January 2009

I looked back at all the GOP-centered posts written on this blog and noticed an awful lot of Sarah Palin out there. In case we are ever accused of harassing that poor woman, I decided to focus my attention on Mitt Romney today. That’s apparently what he had been looking for, so it’s a win-win situation.

confusing national governance with Battlestar Galactica.

Mitt Romney: confusing national governance with Battlestar Galactica.

Usually, when Mitt Romney communicates to the world outside the Republican National Convention, he only passes as a second-grade politician forever bitter to have lost out to John McCain. Now he’s also posing as a “potential candidate for 2012” (sic) as quoted in this article, and speaks on behalf of all the mis/under/unrepresented foetuses in the House. Prepare for a Romney Meltdown ’09: “[Obama’s Administration] will say nothing on behalf of the child waiting to be born, we must take the side of life.” That’s what happens when you leave a former governor without any electorate whatsoever. They’re so desperate they resort to representing the unborn. Soon Mike Huckabee will be the first politician to represent the undead. Where do I sign up to be a Young Republican? They’re so accepting and inclusive all of a sudden.

To be honest, if I was the first blogging embryo, I wouldn’t risk my money on Mitt Romney. A self-proclaimed “moderate”, Romney fought in his former state of Massachussetts in favour of abortion rights, before changing his mind right before the presidential primaries. What about the side of life, Romney? What about one side and sticking to it once and for all? It’s making my head spin – but not as much as the dizzying, mind-boggling, extremely confusing comment he made regarding the closing of Guantanamo Bay. See, Mitt Romney is not too keen on reading bills, at least not in their entirety, and has a tendancy to fill in the blanks with his own conclusions, even the logic-defying ones. He recently concluded that closing down the detention facility would mean “send [ the prisoners ]  to nations that will release them to kill Americans, or […] send them to U.S. prisons to infect our own criminal population”. Be on the side of life, Mitt! Do not send anyone out to country that would turn them into Ebola-infected robot machines designed to kill! Or… something.

This is exactly the moment when I wish Katie Couric would walk in and ask Mitt Romney which newspapers does he read on a daily basis. I’d be most pleased with an answer mentioning The Enquirer or News of the World. Maybe throwing some Philip K. Dick audiobooks in it would help. Basing his 2012 primaries campaign on a Blade Runner remake is guaranteed to pin Republican voters to their seats.


[ This article is the first part of a string of op-ed pieces on the topic of student debt realised by SaC. We welcome any related stories that could be incorporated as a means to expand our plea for more awareness on the subject. Thanks y’all! – K for SaC ]

It was only a few weeks ago that the news headlines announced “porn industry seeks federal bail-out“. More than 300 companies have now benefited from federal funding, taking them out of crisis custody, awaiting economic trial. So liberal now is our world, freedom comes with a governmental tag price on it.

I remember times when socialism was way too close to communism to be safe, when it was an archaic, obsolete concept belonging to the grave with the likes of Leon Blum and his cohort of backwards, freedom-bashing Europeans mocking and pointing an accusatory finger at the American dream. Those were the good old days of the Clinton Administration, dazzling American hegemony, imperialism and sideways snark at France and Spain, just short of selling themselves out to China. Higher education was for the priviledged, the bold and the beautiful. Those were the 90s, golden age of television. I was a teenager dreaming about a high-paying job and early retirement.

Around me, it’s not just worry I see painted on familiar faces; it’s also sheer desperation. Gabrielle told me today: “I am $115,030 in debt for my education. I have a BA, and I’m stuck here babysitting four times a week for $10 an hour. I have yet to pay rent for January.” If you think Gabrielle is an isolated case, think again: higher education is no longer the privilege that it once was, and more students are starting there professional life with a six digit deficit… And no hope to see it decrease in sight.

We are graduates, post-graduates, we are the future of our nations. We are qualified, skilled, and readily available. We have no spouses nor children to nail us in one specific place: we are flexible, movable, and enthusiastic. Raised in an era of over-consumption, we could be the future investors working towards rebuilding the economy. We should be the ones buying cars starting saving for the mortgage, feeding Ikea and Starbucks’ pockets. We are everyone’s favorite market audience. We like to spend, so much we all did to the extent of $27,000 per annum on average for our tuition fees. Truth is, our individual debt is more worrying than any of the aforementioned companies; but no one has extended a hand to help us kickstart our lives. Problem is, a country can hardly survive without young manpower.

