Posts Tagged ‘independent



01
Feb
11

‘Is obama egypt’s great enabler?’

President Obama walks to the podium to speak about the situation in Egypt, Feb. 1

UK Independent (Mary Dejevsky): …Is President Obama succeeding where Bush and Blair so expensively failed? ….he took a very different approach … As presidential candidate, he campaigned against the Iraq war and expressly rejected the imposition of democracy….democracy, he argued, was still eminently good but had to come from within. Under his leadership, he said, the US would not dictate to other nations how they should organise their lives.

…Mr Obama did not just yank US foreign policy back in the realist direction taken by his Democrat predecessor, Bill Clinton. He combined that shift with an unusual degree of cultural awareness, most conspicuously in the early overtures he made towards the Muslim countries …. One of his first foreign-policy moves was … a wide-ranging speech addressed to Muslims everywhere. He delivered it in Cairo.

….More than a year and half later the choice of Cairo University looks prescient … revisiting the speech, it is immediately clear not only how far he has shifted the US agenda, but how far his commitment to home-grown democracy remains the same … Obama’s language shines out as consistent with everything that protesters across the Arab world are demanding now.

…Maybe Obama’s early overtures planted a seed that is starting to bear fruit across the Muslim world. Maybe it is simply that modern communications, plus the similar politics, economics and demographics across the region, are combining to galvanise discontent. What is evident, though, is that Obama’s words have gone with the grain of these societies in a way that the sermons of Bush and Blair did not.

Any social ferment of this order brings huge uncertainty. And it is embarrassing to watch Western leaders struggling to divest themselves of allies from a bygone age. But if you ask which American leader contributed more to the cause of change in the Muslim world, you might not agree – yet – that it was Barack Obama, but you could surely accept that George Bush set it back.

Read the full article here – it’s excellent, really interesting too on relations with Iran

President Barack Obama holds a Cabinet Meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House, Feb. 1, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

29
Jan
11

‘obama’s handling egypt pretty well’

President Barack Obama is briefed on the events in Egypt during a meeting with his national security team in the Situation Room of the White House, Saturday, Jan. 29, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Marc Lynch (Foreign Policy): After President Obama spoke last night about the situation in Egypt, my Twitter feed and inbox filled up with angry denunciations, with lots of people complaining bitterly that he had endorsed Mubarak’s grim struggle to hold on to power, missed an historic opportunity, and risked sparking a wave of anti-Americanism.

….I think the instant analysis badly misread his comments and the thrust of the administration’s policy. His speech was actually pretty good, as is the rapidly evolving American policy. The administration, it seems to me, is trying hard to protect the protestors from an escalation of violent repression, giving Mubarak just enough rope to hang himself, while carefully preparing to ensure that a transition will go in the direction of a more democratic successor.

….What they do need, if they think about it, is for Obama to help broker an endgame from the top down … and that’s what the administration is doing. The administration’s public statements and private actions have to be understood as not only offering moral and rhetorical support to the protestors, or as throwing bones to the Washington echo chamber, but as working pragmatically to deliver a positive ending to a still extremely tense and fluid situation.

…anything short of Obama gripping the podium and shouting “Down With Mubarak!” probably would have disappointed activists. But that wasn’t going to happen, and shouldn’t have. If Obama had abandoned a major ally of the United States such as Hosni Mubarak without even making a phone call, it would have been irresponsible and would have sent a very dangerous message to every other U.S. ally. That doesn’t mean, as some would have it, that Obama has to stick with Mubarak over the long term – or even the weekend – but he simply had to make a show of trying to give a long-term ally one last chance to change.

Marc Lynch is associate professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University

Fascinating article – read it all here

Thank you so much for the link Carole

Protesters at a demonstration in Cairo January 29

Robert Fisk (UK Independent): A people defies its dictator, and a nation’s future is in the balance …. It might be the end. It is certainly the beginning of the end. Across Egypt, tens of thousands of Arabs braved tear gas, water cannons, stun grenades and live fire yesterday to demand the removal of Hosni Mubarak after more than 30 years of dictatorship.

Read the full article here

12
Jan
11

‘blood libel’

I’m reluctant to infest this place any more with mention of that woman from Alaska, but in case you want to read commentary on her bizarre self-pitying ‘address to the nation’ today and her extraordinarily ignorant use of the term ‘blood libel’ here are a few links:

Steven Benen at Washington Monthly – The UK Guardian – Adam Clark Estes at Salon – Greg Sargent at the Washington Post – Ruth Marcus at the Washington Post – Howard Kurtz at The Daily Beast – even the right-wing Washington Examiner has its head in its hands

BBC: It’s not clear if she or her advisors understand why “blood libel” will be regarded as offensive by many American Jews. The term is overwhelmingly associated with a false accusation of despicable crimes committed by Jews against Christian children.

Conservative Jennifer Rubin:

And as Josh Marshall put it at TPM, “Today has been set aside to honor the victims of the Tucson massacre. And Sarah Palin has apparently decided she’s one of them.”

