Tuesday, September 28, 2004

The Bush Betrayal: Chapter 1

This book is awesome. Awesome, awesome. Not only do I strongly agree with most of the author's arguments, but he was able to convince me on a couple of topics I hadn't thought too much about.

James Bovard is a guy I've mentioned several times before - usually in very adulatory tones. This is actually the first book of his that I've read, and I wasn't disappointed.

This book is so good, I've decided to blog the entire thing, just a paragraph or two (with links) from every chapter of the book. I only want to offer a taste of the book - not trying to kill sales. It's scary trying to find an 'anti-Bush book' that is not 'just another anti-Bush book'. According to the book jacket text, 'Bovard presents a detailed analysis from a conservative and libertarian perspective'. This, alone, separates Bovard from most of the other anti-Bush books out there - and some would say the criticism is more damning since it's coming from a conservative perspective - one that Bush is supposed to represent.

I've not read too many political books, but this one stands out for its insane amount of footnotes. I mean, it seems like almost every sentence in the book has a footnote next to it, documenting the source of the information contained in that sentence. For instance, Chapters 2, 3, and 4 have 102, 63, and 54 footnotes, respectively. And while many of the footnotes are from articles from major news outlets like The New York Times, The Washington Post, etc., many others include books and all sorts of government reports - many of which I promise you've never heard of. Bovard reads them all. The dude is ridiculous. To have all these sources of information so readily available in the back of the book is just awesome. To have someone like Bovard who enjoys research just a little too much - to pour through these myriad documentary artifacts is awesome. Now, if it was on the web - with hyperlinked footnotes - well, that'd be just paradise. I'll be able to offer a taste with these chapterly excerpts.

Chapter 1 -- Introduction

Bush is dropping an iron curtain around the federal government. The Bush administration is hollowing out the Freedom of Information Act, making it more difficult for citizens to discover government actions and abuses. Bush invoked executive privilege to block a congressional investigation into the FBI's role in mass murder in Boston and in framing innocent men for those murders. The Supreme Court tacitly endorsed the Bush doctrine that the feds may carry out mass secret arrests and suppress all information about the roundup (including names of those detained, charges, and detail on prison beatings).

This paragraph, strangely enough, doesn't have any footnotes - in part because we're still in the introduction, I figure, but also because this is just a high-level overview of the case that Bovard is going to lay out, with specifics, over the next 16 chapters. I've linked the text from articles I found using Google's News search.

That 'mass murder' thing up there still surprises me. I hadn't paid much attention to that when I first read it. But Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., remembers it. Check out what Burton said after Bush invoked executive privilege, stepping on Burton's toes:
"This is not a monarchy.... We've got a dictatorial President and a Justice Department that does not want Congress involved.... Your guy's acting like he's king."

And Burton's a partisan Republican! This quote makes him sound like a card-carrying member of the ACLU! That's what Bush's extremism can do - radicalize people. That should be Bush's re-election tagline: Radicalizing Muslims abroad and Republicans at home since 1991.

Check out the entire first chapter for free here.

Rep. Henry Waxman's (D-Cal.) office put together an 81-page report on Bush's secrecy policies.

(Notice anything about the picture on the book cover?)

Chapter 2.

Monday, September 27, 2004


More war effects.

Vote for Bush

That is, if you want more of this (bold mine):

LANDSTUHL, Germany -- At the U.S. military hospital on a wooded hilltop here, the cost of the Iraq war is measured in amputated limbs, burst eyeballs, shrapnel-torn bodies and shattered lives.

They're the seriously wounded U.S. soldiers who arrive daily at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, a growing human toll that belies American election talk of improving times in Iraq.

They're the maimed and the scarred that hospital staff believe are largely invisible to an American public ignorant of their suffering.

"They have no idea what's going on here, none whatsoever," says Col. Earl Hecker, a critical care doctor who trained at Toronto's Mount Sinai Hospital.

The broken bodies move some of the hospital's military staff to question a war producing the most American casualties since Vietnam.

And they reduce the chief surgeon to tears.

"It breaks your heart," says Lt.-Col. Ronald Place.

"There's nothing more rewarding than to take care of these guys. Not money, not anything," he adds, crying.

