Panem et Circenses

For the next ten months, we’ll be treated to ham-handed race horse coverage about primaries, caucuses, and at long last, the general election. The American people will get to choose between a wounded Obama who delivered much of what he promised, but will be tested on whether “much” was quite enough; and a Republican nominee who will have to pander to the most hateful and reactionary wing of his party in order to make it to the general.

There will be precious little coverage and discussion of actual issues – the successes and failure of health insurance reform, the end of the war in Iraq, the ongoing war in Afghanistan, the crises within Pakistan, Syria, Iraq, and Iran, the never-ending blood feud in Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank, the issue of energy, oil, and fracking, the decline domestically of our middle class and the way in which our system is now set up and designed to benefit the wealthiest Americans under the disproven and false theory of supply-side economics.

But hey, epic flip-flopper Romney defeated Christianist reactionary Schiavoist Rick Santorum by only 8 votes! Bachman came in not just last, but crazy-last! Ron Paul came in third, but his cult’ll tell you that’s as good as first, and also the fault of the Trilateral Commission and the Council on Foreign Relations.

So, here’s a reminder that British and Canadian general elections take just about a month from start to finish, and feature very detailed party platforms that spell out each side’s policies in extensive manifestos, and give minor parties a shot at influence, if not an outright majority.


  • It must make you proud to know that your guy, who’s supposed to be the hero of progressives everywhere, has:

    * killed brown kids by the hundreds, dropping cluster bombs from faceless drones.
    * tried to overturn a global ban on cluster bombs.
    * decided that we should DEFINITELY have the ability to assassinate American citizens, not on a battlefield, with no oversight.
    * decided that he should DEFINITELY have the authority to detain ANY American on flimsy pretense, with no trial. 4th Amendment be damned.
    * Took a gun to the temple of the War Powers Act, decided unilaterally that we should drop bombs on Libya.
    * Loves secrecy even more than Bush ever did, FOIA be damned.
    * He LOVES that War on Drugs, after claiming he was going to at least tone it down.
    * He hasn’t prosecuted basically ANYONE after the fraud on Wall St, and packed his economic team(s) with ex-Goldman et al. Yeah, he’s a friend of the middle class!
    * Leading us to war with Iran, turn up the rhetoric!!

    Thanks to Glenn Greenwald at Salon for summarizing all that and much more so succinctly recently.

    Obama is a disaster for what you people allegedly believe, much the same as Romney and pals are a disaster for what the righties allegedly believe.

    It’s pathetic. The war machine must be stopped and that’s way the fuck more important than ending DADT.

    But hey, at least you can lie to yourself and pretend that Obama’s been some sort of hero and hey at least if he delivered “much” of what he “promised”, whatever else he does doesn’t fucking matter.

    • Jesse – who is the alternative? (bonus points for not mentioning Ron Paul). Also, citing Greenwald to me isn’t particularly persuasive. I’m sure the world is exactly as simplistic as he’d have us believe, and that Obama just detains and kills people randomly because he gets a chubby off it.

  • Ron Paul says we’re all Austrians now!
    Brot und Spiele!
    Anschluß! Anschluß!

    BTW, based on an exhaustive 10-second Google search, you may have attributable coinage of “Schiavoist”.

  • Alan, straw man argument. That fact that Obama asserts the power is the problem, whether or not he uses it or enjoys using it is irrelevent, and Jesse made no claim that he did, either.

    I certainly don’t turn Obama’s faults, shortcomings, or war crimes (however one views them) into arguments for Ron Paul, but why can’t you admit to them? It’s disingenious.

    • Ethan – where did I not “admit to them”?

      Jesse took what I wrote about the POTUS race and veered it off-topic into some Greenwald-lite polemic about Obama-as-murderer. You’re merely doing the same.

      Also, I live in this whole reality thing where Ron Paul doesn’t have a shot (and is, btw, a conspiratorial race-baiting lunatic) and the choice will be between Obama – however flawed, and someone a hundred times worse.

      Well, maybe Trump will run an independent campaign, so there may be someone five hundred times worse. We’ll see.

  • Another offering of rich insights on this spectacle, Alan. And thanks for demonstrating your writing prowess by the use of the term “Schiavoist” to describe Sen. Sanatorium. My goal for the day is to use that in a sentence, after which I’ll be sure to pass you a citation.

  • Hi Alan,

    1. Gary Johnson.
    2. Even John Huntsman doesn’t think we should be dropping bombs in Afghanistan any more.
    3. There is no one else. And I didn’t mention Dr Paul, here or in my opening. Anti-war beliefs don’t depend on any particular candidate, but are SUPPOSED to matter to progressives.