This is a seriously great article:

Peter Stanford (UK Independent): Sarah Palin was straining to look presidential. With the Stars and Stripes at her side, the former Governor of Alaska read a scripted address in an effort to rebut persistent claims that she was guilty by association over the deaths of six people and the wounding of a further 13, including the Democratic Congresswoman, Gabrielle Giffords, at an Arizona supermarket.

The charges against her – which arose because the unashamedly gun-toting Palin had placed a rifle target over Arizona during the 2010 election to designate that Giffords was a politician she wanted out of the way – were not only unjust and reprehensible, she intoned soberly, but were “a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they [journalists and pundits] purport to condemn”.

Her use of the two words “blood libel” made my jaw drop.

…this was not just another of Palin’s trademark foot-in-mouth broadcast moments, mixing up North and South Korea, failing to name any of the “many” papers she reads daily, or “refudiating” her opponents’ taunts. No, Palin intended to say “blood libel”. The real question is, did she have any idea what the phrase actually meant and therefore of the offence it might – and has – caused?

The generous view is that she was desperately seeking a way to make “false accusation” seem more dramatic and herself a bit more wounded by the scapegoating slurs of her opponents.

….Palin’s grasp of history isn’t any more celebrated than her geography. She once suggested Russia shared a land border with the USA and described Africa as a country. Indeed her ignorance is seen as part of her charm by her supporters. So why would she know that “blood libel” has a very specific and ugly meaning that, even in 2011, remains odious and to be avoided at all costs?

The blood libel myth, widely practised in the Middle Ages, held that Jews kidnapped Christian children, sacrificed them, and then used their blood in unleavened bread at Passover. If it sounds like the sick fantasy of an internet-only horror flick, then many in medieval Europe took it as gospel and, as a consequence, thousands of Jews were killed or driven out of their homes in pogroms.

…Palin’s use of the emotive words stands out from the usual rough-and-tumble of political posturing for other reasons, not least that the anti-Semitic overtones of the phrase she chose to use jars when 30-year-old Gabe Zimmerman, one of those killed by gunman Jared Loughner, was Jewish, as is his boss, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, still in intensive care after a bullet wound to her brain.

…For Palin to present herself as the real victim when six people are dead and 13 in hospital is wrongheaded and self-centred, but that’s politicians for you.

For her to go on to liken her treatment to the profound injustice done to generations of Jews down the ages when in Tuscon a Jewish man is about to be buried, and a Jewish woman is fighting for her life, took my breath away.

The just-another-of-Sarah’s-inept-gaffes excuse is wearing a little thin.

…Sarah Palin is playing with fire. She has been one of the most effective practitioners of the use of words-as-weapons, damning Barack Obama’s healthcare reforms, for instance, as “death laws”. But just as such poisonous oratory can get the crowds cheering, it can also lay you low. Perhaps the real choice that faces Palin now is whether she wants to join the ranks of politicians whose gaffes and casual ignorance of history make them a joke, or step up into the responsible mainstream.

….if there was, as seems likely, even an iota of calculation in what Palin said – whether by her or her speechwriters – then right now she should be bowing her head in shame.

Read the full article here

09
Jan
11

‘gabrielle giffords is the victim of a debased political culture’

Jonathan Raban (UK Independent): One could be shocked, but hardly surprised, by the news on Saturday … it was an event that seemed to grow out of America’s present disturbed and angry climate, like a killer-tornado or hurricane: awful, yes, but part of the weather, and, in some sense, only to be expected.

….an ad published last March by Sarah Palin’s political action committee … showed a map of the United States, dotted with 20 vulnerable Democratic seats in Congress, each identified by cross-hairs in a gunsight. Giffords’ seat was one of these. The legend above the map read: “We’ve diagnosed the problem… Help us prescribe the solution.”

….it would be absurd now to claim that the proposed “solution” was death by assassination … but Gabrielle Giffords made great sense when, in March 2010, she discussed the Palin map with a TV interviewer, saying: “Sarah Palin has the cross-hairs of a gunsight over our district – and when people do that, they’ve got to realise there are consequences to that action.”

In the martial atmosphere of an election year (and in a country where four sitting presidents have been assassinated, and many more have survived serious attempts on their lives), extravagant figures of speech can all too easily become literal, and rhetorical guns turn into real ones.

In November last year, Giffords was narrowly re-elected against a Tea Party Republican named Jesse Kelly who… conducted his political campaign in the language of warfare. …. “Get on Target for Victory in November Help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office Shoot a fully automated M-16 with Jesse Kelly.”

Kelly’s campaign website closed down some time after noon on Saturday, and was replaced with a message of sympathy for Gabrielle Giffords … before the site closed, I caught his November thanks to the “thousands of warriors who fought with me in this campaign”.

….voters became “warriors” … but the word also exactly reflects the Tea Party mindset: this is war. Or, as Sarah Palin put it in a Tweet last year: “Commonsense Conservatives & lovers of America: ‘Don’t retreat – instead RELOAD!’…..

….The Tucson shootings can’t be blamed on Palin, Kelly, or the Tea Party: all three are more or less typical inhabitants of the debased, exaggerated and vitriolic language that now dominates American public discourse. Keith Olbermann, on the liberal left, speaks it as fluently as do Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck on the right….

