by Lee, 03/31/2011, 5:21 PM

It appears that – contrary to popular belief – Dave Reichert does things in Washington:

AARP lobbied for the new health care law and now it stands to profit, Republican lawmakers charged Wednesday as they called for the IRS to investigate whether the powerful interest group representing older Americans should be stripped of its federal tax exemption.

Three veteran GOP representatives released a report that estimates the seniors lobby could make an additional $1 billion over 10 years on health insurance plans whose sales are expected to pick up under the new law. They also questioned seven-figure compensation for some AARP executives.

“Based on the available evidence, substantial questions remain about whether AARP should maintain its tax-exempt status,” said the report, released by Reps. Wally Herger of California, Charles Boustany of Louisiana and Dave Reichert of Washington.

As Sarge in Seattle points out:

By definition, AARP makes no profit, and has no shareholders to distribute profits to. What it does have is a lot of money to promote the interests of its members, lobby Congress, and fund various charitable organizations.

AARP is big, and the CEO makes a lot of money. But it is neither an insurance company nor a for profit organization. Congressman Sander Levin of Michigan called this for what it is; a “witch hunt”.

That’s all true, but it avoids the most unseemly thing about Reichert’s attempt to “go Full ACORN” on the AARP. Insurance companies – whose practices should be far more of a concern to the American public – make profits and pay out salaries that completely dwarf what anyone at the AARP makes, yet are ignored by Reichert and his cronies. These companies also got what they wanted with the Affordable Care Act.

If Dave Reichert actually cared about how much money non-profits like the AARP are able to finagle for themselves in a system where the government will soon force citizens to buy private coverage without a public alternative, he’d be advocating for the one big structural change that could undercut all the profiteering – a public option. But he’s not concerned about those structural issues, only the non-profits who gain from them. His constituency isn’t the middle class family in Auburn who struggles to find adequate health care coverage – he could give a fuck about them. His constituency is the insurance company who doesn’t like the fact that the AARP has been able to use their trusted name to rake in lots of money in the health care market.

It’s entirely possible that the AARP will get roasted for their actions here, but with Dave Reichert and the House Republicans driving the bus until 2013, the situation for America’s families is only going to get worse.

UPDATE: Curtis Cartier at the Weekly writes:

AARP functions in two distinct ways–one, as a lobbying group, dedicated to advancing causes for seniors; two, as a kind of “branding organization” that offers to lend its name to certain products (namely insurance plans) for a cost.

It’s these dual roles that Republicans believe should disqualify the group from tax exemptions.

Sort of like how they are also calling for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to lose its tax-exempt status for supporting the Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United case, which stands to bring in hundreds of millions of dollars to its corporations through their ability to anonymously contribute to political campaigns, right?

Wait, I’m being told that Republicans have made no such demands.

by Darryl, 03/31/2011, 2:58 PM

Republicans are having a hard time getting the nerve up to challenge President Obama:

“Right now, just three Republicans (Cain, Pawlenty, and Roemer) have formed exploratory committees, and no one has yet to formally announce a presidential bid. By comparison, at this point in the 2008 cycle, at least 17 Democratic and Republican presidential candidates had already formed their exploratory committees or had officially declared they were running for president…

Bloody wafflers!

Okay, so maybe the problem isn’t spineless waffling. Perhaps they are suffering an epidemic of reality, with advisors pointing out the hurdles: huge fundraising requirements, tough odds against Obama, and a very red G.O.P. primary (as in, a bloodbath). The entire picture might be overwhelming.

Whatever the cause, the lack of action is starting to mess things up. The first Republican primary debate for the 2012 presidential election cycle was supposed to be held on May 2. It isn’t going to happen and is being moved to mid-September.

My sense is that the compressed schedule will not work in the Republican’s favor. First, it will provide an expanded platform for the political nutjobs to launch quixotic campaigns. We have a growing list of crazies hinting at a run—including Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann, Rand Paul…. And most recently, The Donald, has been working diligently to establish credentials as a bona fide birfer loon. The lack of a serious mainstream candidate can only embolden these people.