Execs are retiring, but can’t be replaced. Loan companies can’t meet their ends, as debitors don’t have income. In the end, retirement won’t be an option anymore, as the younger generation won’t be paying the necessary taxes to contribute to federal funds. It’s primordial to put us to work. It’s primordial that our primary ressources don’t go towards paying a humongous debt we contracted out of self-improvement and general, global increase in knowledge. If a reform of the educational system may be in order, now is not the time; now is the moment to clean up our slate so our only option isn’t to die in a fire in Iraq or Afghanistan. Wars this government couldn’t even afford in the first place.

Eventually, it’s about finding some room to breathe, knowing you’ve got a place, a real one, that you can contribute, that you are part of the social contract, that your duties are tied up to your rights. Supposedly entitled with knowledge and reserved places in society, we are strongly handicapped by our debt, to the point some of us are wondering if they will ever be able to lead the life we’re all striving for. Is it even a possibility, an option, a box to tick to start job-hunting in this climate? Renee, who signed up for the Stafford Loan and is currently $27,000 in debt, has told us: “I have actually been thinking a lot about that lately because I’m sending my grad application in. I’m going to have all this debt afterwards. But I won’t be able to find a job anyway, so I might as well continue studying but then where will that get me?” Talk about being stuck between a rock and a hard place.

The incertitude is plaguing us. Not old or experienced enough to have been given the opportunity to save, no employer willing to train any young graduate, and a growing debt with increasing interest floating over our heads like a black cloud, strangely feels like professional suicide. By the time we might be done paying for our loan, it will be time to retire – but we won’t have any savings ready. The question mark has been pushed back three, four, maybe five years until the economy is back on its former tracks, if it ever is. When will we even be in the position to reimburse that loan? When will we be finally allowed to start living our lives? Tiffany, with an approximate $95,000 debt by the time she finishes her BA, explains: “I have no other prospect than going back to living with my parents after school. Not only do I owe the government, but I also owe my parents in financial aid. I’m trying not to think about it. I’ve been considering both journalism and public relations, and would probably have to start out on an intern level with very little pay. So I fear I will not be able to live on my own for a while yet, because I owe so much and will be making so little. And that’s just if I can actually find a job or a paid internship.” When I mentioned the porn industry – in the person of Joe Francis – hadn’t been too shy to plea for a federal bail-out, Tiffany commented: “Even the porn industry? Wow. Those are real good priorities there.”

It’s definitely not the usual career cold-feet process the previous generations went through. This economic crisis, a first since the end of World War II, won’t have a Marshall Plan to contain it. Only option seems to remain positive and creative in these times of distress. Gabrielle has started a project with an art gallery where she works as an intern. She is collecting pieces of art donated by her friends – photographers, painters, writers – and will organize an auction sale. All benefits will go towards her loan company. Tiffany’s friend has been installing a PayPal donation button on his MySpace and Facebook profiles, both social networking sites with huge popularity among the student population, to expand his circle of potential donators. He explained that if everyone donated as little as $5, it could help paying for his tuition.

Solidarity’s all we have left. For the rest, American Express might be able to lend a hand – if it benefits from a federal bailout.

2008’s most infamous obnoxious drama queen, Rod Blagojevich, also known as “King Blago” has just been oustaged by 2009’s biggest mouth in store: radio host Limbaugh. His several racist remarks – laughing at a comment comparing Obama to Curious George, saying that the President ‘disowned his white half’ – are probably making him the most conservative political commentator, and the most virulent in his opposition to the new administration. He may be called Rush, but it’s definitely not one to the brain: Limbaugh has advised the GOP senators to oppoose Obama’s stimulus package as it would ‘help the Democrats by letting them create new jobs’. Limbaugh is one of those tyrannic types who’d rather see the whole country fall rather than admitting they’re wrong. I bet he and Joe Stalin have a lot to talk about.

halfway between Joe Francis and Nikita Krouchev.

