Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
January 21, 2009

Billmon: Obama at the Plate


What the supposed cynics like to call "all that Kumbaya shit" (but which the real cynics, like yours truly, suspect is a cooly executed strategem to grab the upper partisan hand by monopolizing the bipartisan label) was almost wholly lacking. Gone missing was the by-now customary reference to states that are neither red nor blue, but united. Previous promises to be the president even of those who did not vote for him were not repeated.
At this point, though, the message is not clear. I thought I heard what I thought I heard; the talking heads think they heard something rather different -- a moralist scolding Washington for its wicked ways, rather than pragmatist signaling his intention to lower the boom on any adversary who block his path too long or too unreasonably.
If our new president really aspires to fix a broken economy, provide national health care, find alternative energy sources, restore the rule of law, withdraw from Iraq, win in Afghanistan (we could argue about that last one, but these are his priorities, not mine) and otherwise remake America -- or at least get a start on the process during his first term -- at some point soon he'll need to become a lot more explicit about what he is willing to do to his fellow politicians, as well as with them, to make it happen.
Obama at the Plate

Posted by b on January 21, 2009 at 8:55 UTC | Permalink


b, thanks for posting that link, Billmon's analysis is superb as always. I've got ten bucks on the steel being unsheathed and surprisingly successful over the next four years.
Oh, and b, have you sent the president your plan to burn down the excess houses yet? Just askin' ;)

Posted by: waldo | Jan 21 2009 12:27 utc | 1

I don't think Obama is going to undertake anything in the direction of real reform that isn't either counterproductive or simply theatric. On the other hand, I hope he will prove me wrong. At this point, I'm sitting on the fence. If the Obama bus comes by, and if it's moving in the right direction, I'll get on and cheer with the best of 'em.

What dismays me at this point is his insistence that there will be no investigations, no prosecutions of Bush crimes. Those investigations and prosecutions have to happen, I maintain, if we hope to rid ourselves of our two-tiered injustice system. Murder is murder; treason is treason; robbery is robbery; if the perpetrator wears a necktie or works with a shovel is irrelevant.

Don't expect me to cheer or to pull for a system that doesn't meet those criteria. Government by known criminals is not America. It's just organized crime.

Posted by: Jimmy Montague | Jan 21 2009 12:27 utc | 2

jimmy, it is not my impression he insisted anything of the sort.

Posted by: annie | Jan 21 2009 14:27 utc | 3

The effects of Obama's refusal to investigate Bush crimes

UPDATE: I didn't intend to suggest, with the title, that Obama has already refused to investigate and prosecute. It refers to what the effects would be if he does refuse. A better title would probably have been: "The effects if Obama refuses to investigate Bush crimes."

Posted by: annie | Jan 21 2009 14:34 utc | 4

"I want to see the truth come forth."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is receptive to the idea of prosecuting some Bush administration officials, while letting others who are accused of misdeeds leave office without prosecution, she told Chris Wallace in an interview on "FOX News Sunday."

"I think you look at each item and see what is a violation of the law and do we even have a right to ignore it," the California Democrat said. "And other things that are maybe time that is spent better looking to the future rather than to the past."

Rep. John Conyers, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, announced Friday he wants to set up a commission to look into whether the Bush administration broke the law by taking the nation to war against Iraq and instituting aggressive anti-terror initiatives. The Michigan Democrat called for an "independent criminal probe into whether any laws were broken in connection with these activities."

President-elect Barack Obama has not closed off the possibility of prosecutions, but hinted he does not favor them.

"I don't believe that anybody is above the law," he told ABC News a week ago. "On the other hand, I also have a belief that we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards."

Pelosi, during the interview in her ceremonial office, said there is merit in both arguments.

"I don't think that Mr. Obama and Mr. Conyers are that far apart," she said. "There are different subjects and you treat them differently."

She hinted that the law might compel Democrats to press forth on some prosecutions, even if they are politically unpopular, adding: "That's not up to us to say that doesn't matter anymore."

