervened by open or quasi coups.  This system survived until the 1990s.  By then the global consensus had moved to democracy.  The communist bloc had collapsed.  All the dictatorships in Latin America were gone.  And Turkish politicians were extremely corrupt and incompetent.  The Islamists were the only alternative left standing, and they kept winning elections only to have the army force them out.  Eventually the Turkish army had to bow to popular pressure leaving Recep Erdogan and his Islamists firmly ensconced in power.  Erdogan’s competence compared to his predecessors has kept him in power.

Egypts generals were likely aiming for the old Turkish model, but for now Morsi has outflanked them.  Morsi has displayed some disturbing tendencies of attacking critics for lese majeste, but has not yet become a Sunni reincarnation of Ayatollah Khomeini.  For now there are checks on his behavior from the Army, parliament and civil society.

There are many on the right who bemoan our abandonment of the Pharaoh to allow the Muslim Brotherhood to come to power.  This is an extremely short sighted view that contributes to widespread distrust in the Arab World (along with charges of hypocrisy) against the self proclaimed “leader of the Free World”.

Ultimately I see three likely (though not exhaustive) scenarios resulting from the Muslim league assuming power:

  • They turn out to be spectacularly incompetent, resulting in a drop of support (e.g. the Ayatollahs in Iran) and eventual defeat at the ballot box.
  • They turn out to be competent stewards of Egypt’s economy and manage to tap into its human capital.
  • They lapse into populist claptrap like Hugo Chavez, take delight in poking Uncle Sam in public forums or worse and drive the Egyptian economy to a ditch.  They then rig elections like Chavez to stay in power.

The third scenario is the most disturbing.  However in this scenario, Egypt rapidly loses military aid and is not really in a position to cause too much damage – help that they have no oil either.  They will be a nuisance but not a threat.

Ultimately it just is not our problem.  Egypt deserves the right to do what the United States has done for over 200 years – choose its own leaders and chart its own destiny.  Blaming Barack Obama for his “foolish embrace” of the party that was likely to win a fair election is silly.  Engaging Egypt and insentivizing it for good behavior was the smart thing to do.  If Egypt fails to do just that, it is Egypt’s loss.

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Posted on 12-09-2012
Filed Under (Foreign Policy) by Rashtrakut

Today was a brutal day for Mitt Romney.  His irresponsible and incoherent political cheap shot while the American embassy was under attack blew up in his face today.  Even as Romney doubled down in his mendacious irresponsibility in a smirk filled press conference, most Republicans did not follow his position.  When America is under attack there is one President, and John Boehner, John McCain, Lyndsey Graham etc. followed that basic principle.  The Republicans supporting Romney tended to be of the caliber of the quitter turned reality show star, the bloviating windbag and Torquemada.

This evening President Obama observed Romney’s tendency to shoot first and aim later.  Video below:

 

 

This is not the first time Romney has made a fool out of himself by this tendency.  This summer Romney took to the airwaves to accuse the Obama administration of abandoning Chinese defector Chen Guangcheng, while negotiations with the Chinese were still ongoing.  After Chen was allowed to depart for the United States even Bill Kristol called the attacks foolish.

Tsar Vladimir stuck the knife into Romney today by using Romney’s nutty classification of Russia as our primary geopolitical foe.  He noted that the danger of someone like Romney assuming the presidency made him firm up his opposition to a missile defense system based in Europe purportedly aimed at Iran.

The problem is that Romney has not given foreign policy much deep thought.  His foreign policy team is largely composed of the geniuses who gave us the foreign policy debacles of the Bush years.  His conduct in the last 24 hours raises serious questions about his temperament and fitness for the Presidency.

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Posted on 10-09-2012
Filed Under (Politics) by Rashtrakut

In the aftermath of the party conventions it appears that Mitt Romney got no or even a negative bounce in the polls while Barack Obama got a measurable bounce in the polls.  To calm freyed nerves, Mitt Romney’s campaign issued a public statement that can be summarized by the video below:

 

 

For the actual statement see here.   The statement itself is rather odd since it provides no polling data to back it up and makes some weird comparisons to the 1980 campaign – for starters Reagan left the RNC with a huge lead.  Also Romney’s campaign had confidently predicted a 11 point lead after the conventions in the aftermath of his selection of Paul Ryan for vice president.

To be fair to Romney, all is not lost.  Two months is a long time for bad economic news to turn up (likely via Europe) or for something stupid to happen with Iran (which could tank the economy too). The ad barrage financed by the Super PACs of his billionaire friends is about to begin.  Super PACs in general have played fast and loose with the facts, but here they complement Romney’s cynical campaign.

