Food for Despots

178px-_Be_Smart_Act_Dumb__-_NARA_-_514912Despots thrive on ignorance. After watching US foreign policy for the past 10 or so years, it is not too far-fetched to say that people get the government they deserve. We have learned this lesson time and time again. First we thought we would be greeted as liberators in Iraq. Then we moved from anti-terrorism to nation building in Afghanistan. Then we cheered on the Arab Spring in Egypt and Libya. In all cases we have discovered that the country post-despot is far more dysfunctional than the country under the despot.  This may sound callous bordering on bigotry but some countries are so full of ignorant people, incapable of self-government that they need a strong-arm to keep things in order. I believe the jury is out on whether the world is better off without Hussein, Mubarek and Gaddafi. Anyone paying the slightest bit of attention knows that Afghanistan’s Hamid Karzai is a bad joke. And now what are we doing? We are seriously contemplating a contribution to the demise of Syria’s Assad with zero knowledge of what will follow his departure.

Is the lesson this teaches us here at home limited to foreign policy? No it isn’t. A smart electorate can become a dumb electorate. Dumb people get leaders who end up not acting in their best interests. Dumb people end up losing their freedom. I argue we are becoming a dumb people and I say this in a totally bipartisan way.

In the past week I have watched several exchanges on television that left me very unnerved. Bill Moyers interviewed Glenn Greenwald a journalist who has written about the Obama administration’s crackdown on whistle blowers. The government tactics range from intimidation to criminal prosecution. According to Greenwald, more whistle blowers have been harassed by this administration than any other administration combined. Recent developments suggest that those offering evidence on the Benghazi terrorist attack of 9/11/12 that was contrary to the government account were being shut down. I have spent some time on this blog and in the comments section defending Obama and Hillary Clinton on the Benghazi affair but when a mainstream show like “Face the Nation” this morning reports that the administration knowingly lied or distorted the facts about Benghazi how can there be any more defense? In fact, we risked endangering our relationship with the new President of Libya by essentially calling him a liar when he said the attack on the embassy was planned.

Then a few nights later a PBS “Frontline” report talked about America post-9/11 and painted a picture of a government shrouded in secrecy doing things in “America’s best interest” without their permission. This policy was passed on to the Obama administration and expanded by him. Billions of our e-mails are read every day by folks employed in Homeland Security.

Later in the week HBO’s Bill Maher interviewed Jeremy Scahill, a reporter whose eyes burn with anger when he recounts how we brazenly killed the 16 year old son of Anwar al-Awlaki simply for being the son of a terrorist instigator. Press Secretary at the time, Robert Gibbs, reportedly said this is what happens when your Dad does bad things. Scahill seems to be alone while most liberals turn a blind eye to a liberal administration flushing liberal ideals down the toilet.  Scahill went on to discuss the near indiscriminate killing of Afghan civilians by our special ops forces. As Scahill puts it, if someone steals your goat, you can report them to the Americans as a suspected terrorist and our special ops team will storm their house and kill everyone in it.

Later on that same broadcast an argument broke out, so brief that if you blinked you missed it. Lawrence O’Donnell, MSNBC uber-liberal, flew off the handle when conservative guest Pete Hegseth launched the old 2nd Amendment defense of an electorate needing to protect itself from government tyranny. O’Donnell said what I have been saying for years … and very recently in the comments section of this very blog, namely that the time for us to be worried about government tyranny is long past. Our well oiled democracy has built-in safeguards that ensure government tyranny would never happen. Along with that is the ironic and contradictory side argument that all of our US militias would never be a match against a government armed with drones and nukes — that same government that would never resort to tyranny. Essentially “they would never be tyrants but if they were you’d be no match for them.”

Well, I’m no longer so sure O’Donnell is right. We saw a militarization in Boston a few weeks ago that should give us all pause. When asked if America would ever drone strike its own people, Attorney General Eric Holder’s initial response was a hypothetical yes. He only backed off after an old-fashioned filibuster by Senator Rand Paul focused attention on it. Combine this with the other stories I watched this week, and we no longer have the liberal ideal of America that I vote for every four years.

But beyond all that, we have a conservative populace with a sizable number of folks who still don’t believe Barack Obama was born in America and a liberal populace too ignorant to understand that universal background checks (which I support) would have done nothing to prevent the tragedy of Sandy Hook. We are, as a nation, getting dumber and dumber. If we don’t turn this around, we will wake up one morning and not recognize the America in which we live. Our ignorance will be the food that one day nourishes a true despot.