    Also, by your logic, if they all want to keep the bombs droppin’, it doesn’t count as an issue any longer?

    On Greenwald: I’m only citing his work collecting the disastrous Obama policies that SHOULD make progressives like you puke in your Cheerios. It’s not Greenwald’s views, only links such as:

    I’d provide a link to the original reporting at Salon, but that link includes Dr Paul’s name in the title, and I don’t want this to have anything to do with him.

    It’s not merely “Obama-as-murderer” and the fact that you blow it off as such is validation of my point and Ethan’s defense of it. Obama is a disaster on what really matters. Claiming that the other guy will be 100x worse and so we can’t hammer Obama on anti-war, anti-executive power, anti-corruption themes is kind of pathetic.

    YOU wrote: “…wounded Obama who delivered much of what he promised, but will be tested on whether “much” was quite enough;”

    That’s a defense of the guy. I think his actions are not worth defending. He’s a traitor to everyone who voted for him.

    • Sorry, I don’t find this argument at all persuasive, and don’t specifically recall Obama running on ending the war on al Qaeda, legalizing pot, abolishing the concept of secrecy in diplomatic or military affairs, or somehow miraculously eliminating accidental deaths during warfare. And it’s precisely this sort of glib bullshit that only serves to reinforce my position:

      It goes without saying that — unless you want Rick Perry to win in 2012 — this act should in no way be seen as marring Obama’s presidency or his character: what’s a couple dozen children blown up as a part of a covert, undeclared air war?

      There are many things that “really matter”, and unfortunately we are exactly in a precarious position because (a) we can’t just disengage from fights we started a decade ago because we feel like it; (b) the world is a dangerous and complicated place where reality doesn’t always mesh well with ideals. I could be as obnoxiously glib as Greenwald and say, “hey, what’s a couple hundred dead tourists on an airliner over Detroit, so long as you get to smoke weed and we ignore the people who planned and financed the attack?”, but I won’t because I think it’s a difficult issue.

      You can hammer Obama all you want. I didn’t say you couldn’t. My point is – who is the alternative? What is the alternative?

      Because cluster bombs and FOIL and weed aren’t going to be big issues in the 2012 election. The economy and domestic policy are the big issues this season, and that’s what I was referring to viz. Obama’s campaign promises.

      Also, I disagree that a Libertarian candidate is a reasonable alternative, and I quite like Huntsman, and he’s the only Republican in the current field I could remotely consider supporting.

  • Charlie Pierce on Iowa viewed through the lens of Citizens United is worth a read.

  • If the tea party gets Romney instead of Paul or Perry or Santorum, we should be prepared for four years of some serious crazy batshit politics. It’ll make these last four years seem agreeable and pleasant.

    If Romney is the nominee and loses, they’ll say, “See, we told you! We need to stay true to our conservative roots! Going with a moderate like Romney is a sure ticket to defeat. Double down on crazy!”

  • Very well said, Jesse. A couple of things, Alan:

    It’s not a “never-ending blood feud in Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank.” It’s an illegal Israeli ethnic cleansing of Palestinians and occupation of Gaza, East Jeruslem, the West Bank, the Golan Heights of Syria, and a little bit of Lebanon. Really, first things first.

    And it’s not “accidental deaths in warfare.” It’s the carefully-planned murder of Afghani, Pakistani, and American civilians in drone attacks. The innocent Americans he has killed so far are named Anwar al-Awlaki and Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, his sixteen-year-old son. And by “innocent” I mean “not proven guilty, not even charged with a crime.”

    The alternative to Barack Obama? It’s as close as Occupy Buffalo. That’s where the real politics are. For some elaboration, see the comments by former Buffalonian Matt Taibbi, a real journalist:

  • Ron Paul’s rabid acolytes are making me dislike Ron Paul. Thanks a lot for that.

    For the record, I happen to agree with a lot of Paul’s positions (not all of them) and I think he is the most principled of this GOP lot, which is a low bar to be sure.

    I also voted for Obama and have found him to be an utter disappointment in numerous ways, including those outlined above.

    But here is where idealism gives way to pragmatism. This country cannot afford to be controlled by the GOP again. Their policies have been an utter failure and have wrecked the economy. (Note – I do not lump Paul in with “GOP policies”). I also do not think Paul has a chance in hell. He cannot sell many of his more extreme positions and the mainstream media will (already has started) vilifying him for them. Obama is needed as a check against the GOP’s more extreme economic positions. These are the issues I am worried about now.