"We cannot let the politicizing of, for example, the Justice Department to go unreviewed," she added. "I want to see the truth come forth."

it is my view pelosi, at the onset of becoming speaker of the house during the initial stages of the upcoming presidential election season, guaranteed she would not hold impeachment hearings or direct any prosecutions to ensure the best possible outcome for the election. w/four years secured the dems are no longer in that position.

i fully expect them to hold hearings. tho there are limits to what they will do, ie: some dem senators knew of the torture policy before it became public and did nothing. i doubt they plan on eating their own.

Posted by: annie | Jan 21 2009 14:50 utc | 5

another thing, what would be the upside of obama sending chills down the spine of the gop by insinuating he would prosecute torture prior to his AG getting sworn in? saying you want to look forward is a benign statement, who doesn't want to look forward. prosecuting torture is looking forward. if the standard of torture goes unchallenged it means any future administration can do it.

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.

Our founding fathers faced with perils that we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations.

Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience's sake.

what else was he talking about? isn't ignoring war crimes thrashing the charter to assure the rule of law for expedience sake? why say this if he plans on harnessing congress? if there is some fix to evade hearings and investigations why would pelosi go on fox news and say otherwise? why would they let conyers head the judicial committee? why would he choose an AG who thinks waterboarding is torture. why put all this in place and then squander it?

that makes no sense. prosecutions is looking forward to the future of the country far past his presidency. if they don't do it i am going to be sorely disappointed and disgusted.

Posted by: annie | Jan 21 2009 15:10 utc | 6


Thanks for reminding me of other possibilities.

These threads often work like I think. I get myself all excited about some thought and then a different voice from my inner space is heard and I have another perspective I need to examine.

I'm glad for the many different points of view expressed on MoA. While I don't have any illusions about these discussions changing too much in the world, it is nice to be able to developed a personal opinion based on more then my sole kooky viewpoint.

Something along the lines of "an unquestioned truth is no better than a lie."

Posted by: David | Jan 21 2009 15:40 utc | 7

It serves no political, legal or moral purpose whatsoever to stall economic recovery, if there is to be one, by a political vendetta, and some UberMoralist Constitutional Brewhaha¹ over whether a now obscure Texas GOB and his soon Dubai-expatriate Vice Lord did or did not, what? Chew bubble gum in class? Have sex with that woman? Paranormal?
The civil courts will be packed with claims and counterclaims. Let them pay for it!! **Not one penny of my taxed life savings to waste putting that clown show on trial!**

Posted by: Elion Ness | Jan 21 2009 16:54 utc | 8

I'd rather see war crimes trials in Israel, than the US. Clinton had Bush I in his sights over Iran-Contra, but declined to pull the trigger. And the Dems can't point to much about the Iraq war without incriminating themselves too.

I did feel encouraged by Obama's bringing up the theme of not trading liberty for security. I hope that means he plans to undo some of the violations of constitutional rights like privacy and habeas corpus.

Posted by: seneca | Jan 21 2009 17:39 utc | 9

You'll know it if Obama is seriously attempting accountability or reform because the right will promptly wind up the militias and incite some rural insurrections or domestic terror.

Posted by: ...---... | Jan 21 2009 18:52 utc | 10

It serves no political, legal or moral purpose whatsoever to stall economic recovery, by a political vendetta,

did the O say something about being able to multi task? besides, setting the record straight about torture isn't a political vendetta.

Posted by: annie | Jan 21 2009 19:57 utc | 11

Be you cynical or whatever, Obama needs to win this battle on the economic front.

Foreign policy, "interests" are economic too. China and Taiwan I expect to a new agenda header very soon.

Posted by: Cloned Poster | Jan 21 2009 20:03 utc | 12

Obama’s political and spiritual heritage is extremely traditional. Outdated. Of course, like Bush he is an agnostic, all politicians are non-believers.

The ppl he has nominated, all are political hacks and over 50....two exceptions, the Economy woman is only 49..

First, his heritage is Alinsky>wiki, I didn’t read the entry, just to point somewhere.

Further back Dewey,>wiki

and the collection of ppl connected to him, pragmatist philosophers, constructionists in modern parlance and specifically American, as a new, exceptional, etc. scene. (Hillary C has a similar intellectual background. Alinsky offered her a job but she refused it.)

Afaik, the school the sweet Obama daughters will attend was founded by Dewey, but I may be mistaken. That is a middle class democrat thing!

