July 31, 2005

Would It Matter If Bolton Lied?

In all likelihood, John Bolton will receive a Bush recess appointment to the United Nations Ambassadorship, in spite of all the evidence showing that he is simply not worthy of the position. The answer to this letter will be interesting, if it gets answered at all.

July 28, 2005

The Honorable Condoleezza Rice
Secretary of State
Washington, DC 20520

Dear Madam Secretary:

It has just come to my attention that then-Undersecretary of State John Bolton was interviewed on July 18, 2003 by the State Department Office of the Inspector General in connection with a joint State Department/CIA IG investigation related to the alleged Iraqi attempts to procure uranium from Niger. This information would appear to be inconsistent with information that Mr. Bolton provided to the Committee on Foreign Relations during the Committee’s consideration of his pending nomination to be Permanent Representative to the United Nations.

The Committee on Foreign Relations expects all nominees to provide to it accurate and timely information. Indeed, in submitting the Committee’s questionnaire, all nominees are required to swear out an affidavit stating that the information provided is “true and accurate.” It now appears that Mr. Bolton’s answers may not meet that standard.

I write, therefore, to request that you review this matter to determine whether incomplete or inaccurate information was provided by Mr. Bolton.

Thank you for your assistance.

Sincerely,Joseph R. Biden, Jr.
Ranking Minority Member
Committee on Foreign Relations

A World of Theft

While Sen. Frist and his cronies in the Senate were busy protecting the gun manufacturers from liability lawsuits, over in the House, Tom Delay and company were busy protecting pharmaceutical companies and doctors from liability in malpractice cases. The bill they passed puts caps on awards, and limits the amount of money someone can receive who has been hurt, maimed, incapacitated, made into a vegetable, or otherwise abused by an incompetent doctor or by the side effects of a drug.

Corporations must be protected at all costs. Not only must they be protected, we must lower their taxes, and give them as many tax incentives and government welfare programs as possible. If you can't curry favor with corporations, how do you expect to run a campaign and get re-elected?

We must also protect the credit, financial and banking industry from personal bankruptices. We wouldn't want the tragedies of families who lose jobs, have catastrophic illnesses, or small business failures get in the way of corporate profits.

In the name of profits and money, we provide worldwide subsidies for corporate global agribusinesses.

We have actually given taxpayer money to corporations like McDonald's, Gallo Wines, M&M/Mars, and Campbell Soups to advertise their own products.

Bush's plan to privatize Social Security is simply another give-away to the corporate world, in this case, the securities and investment industry.

"Fair and balanced", "level-playing field", "compassionate conservatism" -- code words in the right-wing lexicon that are all Orwellian lies. There is nothing fair, or balanced, or level, or compassionate about the rape of the American taxpayer. There is no genius in the strategy devised by Karl Rove to elect a President who goes about the business of stealing from his fellow citizens.

The Bush gang has made a shameless grab for power and control and will not give it up easily. There is no room in their world for democracy, debate, compromise, pluralism, criticism, or losing. When political historians and other political analysts talk about a pendulum that swings back and forth between the left and right in American history and that it surely will happen again, the Bush gang doesn't believe it. They believe in a permanent revolution that maintains them and their interests in power for as long as they can imagine.

They believe that if they own the electoral process, the Supreme Court, the money, the military, the moral high ground, patriotism, and the media, they will persevere against any liberal or progressive backlash.

July 30, 2005

Are We Seasick Yet?

The Weekly Standard, in the face of truth and reality, is doing its level best to keep alive the lie that Saddam Hussein and Osama bin-Laden were in bed together.

Using the thinnest of tissues for support, The Weekly Standard constructs a complex of weak and, in most cases, unsubstantiated connections between various Iraqis and certain Al-Queda officials, in meetings which the 9/11 Commission has already confirmed actually took place. But what the Standard doesn't do is provide any proof whatsoever that anything came from any of these meetings that would demonstrate clear support of Al-Queda by Saddam.

While on a visit to the Weekly Standard website I saw this ad for a cruise that none of us, surely, would want to miss. Breakfast, lunch and dinner with Irving Kristol and Fred Barnes. Yummy. Someone pass me the dramamine, please.

July 29, 2005

Another Smorgasbord of Sleaze

Occasionally, it's fun to list, in what I call a "smorgasbord of sleaze", a few of the latest outrages from the whacky world of the right wing corporatist power structure. Here are some of the latest bitter dishes Americans are being served.

Bitter Dish #1

Just as the energy bill in Congress is being debated, the Environmental Protection Agency is withholding an embarrassing report that shows how automakers are using loopholes in gas mileage requirements to manufacture automobiles that actually get less miles per gallon than cars did in the late 1980s. Imagine that, despite common sense, despite scientific mandates, and despite all the laws and regulations to the contrary, fuel efficiency has gotten worse.

Bitter Dish #2

CAFTA, known on these pages as the Central American Fleecing The Americas act, was voted down 180-175. Time expired and Bush lost. Was it over? No. Bush lackies in the House leadership, in direct contravention of House rules, extended time on the vote so that arms could be twisted and eventually they got what they wanted in a 217-215 vote. Their cheating is shameless, and they are doing it more often.

Bitter Dish #3

A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine claims that echinacea, the purple coneflower that millions of people use worldwide to ward off viruses and as a remedy for the common cold, has no effect. What the study does not tell you is that the lead researcher has been a paid consultant for manufacturers of antibiotics. Millions of prescriptions for antibiotics are given patients every year unnecessarily for viruses and colds, against which they DO NOT WORK. Echinacea has no patents held by pharmaceutical companies. Echinacea is not profitable for big PHARMA.

Bitter Dish # 4

Despite promises to the contrary in 2004, Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kansas), and a prime example of what really is wrong with Kansas, has been refusing to hold the hearings on the Bush administration's misuse of pre-war intelligence. Sen. John D. Rockefeller (D-WV) has explained the reason he believes the hearings haven't happened: ''I always think there's a reluctance to do anything which might embarrass the administration. I think that's been true since the beginning of all of this." Golly, ya think?

Bitter Dish #5

Thanks again to Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), we now know about Tom Delay's $1.5 billion (yes, billion) giveaway to Halliburton, the oil industry, and Sugar Land, Texas in the latest energy bill which is being considered now in Congress. Delay is like a drunken sailor with American taxpayer money when it comes to his corporate pals.

July 28, 2005

War Profits Are Patriotic

In the midst of Rovegate, the London bombings, and the Roberts nomination, it's easy to have your eyes taken off what is happening in Iraq. But as a stark reminder of the reality we face there, we now have word from Halliburton that its KBR (Kellogg, Brown and Root) division has had record profits as a result of its war profiteering.

It doesn't bother them that they also receive "award fees" from the government for doing their jobs well, as if that is not supposed to be what they are supposed to do in the first place - as if the American people don't expect the highest level of work from them in a time of war as they support our men and women who are in harm's way. The award fees have amounted to $70 million. Halliburton is actually tickled pink to take that extra American taxpayer money, as a kind of tip.

Only a few weeks ago, on June 27, 2005, Rep. Henry Waxman held hearings about Halliburton and its overcharges, ripoffs, and unsupported charges. These hearings received scant coverage, and business in Iraq goes on as usual.

(Hat tip to PJB)

July 27, 2005

Islam is The Religion of the State

"Islam is the official religion of state, and is the fundamental source of legislation. It is impermissible to pass legislation that contradicts its essential verities or its laws (its essential verities about which there is consensus). This constitution safeguards the Islamic identity of the majority of the Iraqi people (in its Shiite majority and its Sunnis) and respects all the rights of the other religions."

The paragraph above is the second paragraph of the new draft constitution of Iraq.

This will make Iraq no different than any Arab country, all of which have enshrined in their constitutions the exact same phrase "Islam is the official state religion." And we all know what a boon this has been for most Arab countries in helping them to develop democratic societies.

With this declaration, comes all the anti-democratic consequences inherent in such a declaration. With it, comes religious police. With it, comes thought crimes. And with it, comes a markedly reduced level of freedom for women, in every aspect of their social, economic, educational, and political lives. Sharia law, and how the religious/governmental powers interpret it, will govern the lives of Iraqis, especially Iraqi women. And any sense of Western democratic practice, civil law, and social justice will be defined according to the way certain men decode and construe Sharia. The draft constitution specifically gives the Shiite religious leadership in Najaf a "guiding role" in recognition of its "high national and religious symbolism." That would be like George Bush giving a "guiding role" to Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, and James Dobson. Hmmm, now I get it.