Rush Limbaugh: halfway between Joe Francis and Nikita Krouchev.

Like most obnoxious types, Limbaugh believes that the louder, the better; nevermind his point passes as closer to bitterness and sheer provocation than to rational political commentary. Blatantly unashamed to express himself as the ignorant backwards envious spiteful kind, Limbaugh goes from attack to attack in a way that makes me wonder if it isn’t just personal. Like herpes, dearest Rush is the gift that keeps on giving. He explains: “Everybody thinks it’s outrageous to say. Look, even my staff, ‘Oh, you can’t do that.’ Why not? Why is it any different, what’s new, what is unfair about my saying I hope liberalism fails? Liberalism is our problem. Liberalism is what’s gotten us dangerously close to the precipice here. Why do I want more of it? I don’t care what the Drive-By story is. I would be honored if the Drive-By Media headlined me all day long: ‘Limbaugh: I Hope Obama Fails.’ Somebody’s gotta say it.” Sadly enough for our poor little ears, said media did give him the exposition he’s always been running after.

If we’re trying to hone onto his fragile, translucid point, wade through the uncanny thickness of his irrational  rant, leaving much to desire on the rhetorical side, it’s only fair to ask whether somebody’s gotta say it. Does somebody really have to stand up and wish for the country to sink down to the bottom pit of eternal stench, just to prove Limbaugh right? Is it really necessary to put compromise aside in order to promote one radio host’s shrivelling sense of identity? Limbaugh took pride in highlighting his so-called alienation from the Republican governors and senators supporting Obama in his struggle against the identity crisis.  ThinkProgress also nailed Limbaugh’s weakness: his hypocrisy. In 2006, only two years before Obama’s election, there wasn’t any rush (sic) to be so cynical. “I am sick and tired of people rooting for the good guys to fail”, Limbaugh said. Well, so were we, and this is why we are in the situation we’re in. What has exactly made Limbaugh such an unabashed hater? Probably lack of credibility.

Let’s face it: Limbaugh is a radio show host talking to a cohort of vile, repudiated neo-cons who know they are on the brink of losing their seats.  This is why President Obama simply said, “You can’t just listen to Rush Limbaugh and get things done”, referring to Limbaugh’s divisive appetite. It however takes more than a name-dropping from Obama’s mouth to quench Limbaugh’s thirst for attention. “He’s obviously more frightened of me than he is Mitch McConnell. He’s more frightened of me, then he is of say, John Boehner, which doesn’t say much about our party.” Strangely enough, I find it interesting that Rush Limbaugh thinks so highly of himself. His voice is rapidly losing any value, matching the parallel descent of the Down Jones; and unless he manages to rally enough support that does not belong to doubtful and shady organizations such as, say, the KKK or the National Vanguard, Limbaugh will carry on being who is – a glorified political version of Joe Francis. Cheap, sleazy and desperate for more media presence.

Limbaugh is taking a step aside from the GOP’s leadership. I believe said Republicans were just as happy to be finally free of the stinking presence of one über conservative moth fighting for attention. Republican House representative, Phil Gingrey, expressed what has been diplomatically called a “disagreement” with Limbaugh’s words: “I mean, it’s easy if you’re Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh or even sometimes Newt Gingrich to stand back and throw bricks. You don’t have to try to do what’s best for your people and your party. You know you’re just on these talk shows and you’re living well and plus you stir up a bit of controversy and gin the base and that sort of that thing. But when it comes to true leadership, not that these people couldn’t be or wouldn’t be good leaders, they’re not in that position of John Boehner or Mitch McConnell.” This is exactly the reason why Obama prevails over Limbaugh: Obama is holding the mandate of a leadership position through a democratic process. Limbaugh is talking in a booth. The weight and burden of decisions to be made, especially in times of severe hardship that could affect the economy of a former hegemon for well over half a decade, do not weigh on his shoulders. They weigh on those who have been democratically called to make the vote, and to live with the inherent consequences, be they positive or negative.

According to media critic Michael Wolff, Rush is just a prom belle without a corsage. “The Obama dinner with conservative columnists, shortly before his inauguration, was as much about excluding Rush as coddling the columnists. Not only did the conservatives fawn, but Rush fumed. It got under his skin. […] He’s tried to make it out to be a political point ever since, but mostly he sounds like a guy who’s hurt he didn’t get invited to the hot party.”

