December 11, 2006

Rape Used as Major Weapon in Darfur

A group of international women leaders has called for sending peacekeepers to Darfur to protect women from an onslaught of rapes committed by the pro-government Arab Janjaweed against mostly black African women and girls. Other than murder, rape is a favored, ultimate tool used by men to exert power and control over women, not just in Darfur, but in the United States as well.

We continue to behave like bystanders, watching the murders and rapes in Darfur and doing absolutely nothing to protect the women, children and men there. We learned nothing from our failure 12 years ago in Rwanda, despite all our crocodile tears and our earnest commitments to never let it happen again.

If you want to help, go here or here

December 10, 2006

What is the Bush Administration Thinking?

Juan Cole asks the obvious question about how serious the Bush administration is about Iraq being the epicenter of our fight against terrorism: How can we be serious about such a fight if only 33 out 1000 people who work at our embassy speak Arabic, and only 6 of them speak it fluently?

From Reuters

- Among the 1,000 people who work in the U.S. Embassy in Iraq, only 33 are Arabic speakers and only six speak the language fluently, according to the Iraq Study Group report released on Wednesday.
"All of our efforts in Iraq, military and civilian, are handicapped by Americans' lack of knowledge of language and cultural understanding," the bipartisan panel said in its report. "In a conflict that demands effective and efficient communication with Iraqis, we are often at a disadvantage."
The report, written by five Republicans and five Democrats, recommended the U.S. government give "the highest possible priority to professional language proficiency and cultural training" for officials headed to Iraq.

November 23, 2006

Protect Corporations, Not Children!!!


By Peter Montague

The American Chemistry Council (ACC) -- formerly known as the Chemical Manufacturers Association -- on November 16 filed a second lawsuit against the City of San Francisco, aiming to prevent the City from protecting children from toxic chemicals in toys. San Francisco passed a law in June prohibiting the sale of toys containing six toxic chemicals called phthalates (tha-lates) and another toxicant called bisphenol-A.

In October, the ACC and other corporations sued the city in California state court, claiming that state law preempted the city's right to protect children by controlling toxics in toys. The second lawsuit was filed in federal court and it claims that federal law preempts the city's right to protect its children from toxic chemicals in toys. Specifically, the ACC's complaint says theFederal Hazardous Substances Act, plus decisions by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, make it illegal for municipalities to pass laws to regulate toxic materials in toys.

This is a definite trend -- corporations trying to prevent local governments from passing laws to protect citizens against hazards and dangers created by corporations. In many instances the federal Congress is passing laws that prevent local governments from passing laws to curb corporate abuses. It's called "federal preemption."

We can draw three conclusions from this second lawsuit:

1. This is a major attack on the precautionary principle. The American Chemistry Council has hired a fancy-pants law firm to pursue this case. Clearly the ACC is putting a lot of money behind its effort tostop San Francisco from taking a precautionary approach to protecting children.

2. This lawsuit is a sign of just how powerful and bold corporations have become that they would sue San Francisco, asserting that corporations have the right to expose children to known poisons and there's nothing local governments or individual citizens can do about it. They are thumbing their noses at the Moms of the world and at everyone else who may try to protect children from chemical trespass.

3. There is one benefit from a lawsuit like this: It allows us to see clearly that the system we call "regulation" was set up not to protect citizens from harm, but to protect corporations from citizens who try to curb corporate power. The regulatory system doesn't regulate polluters -- it regulates citizens, by strictly limiting how they are allowed to respond to corporate abuse.


Happy Thanksgiving.

November 16, 2006

Minimizing Male Violence

[I wrote this piece for publication as an op-ed in Vermont newspapers, in response to a recent upsurge here in murders by men of their girlfriends, and some minimizing coverage by media covering the stories.]

October was National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. If you didn't know that, it wasn't your fault. For the most part, the media chose to ignore the issue.

So, perhaps it was not surprising that, in some of the press reports about the murder of the woman in Lyndonville by her boyfriend, this murder/suicide was described as a "domestic dispute." Think about it. She wanted to break up with him, and in an act of ultimate power and control, he kills her and then himself. If a man rapes a woman on a date, is this a "dating dispute?" If a man rapes his wife, is this a "marital dispute?" If a man doesn't let his wife work, or have money, or see her friends, or drive a car, or he regularly threatens her, can this possibly be a "domestic dispute?" The "domestic dispute" characterization minimizes and normalizes what is actually an ongoing epidemic of male violence against women.

Every 15 seconds in America, a man beats his wife or girlfriend. Every 45 seconds, a man rapes a woman or girl, most often one he knows -- a wife, a girlfriend, a co-worker, or a family member. In the last ten years in Vermont, half of the murders of women by men were directly related to domestic violence. In the last few months, that figure has gone up, because of the murders in Lyndonville and Essex.

Women have led the way in America working to bring the issue of violence against women to the attention of our media, our community organizations, our governments, our schools, and our religious institutions. The time has come for men to stop being bystanders.

Most men in this country are not violent, most do not beat their wives and girlfriends. Despite that fact, domestic violence is really a gender issue. Men commit 90 to 95 percent of domestic violence acts. I think most men instinctively know this is true, but most men find it really hard to talk about it, think about it, or much less do anything about it. Some men believe that because he is not violent or it's not happening in his family, he needn't do anything. Some men believe it is a "woman's" issue, so he can really ignore it. Some men can't imagine talking about this issue with other men, some of whom he might suspect are abusing women in their lives.

Let's face it. This is an embarrasing issue for men. It's much easier for us to simply let women try to take care of this problem. It's really hard for most men to admit that this is our problem. Violence against women is men's violence. Can we find a way to help men own this problem and work together to solve it? How can we end the pervasive silence? How can we help our communities get past the attitude that this happens someplace else, certainly not where we live?
Given the prevalence of male violence against women, why has this not been a very public men's issue. Isn't it really in men's self-interest to address gender violence? Don't most of us really care about the women and girls in our lives?

Most men have a woman or girl in his life who has been a victim of male violence, a mother who was beaten, a co-worker who was abused, a sister or daughter who was raped or killed, a friend whose daughter was attacked, a friend whose wife was battered in a previous marriage. How would things change if our male governmental leaders, our male religious leaders, our male media leaders, our male teachers, our male business leaders, all of us began to speak out, identify male violence around them, and begin working to end it? How can we empower men to learn more, stand up and be heard on these issues? Knowledge is the first step.

In conjunction with Meg Kuhner of Battered Women's Services and Shelter in central Vermont, I co-facilitate a program in the schools about domestic and dating violence issues. Some schools have invited us, some have not. The information we bring to junior high school and high school students, girls and boys alike, is challenging and gives the students an opportunity to talk and ask questions. It really is encouraging to see how well most of these young men and women respond to learning about and talking about dating and domestic violence. It's almost as if they feel some relief to be able to talk about it.

The important institutions in our daily lives -- including our newspapers -- can be among the first places where men begin to address men's violence issues. Knowledge, information and understanding are the first steps. Maybe one day enough men will say that letting a ten-year old boy take a baseball bat and beat to death a black female prostitute might not be something we want in our video games. Maybe one day enough men will say to boys that calling each other names using denigrating terms for women and female body parts is not creating a good image of women in their heads. Maybe one day enough men will know that it takes more strength and courage to speak out than it does to remain silent.

November 12, 2006

What to Do About Mexico

Here is one reason of many why Mexicans want to come to America to live and work.

Editor Found Dead After Running Corruption Stories

Published: November 11, 2006 10:00 AM ET

ZIHUATANEJO, Mexico -- A newspaper editor was found dead in a hotel room in this Pacific resort city, a day after running stories about organized crime and corruption in the city government.

Misael Tamayo Hernandez, editor of El Despertar de la Costa, was found early Friday nearly naked, with his hands tied behind his back, in a room at the Venus Motel, Zihuatanejo police officials said.He was lying on a bed, covered only with a sheet, and investigators found three puncture marks on his body, one in his right hand and two others in a forearm. The cause of death was a heart attack, forensic investigators said.

Tamayo Hernandez, who was well-respected in the local journalism community, published a story on Thursday alleging that city officials gave illegal discounts on water services to individuals and businesses. The same edition also contained stories on organized crime.

Workers at the motel said they saw the editor arrive in a gray Volkswagen Jetta about 1:25 a.m. local time Friday, and that the car left at 2:30 a.m. Tamayo Hernandez's body was found at about 7:30 a.m., District Attorney Raciel Gonzalez said.

Numerous journalists have been attacked or killed in recent years in Mexico, presumably as revenge for unfavorable reports on criminals, including drug traffickers and corrupt government officials.

In some parts of Mexico, prosecutors go to work, do absolutely nothing, and then go home safely to their families. Corruption, greed, murder, and threats are everyday occurrences in Mexico. Essentially gangs are terrorizing Mexico.

Unemployment is rampant, despite all the vaunted NAFTA and CAFTA promises. And despite Rush Limbaugh's uninformed protestations to the contrary, millions of migrant Mexican workers, illegal and legal, work in jobs almost all Americans don't want. In fact, some American companies are leaving Mexico because they have found cheaper labor elsewhere.

Instead of focusing on how to keep these millions of people out, perhaps we should be focusing on how we can help them survive and thrive in their own country. Unfortunately, that would take more creative thinking, courage and compassion than this current US administration has.

Is There a Limit to Corporate Rapacity?

