Thursday, December 30, 2010

Corporate-owned media and government agencies (i.e. the C.I.A.): two close friends working closely together for many, many years

Following up Sir Charles' recent post about the pathetic state of our mainstream press--who continue to do their masters' bidding while oblivious to pesky concerns like ethics and responsibility to readers, and who see nothing remotely questionable about the cozy relationships they enjoy with government officials--I wanted to call everyone's attention to a fascinating, in-depth, and surprisingly timeless (and depressingly timely) article written in the Rolling Stone by Pulitzer-winning journalist Carl Bernstein, which I found linked in comments at Glenn Greenwald's place.

In this excellent article--written in 1977, mind you--Bernstein discusses the beyond-close friendship of top American journalists and media outlets and the Central Intelligence Agency, specifically with regard to the procuring and sharing of information and sources.

I think you'll find it incredibly illuminating--certainly it goes a long way toward explaining the genesis of that loathsome subset of entrenched, maintain-access-at-all-costs journos whom we in Left Blogistan often call "The Villagers".

Read the whole thing. Plus ça change, as they say... (bolds are mine):

The history of the CIA’s involvement with the American press continues to be shrouded by an official policy of obfuscation and deception for the following principal reasons:

The use of journalists has been among the most productive means of intelligence‑gathering employed by the CIA. Although the Agency has cut back sharply on the use of reporters since 1973 primarily as a result of pressure from the media), some journalist‑operatives are still posted abroad.

Further investigation into the matter, CIA officials say, would inevitably reveal a series of embarrassing relationships in the 1950s and 1960s with some of the most powerful organizations and individuals in American journalism.

Among the executives who lent their cooperation to the Agency were Williarn Paley of the Columbia Broadcasting System, Henry Luce of Tirne Inc., Arthur Hays Sulzberger of the New York Times, Barry Bingham Sr. of the LouisviIle Courier‑Journal, and James Copley of the Copley News Service. Other organizations which cooperated with the CIA include the American Broadcasting Company, the National Broadcasting Company, the Associated Press, United Press International, Reuters, Hearst Newspapers, Scripps‑Howard, Newsweek magazine, the Mutual Broadcasting System, the Miami Herald and the old Saturday Evening Post and New York Herald‑Tribune.

By far the most valuable of these associations, according to CIA officials, have been with the New York Times, CBS and Time Inc.

The CIA’s use of the American news media has been much more extensive than Agency officials have acknowledged publicly or in closed sessions with members of Congress.

(Bear in mind, Bernstein wrote this in 1977; today, after 9/11 and with the relatively recent passage of legislation like the Patriot Act, and the attendant erosion of privacy rights and the White House and NSA's widespread use of warrantless wiretapping of the phones of citizens and journalists alike, it is highly likely that this "special relationship" is no less extensive now than it was then, and indeed is probably even more far-reaching and corrosive in its scope and effect.)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

These are a few of my favorite things, Part 1: The Nutcracker

Gelsey Kirkland and Mikhail Baryshnikov dancing in Tchaikovsky's holiday classic, The Nutcracker.

They're simply brilliant together. Kirkland is a floating doll-child; Baryshnikov, a leaping soldier. He is as explosively powerful as she is delicate, ethereal, weightless.

Now it feels like Christmas.

What does it for you?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Book Review: Game Change, by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times; it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness; it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity; it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness; it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair; we had everything before us, we had nothing before us; we were all going directly to Heaven, we were all going the other way.

-- from A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

You'll hear no argument from me that the 2008 presidential election was a game-changer for American electoral politics. Certainly, it was a game-changer in terms of the leading candidates' gender and ethnic identities--for the first time ever, the top contenders for the country's two highest offices included a woman and an African-American man.

It was also a game-changer by default in that Americans, after eight years with George W. Bush in the White House, found themselves in a worse position economically than ever before--real wages had long been stagnant while the cost of living continued to rise, and the national debt had skyrocketed as the government borrowed more and more in order to finance two wars--and all signs were pointing to an impending sea-change. The table had been set.