It’s already annoying enough to have Limbaugh destroy other kids’ sandcastles, really, but for now he really should sit down and let the grown-ups do the talking.

It ain’t over till it’s over. And even when it’s over, you can always try to make it last a little more. Even if no one else wants you to.

I wish this was a fake cover. Alas, it isnt.

I wish this was a fake cover. Alas, it isn't.

CNN Political Ticker has reported that Sarah Palin just launched her own political action committee. If this makes you fear for the worse, it’s perfectly justified. Appropriately named “SarahPAC” (sic), the group is meant to support local political activisits all over the great nation supporting and upholding Palin’s ideas.  Despite not being registered with the Federal Election Commission yet, the website went live on Monday and is already asking for your money. Said website says that the Alaska Governor is “a strong voice for energy independence and reform.”

A spokesperson confirmed to CNN that the former vice-presidential candidate was indeed milking her fifteen minutes of fame for all they were worth. “The PAC is a smart thing to do because she’s getting so many speaking requests still, so if she gets a request from, say, Bob McDonnell in Virginia, she could do that travel out of her PAC money.” In a previous post, we expressed our unconceited joy and blissful hope at soon reaching out for a Sarah Palin Memoir book on our nearest bookstore’s shelves, but this time, it certainly does feel like Palin overload. I am certainly slightly nauseated at the idea that more financial support will be given to local Palinvists, all over the country, in case her attempt to justify domestic terrorism on NBC wasn’t bad enough as it was.

Because Sarah Palin is the voice of a generation, she also announced the launch of SarahPAC through her official Facebook page. I have to say that I had to look this up myself, as I would certainly not believe that Sarah Palin would spend hours checking relationship status changes on Facebook, let alone would friend the polit… pol… governor.  The new announcement reads: ” Hi Friends, I wanted you to be the first to know that I’ve launched my new political action committee, SarahPAC, today. Visit SarahPAC.com and stay tuned for updates.” This announcement has been made to a whopping 465,231 supporters (among which some dutiful CNN bloggers, I assume) . The domain name was registered with Campaign Solutions, a web consulting firm that had already earned the trust of John McCain in the past, and is said to expire… in 2012.

This is bad. This is really bad. Rehearsing all the Palin quotes she was gracious enough to dose us with during the campaign won’t suffice to cheer us up. I could rant for hours about her insulting vision of feminism, but even that won’t make me feel any better. I am afraid we’ve reached the Palin bottom of things, when the possibility of her gathering enough financial support to become a sort of viable candidate for the next presidential term is becoming a reality. I also do not want to think of the next four years she will spend on the road supporting any abortion clinic bomber, panting down any rape victim’s neck so they cough up the money for their rape kit, and putting her foot down the door to diplomatic relations in the Middle East.  I thought my house was too far west from Russia to see Sarah Palin peeking out of her window again, but I’m afraid that unless someone manages to take SarahPAC.com down with some virus (hopefully named “maverick”), she will stay on our radar. Until 2012.

Oh dear. Oh dear.

John McCain’s worst dream has just come true: the White House, amidst in general plan for complete political overhaul, has made the call to engage in “direct” diplomacy with Iran.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, ready to play checkers.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, ready to play checkers.

Breaching a diplomatic cold war of thirty years, US Ambassador in Iran Susan Rice confirmed that only a complete stop to Iran’s process of uranium enrichment could lead to more lax relations between the two nations. Iran has been warned by the United Nations the last two years for using radioactive products and building nuclear plants, officially as a source of energy, unofficially in an attempt to acquire the atomic bomb. During a brief Q&A yesterday, Rice confirmed that “[…] dialogue and diplomacy must go hand in hand with a very firm message from the United States and the international community that Iran needs to meet its obligations as defined by the Security Council. And its continuing refusal to do so will only cause pressure to increase.”