. . .

Hecker retired from the military years ago but recently left his lucrative private practice in Detroit to save lives at Landstuhl.

"I'm here for him -- nobody else," he says, pointing to the soldier. "I didn't come here for my government."

He pauses, then blurts out: "Bush is an idiot."

Immediately, he regrets having said that about the U.S. president, and makes clear he's been under enormous stress.

He describes taking a bullet out of the neck of an 18-year-old soldier six days ago, a wound that left the young man a quadriplegic.

"It's terrible, terrible, terrible," Hecker says. "When we talked to him, he just cried."

"If it was me, I'd tell them to take me off the machine," he says. He then considers his job and adds, "I'll never be the same mentally."

What the hospital's chief psychologist calls "compassion fatigue" is a widespread syndrome among the medical staff.

"There's a great deal of hurt going on in the hospital," says Maj. Stephen Franco.

But Maj. Cathy Martin, the nurse in charge of the intensive care unit, prefers to deal with her stress by calling on Americans to consider the plight of the war wounded when making a choice in the Nov. 2 presidential election.

"People need to vote for the right people to be in office and they need to be empowered to influence change," she says.

. . .

About 160 U.S. soldiers from Iraq have had limbs amputated, and 200 have lost all or part of their sight from bomb blasts. Body armour has saved lives, but Place believes wounds that significantly disfigure are a greater advantage to insurgents than the rising body count.

. . .

Sitting stiff with pain on his bed is Romero's roommate, Sgt. 1st Class Larry Daniels — "Big Daddy Daniels" to his men in Iraq. His arms are bandaged from just below the shoulders to the tip of his fingers and rods stick out of them like scaffolding. Shrapnel wounds cover the back of his body, from behind his right ear to his ankles.

. . .

If Americans understood what was really going on in Iraq, they'd pressure Bush to be clearer about "why we're really fighting," he says.

"The war on terror wasn't in Iraq till we went there," he says. "We initially went there to topple Saddam (Hussein) and then all these damn terrorists came in."

As a soldier, he describes himself as "almost a political prisoner" in the sense that he can't express himself on whether he believes U.S. soldiers should stay in Iraq.

But his 33-year-old wife, Cheryl, has no qualms about speaking her mind.

"The army is not going to like what I have to say, but I think we have no business being there," she says about Iraq.

She too comes from a family with a long military tradition and works as a civilian at her husband's military base in Texas. She voted for Bush in 2000, but now says Democratic challenger John Kerry will get her support.

"I will definitely vote for Kerry, not because I prefer Kerry over Bush but because I don't want Bush back in office. I'm hoping that if Kerry takes office, we'll be pulling out" of Iraq, she says.

Cheryl believes Bush misled the country to war, arguing he diverted resources from far greater threats to U.S. interests, including the hunt for Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and North Korea's nuclear weapons program.

Asked why Bush launched the war, she says: "I think he wanted to fill his dad's shoes. I think he felt he had something to prove."

If the point of the war was to remove Saddam from power, then Bush's father, former president George Bush, should have done so in the 1991 Persian Gulf War, in which Daniels also fought.

Increasing Cheryl's anger is the fact the army did little to help her contact her wounded husband.

She paid for her flight to Germany, and is staying at the Fisher House, a privately funded agency that offers virtually free accommodation in Landstuhl to the families of injured soldiers.

Infuriated by what she sees as a misleading president, an unnecessary war and a heartless military, Cheryl vows to break the Daniels' family tradition of serving their country. Her 12-year-old son and eight-year-old daughter are already talking of enlisting one day, but Cheryl won't hear of it.

"We've paid our dues," she says.

I've quoted almost the entire article - it's that good. I'd advise reading it all if you have the time.

One job I don't want? Having to tell a 20-something year old kid that he'll never walk again. He'll never run again. Never play another game of pickup basketball. Never be able to hug his mom again. He'll probably never drive a car again. He'll be using his mouth to guide his motorized wheelchair around for the rest of his life. He'll never have a 'normal' sex life. Will he ever find a lover? What would that mean now, anyways? Will he lose the lover/spouse he has right now? He'll be almost completely dependent on his family and the military to help him survive the next few years, and he'll be expected by many to not get bitter about any of it. He'll have to watch Christopher Reeves on television, attempting to put a happy face on a seemingly-hopeless situation.

