Sunday, July 5, 2009

Last Call

Ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya tried to land in the capital of Tegucigalpa this afternoon, and found his jet greeted by armed troops. The BBC is reporting clashes at the airport and two dead, and Zelaya's jet diverted to El Salvador.
After several failed attempts to land at Tegucigalpa airport, the plane diverted and eventually touched down at Managua airport.

"Faced with this situation, we have to go on with what we had planned, which is a meeting with the other presidents in the region," Mr Zelaya told the Caracas-based Telesur news channel from the plane.

The presidents of Argentina, Ecuador and Paraguay and the head of the Organization of American States (OAS) are due to meet him in El Salvador.

The new government, which said it came to power through due legal process, is offering to negotiate with the international community, the BBC's Stephen Gibbs reports from Tegucigalpa.

But it says one thing is not negotiable and that is the return of Mr Zelaya to the presidency, our correspondent says.

Zelaya's not-so triumphant return has been delayed, most likely for a long, long time. As I've said before, Zelaya is a powermongering dirtball who illegally tried to extend his own presidency Hugo Chavez-style, but the other side are clearly powermongering dirtballs too if they are resorting to a violent military crackdown...they just have more weapons and control of home field advantage. Obama has thrown in with Zelaya however, and I have to say if the current Honduran government was interested in the rule of law as they say they are, they would have let Zelaya in to face the people in a democratic way.

I'm not losing any sleep over Zelaya being ousted, but the new boss is looking an awful lot like the old boss. Obama has decided "better the devil you know" for continuity's sake.

The Right however seems to think this is a video game or a war movie...and let's not forget their record on "regime change" over the last 8 years.


Joe Opens His Mouth On Israel

And then we go to this disturbing news that both Saudi Arabia and the United States would both basically turn a blind eye to Israel should they decide to attack Iran.
A report in the Jerusalem Post cites an article in the UK’s Sunday Times that “the head of Mossad, Israel’s overseas intelligence service, has assured Benjamin Netanyahu, its prime minister, that Saudi Arabia would turn a blind eye to Israeli jets flying over the kingdom during any future raid on Iran’s nuclear sites.”

The Israeli press has already carried unconfirmed reports that high-ranking officials, including Ehud Olmert, the former prime minister, held meetings with Saudi colleagues. The reports were denied by Saudi officials.

Israel’s Haaretz newspaper is reporting that the Israeli prime minister’s office denies the allegation.

Ahh, but it gets worse:
Vice-President Joe Biden told ABC’s This Week on Sunday that the US wouldn’t stand in the way of Israel if they decided Iran was an existential threat.

Speaking to host George Stephanopoulos from Camp Victory in Iraq, Biden told ABC that “we cannot dictate to another soveriegn nation … if they make the decision they are existentially threatened.”

Asked by Stephanopoulos about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s assertion that he will give international peace efforts with Iran only until the end of the year to work, Biden insisted the US would not second-guess any decisions Israel makes regarding Iran.

“Israel can determine for itself — it’s a sovereign nation — what’s in their interest, and what they do with Iran or anything else,” said Biden.

Asked if the US would stand in the way of an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities, Biden evaded the question.

If this is a threat couched in diplo-speak, it's moronic. If it's an example of Obama's "smart power" it's even more moronic. Biden's performance was on par with Dick Cheney, and if you ask me with Iran in chaos like this, it's only a matter of time before somebody says "They're weak and in disarray, the time to attack is now."

The question is will Israel actually do it, knowing what the consequences will be?

Epic Wimbledon Finish

Well, if you didn't see the awe-inspiring win of Roger Federer over Andy Roddick, 16-14 in the 5th set(!!!), you missed the best men's tennis match in decades. Hats off to Roger and his record 15th Grand Slam win, cementing his status as the best men's tennis player and arguably now the best in history.

It really was a final for the ages. And there's no way Federer is through winning Slams. He may accumulate 20 Grand Slam wins, maybe more. Hell, he may have those by 2011. I haven't enjoyed a Slam final this much since I watched Michael Chang beat Stephan Edberg at the French Open in '89.

I remember watching that one with my dad. Hopefully, a lot of other familes made memories today watching Roger and Andy's truly epic battle.

Tehran Calling: Part 4

Been several days since I've reviewed the situation in Tehran, but the NY Times has a solid report from Tehran today.
The most important group of religious leaders in Iran called the disputed presidential election and the new government illegitimate on Saturday, an act of defiance against the country’s supreme leader and the most public sign of a major split in the country’s clerical establishment.

A statement by the group, the Association of Researchers and Teachers of Qum, represents a significant, if so far symbolic, setback for the government and especially the authority of the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, whose word is supposed to be final. The government has tried to paint the opposition and its top presidential candidate, Mir Hussein Moussavi, as criminals and traitors, a strategy that now becomes more difficult — if not impossible.

