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    Dissipating Power

    I remember it well, the heated 2008 campaign, and one of the vaunted risers in the party - scratch that, *conscience* of the party - Samantha Power - had just called Hillary a "monster". In this case it was for "deceit", saying anything to win, but it might as well have been for Powers' forte, foreign policy - poking holes in US reactions in Bosnia and Rwanda and elsewhere.

    9 years later, Powers goes out like a vanquished lion - braying in futility in her last moments as UN rep against Russia's transgressions in Syria. But what happened in-between? Where did these outspoken values go in the Obama years with a largely reactive, not pro-active stance on human rights and threading our way through more Mideast engagements and muddied mushy responses? Seth Mandel provides a comprehensive summary of this transition from Lion Queen to largely defanged kitten.

    This is not a post of schadenfreude - I'm saddened and confused and disheartened. It's symbolic of the real world as we know it, the demise of optimism and righteous fury, and where we get tripped up time and time again. The other side's busy ignoring that world, running red lights, hitting pedestrians on the sidewalk - but still, careful driving doesn't make you a good driver. But it's a helluva lot easier to tell if someone's a good driver than whether they're doing the right thing in foreign politics.

    Was Comey Blackmailed?

    The most obvious question, yet no one's asking it.

    It's not like he didn't know the rules. And it was a complete nothing-burger.

    Did Putin get to Jimmy? Enquiring minds want to know.

    Discuss.

    On Knowing and Not Knowing

    In the beginning, God made us a deal - you chill, I'll do all the heavy lifting.

    Who was this God dude anyway? Didn't matter - the uncertainty was replaced by someone in charge. Our job was to do (and to enjoy), not to know, not to decide. Above our pay grade.

    And thus it continued till some damn woman stuck her nose in and said "hey, I hear there's another way".

    Another way for what? There we were, minding our own business, heading out to the fields every day....

    And then someone says, "How does it work?" OMG, zoots - how *does* it work?

    And suddenly the men are wearing suits and wielding slide rules and carrying briefcases and asking about rules.

    ("Rules?" the bad hombre says to Butch. "First thing is, there are no rules", Butch replies with a kick)

    Rules. How this, how that, what size, for how long, in what stages, what color...

    We got so good at reckoning and lugging stone, building grain pyramids, we started building to the sky - wheeee!!!

    And then it broke. No one knows exactly why, it just done broke.

    All that machinery wasted. So we went back to the fields, got ourselves a few feudal lords. And waited.

    A long time. A *really* long time.

    The Unchangeable Hopelessness of Being

    [To Terry]. Eight years ago midnight New Year's Eve, I watched fireworks flying across the remote mountains with a queasiness in my belly as the world's economies melted down and Obama prepared to assume the presidency, and I meditated and prayed for his success as only an atheist can do, feeling that if the elements could pull together in some kind of Shakespearean concoction, we'd find a way out of this madness.

    It's been a maddening 8 years with occasional somewhat neutered success. The bailout that extended the tax breaks "stimulus" madness, retaining trader bonuses, forked stimulus cash straight to banks that never got used, diverged into largely unpunished mortgage theft after the dust had settled, and as a side-show had Washington bean counters combing over Detroit business trying to understand cars only in terms of cashflow, investors (gotta give the previous owners 100 cents on the dollar), and retirement plans. The health care that'd been derived from Hillary's campaign turned into an industry-friendly mixed cocktail, only after 2 years of favors and invites to all the objectors that never quite showed up in the end. That Nebraskan Senator who helped shove the no-abortion-benefits into the package and then got voted out of office anyway - all those Blue Dogs are gone now, but Obama still played the deficit scold compromise game with the Republicans that they largely won, tying hands for greater social programs. Rahm made it clear that unions no longer had a sure place at the table.

    A Visit from St. Vlad

    'Twas the day after Christmas and all through the site
    Not a blogger was stirring, no postings in sight.
    The comments were lined by the masthead with care
    With hopes for some non-Trump discussion as fare
    While readers rolled restlessly slumped in their beds
    Damning hangover headaches that chastened their heads.
    My alias and I had just poured a nightcap,
    thinking we'd hack out some politically motivated crap.
    When out in the blogosphere there arose such a natter,
    A tweetstorm with fake news that filled it with chatter.
    Off to my Facebook I flew in a rage
    To offer my musings on each open page.

    Doctor Cleveland's picture

    Fairy Tale Promises: The Brexit, Conservatives, and Trump

    The shocking result of the "Brexit" referendum, with Britain leaving the European Union, has widely been taken as Good News for Donald Trump. He was happy to say so himself, and to attempt to take credit somehow for the referendum's success. And people have been panicking about the danger that Trump's campaign could beat the conventional wisdom just as the British "Leave" campaign did. That danger is probably overrated, as Jamelle Bouie points out: the UK is much whiter than the US, so the angry white vote doesn't carry as far here any more, and we should remember that the Brexit result wasn't really a surprise: "Leave" and "Remain" had been polling neck-and-neck down to the wire, so the 52-48 result wasn't unlikely. But Trump, who led the Republican primary polls wire to wire, is clearly behind in the general-election polls. On the other hand, it's easy to see Trump and the Brexiteers as part of a wider movement: angry nativist populists, hostile to policy experts and welcoming to xenophobes and racists.  That movement won't meet with the same success everywhere, but it's real.