Je@#$. What the fuck on earth are we doing over there?

The fuckin' kid starts crying when you tell him the news. What else is he supposed to do? What the fuck is the doctor supposed to do then? Say, Sorry, kid - we had to get Saddam. We had to get those WMD. We had to liberate the Iraqi people. We're proud of you. I'm proud of you. Your country is proud of you. ???

And what if the kid asks to be unplugged from the respirator. He's 20-something years old and he's crying like a baby - bawling. And the doctor's crying. And the nurses are crying.

Don't force me to live through this doc. Please. I'm begging you. I'll fuckin kill myself. I can't do this. I don't want to do this. This isn't happening. This is not fair. Where's my momma? I'm scared. I fought in the war. I did my duty, doc. Unplug it. Please! I'm begging you!

Doc says, 'Your mom is on the way, son. Hang in there. Everything's gonna be ok. I promise. I promise. Everything's gonna be ok.'

But Doc knows better. He knows how the U.S. military treats its veterans. He's patriotic, but he's not stupid. He knows this kid faces a tough road ahead. Even Christopher Reeves' life must be tough, and he's got loads of money and resources and private helpers and healthcare. This kid is facing a lifetime of hospital care - from VA hospitals. Maybe he'll just have to live near base for the rest of his life - to make sure he's close to free medical care. Maybe he'll recover emotionally and lead a healthy, happy, productive life. Or maybe he'll move to the pacific northwest and find someone to help him take his own life.

Mad props to the Toronto Star for another great article.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Wait! You want MY boy?

A lot of people were for 'taking out Saddam'. It was going to be easy we were told. Those hundred+ thousand troops stationed in Kuwait just before the war? Just a scare tactic. They weren't actually going to have to do any fighting. Well, some people are finding that their support for the illegal invasion of Iraq may just have some consequences back home after all:

Carroll Meierer was all for getting rid of Saddam Hussein. "We had to do something," she said.

But 18 months of war and more than 1,000 American fatalities later, the resolution she felt about Hussein has turned to grim resignation about the state of the war.

"We could stay there forever and it wouldn't be any different," she said at the little red fruit stand she runs on the edge of Lexington, about 30 miles east of Kansas City.

Meierer, who grew up in a military family, is losing patience with the war. Her 20-year-old son, Justin, a lance corporal in the Marine Corps, is likely headed to Iraq early next year.

"He's my baby boy and he's my best friend," she said. "I want this war over and I want it over NOW."

I guess everything changes when people are asked to make direct, personal sacrifices. Imagine that...

One day without corruption, please?

One day I'll read through the newspapers of the day and find that nobody in the Bush administration has been busted for illegal, unethical, and/or unAmerican activities. That day was not today:

A Food and Drug Administration medical officer was told by top agency officials to delete material on the risks of antidepressant drugs from records he was submitting to Congress and then to conceal the deletions, according to documents released yesterday at a hearing on Capitol Hill.

A bipartisan House panel said the FDA also repeatedly prevented Andrew D. Mosholder from disclosing his conclusions that the medications increase the risk of suicidal thoughts and behavior among children, potentially delaying the issuance of a public warning. During the day-long hearing, legislators repeatedly accused the agency of obfuscating the risks, slowing action and subjecting Mosholder to harassment.

Big pharma owns both parties, but count on the Bush Administration to really throw any faint notion of decency out the window by helping to endanger children. These guys are ruthless, there's no doubt about that.

There's always tomorrow...

Bush: Strong Environmentalist

But, it might depend on how much of a sap you are:

But the administration's most enduring environmental legacy may lie here in the West, where a series of policy decisions and little-noticed administrative actions have eased development restrictions on millions of acres of federal lands. More than 60 million acres -- an area twice the size of Virginia -- are more vulnerable to logging or drilling as a result of policies that weakened federal restrictions on their development. Other administration actions have made it harder for government officials to apply the most stringent protections to federal wild lands. As part of a legal settlement reached last year with Utah, the administration banned government workers from surveying public lands to identify areas worthy of being set aside by Congress as federal preserves off-limits to development of any kind. More than 3 million acres of land that had been nominated for a congressional designation lost their protected status.