Despite the fact that most of the Kurdish people are Sunni Moslems, many of them support the idea of greater secular power for men and women both, especially in the way they govern. The Kurds are determined not to return to any circumstances where they are dominated by an Iraqi government of any kind. Their demand for autonomy, even independence, is extremely strong. Regardless of any assurances granted the Kurds in other parts of any final constitution, an Iraqi government will be compelled to decide issues within Islamic Sharia law in a context that differs from more secular and independent Kurdish interests. The potential for Kurdish reaction to Iraqi government decisions based on Sharia is high.

Under the current Transitional Administrative Law (TAL), it is required that women fill 25% of the seats in the current National Assembly (they actually have 31% of the seats). The draft constitution removes that requirement, dealing a death blow to future women's involvment in the Iraqi legislative body. To say the least, Sharia law does not look kindly on women's involvement in politics.

Once the final version of this constitution is completed by the August 15 deadline, there will be a campaign leading to a vote throughout Iraq on October 15. A two-thirds vote in at least 15 of the 18 provinces of Iraq will be required to ratify the constitution.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack has made it clear how the US government sees the Iraqi constitution:

"But let me underline -- and this is, you know, our understanding, as shared by the Embassy in Baghdad as well as back here in Washington, is that first and foremost, this is -- beginning and end -- this is an Iraqi process. The Iraqis will decide the wording of their constitution. They will decide the fundamental principles that are enshrined in that constitution concerning the role of religion in their society, the rights for women, the issues of -- so-called issues of "federalism." These are issues for the Iraqis to decide. "

This fits perfectly with what Lauren Sandler was told two years ago when she asked two high-ranking military officials about women's rights in Iraq and they replied "We don't do women."

Fog on the Brain

Sen. Rick Santorum has introduced legislation to privatize the National Weather Service so that anyone who wants to know what the weather is has to pay for it. He wants to put the entire thing into private corporate hands. The National Weather Service Employees Organization is rallying against Santorum. Among other things, they think it's a pretty whacky idea. Just imagine family farmers all across the country, who live on the edge and who depend on knowing what the weather is, having to pay some corporation for weather reports and forecasts. Just imagine an underground of illicit meteorologists providing a network of farmers with weather reports and forecasts. Just imagine them going to jail.

Just so you have some even clearer idea where Santorum is coming from and how he thinks about things, here is a small part of a piece written by Mark Leibovich in the Washington Post on April 18, 2005.

In his Senate office, on a shelf next to an autographed baseball, Sen. Rick Santorum keeps a framed photo of his son Gabriel Michael, the fourth of his seven children. Named for two archangels, Gabriel Michael was born prematurely, at 20 weeks, on Oct. 11, 1996, and lived two hours outside the womb.
Upon their son's death, Rick and Karen Santorum opted not to bring his body to a funeral home. Instead, they bundled him in a blanket and drove him to Karen's parents' home in Pittsburgh. There, they spent several hours kissing and cuddling Gabriel with his three siblings, ages 6, 4 and 1 1/2. They took photos, sang lullabies in his ear and held a private Mass.

OK, it's easy to understand how people are emotionally traumatized by the loss of a child (I had it happen twice in my family). But what kind of warped thinking is it that compels parents to force their very young children to cuddle and kiss a corpse for hours and sing to it?

July 26, 2005

Guerillas in the Mist

It's getting worse in Iraq, not better. In complete defiance of every word spoken by Cheney, Rumsfeld and Bush, the three loopy wizards of the Iraq war, the insurgency is strengthening, not weakening. There is every sign that the "guerillas", the "terrorists", the "insurgents", are growing in strength, and bringing Iraq closer to a civil war between Sunni and Shiite. And god only knows what the Kurds will do as this mess gets worse. Not to mention Iran and Turkey and Syria.

Cheney's words of May 31, namely that the insurgency was in its "last throes" turn out not just to be wrong, but irresponsible as well. His words echo as a big joke on the American people, and worse, on the Iraqi people. We all wish that the killing would end, that the Iraqi people could, indeed, have peace, democracy, and freedom. But what we don't need is some injudicious pablum fed to us by an incompetent blowhard of a Vice President. What we don't need is a stand-up comic of a Secretary of Defense who seems to relish in making the press laugh. And what we don't need is a blinking, goofy-faced, meandering, thoughtless President who can't string together a coherent sentence to communicate the truth to this country.

At the very least, these three chickenhawk boys owe it to the men and women who are dying in Iraq to tell them the truth.

By the way, I did not know that not one Arab country has named an Ambassador to Iraq yet. What does that tell you?

They Know Not What They Do

Watch this video

It's only about 7 minutes long, but it is one of the most significant insights into the minds of anti-abortion activists I have ever seen. It takes only one question to reveal the shallow emotionality of their position; one question that demonstrates how little they know about the history of abortion in this country. And one question that demonstrates how little they have thought about the consequences of their actions.

The question?

When abortion becomes illegal, what punishment should there be for a woman who has an illegal abortion?

These people have not thought about it. And then when they do, their answers are hesitant, compassionate, and strangely unsure, in stark contrast to their righteous condemnation of Roe v Wade, their self-satisfied antipathy toward physicians who perform abortions, their assured blocking of women's clinics that offer information about abortion, and their untroubled confidence when they condemn pro-choice politicians.

One young woman even struggles with the "possibility" that women might still obtain abortions if they were made illegal, not really certain if that could happen.

I have heard one suggestion that we stop referring to these people as anti-abortion or anti-choice, but rather as pro-criminalization. Let's educate them. Let's help them to think about the consequences of their actions.

Running From The Truth

Deny, Deny, Deny.

The White House has denied Senate requests for memoranda written by Judge John Roberts, Bush's nominee for the Supreme Court, while he was working in the Solicitor General's office. The White House claims attorney/client privilege. The problem is that when Roberts worked for the Solicitor General, he was not working for the President, nor for White House counsel. He was working as an attorney for the American people.

It is clear that the White House does not want the American people, nor the Democrats in the Senate, to know what Roberts wrote.

More Denials

The White House also claimed that Judge Roberts was never a member of the Federalist Society. Now we have a copy of the Federalist Society Leadership Directory that says he was a member. Roberts is not talking. It's a simple thing when you think about it. Why would the White House and Roberts lie about such a simple thing, something that no one would be surprised about, namely that he is a conservative and belonged to conservative organizations? perhaps there is more than meets the eye. We'll see.

And Yet More Denials

The Department of Defense, despite orders from a Federal judge, has decided to refuse to turn over photos of torture and murder at Abu Ghraib. The utterly outrageous excuse they are using is that to do so would violate the Geneva Conventions. As Rachel Maddow argued yesterday morning on Air America, here these guys never once admitted that anything done by the US at Abu Ghraib (or for that matter, Guantanamo or elsewhere) violated the Geneva Conventions, and now they use it as an excuse to prevent the world from seeing exactly how the Geneva Conventions were, in fact, violated.

The Denial of Denials

The White House denials (now no-comment silence) that Karl Rove committed a crime against our national security laws pales in comparison to the lies told the American people by Bush about the reasons we have sent thousands of Americans to their deaths and mutilations in Iraq. The unholy mess that George Bush has created for this country and our people is criminal and impeachable.

In a world of denials, lies, shell games, and hoodwinks, we saw the resignation of one Republican President 30 years ago. I can only hope that history repeats itself.

July 25, 2005

CAFTA (Central America Free To Abuse) Treaty

CAFTA is basically "corporate socialism," writes Jeff Milchen.

It's also basically one big Orwellian lie. When George Bush says to American companies, "It's going to be easier to sell your products to 44 million new customers" he actually means "It's going to be easier to make your products when they are made by 44 million new slave laborers." Corporations understand these code words and phrases, better than most reporters. Reporters just report. If George Bush said "Cigarettes, lead paint, and asbestos should be our major exports to Central America", reporters would just report it. Hey, that's what the President said, isn't it? What are we supposed to do, change his words?

Most corporations know that after CAFTA is enacted, Central Americans, who earn a little more than $2000 a year, are not going on shopping sprees for wonderful American crap that they can put into their 3-bedroom, two-car garage homes. Most American corporations know that Central Americans understand that they may have a chance to be employed by American corporations that have outsourced US jobs to them. They understand that they might be able to earn $3000 a year, and maybe afford to buy an extra pair of shoes for their children.

Jeff Milchen is from ReclaimDemocracy.org.

Flying Spaghetti Monster

An open letter to the Kansas School Board written by Bobby Henderson.

I am writing you with much concern after having read of your hearing to decide whether the alternative theory of Intelligent Design should be taught along with the theory of Evolution.