The corporate mentality that motivates tax breaks for the rich is itself richly reflected in the new advertisement from Lexus touting its new system that permits the car to park itself. The wealthy (the Lexus is not for the average worker) are too busy watching stock quotes on their Blackberrys to bother with parking the car themselves. This is a kind of wanna-be limousine driver for the not-yet super-rich.

Another delicious example of corporate rapacity can be found in a recent story and editorial from the New York Times. Here's part of the story by Stephen Labaton:

WASHINGTON, Oct. 28 — Frustrated with laws and regulations that have made companies and accounting firms more open to lawsuits from investors and the government, corporate America — with the encouragement of the Bush administration — is preparing to fight back.
Now that corruption cases like Enron and WorldCom are falling out of the news, two influential industry groups with close ties to administration officials are hoping to swing the regulatory pendulum in the opposite direction. The groups are drafting proposals to provide broad new protections to corporations and accounting firms from criminal cases brought by federal and state prosecutors as well as a stronger shield against civil lawsuits from investors.
Although the details are still being worked out, the groups’ proposals aim to limit the liability of accounting firms for the work they do on behalf of clients, to force prosecutors to target individual wrongdoers rather than entire companies, and to scale back shareholder lawsuits.
The groups hope to reduce what they see as some burdens imposed by the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, landmark post-Enron legislation adopted in 2002. The law, which placed significant new auditing and governance requirements on companies, gave broad discretion for interpretation to the Securities and Exchange Commission. The groups are also interested in rolling back rules and policies that have been on the books for decades.

Here's part of the editorial from today's edition:

It seems almost unbelievable, then, that corporate America would pick this moment to beg for relaxed regulation and enforcement, as well as more protection from investors’ lawsuits. But as Stephen Labaton reported recently in The Times, industry groups are seeking broad new protections for corporations and accounting firms, not through legislation but from the Bush administration through agency rule changes.

Corporate profits are never high enough. Corporate protections are never strong enough. Corporate personhood must be protected above and beyond any individual American's protections or rights. Whatever can be done to protect, serve, soothe and bouy corporations must be done. And while we're at it, let's not force the human agents of the corporatocracy be forced to park their own cars either.

November 10, 2006

Observations and Cautions

Have you noticed that, in the wake of the elections, Rumsfeld and Bush, among others, have been talking about how "complicated" the war in Iraq is, and how not many people really understand all the complexities? How odd to hear this from two men who had so little insight into the social, cultural, religious and political complexities of a country they decided they were going to invade. What hubris from two men who ignored the warnings from a slew of people who actually did understand the complex nature of Iraq and warned against the invasion. And what a convenient excuse for two men to employ in the face of defeat and rejection, as if they are saying "if only more people understood what we were trying to do."


Bush II is now looking to some personnel resources from Bush I whom he has ignored. Brent Scowcroft was one of Bush I's chief policy advisors, but he was not brought into the inner circle of Bush II advisors. Scowcroft has been critical of Bush II's Middle East policy of neglect, Bush II's "failing venture" in Iraq, and Bush II's unilateral approach around the world which has hurt our relations everywhere. Now, Bush II is looking to Scowcroft's former chief assistant, Bob Gates (and former Bush I CIA head), to help correct the course of the Iraq war and lead America out of this mess as the new Secretary of Defense.


The Democrats need to be careful about how they celebrate. If they begin to behave like Republicans did when they took over the House and Senate, they will just show themselves to be only another form of legislative bullies. They have a chance to set an example. The Democrats ought not to begin impeachment proceedings against Bush and they ought not to seek revenge against arrogant and anti-democratic behavior toward Democrats while Republicans ruled Congress.


Have you heard much from Karl Rove or Dick Cheney in the aftermath of their "thumping"? Not much, huh? Maybe we have seen a demotion of these two ideological creeps, and a muzzle on their ceaseless sneering, bragging, and disdainful words. Maybe I am wrong, but I think we will see less of them. Bush realizes he must, some how, some way, save whatever he has left of his legacy. Cheney and Rove are probably not the ones who are going to save his bacon. I think it's going to be his daddy.


Let's not expect too much. There will be some Congressional hearings and investigations that the Republicans have killed up to this point -- and that's a good thing. But what Congressional Democrats can accomplish is really limited. They do not have a veto-proof majority and are at the mercy of the process they fought to preserve -- the filibuster.

There is no "good" decision on the Iraq war. As one pundit put it, it's a choice among bad, worse and catastrophic. I will be surprised if anything even approaching a good resolution comes in the next two years. The next President will spend an enormous part of her or his time cleaning up this horrible mess.

November 02, 2006

What Would Karl Rove Have Done?

John Kerry is pilloried, hoisted on his own petard, ridiculed -- and all unnecessarily so. Why? Because he waffled. Because he hedged. Because he shuffled his feet and then apologized. All for something he did not need to apologize for.

Kerry's initial instincts were right. He got tough and stood up for himself.

What exactly did he say? Here it is:

"Do you know where you end up if you don’t study, if you aren’t smart, if you’re intellectually lazy? You end up getting stuck in a war in Iraq. Just ask President Bush.”

Why, in heaven's name, did he feel he needed to apologize for that remark? Here is the spin Karl Rove would have devised were he a Democratic Party strategist:

Rove would have turned it into an advantage. He would have had Kerry ask: "What's the matter with you all? Don't you get it? Bush didn't study, Bush isn't smart, Bush is intellectually lazy....and look where it has gotten us! The disaster in Iraq. All you have to do is ask most Americans who now disagree with the Bush Iraq war. He is stuck in his own mess. Let me repeat -- didn't study, isn't smart, and is intellectually lazy. How did we get in this horrible mess? George Bush. Need I say more?"

"And any convoluted inference that I am dissing American troops is ludicrous and insulting. And those who attempt to misuse my words are the ones who are insulting our troops, not to mention insulting the intelligence of the American people."

Karl Rove would not have let Kerry apologize for anything.

Don't the Democrats have anyone who could have turned this to their advantage?

I despair when I see something like this happen.

A Liberal Screed Fails to Inspire

Thomas Jefferson and his fellow revolutionaries spent a great deal of time enumerating the crimes of King George, but once understood and felt intimately by most colonists, they then offered some very specific "political imagination" and inspiration that created a new country.

Bruce Ackerman and Todd Gitlin, along with 44 other "distinguished" liberals, have issued a joint statement in The American Prospect, defending and defining their idea of what it means to be a liberal. Starting off employing Bush's words "stay the course" and ending with his words "hard work," the authors offer almost nothing in the way of political imagination, nor much in the way of specifics. The online version of the statement refers to it, promisingly, as a "manifesto."

I was disappointed by the statement's concentration on "liberal" opposition to the Bush administration's war on terror and the war in Iraq. The statement never misses an opportunity to focus on the delusion and incompetence of the Bush administration and the "conservative movement." And as early as the second paragraph of the statement's substance (following two paragraphs of introduction), the authors feel compelled to take a gratuitous shot at Israel in a statement about "a moment for liberals to define themselves."

In one paragraph, these liberals give short-shrift to some heavyweight issues by declaring that they "believe passionately" in equal treatment under the law, rights to housing, affordable health care, equal opportunity for employment and fair wages, physical security, and a sustainable environment. Egads, it sounds like some planks from the platform of the Democratic Party. So what's new? And big deal.

Given an opportunity to defend and define liberalism, the signers, instead, obsess on the crimes of Bush and Cheney and, thus, miss the chance to illuminate and educate Americans in favor of alternatives.

For instance, there is no mention of corporate personhood and the catastrophic influence of corporate money that has corrupted our entire political system. There is not a word about trade policies that have denigrated the workforce in this country, resulting in the loss of substantial and rewarding jobs, and creating a service economy of underpaid and underskilled Americans by the millions -- essentially, millions who work and eat at fastfood joints, work and shop at Wal-Marts, and sit and watch reality TV and violence for hours at a time.

There is not a word about the huge budget deficit which sits like an anvil on the backs of future generations of Americans.

There is no imaginative solution offered to address the crisis of health care, or the inequitable tax system, or the corruption of the electoral process, or the challenges to social security. What do liberals stand for? This is more a statement of what liberals stand against.

There no mention of the ceaseless war that has been waged on trade unions and the right to organize, and what to do about it. No mention of the war on secular education, and what to do about it. No mention of the incessant attack on a woman's right to her own sovereign health decisions, and what to do about it. No mention of the male culture of violence, of a hyper-masculinity, indeed, of a cult of misogyny in America which has transformed our country into the most violent, gun-obsessed, most heavily-policed industrialized nation in the world, and what top do about it. No mention of a smaller and smaller concentration of media ownership and control which ignores anything that does not serve the bottom line and which promotes, among other things, a national obsession with emaciated women who are silent and submissive, and what to do about it. And no mention of a country which has more people in prison than most totalitarian states in the world, and what to do about it.

Nowhere could I find a word about the current genocidal slaughter in Darfur. How many of the signers of this statement wrote about Rwanda 12 years ago?

There is a great deal of substantive criticism in this statement of what the Bush administration has done wrong, and not enough of what could have been done right.

The authors conclude:

"We must engage in large acts of political imagination and inspire a new generation to take up liberal principles and adapt them inventively in a new century."

Unfortunately, the authors had an opportunity to perform an act of what they called "political imagination," but they didn't. They could have inspired, but they ended up mostly offering pablum and warmed-over pieties.