In addition, Interior officials have worked rapidly to revise dozens of federal land-use plans. The documents, developed without congressional oversight, determine whether large swaths of federal territory will be protected or thrown open to businesses seeking gas, oil, grazing lands or timber.

I, unfortunately, met such a sap.

True story: I met a guy in a bar a few months ago who claimed to hold a Masters Degree in Chemical Engineering. I remember at least one of the degrees was from the University of Michigan - a very good school by most accounts. He worked in the DC area for an environmental engineering firm - doing goverment work, analyzing and protecting the environment and all that. He argued with me, vociferously, fully convinced, that Bush had very policies which were very beneficial for the environment. Not kidding. The dude seemed smart, except for this pro-Bush stuff coming out of his pie-hole. I was shocked, but some people are just so enamored of this Bush guy that they can't bring themselves to believe that he's a lying sack of shit. I'm not surprised that religious fundamentalists and racists and unintelligent (those just lacking any real brainpower) people love Bush, but to hear a dude who outwardly seemed intelligent, and someone with a damn masters degree in a scientific field, no less! - sound off on Bush as the next best thing for the environment - it's just surreal. I was disturbed, and amused, and befuddled at first, but it quickly went downhill from there.

As evidence of Bush's strong environmental credentials, this dunce told me about Bush's 'Clear Skies Initiative'. I said, "Yeah, what about it?" He said, "Well, you tell me." I thought to myself, "You have got to be fucking kidding me." So, I'm thinking he heard the name, knew he loved and trusted Bush, and so figured it must be a great bill. Ignorant fuck.

I, on the other hand, had just read a bunch of stuff about the Act and its effects, the spin, etc. two days previous, so I knew my shit. I knew I was ignorant about it, and like any smart citizen I know better than to trust what any politician says, so I read a bunch of critical analysis, and I read parts of the Act itself. I explained a little bit about what I knew about the trading system, about who crafted the bill, how, and why, and then Dear Leader's leading patriot in DC retorted with stuff like "That can't be true." I'd say, "Listen, man, it's true. I'm not making this up. I wish the dude had a good environmental policy, but he doesn't. He's being dishonest, and it's working, because even people like you believe that it must be good just because it's got a nice 'green' title." He wouldn't take my word for it.

I eventually went to the extreme, and proposed a hypothetical - to see if I could at least move this dude a little closer to reality. Follow the conversation between me (ME) and dumbass (DA) from that point on:

ME: "Let's just say that I'm right, that all the facts and figures I've just quoted to you are correct, that this Clear Skies Initiative is a pretty name on a horrific piece of legislation that is highly dangerous to the environment - would you then believe that Bush was being deceptive with this Clear Skies bill, and that the bill is, in fact, very dangerous to the environment?"
DA: "Well, I'd actually have to have actual figures to know for sure."

ME: This is just a hypothetical. Just pretend, just for three seconds, that every fact and figure I've quoted you is gospel, it's as true as true gets. It's just a hypothetical. Would you trust Bush, still?
DA: "Well, I'd have to see the actual percentages of dioxins in the air, etc."

ME: OK, let's try this one last time. This is only a hypothetical. It hasn't actually happened yet. It's a theory. I'm asking you to make a decision based on the facts that I present to you. All those facts are not verified yet, but I'm asking you to accept them, temporarily, for the sake of argument, so we can find out what you think. If all the information I've just given you is true, would you still believe that the Clear Skies Initiative was a good policy in terms of protecting the environment, and that Bush was telling you the truth about that policy?
DA: I would have to get the actual percentages, and figures, and...

ME: [shaking my head and smirking in disapproval] Forget it, dude, forget it...

Dude was a coward. Unable to admit that Dear Leader was a deceiving sack of shit. Unbelievable. Two words come to mind when I encounter an idiot like this: Un-American.

He was being willfully ignorant, to the detriment of his country and its citizens - all in the name of maintaining full, committed devotion to the gangster who occupies the Office of the President.

Love of country. Love of government. Different.

Love of President. Respect for Office of the President. Different.