Politically, rather ‘radical’, (ppl can take their own destiny in hand, contribute and benefit, etc. bit of hark-backs even to Jefferson) education and journalism top preoccupations...disliked or hated by the Right, natch.

The second strand, civic rights and black whatever socio-cultural guff, shadowy appeals to black leader figures (M.L. King for ex) and history (civic rights, votes, etc.) , and rigorous attendance at black church - Pastor Wright - now there is an odd, wily character - repudiated quickly when it became inconvenient.

This strand was always part of the Chicago scene (social work! go for it!) and no doubt obligatory for Obama and much on wife Michelle’s mind...

To the point: how are abstract, narrow, dated basically to the late 1800s, ‘college syllabus’ theoretical schemes, to deal with two ongoing wars, bleeding military expenditure, an economic crisis, meaning perhaps the collapse of the whole system in 2009/10, climate change, peak oil, and the ME ready to blow up?

Montessori, Keynes, Dewey, King, (it is a mix..) and many more dead figures could be ghosted up, valiant and worthwhile contributors, sure...but for today?

It all reeks of middle class top mark college graduates, minorities so given slack, tolerated because of convention, longing to belong to the upper strata and tossing CVs and arcane savvy about....More than a bit pathetic.

--one facet only

Posted by: Tangerine | Jan 21 2009 20:09 utc | 13

billmon is a dunce. witness --

(but which the real cynics, like yours truly, suspect is a cooly executed strategem to grab the upper partisan hand by monopolizing the bipartisan label)

what he's really saying there is that HE is the smart one, for believing that such is what Obama is up to -- he's like George Lakoff, pretending that his fantasy is reality, in order to claim some novel wisdom for his own. as Lakoff pretended his "framing" was novel and not just Lakoff restating rhetorical theory as "framing," so does billmon believe that his fantasy of "pretend bipartisan, secret progressive" is the truth.

what an idiot.

sadly, billmon's perspective is commonplace among "liberal" and "progressive" eedjits.

Posted by: micah pyre | Jan 21 2009 20:21 utc | 14

annie --

The DNC and DLC called. Your $50 check is ready. Please go pick it up from your local contact.

Posted by: micah pyre | Jan 21 2009 20:22 utc | 15

We seem to have picked up a new fuckwit, one whose self hatred can only be sated by abusing others he suspects may have a more realistic hold on their cynicism. Ugly isn't it.

The invasion of Iraq war crime will be difficult to presecute since the defense will be the myriad vague UN resolutions, but the Guantanao and other secret prison torture crimes are much easier to prosecute. Firstly because the treaties amerika is a signatory to are much less unequivocal than any recent UN resolution. Also because the shrub has confessed to authorising the torture quite specifically on a couple of occasions.

Mostly however because of the precedence issues. The most important reason for prosecuting the war criminals must be to make it more difficult for the crimes to be repeated by future administrations. It is unlikely that the dem half of the empire party will go along with any prosecution of the rethugs for invading a sovereign nation, murdering their inhabitants and stealing the resources. They have many plans to do such things themselves and because they have committed such crimes in the past (Vietnam, Dominica, Cuba etc) have no desire to end up in the dock themselves.

Torture is another issue since abhorrence of it is one of those loosely worded mom and apple pie ideals half assed humanists that gravitate towards the dem party tend to favour.

There is also the reality that until these scum are prosecuted Obama won't be able to keep his credibility up overseas. I realise at the moment among all those "lap up the media slops" types, worrying about the amerikan economy is numero uno, toture appears to be of minor concern.
But as someone who lives outside amerika I can attest that it is a relatively common practise amongst my compatriots when assessing whether to purchase an article to rule it out of contention if it is made by a corporation from the empire that tortures.

Sad to say but there is an economic argument for prosecuting the torturing scum.

Posted by: Debs is dead | Jan 21 2009 21:47 utc | 16

Since Thatcher/Reagan, govt. awareness of problems seems almost a radical act. Especially after the last eight years.

Posted by: Thrasyboulos | Jan 21 2009 22:16 utc | 17

hey micah, everytime you squeal i pee in my pants.