And it was a game-changer in that a relatively new and exciting medium--the Internet--would now play a vital role in electing our next president.

From a November, 2008 New York Times piece:

One of the many ways that the election of Barack Obama as president has echoed that of John F. Kennedy is his use of a new medium that will forever change politics. For Mr. Kennedy, it was television. For Mr. Obama, it is the Internet. [...]

Howard Dean’s 2004 campaign -– which was run by Mr. Trippi –- was groundbreaking in its use of the Internet to raise small amounts of money from hundreds of thousands of people. But by using interactive Web 2.0 tools, Mr. Obama’s campaign changed the way politicians organize supporters, advertise to voters, defend against attacks and communicate with constituents.

Mr. Obama used the Internet to organize his supporters in a way that would have in the past required an army of volunteers and paid organizers on the ground, Mr. Trippi said.

My fondness for politics (some might call it a masochistic streak)--and propensity to examine the natures and narratives of the human players involved therewith--added up to my being eager to read Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime, which is now out in paperback.

No matter where on the spectrum your politics lie, Game Change is a terrifically absorbing and entertaining read. There is truly something for everyone. For the political novice, Game Change serves as a primer on How Americans Elect Leaders as well as a decent, almost-court-side seat at the Big Game, as it were, where the reader can see the posturing, promising, and bruise-delivering up close; where he can hear the the sotto voce swearing and deal-making with his own ears.

For the political junkie, it's a sustained--if limited and carefully controlled--glimpse of the mindset and methodology our would-be leaders. Yet despite enjoying the fly-on-the-wall perspective that Heilmann and Helperin weave into the stories (tales?), I found myself wanting more.

Numerous analyses of the campaigns of Hillary Clinton and, of course, Barack Obama have hit the blogosphere in the years since the election. I want to focus on two of the book's underdog protagonists, for lack of a better term, namely Senator John McCain and former-governor Sarah Palin. I'd already heard about Senator John McCain's hot temper and fondness for expletives, so reading that he screamed "Fuck you! Fuck, fuck, fuck (10x)" into his wife Cindy's face and made her cry at an early strategy meeting, while disturbing, did not really illuminate anything. What about his constantly-changing positions? Could a fly on the wall have perhaps noted the underlying reasons for McCain's various about-face moments--that he was not quite the "maverick" of yesteryear, but rather, an ambitious politician who'd embrace conventional wisdom and conservative-politics-as-usual (promoting the war machine, cutting taxes, tacitly supporting anti-immigration sentiments in word if not heart) if that's what it took to get himself elected?

I am deeply interested in that: what happens in a man or woman's mind when what one assumed were their core principles seem change so radically before one's eyes. And I remain interested, even as I fully understand the difficulty of getting into someone's head, particularly when that head belongs to John McCain. An omniscient hidden narrator--in this case, Heilemann and Helperin--needs to be bolder and more comprehensive in his filling-in of the motivation blanks. We cannot figure out McCain--he is unlike anyone we know--so given only limited information about his campaign's financial woes and his hot temper and foul mouth, we're going to liken him to a furious, bitter, more-than-a-little-unhinged older relative, or else a perpetually embattled and resentful history teacher we once knew and feared.

