The Baroque Embalmer

I can’t believe that only after hearing the name “Barack Obama” daily for six years did it finally pop into my head this morning that it sounds vaguely similar to “Baroque Embalmer.”  My talent for pointless wordplay must have deserted me in my old age.  The only consolation is that others have also overlooked it.  So a Google search for “Baroque Embalmer” this morning brought up only three hits, only one of which appears to be a reference to Mr O.  The others are just random word strings.

Barack Obama Looking at Awesome Things

Via Zompist, a slide show revealing how Mr O spends his time.

Can the USA become a normal country again?


He wanted to to return to normalcy

I posted a “Periodicals Note” about The American Conservative‘s March issue a few weeks ago, then realized I’d never put one up for the February issue.  That’s a shame, because there was a lot of great stuff in it. 

I loved this line, a quote from Julian Sanchez of the libertarian Cato Institute: “Thus far, the approved conservative position appears to have been that Barack Obama is some kind of ruthless Stalinist with a secret plan to turn the United States into a massive gulag—but under no circumstances should there be any additional checks on his administration’s domestic spying powers.”

Ted Galen Carpenter sums up The American Conservative‘s whole worldview with the opening paragraphs of his piece titled “New War Order.”   So I’ll quote them in extenso:

For a fleeting moment 20 years ago, the United States had the chance to become a normal nation again. From World War II through the collapse of European communism in 1989, America had been in a state of perpetual war, hot or cold. But with the fall of the Berlin Wall, all of that could have changed. There were no more monsters to destroy, no Nazi war machine or global communist conspiracy. For the first time in half a century, the industrialized world was at peace.

Then in December 1989, America went to war again—this time not against Hitler or Moscow’s proxies but with Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega. Tensions between George H.W. Bush’s administration and Noriega’s government had been mounting for some time and climaxed when a scuffle with Panamanian troops left an American military officer dead. On Dec. 20, U.S. forces moved to oust and arrest Noriega. Operation Just Cause, as the invasion was called, came less than a month after the Berlin Wall fell, and it set America on a renewed path of intervention. The prospect of reducing American military involvement in other nations’ affairs slipped away, thanks to the precedent set in Panama.

How real was the opportunity to change American foreign policy at that point? Real enough to worry the political class. Wyoming Sen. Malcolm Wallop lamented in 1989 that there was growing pressure to cut the military budget and that Congress was being overwhelmed by a “1935-style isolationism.” But the invasion of Panama signaled that Washington was not going to pursue even a slightly more restrained foreign policy.

That the U.S. would topple the government of a neighbor to the south was hardly unprecedented, of course. The United States had invaded small Caribbean and Central American countries on numerous occasions throughout the 20th century. Indeed, before the onset of Franklin Roosevelt’s Good Neighbor Policy in the 1930s, Washington routinely overthrew regimes it disliked.

During the Cold War, however, such operations always had a connection to the struggle to keep Soviet influence out of the Western Hemisphere. The CIA-orchestrated coup in Guatemala in 1954 and the military occupations of the Dominican Republic in 1965 and Grenada in 1983 all matched that description. Whatever other motives may have been involved, the Cold War provided the indispensable justification for intervention. And for all the rhetoric about democracy and human rights that U.S. presidents employed during the struggle against communism, there was no indication that Washington would later revert to the practice of coercing Latin American countries merely, in Woodrow Wilson’s infamous words, to teach those societies “to elect good men.” Thus the invasion of Panama seemed a noticeable departure. Odious though he may have been, Noriega was never a Soviet stooge.



Keith Knight’s latest K Chronicles cartoon:

Some recent comments by Barack Obama, and a little joke about them:

In an interview with NBC News, Obama said those offended by the legal privileges given to Mohammed by virtue of getting a civilian trial rather than a military tribunal won’t find it “offensive at all when he’s convicted and when the death penalty is applied to him.”

Obama quickly added that he did not mean to suggest he was prejudging the outcome of Mohammed’s trial. “I’m not going to be in that courtroom,” he said. “That’s the job of the prosecutors, the judge and the jury.”

 The president then elaborated: “I’m not going to be on the jury that will report its guilty verdict at 3pm on September 11, 2010, nor will I be the one who administers the lethal injection that will kill Khalid Sheikh Mohammed a week before Election Day 2012.  I used to teach constitutional law, so I can tell you that it would be a violation of due process for me to do those things.”   