I think we can all agree that it is important for students to hear multiple viewpoints so they can choose for themselves the theory that makes the most sense to them. I am concerned, however, that students will only hear one theory of Intelligent Design.

Let us remember that there are multiple theories of Intelligent Design. I and many others around the world are of the strong belief that the universe was created by a Flying Spaghetti Monster. It was He who created all that we see and all that we feel. We feel strongly that the overwhelming scientific evidence pointing towards evolutionary processes is nothing but a coincidence, put in place by Him.

It is for this reason that I’m writing you today, to formally request that this alternative theory be taught in your schools, along with the other two theories. In fact, I will go so far as to say, if you do not agree to do this, we will be forced to proceed with legal action. I’m sure you see where we are coming from. If the Intelligent Design theory is not based on faith, but instead another scientific theory, as is claimed, then you must also allow our theory to be taught, as it is also based on science, not on faith.Some find that hard to believe, so it may be helpful to tell you a little more about our beliefs.

We have evidence that a Flying Spaghetti Monster created the universe. None of us, of course, were around to see it, but we have written accounts of it. We have several lengthy volumes explaining all details of His power. Also, you may be surprised to hear that there are over 10 million of us, and growing. We tend to be very secretive, as many people claim our beliefs are not substantiated by observable evidence. What these people don’t understand is that He built the world to make us think the earth is older than it really is. For example, a scientist may perform a carbon-dating process on an artifact. He finds that approximately 75% of the Carbon-14 has decayed by electron emission to Nitrogen-14, and infers that this artifact is approximately 10,000 years old, as the half-life of Carbon-14 appears to be 5,730 years. But what our scientist does not realize is that every time he makes a measurement, the Flying Spaghetti Monster is there changing the results with His Noodly Appendage. We have numerous texts that describe in detail how this can be possible and the reasons why He does this. He is, of course, invisible and can pass through normal matter with ease.

I’m sure you now realize how important it is that your students are taught this alternate theory. It is absolutely imperative that they realize that observable evidence is at the discretion of a Flying Spaghetti Monster. Furthermore, it is disrespectful to teach our beliefs without wearing His chosen outfit, which of course is full pirate regalia. I cannot stress the importance of this, and unfortunately cannot describe in detail why this must be done as I fear this letter is already becoming too long. The concise explanation is that He becomes angry if we don’t. You may be interested to know that global warming, earthquakes, hurricanes, and other natural disasters are a direct effect of the shrinking numbers of Pirates since the 1800s. For your interest, I have included a graph of the approximate number of pirates versus the average global temperature over the last 200 years. As you can see, there is a statistically significant inverse relationship between pirates and global temperature.

In conclusion, thank you for taking the time to hear our views and beliefs. I hope I was able to convey the importance of teaching this theory to your students. We will of course be able to train the teachers in this alternate theory. I am eagerly awaiting your response, and hope dearly that no legal action will need to be taken. I think we can all look forward to the time when these three theories are given equal time in our science classrooms across the country, and eventually the world; One third time for Intelligent Design, one third time for Flying Spaghetti Monsterism, and one third time for logical conjecture based on overwhelming observable evidence.

Sincerely Yours,

Bobby Henderson, concerned citizen.

P.S. I have included an artistic drawing of Him creating a mountain, trees, and a midget. Remember, we are all His creatures.

July 24, 2005

Karl Rove, the New J. Edgar Hoover.

Valerie Plame, a covert female CIA agent, who is married to long-time State Department foreign service officer, Ambassador Joseph Wilson, has had her career ruined because her husband had the temerity to contradict President Bush's claim that nuclear materials had been shipped from the African country, Niger, to Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction program in Iraq. Wilson was actually sent by the Bush administration to Niger and determined it was not true. In his official capacity, he so advised the President. But when President Bush mentioned this known lie in his State of the Union address, Wilson was compelled to set the record straight publicly in an op-ed piece in the New York Times.

It has now been revealed that this infuriated Karl Rove so much that he began a vendetta against Wilson. In spite of the fact that Wilson gave Bush $1000 in 1999, Rove researched Wilson's election giving records and decided that Wilson was a Democrat. Although he claims he never used her actual name, at the very least, Rove has admitted outing Mrs. Joseph Wilson as a CIA agent. Any question about whether he outed a CIA agent by name or not is the height of Orwellian hair-splitting. Rove committed a crime against national security and should be prosecuted.

Judith Miller, a female reporter for the New York Times, has gone to jail because she refuses to testify about a source who allegedly gave her Valerie Plame's name as the undercover wife of Wilson's for a story that Judith Miller never wrote. Regardless of what one may think about Judith Miller's knee-jerk coverage of the buildup to the Iraq war, her almost cheerleader-style reporting of anything and everything Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld gave her, it is more than ironic that she is the one who is in jail in this whole mess.

Robert Novak, an insider good old boy if there ever was one, did publish a story in which he revealed Valerie Plame's name as a result of being fed her name by a White House source. He has "cooperated" with the special prosecutor. That's one way of saying that he rolled over and behaved like the sleazeball Bush mouthpiece that he is. He is, of course, still free to bloviate on behalf of the Bush administration and apologize for any of its lies and crimes.

But the man who remains untouched in all this, who must be the center of interest for any special prosecutor with half a brain, is Karl Rove. And yet, no one in the White House, or in the entire Republican Party, has spoken out against him. The White House continues its song and dance routine, answering all reporter's questions with the same mindlessly intoned mantra about its being an ongoing investigation and they don't comment on such things. Such selective non-commenting flies in the face of all their other very purposeful leaks and comments when it suits their partisan politicial interests.

The silence about Rove is telling. Just as J. Edgar Hoover was immune from criticism and attack, no one wants to take Rove on. No one wants to criticize him. No one wants the veil lifted from his secretive office, from what he knows, and from what he has done. The only exception I have seen is the recent testimony of Larry Johnson, a registered Republican and former CIA official.

If the veil is lifted, if Karl Rove goes down, it will be a huge embarrassment for the Republicans. But it will be appropriate that Karl Rove's animus, his roiling hatred of Democrats, his unrestrained, meanspirited tactics will be what brings him down.

Of course, these are all BIG ifs. I won't be surprised at all if they find a way to squirm out of this. Who will notice, anyway?

July 23, 2005

When You Take the Money, You Pay the Price

Here's a little primer on the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) which is a perfect example of what is wrong with the Democratic Party. It's the money, stupid. We will never have a political or economic democracy until we rid ourselves of the money. The DLC is bought and paid for, and they buy and pay for everything they want or think they need. The money comes first, before anything else. These guys swim in it, breathe it, and wallow in it. They manipulate it, buy other non-DLC Democrats with it, and they use it to advance their narrow interests and personal careers.

DLC to preach "free" trade agenda in Ohio, a state ravaged by "free" trade: http://www.cleveland.com/news/plaindealer/index.ssf?/base/cuyahoga/1121938334222852.xml&coll=2

The effects on Ohio of "free" trade:

DLC stabs Dems in the back by supporting Bush's CAFTA:

USA Today about the emergence of trade as an issue in Ohio elections:

How the DLC has used corporate money to try to buy the Democratic Party:

DLC attacked Howard Dean:

Christian Science Monitor on the DLC:

Hat tip to Michael Miller at Public Domain Progress

Canada Wins Most Stupid Award

Canada has beat out the USA and George Bush, winning the World Stupidity Award. A spokesman for the award ceremonies which were, coincidentally, held in Canada, said: "Canadians often feel we're in the shadow of the U.S., especially when it comes to stupidity, but now we're proving we're world class.”

Given how incredibly stupid the US government has been in the last year, compared to the Canadians, I think some not-so-challenging investigative reporting would reveal that this awards ceremony was fixed (and I don't mean "repaired").

Hosted by Lewis Black, the award ceremony did give George Bush his one win for Stupidest Statement of the Year when he said "They never stop thinking of ways of harming America, and neither do we.”

For a complete report about the award ceremonies, here's the article from the Globe and Mail, which is a pretty stupid name for a newspaper if you ask me.

By the way, I sometimes visit Canada and I can tell you it's kinda like going to a foreign country. They even speak a foreign language in Montreal.

July 22, 2005

Heartwrenching Reality

The following is a paragraph from BagNewsNotes that sums up the tragedy of one day --yesterday, July 21,2005. Michael Shaw is a writer, psychologist, cartoonist -- and the man behind the BAG, a website with four missions , one of which is to analyze the news and advertising images we see around us and explore how they influence the way we think about them. This one paragraph, with the accompanying photo, reflects the terrible, heartwrenching reality Iraqis and Americans are facing in a world created by Bush's imperial arrogance.