    Doctor Cleveland's picture

    America Needs More Refugees

    The cheap fear-mongering about Syrian refugees loses sight of some basic facts. The United States has taken in refugees before, and that decision has worked out really, really well for us. In fact, taking in refugees has been great for America, and we should take in more whenever we get a chance.

    Doctor Cleveland's picture

    Who Lost Scotland?

    Today Scotland votes on independence: a fifty-fifty referendum on leaving the United Kingdom. It's gone from a long shot to a statistical dead heat, and nobody can say for sure how the vote will go. But what's certain is that Scotland's old relationship with the rest of Britain is finished. The Scottish independence movement will not just go away if they come up a couple percent short; they're never going to give up now that they've gotten this close. And if a united United Kingdom squeaks by, Scotland will expect to be given much more autonomy than it's had so far.

    Topics: 
    Michael Wolraich's picture

    Half-Assed: Why America Cannot Stop the Slaughter in Iraq

    As ISIS pursues its genocidal dreams in Syria and Iraq, Bruce Levine asks, "whether we as human beings living in the most powerful nation in the world can stand by yet again and do nothing -- as thousands or tens of thousands of innocent human beings  are slaughtered."

    The question conceals a heavy premise: that we have the power to stop the slaughter if we choose to exercise it.

    I do not deny the premise, at least in principle. If we unleash our full military and economic might, we can surely defeat ISIS forces and build stable, peaceful states in Iraq and Syria. But full mobilization and massive nation-building projects are not realistic options in the current political environment. We may muster the will for limited military operations in Iraq, but we're unwilling to do what it takes to succeed. Consequently, our efforts to stop the slaughter are doomed to fail and may make the situation even worse.

    Topics: 
    Doctor Cleveland's picture

    The Other Two Sides in Israel and Palestine

    It is not only hard to write about the bloodshed in Israel and Palestine without taking sides. It is impossible for most people to read about the violence in Israel and Palestine without taking sides. So the debate bogs down into questions of justification and self-defense and proportionality: that is, into the utterly useless question of whether Israel or Hamas is more in the wrong. It may well be that one side or the other is more justified, or more culpable. But since the answering that question will not prevent even a single death, the question is meaningless.

    Doctor Cleveland's picture

    Fear Itself: Ukraine Edition

    The single most important thing Barack Obama needs to do about Ukraine is not to panic. The single most important thing anyone else in the United States can do about Ukraine is not to panic Barack Obama. Developments in the Crimea are extremely dangerous, and that's exactly why everybody needs to calm down.

    Ramona's picture

    Three Years ago Julian Assange Lost his Luggage. He Just Now Noticed?

    It was a long weekend and I was devilishly busy and exhausted to the point of just plain weary, so you'll have to forgive me if I didn't get this right:
     
    I read today that on September 27, 2010--almost three years ago--Julian Assange of Wikileaks fame checked a bag at an airport in Sweden containing three laptops filled with Wikileaks stuff, including some top secret "war crimes" information that, if it hadn't been stolen by some shady government dudes, would have knocked our socks off with revelations of dirty deeds so devastating, if they had ever, ever been revealed, the world as we know it might just stop spinning.  Or heads would roll.  Or Assange would be hailed as the hero he fancied he already was.  Whatever.  Something BIG would happen if ever those revelations saw the light of day.  So, of course, they were stolen by one or more shadowy government dudes who were not about to let that happen.
    Doctor Cleveland's picture

    The Muslim Brotherhood Blows It

    One of the most startling things about the terrible events in Egypt is that the Muslim Brotherhood, the great-granddaddy of all Islamist movements, has blown its shot at governing the country, a chance the Brotherhood spent decades waiting and planning for. That does not excuse the military coup, and the Brotherhood isn't the only party to blame. But there's no point in pretending that Morsi and the Brotherhood have been defenders of constitutional democracy either, and their refusal to share power or respect civil process helped create the mess their country is in tonight.

    Doctor Cleveland's picture

    Boston and the End of the War on Terror

    Five weeks after a terrorist attack on Boston, President Obama has declared that the War on Terror, "like all wars, must end."  If I had told you a year ago that he would make such a speech a month and a half after a high-profile terrorist attack on a major American city, neither you nor I would have believed me. But the lessons of Boston drive home the wisdom of the President's decision. It showed us that a terrorist attack is meant to be lived through and that Americans are ready to live through one.

    Doctor Cleveland's picture

    Ten Years After Iraq: Top-Down Leadership

    The decision to bring "democracy" to Iraq displayed a deep and obvious contempt for democracy itself. George W. Bush considered the decision to begin a war his personal prerogative, and both the political establishment and the media establishment treated it that way. The war was inevitable; the decision had already been made. Not supporting the war was treated as foolish (because futile) and unpatriotic (because patriotism was defined as supporting the President's decisions).

    William K. Wolfrum's picture

    Outbreak of Brazilian virgins has imaginary bidders lining up

    When Justin Sisely announced that he planned to film a “Virgin Sells Virginity” porn, the media went wild, endlessly repeating a story based on nothing.

    Now, that’s not a big surprise. What is a surprise is that after the announcement – heck, even before it – random dudes with lots of walking-around money started hurling incredible bids at Sisely, asking to be the male lead in said porno.

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