This dude, and millions of Americans like him, can only figure that out when a Democrat occupies the White House. Unbelievable.

UPDATE: WaPo has an editorial saying vote Kerry if you give a *#&# about the environment.

WaPo also has a nice graphic to accompany the article above. It further explores Bush's treachery on the environment.

Friday, September 24, 2004

U.S., Russia on same path towards Dictatorships

Here's what the cover of the e-USA Today looks like:

War on terror

Justice Dept. steps up surveillance
Officials worry about the possibility of an attack that could disrupt the November elections.

Russia proposes blacklist of suspects
Reeling from attacks by Chechen separatists, Moscow seeks help from the United Nations.

Both nations are attacked by terrorists. Both nations' governments use terror as political tool to clamp down on dissent and 'temporarily' give the government more power to 'protect the citizens' from terrorist attacks. No coincidence here - this is the way it works.

At what point does America turn back, if at all? Will it be these elections, or will the Rethugs in power start to fear for their own safety, and then suggest backing away from the one party state?

Scary, but interesting...

Military full of Bush supporters? Ummm, no

Bush surprised some troops on their way over to that glimmering palace in the middle of the desert, Iraq. Photo ops, baby! But even with the President boarding their airplane, not everyone was convinced of the draft-dodging Mr. Bush:

Sgt. 1st Class Bobby Dailey, a FedEx worker normally, was asked if the boisterous reception meant these were all Bush supporters. "We're commander-in-chief supporters," he clarified, and pointed out: "It ain't every day you land somewhere and the president gets on your plane."

Mr. Dailey didn't want to be called a Bush supporter, so he made clear that he had respect for the Office of the President - not the guy who currently occupies it.

Let me tell ya something. The POTUS walks on your plane and greets you and your fellow compadres, and you're still not sure if you're going to vote for? Bush best pack it in right now. The jig is up. The media keep portraying the military as solidly in Bush's corner. Guess again. Methinks the grunts occupying Mess-opotamia are not liking scraping the sand from their crevices. The grunts are going to shift the election to Kerry. You heard it here, first.

Waiting on Michael Moore's book of troop letters...

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Kerry Finally Bashing Bush

It's good to see:

“George Bush let Osama bin Laden escape at Tora Bora,” Kerry said in the brief interview Wednesday. “George Bush retreated from Fallujah and other communities in Iraq which are now overrun with terrorists and threaten our troops. And George Bush said on the record we can’t win the war on terror.

The Kerry Flip-Flop Myth

The Washington Post does some analysis to show that Bush is actually the chief flip-flopper in this presidential campaign.

Regardless, I have issues that the Post has determined, somehow, that Kerry has changed his position on some things - and changed them in a fashion that is somehow due just to political opportunism as opposed to changing his position based on new information that's entered the marketplace. Let's go through the charges:

Iraq, however, has been the source of the most damaging charges of equivocation and wind-shifting against Kerry. The Massachusetts senator voted for the Iraq war in October 2002, but a year later voted against Bush's request for $87 billion for military and reconstruction spending in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Now, for the rest of the story.

Kerry didn't 'vote for the Iraq war' - he voted to give Bush the authority to wage war on Iraq if the President deemed it necessary, as a last resort. Kerry voted to empower the President to wage an aggressive diplomatic battle, and gave the President all the leverage he needed to win that battle. Why is 'voting for the Iraq war' not the same as 'voting to support the President'? Let's look at a simple example for the simple-minded Rethugs:

Let's say you're my son and in reading the ultra-right-wing press accounts of Kerry's record you become enraged and wish to get violent. You're thinking of jumping out a window, you're thinking of going to a different website, and you're actually contemplating smashing your computer monitor on the floor. But you know you wouldn't be able to smash your monitor on the floor without making mom and myself very upset. So, even though you haven't quite made up your mind if monitor smashing is in your immediate future, you figure you should get permission from us just in case that's what you decide to do. You don't want to so overtly disrespect your parents. So, you ask for our permission: Dad, not saying that I'm going to do it, but if I do decide that I have no other way to assuage my anger, I might want to smash my computer monitor on the floor, but I know I need to get your permission to do such a thing. So, may I? I answer: Yes, you may - assuming you've determined that there is no other course of action that you could possibly take to assuage your anger, like drinking a beer, smoking a joint, etc. - then yes, you have permission to smash your computer monitor on the floor. Your mom grants you permission, as well. Then, you read the newspapers the next day and are so angered at the mind-numbingly brainless right-wing writing that you smash your computer monitor on the floor.