….There is a chance, if rather a slim one, that the Tucson massacre will make both politicians and commentators draw back and reconsider their terms. Politics is not warfare. The Democratic party is not a colonialist tyranny. Obama is not George III. To live in a slew of overheated metaphors, in language vastly disproportionate to the occasion, is to invite and license the kind of atrocity that happened the day before yesterday.

Read the full article here

(Is it fair for the writer to lump Olbermann in with Limbaugh and Beck? Yes, he is of course hugely partisan, but does he use hate speech??)

08
Dec
10

matt? oooops

Columbia Journalism Review: Our nomination for this week’s bogus Times trend story is in the national section under the headline, “Murmurs on Left of a Primary Challenge to Obama.” Its author, political writer and analyst Matt Bai, writes that disappointed liberals, spurred by the president’s compromise on extending the Bush era tax cuts, among other compromises and failures, are calling for—or at least “murmuring” among themselves about—a primary challenger to take on the president in the lead-up to 2012. The evidence? A trio of liberal columns. Yep, as the rule goes, “three’s a trend.”

….And that’s pretty much all that’s offered to support the rather sensational headline and a lede which claims the latest compromise “is bound to intensify a debate that has been bubbling up on liberal blogs and e-mail lists in recent weeks—whether or not the president who embodied ‘hope and change’ in 2008 should face a primary challenge in 2012.” Well, after an uncritical reading of this article, maybe.

Full article here

Salon (Alex Pareene): Matt Bai has written — and the New York Times has published! — the most pointless piece of fantastical political “analysis” since … the last Matt Bai piece, I guess. The idea is that there is serious talk among liberals of supporting a primary challenge against Barack Obama, and the only problem with the otherwise flawless story is that that it is not true, and so it is a gigantic waste of everyone’s time.

While Matt Bai and his editors would certainly welcome a serious primary campaign against the president, because it would be fun to report on, the fact is that Bai has built this entire piece around some blog posts. You know you’re reading a really great piece of professional political analysis when the thesis is refuted in the first sentence of the second paragraph. “The idea seems to have little momentum for now,” Bai explains, but then for some reason he continued writing instead of shutting down his MacBook Air and going outside for a nice walk or something….

….As Steve Kornacki explained this morning, Barack Obama’s coalition still loves him and he’s in fine shape for reelection.

Of course, Matt Bai is not a complete idiot. He knows full well that a credible primary challenge from the left is very unlikely. He just wrote this piece because he thinks it would be totally awesome if that did happen. It is like a writer for the Times Science section turning in a piece headlined, “Maybe aliens will give us Warp Drive technology next year, that would be cool.” Save it for your Tumblr, Matt.

🙂

Full article here

Washington Independent: Recently, political memes have surfaced that do not have much basis in reality.

Matt Bai of the New York Times sees “murmurs” of a primary challenge against President Obama after he cut a deal with congressional Republicans to extend the tax cuts for the wealthy for two years in exchange for a 13-month unemployment extension, a payroll tax cut and other tax breaks designed to stimulate job growth.

As angry as some liberals are, there isn’t a lot of there there — the article quotes two Huffington Post blogs, a Washington Post op-ed and the head of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, who said he isn’t advocating a primary challenge.

Massachusetts Rep. Mike Capuano said he “may or may not” support Barack Obama’s reelection, but he’s not known for holding his tongue. Moreover, Rep. Alcee Hastings (Fla.) said the same thing over the summer. It’s just talk.

Meanwhile, President Obama has an 80 percent approval rating among self-identified liberals, and liberal icons like Sen. Russ Feingold (Wis.) and Howard Dean have unequivocally said they won’t challenge him.

Full article here

CBS: A column in the New York Times today headlined “Murmurs of Primary Challenge to Obama” is generating buzz about whether the president could face a serious challenge from within his own party in his reelection bid in 2012.

The reality, however, is that such a challenge is extremely unlikely.

…there is a difference between the liberal blogosphere and pundit class – what White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs calls the “professional left” – and the liberal base overall. According to the latest NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll, 90 percent of blacks still approve of the president, as do 82 percent of Democrats and 79 percent of liberals. It would seem to be very difficult to mount a successful challenge from the left in light of these numbers.

Add to that the fact that there is no plausible and interested challenger out there – no figure like Ted Kennedy, who challenged (and weakened) Jimmy Carter. Howard Dean and Russ Feingold, perhaps the two most viable options, say they aren’t doing it; Dean said he “is absolutely, categorically not running in 2012,” while Feingold’s spokesman said the Wisconsin Democrat “has no interest in challenging President Obama in 2012.” Rep. Dennis Kucinich has also ruled out a run.

Indeed, the Times column is pretty thin on evidence that there is momentum building for a primary challenge: It points to Michael Lerner, the editor of Tikkun magazine, former Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. confident Clarence B. Jones and American Prospect co-editor Robert Kuttner. With all due respect to these men, that does not constitute a groundswell of support for a primary challenge.

…despite the juicy Times headline – Mr. Obama doesn’t seem to have much to worry about.

Full article here




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