20141106

If it ain't fixed, break it again

Mitch McConnell - conservatism won vs. change

When America last voted in 2012, Obama was confirmed, and the Democratic lead in the Senate strengthened, but the gap in the House of Representatives only reduced from 193/242 to 201/234, allowing the GOP to maintain its campaign of sabotage in D.C.. Since the POTUS kindly obliged by self-destructing, the Reps are not only back to 241/191 at the House, but also holding a large majority at the Senate. Even if Barack won't let them totally destroy Obamacare, they can do pretty much as they like. 

And go at Hillary's throat. 

If Clinton's popularity erodes further over 2015, a real Plan B could emerge. Someone more likely to succeed than Joe Biden, who doesn't stand a chance - and not only because he's 5 years older than HRC. And preferably someone more consensual than Elizabeth Warren, who said she wouldn't run against the Obvious Candidate, but wouldn't mind being the Obivous One.


Arkansas goes to GOP. Not to Hillary Clinton 2016 - 20141105
twitter.com/stephanemot/status/529808582347198464
Right now, the GOP enjoys a much wider choice of candidates. Of course we'll see Rand Paul and a bunch of new nutties in the great Sarah Palin - Herman Cain tradition. Plus a 2016 version of Jon Huntsman, maybe Rob Portman. This time, if a fresh new face prevails, we may not get an out-of-the-blue Veep Pick.
Among the favorites:
- Chris Christie: the heaviest of the heavyweights, but only literally, and if he returns from his "bridge to you know where"
- Jeb Bush: probably too late for him, too early for George P. Bush
- Pick Your Latino: Ted Cruz a bit boring, but Marco Rubio's place on the ticket is not anymore guaranteed.

Anyway, today, neither America nor the GOP are fixed, and the latter needs to prove it can do something positive to the former.

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20141007

Exclusive Transcripts From Clinton Presidential Records

The Clinton Presidential Center will soon release new batches of Presidential Records. Here's an exclusive preview, for your eyes only - transcripts from phone conversation recorded during his last year at the White House (at this stage, we can't tell "final year" since Bubba may come back as the First Gentleman):

Conversation with First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton:
- "No Hillary, that's not what you think. I didn't inhale her perfume."

Conversation with Vice President Al Gore:
- "Sure you don't want my advice? To block Bill Bradley, I'd hire The Shaq. And for your running mate, get yourself a Joe with a six-pack smile. Biden, not Lieberman. Just sayin', but mark my words."

Conversation with First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton:
- "Chappaqua sounds nice, but how will we pay for the house? We're already drowning under legal bills - and speaking of water, heard of any potential Whitewater scheme around?"

Conversation with Secretary of State Madeleine Albright:  
- "Don't be mad at me Mad, but I won't intervene in Sudan to get bin Laden. That country's so fragile it could break in two."

Conversation with Chief of Staff John Podesta:
- "What do you mean Hillary didn't like that intern? I checked her credentials and they look terrific: she not only worked for our D-Fla guy, but also wears D-Cup."

Conversation with President George Herbert Walker Bush:
- "Yes, I'll consider your request to pardon your son... but frankly, who cares if he drove under influence as a youngster? Dubya's already way out of his league as Governor of Texas, and it's not as if he were running for something really big, uh?"

Conversation with Vice President Al Gore:
- "No, Al, that's not what you think. I was not making a pass at Tipper, and we're not communicating through codes - don't tell me you also invented the telegraph."
 
Conversation with President Boris Yeltsin: 
- "No, Boris, I don't hate you - but you must understand that I can't join you for that vodka party in your dacha right now."

Conversation with First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton:
- "You don't have to worry about Rudi Giuliani anymore. And same thing about Chappaqua: Lawrence Summers and Alan Greenspan got me the best mortgage offer - they told me it was like Al's internet, a sure bet."