The latest from Mitt Romney culture warrior is a promise he will not take God off the currency.  The rest of his riff refers to the fact that the Democratic platform did not originally explicitly mention God – though there were explicit mentions of faith all along.  Of course nobody is seriously talking about taking “In God we Trust” off the currency or the cold war insertion of God out of the Pledge of Allegiance.   But a desperate Romney will swing at anything, and he lacks the moral core of a John McCain that would prevent his campaign from going to the gutter.  This will be a long two months.

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Posted on 28-04-2011
Filed Under (Politics) by Rashtrakut

As expected, the birthers will not go away quietly into the night.  At least not until Roger Ailes cracks his whip to force his in-house nitwits to move on to new alternate realities about the Democrats.  The latest comes from Eric Bolling on Fox Business who gave a platform to Islamophobe Pamela Geller and regular Fox paranoid conservative Monica Crowley (she has a PhD from Columbia University?!?!?!) to question the authenticity of the President’s birth certificate.  Video below:

As MediaMatters notes, the end of the video highlights the sheer stupidity of birthers.   According to Bolling and Geller the fact that the family of the doctor (who died in 2003 before Barack Obama entered the national spotlight after his speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention) was unaware he delivered a future President more than 40 years before his death casts doubt on the authenticity of the certificate.  Nice to know that Fox Business lives down to the low standards of its parent “news” network.

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Posted on 27-04-2011
Filed Under (Politics) by Rashtrakut

In recent weeks a publicity seeking Donald Trump has latched on to the nutty birther fringe to leap to the top of the polls of Republicans running for President (it must be noted that these early polls are fairly meaningless).  Arizona’s governor Jan Brewer showed a willingness to stand up to her state’s Republican birther fringe by vetoing a bill that allowed Arizona to ignore the full faith and credit clause of the constitution and establish its own requirements for eligibility to run for President.  Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal indicated a typical craven propensity to roll over in face of the birther fringe. Even though the President has long since released documents that confirm his citizenship and these have been confirmed repeatedly by Hawaii officials, this controversy would not go away.  The Republican leadership’s refusal to call out these conspiracy kooks and Faux News repeatedly giving these kooks a platform also kept the controversy simmering (you can bet the Republicans would not have responded to the 9/11 truthers by “taking President [Bush] at his word” or saying that it was “not my job to tell the American people what to think”).   Alaska’s half-term quitter tacitly endorsed Trump’s crusade.

The tipping point for the President may have been a recent interview with George Stephanopoulos on fiscal matters that veered off to the world of birthers.  So the President went to the trouble of asking the State of Hawaii for special permission to access his long-form birth certificate (a standard no other politician in recent memory has been held to), and the long suffering State complied.  This was followed up by the presidential statement below:

 

 

Even though he claimed credit for the release of the certificate, Donald Trump did not respond to being lumped by the President with “sideshows and carnival barkers.”

Of course this will not end the story.  The birther fringe will not go away.  Donald Trump, whose own son-in-law bought his way into Harvard, has now started the racially charged drumbeat questioning how Barack Obama was admitted to two ivy league schools.  Since he is black and did not have the blessings of legacy admissions like Messrs Gore and Bush, there is supposedly no way he was “smart” enough to go there (an assertion that drives James Fallows bonkers).

The funny part of this sorry episode is that Barack Obama was not the 2008 Presidential candidate born outside the United States (though that candidate satisfies the naturally-born citizen requirement).  Also even if Barack Obama had been born in Kenya, as the child of a United States citizen (his mother) he would probably still be a naturally born citizen.  So lets sit back and see the birthers make bigger fools of themselves and hope that the media starts ignoring Donald Trump like they are ignoring Sarah Palin.

 

 

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Posted on 22-03-2011
Filed Under (Foreign Policy) by Rashtrakut

After weeks of refusing to get involved in Libya with the war-mongerers Stateside accusing him of dithering, Barack Obama turned on a dime and endorsed military action in Libya.   The push for war was largely driven by the French and the British and cloaked with legitimacy by the Arab League’s call for a no-fly zone over Libya.  The French intervention appears driven by a desire to restore their tarnished prestige following a series of diplomatic blunders with respect to the Arab uprisings.  In my opinion Obama’s shift can be explained by the following:

  • Nobody likes Muammar Gaddafi (other than Hugo Chavez) and everybody was excited at the thought of his imminent departure.
  • But Gaddafi has proved surprisingly resilient and his opposition hopelessly disorganized.
  • Last week as Gaddafi’s armor reached Benghazi there was the sudden unpalatable realization that Gaddafi was about to win.
  • Gaddafi went on television once again promising wholesale slaughter, conjuring up memories of the failure to prevent the massacres at Srebrenica in 1995 and of the Iraqi Shiites in 1991.
  • Even though he stood at the brink of victory, Gaddafi’s armed forces are weak and his advance was easily stopped.