Yes, yes, you can only say so much in a short statement that you want alot of "distinguished" people to sign, but these liberals might have taken a look at some of the conservative messages that are replete with specifics about what they want to do. The Republican Contract with America is a good example of that. While some Republicans tried to fulfill all of the goals contained in that statement, in fact, many were not achieved. But at least it was a specific agenda behind which they recruited support, sufficient enough eventually to gain control of the Congress, White House, and the Supreme Court.

It would have been nice to see such clarity and specificity from Ackerman, Gitlin,

October 31, 2006

Cutting and Running from the Oil Companies

When it comes to collecting Americans' fair share of royalties owed the American people from oil companies, the Bush administration cuts and runs from its responsibility to collect them.

The New York Times today reports how the Bush administration's Interior Department has dropped its efforts to collect full royalties due the American government from oil companies for its leases, royalties which these companies have consistently underpaid.

According to the Times, "the agency had ordered Chevron to pay $6 million in additional royalties but could have sought tens of millions more had it prevailed. The decision also sets a precedent that could make it easier for oil and gas companies to lower the value of what they pump each year from federal property and thus their payments to the government."

As usual, this administration gives away the American people's money to corporate interests, whether they are no-bid contractors in Iraq, or oil companies taking oil on American land.

October 22, 2006

The Republican Tough Guise

How many times have we heard from Republican Party strategists, policymakers, officeholders, and other Party "true believers" that it is only the Republican Party that has kept us safe and can keep us safe in the future. How many times have we heard this in the context of denegrating the Democratic Party as the party of "cut-and-run" and surrender.

The essence of the claim that only Republicans can protect us ignores the fact that it was a President who brags that he does not read very much who ignored warnings, in writing, from the Clinton administration, as well as from his own intelligence community about impending Al-Queda attacks. Three thousand American are dead in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania on Bush's watch, 3000 Americans dead in Iraq on Bush's watch, 20,000 plus Americans wounded on Bush's watch in Iraq. And in the face of this, Republicans are actually convincing a large percentage of Americans that we are safer under their rule. It defies logic, but logic apparently doesn't count when it comes to Republican braggadocio.

It is true that since 9/11 we have not had another attack in America like 9/11, but it has nothing to do with the Republican Party. It has to do with hard working Americans, by the tens of thousands, who work every day for the FBI, the CIA, the National Security Agency, the United States Coast Guard, US Customs, the Border Patrol, along with every police force in the country. These are the people who protect us, not Dick Cheney's tough-guy sneering, or George Bush's awkward cowboy posturing.

The fact is that these Americans would still be doing their jobs protecting Americans regardless of what party is on power, and the suggestion by Republicans that the Democratic Party would be any less dedicated to protecting Americans is purely shameful and reprehensible.

September 23, 2006

What Drives the Know-Nothing 33% of Americans

Here are two disturbing facts to ponder, and taken together, they lead me to an understanding of how Bush has a solid one-third, unwavering support for his Iraq war.

Fact # 1 --
As reported by the Associated Press on September 22, 2006, the number of Americans killed in Iraq now outnumbers the number killed on 9/11. This does not count the tens of thousands of wounded, maimed, emotionally and mentally wounded, and those poisoned by the huge amount of depleted uranium our troops have been exposed to. Nor does it count the 6,599 violent deaths among Iraqis reported in July and August alone. Nor does it count the estimated 40,000 to 100,00 plus Iraqis who have died as a result of the US invasion in 2003.

But then again, who important enough is really counting?

Fact #2 --
According to a New York Times/CBS poll, one in three Americans still believe that Saddam Hussein was personally involved in 9/11 -- proof positive of how well the Bush administration's repeated lies have worked. Imagine it. Thirty-three (33%) percent of Americans believe what is a bald faced lie about why our American men and women are dying in Iraq. These are the dittohead Americans, those whose heads bobble in unthinking, uncritical belief.

In light of these two facts, I can understand how this 33% (one-third) of Americans can justify to themselves all of the deaths in Iraq, American and otherwise. It is a righteous war against a man that attacked us, he had it coming, and the terrible price is worth it. Because Saddam attacked us on 9/11, this war is just.

If you believe a lie, you can justify almost anything.

September 17, 2006

W is Not for Wobble, Indeed.

Rich Lowry of the National Review has some interesting takes on George W. in his face-to-face interview with him.

"He has a restless energy when he sits in a chair..."
"He exudes an easy self-confidence."
(He) "... asks what the correct expression is..."
(He) "...makes fun of himself."
"Bush’s confidence goes well beyond comfort in his own skin."
"He exhibits a sincere, passionate, and uncompromising conviction in his principles."
"He is arguably losing a war in Iraq that could destroy his hopes for the Middle East and sink his party’s hope in the midterm elections." (Did Lowry wink when he wrote this line?)
"But there’s no wobble in Bush. If anything, the opposite."

And there it is, in a nutshell -- Bush's unshakeable, what-me-worry, head-in-the-sand, don't-confuse-me-with-the-facts, everything-is-black-and-white mindset and Lowry's unswerving admiration for it. It's as if Bush's boyish pluck and obstinacy was some kind of virtue, an icon of American patriotic fervor worthy of a kind of Republican mythology of manhood and doing the right thing.

Here is Bush in his own words:

“Let me just first tell you that I’ve never been more convinced that the decisions I made are the right decisions. I firmly believe — I’m oftentimes asked about, well, you’re stubborn and all this. If you believe in a strategy, in Washington, D.C. you’ve got to stick to that strategy, see. People want you to change. It’s tactics that shift, but the strategic vision has not, and will not, shift.”

Lowry emphasizes it by repeating and italicizing never more convinced. Lowry then reports that Bush memorializes his obdurate thinking by claiming that it is "essential to meaningful governance." Lowry suggest that it is this kind of thinking that "drives Bush's critics batty." No kidding.

Lowry's National Review piece goes on to emphasize that when Bush talks about "principles" these days, he really is talking about THE WAR ON TERROR. Lowry has that right. That's about all Bush is thinking about these days -- THE WAR ON TERROR. 9/11 was Bush's saving grace, and he has exploited it to his every partisan advantage. It energized his presidency in ways he could only dream about before. Had it not happened, he likely would have been a one-term President, having accomplished nothing other than cutting taxes for his wealthy friends.

But it is THE WAR ON TERROR that has concretized his thinking about things in his your-with-us-or-with-the-terrorists' bunker mentality. It consumes him in ways most Americans can't imagine. And as Bush's legacy has fallen apart, it eats at him even more. He can do nothing else other than sink deeper and deeper into his one-track world where there are no grays, no complicated issues, no compromises, and no ifs, ands, or buts.

Rich Lowry merely helps reinforce Bush's simplicity and reaction with his puffery.

Crocodile Tears for Ford Motor Company

The name, the Ford Motor Company, conjures up the historic American automotive pioneering spirit and a proud heritage. But is anyone feeling the slightest bit of sympathy for Ford Motor Company these days? Who can sympathize with corporate decision-makers who have brought this once proud company to this level of incompetence, bad planning, poor design and thoughtless forecasting? Why have they not resigned or been fired long ago? Whatever happens to them, you can be sure they all have their golden parachutes.

To be sure, it is the Ford workers who will suffer the most. It is their jobs that are being eliminated. Eventually, it will probably be their pensions and benefits that will be reduced or lost entirely. It's particularly insidious how the trade union jobs are the main target. How does the reasoning go? Well, we wouldn't be in this trouble if it weren't for all those overpaid union workers. See how easy it is to blame someone else? Especially union employees?

Watching C-SPAN this morning, I was struck by the vast majority of people calling up telling how shoddy their Ford vehicles are, and how they would never buy another one. I pass by my local Ford dealers and what do I see? Their parking lots are filled with huge SUVs and F-350s, F-250s, and F-150 pickup trucks. I saw a local TV ad pushing the Ford Expedition, a 9 seater, 14 miles per gallon (the reality is probably less), over two-and-a-half ton tank, as a family car. This is the insanity that has been governing the American automobile industry for years.

American car companies have been the walking dead for years and they are only just discovering it. They will soon be sitting on the biggest pile of automotive scrap metal and plastic in history and will maintain it wasn't their fault.

September 11, 2006

Republican Fascism Revealed

Thom Hartmann, writing at Common Dreams, helps us understand through the words of Henry Wallace, among others, how we have come to the Republican fascism of 2006.

Read this essay.