Conversation with Prime Minister Ehud Barak: 
- "What are you doing this July, Ehud? Fancy spending some time with friends in Camp David...? Who will come? Uh... some friends, you know, around a good barbecue - kosher, of course. Please bring your knife for the cake."

Conversation with President Yasser Arafat:
- "What are you doing this July, Yasser? Fancy some time with friends in Camp David...? Who will come? Uh... some friends, you know, around a good barbecue - halal, of course. Please bring your own territory."

Conversation with First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton:
- "No, that's not what you think. She was talking about my saxophone. I just told her to play our favorite song, you know? Fleetwood Mac's 'Don't Stop'..."

Conversation with McDonalds at 750 17th St NW:
- "Uh... three Extra Value Meals, please: one Double Quarter Pounder, and two Big Macs. With Coke, yes. Oooops wait a sec' - I almost forgot the girls: Hillary, Chelsea, what will that be for you?"


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20140830

Thank you, Bibi, for shooting yourself in the foot

A great classic, the pounding of Gaza on a US election year*. But this time, Benjamin Netanyahu went too far too early, losing critical support at a critical moment.

Of course he didn't get rid of Hamas, because that's not what he wants, remember? Radicals need radicals at their doorsteps to play ping pong and justify their own stronghold. The idea was to surf on the ISIS panic wave, to weaken key entry/exit points for awhile, and by fueling fear in Israel and hatred in Palestine, to comfort both governments (the Hamas, Bibi) as the only ones legitimate to defend the land against bad guys (Bibi, the Hamas).

The problem is that US elections haven't really started, and that these are mid-term elections, not presidential ones. Big guns were not compelled to publicly pledge allegiance during the conflict. Worse: more candidates might seize the opportunity to emancipate themselves from a declining, hawkish AIPAC, and to support Israel via J Street**, which represents the moderate views of a growing majority of US Jews, and a much more sustainable path to peace.

If Bibi doesn't care about international outrage, he cares about support from the US. And because he went too far, at long last, the US internal political debate about Israel has suddenly become mainstream. Most recently and notably - and significantly location / media-wise:
- The Times refusing to publish a diatribe by Elie Wiesel comparing the Hamas to Nazis
- the ad run in The New York Times where 327 survivors of the Holocaust denounce "the massacre of Palestinians in Gaza" and calling for a complete boycott of Israel
- articles condemning the AIPAC, such as the recent "Friends of Israel" by Connie Bruck in The New Yorker

Now that bad guys are exposed on both sides, it's OK to publicly challenge the AIPAC and to mention J Street. It's soon going to be not only OK, but totally P.C. to support Israel by criticizing its government.

Yes, Barack Obama needs a strategy against ISIS, but showing progress between Israel and Palestine would send very strong messages across the World. The US can truly help Israel. If John F. Kerry can't do much, mainstream American moderates have the power to help moderates become mainstream in Israel.

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* e.g. "Deja vu all over again", "Israel accepted as true the choice between its security and its ideals"
** more than ever, "J Street : It's Time"!

20140630

ISIS the end of Iraq?

Again, the end of Iraq was sealed in 2003 with the invasion led by the Theocon-Neocon duet Bush-Cheney (as usual, from my 7-year-old "Universal Declaration of Independence From Fundamentalism"):
"For fundamentalists from all religions, George W. Bush turned out to be the best person at the best place at the best moment.

His strategy should look like a total failure to whoever considers the Iraq quagmire, the Palestinian fiasco, or the worldwide surge in terror. But to the contrary, Bush's strategy proved a complete success.
Because George W. Bush didn't act as a President of The United States of America in the interest of his country.
And George W. Bush didn't even act as a Republican in the interest of his party.
George W. Bush acted as a fundamentalist in the interest of fundamentalism.