This cycle we will see the nutjobs soaking up a lot of press attention, later into the season, leaving a deficit of press attention for more mainstream candidates.

Another possible negative consequence is that whoever is eventually selected may not be fully vetted. Vetting takes time, and must encompass multiple dimensions—fundraising prowess, mistresses on the side, past indiscretions, pregnant unwed teenage daughters, gaffe proneness, lack of charisma, bouts of irrational decision making, lack of any coherent vision, etc.

In other words, the late start of the election season maximizes the opportunity for Republicans to end up with a flawed candidate. They did pretty well in that regard in 2008, even with a long, bruising election season. The first sign of McCain’s “gambling problem” became evident when he gave the G.O.P. establishment, including his former rivals, a great big “fuck you” and took a desperate gamble on an entirely un-vetted running-mate. The results weren’t pretty.

Man, what great material us bloggers got from it.

But more than I want good blogging material, I really do want a large field of serious, solid candidates from both sides, and plenty of time to evaluate them. I want this because, in principle, that is what is best for America.

In practice…I am not convinced that there is any Republican politician who is actually good for America.

by Carl, 03/31/2011, 8:01 AM

Is it on large corporations? Is it on private jets? On cosmetic surgery? No, silly. The Republican Senate Whip and House floor leader have put out a press release demanding that the tribes pay more taxes. Now ignore tribal sovereignty and the other logical reasons why this is not the right place to start.

We’re in a terrible budget hole and fixing it can take on a logic of its own. So according to the press release, if you force tribes to pay more state taxes on cigarettes, gas and tribal property on non-trust land, the state could make $110 Million extra. And in this budget hole, that’s real money. But compare that to the $142 Million we’d get back if we closed just the loophole for software developers. Seriously, as long as private jets and out of town banks have loopholes, we shouldn’t try to balance the budget on the backs of the tribes.

by Carl, 03/30/2011, 8:08 PM

Recently, my favorite sports writer, Joe Posnanski wrote a piece about the meanings of advanced baseball statistics. He started quoting this piece from Louis CK:

“And then I was looking at the little Chinese lady. There was a beauty to her — she was just a tiny little Chinese lady, I was staring at her because I was fascinated by her. I don’t know anybody like her, and I am SO not a little old Chinese lady.

“Then I look and I think, ‘What are her thoughts?’ That’s what I was burning inside with. ‘What is she thinking right now?’ I can never know. And my dumb brain is telling me she’s just thinking: ‘Ching chung cheeng, chung cheeng chaing.’ That’s how dumb I am, that I think Chinese jibberish* that I made up is in her actually Chinese mind.”

Posnanski then went on to explain that a lot of people who oppose the use of advanced statistics are arguing with the Chinese jibberish in their head.

Baseball people really don’t get at all what people like Bill James and Tom Tango and Pete Palmer and the like are doing at all. They might THINK they know. But in the end, they are just assuming that the Chinese jibberish that they make up is what is actually happening in the minds of the most brilliant sabermetric minds.

This is a long way of saying that whenever I mention car culture or Washington State imposing car culture on its city folk, that I feel like the arguments I get into are with people assuming the Chinese jibberish in their head is my argument. If this was confined to the Internet, I’d just chalk it up to trollery and use this post to write about something else (more metacommentary, probably), but I hear it in conversation elsewhere, so I thought I should clarify what I mean, and hopefully we can get away from that and onto an actual conversation.

To address the jibberish: Opposing car culture doesn’t mean that nobody will ever be allowed to drive anywhere. It doesn’t mean that we’ll turn all the roads into bike paths. It doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to drive. While I can’t speak to anyone else who uses the term, for me it certainly doesn’t mean I think you’re a bad person if you drive or if you enjoy driving. It doesn’t mean that you are a bad person for feeling unsafe on a bike, or thinking it’s important to have a car if you have children.