After two years of this slow-motion cataclysm, I never saw a week like this last one. With the growing Iraqi rapprochement with the Iranians, and the murder of the Sunni delegates to the commission working on the new constitution, and the dismal new Pentagon report about the profoundly insufficient capabilities and prospects for Iraq's defense forces, and the constitution draft that sends woman's rights back to the stone age, and the killing of the Egyptian ambassador, and two horrific large-scale suicide attacks, it's hard to imagine a worse picture.
So, of all the bad days yesterday, nothing compares to what happened to Jalil Shaalan and his family in the Amarayah district of Baghdad. Jalil, a security guard, was gunned down in front of his wife and children by unknown assailants just outside of the school he was employed to protect.
I mean, what the hell are we doing?

July 21, 2005

Rove's Checklist for Roberts: Pros, No Cons



Out of all the candidates we have looked at, here's why I like Roberts.

He will vote with Scalia on all those votes Scalia lost when Sandra Day O'Connor voted against him. Scalia is just itching to overturn Roe v Wade, school prayer, and flag-burning. Did we find out if Roberts hunts? Can't you just see yourself along with Scalia, Thomas, Cheney and Roberts walking through the woods with your guns? (Don't stand in front of Thomas, though)

He's not a nuanced thinker like O'Connor who seemed to struggle over issues, and who was burdened with seeing both sides. In contrast, Roberts is unconflicted, he's got a clearer handle on our visions, and this is going to become increasingly important as we get deeper into trouble. And you know what I am talking about.

He reminds me of you in so many ways: the strong expressive eyes, the nice suit, the white skin, youthful exuberance, manly good looks, good law school, pert admiring wife in pink, the somewhat mysterious look on his face.

By the way, Ann Coulter thinks he can't dance and probably doesn't know who Jay-Z is, both significant attributes as far as I am concerned.

He is somewhat of a blank slate, but so were you six years ago, and look where we are now. Big plus.

We do know that he opposed clean air rules, supports stripmining, doesn't want doctors to discuss abortion with their patients, and he's not so hot on the Voting Rights Act. But I advise against publicizing any of these positions during the nomination hearings.

As you know, there are all those other things we learned about him from our private talks at Camp David, stuff that no one else knows. Hehe.....

He knows how to deal with kids who are out of control, something you know about too, sir. The way he handled that 12-year old French fry eater is a no-nonsense approach that we admire greatly. And besides, wasn't it fitting that she was eating French food?

He also reminds me of Ken Starr, and he even worked for him!

John Kerry will attack him, just because John Kerry would attack any candidate you nominated, and that's a good thing.

He clerked for Rehnquist, was a member of the Federalist Society, and was a counsel for Ronald Reagan. He had to learn something.

God, he reminds me of you! He even holds his hands in front of him in that cute way you do.

The Family Research Council and the Christian Coalition think he's swell. Rick Santorum and John Cornyn love him. Jim Dobson from Focus on the Family is on board. And all the Christian women's organizations are gaga.

Even Joe Liberman likes him!!

I think your Stetson might fit him.

The guy has given the Washington press corps his cell number and has said "call anytime." They gotta love him, right?

He is the epitome of fair and civil. Everyone says so. And any attack on him will be viewed as an attack on civility itself.

If Harry Reid, Pat Leahy, Ted Kennedy, Chuck Schumer and Dick Durbin stonewall on this guy, they are deadmeat. If Harry Reid, Pat Leahy, Ted Kennedy, Chuck Schumer, and Dick Durbin don't go all out in opposition to him, they are deadmeat. Man, is that a win-win for us, or what?

If the Dems filibuster, the American people will not blame us for using the nuclear option.

Finally, if my little problem ever gets up that far, we probably have a good shot.

July 20, 2005

The Bush Unhealthy Clinic for Women, Inc.

Around the globe, the Bush administration has been anti-woman's rights, anti-woman's choice, anti-women's health, anti-women's suffrage, anti-women's education, just plain anti-women. Despite Bush's lip service to freedom and democracy for women, his actions prove what empty words he speaks.

Mary-Ann Stephenson elaborates.

Roberts, The Stealth Candidate

Bush's nominee is a white middle-aged conservative candidate with a shallow record. But a record, nonetheless. Here is a synopsis of what we know so far. Some of this comes from the record of his service as Deputy Solicitor General under President George Bush I, and the rest as DC Court of Appeals judge.

Reproductive Freedom

As Deputy Solicitor General, he argued twice before the Supreme Court on an issue of reproductive freedom. In the first instance, the case involved the so-called "gag" rule that prohibited federally funded health clinics from discussing abortion. He argued
“[w]e continue to believe that Roe was wrongly decided and should be overruled . . . [T]he Court’s conclusion[] in Roe that there is a fundamental right to an abortion . . . find[s] no support in the text, structure, or history of the Constitution.” The Court ruled against him.

In another case, as Deputy Solicitor General, he argued on behalf of Operation Rescue defending them against charges that they discriminated against women by blocking women's health centers that provide abortions. The Court ruled in favor of the radical anti-choice group Operation rescue, but in reaction to this decision Congress passed the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act to protect women and health care providers from harassment and violence.

Religious Liberty & Separation of Church and State

As Deputy Solicitor General, he argued in favor of officially sponsored school prayer at graduation ceremonies. Roberts position maintained that students who did not want to pray could simply not attend their graduations. His brief stated: "A voluntary decision not to witness a civic acknowledgment of religion . . . cannot be considered a response to coercion.” He lost.

Free Speech

As Deputy Solicitor General, Roberts argued in favor of the congressional legislation which made flag burning illegal. Even right-wing Justice Scalia argued against Roberts in a 5-4 ruling by stating "punishing desecration of the flag dilutes the very freedom that makes this emblem so revered, and worth revering.”

Environmental Protections

Roberts broke with most of his conservative Republican US Court of Appeals judges in a decision that came down on the side of the government's position that it can enforce protection on private land of species listed in the Endangered Species Act. Roberts sided with the California developer in challenging the constitutionality of the Endangered Species Act. In so doing, he was identifying himself with radical, rightwing judges who work to undermine environmental protections in favor of development run amok.

Individual Rights

Roberts showed a streak of meanness when he ruled against a mother whose 12-year old daughter had been arrested, shackled, taken away in a police vehicle, fingerprinted and jailed for three hours, after having been arrested on a DC subway car for eating a French Fry. You think I am kidding? It happened. Apparently, in a no-tolerance fit of pique by the DC police directed at people who eat and drink on the DC subway system, this 12-year old was targeted. The mother sued.

Roberts sided with the police, claiming that the law requiring harsher treatment of juveniles was rationally related to “the legitimate goal of promoting parental awareness and involvement with children who commit delinquent acts.” In defense of his position to arrest and detain juveniles, he claimed that juveniles might give “an entirely fanciful [name] or, better yet, the name of the
miscreant who pushed them on the playground that morning,” and thus, their parents would never know about their misbehavior. After this incident, DC police changed their policy regarding the arrest of juveniles.

But in further commenting about the policy to arrest juveniles, Roberts wrote: “the policies were changed after those responsible endured the sort of publicity reserved for adults who make young girls cry.” What kind of guy is this?

Access to Justice

Despite strong precedent to the contrary, Roberts sided against a group of small publications that won a case against the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. On appeal by the CFTC, Roberts denied the winning plaintiffs an award of attorneys fees guaranteed by the Equal Access to Justice Act and, under which, a lower court had ruled they were directly deserving.

Protecting the Federal Treasury

In a case where he had an opportunity to protect the American people, as taxpayers, against corporate misdeeds, he chose to protect the corporation. In a decision that split hairs, under the False Claims Act, he sided with a company that provided defective railway cars to Amtrak. An Amtrak employee, acting somewhat as a whistle-blower, brought suit against the company and was denied a hearing (the case was dismissed) because, as Roberts claimed, Amtrak is not, as required under the Fales Claims Act, an official or employee of the United States. In so doing, Roberts has exempted from the Flase Claims Act a large number of quasi-governmental groups like Amtrak that receive billions of dollars of American taxpayer money.


These are, to say the least, troubling arguments and decisions. Roberts has a lot of questions he needs to answer. The Democrats must put his feet to the fire. Of course, Roberts can, as he did during his nomination process for the DC Court, simply refuse to answer, or answer in ways that really don't communicate anything. I worry that this guy will sneak onto the Court.

His record on the DC Court clearly shows me one thing: He has demonstrated a disdain and lack of support for the disadvantaged.

By nominating a man whose record is so thin, Bush is trying to slip one passed us. I think this guy is, at his core, a right-wing ideologue just itching to prove himself. And from his arguments and positions, he may be a nitwit in the mold of Clarence Thomas and George Bush, himself.