In their coverage of former-Governor Sarah Palin, in a chapter entitled "Sarahcuda", the authors famously discuss McCain's Vice Presidential preferences, namely, that he really, truly wanted to have Democratic Senator Joe Liebermann on the ticket. Liebermann had endorsed McCain, and along with Senator Lindsay Graham, the men had apparently become known as The Three Amigos, a group of guys who yukked it up on the trail and amused themselves by watching repeat screenings of John Edwards fixing his hair in a YouTube video. We learn that despite McCain's close friendship with Liebermann and his earnest wish to have him on the ticket--and despite John McCain's advisers being on board with him as the VP pick (at first), having contacted Liebermann and told him as much--the combined efforts and influence of Karl Rove and adviser Charlie Black led to his abandoning the notion of choosing a pro-choice candidate. We then find out that with mere days remaining before the Republican convention, McCain advisers, led by Steve Schmidt, recommended that he consider Alaska's then-governor, Sarah Palin. Quoting the authors as they describe Schmidt's pitch: "She was pro-life, anti-stem-cell research, pro-gun, and pro-states' rights...She was intensely competitive, apparently fearless, and endlessly watchable." We also learn how very little vetting of Palin was actually carried out; less, in fact, than "a potential assistant secretary of agriculture would receive".

Fast-forward to the present, bearing in mind the many skeletons that have fallen from Palin's closet and the ones yet to fall, one is hard-pressed to understand how an experienced politician like John McCain could possibly have chosen a candidate whose presence on the ticket would ultimately prove detrimental. Yes, Palin was pro-life, and that would please the evangelical voters. She was also charismatic and possessed of the kind of confidence and poise exhibited by aspiring beauty queen students with good pageant coaches. And she was attractive--all the better, as far as McCain was concerned.

She was also, as the authors subtly note, "unprepared"; however, inherent in that that term is the implication that with appropriate amounts of work, the subject can be "prepared". This was clearly not the case, we learn. In reading about the intensive efforts to educate and re-make Palin, one can only surmise that the best coaches and stylists money could buy were corralled and sent to her suite, and while the surface results would prove impressive, Palin's apparent lack of knowledge and unwillingness to study the issues would ultimately turn off one of the very voter blocs McCain and his advisers were counting on winning over: women. Particularly women who'd supported Hillary Clinton. She wasn't "unprepared": she was obtuse, and she seemed adamant about remaining so.

I found this passage to be especially shocking:

They sat Palin down at a table in the suite, spread out a map of the world, and proceeded to give her a potted history of foreign policy. They started with the Spanish Civil War, then moved on to World War I, World War II, the cold war, and what Scheunemann liked to call the "three wars of today--Iraq, Afghanistan, and the global war on terror.

That someone with so little knowledge could conceivably have become Vice President of the United States--a 72-year-old cancer-survivor's heartbeat away from the presidency, as they say--is utterly shameful, and after reading Game Change (and after having researched and written about Palin in the time since the election), I am still unclear as to how or why John McCain could make such an irresponsible choice.

Perhaps McCain had truly grown to hate politics, and as the authors imply, had come to despise his own role in it and take a sort of scorched-earth approach to his own career. Or perhaps he wanted to make a big, tantrum-like point to other Republicans--to show them that they were wrong (in counseling him away from choosing Joe Liebermann) and he was right.

Even though many of its revelations have become common knowledge since its first publication, and despite the many questions that the book leaves largely unanswered--questions about McCain's motivations; about Palin's strange and self-contradicting lies about her then-recent alleged pregnancy and her husband's membership in the secessionist Alaska Independence Party; and about Cindy McCain's inexplicably enduring tolerance for verbal and emotional abuse--Game Change is a thumping good read. In a world where messaging is so tightly controlled as to make one wonder if politicians consult their advisers before wishing their friends a Happy Birthday, it's rather delicious to see and hear our leaders (and would-be leaders) in all their flawed glory--worrying, swearing, sniping, and generally acting much like the rest of us. Only with private jets and nicer suits.

Monday, December 20, 2010

R.I.P. Journalism, part ∞ : Mainstream media completely ignores significant war protest

What did American journalists based in our nation's capital and elsewhere do when over a hundred U.S. veterans chained themselves to the White House fence--during a snowstorm, mind you--to protest the country's ongoing wars in Afghanistan and other countries?

If your answer is something along the lines of bupkis, nada, or sod-all, give yourself a chocolate reindeer.