“This crack in the clerical establishment, and the fact they are siding with the people and Moussavi, in my view is the most historic crack in the 30 years of the Islamic republic,” said Abbas Milani, director of the Iranian Studies Program at Stanford University. “Remember, they are going against an election verified and sanctified by Khamenei.”

The announcement came on a day when Mr. Moussavi released documents detailing a campaign of fraud by the current president’s supporters, and as a close associate of the supreme leader called Mr. Moussavi and former President Mohammad Khatami “foreign agents,” saying they should be treated as criminals.

The documents, published on Mr. Moussavi’s Web site, accused supporters of the president of printing more than 20 million extra ballots before the vote and handing out cash bonuses to voters.
Clearly we're heading towards some sort of major confrontation here. The crackdowns over the last two weeks have not in fact gotten the rest of the Iranian clerics behind the Supreme Leader Khamenei, and they are in fact openly questioning his authority. The declaration that Moussavi and Khatami are "foreign agents" has upped the ante considerably. The Iranian regime clearly is threatened by Moussavi, and playing the traitor card now after the clerics have declared the election to be a fraud may break the country.

It was bad before in Iran. It's about to get much worse.

[UPDATE 1:39 PM] BooMan has more analysis.
This is a true ideological crisis for the Revolution. The government can crack down on dissenters of all stripes, but they can't very well declare that a government based on the Guardianship of the Clergy can crack down on the most esteemed clergy in the country. They can't issue some edict that will change the very nature of Shi'a Islam so that the people no longer show deference to their own Grand Ayatollahs.

Yet, the government still maintains all the levers of coercion. The question is: will the rank-and-file members of the armed services, Revolutionary Guard, and Intelligence Services obey the Supreme Leader when he is opposed by a religious establishment that has much greater religious legitimacy?

And that's the question.

Going Along To Get Along On Obamacare

WaPo's Ceci Connolly drops a stern warning from the White House Village Sensible Democratic Party Centrists that "liberal advocacy groups" (a.k.a. Those Dirty F'ckin Hippies at are not helping, and should really just shut the hell up and go away.

In a pre-holiday call with half a dozen top House and Senate Democrats, Obama expressed his concern over advertisements and online campaigns targeting moderate Democrats, whom they criticize for not being fully devoted to "true" health-care reform.

"We shouldn't be focusing resources on each other," Obama opined in the call, according to three sources who participated in or listened to the conversation. "We ought to be focused on winning this debate."

Specifically, Obama said he is hoping left-leaning organizations that worked on his behalf in the presidential campaign will now rally support for "advancing legislation" that fulfills his goal of expanding coverage, controlling rising costs and modernizing the health system.

In the call, leaders of both chambers expressed optimism that they will hold floor votes on legislation to overhaul the $2.2 trillion health system before Congress breaks in early August.

For his part, the president vowed to use his strong approval rating with voters to continue making the case for sweeping reform, according to one congressional staffer with knowledge of the conversation. Obama also hinted that efforts are under way to discourage allies from future attacks on Democrats, according to the source, who did not have permission to speak on the record about the discussion.

The White House had no comment on the president's call.

In recent weeks, liberal bloggers and grass-roots groups such as, Democracy for America, Service Employees International Union and Progressive Change Campaign Committee have targeted Democratic Sens. Ben Nelson (Neb.), Mary Landrieu (La.), Arlen Specter (Pa.), Ron Wyden (Ore.) and Dianne Feinstein (Calif.).

A fundraising video produced by Democracy for America suggests Landrieu is a "sellout" because she has received $1.6 million in campaign contributions from the health-care industry and has yet to endorse the concept of a government-run health insurance plan to compete against the private companies. The public-option concept, which Obama supports, has become a litmus test for many pro-reform activists who accuse the insurance industry of failing to deliver affordable, accessible care.

Needless to say, What Digby Said:
All you have to do is read the paper to know that the people standing in the way of any workable health care reform are mushy, centrist robots and insurance company whores in the Democratic Party. We have the majority, the Republicans are imploding, there is no debate at the moment among anyone but Democrats. In the middle of this hot negotiation, putting ads on the air that say "let's get some health care!" is a joke.

I suspect that the truth is that he thinks he's clumsily triangulating. But the groups that he's criticizing are actually trying to support his position on the public plan and attacking them undermines the public plan as well. (Of course, it's always possible that's the intention, but I hope not.)

The problem is that triangulation is for the purpose of positioning the president between two poles in the debate. He's just set one of the poles as the public plan, which says to certain wobbly Senators that it's negotiable. I would have thought the better way to deal with this is to assure these congressional twits (who gladly ate tremendous amounts of shit from right wingers for years, but get livid at the tiniest criticism from the left) that he isn't endorsing any of these attacks, but that there's not much he can do about it. It's a free country. These waverers might just realize that he's serious about getting a public plan without him having to explicitly tell them so.

By now it's obvious that dismissing and humiliating the base is a conscious White House strategy and I'm sure it's sometimes quite useful, even though it's a distinctly unsavory political tactic (and one that erodes support over time.) But in this case, if they really want health reform, it's counterproductive. He needs the outside groups to play this role and by publicly reprimanding them he's undermining these groups with their already skittish donors --- and the cause itself.
I'm sure Obama has several people telling him "Look, the liberals are going to support you anyway, so screw them. Go ahead, attack them. It makes you look like a centrist. People will respect you."

The real problem is the people aren't overly concerned with how centrist Obama looks. They want affordable health care coverage with a public option because they are tired of getting reamed by insurance companies. The blockade is not being manned by Republicans. It's being manned by Senate Dems who are in the pocket of the health insurance companies, period.

The Centrists are telling him "The liberals are the enemy. Listen to us. If you listen to them, well, you won't get health care reform." The liberals are telling him the opposite, that it's the Centrists who are trying to sink this.

72% of Americans are on the side of the liberals here. The Obama administration has made it quite clear however that the progressives that helped him get into the White House are no longer necessary or even welcome.

Should Obamacare fall apart, remember that.

Tea Partied Out

Looks like the GOP left the Teabaggers out to dry yesterday.

Preliminary news reports from Saturday’s Tea Parties suggest public participation fell far short of the April protests. In Morristown, NJ, attendance was down by a third compared to this spring’s event. In Fort Lauderdale, FL, the Sun-Sentinel reports a crowd of “hundreds,” compared to an estimated 5,000 in April.

And in Syracuse, NY — where protesters waved the American flag upside-down — organizers had expected 1,000 people to show, but only 200 did.

Yet warm weather and patio parties may only be a part of the explanation. Unlike with the April protests, the Republican party’s establishment didn’t throw its weight behind this latest round of rallies.

“The collaboration between the official Republican establishment and the Tea Parties has not lasted into June,” writes the Washington Independent. “The RNC has no plans to get involved with any Tea Parties. A spokesman for [House minority leader] John Boehner (R-OH) … said that [Boehner's] holiday plans were private but would probably not include Tea Parties. [Newt] Gingrich will not attend any of the Tea Parties, although he recorded video messages for events in Birmingham and Nashville “at the request of the respective organizers’.”

Part of the reason for the more subdued atmosphere this time around may have had to do with the negative coverage the Tea Parties received in the media — Fox News excepted.

“There was a novelty last time that isn’t there now,” media analyst Seton Motley told the Independent. “Also, if you’re talking about the networks that made light of the Tea Parties back in April, they might have realized that opposite of love isn’t hate. It’s indifference.”

But it may be Fox News’ muted coverage this time around that may explain much of disparity between April’s protests and Saturday’s. The Independent notes that, in April, Fox sent five of its highest-profile anchors and correspondents on the road to cover the protests, but this time around, “sources at Fox … confirmed that no anchors would be attending and that the attendance and news value of the events looked to be lower than that of the April rallies.”

There are a number of reasons why the Teabaggers got dunked yesterday. The novelty factor, sure, but I think a lot of people at the last tea party protests in April really were surprised to see just how far over the edge some of the protesters were. That scared them off, as it should. Some of these protests were expected to turn into recruitment rallies for white supremacists.

That's what scared off both FOX News and the GOP. Nobody's going to risk their career when they would be the big draw at a tea party as a FOX News celebrity or GOP luminary and find out that neo-nazis have the place staked out. That'll look good on the resume, yes?

Oh, don't get me wrong, there are GOP luminaries and talking heads who like hanging out with racists jagoffs, but not the ones seriously considering a run at Obama's job in 2012, (well, those that are left, that number is dwindling weekly it seems.)

So yes, the Teabaggers went down in flames again. Honest dissent against the government is one thing, in a healthy democracy it will always exist. But the Tea Parties were manufactured astro-turf, not a grassroots movement. Americans figured that out too, and this time they stayed away.

The party, it seems, is over.

And With That, I'm Done With Her

Josh Marshall finishes the Sarah Palin coverage around here:
She may resurface as a latter-day Hannity or she may found some Palin-specific Anti-Defamation League dedicated to calling out obscure bloggers who've written mean things about her. But what very little shot she had as a future presidential candidate (and it was a much longer shot than I think many realized) is over. She's done. She's back to what she was -- a small person looking for someone to be angry at.
And with that, we move on to the rest of the world.
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