    You see, I can criticize Paul and Obama at the same time. You Paul worshippers seem to think you need to praise either one or the other.

  • And Holstun, if you think that Anwar al-Awlaki is “innocent”, you have lost all credibility.

    I don’t care if he is American born. He abandoned this country long ago to join a war effort against its citizens, as well as other people the world over. There is no known interpretation of the Constitution that guarantees due process under those circumstances.

  • I don’t see any Ron Paul “worshippers” here–Me, I think he’s sporadically nuts.

    Of course al-Awlaki was innocent–never charged with a crime, much less tried or convicted, never even charged. Here’s a plain the US Constitution III.3, which does indeed guarantee due process even to an accused traitor: “Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.”

    You see that stuff there about “convicted” and “testimony” and “Witnesses” and “Court,” right? Not a word about Hellfire missiles. And neither is there anything saying “Americans may be put to death if Barack Obama or Mike Chmiel hate them and want to do so.”

    Just curious: how do you feel about Obama killing al-Awlaki’s sixteen-year-old son and his seventeen-year-old nephew? blood guilt? pique? OK to kill Arabs?

  • “Sorry, I don’t find this argument at all persuasive, and don’t specifically recall Obama running on ending the war on al Qaeda, legalizing pot, abolishing the concept of secrecy in diplomatic or military affairs, or somehow miraculously eliminating accidental deaths during warfare.”

    Alan, let me be the first to say I’m not going to persuade you of anything (trying to persuade a lawyer on anything is a fool’s errand), but to simply point out that your guy has completely dropped the ball on a great many issues that should be important to progressives. Yet because he’s “our guy”, guys like you give him almost no scrutiny at all.

    Like I said above: “at least he delivered “much” of what he “promised” so I guess the rest of it is a-okay”!

  • @Jim Holstun – I will bet that if we tallied our positions, we would agree on 90% of everything, but I cannot go along with your position on al-Awlaki. I distinguish between the type of “treason” accused of the Rosenbergs, and that whereby someone is joining an enemy terrorist organization and is actively plotting the murder of innocents. This turns it into a military and not a police situation. I couldn’t possibly care less about the man’s son or nephew either. Sorry if that is harsh.

    I think you are guilty or turning a complex foreign policy issue into a black and white “good guy/bad guy” analysis. In your analysis, the US and Israel are always the bad guys and the Palestinians (and probably all Islamic groups) are the hapless victims of our worldwide aggression. Too simple for me. There are some actual bad guys on the other side too.

    That said, I have supported a complete withdrawal from the Middle East and Afghanistan for years.

  • Mike–so, you support blowing up American teenagers for no particular reason, or because you don’t like their parents? “Sorry if that is harsh”? Oh, why in the world would anyone think that’s harsh? Of course, each one of us should be able to blow up anyone we choose, regardless of age. What could be more reasonable? And of course, it was completely justified for Israeli troops to shoot in the face another unarmed American teenager, Furkan Dogan.

    Interesting that you’ve backed away from your quasi-Constitutional argument. That’s probably smart. Of course, the US convicted and fried Julius (probably guilty of passing on atomic secrets to the Soviets) and Ethel (probably not) precisely on the grounds that they were “plotting the murder of innocents.” It’s interesting, isn’t it, that most or all of the people we deny a trial to tend to be on the brown side? Probably a coincidence.

    Then you move into some truly juvenile foolishness–“the US and Israel are always the bad guys.” Since you made up the words and the sentiments, I’ll let you argue with them. It’s not about good guys and bad guys, except in the addled minds of al. It’s about law–and in particular, the enormous body of international law prohibiting invasion and ethno-sectarian cleansing.

    • “Ethno-sectarian cleansing”.

      Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab is getting his trial. That must stick in your craw. And yes, of course, everyone on here is arguing that we should be able to blow up anyone we choose, regardless of age. That’s EXACTLY what’s being argued.

      Also, I wasn’t aware that the protections of the United States Constitution was the law of Yemen, but then again, I’m not the one defending this guy.

  • I am all for trials when the wrongdoers can be safely captured and brought here. However, when they hole up in foreign countries backed up by military protection, they ask for a military response.

    And as much as it might pain you, a military response sometimes results in civilian death. Every war does. If taking out a monster like al-Awlaki means snuffing out his (probably future Al-Qaida) relatives that are holed up with him, I am fine with it.

    Please point out where I said anything else you claim.