Because that's exactly what happened on Thursday and Friday last week. Nothing to see here, folks, let's keep it moving... [bolds mine]

Washington Police arrested 135 of the protesters, in what is being called the largest mass detention in recent years. Among those arrested were Ray McGovern, a former CIA analyst who used to provide the president’s daily briefings, Daniel Ellsberg, who released the government’s Pentagon Papers during the Nixon administration, and Chris Hedges, former war correspondent for the New York Times.

No major US news media reported on the demonstration or the arrests. It was blacked out of the New York Times, blacked out of the Philadelphia Inquirer, blacked out in the Los Angeles Times, blacked out of the Wall Street Journal, and even blacked out of the capital’s local daily, the Washington Post, which apparently didn't even think it was a local story worth publishing.

Making the media cover-up of the protest all the more outrageous was the fact that most news media did report on Friday, the day after the protest, the results of the latest poll of American attitudes towards the Afghanistan War, an ABC/Washington Post Poll which found that 60% of Americans now feel that war has “not been worth it.” That’s a big increase from the 53% who said they opposed the war in July.

Clearly, any honest and professional journalist and editor would see a news link between such a poll result and an anti-war protest at the White House led, for the first time in recent memory, by a veterans organization, the group Veterans for Peace, in which veterans of the nation’s wars actually put themselves on the line to be arrested to protest a current war.

Friday was also the day that most news organizations were reporting on the much-touted, but also much over-rated Pentagon report on the “progress” of the American war in Afghanistan--a report prepared for the White House that claimed there was progress, but which was immediately contradicted by a CIA report that said the opposite. Again, any honest and professional journalist and editor would immediately see the publication of such a report as an appropriate occasion to mention the unusual opposition to the war by a group of veterans right outside the president’s office.

And yet, the protest event was completely blacked out by the corporate news media. (Maybe the servile and over-paid White House press corps, ensconced in the press room inside the White House, didn't want to go out and brave the elements to cover the protest.)

I wonder if the protesters might have got themselves a bit more (as in, any) news coverage if they'd worn bright red Fight The War on Christmas sweatshirts decorated with tiny plastic made-in-China baby Jesuses and big faux-fur Santa hats festooned with tea bags?

Ah, staying indoors where the message, like the controlled climate, is reliably warm and fuzzy--all in a day's work (where "work" = rubbing shoulders and kissing backsides) for the poseurs who bring us what they call news and I call gossipy, meaningless effluvia.

How transparently bought-and-paid-for of them. How completely irresponsible, craven, and dishonest.

How utterly disgraceful.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Rational Actor's Libertarian Fête

In the winter of 2007, I wrote this sonnet sequence in response to some of the worrisome events I'd seen take place that year--specifically, the many ill effects that deregulation and greed had wrought, and the often ghastly (and even fatal) consequences of holding profits and self-interest in greater esteem than such incidental and seemingly trivial matters as the health, safety, and financial well-being of human beings both here and abroad, from whence much of our food and most of our consumer goods are imported.

The FDA and Consumer Product Safety Commission are in marginally better shape under our current White House (though I've yet to hear of any of the shuttered labs being re-staffed and re-opened).

Sadly, however, this poem would seem to be even more on-point now, in late 2010, than it was when I first wrote it. Especially the last two lines.

The Phantom slowly, gravely, silently approached.
-- from A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

The Rational Actor's Libertarian Fête

Come now, the ever-bitterer winter wind
Reminding one and all what season nears,
And with it come the needs and wants of friends;
The plight--the suffering!--told of distant spheres.
Ah, what is there to do but shake one's head
And wonder at the choices people make?
They knew what they were doing. He made his bed.
Some people want to live life on the take.
I suffered; there were sacrifices made.
The roads I chose have led me to this place,

And all my efforts now will be repaid;

My just desserts spread forth before my face.

Let this be, then, the year we celebrate
At the Rational Actor's Libertarian Fête!

