I will not hide it: I’m something of a pop culture maven. Not, perhaps, through active participation. But being at all aware in this culture it does tend to seep into you, if only through osmosis. And as a librarian, I make a concerted effort to keep abreast of things high and low, so that I can converse with and serve my patrons.
I’m certainly not one of those scolds who thinks pop culture has no place in the world. Most of us have grown up enmeshed in it, and have, for the most part, come out no worse for wear. I enjoy my sports, and I enjoy my movie spectacles.
However, we have entered a period of convergence, where the juggernaut which is popular culture collides with and circles around a concerted 50 year effort to make the electorate uninformed, apathetic, and downright hostile to its prime duty, which is to pay attention, educate itself, and govern itself.
Much handwringing over the Democratic party’s electoral fortunes has taken place this past week. Teabaggers are ecstatic. The most loathesome wingnuts are going to make our lives even more miserable than we have already endured. Some young people justify young voter apathy by saying Democrats did not give them what they wanted, as shown below in the Carl Gibson piece titled:
And Democratic Party leaders will probably learn the wrong lessons and move further repub-lite.
I think differently about what happened. I believe what we are seeing is the brick wall that Coalition Politics slams into when the regular institutions of Democracy have been irreparably subverted and perverted by oligarchs and their political minions who have convinced many Americans that nihilism is their birthright. What do I mean?
Normally, in a democracy, aspiring politicians and party platforms woo voters with promises of what they will DO for said voters, and the campaigns go full steam ahead in competition. And whoever wins tries to maintain voter approval and possible reelection based on their ability to account to the voter. Otherwise how do you win power again, right?
Wrong. Voters? What voters? GOP-Oligarchs’ answer to electoral imperatives and demographic change, is to shrink the electorate till they could “drown it in a bathtub”!
From CNET: A bulletproof blanket seeks to shield kids during school shootings
Civilizations die from suicide, not by murder.
– Arnold Toynbee
Let’s review a few news items from the past few days/months:
— A scofflaw rancher attracts a motley assortment of militia defenders threatening to shoot federal agents.
— A “sovereign citizen” in Georgia dies in a shootout with deputies while trying to take over a courthouse.
— Right wing extremists walk up to two Las Vegas police officers and shoot them, declaring the beginning of a revolution.
— A POW is released, and a sizable portion of the nation, instead of celebrating, rains down opprobrium upon the POW, his family, and President Obama.
And those are just off the top of my head. I could also include Senator Rand Paul tweeting that next time Pres. Obama does a prisoner swap, he should send five Democrats instead.
Things which were once beyond the pale have become commonplace, even excused. This isn’t something endemic solely to the Age of Obama. Oklahoma City happened on the watch of the previous Democratic president, who shares the trait of being demonized with Pres. Obama.
The pass in which we find ourselves has been long in gestation. It’s just been brought to gruesome birth upon the election and re-election of the nation’s first black President.
For close on two decades, the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, and their cohorts on right wing hate radio and Fox News hate television have been providing a steady diet of outrage and conspiracy. But outrage and conspiracy are like heroin: each successive hit has to be more potent, has to up the high, as their acolytes seek to keep the outrage up, seek meaning for all the travails besetting them. Thus you get people like Alex Jones, who is more than willing to feed the addicts with ever more insane junk, upping the potency, wasting what’s left of their minds.
President Obama delivers remarks at 25th Anniversary Freedom Event in Castle Square, Warsaw (Photo by Pete Souza)
The President left Poland for Belgium this morning. After arriving he will meet King Philippe and Prime Minister Di Rupo of Belgium, attend the Council of the European Union in Brussels and attend a G-7 working dinner.
1:30 EDT: First Lady Michelle Obama Announces The Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness
The United States is working to bolster Ukraine’s ability to secure its borders and preserve its territorial integrity and sovereignty in the face of Russian occupation of Crimea and a concerted effort by Russian-backed separatists to destabilize eastern Ukraine. President Obama has approved more than $23 million in additional defensive security assistance since early March.
This assistance includes:
A new tranche of $5 million for the provision of body armor, night vision goggles, and additional communications equipment. This is in addition to the approximately 300,000 Meals Ready to Eat (delivered in March), as well as assistance for the provision of materiel using Foreign Military Financing to support Ukraine’s armed forces with medical supplies, service member equipment (e.g., helmets, sleeping mats, water purification units), explosive ordnance disposal equipment, and handheld radios.
