20090227

USS War Censorship Sunk

Robert Gates announced the end of the ban on photographing caskets of war dead*, a ban initiated by George H. W. Bush during the 1991 Gulf War.

To me, this tells a lot about a country willing to make peace and end war, and puts an end to a shameful tradition of hiding the truth to the US audience.

Remember how US Weapons of Mass Disinformation used to make a show of "surgical strikes" and other "clean war" impostures ?

Remember how the first pictures of scores of caskets, lined up in an army aircraft on its way from Baghdad, caused a scandal not because of the reason why those unlucky people where sent to death in the first place, but because such "un-American" images could undermine the morale of a nation at war ?

Remember how W. got reelected because he had the courage to take the decision of going to war, and not kicked out of the White House because he was coward enough to dodge his own military duties decades earlier, and crazy enough to take that doomed decision on the sole basis of
his own fundamentalist's hidden agenda ?

Of course, let us not be fooled by the timing of Gate's announcement : the Defense Secretary is not only speeding up the withdrawal process (now US viewers must all understand it's better to get the heck out of Iraq as scheduled), but also pointing out fundamental differences between Obama and Bush at the very moment when journalists take notice of some similarities in the way war is being waged.

The Bush-Cheney propaganda era may be over, some positive spin can't hurt.

Can it ?


* as long, of course, as each family agrees - see "
Pentagon OKs media photos of war dead overturning Bush's 1991 ban" (NY Daily News 20090226)



20090221

Terminator 5 - Rise Of The Taxes

$42 bn. Petty money these days. Not even a Madoff.

$42 bn. The deficit of the World's 8th economy. The Golden State. The Land of Milk and Honey.

California.

From 49ers to 42ers. From Gold Rush to Bank Rush. From Californication to Califoreclosure. From No Problemo Gubernator to Hasta La Vista Berniemador.

To add insult to injury, they're going to pry tax raises out of Schwarzenegger's hands, over his dead Hummer.

It keeps getting better.

20090217

Vice Senators, Vicious Governors, Virtuous Circles

Time to hatchet the Burris ?

So Roland Burris lied. He did have a chat with Rod Blagojevich's brother regarding Obama's seat in the US Senate.

Big deal.

As if anyone doubted there was anything fishy. Democrats badly needed someone ASAP to vote for the bailout-recovery-stimulus-hail-mary Obama plan, and they couldn't wait for impeachment. So be it.

This plan by no means perfect. Bullet trains make sense in California, but the LA-LV axis doesn't seem an environmental priority... unless you go all the way to Denver, Saint Louis and Chicago, that is (not to say hello to Burris, but to pave the way for a major nationwide network).

But even if it only manages to succeed halfway, this plan will have been worth it. Provided the political will to change remains strong ; I do hope the lack of details was only a trick to pass the bill quickly, and that the Obama Administration will seize the opportunity to set the pace for a new global framework, a more balanced order (see "
This is not a financial crisis").

The Burris incident proves that change has not totally come to DC (not to mention Chicago). But when Politico's Arena raises the question : "Should the Constitution require elections to fill Senate vacancies?", I'm not sure that's the kind of changes needed.

French politics are president-driven. "Dissolving" the national assembly is a national pastime, and reducing the Presidential mandate from 7 to 5 years (same as a MP) undermined the balance between the executive and legislative powers. Chirac should have either picked 6 years or reducing national assembly cycles to 4 years.

American politics are calendar-driven. You do elect Vice-Presidents but not Vice Senators, and that's OK, untill you get a Governor with one Vice too many.

US politics have their flaws, but the priority seems to make sure federal elections are fair. One nation, one president, one process. And not one of the 305,833,705 members of the US population (05:16 GMT (EST+5) Feb 17, 2009) left behind*.



* BTW : I don't like the idea of Rahm Emanuel's Executive Office of the President controlling the US Census Bureau, but it didn't certainly belong to the Commerce Department in the first place. I would put it in the OMB (Office of Management and Budget).


20090216

Next Stop : Pakistan

They have fled Iraq for Afghanistan. For many, it was a way back to where it all started. Others learned their trade in Iraq, a giant terrorist training camp created by George W. Bush in his fundamentalist crusade in a country that really didn't need this kind of touristic resorts.

Now that a surge is on the way to Kabul and Southern Afghanistan, they are touring Pakistan beyond their usual Northern safe havens.


Pakistan is not safe, and the economical, social, and political situation worsened since last November, when I wrote these already gloomy lines (see "Lessons from Mumbai ?") : "The main target in the Mumbai attacks was Pakistan, the weaker link, and the democracy the most likely to fall for fundamentalism if the international community fails to help it help itself."

44 started using the same military quick fixes as 43/36* : air strikes as "surgical" as Israel's bombs on Lebanon or Gaza. But make no mistake : diplomacy is on its way. Not the naive, vintage dovish kind of diplomacy, but resolute and fair.


Diplomacy is on its way, and Barack's most lethal weapons are on their way : ahead of Hurricane Hillary, "diplomatic equivalent of a hydrogen bomb" AfPak envoy Richard Holbrooke met with Hamid Karzai... and The H. Bomb clearly avoided the kind of toasts Carter shared with Shah Reza Pahlavi over 30 years ago.

Last week, a local governor made an international show of a bonfire of puppy crops and illegal drugs seized in his region. A small step for Afghanistan, but a major leap out of the loop for ever the media magnet Karzai.

A surge on the ground, elections and potentially new faces at the helm of the country... change is probably coming to Afghanistan.

A Taliban surge, a catastrophic economic downturn, déjà vu short sighted legal and constitutional compromises with fundamentalists, radical factions fueling the seeds of civil war... change is surely coming to Pakistan.

President Obama must keep his eyes on the ball. Keeping in mind the fact that dancers are once again changing ballrooms.


* not Lyndon Baines Johnson but George Walker Bush : 43 has just been awarded the 36th position in the best POTUS contest. Dubya's behind Hoover but before Fillmore - the latter does have the name of a villain in a Harry Potter book, while W. enjoys the fame of Daddy Herbie (41 went up from #20 to #18).

20090205

The Screwing Up Buck Stops Here

"I think I messed up. I screwed up"... "This was something that was my fault"... "It's something that I take responsibility for"... "I'm going to screw up sometimes"... "Making sure that when I screw up that I'm taking responsibility for it"...

...

I think we got the message, Barack.

On CBS News ("
Obama On Daschle : I messed Up" - 20090203), President Obama offered a mea culpa* diametrically opposite to Sarah Palin's utterly screwed up bravado facing the same Katie Couric last autumn (in memoriam, watch the far less embarrassing Poehler-Fey version : "Couric-Palin @ SNL").

John McCain did use the same words in front of David Letterman... but in order to apologize for a no (TV) show. Not to take the blame for a series of unfortunate vettings as a President-Elect as well as as a POTUS.

Change has come to America : mistakes are being done, but they are spotted early, recognized as such, and dealt with swiftly and in full transparency.


Not to mention the fact, of course, that they have far milder consequences.

A few weeks after Israel**, America is using executive power a very disproportionate way.

But this apparently weaker message resonates much stronger.

And the World is listening.


* mea minima culpa - thou art forgiven, my son

** see "Come Feb. 10th, Will Israel Embrace History Or Vote Bush-Cheney 2004 ?"
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