Reclaiming The Issues: Islamic Or Republican Fascism?
by Thom Hartmann

In the years since George W. Bush first used 9/11 as his own "Reichstag fire" to gut the Constitution and enhance the power and wealth of his corporate cronies, many across the political spectrum have accused him and his Republican support group of being fascists.
On the right,The John Birch Society's website editor recently opined of the Bush Administration's warrantless wiretap program: "This is to say that from the administration's perspective, the president is, in effect, our living constitution. This is, in a specific and unmistakable sense, fascist."
On the left, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. specifically indicts the Bush administration for fascistic behavior in his book "Crimes Against Nature: How George W. Bush and his Corporate Pals Are Plundering the Country and Hijacking Our Democracy."
Genuine American fascists are on the run, and part of their survival strategy is to redefine the term "fascism" so it can't be applied to them any more. Most recently, George W. Bush said: "This nation is at war with Islamic fascists who will use any means to destroy those of us who love freedom, to hurt our nation."
In fact, the Islamic fundamentalists who apparently perpetrated 9/11 and other crimes in Spain and the United Kingdom are advocating a fundamentalist theocracy, not fascism.
But theocracy - the merging of religion and government - is also on the plate for the new American fascists (just as it was for Hitler, who based the Nazi death cult on a "new Christianity" that would bring "a thousand years of peace"), so they don't want to use that term, either.
While the Republicans promote the term "Islamo-fascism," the rest of the world is pushing back, as the BBC noted in an article by Richard Allen Greene ("Bush's Language Angers US Muslims" - 12 August 2006):
"Security expert Daniel Benjamin of the Center for Strategic and International Studies agreed that the term [Islamic fascists] was meaningless.
"'There is no sense in which jihadists embrace fascist ideology as it was developed by Mussolini or anyone else who was associated with the term,' he said. 'This is an epithet, a way of arousing strong emotion and tarnishing one's opponent, but it doesn't tell us anything about the content of their beliefs.'"
Their beliefs are, quite simply, that governments of the world should be subservient to religion, a view shared by a small but significant part of today's Republican party. But that is not fascism - the fascists in the US want to exploit the fundamentalist theocrats to achieve their own fascistic goals.
Vice President of the United States Henry Wallace was the first to clearly and accurately point out who the real American fascists are, and what they're up to.
In early 1944 the New York Times asked Vice President Wallace to, as Wallace noted, "write a piece answering the following questions: What is a fascist? How many fascists have we? How dangerous are they?"
Vice President Wallace's answers to those questions were published in The New York Times on April 9, 1944, at the height of the war against the Axis powers of Germany and Japan:
"The really dangerous American fascists," Wallace wrote, "are not those who are hooked up directly or indirectly with the Axis. The FBI has its finger on those. The dangerous American fascist is the man who wants to do in the United States in an American way what Hitler did in Germany in a Prussian way. The American fascist would prefer not to use violence. His method is to poison the channels of public information. With a fascist the problem is never how best to present the truth to the public but how best to use the news to deceive the public into giving the fascist and his group more money or more power."
In this, Vice President Wallace was using the classic definition of the word "fascist" - the definition Mussolini had in mind when he claimed to have invented the word. (It was actually Italian philosopher Giovanni Gentile who wrote the entry in the Encyclopedia Italiana that said: "Fascism should more appropriately be called corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power." Mussolini, however, affixed his name to the entry, and claimed credit for it.)
As the 1983 American Heritage Dictionary noted, fascism is: "A system of government that exercises a dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through the merging of state and business leadership, together with belligerent nationalism." (The US dictionary definition has gotten somewhat squishier since then, as all the larger dictionary companies have been bought up by multinational corporations.)
Mussolini was quite straightforward about all this. In a 1923 pamphlet titled "The Doctrine of Fascism" he wrote, "If classical liberalism spells individualism, Fascism spells government." But not a government of, by, and for We The People - instead, it would be a government of, by, and for the most powerful corporate interests in the nation.
In 1938, Mussolini brought his vision of fascism into full reality when he dissolved Parliament and replaced it with the "Camera dei Fasci e delle Corporazioni" - the Chamber of the Fascist Corporations. Corporations were still privately owned, but now instead of having to sneak their money to folks like John Boehner and covertly write legislation, they were openly in charge of the government.
Vice President Wallace bluntly laid out his concern about the same happening here in America in his 1944 Times article:
" If we define an American fascist as one who in case of conflict puts money and power ahead of human beings, then there are undoubtedly several million fascists in the United States. There are probably several hundred thousand if we narrow the definition to include only those who in their search for money and power are ruthless and deceitful. ... They are patriotic in time of war because it is to their interest to be so, but in time of peace they follow power and the dollar wherever they may lead."
Nonetheless, at that time there were few corporate heads who had run for political office, and, in Wallace's view, most politicians still felt it was their obligation to represent We The People instead of corporate cartels. The real problem would come, he believed, when the media was concentrated in only a few hands:
"American fascism will not be really dangerous," he added in the next paragraph, "until there is a purposeful coalition among the cartelists, the deliberate poisoners of public information..."
Noting that, "Fascism is a worldwide disease," Wallace further suggested that fascism's "greatest threat to the United States will come after the war" and will manifest "within the United States itself."
In Sinclair Lewis's 1935 novel "It Can't Happen Here," a conservative southern politician is helped to the presidency by a nationally syndicated "conservative" radio talk show host. The politician - Buzz Windrip - runs his campaign on family values, the flag, and patriotism. Windrip and the talk show host portray advocates of traditional American democracy as anti-American. When Windrip becomes President, he opens a Guantanamo-style detention center, and the viewpoint character of the book, Vermont newspaper editor Doremus Jessup, flees to Canada to avoid prosecution under new "patriotic" laws that make it illegal to criticize the President. As Lewis noted in his novel:
"The President, with something of his former good-humor [said]: 'There are two [political] parties, the Corporate and those who don't belong to any party at all, and so, to use a common phrase, are just out of luck!' The idea of the Corporate or Corporative State, Secretary [of State] Sarason had more or less taken from Italy." And, President "Windrip's partisans called themselves the Corporatists, or, familiarly, the 'Corpos,' which nickname was generally used."
Lewis, the first American writer to win a Nobel Prize, was world famous by 1944, as was his book "It Can't Happen Here." And several well-known and powerful Americans, including Prescott Bush, had lost businesses in the early 1940s because of charges by Roosevelt that they were doing business with Hitler. These events all, no doubt, colored Vice President Wallace's thinking when he wrote in The New York Times:
"Still another danger is represented by those who, paying lip service to democracy and the common welfare, in their insatiable greed for money and the power which money gives, do not hesitate surreptitiously to evade the laws designed to safeguard the public from monopolistic extortion. American fascists of this stamp were clandestinely aligned with their German counterparts before the war, and are even now preparing to resume where they left off, after 'the present unpleasantness' ceases."
Thus, the rich get richer (and more powerful) on the backs of the poor and the middle class, giant corporate behemoths wipe out small and middle sized businesses, and a corporate iron fist is seizing control of our government itself. As I detail in my new book "Screwed: The Undeclared War Against The Middle Class," the primary beneficiaries of this new fascism are the corporatists, while the once-outspoken middle class of the 1950s-1980s is systematically being replaced by a silent serf-class of the working poor.
As Wallace wrote, some in big business "are willing to jeopardize the structure of American liberty to gain some temporary advantage." He added, "Monopolists who fear competition and who distrust democracy because it stands for equal opportunity would like to secure their position against small and energetic enterprise [companies]. In an effort to eliminate the possibility of any rival growing up, some monopolists would sacrifice democracy itself."
But American fascists who would want former CEOs as President, Vice President, House Majority Whip, and Senate Majority Leader, and write legislation with corporate interests in mind, don't generally talk to We The People about their real agenda, or the harm it does to small businesses and working people. Instead, as Hitler did with the trade union leaders and the Jews, they point to a "them" to pin with blame and distract people from the harms of their economic policies.
In a comment prescient of George W. Bush's recent suggestion that civilization itself is at risk because of gays or Muslims, Wallace continued:
" The symptoms of fascist thinking are colored by environment and adapted to immediate circumstances. But always and everywhere they can be identified by their appeal to prejudice and by the desire to play upon the fears and vanities of different groups in order to gain power. It is no coincidence that the growth of modern tyrants has in every case been heralded by the growth of prejudice. It may be shocking to some people in this country to realize that, without meaning to do so, they hold views in common with Hitler when they preach discrimination..."
But even at this, Wallace noted, American fascists would have to lie to the people in order to gain power. And, because they were in bed with the nation's largest corporations - who could gain control of newspapers and broadcast media - they could promote their lies with ease.
"The American fascists are most easily recognized by their deliberate perversion of truth and fact," Wallace wrote. "Their newspapers and propaganda carefully cultivate every fissure of disunity, every crack in the common front against fascism. They use every opportunity to impugn democracy."
In his strongest indictment of the tide of fascism the Vice President of the United States saw rising in America, he added:
"They claim to be super-patriots, but they would destroy every liberty guaranteed by the Constitution. They demand free enterprise, but are the spokesmen for monopoly and vested interest. Their final objective toward which all their deceit is directed is to capture political power so that, using the power of the state and the power of the market simultaneously, they may keep the common man in eternal subjection."
Finally, Wallace said, "The myth of fascist efficiency has deluded many people. ... Democracy, to crush fascism internally, must...develop the ability to keep people fully employed and at the same time balance the budget. It must put human beings first and dollars second. It must appeal to reason and decency and not to violence and deceit. We must not tolerate oppressive government or industrial oligarchy in the form of monopolies and cartels."
This liberal vision of an egalitarian America in which very large businesses and media monopolies are broken up under the 1890 Sherman Anti-Trust Act (which Reagan stopped enforcing, leading to the mergers & acquisitions frenzy that continues to this day) was the driving vision of the New Deal (and of "Trust Buster" Teddy Roosevelt a generation earlier).
As Wallace's President, Franklin D. Roosevelt, said when he accepted his party's renomination in 1936 in Philadelphia:
"...Out of this modern civilization, economic royalists [have] carved new dynasties.... It was natural and perhaps human that the privileged princes of these new economic dynasties, thirsting for power, reached out for control over government itself. They created a new despotism and wrapped it in the robes of legal sanction.... And as a result the average man once more confronts the problem that faced the Minute Man...."
Speaking indirectly of the fascists that Wallace would directly name almost a decade later, Roosevelt brought the issue to its core:
"These economic royalists complain that we seek to overthrow the institutions of America. What they really complain of is that we seek to take away their power."
But, he thundered in that speech:
"Our allegiance to American institutions requires the overthrow of this kind of power!"
In 2006, we again stand at the same crossroad Roosevelt and Wallace confronted during the Great Depression and World War II. Fascism is again rising in America, this time calling itself "compassionate conservatism," and "the free market" in a "flat" world. The RNC's behavior today eerily parallels the day in 1936 when Roosevelt said:
"In vain they seek to hide behind the flag and the Constitution. In their blindness they forget what the flag and the Constitution stand for."
President Roosevelt and Vice President Wallace's warnings have come full circle. Thus it's now critical that we reclaim the word "fascist" to describe current-day Republican policies, support progressive websites that spread the good word, and join together this November at the ballot box to stop fascist election fraud and this most recent incarnation of Republican-fascism from seizing complete and irretrievable control of our nation.