Car culture is the myriad ways we privilege driving over other ways to get around as a society. It’s the fact that you need a car for so many jobs, even jobs unrelated to driving. It’s the fact that our bicycle infrastructure even in Seattle is pretty inadequate, and worse further out. It’s the fact that so many parents have such a need for cars. It’s all the roads without a shoulder let alone a decent bike lane. It’s the sidewalks that neighborhoods have been promised for decades but that never quite seem to materialize. It’s the underfunded public transit. It’s the fact that when we discuss the viaduct replacement that many people are more concerned about how to move cars than how to move people. It’s our refusal to deal with the externalities of driving from pollution, to global warming gases, to the big holes in cities where we have to park, to the fact that streets aren’t safe for pedestrians in the way they were before cars.

And car culture is treating all these things as inevitable instead of the result of choices we make. When I say the legislature imposes car culture (especially, but not exclusively) on Seattle, I’m saying that consciously or not, the policies that the state pushes make those things in the above paragraph, and more, worse. So when, for example, a state legislator from Yakima tries to impose a maximum parking tax on Seattle that’s a choice for that legislator, and possibly the entire state. They’re saying we should have cheaper parking. Not we should figure out what’s reasonable given the budget deficit and the things that extra parking does to a city, but that they know best. When the legislature wants to build a replacement for the Viaduct, instead of looking at how to move people around, they’re looking at how to move cars. Until they recognize that cars are one way people and goods move around, but aren’t the only way, they’ll still push cars on us when there are better alternatives. Not just with the Viaduct replacement but with all sorts of policies.

Read the rest of this entry »

by Lee, 03/30/2011, 1:27 PM

I’m in Hearing Room A of the John L. O’Brien Building in Olympia. I’m here for the House Ways and Means Committee hearing, where they’ll be discussing E2SSB 5073, the medical marijuana bill. As the meeting progresses, I may post updates here, or to my Twitter feed. This is an open thread.

UPDATE: Layla Bush, who was shot in the Jewish Federation shooting, just testified for the bill. She became a medical marijuana patient in order to deal with the nerve pain resulting from her injuries.

UPDATE 2: A number of testifiers – from physicians to lawyers to other health care professionals – are reiterating their objection to Section 301.2a, which could potentially endanger pain specialists who see patients diagnosed by other physicians.

by Darryl, 03/30/2011, 1:04 AM

Goldy has been (mostly) gone for almost two months now. And during this evening’s Drinking Liberally event, the topic of a slight HA re-branding arose. The winning slogan idea was:

The New HorsesAss…Same great flavor, 50% less “fuck.”

What do you think?

(H/T to occasional poster Goldy for contributing the “50% less ‘fuck’” bit.)

by Darryl, 03/29/2011, 5:33 PM

DLBottle

Please join us tonight for an evening of polititical discussion, debate and “squirmishes” under the influence at the Seattle chapter of Drinking Liberally. We meet at the Montlake Ale House, 2307 24th Avenue E. Starting time is 8:00 pm, but feel free to join some of us earlier for dinner.



Not in Seattle? There is a good chance you live near one of the 220 other chapters of Drinking Liberally.

by Darryl, 03/29/2011, 10:58 AM

I cannot explain why I was drawn to the teaser headline “Vampires make ground in La Push” from MyNorthwest via their Twitter feed. I expected news about a gathering of Twilight fans or something.

When I clicked on the link, this is what I saw:

MYNorthwest

The only article that mentions La Push is “Quileute tribe asks Congress for help to move out of tsunami danger:”

LA PUSH, Wash. — A Washington state tribe says its answer to the danger of a tsunami is moving its village to higher ground.

Now, the Quileute Tribe is asking for Congressional help with the move.

When members of the Quileute tribe saw a tsunami destroy Japanese cities, their first reaction was horror. The second: that could be us.

Oh? “Sucking off the government teat” to relocate their village to higher ground…is that what they were getting at by “vampires”?!?

Naaa…I refuse to believe that Bonneville Seattle (97.3 KIRO, 710 ESPN, 770 KTTH) has gone full-out, hard-boiled Teabagger on us.

I’m sure it’s an innocent mistake.

by Darryl, 03/28/2011, 5:40 PM

There’s no hope for Ted Van Dyk. At least that’s what he says, and I am forced to agree….