Ahmadinejad, Iran’s president, never concealed his profound disdain for the United States, labeling it the “Great Satan”. However, Obama’s presidency seems to have soften his vision of Americans, as he declared himself ready to “start new approaches”. The question of Iran has often been the cause of tension between McCain and Obama during the electoral campaign. Last June, as the campaign took a more heated, serious turn, McCain declared that Iran was the nation’s most important adversary, and claimed that Barack Obama’s willingness to use a diplomatic approach was “naive” and “guileless”. Talking to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the governor of Arizona declared: “The idea that they now seek nuclear weapons because we refused to engage in presidential-level talks is a serious misreading of history”. McCain’s rhetoric implied the Republican candidate had little to no answers regarding the Irani problem – but it boiled down to one simple question: negotiate with Iran, or go to war.

Obama, despite not claiming the same foreign policy and national security credentials as his former opponent, knows well that the United States can not afford another war, on financial or human grounds.  As Obama is also sending supposedly retired Robert Malley, his senior foreign policy adviser, to supervise the Egyptian talks on the Gaza ceasefire. This choice highlighted Obama’s willingness to engage towards peaceful and diplomatic solutions to conflicts of security, as Malley was already part of the Clinton Administration and participated, successfully (at least on the short term) to the 2000 Camp David summit. A specialist of conflict resolution, Malley has been studying and commenting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since 1984. Such a recognition of knowledge and multiculturalism will surely prove to be an asset in Obama’s foreign policy decisions over the course of his four-year term.

Notwithstanding previous diplomatic collaboration on Iraqi security, Iran and the United States have a troubled, deeply rooted history that reaches far beyond the recent nuclear threat posed by the ambitious Ahmadinejad. Iran’s severe antisemitism, added to its funding of Lebanese fundamentalist party Hezbollah, and now Hamas, have made Iran an obstacle in the United States’ plan for a peace process in the Middle East. But the White House staff is adamant that convincing power is not only firepower: “[we] going to use all elements of our national power to put pressure on Iran’s nuclear program” said Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary. According to NATO’s secretary-general, Japp de Hoop Scheffer, NATO must engage with Iran to secure regional support for the escalating war in neighboring Afghanistan.

All roads point to Iran. Let’s hope Iran will be welcoming.

Six days in and Barack Obama is already looking to overturn Bush’s most controversial policies. The issue of the extrajudicial status of Guantanamo Bay’s detention facility, otherwise known as “Gitmo”, as well as the practice of “stress and duress” interrogations, have been the United States’ main obstacle to comprehensive, smooth diplomatic relations in the last eight years. Bush had little regard for international law, and believed his administration was above and beyond the rules prevailing in other western countries. The forty-fourth President, fortunately, is thinking differently. However, a closer look at those two specific thorns in the country’s side will reveal that wiping Bush’s slate clean is proving to be a little more of a hassle than previously expected. It appears the spectre of W will float for some time over JFK’s desk in the Oval Office.

© Brennan Linsley for AP

© Brennan Linsley for AP

The über controversial extra-territorial detention facility had become the emblematic symbol of the Bush Administration. It was just as symbolic that Obama’s first move was to put it behind him. Less emblematic but just as noteworthy is Karl Rove’s 2009 Nostalgia Tour: the former Bush advisor, father of all spin doctors, is recalling with unconceited homesickness his days at the White House. The Mad Man of Washington DC is on a mission to rehabilitate his idol, claiming that in times of hardship, young Bushter made all the right decisions. Such was the topic of his speech at the University of Miami thursday night. Strongly critizicing Obama for his decision to give the Gitmo detainees a fair trial and judging the wardens and CIA officers for practice of torture, Rove defended the ambiguous and polemic term of “enemy combatants”: “You bet we squeeze them for information. If we hadn’t, those same terrorists could have executed their plans to kill, and [people] would be asking why Bush didn’t protect American soldiers’ lives.” This is exactly the rhetoric that makes Barack Obama sounds so refreshing to the majority of the American people. Despite his complete lack of acknowledgement, Rove stayed true to his original mandate and managed to convince the audience, which later confessed they believed Bush hadn’t been given a “fair wrap”.