Thom Hartmann is a Project Censored Award-winning best-selling author, and host of a nationally syndicated daily progressive talk show carried on the Air America Radio network and Sirius. His most recent book, just released, is "Screwed: The Undeclared War on the Middle Class and What We Can Do About It." Other books include: "The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight," "Unequal Protection," "We The People," and "What Would Jefferson Do?"

September 06, 2006

Bush National Security Policy Failures Abound

In spite of all their macho talk, in spite of their claims to be the only men the American people can trust to fight global terrorism and radical Islam, the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld triad has actually failed when it comes to defending America. The Third Way National Security Project has just released a detailed study of the policies of the Bush regime and its national security failures. Here is a summary from the study:

• Iraq: The numbers show that the security situation is deteriorating rapidly – a chart shows that the number of average weekly attacks has risen steadily since the invasion, and the estimated number of insurgents in the country has gone from 5,000 in 2003 to more than 20,000 in April 2006. The report also compares the cost of Operation Desert Storm to the estimated costs of the Iraq War ($61.1 billion in 1991, compared to $549 billion-$1.27 trillion today). And the data show that indices of Iraqi quality of life have plummeted and our alliances have suffered significantly under the Bush Iraq policies.
• Terrorism: Despite the Bush claim that his administration had “arrested or otherwise dealt with” much of al Qaeda’s command structure, the estimated number of al Qaeda members has jumped from 20,000 in 2001 to 50,000 today, worldwide attacks are up sharply, and 86% of national security experts believe that the world is more dangerous for Americans today.
• Afghanistan: The situation in Afghanistan is deteriorating rapidly – the data in the report show that number of Taliban attacks rose from 22 in 2001-2003 to 251 in 2004-2006, and the numbers continue to rise. Moreover, as recent news reports confirm, the unrest and Taliban resurgence have helped the country’s opium production to hit all-time highs.
• Iran: The data show that Iran’s nuclear program has made significant progress during Bush’s terms in office.
• North Korea: Similarly, the data show that North Korea’s nuclear capabilities have skyrocketed – they may have had one nuclear weapon in 2001, but experts are fairly certain they have between 3 and 9 today (and the ability to make many more), combined with a rapidly moving missile production system.
• The US Military: The data show that the Bush stewardship of the military and the Iraq War have had serious dilatory effects on readiness and the overall state of the military, especially the Army, National Guard and Reserves.
• China: While Bush has been focused on Iraq and elsewhere, China has become a powerful regional broker, our largest creditor and an ally of some of our most serious enemies.

The Republican strategy for this November's mid-term elections is a "robust" defense of the status quo policies of an administration whose policies have failed. There can be no other strategy for them, because any other would be an admission of failure, something this President will never allow.

September 04, 2006

What's Wrong With America

This horrible story from the Chicago Tribune about the deaths of six children in a fire caused by a candle is just one small example of what's wrong with America. Here we have an immigrant family that has had no electricity since May, much less smoke detectors, in one of our richest cities having to provide light by candle. This family is only one of so many in this country which don't have their basic needs met.

Think how much help we could have provided to our own people in America over the past several years with the hundreds of billions of dollars we have wasted in Iraq, so little of which has gone to the Iraqi people, so much of which has gone to the military-industrial complex.

What's wrong with America? All you have to do is examine the lives these six children were living, without basic needs, to find the answer.

Bush's phony war on terror in Iraq has amounted to a war on America.

Afghanistan Ignored

Some of you may wonder why I have not been active on my blog. To put it simply, I have been involved in a new business startup and have had no time at all to even think about it. But I hope to spend some more time now

[Here is a brilliant piece by Rep. Barney Frank on Afghanistan and Iraq, and how wrong the Bush administration has gotten the war on terrorism.]

August 30, 2006, By Barney Frank (Boston Globe)

A WAR is missing. Sadly, it is not missing from the physical location in which it is taking place, and people continue to die as it is waged. But it has largely disappeared from our national debate, and that debate has been sorely distorted as a consequence.
The war in question is in Afghanistan, and it isn't missing because it's no longer of consequence -- in fact, conditions there appear to be deteriorating -- but because of a conscious, unfortunately successful effort by the Bush administration and its conservative allies to ignore it. That's because acknowledging the war there would invalidate their charge that their political opponents are unwilling to take a forceful stand against terrorism.
During the years after World War II, academics popularized the concept of the ``big lie." This is a technique successfully used by some European regimes to manipulate the public perception of reality. It turned out that if enough people in official positions simply repeated things that were not true, and found elements in the media ready to reinforce them, lies would be believed and truths forgotten.
This approach surfaced in Vice President Dick Cheney's assertion that the defeat of Senator Joseph Lieberman in Connecticut's Democratic primary, largely but not entirely because of his support for the Iraq war, demonstrated that Democrats were unwilling to use appropriate force against terrorism. The theme has been a constant in this campaign season, repeatedly asserted by the administration and its congressional allies, and elaborated on by media figures. Their argument is that the refusal of many Democrats to support the war in Iraq shows that President Bush's opposition is unwilling to use force against terrorism.
There is, of course, one factual refutation of this partisan distortion. Every Democratic senator and representative but one voted for the war in Afghanistan. It is this war that represented America's reaction to the murders of thousands of Americans on Sept. 11 . It was the Taliban regime in Afghanistan that was sheltering Osama bin Laden. The reaction of the overall majority of Americans, including virtually all Democrats, was to support the Afghan war as a necessary act of self-defense.
But the fact that the Bush-Cheney claims that Saddam Hussein was involved in the 9/11 attacks have been totally repudiated does not stop the administration and its allies from equating willingness to combat terror with support for the war in Iraq.
Not only does support for the Afghan struggle demonstrate our willingness to resort to war in self-defense, but one of the reasons why the Iraq war does America so much harm is that it has diverted attention, resources, and support from Afghanistan. Violence is rising there, along with the drug trade, and support is eroding for what we had hoped to establish as a democratic regime.
I feel particularly strongly about this effort to obliterate the Afghan war from the national debate because I sat in a church in Raynham early last month and watched a family grieve over the death of a brave young man who had been killed there. I do not regret voting for the war in Afghanistan. But I very much regret the necessity of having to do so. The fact that I voted for the war in which that young man was killed weighs heavily on me as a reminder that while war is sometimes necessary, it is an instrument to use only with strong justification, and when alternatives are not available.
Whether or not one subscribes to the geopolitical aims that motivated the Bush administration's intervention in Iraq, it is clearly invalid to assert that support for that war is the indispensable badge of one's willingness to confront terrorism. Only by adopting the techniques of the big lie can the vice president make his case that those opposed to the Iraqi war fail to understand the importance of a firm response to terrorists. In fact, given the deleterious effect it has had on our effort in Afghanistan, and the enormous boost it has given to anti-American forces around the world, the big truth is that the Iraq war has damaged our ability to fight terrorism.
Americans were united in their response to the mass murders of 9/11. The war in Iraq has weakened the United States internationally and divided it domestically, while draining needed resources. It is precisely because the Iraq war is not defensible on any other terms that the Bush/Cheney approach uses the big lie to defend the war in Iraq on grounds that in fact describe the war in Afghanistan.

US Representative Barney Frank serves in Massachusetts' 4th Congressional District.

August 06, 2006

Detestable Behavior

How can we continue to stomach the actions of men like Senator Bill Frist who holds the poorest paid in our society hostage to tax breaks for billionaires? Frist is one of many Senators who supported the detestable idea that minimum wage workers cannot get a raise in the hourly wage until, and unless, millionaires and billionaires receive more tax breaks.

Of course, Frist and his other fellow misanthropic greedy-guts never mentioned that since the last raise in the minimum wage ten years ago, the Senate has seen fit to give itself several raises totalling $35,000.

How have we come to a time in America when we are led by such men?

Running Scared

If you have not read Frank Rich's column today , stop what you are doing and take a few minutes to read it.

A few weeks ago, my friend and I wrote a piece in this blog about the "occupation" of Iraq. This is no longer the war in Iraq -- we won that war against Saddam Hussein -- or the war against terror -- the people who are killing Iraqis and Americans in Iraq are Iraqis, not Al-Queda, deadenders, or Saddamists. Quite simply, it is a failed occupation that is getting worse every day.