  • Being able to blow up anyone we choose is exactly the power that Obama has now asserted. If that’s cool with you, you might consider N. Korea a virtuous model of government after all. If it’s not cool with you, then stop prevaricating and state so. It’s not hard.

  • Alan, if you can manage it, try addressing what I say rather than what you think I “must” be thinking. As I said rather clearly, I object to the US government assassinating US citizens, without charge, trial, or conviction. You and Mr. Chmiel seem to be good with that.

    And when you get a spare moment, check out that old Constitution thing–US citizens don’t lose their constitutional rights by going to foreign countries. It’s really pretty simple. See, if an American goes to Canada and you or Barack Obama or somebody else kills him with a drone, you get to say, “Hey, chill out, it was Canada!”

    Mr.Chmiel was presenting his indifference to an innocent teenaged boy being blown up as if it were an argument for the justice of this doing so. This is inhumane as well as lame-brained. I don’t know if you support him in this.

    Mr. Chmiel–Anwar al-Awlaki was murdered two weeks after his father. Even the CIA might not be able to claim with a straight face that this was regrettable collateral damage from the first hit. I also really love your clairvoyant vision that his dead relatives were “probably future Al Qaida,” therefore snuffable. This is a self-ridiculing depravity–I’ll just let it sit there, all by itself. Thanks for doing my job for me!

  • If we ONLY blew up people who were actively murdering Americans, in the present tense, that’d be one thing, but we don’t. You believe it’s fine for America to use deadly force whenever and wherever Obama decides unilaterally and without oversight. That’s cool, you’re entitled to believe that. But it’s more like an authoritarian dictatorship than a democratic republic, and that is beyond debate.

  • Are you glorying in the US murder of an innocent sixteen-year-old boy? God, I don’t remember ARTVOICE columnists being this bloodthirsty before. Or maybe you’re just confused. Alan, I know it gets confusing with the sheer proliferation of brown people with funny Arabic names whom we blow up. But do try to sort it out. And do look more carefully at the language involved–think like a lawyer. I’ll try again:

    Anwar al-Awlaki: the forty-year-old Yemeni-American cleric whom the US blew up on September 30, 2011. He was part of al-Qaida. But he had not been “actively murdering Americans,” not even in the article you linked to–nobody is claiming that.

    Abdulrahman al-Awlaki: his sixteen-year-old Arab-American son, whom the US blew up in a drone attack, along with his seventeen-year-old cousin, on October 14, 2011. So are you saying he deserved death too? Abdulrahman reportedly liked football, swimming, THE SIMPSONS, and video games.,8599,2097899,00.html. Hanging crimes, Alan? Was this “targeted killing in self-defense”?

    Wiggle differently–I’m sure you can find a better way to justify killing him.

    How quickly you forget about the US Constitution–it’s positively un-American. Americans do not lose their rights because they are accused of doing bad things, or even if they do them. Americans who go to Canada or to Yemen are indeed subject to Canadian or to Yemeni law, but the President who might want to kill him is still subject to American law. This isn’t an overwhelmingly complicated matter to grasp.

    • I honestly refuse to further entertain any discussion with someone who suggests I simply want “brown” “Arabs” to be killed indiscriminately. Utter fuckery, that.

  • Simply put, I agree with Alan. He makes an excellant point and if everyone would stop and consider the alternative to President Obama, they might actuall realize that instead of going off on tangents and bs about your perceived
    (or not) slights to you and your own ideology, there is no viable alternative.
    Religious idealogues, ethically challenged, morally challenged angry men who will take us down the road of violating our liberty and human rights faster and deeper than George W ever thought humanly possible. In fact, GW is quietly behind the scenes right now with Rove and the Koch brothers coordinating your future as they see it. So keep it up everyone. We definitely need another Bush pawn in the White House. Just sayin.

  • Of course, I didn’t say that, Alan, but I understand your dilemma: this is probably the best save you can manage at this point: grab the money, overturn the table, scream “Utter fuckery!” turn out the lights, deny everything, and run for the door.


  • Alan, my mistake: I see that in an earlier post, I said “Anwar al-Awlaki” when I mean “Abdulrahman al-Awlaki.” I’m partly responsible for your later confusion between Anwar and Abdulrahman. I trust it’s cleared up now.

    But yes, you have indeed advocated for the killing of an innocent, in the plainest “innocent until proven guilty” meaning of the word: Anwar al-Awlaki was murdered without benefit of charges, trial, or conviction. In other words, he was innocent, never proven guilty. You said he was a “deserving target.” So it is “patently true” that you have advocated for (or approved) the killing of an innocent. You might respond, “oh, only LEGALLY innocent, not ACTUALLY” innocent, but that would be a strange thing for a lawyer to argue. Since I love the law and the US Constitution, “legally” is a pretty important concept.

