Monday, January 19, 2009

The wide world of Obama kitsch


From Bush to Obama: On the eve of a “seamless transition”

By Patrick Martin

Three days before the inauguration of the 44th president of the United States, the distinctions have largely been effaced between the outgoing and incoming administrations.

George W. Bush is, as even the corporate-controlled media admits, the most hated and despised president in American history. Barack Obama is, at least according to the opinion polls that measure popular moods, the beneficiary of a temporary honeymoon period in which hope outweighs experience and many are inclined to "give him a chance."

Far more decisive than these illusions are the policies of the Obama administration. There is ample reason to believe that popular opposition to Obama will grow rapidly, and that anger and outrage over the gross deception involved in the electoral process will add fuel to the fire. While millions voted for the Democratic candidate in a repudiation of the Bush administration's program of war, repression and favors to the wealthy, the actions of Obama demonstrate the fundamental unity of the two big business parties, which are both instruments of the same corporate ruling elite.

Last chance to do nothing

How the Movies Made a President

BARACK OBAMA'S victory in November demonstrated, to the surprise of many Americans and much of the world, that we were ready to see a black man as president. Of course, we had seen several black presidents already, not in the real White House but in the virtual America of movies and television. The presidencies of James Earl Jones in "The Man," Morgan Freeman in "Deep Impact," Chris Rock in "Head of State" and Dennis Haysbert in "24" helped us imagine Mr. Obama's transformative breakthrough before it occurred. In a modest way, they also hastened its arrival.

A Cinematic EvolutionMake no mistake: Hollywood's historic refusal to embrace black artists and its insistence on racist caricatures and stereotypes linger to this day. Yet in the past 50 years — or, to be precise, in the 47 years since Mr. Obama was born — black men in the movies have traveled from the ghetto to the boardroom, from supporting roles in kitchens, liveries and social-problem movies to the rarefied summit of the Hollywood A-list. In those years the movies have helped images of black popular life emerge from behind what W. E. B. Du Bois called "a vast veil," creating public spaces in which we could glimpse who we are and what we might become.

Filmmakers as diverse as Charles Burnett, Spike Lee and John Singleton have helped tear away that veil, as have performers who have fought and transcended stereotypes of savagery and servility to create new, richer, truer images of black life. Along the way an archetype has emerged, that of the black male hero, who, like Will Smith in "Independence Day," rises from the ashes — in the case of that movie, the smoldering ashes of the White House — to save the day or just the family vacation. The movies of the past half-century hardly prophesy the present moment, but they offer intriguing premonitions, quick-sketch pictures and sometimes richly realized portraits of black men grappling with issues of identity and the possibilities of power. They have helped write the prehistory of the Obama presidency.

Why Two Bush Appointees Are Refusing to Leave

by Scott Horton

Two U.S. attorneys appointed by Dubya are refusing to leave the Justice Department when Obama takes office. Their explanation: they've got too many corrupt Democrats to prosecute!

An internal report issued this week by the Justice Department brought attention to the Bush AMary Beth Buchanandministration's efforts to "burrow" partisan ideologues deep in career civil service positions at the department. But even a few of Bush's political appointees at Justice are giving the new Obama administration trouble. Though their lease may technically run out on January 20, U.S. Attorneys Mary Beth Buchanan of Pittsburgh and Alice Martin of Birmingham are resolved to stay in their posts. The Daily Beast has learned that both are arguing to the Obama transition team that their efforts to convict Democrats should guarantee them an extended stay into the Obama presidency.

In their scathing report, Justice Department investigators concluded that former Civil Rights Division acting head Bradley Schlozman attempted to purge the division of those suspected of liberal sentiments and to replace them with fellow neoconservative ideologues, whom he called "comrades." During the Bush terms, nearly two-thirds of the professional staff of the Civil Rights Division left and new hires were—in violation of criminal statutes—carefully vetted for partisan political fidelity. Notwithstanding the Inspector General's recommendation that criminal action be brought, Schlozman will not be prosecuted. Bush Justice Department officials continue their perfect record of impunity, refusing to initiate criminal actions against partisan Republicans found to have broken the law by politicizing the Department.