Vote on Holder Is Delayed

what he's really saying there is that HE is the smart one, for believing that such is what Obama is up to --

apparently billmon isn't the only one concerned about what direction things may be turning.


a Senate committee vote on the nomination of Eric H. Holder Jr. to be attorney general was delayed for a week after Republicans insisted they needed more time to question him.

The Senate Judiciary Committee, which heard testimony from the nominee last Thursday, met on Wednesday afternoon with the panel’s chairman, Senator Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, pushing for a vote. But the panel’s ranking Republican, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, said Republican members were unanimous in wanting more time.

after what we suffered w/gonzales anyone think the gop has the friggin nerves to question holder? what reason might that be? something tells me it ain't mark rich. they are going to be backed into a corner trying to justify NOT confirming him.

they want an AQ who doesn't think waterboarding is torture, good luck w/that.

Posted by: annie | Jan 22 2009 0:10 utc | 18

i meant an AG of course (not AQ), sheesh. i got so nervous when the big bad micah came after me i couldn't think straight.

Posted by: annie | Jan 22 2009 0:12 utc | 19

another flub up!

lol, sorry b, can you fix it for me.

Posted by: annie | Jan 22 2009 0:24 utc | 21

thank you debs.

i love conyers

'can the president bury someone alive?'

he's like a termite. he doesn't give up. bush can't protect them anymore. i want conyers O and holder to string them up by the balls. these are three separate branchs of government. they do not need the permission of the other to do their jobs. face it, if something isn't done about this executive branch power set up by cheney any president we have can act like a king whenever he wants. you can't just let something like that pass. the rule of law, something has to be established to confirm torture crimes took place.

i simply refuse to believe this is all going to pass like water under a bridge. i don't care how much anyone spits on obama around here. i don't think he is some god. but i do not believe he is going to let all this pass.

Posted by: annie | Jan 22 2009 0:39 utc | 22

Annie, don't tremble so, dear. Micah thinks he's so bad that he can, using ferocious non-logic and obscure paranoia, diss one of the best writers on the web and everyone will say "oh look, it's the new blogger Mike Tyson." And this from a guy who lists "The Adventures of Tintin" amongst his favourite books and claims 'exposing the lies of the "liberals" and the "libertarians"' as an interest. Teh fuuunnnyyyy.
Also, can I just say how pleased I was to see you labelled a paid Democratic operative. I'm in fine company.

Posted by: waldo | Jan 22 2009 0:42 utc | 23

waldo, you would love the donkey wallpaper in my kitchen. ;)

i think micah could be holding back on how much he knows about paid operatives.

Posted by: annie | Jan 22 2009 1:13 utc | 24

obama's little blue book

Posted by: b real | Jan 23 2009 17:23 utc | 25

no serious idea why i'm posting this, but it seems to fit in w/ the little blue book & maybe something to do w/ the grand wurlitzer (?)

Japan learns English from Obama speech textbook

TOKYO, Jan 20 (Reuters) - President-elect Barack Obama's speeches are proving a best-seller in Japan -- as an aid to learning English.

An English-language textbook, "The Speeches of Barack Obama", has sold more than 400,000 copies in two months, a big hit in a country where few hit novels sell more than a million copies a year.


"Speeches by presidents and presidential candidates are excellent as listening tools to learn English, because their contents are good and their words are easy to catch," said Yuzo Yamamoto of Asahi Press, which produced the best-selling text book.

"Obama's is especially so. His speeches are so moving, and he also uses words such as 'yes, we can,' 'change' and 'hope' that even Japanese people can memorise," he said.


The 95-page paperback features Obama's speeches in English from the 2004 Democratic National Convention and during the Democratic Party primaries, in which he defeated Hillary Clinton. They are accompanied by Japanese translations.


"Readers have sent in postcards saying that when they heard the speeches, they were so moved and cried even though they don't understand English very well," Yamamoto said.

He said lawmakers from Japan's main opposition Democratic Party had bought the book to study Obama's speeches.

Magnetic speaker's words resonate with masses

"The vocabulary Obama used was not very difficult and his message was very clear," said Toyama, an English teacher at Aletheia Shonan High School in Kanagawa Prefecture.

"I felt that he structured the speech in a way that everyone in the 'melting pot' could understand. It was also interesting that he used 'we' as the subject rather than 'I,' " he said.