On Libya: Defense Secretary Bob Gates, just before the U.S. decision to intervene in Libya, stated that “anyone should have his head examined” who decided to add yet another offshore intervention to those being undertaken in Iraq and Afghanistan, specifically citing establishment of a no-fly zone in Libya as just such an overreach.

Umm…no he didn’t.

Secretary Gates did, indeed, make a statement to West Point cadets on February 25 that included a quip about cranial scrutiny:

But in my opinion, any future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should “have his head examined,” as General MacArthur so delicately put it.

Even out of context, it is clear that Gates was not making a sweeping claim of the insanity of any type of U.S. intervention. He was explicitly discussing the problem of a “big…land army” type invasion or occupation. This is clear from the statement immediately preceding the money quote:

Looking ahead, though, in the competition for tight defense dollars within and between the services, the Army also must confront the reality that the most plausible, high-end scenarios for the U.S. military are primarily naval and air engagements – whether in Asia, the Persian Gulf, or elsewhere. The strategic rationale for swift-moving expeditionary forces, be they Army or Marines, airborne infantry or special operations, is self-evident given the likelihood of counterterrorism, rapid reaction, disaster response, or stability or security force assistance missions.

And following:

[...] But as the prospects for another head-on clash of large mechanized land armies seem less likely, the Army will be increasingly challenged to justify the number, size, and cost of its heavy formations to those in the leadership of the Pentagon, and on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, who ultimately make policy and set budgets.

[...] The odds of repeating another Afghanistan or Iraq – invading, pacifying, and administering a large third world country – may be low. But in what General Casey has called “an era of persistent conflict,” those unconventional capabilities will still be needed at various levels and in various locations. Most critically to prevent festering problems from growing into full-blown crises which require costly – and controversial – large-scale American military intervention.

In other words, large scale land invasions are too damn expensive. But Gates also asserts the likelihood of “critical” military actions to prevent full-blown crises.

You know what isn’t in Gates’ speech? The expression “no-fly zone” and the word “Libya”. Ted just pulled that notion out of his ass.

Van Dyk continues:

Yet here we are, not only establishing a Libyan no-fly zone but, contrary to early assurances, putting American special-operations teams on the ground to assist Libyan rebels.

Earth to Ted: intelligence personnel have likely been “on the ground” in Libya for years, and covert Special Forces have, no doubt, been “on the ground” for at least weeks. Obama never stated that there would be no covert activities in Syria.

Obama did, however, categorically rule out a land invasion, saying such an invasion was absolutely out of the question1.

Is Ted getting too much of his “news” from Bill O’Reilly? Or has he taken to trusting the Russians over Obama?

Either way, he conducts journalistic malpractice pretending that in-country covert operations are equivalent to a ground invasion.

To be clear, I am not staking an ideological position on our military action in Libya…I have mixed and complex feelings about it that I won’t go into here. The bone I have to pick is with Ted’s sloppy-ass, off-the-cuff journalism and his pseudo-analysis driven by factual inaccuracies.

On the other hand, maybe he’s suffering from, well…something…. I won’t speculate on specifically what without evidence. I’ll only suggest that Ted ought to have his head examined.

1 Obama’s gave a speech while I was editing this post this evening. In it, he confirmed that there would be no U.S. ground invasion.

by Lee, 03/28/2011, 4:16 PM

The last time UW Professor Roger Roffman wrote a column in the Seattle Times on marijuana legalization, it was a little heavy on concern-trolling and a little light on the science behind the debate. This time around, Roffman gets it much more right:

Proposals to regulate and legalize its use for adults must include careful planning for how children and adolescents, who are more vulnerable to the risks posed by marijuana use, can best be protected.

But a full discussion requires not only that the proponents of change acknowledge the risks of trying a new approach, but also that those opposing change acknowledge the harms of current policies and the potential of alternative strategies. They may find it’s possible to implement a policy that accomplishes both protecting youth and ending the criminalization of responsible adult marijuana use.

A legalization policy should draw from the successes and failures of alcohol and tobacco laws. In the success category, teenage alcohol- and tobacco-usage rates have declined considerably since the late 1970s. Our experience shows that prevention can work and that society can establish community norms, making clear we neither approve nor tolerate underage use. In the failure category, youth are commonly enticed to use alcohol and tobacco via relentless advertising and cheap prices.