It is interesting to speculate whether the UN would have acted if Gaddafi had not broadcast his genocidal intentions to the world.  The broadcasts may have been enough to prevent Russia and China from vetoing intervention in Libya (ironic given the willingness of both those regimes to slaughter their people in Chechnya and at Tiananmen respectively).  Yet the old fault lines are obvious.  The BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) and Germany all abstained at the vote.  The Arab League whose support lent legitimacy to the operation promptly flip-flopped when the bombs started to fall.

It is hard to avoid the impression that the war was a half-baked attempt to stop a Gaddafi victory.  To his credit Barack Obama is aware (unlike many of his domestic critics) that the United States no longer has the credibility to initiate an armed intervention in the Arab or Muslim world.  Unlike the coalition of the billing that accompanied the United States into Iraq, this is a true (if disorganized) coalition with NATO allies doing heavy lifting and a few Gulf monarchies sending their fighter jets to enforce the no-fly zone.  Gaddafi’s unpopularity on the Arab street has muted some of the reflexive anti-American voices.  People still carp that this is “about oil.”  That makes no sense since Gaddafi’s legitimization in the last decade was followed by the entry of western oil companies into Libya.  Getting rid of Gaddafi was no longer a prerequisite to get Libyan oil.

The problem is that nobody has explained the end-objective of what is likely to be an open-ended military commitment.  Nobody has any idea what the disorganized Libyan opposition stands for.  Various parts of the coalition differ on the wisdom or legality of killing Gaddafi with a military strike.  Other NATO allies are showing marked reluctance to being involved in the operation and the United States is on record wanting to hand off the baton to someone else.  With the rest of the world used to freeloading on US leadership and the casting stones at the United States for “causing civilian deaths,” it is difficult to see who that would be.  There has been no debate within the United States about what American strategic goals are and how this war will be paid for.

Basically the allies are gambling that elimination of Gaddafi’s air and armor advantage will allow the opposition to sweep into Tripoli.  The precedents for this exist in the success of the Bosnian Muslims and Croats after NATO’s bombing of Serb positions.  Aerial bombardment and limited special forces involvement enabled the Northern Alliance to sweep the Taliban out of Kabul in 2001.  Yet key differences exist.  The Bosnian and Northern Alliance forces had been tempered by years of war and had an organized command structure.  The Libyan opposition is hopelessly out-gunned by even Gaddafi’s ramshackle army and mercenaries.  On the flip side the ramshackle nature of Gaddafi’s military and regime makes it unlikely that his generals will want to go down shooting for him.  There is a rumor that a kamikaze attack by a Libyan pilot may have killed one of Gaddafi’s sons.  Combined with rumors of members of the regime seeking exit strategies, Gaddafi’s rule may be cracking.

The quickest solution to this military dilemma would be for the Egyptian army to march west.  Even if it is bloated and inefficient, the Egyptian army would probably sweep aside Gaddafi’s forces.  Such an intervention would probably play well with the Egyptian street that is suspicious of the Generals’ commitment to democracy.  But the Egyptians are playing coy and their aid to the rebels has been under the table.  Their Generals have some cause for worry that an invasion of Libya could trap their army in an unwinnable occupation of a failed tribal entity with a national flag (See: Ethiopian intervention in Somalia – 2006-2009).

This is a war where the ends will unfortunately justify the means.  The quick fall of Gaddafi (even though regime change is not a declared purpose of the war) with minimal bloodshed will vindicate Messrs. Obama, Sarkozy and Cameron.  If Gaddafi holds on and the result is a long drawn civil war and military stalemate the intervention will ultimately be seen as a failure.  The fall of Gaddafi followed by chaos will probably be seen as a failure as well.

For now we cross our fingers and wait….and hope.

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Posted on 18-03-2011
Filed Under (Current Affairs) by Rashtrakut

“C’est pire qu’un crime, c’est une faute”

(It was worse than a crime; it was a blunder) – Comment by a Napoleonic official on the judicial murder of the Duc d’Enghien.

“What’s being done to Bradley Manning by my colleagues at the Department of Defense is ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid.” – Soon to be sacked State Department spokesman P. J. Crowley.

By sacking P. J. Crowley shortly after he committed the gaffe above (i.e. spoke the truth), Barack Obama has endorsed the sadistic jollies that Bradley Manning’s jailers receive from torturing him.  Previous winks at torture could somewhat be justified by the need to obtain information.  There is no such excuse here.  Bradley Manning is being subjected to a regimen that appears intended to drive him insane, allegedly because he is a suicide risk.  Then there is the ritualized humiliation of forced nudity and sleep deprivation he is being subjected to.   The media outrage at the treatment of a man not yet convicted of passing classified information to WikiLeaks is growing – see here, here, here, here, here, and here – but will probably have no effect on our ruling class.  At some point this should not be surprising.  On human rights, after the decree to close Guantanamo (which is still open), Obama has been a colossal disappointment and has been unwilling to stand up to the excesses of the national security apparatus.  His administration seems to pursue whistle-blowers more aggressively than the abuses they uncover.