The political appointees present Obama and his new attorney general, Eric Holder, with a different headache. By tradition, political appointees serve at the pleasure of the president, and when a new president comes to office those who held their commissions from his predecessor tender their resignations. This year, however, Buchanan and Martin appear girded to make a last stand like Japanese soldiers who never got word that the war was over.

Best president ever

Iraqi election candidate shot dead

Friday, gunmen shot to death a candidate belonging to Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's Dawa Party, while campaigning ahead of provincial elections scheduled for month-end.

Reports quoting police said the gunmen intercepted a convoy of Hashim al-Husseini, who was proceeding to the town of Jbela, south of Baghdad, for campaign.

Husseini was killed and four of his accomplices were injured in the shooting near Hillah.

He is the second candidate to be assassinated during election campaign in Iraq.

vosotros presents: ¡ YES WE PUEDE !

The times they are a changing, and we at vosotros are feeling it happen.  Living in Los Angeles, California, a bastion of America's beauty (and ugliness), excitement and tension are running high as Barack Obama prepares to take office on January 20. The potential for a positive change has never been more real than now, and we have chosen some of our closest friends to express their excitement by covering tunes from America's national songbook!  All songs are in the public domain and were recorded locally in under 2 weeks time.  So stick a feather in your cap, ride to the top of Mount Rushmore and scream ¡ YES WE PUEDE !  (And don't be afraid to sing along - we know you-all know the words)

vos1776 Contributors
vosotros, Obi Best, Learning Music (feat. Readers), Dream Kids, weyou, B.R.A.M., and Mooey Moobau

Produced and Conceived By

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art by Max Markowitz

Keith Olbermann Sums Up the Bush Administration

The true history of the Bush years

Posted by Teresa

The Bush administration is ending. If Bush & Co. didn't entirely wreck the place, it was for no lack of trying. George himself achieved astonishing depths of failure. His most notable achievements were all unintentional, and he still doesn't know what they were.

Here's the biggest one: Although the American people have been fed a diet of cynical disinformation about government for the last half-century or more, the Bush years re-taught millions of them that voting is important, that established parties aren't identical, that primaries are a mechanism for assessing and refining candidates, and that campaign speeches don't have to consist entirely of hot air and patriotic-sounding generalities.

There will be histories written about the Bush administration. They'll be privy to information we don't have yet, because the future is like that. On the other hand, we have our own privileged knowledge: We know how the story looked like to people who didn't know how it was going to come out.

Now, in this moment before a changing world overwrites our memories of the era, let us pause to salute our constant companion of those years: The Onion. Other histories of the Bush years will doubtless be more factual, but none will ever be truer.