When I gave you permission to smash your computer monitor on the floor, did I ask you to smash it on the floor? No. Did I ask you to smash it on the wall? No. Did I ask you to smash it at all? No. Did I 'vote for you to smash your computer'? No. Did I want you to smash your computer monitor? No. Did mom want you to smash your computer monitor? Who knows? Did I 'give you permission to smash your computer'? Yes. Did I hope that you would have exhausted all other avenues to assuage your anger before you decided to smash your monitor? Yes. Did you do it? No.

Now, let's attack the $87 Billion Iraq War bill. Did Kerry vote against it? Yes. Did he vote for it? Yes. How it that possible? Well, there were two versions of the bill. The first didn't pass - the one Kerry voted for. The second did pass - the one Kerry voted against. So, is it misleading to say that Kerry voted against the Iraq War bill without explaining that he voted for the other version? In my opinion, yes, but voters have to sort out whether or not they want to be told the whole truth by a campaign, or selective bits of information.

Back to the computer monitor example to explain away the $87 Billion Iraq War bill myth. Since you've smashed your monitor on the floor, you asked me to buy you a new one. I said, 'OK', reluctantly, but I wasn't willing to buy you one of those new flat screen monitors. Your mom wanted you to have a monitor for your school year, which was to start in a couple of days. You knew you'd eventually get your flat screen, but I wanted to make sure my objection was heard, so that when the flat screen broke, I'd be able to point out my wisdom to you and mom so that you'd both listen to me next time a strategic decision had to be made. So, at our family kitchen table, during the weekly financial spending meeting, I voted to get you a regular monitor. I voted against you getting a flat screen. Mom overruled me and got you a flat screen. I wasn't happy, but I had to accept it.

Was there ever a chance that you'd not get your monitor? No, of course not. Mom and I would never had let you attempt to get through the school year without a monitor, regardless of how reckless you'd been in smashing it in the first place. So, why are all these other parents in the neighborhood running around telling everyone that I didn't vote to buy you a monitor for the school year? Well, it's true, and it's false. They feel that by misleading people about my character then I won't get to be soccer coach this year. It's dishonest, but some people are just dishonest. Was my position in giving you permission to smash your monitor contradictory to my position to not buy you a flat screen monitor? Of course not.

So there you have it. Dishonesty and simpletons reign supreme on the Right, and in America on the whole. Americans, in general, are stupid. There's really no other way to put it. We're easily duped, and we're duped often, and all the time. We're sheep who listen to our politicians tells us lies and we eat them up and beg for more. It's unfortunate, but that's reality. How to fix it? Whoa - that's for another day, another post.

One thing that this article, and most others on the subject have failed to mention, was that Bush specifically threatened to veto the Democratic version of the $87 Billion bill - the one that Kerry voted for.
Kerry voted in favor of a Democratic version of the legislation, and Bush threatened to veto the legislation unless lawmakers removed a provision that would have required Iraq to pay back some reconstruction aid.

Now, if Bush threatened to veto a bill that would have supported the troops, is he not guilty of his own charges against Kerry - that he 'was not supporting the troops'? To conclude otherwise would be anti-logic, dishonest, Republican.

But wait, there's more supposed Kerry flip-flopping. Which means there is more myth to dispel. Let's see what the Post has to say first:

Kerry's statements have compounded the damage. In September 2003, he said at a Democratic debate, "We should not send more American troops" to Iraq. "That would be the worst thing." In April, he said on NBC's "Meet the Press" that "if it requires more troops . . . that's what you have to do." In August, he told ABC's "This Week" that if elected, "I will have significant, enormous reduction in the level of troops."

Let's take each statement and transform it into third-grade language for all the simpletons out there:

Kerry: "We should not send more American troops. That would be the worst thing."
3rd Grade: American troops, in insufficient numbers, are the cause of the insurgency. Now that the insurgency is out of control, putting more American troops on the ground is hardly the answer - that would only give the insurgents more targets to shoot at. My first choice is to reduce the number of boots on the ground, not increase them.