The United States also has allocated Cooperative Threat Reduction funding to support Ukraine’s State Border Guard Service with supplies (e.g., clothing, shelters, small power generators and hand fuel pumps, engineering equipment, communications equipment, vehicles, and non-lethal individual tactical gear).
Washington Post: Obama vows to defend freedom in Europe, support democratic movements worldwide
Surrounded by throngs celebrating Poland’s 25 years of democracy, President Obama on Wednesday pledged to uphold the United States’ longtime commitment to the defense of Eastern Europe against new threats, using the opportunity to deliver a resounding endorsement of democratic movements across the world.
“Throughout history, the Polish people were abandoned by friends when you needed them most,” Obama said. “I have come to Warsaw today — on behalf of the United States, on behalf of the NATO Alliance — to reaffirm our unwavering commitment to Poland’s security.”
Speaking at the “Freedom Day” event in a historic square by the Royal Castle, the president said he would use the full might of the American armed forces to protect Poland and other Eastern European allies and called out Russia as a threat to regional security and democracy.
“Our free nations will stand united so that further Russian provocations will only mean more isolation and costs for Russia,” he said. “We refuse to allow the dark tactics of the 20th century to define the 21st.”
Is this what it’s finally come down to, is it really?
Look at yourselves, you silly selfish bastards.
Look. At. Yourselves.
Go on, do it, find a mirror and look into your own dead zombie eyes and see the empty void looking back.
This revolting, disgusting display of hypocrisy and moral bankruptcy, is this what we’ve finally become?
Are we now so filled with foul bilious hatred, are we now so consumed with soul-destroying fear, do we now despise our own selves so much that we would actually protest the return of one of our own? Is that it?
Is that what we’ve become?
If so, then the sooner America collapses of its own maggot-ridden gangrenous rot, the better.
It was just last week when Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) delivered a Memorial Day message in which she urged Americans to keep Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl “in our thoughts and prayers.” She added, “I renew my call on the Defense Department to redouble its efforts to find Sergeant Bergdahl and return him safely to his family.”
Less than a week later, the Defense Department announced that Bergdahl had been freed and he’ll be returned safely to his family – prompting a new round of criticism from Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.).
But all things considered, these conflicting statements are mild compared to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and his recent reversals…
Never mind that Bush would have done the same as Obama. Republicans are hitting the pipe big time on the ‘deserter’ — and their creepy bottom line is that he should have been left to die.
I was amazed but not surprised by my Twitter feed Monday. More than 200 tweets from conservatives, I would estimate, calling me a host of names and Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl a menu of worse ones. That’s the most ever in one day, I think, even more than for my most scorching anti-NRA columns, which have heretofore set the gold standard for inspiring drooling right-wing vitriol.
I was not, as I say, surprised. This story has every element right-wingers dream of. Every dark suspicion they harbor about President Obama can be wedged into the narrative conservatives are constructing about how Saturday’s prisoner exchange supposedly went down and what the president’s presumed motivations were. So I knew instantly, when I read Michael Hastings’s 2012 Rolling Stone profile of Bergdahl on Sunday afternoon, that this was going to be the next Benghazi. The story is right-wing crack. And sure enough, Republicans are hitting the pipe big time.
ThinkProgress: Former Bush Official Blasts GOP On Bergdahl: Bush Would Have Done The Same Thing
A former Bush administration official broke with Republicans on Tuesday to defend President Obama’s prisoner exchange, arguing that since “the war in Afghanistan is winding down,” the United States would be required to return prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay back to Afghanistan.
… Asked about reports that Bergdahl deserted his unit, Bellinger added that the former hostage “will have to face justice, military justice.” “We don’t leave soldiers on the battlefield under any circumstance unless they have actually joined the enemy army,” he said. “He was a young 20-year-old. Young 20-year-olds make stupid decisions. I don’t think we’ll say if you make a stupid decision we’ll leave you in the hands of the Taliban.”