Unlike some of my friends I do not condone Bradley Manning’s alleged leaking.  But he has not yet been convicted of his crime.  And even if he were, his treatment would still be unjustified.  The last decade has seen the Executive and Judicial branches wink at the abuse of prisoners.  Congress, which is particularly prone to jingoistic populism, is also useless.  Large sections of the Fourth Estate have also condoned torture because of the unsympathetic nature of people being tortured and the fears of terrorism.  This is a disgrace, as is Obama’s reaction to the news of Manning’s treatment:

“With respect to Private Manning, you know, I have actually asked the Pentagon whether or not the procedures that have been taken in terms of his confinement are appropriate and are meeting our basic standards. They assured me that they are.”

Gee..the alleged abusers have assured him that the treatment is appropriate.  End of inquiry.  How heartwarming.

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Posted on 12-01-2011
Filed Under (Politics) by Rashtrakut

I intended to resume blogging after a long Christmas vacation last weekend.  Then the shootings in Arizona occurred and an all too familiar dispiriting feeling of anger, frustration and disgust at the state of politics in this country hit me.  Jared Lee Loughner appears to have acted on his own paranoid delusions and James Fallows has aptly pointed out the absence of logic in such “political” shootings.  What does stick out however in the miasma of Loughner’s delusions is a propensity to believe bizarre conspiracy theories about the government.

In recent years public figures (in government and media) who cannot hide behind the veil of (possible) schizophrenia have engaged in similar rantings.  They did not cause Loughner’s murderous spree, but should know better than to reaffirm the world view of similarly disturbed folk.  If advertisements can influence shoppers, Hollywood can corrupt teens surely the words of people in positions of trust can influence people to act…sometimes disturbed people.

It is not an argument I expect to win.  One thing I have realized over the years is that political conversations between people of different beliefs can resemble ships passing in the night.  Which is why, I am glad President Obama declined the overtures of some on the hard left to descend into the muck and engage in what is becoming a partisan political brawl.  This was a virtuoso performance that brilliantly turned a somber occasion into a hopeful celebration.  The hope will dull when the hard political reality of divided government returns next week.  But for now bask in the euphoria.  Full video of the speech below:

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

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Posted on 20-12-2010
Filed Under (Politics) by Rashtrakut

I am not a fan of Joe Lieberman. I had hoped for him to get his just deserts after the 2008 election.  Even though the Democrats at Barack Obama’s urging chose to forgive and forget, he responded by being a giant pain in the ass during the health care reform debate.  But to give credit where it is due, he was a driving force in helping Barack Obama achieve yet another campaign promise this past week – the legislative repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.  While my ultimate desire to see his departure from the Senate in 2012 has not diminished, I will have some charitable thoughts for Joe Lieberman this holiday season.

Lieberman’s usefulness the past couple of weeks also vindicates Barack Obama’s magnanimity towards his former foes, which at times has caused some heartburn among his supporters.  The conversion of Hillary Clinton from bitter rival to valuable ally and cabinet member is another example of this.  Unfortunately, the attempts at détente do not appear to have worked on John McCain who seems determined to cement his reputation as a bitter loser.  McCain’s full flop during the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell debate drew widespread derision from the left and some fine Jon Stewart treatment (which includes a hat tip to Lieberman).  Video below:

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Gaypocalypse Now
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog</a> The Daily Show on Facebook

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Posted on 02-11-2010
Filed Under (Politics) by Rashtrakut

Noticed this on Andrew Sullivan. Since Congress is likely headed to the mother of all gridlocks in the next two years,  look at what actually got done the past two years.

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Posted on 01-11-2010
Filed Under (Foreign Policy) by Rashtrakut

Maybe I should not be surprised that the Washington Post published this blather from David Broder.  The last couple of years it has cheerfully published factually inaccurate or outright propaganda columns from George  Will, Charles Krauthammer and (the torture supporter) Marc Thiessen.  It also published Dinesh D’Souza’s garbage about the roots of Barack Obama’s ideology.

Somehow Broder seems to forget that we already fought two expensive wars in the last decade and primarily managed to blow up the deficit (with a lot of the money wasted abroad it produced almost no stimulative effects back home).  Saber rattling with Iran will also drive up oil prices which could lead to a double dip recession.  Even though Broder does not actually advocate bombing Iran he seems to assume that Iran will remain motionless while we ramp up preparations for war.  It has proxies in Iraq and Lebanon that can be unleashed against the United States and Israel.  The threat of war will also allow Iran’s isolated autocrats to rally support at home.

Since Broder’s column is essentially calling for more government spending to stimulate the economy, maybe he should call for spending on our infrastructure and education instead of fueling an already over-bloated military-industrial complex.

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