Because it is a failed occupation, Rich writes, the American people are turning off the TV news on Iraq, and, as a result, turning off caring about Iraq. The TV news people are helping this by covering Iraq and our failure less and less. Just how much bad news can we stomach? It has become a sinkhole of an occupation from which the only possible extraction is another "defeat" for America. Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld know it and they are running scared.

Bush's failure in Iraq has undermined America's power for years to come. I also agree with Frank Rich's assessment that Bush has undermined the one democracy in the Middle East that we have supported - Israel. I have always contended that George Bush and his "Christian" base are Israel's worst enemies. He and his base hate the very idea of Islam, its foundations and beliefs, and they can't escape their conclusions. Bush has made the war on terror an all-consuming, undefined, boundless battle against Islam. Let's face it, that's what it is, despite the rhetoric about tolerance. In so doing, Bush has created circumstances that hold Americans responsible for waging a world war against an entire religion.

Just why are we in Iraq now? What purpose are we serving? Just how much more hollow and meaningless can words coming from Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld's mouths be about "freeing the Iraqi people," "promoting democracy in the region," and securing a stable supply of oil from the Middle East? When will we stop listening to this ideology of ignorance?

July 27, 2006

High Mileage Hard to Find

I have been looking around for a high mileage vehicle, because I am going to be driving 50 miles a day to my new business. What a revelation! High mileage cars are few and far apart. Honda, Toyota, and a few others have Hybrid vehicles, but for the most part, the parking lots that make up most automobile dealers are overflowing with cars and trucks that guzzle gas like American kids guzzle Big Gulps.

I found one car that intrigued me, the VW Wagon TDI, which has a diesel engine. This car gets almost 50 miles per gallon on the highway, 43 mpg in the city. I can't buy it in Vermont. In fact, I can't buy it in any of the northeast states because it doesn't meet emission standards. Imagine that. One of the most efficient cars can't be bought. I visited a VW dealer who said they can sell the TDI used, with over 8000 miles on the odometer. The salesman said when the owner announces he has bought one at an auction, the dealership contacts a list of people who then rush to the dealership to bid on the TDI.

The sales manager suggested I look at a Jetta or Passat (nice cars) which get 23 mpg in the city. He spoke admiringly of the 23 mpg figure and I couldn't help laughing. Here we are 30 years after the oil embargo of the early 1970s with long lines at the gas stations, and we haven't learned a thing. Gas mileage is less efficient now than it was then. 23 mpg in the city is awful. We've had 30 years to make technicological advances in mpg and we have done almost nothing. How pathetic. And now here we are with automobile dealers' parking lots overflowing with huge gas-eating vehicles baking in the heat of global warming.

July 23, 2006

Being Taught A Lesson in Iraq

Difficulties for Iraq's Battered Women

The issue of domestic violence is a difficult one to face in Iraq. According to women's advocates and victims, the conservative values and weak protection laws discourage victims of domestic abuse to come forward to authorities who often do not take them seriously.

"According to Iraqi law, a woman can take legal action against her husband when there are marks on her body or when there are witnesses to the abuse, which makes it hard to get a conviction, say women's advocates and victims.

Some lawyers are pressing for protection laws that rely on personal testimonies rather than physical or witness evidence of abuse.

Rewas Fayaq, a lawyer, said witnesses are particularly difficult to find because beatings often take place in private. She said the law needs to be changed and that there should be greater awareness of domestic violence.

"The laws have not been successful in stopping abuse against women," she said.
But not all in the judiciary think like Fayaq. Gashaw Mohammad, a female judge with Sulaimaniyah's personal status court, said, "If the beating hasn't broken a bone and there isn't a mark on [the victim’s] body, then it's not a beating. It's being taught a lesson." [more]

Several women's organizations say they are making efforts to help decrease domestic abuse cases, but more efforts are needed. However, many women who have family support rely on their relatives rather than on outside organizations for help in domestic abuse cases.

The above is from EPIC and Institute for War and Peace Reporting

Meanwhile, in Iraq....

From EPIC -- Education for Peace in Iraq Center

While the international spotlight has focused on the conflict in Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon, sectarian violence in Iraq has escalated sharply increased. "The human rights office of the U.N. mission in Iraq reported Tuesday that more than 14,000 civilians had been killed during the first half of this year, including more than 3,000 in June (Washington Post, 9/20/06)."

Last month, the death toll averaged more than 100 Iraqi civilians a day. So far in July, that average appears to have continued to go up. On July 9 in Baghdad's al-Jihad neighborhood, Shiite militiamen went door-to-door systematically killing Sunni families. The next day, Sunni gunmen openly massacred innocent civilians in a Shiite market. Each new attack leads to bloody retaliation, fueling a cycle of violence that has engulfed much of Baghdad.

Desperate to escape the attacks, Iraqis have begun fleeing from their homes, including at least 1,000 Iraqi families in the past week alone. The violence is affecting millions of Iraqis, including EPIC's friends and colleagues.

In Baghdad, the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is working to implement a national reconciliation plan to end the sectarian violence engulfing the country. Maliki urged members of his government and the Iraqi population to embrace his reconciliation plan as the "only bridge and the basic crossing to the shores of peace."

In today's dispatch, EPIC releases two press statements regarding U.S. military abuses at Mahmudiyah and regarding the Bush administration's belated decision to recognize the applicability of the Geneva Conventions to all foreign detainees in U.S. custody.

We feature links to the best analysis on Iraq, including International Crisis Group's new report about Moqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi army, believed to be responsible for some of the sectarian violence.

We also include a guide to the Members of Prime Minister Maliki's Government, our latest PolicyWatch, and EPIC's Top Ten Summer Book list for 2006.

July 17, 2006

Eating His Words

Another argument holds that opposing Saddam Hussein would cause even greater troubles in that part of the world, and interfere with the larger war against terror. I believe the opposite is true. Regime change in Iraq would bring about a number of benefits to the region, extremists in the region would have to rethink their strategy of jihad, moderates throughout the region would take heart, and our ability to advance the Israeli/Palestinian peace process would be enhanced.

Vice President Dick Cheney speaking before the VFW 103rd Convention on August 26, 2002 , wherein he sets up an argument against the US invading Iraq and then proceeds, in his mind, to demolish it with his seering logic, now proven utterly foolhardy and wrong. Had he asked most Middle East experts in the CIA, he would have gotten different advice.

During that speech he also offered Mideast "expert" Fouad Ajami's assessment that there would be "joy in the streets" of Basra and Baghdad as soon as US would bring about regime change in Iraq.

So did anything Cheney say come true? Simply put, the answer is no. Extremists are rethinking their strategy of jihad, recruiting more fanatics than ever in the face of the US quagmire in Iraq; moderates are not taking heart, but are worrying more than ever that the folly of US policies are giving rise to even more terrorists; and the Israeli/Palestinian peace process is anything but.

Will Dick Cheney ever have to eat his words? Perhaps the better question is: are there any words about the Iraq war that Cheney has spoken that he should not be eating?

July 16, 2006

Restore Your Manhood

Have you seen the Hummer ad on television? The one with two guys standing in a grocery line, with the one in front buying tofu, while the guy behind him is buying mounds of beef and ribs? The guy in front seems so embarrased when the guy behind him sees his tofu, that he is forced to immediately rush to a Hummer dealership where he buys a Hummer and restores his manhood. He is now sitting behind his big fat Hummer in control!!

This is the ad for the guy who has no self-respect, no self-esteem, and, of course, has no idea what it means to be a man. This is the ad for the guy who wants to be as dull and stupid as men can be, as insecure as I worry most of them are. This ad is not funny, although some puerile ad writers probably thought it was.

July 15, 2006

What Iraq War?

[I am pleased to post a piece co-written with an old friend, a fellow who introduced me to my radical roots in 1972. It is especially significant because this is Orwell's Grave 500th post since I started it early last year]

by P.J. Baicich and F. S. McArthur

There are mighty good reasons to be disturbed over the level of discussion on the situation in Iraq, especially with patriotic-sounding Republicans regularly rallying behind their President. Just consider the situation last month where they would insert the phrase "cut-and-run" into every third or fourth sentence they uttered. It was painful to watch as the clueless Democrats squirmed to avoid being painted as "sell-outs" and near-traitors to our troops.

Of course, as long as the Democrats talk about "withdrawing from the war" and fight among themselves over the degree to which they should embrace an "anti-war position," they will never extricate themselves from the Republican patriot-trap. As long as the Republicans accuse any opposition to the Bush administration as a capitulation and a "cut-and-run" policy, the American people will equivocate or will confuse patriotism with holding fast to an increasingly untenable position in Iraq.At the same time, the American people seem to be stuck in the endless memory-loop of Vietnam, and they are increasingly presented with the Iraq situation from the viewpoint of a nation still wounded from its Vietnam experience - by both sides in the American debate. The "insurgency" is discussed in Vietnam-like terms, and the opposition "alternative" is, thus, shoe-horned into the brilliantly orchestrated Republican "cut-and-run" mantra. This is a losing proposition for Americans - and for the Iraqi people.

The cycle must be broken.

This can only be done by facing the reality: The war in Iraq is over.

What is a classic state-to-state war, anyhow? How does one measure "victory" of one side over the other?