Thanks to People for the American Way's extensive research.

July 19, 2005

William Greider Describes Fascism

America's Truth Deficit is what William Greider's column in the New York Times is entitled. It should have been entitled Fascism is Alive and Well in America.

After describing the very sad state of affairs for America in the near future, he offers some ideas for corrective action. Once offered, however, he slaps our faces with the cold truth of reality. The corrections, the reforms, the changes won't happen because "The webs of mutual interests connecting government, corporate boardrooms and Wall Street are too deeply woven."

So few even want to talk about it, much less do anything about it.

It is going to take James Kunstler's Long Emergency to wake the American people to this reality. Even the corporate boardrooms, government, and Wall Street will take notice -- something like the proverbial 2 x 4 smashing their heads.

Why Not Hillary?

Yesterday, a blogger named Jami left a comment on my blog as follows:

it's interesting to me that hillary's getting more crap from democrats than republicans are.

republicans voted for the war and all the money for it AND massive tax cuts for the rich.

they've also voted repeatedly against measures to prevent abortions through better birth control, and their desire for immigration reform is not guided by what's in the interest of immigrants, as hillary's is.

i think democrats need to stop doing rush limbaugh's dirty work for him on their own candidates. i agree with you that hillary's position on the war doesn't make sense, and her immigration position is not all that clear, but show me a better democratic candidate.

What's odd is that it was removed by the author and the return email address is noreply@blogger.com

I wasn't aware, until now, that someone could do this. It feels as though I have had a potshot taken at me by an anonymous sniper in camouflage gear.

Nevertheless, whoever wrote this comment deserves a response.

First, I never have claimed to be a Democrat. And if I were, I would hope that Democrats can take self-criticism far better than Republicans who prefer no criticism at all, but rather a toe-the-line kind of thinking, a disciplined stand-up-and-salute response to every position.

Yes, Hillary voted against the tax cuts for the rich. But should we regard this as exceptional, as something to give her credit for? It was a no brainer. And I bet that her campaign contributors from Citigroup, Metropolitan Life, Corning, Inc., Goldman Sachs, Aetna, Inc., Time Warner, Lehman Brothers, Consolidated Edison, and Cablevision Systems wish she had supported the tax cuts. Had Hillary voted for the tax cuts for the rich she would have been a Republican. So touting her vote against those tax cuts is not saying much when you get right down to it.

Yes, the Republicans are basically against birth control as a way to stop abortions, while Democrats tend to be for "better birth control" measures. Of course, Hillary would be laughed out of the Democratic Party by NOW, Planned Parenthood, Emily's List, NARAL, and a host of other women-centered organizations if she was not on board with this issue. So hurray, Hillary, here's a round of applause.

The writer's contention that Hillary's desire for immigration reform is guided by what's in the interest of immigrants is precisely what I questioned about her seemingly inconsistent position. I just want her to have a clearly defined, consistent position.

If, every time someone on the left criticizes a liberal Democrat, they get accused of doing Rush Limbaugh's work, then we might as well just all do Bill O'Reilly's bidding and shut up.

The writer agrees with me that Hillary's position on the war "does not make sense" and that her position on immigration is not "clear." Well then, don't we have an obligation to her to point this out?

Hillary Clinton has a shot at becoming the first woman President of the United States. But I am not going to stop holding her accountable on issues where I believe she is wrong.

POSTSCRIPT: By the way, ask Hillary why she is not vocally opposing Bush's nominee to the SEC chairmanship, Christopher Cox, who is an extremist opponent of regulatory reforms? He is probably the most egregious regulatory appointment yet made by Bush, and Hillary is silent. Could it have something to do with all her Wall Street contributors who support Cox?

July 18, 2005

What About Hillary?

I suppose what irritates me the most is that the leading Democratic candidate for President in 2008 is a woman who is calling for a larger army. Now don't get me wrong, that she is a woman is not what irritates me, but it's that she is a woman who takes the positions she does on Iraq, the standing army, abortion, and immigration that irritates me so much.

On the military, she has just joined with Senator Joe Lieberman in calling for an increase by 80,000 troops in the standing army, all in the interest of our national security.

How can Bill Clinton's wife out-testosterone the Republicans? Call for a bigger army, especially when we are losing in Iraq and Afghanistan, and London has just been bombed, and especially when the big guns for the Republicans (Rumsfeld, Cheney) are saying we don't need more troops. Appeal to the right-wing of the Republican base? Be tougher than they are? Yeah, that's the ticket to a Democratic win if there ever was one.

The fact that Hillary continues to defend her vote on invading Iraq is a further irritant, and one which will haunt her in her future (and, I believe, ill-fated) race for the Presidency. She was misled about the reasons for the war, she was lied to by intelligence reports and by administration officials from the top down, and she still defends her vote. Her one criticism? She does wish that the administration had had a better post-war strategy. But that's it! She is steadfast in her support of the war and in her vote for it. And now she wants a bigger army.

At a time when polls are showing that the majority of the American people want out of Iraq, and believe that the administration misled the American people about going there in the first place, I can't think of a better way to alienate the Democratic base than to appeal to those guys in the pickup trucks with confederate flags on their bumpers.

By the time Hillary is a bona fide candidate for President in 2008, the American people will be so far ahead of her, they'll look back on her Iraq position and scoff.

What's worse is she is giving anti-choice forces comfort when she characterizes abortion as "a sad, even tragic choice." How sad and tragic will it be when Bush packs the Supreme Court with enough anti-choice justices to overturn Roe v Wade? How sad and tragic will it be when women are forced back into dark alleys and backrooms to commit crimes as co-conspirators with secretive physicians? How sad and tragic will it be when women begin dying because they can't afford to see a real physician, and they get unsafe abortions from underground,quack-run abortion mills? How sad and tragic will it be when women are again forced to give birth to babies they don't want, babies they can't afford, babies who are condemned to lives of poverty, babies who are the result of rape, babies who are horribly deformed?

Hillary's shuck-and-jive apologia feels like "flip-flop" to me. What pro-choice advocates need now more than ever is not apology, not mushy support, not moralisms about what-ifs, but steadfast support for Roe v Wade and the nightmare that would ensue if Bush gets his way.

And finally, on the issue of immigration, she has said simply, " People must stop hiring illegal immigrants." What people is she talking about? It seems she is talking about middle class and upper-middle class New York state suburbanites with homes that need lawn care and housecleaning, and small-scale contruction contractors who hire day labor. Here is what she said on John Gambling's ABC radio show in 2003: "I am, you know, adamantly against illegal immigrants... People have to stop employing illegal immigrants... I mean, come up to Westchester, go to Suffolk and Nassau Counties, stand in the street corners in Brooklyn or the Bronx (and) you’re going to see loads of people waiting to get picked up to go do yard work and construction work and domestic work…" She has not backed off that statement. What does she think will happen to those people if no one hires them?

But when it comes to the millions of illegal immigrants who pick our produce for the large multinational corporations that own and run our agri-businesses, she has supported amnesty and college tuition relief. Isn't there something wrong with that picture?

Hillary is crafting her 2008 Presidential race on the framework of her 2006 Senate race. She has already raised $12.6 million so far. She will raise huge amounts more. But as hard as she tries, I believe that no matter how much money she raises, she is not going to successfully out-muscle the Republican right-wing on the issues of the military/national security, abortion and immigration.

July 17, 2005

More on The Iran/Iraq Alliance

We have been following the visits of various Iraqis to Iran in these pages (here and here), but the one that is taking place now represents a major new potential Shiite alliance in the Middle East.

The coverage in the Tehran Times tells us that economic, political, and security cooperation issues between the two countries are being discussed, along with ways to "fight against the development of Arab terrorism in the region and the world." (emphasis added) (see the story about the arrest in Iran of a large group of Al-Queda-linked terrorists)

The Tehran Times article claims that the religious and historical affinities between Iran and Iraq have been constrained by certain "developments", particularly the former Iraqi Baath regime causing "regional insecurity." They conclude that these "developments" have always benefited "certain neocolonial countries."

Perhaps the most unambiguous claim is that these "neocolonial countries" have "always feared the common religious beliefs of the Iranian and Iraqi nations." The article goes on to describe how the US coalition has worked to prevent any kind of Shia (Shiite) "crescent" from forming in the region, claiming that this was a huge mistake by the occupying powers resulting in 1800 dead US soldiers from "Arab terrorists." The message to Washington is clear: an Iraqi-Iranian Shia crescent alliance is the best way to stop Arab terrorism in the region.