January 26, 2000: Bush Reaches Out To Hispanic Community With Generous Tip.
March 8, 2000: Bush 'Refuses To Dignify' Mass-Murder Allegations.
July, 26, 2000: Bush Reluctantly Accepts Donation From Parents.
August 9, 2000: Republicans' 'Diversity Through Imported Africans' Plan Criticized.
September 13, 2000: Bush Surges Ahead In Polls After Strong Showing On Pommel Horse.
October 4, 2000: Bush Vows To Do 'That Thing Gore Just Said, Only Better'.
October 18, 2000: Bush Horrified To Learn Presidential Salary.
November 15, 2000: Bush Executes 253 New Mexico Democrats.
November 15, 2000: Nation Plunges Into Chaos: Pro-Bush Rebels Seize Power In West; D.C. In Flames.
November 15, 2000: Serbia Deploys Peacekeeping Forces To U.S.
December 20, 2000: Bush Calls For End To 'Era Of Political Argument'.
January 17, 2001: Bush: 'Our Long National Nightmare Of Peace And Prosperity Is Finally Over'.
January 24, 2001: '80s Retro Craze Sweeps Executive Branch.
April 18, 2001: Bush Regales Dinner Guests With Impromptu Oratory On Virgil's Minor Works.
May 9, 2001: After Careful Consideration, Bush Recommends Oil Drilling.
May 30, 2001: Bush Actually President, Nation Suddenly Realizes.
June 20, 2001: Bush Trying To Decide How To Spend His Tax Refund"
July 18, 2001: Bush Vows To Remove Toxic Petroleum From National Parks.
August 1, 2001: Bush Finds Error In Fermilab Calculations.
August 22, 2001: Bush Vows To Wipe Out Prescription-Drug Addiction Among Seniors.
September 26, 2001: American Life Turns Into Bad Jerry Bruckheimer Movie.
September 26, 2001: Hijackers Surprised To Find Selves In Hell.
September 26, 2001: God Angrily Clarifies 'Don't Kill' Rule.
September 26, 2001: Hugging Up 76,000 Percent.
September 26, 2001: Arab-American Third-Grader Returns From Recess Crying, Saying He Didn't Kill Anyone.
September 26, 2001: Not Knowing What Else To Do, Woman Bakes American-Flag Cake.
September 26, 2001: Bush Sr. Apologizes To Son For Funding Bin Laden In '80s.
September 26, 2001: Report: Gen X Irony, Cynicism May Be Permanently Obsolete.
September 26, 2001: Jerry Falwell: Is That Guy A Dick Or What?
September 26, 2001: The U.S. Military Is Pondering Its Response Options.
September 26, 2001: Talking To Your Child About The WTC Attack.
September 26, 2001: U.S. Vows To Defeat Whoever It Is We're At War With.
September 26, 2001: President Urges Calm, Restraint Among Nation's Ballad Singers.
September 26, 2001: Statshot: How Have We Spent the Last Two Weeks?
September 26, 2001: Dinty Moore Breaks Long Silence On Terrorism With Full-Page Ad.
September 26, 2001: Point/Counterpoint: We Must Retaliate With Blind Rage…
September 26, 2001: Infographic: Making America Safer.
October 3, 2001: U.S. Urges Bin Laden To Form Nation It Can Attack.
October 10, 2001: Freedoms Curtailed In Defense Of Liberty.
November 14, 2001: U.S. To Arab World: 'Stop Hating Us Or Suffer The Consequences'.
December 5, 2001: America Is Ready To Laugh At Me Again.
December 19, 2001: What Is Sexy In The Wake Of Sept. 11?

The Most Ridiculous Speech of All

by William Rivers Pitt

President George W. Bush
President Bush walks away from the podium after addressing the nation for the last time. (Photo: Reuters)

    I don't think there's a punch-line scheduled, is there?
- Monty Python

    Two separate miracles were visited upon the Earth on Thursday.

    In the afternoon, an Airbus filled with more than 150 people took off from La Guardia Airport in New York. Ten minutes later, it was floating down the Hudson River with its passengers standing on the wings and huddled against the arctic cold. It seems a flock of geese hit two of the engines like ballistic feather pillows, and suddenly pilot Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger found himself at the stick of a multi-ton paperweight.

    Somehow, Sullenberger managed to bring the plane down on the water like a stone skipped by God Herself, and finally landed it on the surface without damaging the fuselage. Harbor boats came boiling out of docks to aid in the rescue and every single living soul on that plane survived.

    The second miracle happened later that evening, when George W. Bush went on television to deliver the last major address of his time in the White House. Like it says in Psalms, this is the Lord's doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.

    Of course, of course, of course, it was a ridiculous speech. Preposterous. The worst one of all, and boy howdy, that is saying something. This, after all, was the man who gave us "Bring it on" and "Mission Accomplished," and who once was unable to think of any mistakes he might have made. Each of these was a legitimate phenomenon in every respect, to be sure, but the spectacle on Thursday night bent the definition of "absurd" into bold new shapes.