Come in, have drinks; we've everything to please--
Our own self-interest, you'll be glad to know,
Means cocktails that are light on antifreeze
And bread with just the faintest melamine glow.
We're reasonably sure the Champagne flute
Won't leach a cloud of lead into each bubble--
Or Christmas-colored plastic cups might suit?
No need to thank the Chinese for their trouble.
It's quite a spread, when all is said and done:
There's corn--and beans--with tortured DNA;
The Monkfish, I am told, will surely stun;
There's penicillin in the shrimp souffle.
It's doubtful that the roasted pig will kill you;
Though, even then, the hospital will bill you.

Come now, the ever-bitterer winter wind,
Reminding one and all that all are one;
And so the needs and wants of nearby friends,
And suffering humans under a distant sun,
Become our needs and wants--it's all-impacting.
Each dollar saved becomes a lead-laced train
That sickens those too young for Rational Acting.
Each weakened law begets a poisoned grain.
And so the guests of honor at their Fête
May find their appetites are somewhat numb;
They'll hope the howling coming from the gate
Is not The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come,
His corrupted chains of debt stretched through the air,
Borne by toxic winds of laissez-faire.

D.N.T. 11/25/07

Originally published at Ezra Klein, Jon Swift's Best Blog Posts of 2007, and litbrit.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Wikileaks reveals yet more taxpayer-funded mercenary malfeasance in Afghanistan--now with child rape

So, about the whole Wikileaks matter. You weren't thinking, Well, I've pretty much heard everything, were you? Behold the latest serving of even more everything, and prepare to be horrified (bolds mine):

The Afghanistan cable (dated June 24, 2009) discusses a meeting between Afghan Interior Minister Hanif Atmar and US assistant ambassador Joseph Mussomeli. Prime among Atmar's concerns was a party partially thrown by DynCorp for Afghan police recruits in Kunduz Province.

Many of DynCorp's employees are ex-Green Berets and veterans of other elite units, and the company was commissioned by the US government to provide training for the Afghani police. According to most reports, over 95 percent of its $2 billion annual revenue comes from US taxpayers.

And in Kunduz province, according to the leaked cable, that money was flowing to drug dealers and pimps. Pimps of children, to be more precise. (The exact type of drug was never specified.)

Since this is Afghanistan, you probably already knew this wasn't a kegger. Instead, this DynCorp soiree was a bacha bazi ("boy-play") party, much like the ones uncovered earlier this year by Frontline.

For those that can't or won't click the link, bacha bazi is a pre-Islamic Afghan tradition that was banned by the Taliban. Bacha boys are eight- to 15-years-old. They put on make-up, tie bells to their feet and slip into scanty women's clothing, and then, to the whine of a harmonium and wailing vocals, they dance seductively to smoky roomfuls of leering older men.

After the show is over, their services are auctioned off to the highest bidder, who will sometimes purchase a boy outright. And by services, we mean anal sex: The State Department has called bacha bazi a "widespread, culturally accepted form of male rape." (While it may be culturally accepted, it violates both Sharia law and Afghan civil code.)

How is the United States caught up in this appalling, outrageous scenario? Well, we--or rather, DynCorp (the American private contractor whom the DOD retained to train the Afghan police) , were busy doing two things the United States seems to do better than anyone else in the world: throwing pallet-loads of tax dollars around the Middle East, and leaning on the press with all our fearsome might whenever a potentially troublesome story looms, bringing to bear whatever pressures are needed in order to get the story spiked altogether or, at the very least, spun and sugarcoated until it becomes more bon-bon than bombshell. DynCorp, or its local representative, used our money to hire the boys and throw the "party". Here's what happened next:

So perhaps in the evil world of Realpolitik, in which there is apparently no moral compass US private contractors won't smash to smithereens, it made sense for DynCorp to drug up some Pashtun police recruits and turn them loose on a bunch of little boys. But according to the leaked document, Atmar, the Afghani interior minister, was terrified this story would catch a reporter's ear.