The piece makes clear that the most significant threat to Iraq and the region would be an Iraqi civil war, between Shia and Sunni. Iran, a country that has just elected a new President who advocates stricter discipline for women, deeper theocratic rule, and state control of the economy, can play a big part in preventing an Iraqi civil war by working on reconstructing Iraq and providing skilled workers. Iran is America's ally, not in so many words. In all of Donald Rumsfeld's musing, did he ever once think of this one?

The one sticking point in all this is the continued Iranian insistence that Iraq pay Iran $1 trillion in war reparations. "According to United Nations Security Council Resolution 598, Iraq was the aggressor in the war with the Islamic Republic and must pay reparations to Iran."

The BBC coverage is more muted and contains warnings about US concerns, describing them as "uneasy" which must be humorous British understatement.

The BBC describes how both air and rail links between the two countries will be expanded, and how a new pipeline will bring crude oil to Iran from Iraq.

The New York Times/Reuters story adds that "Iran's official IRNA news agency quoted Iraq's industry minister saying that Iran and Iraq would start joint carmaking projects..." and that "Iran has agreed to send about 200,000 tonnes of flour to Iraq and will guarantee letters of credit issued by an Iraqi bank to a total of $300 million. "

How has the US administration responded to all this?

In the four days prior to the Iraqi visit to Iran, no questions were asked by the press corps at press briefings, press gaggles, and other press events at the White House, State Department or Defense Department.

You'd think someone would like to know how American officials feel about the Iraqi Prime Minister making a major visit of reconciliation and alliance to one of the member countries of George Bush's Axis of Evil.

July 16, 2005

Jesus Was French

Jacques Chirac says Jesus was French. Well, he says that France is "clearly better off than the British" who, with the Americans, are supposed to be fighting Jesus' war in Iraq. Wouldn't we be winning in Iraq if Jesus was British or American?

So, Jesus must be French.

He wore cool, comfortable clothing. Do any people on earth dress more coolly and comfortably than the French?

He had lots of suppers together with others. This is a singular French past-time; eating well, and doing so for lengthy periods, with others, in hearty communion.

Jesus was really into wine. So are the French.

French garlic and cheese were devised by Jesus to keep the devil away.

The Jesus Revolution started in France.

There are marches for Jesus in France.

You can actually see Jesus in France.

The book Evidence for Jesus was written by a guy named France. Although he is really English (we won't tell Chirac), I believe he actually emigrated from France (how do you think he got that name?) and has been working among the heathen.

And what about the movie Jesus of Montreal? Isn't Montreal French?

Why do you think the French have the best sex on earth?

David Hasselhoff is really popular in France. Jesus was French. David Hasselhoff is really Jesus.

Mark Twain described the French as "meek", and, of course, they shall inherit the earth.

France has the weakest military on earth and the French kiss each other on both cheeks all the time. Jesus said "turn the other cheek."

France invented the can-can.

The French hate McDonald's.

France is letting Lance Armstrong win every race, the kind of thing Jesus would do.

France let Senegal beat them in soccer (or as they call it, football), just the kind of thing Jesus advocates.

There are no overweight French women, something only Jesus could make happen.

France gave America the Statue of Liberty. Could that kind of generosity be a more Jesus-like thing to do? Not only that, America would still be a colony if it weren't for the French financing of our revolution. Didn't Jesus advocate just that kind of giving spirit?

The Eiffel Tower is the stairway to heaven. The portal to hell is in Texas.

The French invented the most popular food on earth: fried potatoes. Need I say more?

France is a commie nation. Jesus was a commie. Jesus was French.

The West and The Rest of Them

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization represents almost half the world's population, and consists of countries not particularly happy with George Bush's arrogant imperial designs.

This is how the SCO describes itself on its website.

"The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is an intergovernmental, international organization founded in Shanghai on15 June 2001 by six countries:
China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgystan,Tajikistan andUzbekistan.

Its member states cover an area of over 30 million km2, or about three fifths of Eurasia, with a population of 1.455 billion, about a quarter of the world's total. Its working languages are Chinese and Russian."

The original purpose of the organization was to cooperate on border problems and resolve them among the member states. With that mostly accomplished, the organization expanded its purpose to include mutually beneficial cooperation in the political, security, diplomatic, economic, trade and other areas among the five states.

At its latest meeting on July 5, 2005, the SCO added Iran, India, Pakistan, and Mongolia as observer nations, bringing the organization's informal representation to about half the world's population.

Most importantly, the SCO issued certain statements which were not particularly friendly toward the Bush regime. The SCO urged America to announce a timetable for removal of its troops from Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. Russia and China also issued a joint declaration entitled "World Order in the 21st Century", described as "an important document, which shows the common, fundamental Russian and Chinese views on key issues of the modern world order and reflects their common vision of the development of humanity."

The SCO also issued a statement against "international terrorism" which, in the eyes of the founding members, is viewed as a direct message to civil unrest at home. In Russia, the Chechen rebels are "terrorists." In China, the Uyghur rebels are "terrorists." The so-called "colorful" or "orange" revolts of Georgia and Ukraine are not opposed per se, but are not welcomed or encouraged either.

Cooperation between China and Russia is appropriate and reasonable given the Chinese economic juggernaut, and the astonishing growth in its need for energy to fuel itself. Russia will supply a significant portion of that fuel.

The autocratic governments of Russia, China, Pakistan, and the central Asian Republics have little interest in playing Bush's American dominion game, disguised as it is as a democracy-and-freedom ploy. The countries of the SCO have their own dominion game, with their own rules.

July 15, 2005

Bush's Legacy: An Iranian/Iraqi Alliance?

The Prime Minister of Iraq, Ibrahim Jaafari (who had been given asylum in Iran from 1980 through 1989 under Ayatollah Khomeini), along with a significant delegation of high-ranking Iraqi cabinet members, is making an official visit to Iran. According to the Iranian Charges D'Affaires in Iraq, the "expansion of ties is based on deep religious commonalties, extensive social and cultural exchanges, historical background, geographical conditions and the long common borderline between the two states." Jaafari is no stranger to the kind of fundamentalist government that rules Iran. He lived there, learned how they rule, and, basically, owes them his life. How much of an admirer is he of this form of Shiite dominated governance? Is he seeking to emulate it? Didn't they have elections in Iran? Isn't that democracy?

"Deep religious commonalities" is the key phrase here. Everything else follows from it: economic, social, cultural, political.

This meeting follows up a visit by the Iraqi Defense Minister only a few weeks ago. In the picture at left above, Iranian President, Mohammad Khatami, right, talks with Iraqi Defense Minister, Saadoun al-Duleimi, during their official meeting in Tehran on July 7, 2005 (Photo:Vahid Salemi/AP).

How is the American government reacting to all this dull roar going on in relations between Iraq (our ally, our surrogate, our newly formed democracy, our child of freedom) and a member of the Axis of Evil, Iran? We can only guess that they are tearing their hair out at the White House. And in Iraq, the Americans must be warning the Iraqis of all kinds of dire consequences. Bush must be apoplectic.

Tens of thousands of Iranians will be making visits to Shiite holy sites in Iraq, trade delegations will increase significantly, economic cooperation of all kinds will flourish.

By the time Bush leaves office, will one of his major foreign policy legacies be an Iranian/Iraqi alliance? Sure looks that way.

July 14, 2005

Imagine An Entire Nation of Closed Minds

This is one of many t-shirts sold on a website that celebrates anti-liberal hate-mongering. I was particularly struck by their take on cultural diversity. In their racist minds, it's only the diversity of their guns that matters. There's also a t-shirt with a likeness of Ann Coulter featuring her famous quote from September 13, 2001: "We should invade their countries, kill their leaders, and convert them to Christianity."

"Imagine no liberals" is a revealing proposition, when you think about it. It's what they really want: a world of people who all think alike.

Imagine $75 Million in Golden Parachutes

Imagine you have been the not-so-successful "co-president" (whatever the hell that is) of an embattled mega-investment bank for only three months. Imagine you are given the bum's rush. Imagine you are given a $32 million golden parachute for all your hard work over those three months. Imagine you are Stephen Crawford, formerly "co-president" of Morgan Stanley.

Imagine you are Phillip Purcell, the Morgan Stanley chief executive who was kicked out last month and given a mere $43 million golden parachute.

Imagine you are a stockholder, seething.

Imagine an end to all this corporatist theft.

"Free Societies are Peaceful Societies"

During the White House Press Briefing on July 11, 2005, which I discuss in a previous piece, Scott McClellan said something which I instinctively regarded with suspicion and doubt. In the middle of the barrage of questions about Karl Rove's possible misdeeds, he was asked a question about the London bombings and he was able to take a deep breath and deliver a speech he knows so well about the War on Terror. In an effort to draw a contrast between "them" (the terrorists) and 'us" (America), he said: "Free societies are peaceful societies."