    Let's take it from the top.

    Fellow citizens: For eight years, it has been my honor to serve as your president. The first decade of this new century has been a period of consequence - a time set apart. Tonight, with a thankful heart, I have asked for a final opportunity to share some thoughts on the journey we have traveled together and the future of our nation.

    Translation: I like turtles.

    This evening, my thoughts return to the first night I addressed you from this house - September 11, 2001.

    For the record, he went through exactly 240 words before bringing up 9/11.

    Over the past seven years, a new Department of Homeland Security [DHS] has been created. The military, the intelligence community and the FBI have been transformed. Our nation is equipped with new tools to monitor the terrorists' movements, freeze their finances and break up their plots. And with strong allies at our side, we have taken the fight to the terrorists and those who support them.

    Where to begin?

    The DHS is a hopelessly scrambled and hyper-politicized debacle. The military has been transformed into a shadow of its former self. The intelligence community is battered and discombobulated. The FBI works for a Justice Department that belongs in the script for a screwball comedy. The new tools include torture and indefinite detention, which don't work and are against the law. The only real ally we have left is Saudi Arabia, birthing bed of al-Qaeda-style Wahabbist terrorism. File this whole paragraph under "FAIL."

Obama to close Gitmo

Obama will end 'don't ask' policy, aide says

by Matthew B. Stannard

President Obama will end the 15-year-old "don't ask, don't tell" policy that has prevented homosexual and bisexual men and women from serving openly within the U.S. military, a spokesman for the president-elect said.

Obama said during the campaign that he opposed the policy, but since his election in November he has made statements that have been interpreted as backpedaling. On Friday, however, Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs, responding on the transition team's Web site to a Michigan resident who asked if the new administration planned to get rid of the policy, said:

"You don't hear politicians give a one-word answer much. But it's 'Yes.' "

The little-noticed response, made in a video posted on, made barely a ripple outside blogs focused on the gay community, but that's not surprising, said those who have been pushing to overturn the ban. Not only was Obama's position expected, they said, but support for reviewing or repealing the policy has grown markedly in recent years, including some from unexpected quarters.

The end of "don't ask, don't tell" might not happen immediately, several critics of the policy said. Although they appreciate clarity from Obama on the issue, they anticipate that the demands of the economy and two wars are likely to trump a speedy policy reversal.

"The question isn't if we do it, and the question isn't when we do it, it's how we do it," said Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Walnut Creek, whose 2006 bill to repeal the ban earned broad support among Democrats in Congress but did not move forward in the face of a near-certain veto by President Bush.

Bailout trickles up, not down

"You're good for it."

That's what most everyone has been telling Pam Pentz lately. You can slide this month, Pam. We know you're good for it.

Everyone said that but her bank.

Pam's a horse trainer east of Woodinville. Last month the roof of her Olympic-sized horse-riding arena collapsed under the weight of the snow, all but shutting down her Derby Farms business.

The roof's insured so it will be fixed. But in the meantime she owes her hay man $1,300. The stall guy $2,000. The third-generation outfit that brings wood shavings for her 27 horses is due $1,800.

Don't worry, they all said. You're good for it.

It was nice to hear, but she fretted. How long can these others go without pay? So, to tide her over until her arena is back, Pam, 60, asked her longtime bank for a loan.

It was a pittance, really — a $15,000 line against a farm with at least a half-million dollars in equity. Where she's been in business for 30 years and has never missed a mortgage payment.

But the bank — Banner Bank, which likes to say that "you can take the bank out of the small town but you can't take the small town out of the bank" — said no.

You're not good for it, Pam.

The reason I'm telling you about a piddling $15,000 denied loan is that last fall Banner Bank got $124 million of your money as part of the bank bailout.

Yet Banner is not a troubled bank. It didn't need any rescue. The U.S. government gave the money on the theory Banner would turn around and lend it to people like Pam.

Couple of days left