Well, for starters, one historically gauges a victory as the defeat of the opponent's military; next, the seizure of the main cities (often with the capital as being the most crucial); and, finally, the elimination of the top political/military leadership of that enemy nation.By those classic criteria, America won the war and Iraq has been soundly defeated.

Whether you supported the invasion of Iraq or opposed it is now totally irrelevant. The fact is that the war is now over. Laughable as it may seem on the surface, the war has been over since about the time that George W. Bush stood in front of that memorable "mission accomplished" sign.

So, what actually remains?

What remains is a devastated physical and political infrastructure in Iraq; what remains is a factional, near-civil-war between Sunni and Shiites; what remains is a self-appointed international jihadist mini-faction (only loosely self-identified with Al-Qaeda) that is stirring up trouble. What remains are American troops in-between.

Ultimately, what remains is not the U.S. in a war, but the U.S. in an occupation.

Post-war occupations - particularly if they persist for long periods - are often debilitating, ugly, demoralizing, and even dehumanizing for the occupying power. Take examples in recent world history: the Soviets in Eastern Europe or the Israelis in the administered territories.

Alas, the U.S. public has no recent memory of such an experience, so the disastrous Vietnam War is often brushed off and superimposed onto the Iraqi situation. It simply doesn't fit for many reasons too numerous to recount here. Suffice it to say, without alternate American examples in immediate memory, media commentators, the military, and politicians alike all slip into Vietnam analogies. This occurs for both defenders and opponents of the American involvement in Iraq, sometimes with a desire to ‘do it right this time,’ and colored by the proponent’s view of the now long-gone Vietnam experience.

What might fit better is the history of the American occupation of the Philippines after the quick and quasi-imperialist Spanish-American war, when a disorganized, vicious, and fanatic "insurgency" was a response to an American occupation that became increasingly ugly and debilitating. That occupation also demoralized and dehumanized the U.S. troops at the time. But the Philippine experience is a century old, too far off in our collective memory to be a helpful lesson to Americans easily prone to historic amnesia.

So it is far simpler to re-visit the Vietnam experience, even domestically, with everything but the phrases "hawks and doves" re-constituted anew and with opposing sides in the U.S. practically forced to play their pre-assigned roles once again, having many Democrats insist that the U.S. "get out of the war," and many Republicans wave the bloody shirt of American casualties piling up in a far-off foreign land.

Unfortunately, the pliant and short-sighted American media is a smug party to perpetuating the confusion. No less culpable is an official "anti-war movement" which has an institutional investment in simply repeating what it is most comfortable with - viewing much of the U.S. role in Iraq through old Vietnamese-style anti-war lenses.

What to do under these circumstances?

We must stop talking about getting out of "the war" and start talking about getting out of "the occupation"! Only then will we be able to redefine the tasks facing all Americans and do justice for Iraq.

A world power engaged in a war must bring to bear certain weapons and necessities; a world power in an occupation must employ other tools altogether. The choices facing a country in war are far different from the choices facing a country in an occupation.

If the real issue is "the war" then the answers are always to be couched in military terms: boots on the ground, security, re-establishing the Iraqi army as the first priorities. These are never-ending, self-perpetuating, and, ultimately, losing issues, simply because they don’t address the current situation.

If the issue is "the occupation" and getting out of it, the answers will revolve around generating a degree of economic and social infrastructure in Iraq (based on such standards as the re-establishment of increased electrical power, a loose but functioning transportation network, more secure oil production, some increased health care, reopening more schools, and assembling a recognizable legal system). Perfection and a full-blown civil society may not be possible, but a modicum of stability is. America and Iraq need a timetable to make at least some of those goals possible. Moreover, it is the U.N. that may ultimately have a real role here, not the U.S.

Furthermore, American troops need to re-deploy out of Iraq: for the sake of being able to address real Islamic fundamentalism elsewhere (e.g., Afghanistan) and for the sake of addressing our own bloated and Republican-driven federal budget.

A more simple economic and social timetable or deadline is, indeed, possible: start with one year to help repair a fragile Iraqi economy rather than one year to build a parasitical Iraqi army. Set modest civil goals, attempt to restore parts of self-governance, and then simply get out.

Ultimately, the Iraqis must repair the country for themselves. They need help, but they also need a deadline.

Is it possible?

We only need point to the situation in the north of Iraq, where there is a Kurdish majority, to illustrate that, indeed, this is no illusory pipe-dream. There we see a level of popular participation, economic stability, and functioning civil society. It is more than imperfect, certainly, but it is also admirable and workable nonetheless.

Of course, there is also no hint of irony if the issue of Iraq is transformed from one of "war" to one of "occupation." In such a case, the issue of "defeatism" is completely removed from the equation. There can be no defeatism since victory has already been achieved!

Finally, the way to extricate the U.S. from the current Iraq situation is to seize at least one vestige of our painful Vietnam experience: to take the advice of then Senator George Aiken (VT) in 1967 to "declare victory and get out." The ultimate lesson might be that when Senator Aiken uttered these words they could not reflect reality, but if they were followed today they would hit the mark perfectly.

July 01, 2006

Bush World -- One Day in The New York Times

Wednesday, June 28, one day's coverage in The New York Times, conveys a clear sense of how solidly the Bush ideology has infected America and its social, economic and political life.

Story #1 [front page by Carl Hulse] -- The flag amendment was defeated by one vote -- an amendment to the US Constitution to make the desecration of the American flag a federal crime. Not an amendment to protect burning copies of the US Constitution itself, or an amendment to protect the burning of the Declaration of Independence -- two documents which certainly contain the essence of America more than any cloth or some silly flag pin found in abundance on the lapels of all those hundreds of Republican draft dodgers and chickenhawks. And then, of course, when you have a President who refers to the US Constitution as just a "goddamned piece of paper," it's not surprising the Republicans use the flag as a loincloth to protect their manhood. What really stinks is that Democrats like Diane Feinstein and Harry Reid voted for it.

Story #2 [page A16 by Kate Zernike] -- Republican Senator Arlen Specter, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is "riled" by Bush's use of what are called "signing statements, memorandums issued with legislation as he signs it..." In effect, Bush uses these statements to reserve his right to interpret them as he wishes. If he chooses not to enforce them, Specter argues, he can justify doing so by issuing the signing statements. Specter maintains that Bush has exercised this abuse of power on over 750 laws enacted since he has become President. This tactic, of course, effectively eliminates the checks and balances of the government established by our founding fathers. At least there is one Republican that is paying it lip-service.

Story #3 [front page by Reed Abelson] -- This is a good investigative report which clearly shows the links between physicians hired by medical device makers to do research on their products in development and the money that comes from non-profit organizations owned or controlled by either the doctors or the device makers. The interconnections of all these self-serving interests demonstrate little regard for ethics and conflict of interests, while, to the contrary, rfeflect great regard for making lots of money. This story is the tip of the iceberg and, of course, applies equally (although the money is even bigger) to the relationships between "researchers" and drug companies.

Story #4 [page A8 by Scott Shane] -- Senator Pat Roberts, Kansas Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, is launching a study to determine the extent of damage caused by the press disclosure of American counterterrorism actions related to money transfers by terrorists through the SWIFT consortium. Roberts, in a tour de force of hypocrisy, claims that the media is not acting responsibly and cannot be persuaded to "protect the means by which we protect this nation." While Roberts is anxious to pillory America's media, he refuses to hold hearings on or undertake investigations of the Bush administration's misuse of intelligence, fabrication of intelligence, and failures of intelligence on a whole range of issues.

Story #5 [page C3 by Edmund L. Andrews] -- Pity poor Henry M. Paulson, Jr., testifying before the Senate Finance Committee regarding his nomination to become secretary of the Treasury. He says: "Having good ideas is one thing. Having good ideas that are doable is another thing." What challenges he must face with all his good ideas -- he wants to keep taxes low, put restraints on the budget, increase American competitiveness, and use persuasion with China rather than threats. He is leaping into bed with a Bush administration that has cut taxes for the wealthy (to the detriment of everyone else), exploded a budget beyond anyone's wildest imaginations, decreased American competitiveness (the American automobile industry, for example, is tanking), and, finally, which has used threat and military menace more than persuasion in most of its international relationships. According to the story, Paulson offered no hints (much less details) of his own economic priorities. Unless he surprises us all, he seems to fit well into the Bush silence, tell-them-as-little-as-possible, keep-your-mouth-shut, frame of mind.

June 28, 2006

Contemptuous and Disgraceful Greed

The Republican House of Representatives has, once again, rejected increasing the minimum wage. In the last nine years, Congress has given itself a total $15 per hour raise (amounting to over $31,000), but it has refused to support Democratic attempts to raise the minimum wage for poor working Americans from $5.15 an hour to $7.25 an hour.

The Republicans call the New York Times "disgraceful" for revealing the Bush monitoring of SWIFT bank account money transfers. Who is more disgraceful?

Cowards and Traitors

The Republican Party has its campaign together for November. It is going to attack Democrats as cowards and traitors all the way through the 2006 elections.

It's going to be up to a sufficient number of Americans who have had enough of this crap to reject their distortions and propaganda. But here's the gist of their campaign: The liberal Democratic Party, as represented by anyone who criticizes the Bush administration in particular, or Republican policies in general, is a traitor or a coward.

Republicans are patriotic Americans fighting a global war on terror, supporting our troops, protecting the flag, not cutting and running like cowards. Republicans monitor terrorist telephone calls and terrorist money transfers. Democrats don't care. If you are not with us, you are with the terrorists.