Roffman doesn’t offer his opinion on whether or not legalization and regulation will – by itself – be a big step towards keeping marijuana out of the hands of young people. My contention is that it will, and that continues to be one of the biggest reasons I have for supporting the move. He mentions that the “de facto” legalization in Holland didn’t affect usage rates among young people. But I’d contend that the criminal groups controlling marijuana distribution in the U.S. are far more numerous and extensive that what existed in Holland in the 1970s.

On his larger point, though, I’m in full agreement. Drug policy reformers should focus on what’s best for young people, because drug problems tend to be most severe for those who begin their drug use before adulthood. That’s why I find it horrendously counterproductive to treat drug users as criminals – and to criminalize the sale of mild drugs to responsible adults. Both actions end up harming children in different ways, either by limiting opportunities in a misguided attempt to scare people straight, or by putting the control of adult-only drugs in the hands of those who have no incentive not to sell them to underage customers.

by Darryl, 03/28/2011, 10:12 AM

Another death in the hands of a domestic religious extremist:

A 28-year-old man has been charged with murder after telling police that he stoned a 70-year-old man to death for making homosexual advances toward him, authorities say. [...]

Thomas reportedly told authorities that he read in the Old Testament that homosexuals should be stoned to death. When Seidman allegedly made homosexual advances toward him over a period of time, Thomas said he received a message in his prayers that he must end Seidman’s life, according to court documents.

Police say that Thomas struck Seidman in the head about 10 times with the sock of rocks. Thomas left Seidman dead in his apartment, and then threw his bloody clothing and the bloody sock in a dumpster, according to authorities.

…which leads me to ask, when, oh when, will Congress hold hearings on the radicalization of American Christians?

And when will our lawmakers take action against the gathering threat of honor killings via stoning (nip it in the bud, so to speak) by passing legislation forbidding the establishment of Mosaic law in Washington state?

(And rename Moses Lake to something less terroristic sounding, while they are at it?)

by Lee, 03/27/2011, 12:00 PM

Last week’s contest was won by wes.in.wa. It was the ferry landing in the Lummi Reservation.

This week’s contest is related to something in news from March. Good luck!

by Lee, 03/27/2011, 11:09 AM

- Glenn Greenwald on the Koch Brothers victimhood complex

- Juan Cole on Libya

- Bob Herbert’s final NYT column

by Goldy, 03/27/2011, 9:16 AM

Matthew 5:34-37
But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God’s throne: Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King. Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black. But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.

Fucking discuss.

by Carl, 03/26/2011, 9:27 PM

There’s a proposal before the Redistricting Commission to draw a map that would make one of the Congressional districts 50.1% non white. Basically South Seattle and the suburbs would form a district. A few quick thoughts:

  • I’m not thrilled about splitting Seattle into multiple districts. Presumably this would weaken McDermott but I don’t know how much. I don’t know where in the district he lives, but presumably he could win a West Seattle – Vashon to North King County district. It would (obviously) make the 7th district whiter.
  • 50.1% and the fact that minorities don’t vote as frequently as white people probably means that the district’s voters will still be majority white. Still things like service academy opportunities and constituent services might be different in a majority nonwhite district.
  • Majority minority and majority any one race are two very different things. The district would still be whiter than any other race.
  • Race is obviously not the only factor in how people vote.
  • Other than splitting Seattle, the proposed map doesn’t set off any alarms by being oddly shaped or on both sides of a geographic boundary. In fact, it’s not as screwy as some of the districts we have now. (Special note to The Seattle Times: When I click on your button that says “enlarge” a smaller map probably shouldn’t pop up)
by Lee, 03/26/2011, 2:19 PM

- The medical marijuana bill in the legislature was modified in the House to fix some problematic amendments added in the Senate, and has moved to the House floor. And with the legalization bill going nowhere, signature gathering for I-1149 is underway.

- Bud Withers discusses the controversy surrounding the high profile arrests of Washington State basketball players this season, and notes that there are legitimate questions to be asked of the Pullman police. This is especially true now that it appears that the most recent arrest occurred following what appears to have been an illegal search.