In fact, I do believe that they can find an impartial jury in New York City.  I would go so far as to say that Manhattan is probably the one place in the USA where it would be easiest to empanel twelve jurors who can judge the case against Khalid Sheikh Mohammed on its merits.  That’s not only because the island is a bastion of liberalism, but also because the further you go from Ground Zero the more Americans you find who feel they have to prove that 9/11 was an event in their own lives and not just something they saw on TV.  If as Knight sarcastically suggests they did set up a temporary courtroom on the former site of the World Trade Center, the attacks would have a definite reality for the jurors- they would be real events, with specific causes, specific consequences, specific forms that could be examined empirically.  Go a thousand miles away, and the attacks become a symbol with an infinite variety of overpowering emotional associations.  That’s part of the reason why the Bush-Cheney administration had an easier time using the attacks to sell its agenda to voters far outside of New York than to those in the city in those first years of the “War on Terror.”

They cry peace, peace, when there is no peace

nation 2 november 2009Of several pieces on the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Barack Obama, the best is by Alexander Cockburn, who recounts the genuinely gruesome records of other recipients of that prize.  Of the three US presidents who preceded the incumbent as winners of that revered accolade, Cockburn declares the least wicked to have been Jimmy Carter.  That is the same Jimmy Carter who “amped up the new cold war, got Argentinian torturers to train the Contras and above all dragged the United States into Afghanistan.”  In closing, Cockburn lists some recipients of the International Stalin Prize for Strengthening Peace Among Peoples.  It’s rather hilarious sobering  to look at the murderer’s row of Nobel Peace Prize winners and then consider that figures as substantial as Paul Robeson, Bertolt Brecht, and Pablo Neruda won something as disreputable-sounding as the International Stalin Prize for Strengthening Peace Among Peoples. 

Two pieces tell of changing attitudes towards Israel/ Palestine among American Jews.  Adam Horowitz and Philip Weiss (of the Mondoweiss blog) report on the refusal of established American Jewish organizations to follow the people they are supposed to represent and start looking for peaceful solutions to the conflict.  Another article reports on Tom Dine, a former top lobbyist for the hardline American-Israel Political Action Committee who is now working to promote a two-state solution and calling for a warming of relations between the US and Syria.  The online edition of The Nation also carries a noteworthy piece this week about Palestinian children in Israeli prisons.

The Idea of Obama

astral obamasClick on the image to view the comic full-size at

US bombs Moon; US president wins Nobel Peace Prize

lcross_right_lg_aPeople interested in space-based warfare often talk about the “kinetic missile.”  If developed, this would be a type of bunker-buster, that is, a weapon designed to destroy underground facilities.  The concept is simple.  Put a metal rod, mounted with rockets and controlled from the ground, into earth orbit.  When you choose, you can aim the rocket at a target on the ground and drive into that target at orbital velocity.  This has the same effect as a meteor strike.  The destructive potential of the kinetic missile is so great that the common nickname for them is “the Rod from God.” 

Today NASA drove a rocket into a target on the Moon.  The stated purpose of this operation was to find water under the surface of the Moon.  It also showed the world that the USA is ready to deploy kinetic missiles at any time.   

Who would be frightened by this demonstration?  Some feverish minds have speculated that the US may be planning a kinetic missile strike on Iranian nuclear facilities in the near term.  Official US sources have fed this speculation by acknowledging that the Defense Department is trying to develop a new generation of bunker-busters specifically to have available against facilities like that at Qom

Whether the Iranians are frightened, we don’t yet know.  The Norwegian Nobel Committee certainly seems to be; they responded to the test by immediately awarding Barack Obama the Nobel Peace Prize.   The Committee’s official announcement gives the reason for Mr O’s selection as “that international policy and those attitudes for which Obama is now the world’s leading spokesman.”  I suppose that sounded better than, “We didn’t want to be the next ones he bombed.”

An unlikely speculation about Mr O

florida avenue meetinghouseThe BBC’s outgoing North America editor, Justin Webb, writes:

The other fascinating development in recent days has been the end – or not – of the Obamas’ search for a church.

I have suggested it before but let me lay it on the line here in black and white: THE MAN IS A QUAKER. He may not yet know it but that is where his search should end. There is a lovely Meeting House somewhere around Dupont Circle as well so he could get there easily.

I think the meetinghouse Webb is referring to is the one on Florida Avenue, which was originally built so that Herbert Hoover, the first Quaker to occupy the US presidency, would have a grand place to worship. 

Elsewhere, Webb identifies himself as “the product of a Quaker school so am incapable of lying.”  So I suppose he must be in earnest, though I can’t seem to find why he thinks that Mr O is a Quaker.  Perhaps it has something to do with his ethnic background.  The country with the largest number of the world’s Quakers is Kenya, B. H. Obama, Senior’s homeland; though virtually all of them are members of the Luhya tribe of western Kenya, not the Luo tribe from which the elder Mr O sprang.  Despite the similarity in the names “Luo” and “Luhya,” the two peoples are quite unrelated.  So I doubt that would be it.

Here’s something funny from President Obama.  Enjoy Independence Day.  I truly love my country.

Obama the Exterminator; or, Obama Commits Funny