Soros and Koch Brothers Team Up to End US ‘Forever War’ Policy

‘Besides being bilionaires and spending much of their fortunes to promote pet causes, the leftist financier George Soros and the right-wing Koch brothers have little in common. They could be seen as polar opposites. Soros is an old-fashioned New Deal liberal. The Koch brothers are fire-breathing right-wingers who dream of cutting taxes and dismantling government. Now they have found something to agree on: the United States must end its “forever war” and adopt an entirely new foreign policy.

In one of the most remarkable partnerships in modern American political history, Soros and the Koch brothers are joining to finance a new foreign-policy think tank in Washington. It will promote an approach to the world based on diplomacy and restraint rather than threats, sanctions, and bombing. This is a radical notion in Washington, where every major think tank promotes some variant of neocon militarism or liberal interventionism. Soros and the Koch brothers are uniting to revive the fading vision of a peaceable United States. …’

Via The Boston Globe

Make Way for the Radical Center

My personal hero at the New York Times, Thomas...

Thomas Friedman (NYTimes op-ed):  “Did I mention that I’ve signed a pledge — just like those Republican congressmen who have signed written promises to different political enforcers not to raise taxes or permit same-sex marriage? My pledge is to never vote for anyone stupid enough to sign a pledge — thereby abdicating their governing responsibilities in a period of incredibly rapid change and financial stress. Sorry, I’ve signed it. Nothing more I can do.

If this kind of idiocy by elected officials sends you into a hair-pulling rage and leaves you wishing that we had more options today than our two-party system is putting forward — for instance, a party that would have offered a grand bargain on the deficit two years ago, not on the eve of a Treasury default — not only are you not alone, but help may be on the way.”

Rove Rides Again

Karl Rove Assistant to the President, Deputy C...

Bush’s former strategist is secretly seizing control of the GOP: ‘One afternoon in late April, Karl Rove welcomed an elite group of conservative political operatives and moneymen into his home in Washington, D.C. Along with his protégé Ed Gillespie, who succeeded him as George W. Bush’s top political adviser, Rove had gathered together the heavyweights of the GOP’s fundraising network. In attendance were the political director of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, as well as the leaders of two new megadollar campaign groups loyal to Rove: American Crossroads and the American Action Network. Rove’s plan was straightforward: to seize control of the party from Michael Steele, whose leadership of the Republican National Committee was imploding in the wake of a fundraiser at a lesbian bondage club. By building a war chest of unregulated campaign cash – an unprecedented $135 million to be raised by these three groups alone – Rove would be able to wage the midterm elections on his own terms: electing candidates loyal to the GOP’s wealthiest donors and corporate patrons. With the media’s attention diverted by the noisy revolt being waged by the Tea Party, the man known as “Bush’s brain” was staging a stealthier but no less significant coup of the Republican Party.’ (Rolling Stone)

Left brain, right brain

Human and gorilla skeleton

Interesting piece in Prospect by Matthew Taylor about how neuroscientific advances should inform political theory and help take us, as the cliche goes, “beyond left and right.” It makes sense when you think about it, as political debates usually come down to competing notions about human nature.

“Altruism makes us happy. Supportive communities create better people. Inequality and stigma rob us of potential. Good guidance helps us make wise decisions for the long term. All these seem commonsense conclusions, all are now based on evidence. They break the oppressive grip of Homo economicus on the right and the alluring but dangerous myth of human perfectibility on the left. Instead, we are left with the mission of progressive humanism; to develop practical utopias based on the good enough people we really are.”

Rove To Meet With Prosecutor On Attorney Firings

President George W. Bush stands with Mrs. Laur...

Prosecutors are scheduled to interview former presidential adviser Karl Rove Friday about the firing of U.S. attorneys as part of an ongoing criminal investigation into the dismissals.

The Justice Department’s inspector general published a report about the firings that was more than 350 pages long. But the report was inconclusive. Some officials refused to be interviewed.

So, on the inspector general’s recommendation, then-Attorney General Michael Mukasey appointed a prosecutor to continue the investigation. Prosecutor Nora Dannehy has been interviewing people ever since. Friday is Karl Rove‘s turn, a development first reported by The Washington Post.” (NPR ).

Specter’s Plan to Rein In the Presidency

Arlen Specter

“The current issue of the New York Review of Books includes an article by Senator Arlen Specter, Republican Democrat of Pennsylvania, called “The Need to Roll Back Presidential Power Grabs,” which suggests that Mr. Specter has not switched parties with the intention of simply serving as a rubber stamp for President Barack Obama.