As I said, my immediate reaction was: "Huh?" I also wondered if any of the reporters present had their doubts, too.

While it sounds good, the idea that "free" societies (in this case, he is defining America as free) are "peaceful" societies is, in historical actuality, utter nonsense. America-the-free is and has been the image we want to project, especially in the aftermath of World War II. While we have promoted the idea of freedom (and democracy) in diplomatic posturing, and while we have touted freedoms of the press, and religion, and speech, and the like, we have also, in every year since 1945, projected American military power, hegemony, threat, menace, and outright violence, direct interference and war, both secret and not so secret.

In Italy, Greece, Iran, Guatemala, Indonesia, Chile and Cuba we used the CIA to intervene, disrupt and manipulate, always supporting autocratic regimes against their own people, sometimes winning, sometimes losing. In Vietnam, Cambodia, the Dominican Republic, Grenada, Panama, and now Iraq we have used the military power of our "free" society to create to impose our will and dominion.

For a full list of the dozens and dozens of instances when our governments have projected anything but peace, see the Table of Contents of William Blum's book Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since WWII . You can read more from William Blum at his website.

Blum paints a stark portrait of the recent nature of our peaceful society quite succinctly when he says:

Following its bombing of Iraq in 1991, the United States wound up with military bases in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and the United Arab Emirates.

Following its bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999, the United States wound up with military bases in Kosovo, Albania, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Hungary, Bosnia and Croatia.

Following its bombing of Afghanistan in 2001-2, the United States wound up with military bases in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Georgia, Yemen and Djibouti.

Following its bombing and invasion of Iraq in 2003, the United States wound up with Iraq.

This is not very subtle foreign policy. Certainly not covert. The men who run the American Empire are not easily embarrassed.

Perception and reality are different in Scott McClellan's wishful thinking. So many of us grew up with ideas about America that are far different from the reality. Learning the reality is going to be a bitter pill for many Americans, but one that is painfully necessary if we are going to make this country into a truly free, political and economic democracy.

Right now, we aren't even close.

And, of course, none of this includes the fact that America has the highest gun violence rate in the world. The rate of firearm deaths among kids under age 15 is almost 12 times higher in the United States than in 25 other industrialized countries combined. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) .

Peaceful society, indeed.

July 13, 2005

When It Comes to Profit, Jesus Comes Second

The alliance between the Christian Right and American corporatists only goes so far. It is a marriage of convenience on many levels, but if a Christian precept or belief gets in the way of the bottom line, profit wins every time.

The reaction by the Christian right to the Supreme Court ruling on eminent domain (the action by local government to take private property and provide it to others who will enhance the use of that property for the public good) has revealed a yawning chasm between them and their ertswhile allies in so many other right-wing causes.

The chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice has said they have received more response on this issue than on the Ten Commandments issue. Focus on the Family and the American Family Association are weighing in strongly about the decision.

Despite the fact that Sandra Day O'Connor wrote what was probably the strongest dissent from the Court on this decision, these right-wing organizations are using the decision to put pressure on Bush to do what he promised he would do, and that is to name a new Justice in the mold of Scalia and Thomas, the two-most radical right-wing justices on the Court.

In reaction to the eminent domain ruling, Grover Norquist, founder of Americans for Tax Reform, and one of the most influential right-wing ideologues in Washington, said "If you are Jerry Falwell, it is probably wise to spend some of your time reminding the head of the chamber of commerce why he and you are on the same team."

While these Christian right organizations pay some lip service to the need to protect private homes and the "little guy", the primary focus of their objections revolves around their worry that churches, as tax-exempt institutions, will be targeted for eminent domain decisions, especially at a time when local governments are suffering significant budgetary distresses. These days, any fight about whether property should be tax-exempt or commercially taxed, is a no-brainer for most local government. This is what the Christian right fears most.

Of course, the irony in all this is that whatever commercial development might be planned to take the place of a church, or, in more common cases, private residences or apartment buildings, is usually granted sufficient tax incentives by the local government to make the potential positive economic impact of the development almost negligible anyway. In the belief that commercial development will have long-term salutary effects on employment, the tax base, and other collateral local development, local governments have been suckered into a vortex of giveaways to corporations that makes the welfare system look puny.

Anyone interested in exploring and understanding how taxpayers across the country are subsidizing a giant corporate welfare system amounting to $50 billion a year should read The Great American Jobs Scam: Corporate Tax Dodging and the Myth of Job Creation by Greg LeRoy . The American taxpayer pays these corporations for low-wage jobs, fewer jobs than actually promised prior to the development, union-busting tactics, long-term tax relief subsidizing their corporate profits, and a host of other "incentives" that end up being paid for by local homeowners and small businesses.

As the Christian Right learns more about its corporatist allies, it should, like Paul on the road to Damascus, eventually have some kind of revelation. The devil works in mysterious ways that these fundamentalist Christians haven't yet figured out.

Opposition to eminent domain for development should be based on the same reasons we should oppose local tax incentives for corporations. It's just one more in a long line of schemes and scams designed to take from the American working class and give to the corporate robber barons.

July 12, 2005

White House Press Corps Has Teething Pain

While I have criticized the White House Press Corps in the past for their softball questions and for their ignoring key issues such as the Downing Street Memo, I am happy to report that at the July 11 White House Press Briefing some reporters seem to have grown some new teeth, at least on one issue, Karl Rove.

In what The Washington Post characterized as "aggressive" and "combative" press briefings, certain members of the White House Press Corps kept a barrage of questions going at Scott McClellan. But, as always, because the questioners are unnamed in the official White House transcript, it was unclear how many questioners there were and who they were.

Despite the fact that there were several direct questions about Rove's criminal culpability, the Washington Post reported that "It was the issue of credibility, more than of criminal culpability, that produced some of the most aggressive questioning at a White House briefing in recent memory -- but no answers." Were the two writers of the Post piece, Mike Allen and Dan Balz, actually there at the Press Briefing? One question was about as direct as you can get "Did Karl Rove commit a crime?"

I find it revealing that the Washington Post reporters would describe the briefing as one of the most aggressive in recent memory. You mean like for the first time since Bush was elected? Does this mean that the White House Press Corps is usually not aggressive? The answer, of course, is yes.

McClellan was at his most obfuscating and fuzzy best dealing with the onslaught of questions. This answer to one question neatly summarizes all of his many other answers, most of which were not as clean and pithy: "Well, I think the President has previously spoken to this. This continues to be an ongoing criminal investigation. No one wants to get to the bottom of it more than the President of the United States. And we're just not going to have more to say on it until that investigation is complete."

That phrase "No one wants to get at the bottom of this more than the President of the United States" was repeated many times in the course of this Press Briefing, and has been a stock phrase used by the White House and George Bush himself in the past two years. When he says it, he actually means "I really don't want to get to the bottom of this because it will be really embarrassing."

One curious item in the Washington Post story remains unanswered, at least for me. If Karl Rove never really revealed anything to the reporter Matthew Cooper, then why did Cooper need Rove to "release" him from confidentiality as a "source" for Cooper to be able to name Rove? Cooper could simply have said, yes, I spoke to Karl Rove but he didn't tell me anything. I mean, any reporter in his right mind who did not call to interview Rove on this issue would have been shirking his journalistic responsibility.

The Washington Post characterized the conversation between Rove and Cooper as "vague", despite the fact that it was on "double super secret background," which sounds like something pre-pubescent boys would make up playing Spy vs Spy. Everyone knows Rove talks to everyone he can, as often as he can, giving them as many Rovian lines as he can, hoping many of them get into print and paint a good picture of his client, George Bush.

The one thing that goes unexplained, and untouched, is that Rove gave Cooper "a big warning not to get too far out on Wilson." Now what does that mean? What is he warning Cooper about? Is he sending him a message that this is a national security issue, so tread lightly? Is he giving him some kind of vague threat, don't delve into this too deeply or we will never talk to you again? Just what is the warning? No one ever says.

This is potentially dangerous ground for White House reporters. Careers are at stake. Some of them must sense some blood in the water on this issue or they would not be as aggressive on something that involves the second most powerful person in the White House, next to Dick Cheney.

July 11, 2005

Worse than Watergate

In the wake of the London bombings, the question of whether George Bush has made us more or less safe has raised its ugly head again, this time, I hope, for good. What can he say? Well, at least it wasn't in New York, right? It was "over there" and not here. If anyone still believes him when he says we are more safe because of his invasion of Iraq, they are as deluded as he is.