- Pete Guither takes on well-known fraudster Andrea Barthwell and her attempts to dismiss the reality of marijuana as medicine. He also writes about Florida Governor Rick Scott’s attempt to violate the rights of state workers.

- Scott Morgan looks at the staggering amount of money New York City spends on marijuana enforcement.

UPDATE: One more link: All fifteen State House Reps and Senators from Seattle support a legalized market for adult marijuana use.

UPDATE 2: The rural Texas judge who’s presiding over Willie Nelson’s marijuana possession case wants him to sing a song in the courtroom as part of a plea deal.

by Darryl, 03/25/2011, 11:58 PM

The Republican War on Workers:

Liberal Viewer: Glenn Beck’s “China Syndrome” nonsense.

Maddow: Republicans are making it easier for terrorist to get nuclear weapons?!?.

Jon: When reporters attack (via Slog).

Thom with The Good, The Bad, and the Very, Very Ugly.

Spitzer does Bill Maher.

ONN: Patriotic teen fails Spanish.

Running for President:

Republican AZ lawmaker defends racist teacher’s letter.

Newsy: One in six Americans are Hispanic.

Thom with The Good, the Bad, and the Very Very Ugly.

Cenk: Mike Pompeo—The Congressman from Koch.

Thom: Is the US Chamber spying on activists?

Bombs Away:

Young Turks: SD abortion bill becomes law.

O’Donnell: GE paid $0 in taxes!.

Pres. Obama on U.S. and Latin America.

Cenk: Glenn Beck concludes MSNBC is the anti-God network.

Newsy: “Anchor baby” is deported.

Young Turks: Is James O’Keefe broke?

Pap: Right wing militias gaining power in America.

O’Donnell: The NY Indian Point nuclear power plant.

Dan Savage gives college girls orgasms?!?

Health Care Reform at One Year:

Ed: Who will stand up for long term unemployed? (Via Crooks and Liars.)

ONN: CIA’s ‘Facebook’ program dramatically cut agency’s costs.

O’Donnell: Most American Catholics back gay rights in survey.

What do you think of Seattle police officers?

Young Turks: Obama executive order on Miranda rights.

Thom Hartmann with another episode of The Good, the Bad, & the Very Very Ugly.

Last week’s Friday Night Multimedia Extravaganza can be found here.

by Darryl, 03/25/2011, 3:39 PM

A few events for your weekend:

  • Tomorrow (Saturday) at 10:00 AM, Rep. Jim McDermott will host a “Coffee with your Congressman” event in West Seattle (more info) at C & P Coffee; 5612 California Avenue Southwest. “Please RSVP if you can to 206-553-7170.”
  • Also tomorrow is a community festival and fundraiser for Seattle’s Alternative School 1—Pinehurst:

    seattle_gig

    I’ll be at the festival playing bass with the Flying Blind Blues Band (we’ll be on stage about 5:00 pm).

  • Another school fundraiser…the Lakeside school spring rummage sale on Saturday (9:00 am to 4:00 pm) and Sunday (9:00 am to noon).
    • Enjoy your weekend!

by Lee, 03/24/2011, 10:45 PM

E.D. Kain is one of my favorite bloggers and someone who I respect for his ability to get beyond simple partisan talking points, but I think he’s in denial about this:

As far as I’m concerned there are no good arguments for intervention in Libya. Reports that we’ve saved 100,000 lives there strike me as no better than propaganda.

As soon as Libyans began gearing up for their February 17th protests (which were supposed to mimic the successful Egyptian protest movement), I began to follow the situation closely. It’s a country (and a regime) that I’ve been fascinated by since I became friends with a Libyan who was given asylum in the U.S. in the early 90s. To this day, I’ve never been able to get the whole story out of him on why he had to flee the country.

For a while, it did appear as if Libya would follow the script of both Egypt and Tunisia. Protesters took to the streets across the country and in many cities were able to raise the tri-colored flag of pre-Gaddafi Libya. At one point, only Tripoli, Sirte, and a few other tiny pockets of the country remained loyal to Gaddafi.