He urged the US State Department to shut down a reporter he heard was snooping around, and was horrified that a rumored videotape of the party might surface. He predicted that any story about the party would "endanger lives." He said that his government had arrested two Afghan police and nine Afghan civilians on charges of "purchasing a service from a child" in connection with the party, but that he was worried about the image of their "foreign mentors," by which he apparently meant DynCorp. American diplomats told him to chill. They apparently had a better handle on our media than Atmar, because when a report of the party finally did emerge, it was neutered to the point of near-falsehood.

The UK Guardian picks up the tale:

US diplomats cautioned against an "overreaction" and said that approaching the journalist involved would only make the story worse.

"A widely-anticipated newspaper article on the Kunduz scandal has not appeared but, if there is too much noise that may prompt the journalist to publish," the cable said.

The strategy appeared to work when an article was published in July by the Washington Post about the incident, which made little of the affair, saying it was an incident of "questionable management oversight" in which foreign DynCorp workers "hired a teenage boy to perform a tribal dance at a company farewell party".

A tribal dance? Could illegal strip clubs stateside possibly try that one out? "Naw, those are not full-contact lap-dances, Mr. Vice Cop. Krystal and Lexxis are just performing an ancient Cherokee fertility dance. See those buck-skin thongs on and those feathers in their hair?"

As we mentioned, this isn't DynCorp's first brush with the sex-slavery game. Back in Bosnia in 1999, US policewoman Kathryn Bolkovac was fired from DynCorp after blowing the whistle on a sex-slave ring operating on one of our bases there. DynCorp's employees were accused of raping and peddling girls as young as 12 from countries like Ukraine, Moldova and Romania. The company was forced to settle lawsuits against Bolkovac (whose story was recently told in the feature film The Whistleblower) and another man who informed authorities about DynCorp's sex ring.

There's your tax dollars at work, Joe Six-Pack. Maybe now you won't get so worked up about the fact that KPFT gets about ten percent of its funding from the government and uses some of it to air Al-Jazeera.

That's right: the same DynCorp whose employees were accused of raping girls as young as twelve--and selling them into sex slavery--during the Bosnian conflict in 1999, was nonetheless, just a few years later during the Bush administration, hired to teach Afghan police recruits how to be good Afghan policemen.

The rape of children, ladies and gentlemen.

In our name. Enabled by our money. Now you know. And now you can let your Congresscrittes know, too.

You're damned right I think Julian Assange is a hero of sorts, not a "terrorist", for crying out loud. A flawed hero, perhaps (aren't they all?) but a hero nonetheless. One who is willing to risk his own freedom--his own life, to put not-too-fine a point on it--in order to do that which our well-funded, well-oiled (pun intended) mainstream press are too craven, too cowed by their paymasters, to do:

merely tell the truth.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Abandon Hope and beware of falling contrapassi*

Cowardice asks the question - is it safe?
Expediency asks the question - is it politic?
Vanity asks the question - is it popular?
But conscience asks the question - is it right?
And there comes a time when one must take a position
that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular;
but one must take it because it is right.

-- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Kant was right (thank you, Driftglass): the flawed and distressingly contorted raw material that is human nature happens to be, for better or worse, all we've got to work with when we members of the species set out to build our lives. And by extension, to build our cultures, our societies, our governments, our world, and our history. Flawed and contorted; bendy and vulnerable in all the wrong places; rigid and unyielding at the most inconvenient of times. That's us.

I bring this up because I've been thinking a good deal about this inherently imperfect nature of ours, as well as the not-small matter of how certain crimes--like torture and murder and lies that cause innocent people to be killed--are what I consider to be Absolute Wrongs, and how all of this pertains to the sea change that has recently taken place with regard to my attitude toward American politics, or, more specifically, American politicians.

Who, after all, are us. Our government is us: We, the People. (For the time being, anyway.)