    Still don’t know if you also approve killing his innocent teen-aged boy.

    All done now.

    • I don’t “advocate” for any of it.

      I do not, however condemn the targeted killing of direct terrorist threats like Anwar al-Awliki and Ibrahim al-Banna.

      And I consider al-Awliki the proximate cause of his son’s accidental death. I don’t let my kid ride in cars with terrorists or gang members or Mafiosi. So, their chances of being killed in some bomb attack or hail of bullets is significantly diminished.

      Maybe al-Awliki should have stayed in the US and served as the moderate Islamic voice he briefly purported to be, instead of recruiting, funding, and supporting the bombing of a civilian aircraft over a populated area.

      Yes, I do make a significant distinction between the accidental deaths of innocent civilians versus the deliberate targeting of civilians.

  • It’s kind of hard to blame ol’ Anwar for the death of his son Abdulrahman, since he was blown to bits and decomposing at the time. Amazing to see the conniptions people will go into to justify American imperial child murder.

    Here’s the much-feared Glenn Greenwald responding to the predictable “You luv Ron Paul!” responses to his column on Democratic depravity. It’s directly relevant to much of the recent discussion here:
    Much of the reaction to the article I wrote last Saturday regarding progressives, the Obama presidency and Ron Paul (as well as reaction to this essay by Matt Stoller and even this tweet from Katrina vanden Heuvel) relied on exactly the sort of blatant distortions that I began that article by anticipating and renouncing: that I was endorsing Paul as the best presidential candidate, that I was urging progressives to sacrifice reproductive rights in order to vote for him over Obama, that I “pretend[ed] that the differences between Obama and Paul on economics [and other domestic issues] are marginal”; that Paul’s bad positions negate the argument I made; that Ron Paul is my “hero,” etc. etc. So self-evidently petty and slimy are those kinds of distortions that (other than to note their falsehoods for the record) they warrant no discussion; indeed, as I wrote: “So potent is this poison that no inoculation against it exists” and would thus “proceed to make a couple of important points about both candidacies even knowing in advance how wildly they will be distorted.”

    • Greenwald? As usual, TLDR.

      And yes, if you are a terrorist leader and you take your kid to live with you in the terrorist hideout, and generally socialize with other terrorists, you are directly responsible if your kid is killed in a counterterrorist attack. The family should have stayed in San Diego.

  • The usual racist imperial nonsense: the entire world outside of the US of A is a “terrorist hideout,” and a free-fire zone–if you leave San Diego. All foreigners killed by Americans are terrorists, and they are killed only in counter-terrorist attacks, and when we kill their children, they are responsible. Jesus, what sewage.

    I have no idea what “TLDR” means–something that post-it-note brains can remember? Just looked it up, and found my suspicions confirmed: “Too Long, Didn’t Read.” Exactly. Add in TCCT (too complicated, can’t think), and you’re good to go.

    Here’s an exercise for you, Alan: please define “terrorist” without using the words “terror,” “terrorism,” or “terrorist,” in a way that includes Anwar al-Awlaki, and doesn’t include Barack Obama. And by “define,” I mean “define,” not “give an example of.” It’s pretty hard, isn’t it?

    Brain teaser time over, Alan, go back to laptop bombardier mode. “Terrorizing terrorist terrorists! Counter-terrorize them now!”

    • 1. No, al-Qaeda camps in Yemen are terrorist hideouts. Keep your race card in its box.

      2. A terrorist is someone who deliberately murders as many civilians as possible – usually en masse – in order to obtain some monetary gain and/or make some political or religious point.

      Have a nice day.

  • This argument grew stale a while ago. In Jim’s world there are only two sides: the poor oppressed members of Al-Qaida (who would have no quarrel with anyone if the evil U.S. would just go home!) and Everyone Else who Obviously Agrees with George W. Bush. That is it, choose a side. Al-Qaida or Bush.

    Again, I disagreed with our invasion of Iraq and our continued presence in Afghanistan since about 8 years ago. However, I am all for the targeted assassinations of terrorist leaders whenever and wherever we can get the done. It has actually been quite effective and is certainly a more efficient use of resources than invading entire nations.

    I also cannot get behind a group of people whose stated goals include killing innocent civilians and wiping out an entire religious group. Or are you okay with the mass killing of Jews too?

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