Smartypants: Why the prisoner exchange is a big issue for the neocons
We’re hearing all kinds of hysteria about the prisoner exchange that resulted in the release of Sergeant Bergdahl. The media is indulging claims about Bergdahl’s state of mind, whether or not the President was required to consult with Congress prior to finalizing the exchange and stories about soldiers who may have died trying to rescue him. But that’s all hyperbole designed to gin up the anti-Obama base. I propose that the real issue for conservatives actually centers on the other side of the exchange…the release of the 5 Taliban detainees from Gitmo.
We can help her to understand that as a Democrat it should be her primary goal to support this President and if she has issue with anything he does she needs to talk to his staff or him directly about it. It is not necessary for her to run to every open mike and give the Republicans and the media ammunition to bash President Obama.
Have a great O’Day Everyone!!
TPM: Videos Showed Bergdahl’s Rapidly Deteriorating Health
Some critics of the prisoner swap that exchanged Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl for five Taliban detainees said there was no evidence, as President Barack Obama insisted in a press conference Tuesday, that the soldier’s deteriorating health necessitated swift action to secure his release.
But the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday night that the U.S. intelligence community had evidence of Bergdahl’s failing health, based on a secret analysis of two videos of the soldier in captivity ….
Officials who saw the recent video described Bergdahl’s condition as “alarming.” ….
“We believe they saw Bergdahl as a golden egg. That is why they kept him alive and as healthy as possible. But as he deteriorated, some people believe he became more of a burden to them,” the official told the Journal. “And as the war was ending some of them [Taliban] came to doubt his value. He was more of a liability as his health declined.”
LA Times Editorial: Editorial Freeing Sgt. Bergdahl: Why it was a good deal for all Americans
The release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, a captive of Islamist extremists for almost five years, is good news not only for his family but for all Americans. But the price the Obama administration paid for the 28-year-old soldier’s repatriation was freedom for five detainees at Guantanamo Bay who are hardened Taliban commanders.
…. unless the U.S. were to assert the right to hold the detainees forever without trial, they would have been released at some point. Why not do it now when it helps to secure the release of an American?
…. Congress is free to press the administration about details of the arrangement that won Bergdahl’s freedom. But the president must be equally free to respond to a diplomatic opening that could mean the difference between freedom and captivity for an American soldier.
Meanwhile in the real world, while the GOP try to distract everyone with Bergdahlzi ->
Steve Benen: ID law blocks 93-year-old voter in Alabama
Two years ago, the nation was introduced to Viviette Applewhite, a 93-year-old widow in Pennsylvania who had marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Applewhite has voted in nearly every election for the last-half century – right up until 2012, when the state told this African-American woman she wouldn’t be allowed to cast a ballot because Republicans policymakers had created a voter-ID law to combat voter fraud that didn’t exist.
After Applewhite’s story garnered national attention, election officials helped get her situation straightened out – and more recently, the law itself was struck down as unconstitutional – but the incident was a reminder about the real-world impact of unnecessary voter-ID laws.
Two years later, Zachary Roth introduces us to a similar face – of the same age – in the “war on voting.”
ThinkProgress: Major Companies Distance Themselves From U.S. Chamber Campaign Against Obama’s Climate Plan
Days before President Obama’s EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy announced sweeping new rules to limit the amount of carbon pollution that existing power plants can dump into the atmosphere, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce released a report blasting the then-unreleased regulations as certain to raise electricity prices, kill jobs, and slow the economy. But leading climate-friendly members of Chamber don’t want to be associated with its anti-climate report. Several member companies, contacted by ThinkProgress, declined to endorse the Chamber’s efforts against the administration’s move to address a direct cause of climate change.
ThinkProgress reached out to several dozen of the major corporations that have either contributed to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce or had executives currently serving on its board of directors. None endorsed the new report.
It’s been about four decades since Ali MacGraw and Ryan O’Neal introduced us to an unfortunate catchphrase: “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” More recently, I’ve always thought it was better applied to the National Rifle Association, which never has to say it’s sorry, either.
No matter how extreme the far-right group gets, no matter who it offends, no matter the consequences of its policy purism, the NRA just doesn’t apologize for anything, ever.
Once in a great while, however, there are exceptions.
AP: Brisk demand for SUVs and pickup trucks pushed U.S. auto sales to a nine-year high in May
Chrysler, Nissan and Toyota all reported double-digit sales gains over last May. Even General Motors, battling bad publicity from a mishandled recall, surprised with a 13 percent sales increase.