The Weapons of Mass Destruction reason was a lie. The uranium from Nigeria was a lie. The imminent chemical attack was a lie. The capability of delivering a nuclear attack in 40 minutes was a lie. The biological attack was a lie. The idea of bringing democracy and freedom to the Iraqi people is a lie.

The London bombs have brought the debate about "why they hate us?" once again front and center, some believing "they" hate our culture, our beliefs, our institutions, our democracy, our freedoms, while others believe it is what we do, our actions, that "they" hate. To believe that "they" hate us for who we are is a conceit which only serves as an apologia for our actions. The average Muslim ("they") could care less about our "way of life", our "freedoms", our "culture." What they do care about is the American march to dominion and its direct effects on them. What they do not like is our shoving "our way of life" down their throats. What they do not like is our killing tens of thousands of innocent Iraqi women and children. In contrast, Dick Cheney is still wondering why the Iraqi people are not placing flowers in our soldiers helmets.

Now we have a leaked memo, again, from the UK, this time revealing secret British troop withdrawal plans, so that half the British troops within three months will go home, and within six months, all will be home. While this plan is described as an "option", it is clear that significant British withdrawal is probable.

The Italians are leaving, and a British troop withdrawal would start an avalanche of other withdrawals, most notably the Australians and Japanese.

In the end, America will be alone in Iraq, hunkered down in a few huge military bases, and guarding oil pipelines as best it can.

Frank Rich calls the Iraqi war "Bush's invention." All the lying, crime and sleaze that entailed the Watergate scandal is eclipsed by Bush's invention and the lies that led to it. As Rich points out, Nixon didn't start Vietnam. But Vietnam, too, was also started partly based on a lie. The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which authorized the President of the United States to take all necessary action to defend American interests in Southeast Asia, was based on a fake attack on two American destroyers.

During Watergate, as Rich points out, no journalist was jailed for not revealing sources, even though the Nixon administration threatened all kinds of realtiation. We now have the government jailing a woman reporter (Judith Miller) for refusing to reveal her source, rather than the male journalist (Robert Novak) who first wrote the story about the outed CIA agent, Valerie Plame (another woman who got screwed in this petty retaliation). Novak apparently made some secret deal with the government, so he stays free. It wouldn't do to have men like Robert Novak going to jail, would it? Especially someone who has been such a faithful shill for the Bush propaganda machine.

The Daily Star of Bangladesh and Tunis Hebdo (from Tunisia) are two moderate publications in the Muslim world which write regularly about the real reasons why "they hate us." Their point is that 9/11 has changed the world's view of America in ways no one could have predicted in the immediate aftermath. It was unimaginable in those days, during that zenith of worldwide support and sympathy, that it would only take a few short months for the arrogance and imperial actions of George Bush to destroy all the support and sympathy we had.

The bill of particulars against the Bush administration makes Watergate pale in comparison.

July 10, 2005

The Reverend George Bush Disses Mohammed

No, not our George Bush, but an ancestor of George's, with the same name. The Reverend George Bush was a scholar, divinity student, writer and eventually an avid follower of Emanuel Swedenborg, who had extended conversations with angels and spirits and who, some say, was as daffy as the duck.

Does it run in the family?

Al-Ahram tells the story of how our modern day George Bush's ancestor wrote a biography of Mohammed, published by Harper & Brothers in 1837 (you can actually read the entire book here) in which he refers to the prophet as the "imposter" and to Muslims as "locusts." The Al-Ahram story centers around a debate by censors within the Islamic Research Center as to whether the book should be banned in the Muslim world because of some of its disrespectful and inaccurate nature. The final decision, we learn, is that the book should not be censored because it is "a piece of documentation which portrays a lively picture of Prophet Mohamed's life", and "praises the prophet in almost 80 per cent of its content." I wonder if the Catholic Church would tolerate books about Jesus Christ which were only 80% accurate.

Read the Reverend George Bush's bio is here.

July 09, 2005

Iran Joins Bush's Coalition of the Willing in Iraq

Iraq, George Bush's premier example of American imperial imposition of freedom and democracy, is signing a military cooperation agreement with Iran, one of the two remaining members of George Bush's Axis of Evil. Among the terms of the agreement, Iran will provide training to Iraqi military forces. Does this mean that American military advisors and Iranian military advisors will be working side by side? How bizarre an image is that? Of course, the likelihood of that happening is nil, but the fact that Iran will be joining Bush's coalition, even if by the back door, is pretty perverse.

The Orwellian nature of Bush's war becomes ever more evident by this latest development. Not only does Bush do the work of the Iranian Ayatollahs by getting rid of their nemesis Saddam Hussein, not only does he create the largest breeding ground for terrorists on earth, not only does he bog down a significant portion of American military forces in the worst quagmire since Vietnam, but he has now facilitated the coming together in military cooperation of these two former long-time enemies.

The majority of the world's Shiite Muslims live in Iran and Iraq (suppressed under Saddam). It is not in the interest of Iran to permit the Sunni Muslims of Iraq to regain any semblance of power. The radical Islam of Iran, a real sponsor of terrorism against America (as opposed to Iraq, under Saddam), now has its opening to Bush's "new" Iraq.

Al-Jazeera reports that the agreement will also involve mine clearance and helping to identify the missing people from war (presumably forensic help with identifying bodies from the many wars).

When asked whether the Americans would object to such an agreement, here was the response:

"Nobody can dictate to Iraq its relations with other countries,"
said Sadoun al-Dulaimi, Iraqi Defence Minister.

July 08, 2005

The Geese Continue Their Gaggling

Does the White House press corps ever read the transcripts of their White House Press Gaggles and White House Press Briefings with Scott McClellan? If they do, does it make them nauseated? Do they cringe at their own inanity?

Here is a White House Press Gaggle with Scott McClellan right after the announcement that Sandra Day O'Connor was stepping down from the high court.

McClellan begins with what he calls the "tick-tock of the day", a description, in numbing detail, of how an envelope was delivered to the White House by the High Marshall of the Supreme Court announcing O'Connor's resignation.

Various White House Press Corps members then ask McClellan to "back up" and clarify the details in even more numbing specificity, as if this was really hot news they were going to report to the American people. This clarification process goes on and on.

Then it morphs into questions about a conversation between Bush and O'Connor by telephone which drips with syrupy sentiments and a question about whether O'Connor cried on the phone. McClellan reports that Bush said to O'Connor: "For an old ranching girl you turned out pretty good."

At one point, one of the press corps members says that she saw the President on the phone earlier and that he seemed agitated, that he was shaking papers in his hands while he was talking on the phone with someone (the reporter wonders if it was Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist). McClellan, like Gandalf, waves his hand in their faces and says no, of course not, the President was not agitated.

The gaggle continues with more questions about the process detail, but with one question from some brave soul who asks whether the President will have an abortion litmus test for his nominee to replace O'Connor. McClellan continues his Gandalfian hand-waving and the press corps goes back to the really hardhitting questions like how long it will be before an announcement, as if they expect McClellan to say: "Oh we will have an announcement next Thursday at 9:00AM."

There is more excruciating detail in back and forths about Presidential deliberations and detail about various papers the President will be studying on nominees as he travels to Europe. One reporter actually wants to know whether the papers on potential nominees will contain "names and bios, and things like that?" I would not have been surprised if McClellan had responded by saying: "No, it 's actually one big Ouija board we give him and he spells out whatever name comes to him by channeling."

Then there is a stunning shift in the questioning. A reporter wants to know about the Kuwaiti Prime Minister's lunch with Bush which is happening as they gaggle, and which McClellan is supposed to be at: "Anything new coming up for the meeting?" Of course, McClellan has no idea, because he isn't there.

At the end, the gaggle sputters out with more detailed questions about how the message was delivered to the White House. Some reporter actually wanted to know whether the person who delivered the letter announcing O'Connor's resignation had to present ID at the White House gate. Now that's the kind of hardhitting question I think most Americans want from our White House press corps. Don't you?

There is, finally, some persistent questioning at the end of the gaggle by some reporter wanting to know whether Bush believes he needs Democratic support in the nomination process. There is no real answer to this question other than time-honored prevarication by McClellan that this administration will consult with the US Senate.

Reading transcripts of the White House Press Briefings and Press Gaggles is illuminating in so many ways, not the least of which is the level of inanity of their content. Every day, at these meetings, there is clear evidence of the degree of self-censorship by the press, the nature of their imbedded relationships (I prefer to think of them as emboweled relationships), and the cosiness of their positions which make them less and less watchdogs for the American people and more and more pets of the establishment.