(...)
Bush did not wage a war on terror but in favor of it : instead of focusing on terrorist networks and reducing their ground (ie by fighting injustice and poverty, promoting peace in the region and especially between Israel and Palestine), he deliberately infuriated the Muslim world and helped fundamentalists recruit new flocks of followers. And he targeted a country that had nothing to do with 9/11 but everything to do with peace in the region.
A new playground for international terrorism, the end of Iraq as a united country, civil war here, the rise of a new form of fundamentalism in Iran when reformers were "threatening" the Khomeini generation, the failure of Fatah and the victory of Hamas... all this was not collateral damage but the very aim of his sick game."
If George W. Bush deliberately set the region on fire, Barack Obama proved a poor fireman. He got Bin Laden and pulled out the troops as promised, but couldn't fix the whole mess. Furthermore, his sincere goodwill was not really rewarded, like that lovely Nowruz speech: it did lead to an Iran Spring, but didn't come with any back-up when the regime crushed it. Spinned by the GOP ahead of the elections, the Benghazi fiasco deprived the POTUS from all hope of convincing the rest of Washington to act in Syria or anywhere else. 

So for now, the new Bin Laden, self-proclaimed Caliph Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, is fearing much less Uncle Sam than Vladimir Putin or - who knows - Xi Jinping. Heck, even Francois Hollande looks scarier. 

All al Baghdadi needs to make it perfect is a GOP victory this November.

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20140526

Francois Hollande vs Extreme Right? Been There, Done Nothing

France's extreme right party Front National claimed almost 25% of the votes at the European election, finishing for the first time as the first party in the country, four points ahead of the UMP. The ruling Socialist Party didn't even reach 14%.


French PM Manuel Valls described the results as an "earthquake". They're even worse than 12 years ago, when Jean-Marie Le Pen finished second at the first round of the Presidential Elections, kicking socialist PM Lionel Jospin out of the race for less than 200,000 ballots. Jacques Chirac went on to win the second round, but a few months later his gaullist, conservative RPR merged into the new center-right UMP. Surprisingly, the humiliated PS refused to reform, and it had something to do with the "leadership" of its First Secretary Francois Hollande, a person who loves to talk about change, but has never done anything to prove it.

When Hollande got elected in 2012, I wrote "France refuses to change" because there was no better way to sum it up. The scariest thing is not the earthquake, but the desperate flatness of French democracy's EEG.

Francois Hollande vs Extreme Right? Been There, Done Nothing
2002 Presidential Elections in France: Le Pen reaches 2nd round
2014 European Elections in France: Front National the 1st political party
Francois Hollande 1998-2008: First Secretary of the French Socialist Party
Francois Hollande 2012-2017: President of the French Republic
2002: Gaullist, conservative RPR merges into new center-right party UMP
2014: UMP evolves into???

When democracy stalls, extremes always win. And the FN didn't even have to modify its DNA to win: Jean-Marie Le Pen claimed one region, his daugther Marine another, and Marine's mate Louis Aliot yet another.

The only good news may be the fact that the UMP is at long last forced to dump Sarkozy's doomed "rightization" strategy. In the weeks and months to come, the party will either evolve towards the center, or implode. 

The Socialist Party imploded a long time ago, but managed to win an election here and there, when its rivals played it even dumber than dumb. France cannot afford two zombies any longer.



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20140501

On Obama's visit to Korea - in Asia Pacific Bulletin

The East West Center, an education and research center established by the US Congress in 1960, just published my piece "Obama’s Visit to Korea: An Unwavering US-ROK Alliance Amidst Regional Tensions" in its Asia Pacific Bulletin No 260:


EastWestCenter.org/publications/obama%E2%80%99s-visit-korea-unwavering-us-rok-alliance-amidst-regional-tensions

Also on EWC's Asia Matters for America's website*:  
AsiaMattersForAmerica.org/korea/obamas-visit-to-korea-an-unwavering-us-rok-alliance-amidst-regional-tensions

*

Also on Obama's visit to Korea, with a greater focus on the Imperial Japan sexual slavery issue (also known under the euphemism 'Comfort Women'), I wrote two posts in a less diplomatic vein on Seoul Village:


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* on this EWC initiative, see "KORUS chorus" on Seoul Village

20140409

The First (Nation) Captain America

I grew up with Marvel comics, and always found Captain America one of their most boring characters, a Wartime Superman only good at kicking foreign ass. Frankly, this poster won't help me change my mind:



Now if Marvel went back to the drawing board today, they could come up with something more sustainable, like, who knows, this genuine Captain America:



Meet the first Captain America, complete with the shield. Okay, it might not sell well in the Bible Belt, where they fancy blond, blue-eyed versions of Jesus (BTW not the most likely combo for a Palestinian Jew around 0 B.C.).