Ford’s sales rose a better-than-expected 3 percent, while Hyundai’s were up 4 percent. Of major automakers, only Volkswagen’s sales fell.
Video: Is 16M Vehicles the New Normal for Auto Sales?
May is traditionally a strong month for the auto industry, as buyers spend their tax returns and think ahead to summer road trips. This year’s calendar, with five weekends, gave it an extra boost. Sales were particularly strong the last weekend of the month, automakers said.
Sales rose 11 percent to just over 1.6 million in May. That was the highest monthly total since July 2005, according to Kelley Blue Book.
USA Today: White House to host event on working dads
The White House, which is preparing a summit on working families later this month, sponsors an event Monday devoted to working fathers.
Business leaders, administration officials, and other working fathers will “explore the breadth of roles dads play today at home” and “the new challenges dads experience balancing career and family,” says a White House announcement.
…. Speakers will include New York Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, and Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers Jason Furman.
President Obama speaks at Cairo University in Cairo, Thursday, June 4, 2009. In his speech, President Obama called for a ‘new beginning between the United States and Muslims’, declaring that ‘this cycle of suspicion and discord must end’. (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama jokingly shows off the hat he was given during his tour of the Pyramids and Sphinx in Egypt on June 4, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama tours the Pyramids and Sphinx with Secretary General of the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities, Zahi Hawass (left), Senior Advisor David Axelrod and Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel (right), June 4, 2009. (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama tours the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt on June 4, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama ducks his head to get through an entranceway on a tour of the Pyramids and Sphinx in Egypt, June 4, 2009. At center-right is the hieroglyphic that the President comment on saying it looked like him. (Photo by Pete Souza)
Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, personal aide to the president Reggie Love, and Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett take a ride on camels in Egypt on June 4, 2009. (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Barack Obama looks out the window of Marine One as they leave the Pyramids of Giza and Sphinx in Egypt, June 4, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama tours the Sultan Hassan Mosque with Dr. Zahi Hawass (left), Iman Abdel Fateh (right), and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Cairo, Egypt, June 4, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza).
President Obama gestures during a meeting on the response to the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, at the Tarmac Field House at Louis Armstrong International Airport in New Orleans, La., June 4, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama, at left, eats boiled seafood with residents at Carmandelle’s Live Bait and Boiled Seafood in Grand Isle, La., June 4, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama jokes with members of the Chilean delegation as President Sebastián Piñera of Chile sits at the Resolute Desk following a bilateral meeting in the Oval Office, June 4, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama embraces Myrlie Evers-Williams during her visit in the Oval Office, June 4, 2013. The President met with the Evers family to commemorate the approaching 50th anniversary of Medgar Evers’ death (Photo by Pete Souza)
The world is slowly waking up to a 2 week old horror, the gut-wrenching story of 234+ teenage girls abducted by a band of terrorists from their boarding school just as they were in the midst of taking their High School Certification exams. A horror that was no less eased when it was reported that some of the traumatized girls who had managed to escape their captors, the Boko Haram, recently told grim news of their fellow captives being sold into “marriage” to terrorists within and without Nigeria’s Northern borders.
Within the 2 wks since the girls were kidnapped public anger inside Nigeria rose and spilled out into the streets in the last 24-48 hours in demonstrations against government impotence to grapple with the terrorist menace that its victims call Boko Haram, which means “Western education Forbidden” (See further below for more on history of Boko Haram). Social media relayed that anger to a wider global public under the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls. Petition drives have accelerated to galvanize awareness and demand action, including one from Change.org currently gathering steam in the US.
Video of when abduction happened 2 weeks ago:
However the indignation captured in the hashtag bumps up against a very messy and complicated reality, one that lifts the scab off the virulent canker metastasizing in several 21st century fledgling democracies and in some mature ones as well, gashing open threadbare societies. Democracy itself is rendered naked. And so:
1) #BringBackOurGirls. But from where?
2) Who do we ask to #BringBackOurGirls?
3) And if we are able to identify captors, who, if anyone, are they answerable to?
4) When a fledgling democracy is faced with a lawless group linked to a global terrorist franchise that fights an asymmetric war, how is security of anyone, let alone children to be guaranteed?