Poster from National Archives


If Skittles Scare You, Maybe You Shouldn’t Be on Neighborhood Watch

Trayvon Martin left his Dad’s Florida home during an NBA basketball game’s halftime to get a snack at the nearby convenience store. On the way home he encountered George Zimmerman, a self appointed neighborhood watch “Captain”. George called 911 and reported Trayvon as a “suspicious” character. He told the 911 operator that he was in pursuit. The 911 operator basically told him to leave that to the police and back off. What happened next is a bit fuzzy on the details but it ended in George shooting 17 year old Trayvon in the chest and killing him. Not only is George a free man today, he was never taken into custody. There are reports that Trayvon’s corpse was tested for drugs while his shooter never was.

MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell did his damnedest to make this about race. He played a garbled 911 recording for a black Florida congresswoman. The tape reportedly has Zimmerman referring to Martin as an effing coon. I didn’t hear that until the idea was planted in my head by O’Donnell. To her credit, the congresswoman did not jump on the race train, and said she could not make out what Zimmerman was saying. So let’s take the obvious racial angle (Zimmerman, white, Martin, black) out of the picture.

At its most benign, what we have here is a very dangerous version of Barney Fife and hell, at least Barney had a badge. Reportedly, Zimmerman had called 911 a good 40 times in a short time period reporting “suspicious” characters. He appears to have some sort of cop-wanna-be complex going on. From what I can see, Zimmerman may well be your run of the mill nutjob. The real villain here is the Sanford, FL police department who saw fit not to arrest Zimmerman whose self defense claim stretched credibility when the only weapons possessed by Martin were a bottle of iced tea and a box of Skittles.

I do believe that when all is said and done, Zimmerman will be arrested and tried. The bigger question is how much scrutiny will be paid to the Sanford police department and the Sanford district attorney’s office. When a man, really still just a child, can be killed simply for looking “suspicious” and nothing is done about it, the system is clearly broken.


Image: vichie81 / Political Blogger Alliance

The Punchline is Donald Trump

The joke begins, “who would make a great President in 2013?” and the punchline is “Donald Trump”. I would post the George Stephanopoulos interview with the Donald but the piece MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell (“Crazy Larry”) did Tuesday night is so much better because he takes the best of George’s questions and Donald’s lame answers and then interjects his own special brand of snark.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Why should anyone supporting a Trump presidential run get their head examined? Let me count the ways:

  1. The likelihood that Trump has sent “investigators” to Hawaii to find the “truth” about Obama is just about zero.
  2. Trump was pro-choice before he was pro-life and has no understanding of Roe v. Wade.
  3. Trump, a serial exaggerator (i.e. liar) claims a net worth not supported by any third-party account.
  4. Trump’s explanation for bankruptcy is at best a lie and at worst evidence of serious ethics problems. Apparently, if you believe his explanation, bankruptcy is a great way to not pay your bills and get a “good deal” on partial payments. And that’s his positive defense!

One theory about Trump’s current appeal as a candidate among Republicans is his supposed business savvy which a country in dire financial condition badly needs. NBC investigative reporter Michael Isikoff interviewed Trump about his business acumen and his bankruptcy shenanigans were the tip of the iceberg. My favorite scam is “Trump University”, an “educational program” that I actually considered “enrolling” in a couple of years ago. Something told me it would be a waste of my money. Apparently some states attorneys general agree with me.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

One thing I got out of watching Trump’s foolishness is a new appreciation for Sarah Palin. I kid you not. The sexism on display by Trump’s meteoric political rise when he is as dumb as Sarah ever was is mind-boggling. While Sarah has “spunk”, she can’t sell her stupidity to the average intelligent voter. Trump on the other hand turns on the aggressive take-no-prisoners overkill and for a minute you find yourself believing he can move mountains.

My favorite bit of Trump braggadocio is his put-down of Mitt Romney as a small business man. While I’m no big fan of Romney, based on the Isikoff interview, I’d trust Romney with my money a whole lot sooner than Trump.

But let me end where I began with my buddy Crazy Larry. On another segment of his show, O’Donnell discussed possible campaign slogans sent in by viewers. My favorite:

Trump/Palin Bumper Sticker
Rutherford Political Blogger Alliance