Kerry: If it requires more troops...that's what you have to do.
3rd Grade: If my commanders on the ground say we need more troops, we'll have more troops. If I don't have a choice, I'll do it. If it's my troops very existence at stake, I'll put more troops on the ground. If Bush has let this thing get so far out of control that I have no choice but to put more troops on the ground to buy some time to figure out a way to get ourselves out of this horrific situation, then that's what I will do, of course.

Kerry: "I will have significant, enormous reduction in the level of troops."
3rd Grade: See the We should not send more American troops answer, above. These statements are completely consistent.

Now, more from the Post:
This week, [Kerry] said that, as president, he would not have launched an invasion if he had known that there was not clear evidence of weapons of mass destruction or ties to al Qaeda, though last month he said, knowing these things, he still would have voted to give Bush congressional authority to wage the Iraq war.

Kerry: as president, he would not have launched an invasion if he had known that there was not clear evidence of weapons of mass destruction or ties to al Qaeda
3rd Grade: If I were President, and Iraq had no WMD, and no al-Qaeda ties - I would not have invaded Iraq, period.

Kerry: knowing these things, he still would have voted to give Bush congressional authority to wage the Iraq war
3rd Grade: I gave the President the legal authority to invade Iraq, if the President felt that's what he needed to do.

None of these statements represents a flip-flop in any way, shape, or form.

This last statement (knowing these things...) is very troublesome for another reason, however. If Iraq had no WMD, and no ties to al Qaeda, why on earth would the President want to invade? And therefore, why on earth would Kerry give permission to Bush to invade if Bush felt it was necessary, for whatever unknown reason? What could Bush possibly feel was a good enough reason to invade a sovereign nation? And how could Kerry approve of Bush using unilateral force on some country that was no threat to the U.S.? Again, not a flip-flop, just a bit too much war-mongering, abdication of Constitutional duties, etc.

UPDATE: Eschaton commenter tells us about an SFC article challenging the assertion that Kerry has flip-flopped.

UPDATE: Part of the reason why Dems are perpetually losing important elections is because they haven't been willing to dumb down the debate to where the American people are. The Republicans, on the other hand, will subvert democracy to get their candidate elected - so this is not a problem for them. Read this Kos post to find out how Rethugs have been winning the war of the 'two word' campaign slogans. Unfortunately, it appears as though the Dems will have to dumb down their rhetoric to address the ignorance of the American electorate if we ever want to win an important race again.

UPDATE: Kerry does a big interview with Ohio newspaper to straighten out this flip-flop smear nonsense.

And Knight-Ridder covers the supposed flip-flops of Kerry, setting the record straight. If we could have gotten this type of coverage months ago, it might have helped keep the public correctly informed. Oh well, another failure of journalism in the U.S. How many more wars before we fix big-business domination of the media?

UPDATE: The Herald prints a letter to the editor supporting the idea of Bush-as-flip-flopper-in-chief. Let's face it - it's not a tough case to make, and is a much more devastating picture of what could ever be said about Kerry's nuanced positions.

Memo to Sistani: Wake Up!

This New York Times piece says Sistani is getting nervous about the elections:

Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani, the nation's most powerful Shiite leader, is growing increasingly concerned that nationwide elections could be delayed, his aides said, and has even threatened to withdraw his support for the elections unless changes are made to increase the representation of Shiites, according to one Iraqi source close to him.

I'm not sure how Sistani could have been duped into thinking that the U.S. would actually hold elections in Iraq, but it's all apparently happening. The worst of the dupe, however, is that these elections are supposed to happen after the U.S. presidential election. Of course, if Bush is elected he won't even have to worry about keeping up appearances. He'll be able to cancel the elections, blame escalating violence, and continue on his usual path of destruction. That Sistani, who is supposed to be shrewd, would actually fall for this ruse is really unbelievable to me. Maybe someone like Juan Cole could explain it to me?

Shoot, even if John Kerry is elected in November, it would still be Bush who was responsible for getting Iraqi elections to go off on time because the Iraqi elections are supposed to happen in January 2005. