Category Archives: politics
As my newest daughter is born, I speak for my generation. The “nameless.” The generation whose label is not only a mysterious symbol, but a sign of illiteracy as well. Generation X. I speak to the up and comers, the students of today, and those who are the target of 7 out of 10 commercials and 8 out of 10 television channels- Gen Y and the subsequent letter based generations that MAY follow. May my daughters heed these words of a member of the “Lost Boy” generation and have these word’s intent tattooed across their brains and serve as a reminder of their parents who lived it, who were it, and still manage to make the mortgage payments on time.
So, How can I say this with some adult like tact…Generation X is sick of your bullshit.
The first generation to do worse than its parents? Please. Been there. Generation X was told that so many times that it can’t even read those words without hearing Winona Ryder’s voice in its heads. Or maybe it’s Ethan Hawke’s. Possibly Bridget Fonda’s. Or maybe it’s John Cusack’s. Generation X is getting older, and can’t remember those movies so well anymore. In retrospect, maybe they weren’t very good to begin with.
But Generation X is tired of your sense of entitlement. Generation X also graduated during a recession. It had even shittier jobs, and actually had to pay for its own music. (At least, when music mattered most to it.) Generation X is used to being fucked over. It lost its meager, introduction to adulthood 401-K savings in the dot-com bust. Then came George Bush, and 9/11, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Generation X bore the brunt of all that. And then came the housing crisis that we helped fuel because of the boomers propaganda about “How it is.”
Generation X really wasn’t surprised. Generation X kind of expected it.
Generation X is a journeyman. It didn’t invent hip hop, or punk rock, or even electronica (it’s pretty sure those dudes in Kraftwerk are boomers) but it perfected all of them, and made them its own. It didn’t invent the Web, but it largely built the damn thing. Generation X gave you Google and Twitter and blogging; Run DMC and Radiohead and Nirvana and Jay Z. Not that it gets any credit.
But that’s okay. Generation X is used to being ignored, stuffed between two much larger, much more vocal, demographics. But whatever! Generation X is self-sufficient. It was a latchkey child. Its parents were too busy fulfilling their own personal ambitions to notice any of its trophies-which were admittedly few and far between because they were only awarded for victories, not participation.
In fairness, Generation X could use a better spokesperson. Barack Obama is just a little too senior to count among its own, and it has debts older than Mark Zuckerberg. Generation X hasn’t had a real voice since Kurt Cobain blew his brains out, Tupac was murdered, Jeff Mangum went crazy, David Foster Wallace hung himself, Jeff Buckley drowned, River Phoenix overdosed, Elliott Smith stabbed himself (twice) in the heart, or Axl got fat.
Generation X is beyond all that bullshit now. It quit smoking and doing coke a long time ago. It has blood pressure issues and is heavier than it would like to be. It might still smoke some hydro designer dope, if it knew where to get some. But probably not. Generation X has to be up really early tomorrow morning.
Generation X is tired.
It’s a parent now, and there’s always so damn much to do. Generation X wishes it had better health insurance and a deeper savings account. It wonders where its 20s and most of its 30s went. It wonders if it still has time to catch up.
Right now, Generation X just wants a beer and to be left alone. It just wants to sit here quietly and think for a minute. Can you just do that, okay? It knows that you are so very special and so very numerous, but can you just leave it alone? Just for a little bit? Just long enough to sneak one last fucking cigarette? No?
Whatever. It’s cool.
Generation X is used to disappointments. Generation X knows you didn’t even read this whole post.
Again, it’s cool.
America today resembles the land of the Munchkins as it celebrates the death of the Wicked Witch of the East. The joy is understandable, but to many outsiders, unattractive. It endorses what looks increasingly like a cold-blooded assassination as the White House is now forced to admit that Osama bin Laden was unarmed when he was shot twice in the head.
The order was given by a president who, as a former law professor, knows the absurdity of his statement that “justice was done.” Amoral diplomats and triumphant politicians join in applauding bin Laden’s summary execution because they claim that real justice—arrest, trial, and sentence—would have been too difficult in the case of public enemy No. 1. But in the long-term interests of a better world, should it not at least have been attempted?
That future depends on a respect for international law, with which the U.S. has always had an uneasy relationship.
The circumstances of bin Laden’s killing are just being clarified, and the initial objection (by former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and others) that the operation was an illegitimate invasion of state sovereignty must be rejected. Necessity required the capture of this indicted and active international criminal, and Pakistan’s abject failure (whether through incompetence or connivance) justified Obama’s order for an operation to apprehend him.
In the dock he would have been reduced in stature—never more to be remembered as the tall, soulful figure on the mountain, but as a hateful and hate-filled old man.
However, the terms of that order, as yet undisclosed, are all important. Bill Clinton admitted recently to having secretly approved the assassination of bin Laden by the CIA after the U.S. Embassy bombings in the 1990s, while President Bush publicly stated after 9/11 that he wanted bin Laden’s “head on a plate.” Did President Obama order his capture, or his execution?
The White House has been guilty of disinformation in first pretending that bin Laden was killed in a “firefight.” It now admits that he was unarmed when he died, which suggests that he could easily have been overpowered. They still maintain that he was asked to surrender, although in what language (he does not understand English) is not clear.
The law permits criminals to be shot in self-defense if they (or their accomplices) resist arrest in ways that endanger those striving to apprehend them. They should, if possible, be given the opportunity to surrender, but even if they do not come out with their hands up, they must be taken alive if that can be achieved without risk. Exactly how bin Laden came to be “shot in the head” (especially if it was the back of his head, execution-style) therefore requires explanation. Why a hasty “burial at sea” without a post mortem, as the law requires?
All that seems to have been done is to clean his body and take a photograph of it, which the White House says it is reluctant to release—no doubt for fear that it will become iconic like that of Che Guevara on the slab. But if the government kills people in this way, it must live with the consequences. Pakistan law requires a colonial inquest on violent death, and international human rights law insists that the “right to life” mandates an inquiry whenever violent death occurs from government or police action. The U.S. is therefore under a duty to hold an inquiry that will satisfy the world as to the true circumstances of this killing.
But the U.S. is celebrating summary execution, rationalized on the basis that this is one terrorist for whom trial would be unnecessary, difficult, and dangerous. It overlooks the downsides: that killing bin Laden has made him a martyr, more dangerous in that posthumous role than in hiding, and that both his legend and the conspiracy theories about 9/11 will live on undisputed by the evidence that would have been called to convict him at his trial.
Moreover, killing bin Laden gave him the consummation he most devoutly wished, namely a fast-track to paradise. His belief system required him to die mid-jihad, from an infidel bullet—not of old age on a prison farm in upstate New York. For this reason he would have refused any offer to surrender, and no doubt died with a smile on his lips.
I do not minimize the security problems that would have arisen at his trial or overlook the danger of it ending up as a squalid circus like that of Saddam Hussein. But the notion that any form of legal process would have been too hard must be rejected. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed—also (and confusingly) alleged to be the architect of 9/11—will shortly go on trial, and had bin Laden been captured he should have been put in the dock alongside him so that their shared responsibility could have been properly examined.
Bin Laden could not have been tried for 9/11 at the International Criminal Court—its jurisdiction only came into existence on 7/12, nine months later. But the Security Council could have set up an ad hoc tribunal in The Hague, with international judges (including Muslim jurists) to provide a fair trial and a reasoned verdict that would have convinced the Arab street of his guilt and his unworthiness. This would have been the best way of demystifying this man, debunking his cause and de-brainwashing his followers. In the dock he would have been reduced in stature—never more to be remembered as the tall, soulful figure on the mountain, but as a hateful and hate-filled old man, screaming from the dock or lying from the witness box. Since his videos exult in the killing of innocent civilians, any cross-examination would have emphasised his inhumanity. These benefits that flow from real justice have forever been foregone.
America’s obsessive belief in capital punishment—alone among advanced nations—is reflected in its rejoicing at the manner of bin Laden’s demise. It is ironic to reflect that Bill Clinton secured his election by approving the execution of Ricky Ray Rector (a convict so brain-damaged that he ordered pumpkin pie for his last meal and said that he would “leave the rest until later.”) And now Barack Obama has most likely secured his re-election by approving the execution of Bin Laden. This may be welcome, given the alternatives of Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee (who have both urged that Julian Assange be hunted down in similar fashion) or Donald Trump. But it is a sad reflection on the continuing attraction of summary execution.
It was not always thus. When the time came to consider the fate of men much more steeped in wickedness than Osama bin Laden—namely the Nazi leadership—the British government wanted them hanged within six hours of capture. President Truman demurred, citing the conclusion of Justice Robert Jackson that summary execution “would not sit easily on the American conscience or be remembered by our children with pride…the only course is to determine the innocence or guilt of the accused after a hearing as dispassionate as the times will permit and upon a record that will leave our reasons and motives clear.” He insisted upon judgment at Nuremberg, which has confounded Holocaust-deniers ever since its delivery. Killing instead of capturing Osama bin Laden was a missed opportunity to prove to the world that this charismatic leader was in fact a vicious criminal, who deserved to die of old age in prison, and not as a martyr to his inhuman cause.
Donald Trump has been running around the countryside, playing the CEO of Village Idiot, Inc. to the hilt these last few weeks, and our lazy, unprincipled national media corps has hung right with him, broadcasting every inane, bombastic utterance that explodes from his mouth. I figured President Obama was going to release his birth certificate at some point, although, for my money, I would have waited a little longer, just to keep Karl Rove from sleeping at night as this cancerous obsession with the legitimacy of our President’s citizenship ate away at any chances the GOP had to regain the White House.
“We do not have time for this kind of silliness.”
President Barack Obama, White House press conference
As the president himself stated, this release of his birth certificate will not satisfy that subset of Americans who need to believe that he was not born in this country. These “birthers” cannot reconcile the legitimacy of an African American man being president with their own self image. In order to truly understand these people, it would help to peruse a book published in the nineteenth century by James Shepard Pike called The Prostrate State: South Carolina Under Negro Government. One excerpt in particular seems to show the long unbroken line of racial animosity from Reconstruction to modern times:
It would be a violent presumption against the manliness, the courage, and the energy of South Carolina white men, to allow the State to remain in the permanent keeping of her present rulers. It would be a testimony against the claims of Anglo-Saxon blood, and it would be an emphatic testimony to the decline of public virtue that would be worse than all.
These considerations alone should be sufficient to inspire every white man in South Carolina with a resolution to achieve a reform that will bring the State back to its ancient respectability.
Substitute the word “American” for “South Carolina”, and “Nation” for “State”, and you’ve got the mission statement of every birther group out there in black and white.
The president is right – “we do not have time for this kind of silliness.” But the cottage industry that has grown up around President Barack Obama’s birth certificate is more robust than the spawn of books and movies about Hillary Clinton and the death of Vincent Foster during the Clinton Administration. It is highly unlikely that the furor over the president’s birth certificate is going to go away for those kinds of people, like the erstwhile presidential hopeful Donald Trump, who desperately needs to believe that the presidency of our nation’s first African American commander-in-chief is an illegitimate one. In fact, I thought the president was pretty charitable to Trump – there are a whole lot of things I would have called Mr. Trump besides “carnival barker”.
They say there’s no fool like an old fool, but I’m starting to think that a rich fool might be worse.
There are things that people need to read. This is one of them.
by: Joe Klein
It is always an education to watch our American writhings from overseas. It is particularly excrutiating watching the Republican Party presidential candidates who, on a daily basis, pronounce some ignorant racist or irreligious twaddle…which–amazingly enough–manages to be heard around the world. As Crowley notes below, today’s example primo is Newt, who really needs to get back on his meds, worrying about his grandchildren:
“I have two grandchildren — Maggie is 11, Robert is 9,” Gingrich said at Cornerstone Church here. “I am convinced that if we do not decisively win the struggle over the nature of America, by the time they’re my age they will be in a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists and with no understanding of what it once meant to be an American.”
There is genius in this: no other human had located the secular humanist wing of radical Islam before. And then there is Herman Cain, the former chief executive of Godfather’s Pizza who is pretending to run for President, proving that a black man can be as gutter-cheap bigoted as anyone. If elected, he would not appoint a Muslim to his cabinet or the federal bench because:
There is this creeping attempt, there is this attempt to gradually ease Sharia law and the Muslim faith into our government.
Sharia law! Break out the burqas! Even Pete Wehner is appalled. I mean, what are these guys smoking? (Nothing so benign as marijuana, I would venture to say.)
This is my 10th presidential campaign, Lord help me. I have never before seen such a bunch of vile, desperate-to-please, shameless, embarrassing losers coagulated under a single party’s banner. They are the most compelling argument I’ve seen against American exceptionalism. Even Tim Pawlenty, a decent governor, can’t let a day go by without some bilious nonsense escaping his lizard brain. And, as Greg Sargent makes clear, Mitt Romney has wandered a long way from courage. There are those who say, cynically, if this is the dim-witted freak show the Republicans want to present in 2012, so be it. I disagree. One of them could get elected. You never know. Mick Huckabee, the front-runner if you can believe it, might have to negotiate a trade agreement, or a defense treaty, with the Indonesian President some day. Newt might have to discuss very delicate matters of national security with the President of Pakistan. And so I plead, as an unflinching American patriot–please Mitch Daniels, please Jeb Bush, please run. I may not agree with you on most things, but I respect you. And you seem to respect yourselves enough not to behave like public clowns.
Please, in the name of Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt, run.
As you know, if I see or read something that makes so much sense that I have to share it – I will. This comes from Keith Olberman on MSNBC’s Countdown. It is about the Tea Party and its agenda for America. Please read it, think about it, and check the facts contained within it – then decide for yourself if the Tea Party is something that you truly feel is good for this country. Don’t decide solely because of this Special Comment from Mr. Olberman, but look around and educate yourself from the myriad of reports and analysis that draw the same conclusions. These are important times my friends…get smarter. I now yield the remainder of my time and my blog to Mr. Olberman. Read the rest of this entry
The GOP’s Purity Pledge
Sixteen years after the Contract With America comes its bastard child—the Pledge to America, an attempt by the party establishment to rein in the Tea Party and reassure us the elders are still in charge.
The Republican Party is at it again, nicking its own thumb with a keen pen-knife and offering up a Boy Scout promise to be good—improbably, paradigmatically good.
Sixteen years ago, we got a Contract With America, legalistic window-dressing for a promise to take ideological positions that were at bellicose odds with the first Clinton administration. It was, to be sure, an invigorating promise, but the execution of the promise was an unforgettable, obstructive disaster: The GOP, which became the Gingrich Obstructionist Party, was hoist with its own pseudo-contractual petard. Not to “shut down” government would have been in breach of contract, so they shut government down, and paid a price from which the party has not fully recovered.
This is a pledge designed to reassure us that we are back to Republican business as usual, to reassure us that the Republican Party elders are still in charge, even as Tea Party philistines clamor angrily at the hedgerow.
Now, 16 years later, we have the bastard child of that Contract With America, dubbed, with a timorous desire to soften any unpleasantness of echo from 1994, the Pledge to America. From a Republican perspective, the blousy new name is a bad idea strategically, and rhetorically: It encourages one to ask why the Republican Party has fought shy of reprising the Contract theme. Are they embarrassed by their Gingrichist past? Are they eager to keep in purdah the calamitously degenerated former House speaker, now a mere (and unsavory) shadow of the revolutionary he was in his heyday 16 years ago? Are they afraid to revive echoes from their last, full-frontal, but ultimately backfiring, assault on a wobbly first-term president?
More broadly, one has to wonder whether this whole Pledge business is an attempt by the Republican Party establishment to impose hasty order on its rightward, Tea Party flank, which has threatened to pull the GOP into uncharted populist territory—territory that many independents might find daunting, and off-putting. By setting up a Pledge—a checklist, in effect, of what is or isn’t Republican—the GOP must hope to quiet the discontent among those who bucked the party line and voted (in the primaries) for the likes of Christine O’Donnell. The party is saying to its purists, in effect, that it has a Purity Test.
Much more amusing, for sure, and possibly quite deadly, would have been a Republican campaign that accused the Democrats of taking out a Contract on America, designed to kill off the country’s entrepreneurial spirit domestically, not to mention any sense of American exceptionalism abroad. Maybe that will come once the Pledge has been unveiled.
But the GOP is profoundly spooked by the ascent of the Tea Party and wants to ensure that no one will ever mistake Republicans for a rabble unfit to govern. So the party has decreed that it’s time for a message that has been approved… by the party—by John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, et al.—a manifesto that bears a Republican National Committee imprimatur.
This is a pledge designed to reassure us that we are back to Republican business as usual, to reassure us that the Republican Party elders are still in charge, even as Tea Party philistines clamor angrily at the hedgerow. The rebels, we are now assured, have been domesticated by institutional reason and good sense. The Tea Party wanted a Declaration of War. What it has got is a Pledge. The natural order has reasserted itself.
Tunku Varadarajan is a national affairs correspondent and writer at large for The Daily Beast. He is also the Virginia Hobbs Carpenter Fellow in Journalism at Stanford’s Hoover Institution and a professor at NYU’s Stern Business School. He is a former assistant managing editor at The Wall Street Journal. (Follow him on Twitter here.)
In my attempts to bring you good writing on important issues, I give you Nicholas Kristof. He is an OpEd columnist for the New York Times. There are links to his blog, Facebook, and Twitter at the bottom of the post. Click one and tell him “thank you” for writing this piece. Open your brain and read.