Marvel did create an Apache superhero / war hero, but Thunderbird got quickly MIA for the X-Men.

Adding insult to injury (and death): the fact that Thunderbird was killed soon after having been created also means that he got stuck in this 1975 wardrobe




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20140331

Three-Quarter-Term Elections

Obama's back from Europe, where he managed to score rare photo ops: with Pope Francis in Rome, and with the Shinzo Ehud Abe - Park Yasser Geun-hye duet in The Hague (see "The Tripartite Summitulacra").



Historic handshake between war criminal grandson and dictator daughter - Nobel Prize winner observing (twitter.com/theseoulvillage/status/448630575683751937 20140326)
The POTUS went out of his way (literally only) back to the States to say goodbye to Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al Saud (90), who just nominated the successor of his successor Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud (79): don't expect stupendous reforms from this young Muqrin bin Abdulaziz Al Saud (69), the former head of the local intelligence agency...

So Barack Obama lets John Kerry cope with Putin's adventure in Ukraine, Park and Abe sort things out directly together, and the Saud clan stew in their own juice (now that the US of A have their own shale gas to dirty themselves with...).

Back home, the President keeps his eye on the ball: neither climate change, nor gun control, but Obamacare, The Reform That Must Work Before The November Elections, save the Senate majority, and end the House stalemate.

I bet Hillary Clinton is also praying for the success of this landmark healthcare reform. 

OFA's last call


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20140220

Don't skip a beat

As you may have noticed, I've been posting fewer blogules since I joined Twitter, and I'm only using @blogules for alerts about new posts. If you want to stay tuned, follow my two main accounts,  @stephanemot and @theseoulvillage:





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20140117

A Bridge To You Know Where

On damage mode ever since the George Washington Bridge scandal derailed his 2016 campaign, Chris Christie must prove that he's not totally out of the game.


Chris Christie's 2016 bid now a bridge to nowhere. Time for some traffic problems at the GOP.
twitter.com/stephanemot/status/422171645852143616 (20140112).
.
Can the New Jersey Governor finesse his way out of this mess? The concept drawing to mind the image of the hippo dance in Fantasia, it could at least be fun watching his efforts in a tutu and ballerina shoes:


'Chris Christie finessing his way away from the George Washington Bridge scandal in front of fellow GOP hopefuls ('White House Fantasy', Walt Dismay Pictures)

Robert Gates didn't wait for the crash to submit his own resume, attn potential candidates looking for a running mate able to work for BOTH George W. Bush and Barack Obama. In his memoir, "Duty", the former Secretary of Defense even added some Veep Debate credentials for 2016 by slamming Joe Biden's inconsistent foreign policy record. As if serving Dubya and Obama were consistent... His successor Chuck Hagel looks weaker, but he stands his ground.

Meanwhile, the GOP continues to postpone its unavoidable reform*, and to make do with tea partiers, theocons and other anticons.

The NutHouse just picked David Schweikert for the Environment subcommittee of the Science Committee. Since the man signed the "No Climate Tax Pledge", no climate control law shall pass under his watch. Schweikert has a pristine oil-lobby-friendly voting record: against greenhouse gas regulation, in favor of more drilling, including in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge...

With snafued enemies like these, Hillary Clinton can sleep without a worry until the Primaries.

Unless, of course, the 800-pound gorilla manages to rock the dance floor.

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* see "Grand Old Parting - enter the anticons"
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