Finding Mr. Specter’s byline in the left-leaning Review would seem to underscore that, as he said in his official statement on Tuesday, his “political philosophy” is now “more in line with Democrats than Republicans.” But the article itself makes clear that the newest Democrat hopes to use his position to rein in the power of the presidency.

In it, Mr. Specter makes the case that “since September 11, the United States has witnessed one of the greatest expansions of executive authority in its history, at the expense of the constitutionally mandated separation of powers.”

He then lays out an ambitious effort to roll back those powers, in words that indeed seem more natural coming from a senator of the majority party, rather than one in the minority…” via The Lede Blog – NYTimes.

If there is any justice, Bobby Jindal’s national political career is over

{{w|Bobby Jindal}}, member of the United State...

“A month after Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal complained about wasteful spending in President Obama’s economic stimulus package, including money for “something called ‘volcano monitoring,'” Alaska pilots were grateful for such expenditures. The Alaska Volcano Observatory was ready with warnings to flight officials when Alaska’s Mount Redoubt blew five times Sunday night and Monday morning, sending potentially deadly ash clouds north of Anchorage.” via The Associated Press.

The Limits of a “3 Minute Rahm”

{{w|Rahm Emanuel}}, U.S. Congressman.

“I asked one of them who I assume can get through to the President or at least to Rahm Emanuel any time he wants why he doesn’t make his case more clearly to the occupants of the White House. The response was, “Yes, I can get through to Rahm Emanuel any time, but I get three minutes with him, and then someone else gets their three minutes, and so on. Rahm is the three minute guy — and he’s great during those three minutes.”

Wealthy donors on the outside of the political process probably should not be able to just call up the President and get their way — but the frustration I’m hearing from a great number of these types of donors — types who are not only wealthy and helped finance much of the Democratic Party’s victory in November but who are also smart and connected — is that they are not getting through where it counts. The policy options they are proposing aren’t getting into the basket of proposals that Obama is considering.

In other words, some feel that Obama is not getting a full range of choices on the economy and is being provided a narrow band of views that fit the preconceived biases of Larry Summers and Tim Geithner.

One of the fatal mistakes of the Bush administration in the build up to the Iraq War was the tight constriction of choices and views that Bush’s advisors allowed him to see.

Let’s hope that the Obama team isn’t making the same mistake on the economy.” via The Washington Note.

Leahy Talks To White House About Investigating Bush

George W. Bush signature.

‘Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy and White House Chief Counsel Greg Craig discussed on Tuesday the Senator’s proposal to set up a truth and reconciliation commission to investigate potential crimes of the Bush administration.

“I went over some of the parameters of it and they were well aware at the White House of what I’m talking about,” Leahy told the Huffington Post. “And we just agreed to talk further.”

The dialogue between the Vermont Democrat and the president’s office is a new phase in a delicate process concerning how best to handle potential crimes in the previous White House. Leahy proposed an investigatory commission on Monday, after which the president — speaking at his first news conference — said he did not currently have an opinion on the plan. Obama went on to say that he would rather look forward than backward, but he promised to prosecute any crime — whether committed was a former White House official or everyday citizen.’ via Huffington Post

Give Up on Reclaiming ‘Liberal’

The Death of Socrates (1787)
David — The Death of Socrates

“To the extent that those who term themselves liberal consider themselves more open to change than the conservative, it would be within the spirit of their philosophy to open up to the true nature of human language and let liberal drift away as “the L-word.” “Reclaiming” has a good feisty ring to it, but don’t we have more important things to do–and even reclaim–than engage in a conceit so futile as to stop a word’s meaning from changing? Move On, indeed.” — John McWhorter via The New Republic.

Does Rove’s Executive Privilege Persist Under Obama?

Karl Rove

“After Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) re-subpoenaed Karl Rove, former aide and adviser to President George W. Bush’s, to testify before Congress on his role in the Bush administration’s politicization of the Justice Department and prosecution of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman (D), Rove’s lawyer Tuesday asked the Obama White House for guidance, The Huffington Post reports.

Does Rove’s past claim of executive privilege, which Bush backed, still exist under the new administration?” via The Washington Independent.


The Famous Fingers Were Live, but Their Sound Was Recorded

Musicians Itzhak Per...

“The somber, elegiac tones before President Obama’s oath of office at the inauguration on Tuesday came from the instruments of Yo-Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman and two colleagues. But what the millions on the Mall and watching on television heard was in fact a recording, made two days earlier by the quartet and matched tone for tone by the musicians playing along.

The players and the inauguration organizing committee said the arrangement was necessary because of the extreme cold and wind during Tuesday’s ceremony. The conditions raised the possibility of broken piano strings, cracked instruments and wacky intonation…” via NYTimes.

Obama Cozies Up to McCain


‘How valuable of [sic] an ally will John McCain be to Barack Obama? According to The New York Times, “Over the last three months, Mr. Obama has quietly consulted Mr. McCain about many of the new administration’s potential nominees to top national security jobs and about other issues” in a courtship “that historians say has few modern parallels.” Lindsey Graham has said of McCain that “that many of these appointments he would have made himself.” When McCain returned from Iraq last month, Obama called him in order to hear his thoughts on the situation. And, tonight, McCain will be the guest of honor at a black tie celebration of Obama’s inauguration.’ via The Daily Beast.


The Inaugural Oath: Chief Justice Slip-Up

United States Constitution

I guess Chief Justice Roberts isn’t as much of a strict constructionist as we had all assumed:

‘The oath is contained in the Constitution: “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

But when Roberts swore in Obama, he flipped some of the words, saying: “I will execute the office of president to the United States faithfully.” ‘ via ABC News.

A friend, after watching the flubbed oath yesterday, worried that some might challenge the legitimacy of Obama’s ascension to the Presidency given that he was improperly sworn in.

Obama Halts Bush Orders

{{w|Rahm Emanuel}}, U.S. Congressman.

“The new administration got right down to work on their first afternoon in the White House… Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel signed an order authorized by the new president freezing all new or proposed regulations at all government agencies and departments until the new administration can review them. The order puts the brakes on all the regulations the Bush administration tried to push through in its last days. But Bush can’t be mad: Obama’s taking a page from the former president’s own playbook—he did it to Clinton.” via The Daily Beast.

Appointments Comment

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar at a book signing.

What if Governor Paterson, prompted by the squalor of his Illinois colleague’s maneuverings, were to put aside mundane calculations and take full advantage of his theoretically unfettered freedom of choice? The Senate was originally conceived as a sort of chamber of notables, but most of its members, over the years, have been notable mainly for their mediocrity. New York is full of interesting people. Want some suggestions? Try these, collected from an informal canvass—a baker’s dozen, in alphabetical order:

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, thoughtful and scholarly, would give the new President someone to shoot hoops with. Christiane Amanpour would be a slam dunk for the Foreign Relations Committee. The impossibly distinguished Vartan Gregorian is a one-man academy of arts, letters, and the humanities. Bill T. Jones, who doesn’t need words to make a speech, would make C-SPAN 2 worth watching. A non-dynastic Kennedy, the novelist William, would give upstate New York representation of the first order. Paul Krugman would provide ornery economic smarts. Arthur Laurents, conveniently, is already in Washington, directing the National Theatre revival of his “West Side Story.” If you doubt that Lou Reed knows politics, listen to his album “New York.” Felix Rohatyn is as senatorial as you can get without wearing a toga. Ed Sanders—poet, Pentagon levitator, classics scholar, founding member of the Fugs—is a political force in Woodstock, New York. Toni Morrison’s majestic voice would warm the Senate chamber. No one who ever spent the equivalent of two Senate terms in a complex, ceaselessly scrutinized job in New York has ever done it better than Joe Torre did as manager of the Yankees. Harold Varmus, the head of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and, like Morrison, a Nobel laureate, got lots of money from Congress for the National Institutes of Health when he ran them, during the nineteen-nineties. Perhaps he could do the same for New York—not that such petty considerations are worthy of this exercise.

All fantasy, of course. But not so fantastical as Rod Blagojevich’s notion that a seat in the United States Senate was his for the selling.”

via The New Yorker.

Alec Baldwin on the Caroline Kennedy candidacy

Caroline Kennedy

“…[T]there is a right way and a wrong way to go about this in the current political climate. I think it is ill-advised for New York Democrats to play the Good Dynasty/Bad Dynasty card. Especially now. The Bad Dynasty is not even out the door. The Illinois Governor is reminding Americans that abuse of power is a non-partisan disease. And New York Governor David Paterson will also face consequences for this decision.

This is more about protecting a Democratic Senate seat than romanticizing it.

Appoint an individual (fine…man or woman) who has been elected to something. Something! Then there is a race in 2010, if I understand New York’s electoral mechanics properly. That is not that long from now. Then certain New Yorkers could run. And probably win. I would probably vote for her (er…them).

But this must be done with great care. Patience and care. You know, the way that we beat John McCain.”

via HuffPo.

Colin Powell on the Failure of GOP ‘Polarization’

“I think the party has to stop shouting at the world and at the country,”Powell said. “I think that the party has to take a hard look at itself, and I've talked to a number of leaders in recent weeks and they understand that.” Powell, who says he still considers himself a Republican, said his party should also stop listening to conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh.

“Can we continue to listen to Rush Limbaugh?” Powell asked. “Is this really the kind of party that we want to be when these kinds of spokespersons seem to appeal to our lesser instincts rather than our better instincts?”

via CNN Political Ticker.

The Intellectual Decline of the Presidency

Bush is my Hero

John McWhorter on Elvin Lim’s The Anti-Intellectual Presidency: The Decline of Presidential Rhetoric from George Washington to George W. Bush:

“…[This] is not one more rant about the limited cognitive abilities of George W. Bush but a brisk, methodical deconstruction of ‘the relentless simplification of presidential rhetoric in the last two centuries and the increasing substitution of arguments with applause-rendering platitudes, partisan punch lines and emotional and human interest appeals.’ “

via FIRST THINGS: A Journal of Religion, Culture, and Public Life

Post-Election Tortured Thoughts

the 44th President of the United States...Bara...

By morning light after last night’s dancing in the streets, I am clearly happy but, I need some help, I am also worried. The commentators are talking about how this election has redrawn the electoral map, obviating the red/blue state distinction with which we have grown so comfortable. But Obama is far from the consensus president. The popular vote was much closer to 50/50% than the electoral college results reflected. That is going to make for an awful lot of disenfranchised voters, as Obama hinted at in his victory speech when he spoke of his aspirations to be the President of the people whose vote he had not yet earned.

I recall the vehemence of my feeling, the past eight years, that Bush was not my President, my hopes that the rest of the world understood the distinction between the U.S.’s government and its people, my desire to apologize for our having elected Bush and inflicted him on the world. I fear that 50% of the public may have even more intense sentiments that Obama is not their President. The Republican electorate has been intensely indoctrinated for the past eight years (at least) by the RNC’s appeal to narrow tribal identity. As I have written in the past, I think this is a hardwired part of human nature, an evolutionary consequence of millennia of human organization into small social bands. We are not really adapted to larger societies (as Freud too suggested in Civilization and Its Discontents) and our better natures have always struggled against the ongoing inherent tendency to xenophobia. Republican campaigning, especially under Karl Rove, made a malignant and insidious appeal to this prejudice and fear of the ‘different’, to which a sizable part of the electorate responds instinctually. Obama’s differentness, then, will I fear mobilize a virulent response against not just racial and ethnic minorities but other ‘different’ lifestyle choices, gender preference cohorts, immigrants and minority religious groupings. A minority President further disenfranchises the middle-American demographic. (I noted with relief that Obama was behind a bulletproof shield in Grant Park last night. I am not alone in being concerned for his personal safety and that of his family.)

The shrinking Republican constituency will be if anything a more rabid Right, with the departure of the moderate middle. I fear we will see not a reign of national unity and conciliation but one of accentuating polarization and renewed Culture War. While McCain was quite personally restrained in his race-baiting, he certainly did nothing to discourage his supporters’ xenophobia, as was evident in the audience ‘s catcalls when he mentioned Obama’s name in his concession speech and call for conciliation last night. The bigots and the fundamentalists, who never realized they were pansies of the grandiose world-domination dreams of the Neocons, are I fear a monster without a head.

And I worry that Obama was, in a sense, elected by accident. The coalition he built, from a combination of his charismatic appeal to our yearning for Camelot again on the one hand and on the other his hard-boiled South Side Chicago capacity to build a highly efficient political machine, was one of people of color, the young, the poor, and the highly educated affluent liberals. But what tipped the scales was the serendipitous eruption of the financial crisis, driving a substantial proportion of the middle class, fearful about their earning power, their job security and their shrinking equity, into the Obama camp. I fear it is not a natural coalition, and it will fall apart as the economy continues in crisis. The marginal respond to Obama’s inspiring message of hope, but the middle responds to the condition of its pocketbook and bank balance. And can anyone really deliver on promises to remedy our economic woes, unless it is by a fundamental dismantling of the debt-driven pyramid scheme that is the foundation of American prosperity?

Whoever was to assume office under the current circumstances would face daunting, unenviable challenges. I fear that history will not be kind to the President elected in 2008, nor will the Republicans remind the public how much of the mess was inherited from the previous decade of execrable ineptitude. Is Obama likely to disappoint in other spheres too? Certainly, he warned us in his victory speech that he will not be a ‘perfect’ President. Will we be able to stand the compromises he must make to extricate us from the obscene war in Iraq? The fact that it will not be achieved with any elegance or rapidity? Certainly, from the moment he assumes office, he will have restored an enormous amount of the goodwill of the world toward the United States and inspired an enormous amount of the hopes of the developing world. He certainly will not squander that goodwill and hope in the way that Bush has been so adept at doing. But China and Russia are looming presences especially to an economically vulnerable U.S. And, historically, those regimes have gotten along better with rigid and mistrustful Republican administrations than conciliatory collaborative ecumenical Democratic ones.

As much as the election represents a challenge to the Right, it will also fundamentally shake up the worldview of progressives, who have functioned best when in opposition, defensive and elitist. How to conceive of the electorate as something other than the customary lumpenproletariat which does not know their best interests? Certainly, I am ecstatic that the empowerment and enfranchisement of new constituencies in American society is a genie that once unleashed cannot be put back in the bottle. Maybe, indeed, it is nothing but my own inability to be comfortable in any role apart from that of a disenfranchised sputtering curmudgeon which leads me, in a sort of covert wish fulfillment, to predict that such gloom and doom will come out of Obama’s election. I would look forward to being proven wrong. Comments?

Palin going rogue?

Republican vice-pres...

Palin allies report rising campaign tension: “Four Republicans close to Palin said she has decided increasingly to disregard the advice of the former Bush aides tasked to handle her, creating occasionally tense situations as she travels the country with them. Those Palin supporters, inside the campaign and out, said Palin blames her handlers for a botched rollout and a tarnished public image — even as others in McCain’s camp blame the pick of the relatively inexperienced Alaska governor, and her public performance, for McCain’s decline.”

Palin going rogue?

Republican vice-pres...

Palin allies report rising campaign tension: “Four Republicans close to Palin said she has decided increasingly to disregard the advice of the former Bush aides tasked to handle her, creating occasionally tense situations as she travels the country with them. Those Palin supporters, inside the campaign and out, said Palin blames her handlers for a botched rollout and a tarnished public image — even as others in McCain’s camp blame the pick of the relatively inexperienced Alaska governor, and her public performance, for McCain’s decline.”

Christopher Hitchens Endorses Obama

McCain lacks the character and temperament to be president. And Palin is simply a disgrace.

“I used to nod wisely when people said: “Let’s discuss issues rather than personalities.” It seemed so obvious that in politics an issue was an issue and a personality was a personality, and that the more one could separate the two, the more serious one was. After all, in a debate on serious issues, any mention of the opponent’s personality would be ad hominem at best and at worst would stoop as low as ad feminam.

…I used to call myself a single-issue voter on the essential question of defending civilization against its terrorist enemies and their totalitarian protectors, and on that “issue” I hope I can continue to expose and oppose any ambiguity. Obama is greatly overrated in my opinion, but the Obama-Biden ticket is not a capitulationist one, even if it does accept the support of the surrender faction, and it does show some signs of being able and willing to profit from experience. With McCain, the “experience” is subject to sharply diminishing returns, as is the rest of him, and with Palin the very word itself is a sick joke. One only wishes that the election could be over now and a proper and dignified verdict rendered, so as to spare democracy and civility the degradation to which they look like being subjected in the remaining days of a low, dishonest campaign.” (Slate)

It’s not much of a choice for Americans come November 4

Thalia Mendoza has h...

Shaun Carney: “Every political contest is a question of relativities — as in, which candidate do I dislike least? — and when John McCain and Barack Obama went mano a mano for the first time in the presidential debate on Saturday morning our time, it gradually became clear that American voters will face a genuine dilemma on November 4. Both candidates are a substantial risk and a further sign that the political system of the world’s most powerful nation is not functioning very well.” (

Is the Electoral Process About Reality?

Book cover of

George Lakoff Warns Democrats: “…[The] election campaign depends on the political mind-how people understand the candidates and the realities. Democrats have mostly criticized Sarah Palin as unqualified to deal with the realities we face as a nation. But the choice of Palin had to do with the way the political mind works in elections. In dealing with the McCain-Palin ticket, Democrats must take the way voters think into account, in addition to the external realities.” (Truthout)

Sarah Palin’s Wikipedia Page Altered One Day Before Nomination

“Sarah Palin is the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party for Vice President of the United States in the 2008 presidential election. Yesterday, someone close to Palin made a whole bunch of edits to her Wikipedia entry making it a little more palatable for the centrists. For those who are interested in the old page, check Google’s cached version or download screenshots (might be slow to load due to file size) from August 21st 2008 and August 29th 2008 and compare the notes for yourself.” (Headsetoptions)