Toyama did not follow the U.S. presidential election closely but said the praise for Obama's speech led him and his colleagues at the high school to read the text in English.

"I'm really looking forward to reading his inauguration speech," he said prior to Obama's swearing-in Tuesday.


..since he won the election, many Japanese have been especially charmed by reading the speeches he made during the campaign.

Bookstores are enjoying brisk sales of various publications about Obama that have flooded the market in the past few months. They have even set up special sections dedicated to Obama-related books.

Selling particularly well are books compiling Obama's speeches.


Containing the original English texts and their translations, along with explanations of the vocabulary, the book is essentially marketed as material to help readers study English.

At the Yaesu Book Center near Tokyo Station, the book has dominated the best-seller lists, holding the top spot for four consecutive weeks in December before dropping to second place earlier this month.

"Language education materials have never held the top position. This is a very unique phenomenon," said Kazumi Kawashima, a spokeswoman of the Yaesu Book Center.


It is interesting to note that the book's readership is not only made up of English students. Some readers simply enjoy listening to the charismatic Obama's voice on CD and reading the translation of his speeches, Yamamoto said.

"We've been getting feedback from readers who said that even though they didn't understand English, Obama's tone of voice and his delivery were enough to convey a positive message that touched their hearts," he said. "Some said Obama gave them goose bumps."

Japanese learn English using Obama speeches

TOKYO - Aspiring English speakers in Japan have made President Barack Obama's book of speeches and accompanying CD a national best-seller.

In Aichi, central Japan, a Buddhist monk has reportedly been playing the president's speeches during his temple service. And dozens of students in an English-language class in Tokyo have been memorizing his 2004 Democratic Convention speech to improve their understanding and pronunciation.

"Tonight is a particular honor for me because, let's face it, my presence on this stage is pretty unlikely," the students at Kaplan Japan school recited together Friday.

"The Speeches of Barack Obama" has sold 420,000 copies since its release on Nov. 20 — an "unprecedented huge hit" for an English-language text, according to publisher Asahi Press.

Any book that sells more than 100,000 copies in Japan, which has a population of 128 million, is considered a success, and foreign-language publication sales rarely exceed 20,000, the publisher said.


Although the simplicity of campaign speeches makes them an obvious choice as a language-learning tool, other American presidents have rarely been so feted.

"We don't publish every single president's speeches," Asahi Press official Yuzo Yamamoto said. "Would you buy the text of former President George W. Bush's speeches?"

Posted by: b real | Jan 24 2009 5:58 utc | 26

doh! obviously i meant the mighty wurlitzer above (late night), and the reason i was stretching the link w/ the obama bestsellers in japan is primarily based on this history, which we've linked to at least once in the past - U.S. Propaganda Efforts in Postwar Japan - detailing

a wide-ranging campaign of psychological warfare waged in Japan and other Asian nations during the 1950s, according to recently declassified U.S. government documents. The most extensive operations appear to have been in Japan, where U.S. officials secretly financed feature films, TV programs, thousands of hours of radio programming, hundreds of books, and numerous intellectuals.

U.S. officials made use of psychological warfare techniques that had been developed during World War II. In 1950 a Psychological Strategy Board was created, comprising top officials from the State Department, CIA, and Pentagon, under direct control of the President's National Security Council. The board described itself as "the nerve-center for strategic psychological operations . . . to influence the opinions, attitudes, emotions and behavior of foreign groups." Little was publicly known about it. "Almost everything about the PSB was classified: personnel, organization, even its telephone directories and scrap paper," wrote intelligence expert John Prados in his 1991 study of the National Security Council. By 1952 the PSB staff had grown to 130 and was by far the largest unit under the NSC.

PSB officials dubbed their Japan strategy the "Plan to Assure the Continued Orientation of Japan toward the West."

however, it could just be an agressive mktg campaign by the publisher that fits in w/ the western media's need for easy filler that makes us feel good about ourselves & our leadership

Posted by: b real | Jan 24 2009 21:17 utc | 27

obama's little blue book

And his particular type of lies will be called "Obamics."

Posted by: Malooga | Feb 1 2009 23:02 utc | 28

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