The opiated trudge toward oligarchy by The Reliably Fleeceable; the widespread indifference to the ongoing dilution (and eventual total dissolution) of civil rights; the childish solipsism that elides (if not outright denies) the destruction surely taking place at the other end of a pelted rock's--or launched Predator Drone's--ruinous trajectory; the willingness of far too many on the so-called Left to assume the position--to dress ourselves in sackcloth and ashes and write on our foreheads the twin legends Please Divide! and Please Conquer!

Us. That's all us.

I have been patient (having had lots of on-the-job training in that respect, trust me). I have looked at everything from thirty thousand feet; I've thought about it all in considerable depth, being my own Devil's advocate as well as allowing my frontal cortices to marinate in a complicated stew comprised, in equal parts, of the wisdom, experience, perspective, historical background, ideology, misguidedness, and even flat-out-wrongheadedness of others as expressed in their writings and speeches and guest appearances.

I kept coming back to the same thought. Kant (again) said it so well:

"Everything has either a price or a dignity. Whatever has a price can be replaced by something else as its equivalent; on the other hand, whatever is above all price, and therefore admits of no equivalent, has a dignity. But that which constitutes the condition under which alone something can be an end in itself does not have mere relative worth, i.e., price, but an intrinsic worth, i.e., a dignity."

And there it is, the profoundly cramped and uncomfortable moral corner into which I've painted myself every time I've countered a criticism of President Obama and his administration with some variation on the Be Patient/Grow up and Be Realistic/Look, He's Done An Awful Lot of Good Stuff/Well Tell Me, Would You Prefer A Wingnut President? theme.

Welcome to Deborah's Corner of the Categorical Imperative, wherein I will attempt to reinvigorate my weary, battered moral self by noting the all-encompassing importance of doing that which is right, and doing it for no reason other than its own intrinsic rightness.

I can no longer applaud the actions and policies of President Obama; I can no longer bite my tongue and remain "patient" while the actions and policies carried out by that We the People group we call our government--regardless of their underlying (and lied-about) motivations--continue to wreak havoc, harm, and widespread injustice, on our fellow human beings.

The last straw was not, as I thought most likely, the president's unnecessary caving in to the obstructionist Republican minority in Congress and extending the costly Bushian tax cuts for wealthy Americans. No, it was this nasty Wikileaks revelation--about the current White House administration's despicable sotto voce attempts to strong-arm certain more law-abiding (and probably more morally-upright) foreign governments and thus stymie war crimes investigations abroad--which sparked my own epiphany. I realized that despite my having passionately called for the impeachment of President Bush and Vice President Cheney for their war crimes back in 2007 (great comment thread there at Ezra's old place, if you've got time), I was now at a point where I was allowing others--even some fellow lefties--to (nearly) convince me of how politically inexpedient, how inconvenient, and how costly-to-the-national-morale such war crimes investigations would be. And I was also--mistakenly (oh how mistaken I was!)--believing, all along, that President Obama would eventually turn his seemingly robust moral attentions to the ugly task of holding the criminals accountable. I could wait; it would happen. I was wrong. Jonathan Turley sums it up nicely:

Just as many conservatives abandoned their principles in following George Bush blindly, many liberals have chosen to ignore Obama’s concerted efforts to protect individuals accused of war crimes. Under our treaty obligations, the United States has the primary responsibility to prosecute torture by U.S. citizens. That responsibility rests with the Executive Branch – the prosecuting authority of the United States. What is particularly disgraceful is that Obama would refuse to fulfill this responsibility under our treaties and international law and then demand the same hypocrisy from our allies.

I will close with two more quotes. The first is from Numbers 32:23 in the Bible, the book on which our President placed his hand when he swore to uphold the Constitution of the United States: Be sure your sin will find you out.

And the second is a Latin phrase: Fiat justitia, pereat mundus, which means "Let justice be done, even if the world should perish". Or, if you prefer (as I do), a translation with a minor adjustment that allows for self-preservation:

Let justice be done, even if the world's evildoers should perish.
* cf.