Burning the flag is traitorous and Republicans, the real Americans, the real patriots, are going to do something about it. Democrats are flag-burners.

Cutting and running in Iraq is cowardice. Republicans, patriots all, will stay the course and win the battle for democracy. Democrats are cowards.

Terrorists are making telephone calls planning attacks and transferring money through banks to be used for those attacks, and Republicans are going to discover their plans and stop terrorist attacks. Democrats are traitors by criticizing these patriotic actions, and they will be the cause of terrorist attacks in the future. They are disgraceful and traitorous, not to mention cowards.

How the Democrats respond to this onslaught will determine, in great part, how Americans vote in November. Unfortunately, in the face of this kind of determined attack, Americans may forget just how bad the Republicans have been for most of them, for America, and for the rest of the world.

June 24, 2006

Had Enough?

A recent speech by Barack Obama is well worth the read.

Here is some of what he had to say:

You know, you probably never thought you'd hear this at a Take Back America conference, but Newt Gingrich made a great point a few weeks ago. He was talking about what an awful job his own party has done governing this country, and he said that with all the mistakes and misjudgments the Republicans have made over the last six years, the slogan for the Democrats should come down to just two words:

"Had enough?"

I don't know about you, but I think old Newt is onto something here. Because I think we've all had enough. Enough of the broken promises. Enoughof the failed leadership. Enough of the can't-do, won't-do, won't-even-try style of governance.

Four years after 9/11, I've had enough of being told that we can find the money to give Paris Hilton more tax cuts, but we can't find enough to protect our ports or our railroads or our chemical plants or our borders.

I've had enough of the closed-door deals that give billions to the HMOs when we're told that we can't do a thing for the 45 million uninsured or the millions more who can't pay their medical bills.

I've had enough of being told that we can't afford body armor for our troops and health care for our veterans and benefits for the wounded heroes who've risked their lives for this country. I've had enough of that.

I've had enough of giving billions away to the oil companies when we're told that we can't invest in the renewable energy that will create jobs and lower gas prices and finally free us from our dependence on the oil wells of Saudi Arabia.

I've had enough of our kids going to schools where the rats outnumber the computers. I've had enough of Katrina survivors living out of their cars and begging FEMA for trailers. And I've had enough of being told that all we can do about this is sit and wait and hope that the good fortune of a few trickles on down to everyone else in this country.

You know, we all remember that George Bush said in 2000 campaign that he was against nation-building. We just didn't know he was talking about this one.

...I don't think that George Bush is a bad man. I think he loves his country. I don't think this administration is full of stupid people - I think there are a lot of smart folks in there. The problem isn't that their philosophy isn't working the way it's supposed to - it's that it is. It's that it's doing exactly what it's supposed to do.

The reason they don't believe government has a role in solving national problems is because they think government is the problem. That we're better off if we dismantle it - if we divvy it up into individual tax breaks, hand 'em out, and encourage everyone to go buy your own health care, your own retirement security, your own child care, their own schools, your own private security force, your own roads, their own levees...

It's called the Ownership Society in Washington. But in our past there has been another term for it - Social Darwinism - every man or women for him or herself. It allows us to say to those whose health care or tuition may rise faster than they can afford - life isn't fair. It allows us to say to the child who didn't have the foresight to choose the right parents or be born in the right suburb - pick yourself up by your bootstraps. It lets us say to the guy who worked twenty or thirty years in the factory and then watched his plant move out to Mexico or China - we're sorry, but you're on your own.

It's a bracing idea. It's a tempting idea. And it's the easiest thing in the world. But there's just one problem. It doesn't work.

[Thanks to PJB for the link]

June 22, 2006

Recalling Orwell

[Originally published by Nieman Watchdog April 25, 2006 Reprinted with permission from Wick Sloane]

Recalling Orwell: “Political language… is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”

By Wick Sloane

“Detainee.” “Rendition.” “Water-board.” “Enemy combatant.”

These evasions have slipped their quotation marks and entered the language, garroting forty percent of the Bill of Rights on the way.

Take a two-click refresher. First, go to the Bill of Rights itself.

Then to George Orwell’s Politics and the English Language.

Over-quoted and seldom read, the Bill of Rights and Orwell’s essay shout at us all as our president and his protectors in our grand Washington, D.C., buildings, torture the values of the nation, using stilted, evasive language as one of their weapons. Both the Bill and Orwell are easy reads. In spite of what equivocating Supreme Court nominees suggest about complexity, the Bill of Rights is barely one page long, written in English that requires no translation today.
The Orwell essay is about the vigilance democracy requires from any citizen. “Political language – and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists – is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”

That wind today blows to hide just this: Grabbing a human being, locking him up, pouring water down his throat, jailing him without end or a lawyer or any charges.

The four of the ten Amendments Cheney, Rumsfeld and friends sneer at:

IV – Against unreasonable search and seizure and requiring warrants.
V -- Another over-quoted but seldom read, insists on due process, and wartime variances are regarding offenses by our troops.
VI -- A speedy and public trial, in the district where crime committed (not secret prisons in foreign lands). Informed of the charges.
And VIII – Against excesses including cruel and unusual punishment.

“Detainee.” What about prisoner, inmate, captive, even jailbird?

“Rendition” is a weak rendering of kidnap, abduct, seize, or take hostage.

“Waterboarding?” Why doesn’t CIA Director Porter Goss say “cramming a hosepipe down a man’s throat, turning on the water and then holding his head in a toilet, just to the point of drowning”? The Oxford English Dictionary Online (paid subscription only) offers “water-board” as a noun, a gutter, not as the Abu-Ghrabian verb from the Pentagon. Remember, the U.S. has yet to atone for what history books still call “interning” Japanese Americans in World War II.
Just a year ago, at Easter dinner I asked a poet what she made of “detainee” as a regular word. She had just failed in several tries to visit her undocumented cleaning lady in prison. It seems that local police broke into the cleaning lady’s apartment and took her to a state prison. No lawyer. No visitors. No confirmation for her family where she was. The cleaning lady remained in prison for a month and the U.S. deported her home to Guatemala.

No one disputed her immigration status. Immigration, though, is federal. Local police making arrests? State prisons? How many Pell Grants or child immunizations to imprison a cleaning lady for a month? This was in Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts, places with some connection to the Bill of Rights. No press interest on the issues of this woman’s detention despite calls to news organizations. Not a peep. Silence. No surprise to Orwell, I fear.

A year later “detainee” has company in common usage. Who’s in charge? I wrote William Safire, “On Language.” No reply. Nothing doing with two consecutive Public Editors at The New York Times. Even Amy Goodman, always-outraged host of Democracy Now, who should know better, uses “detainee.” No reply from anyone on why they let the politicians bend us with the “detainee” winds. Silence, too, from The Nation magazine. So what?

I agree with Kenneth Roth, Human Rights Watch executive director, in the group’s (poorly copy-edited) annual report: “Any discussion of detainee abuse in 2005 must begin with the United States, not because it is the worst violator, but because it is the most influential.”
This turned my mind to President Clinton and Secretary of State Albright, stretching in all directions to avoid the word “genocide” for murder, slaughter, killings, massacres in Africa. Carnage neither would tolerate in Times Square. Thinking of that, I clicked back to the OED. “Genocide” itself came to life in the euphemism ward.

From the OED, quoting the Sunday Times in October 1945: “The United Nations' indictment of the 24 Nazi leaders has brought a new word into the language – genocide. It occurs in Count 3, where it is stated that all the defendants ‘conducted deliberate and systematic genocide – namely, the extermination of racial and national groups…’”

“Genocide” is not exactly easy on the ear or soul, but it’s not as jarring as “slaughtering,” “shooting,” “starving,” “gassing,” and “hanging” six million human beings. Or people.
I checked with my friend Eric Freedman, a Constitutional scholar at Hofstra University, who is working on establishing rights for the people locked up at Guantanamo. Can verbal evasions cost lives?

“Yes, ‘genocide’ does invoke lots of treaties,” Eric wrote. “And, BTW, ‘enemy combatants’ is a portmanteau phrase made up by the administration to cover up the fact that they are not applying the Geneva Conventions to the purported war (the correct legal terms are things like ‘privileged’ and ‘unprivileged’ belligerent, ‘prisoner of war’).”

“To portmanteau” is to combine words. Lewis Carroll may have been the one to invent the term. A Constitutional question crossing paths with Alice in Wonderland makes me miss Al Haig’s formulations, such as, “That's not a lie, it's a terminological inexactitude. Also, a tactical misrepresentation.” In spite of his evasive language, Haig, by comparison, really wasn’t up to much mischief.

Orwell reminds us in closing Politics and the English Language that linguistics at home are important. If words today aren’t as important as Kevlar vests in Iraq, they are important nevertheless. In our courts and in our polling booths, on our computer keyboards and from our own solitary voices.

“One cannot change this all in a moment, but one can at least change one's own habits, and from time to time one can even, if one jeers loudly enough, send some worn-out and useless phrase – some jackboot, Achilles’ heel, hotbed, melting pot, acid test, veritable inferno or other lump of verbal refuse – into the dustbin where it belongs.”

Or the local police may break down our door next.

Wick Sloane is Chief Operating Officer of Generon Consulting in Massachusetts and a visiting fellow on higher education finance at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.