5) Who is bankrolling and profiting from arming a group that is not directly seeking political inclusion/representation but instead wants dissolution of the modern pluralist state itself and modern life?
6) What strategy to deal with Boko Haram? Crush them? Under what rules? Negotiate with them? Contain them? Abdicate democratic governance altogether? Can Nigeria or any young democracy survive a Boko Haram menace and remain intact?
Even if you were stuffing yourself full of the first weekend of college football, by now you know that President Barack Obama conducted one of the most important Rose Garden addresses in the history of the modern Presidency.
Taking the baton from his Secretary of State John Kerry, he again laid out, in forceful, passionate language, the situation as it was in Syria. He explained that the intelligence community had concluded with great certainty that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was responsible for the chemical attacks in contested areas of Damascus the week before. He passionately argued that American values and national interest dictated that Assad’s regime be punished militarily for the use of those chemical weapons against civilians. He stated that the military had assets in place and was ready to go at any time.
And then he did something no modern president had done. Even though he believed he had the authority to act, he knew that this was a divisive issue, and that the people’s representatives had to join in the decision. He called for Congress to debate and vote on a resolution granting him specific authority to militarily strike Assad for violating international treaties banning the use of chemical weaponry, some of the oldest weapons conventions in international law. He had heard the rumblings from Congress saying that he had to seek approval before any strike, and agreed.
But why did he agree? This is where he pivots beyond what all the pundits and talking heads expected. Just before declaring that he would seek Congressional approval, he reiterated that he believed that he had the authority to conduct the attacks with or without Congressional approval. But such an action, in a region of the world where such action could quickly spiral out of control, needed more than just Barack Obama’s say-so as Commander in Chief. Syria is not Libya. In the Libyan crisis, the President had a UN resolution with which to work. As a signatory to the UN charter, all member nations had a duty to enforce Security Council resolutions. That was all the authorization he needed.
Mother Jones: Republican state legislators in Pennsylvania are pushing a scheme that, if GOPers in other states follow their lead, could cause President Barack Obama to lose the 2012 election – not because of the vote count, but because of new rules. That’s not all: There’s no legal way for Democrats to stop them.
The problem for Obama, and the opportunity for Republicans, is the electoral college….
…. Currently, 48 states and DC use a winner-take-all system in which the candidate who wins the popular vote in the state gets all of its electoral votes. Under the Republican plan – which has been endorsed by top GOPers in both houses of the state Legislature, as well as the governor, Tom Corbett – Pennsylvania would change from this system to one where each congressional district gets its own electoral vote…
Jonathan Bernstein (Washington Post): ….The result of all this would be that presidential elections lose a great deal of their legitimacy.
It would be entirely possible for a Republican to win the 2012 presidential election despite losing the popular vote by a solid margin and losing states containing a solid majority of electoral votes…..
In short, it’s an absolutely outrageous plan, terrible for democracy and terrible for Pennsylvania. But extremely good for the short-term prospects of Republican presidential candidates.
Politico: Vice President Biden mentioned Karl Rove’s name a half-dozen times at a fundraiser in Scranton, Pa., on Monday, charging that the GOP strategist is raising money from “shady sources” to attack Democrats.
“Karl Rove has his stable of billionaires, literally, and millionaires pouring tens of millions of dollars into close races,” Biden said at the event for Rep. Chris Carney in his hometown, according to the pool. “Does it surprise you that Karl Rove and his friends – Karl Rove, the architect of the policies that drove us into this ditch – are back raising tens of millions of dollars from shady sources, shady in the sense that we don’t know where the money is coming from?”
Biden told Rove to “tell us where that money is coming from,” and he filed a similar complaint against the Chamber of Commerce, a frequent critic of the Obama administration.
“I challenge the Chamber of Commerce to tell us how much of the money they’re investing is from foreign sources,” he said. “I challenge them. If I’m wrong, I will stand corrected. But show me, show me. Folks, they’re trying to buy this election to go back to exactly what they did before. Watch what happens in the next two and a half weeks, what happens here, because Chris is in a tight race and moving ahead.”
Biden said fundraising groups that don’t release the names of their donors don’t care about “the lives of middle-class Americans.”