As in Egypt – and in Cairo in particular – this required that people “lose the fear”. In Benghazi, this happened, and while some troops stayed loyal to Gaddafi, many didn’t (they were found bound and burned alive). Fighter pilots that were sent to bomb the city flew to Malta and demanded asylum. Many other Libyan diplomats defected and joined the ranks of the protesters. Benghazi was able to overrun the few Gaddafi supporters left and raise the rebel flag. But in the capital, none of this happened.

When protests started to break out in Tripoli, Gaddafi had enough fighters (along with paid mercenaries from other countries) who began terrorizing the populace. They fired from tanks and aircraft into crowds of peaceful unarmed protesters. At this point, the internet was still available and people in Libya were posting pictures and videos of the truly gruesome carnage. And my friend (who was still in communication with his large family back in Tripoli) was still optimistic when I talked to him, but Gaddafi’s assaults on the populace brought the fear back in Tripoli and allowed for him to project to the world that he still had support in the capital.

It’s hard to really get into the mind of someone like Gaddafi, but it’s not hard to see that from his speeches that it matters to him deeply that he’s loved by his people. And here he was faced with his entire nation standing up and telling him to fuck off. It was very similar to Mubarak, but Gaddafi isn’t Mubarak. And the Libyan Army isn’t an institution capable of rejecting a diseased head of state bent on massacring his populace in order to project an image to the world that he’s beloved.

At this point, there was still hope that the protesters could arm themselves and take on Gaddafi’s loyalists and paid fighters, but that hope was dashed in a flurry of intense military retribution on the general public. Tens of thousands started to flee to the Tunisian border. Gaddafi then started consolidating his military assets to reclaim cities that had raised the rebel flag. He repeatedly attacked Zawia, just west of Tripoli, by shelling residential areas. After several days of fighting, Gaddafi achieved his objective, to be able to set a scene where western reporters could broadcast to the world a scene of pro-Gaddafi supporters waving green flags and holding up his picture. It’s nearly impossible to know how many people died in order to set up this photo op. As was the case throughout the battles in Libya, dead bodies were picked up from the streets and taken away by the military. Hospitals were attacked and ambulances were often hijacked.

In the east, Gaddafi forces were able to continue along the main highway between Tripoli and Benghazi. Having the ability to fire from the air made it impossible for the now-armed but largely untrained opposition to stop them, especially in sparsely populated areas where it’s tough to hide. There was nothing stopping the advance on Benghazi, the second largest city in the country – and the heart of the newly formed revolution government. It would’ve been enormously wishful thinking to say that we weren’t staring down the possibility of a massacre that could’ve taken 100,000 lives. The Obama Administration had the military means to prevent a significant loss of life. And if Obama had not acted to wipe out Gaddafi’s troops and they did in Benghazi what they did in Zawia, you can be sure as hell that everyone would lay the blame for that massacre at Obama’s feet.

I recognize that there are a number of good counter-points to our intervention in Libya, and I’m still worried as hell that this situation will continue to deteriorate, but any argument that tries to dismiss the idea that a huge massacre was about to occur in Benghazi is not dialed in to what was going on there. And ultimately why I fall into the camp of the interventionists here is along the same lines of why these uprisings have managed to be so successful to this point. The citizens of the world are far more aware of what happens outside of their communities than ever before. And while this phenomenon can lead to greater understanding of one’s own state of being oppressed (as we’re seeing throughout the Middle East), it can also lead to greater expectations for those world powers who have the means to intervene on behalf of those being most oppressed. Of course, it would be considerably better if the Obama Administration were a little more consistent on when we intervene (see: Ivory Coast). But I still believe standing alongside the Libyan people here was still the right move, even if the outcome isn’t as triumphant as we’d all hope for.

by Lee, 03/24/2011, 7:24 PM

This may be a few days old, but I just saw it today. Guy Lawson’s story in Rolling Stone about the two marijuana enthusiasts who managed to win a $300 million DoD contract – then got busted for trying to re-package illegal Chinese ammo in Albania – is well worth the read.