Speaking of fair wrap, it went down to Allison Kilkenny to effectively coin the issue surrounding the Guantanamo Bay debate: it’s about choosing between safety and ideals. On one hand, the jurisdiction is contrary to international law, and has been at the heart of several human rights violations that had irked and enraged major human rights advocates since its opening in 2002. Barack Obama insisted on the legitimacy and legality that the country had to uphold in order to restore its place among the international community, claiming the values of freedom and justice that had paved the founding fathers’ way.  On the other hand, images of 9/11 haven’t receded in the public opinion’s mind, and the allegedly imminent threat of terrorism is still floating over people’s heads. Rove’s campaign of fear is not over yet. Should these detainees be transferred to ‘regular’ prisons, in which they would be assimilated to other common law prisoners? Should they be the subject to extradiction to their native countries? The question remains – are they guilty, and what are they exactly guilty of? Will Barack Obama be as bold as modifying the current application of the law to give a decent, appropriate, relevent and legal meaning to what used to be ‘enemy combatants’? Most importantly, it is necessary to anticipate the possible uproar caused by the release of those prisoners – and of their minds and mouths. Upon trial, the use of torture might surface in more ways than possible. If justice doesn’t do those men justice, they might do it themselves.

Kilkenny continues to point out the beating heart of the controversy, adding: “The mainstream press never considers the danger that imprisoning innocents in fact creates new terrorists out of men that would have otherwise gladly lived out their days as farmers, or politicians, or police officers in Iraq’s rebuilding society.”  Closing Gitmo is one thing; but is there a life after Guantanamo? Is there a safety net for both Americans and former detainees to find a place in a legal society? The only way to ensure it – to the extent of realistic means – is to make sure justice prevails. Far from claiming that all Gitmo detainees are pure, innocent victims of a derailing system, but also not as gullible to assume all of them confessed to their crimes in perfect lucidity and willingness, only a fair trial could decide of the lives of those men that have already seen too much and lived through what most of us would probably refuse to imagine. Because of Guantanamo Bay’s specific and unique status, giving the United States jurisdiction over what and who is usually out of their reach, some more extraordinary measures will have to be taken in order to make those citizens available to American courts.

There are way too many question marks, and signing off the paper only created some more. The story of Guantanamo Bay is far from over.

Anticipating what could possibly be the worst under his watch, Israel Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has recently told his soldiers that he would protect them from prosecution.

Gaza City, January 19. © Erin Cunningham

Gaza City, January 19. © Erin Cunningham

Fearing the seemingly inevitable backlash following the worldwide shun of Israel’s attacks on Gaza City, Olmert said he would not accept the rule of law. “The commanders and soldiers that were sent on the task in Gaza should know that they are safe from any tribunal and that the State of Israel will assist them in this issue and protect them as they protected us with their bodies during the military operation in Gaza,” he said.

The three-weeks long attack cost Gaza over 1,300 lives and destroyed most of the city’s infrastructures, including schools and hospitals.  No agreement between Hamas and Israel has been reached yet as both parties struggle to compromise on their demands.  The United Nations has requested independant investigation relative to the hypothetical accusation of war crimes, after the use of phosphorous shells was revealed by The Guardian a couple of weeks ago. Israel confirmed that it used the chemical weapon, but in accordance with the law – as they supposedly did so only to create a smokescreen on the ground, protecting their soldiers from enemy fire. Human rights groups, however, claim that the phosphorus was used in crowded civilian areas and caused severe injuries among the inhabitants of Gaza.

Another slap in the face of international law. Israel is once again confirming its despise of the international community for the sake of its own need for protection. From the violation of the 1925 Geneva Convention to the bombing of the United Nations headquarters, it seems Israel has completely lost track of its human rights violations record. Olmert is probably being realistic when he fears the wrath of the International Criminal Court. The destruction of Gaza is becoming a serious source of international concern. Let’s hope american and european leaders will keep a close eye on the Cairo talks.

Rogue state:

“a state that does not respect other states in its international actions” (University of Princeton)

“A state or nation acting outside of the accepted national or international norms and policies” (Wiktionary)

“… furthermore, rogue states ( as opposed to nominal non-newsworthy dictatorships which pose no external threat) typically become consequential due to their engagement in the threat – or conduct of – war, particularly against neighbor states, without regard to international law.”

I guess it’s too bad W. Bush only thought of nations he already made enemies when coining that term. Ah, the irony.

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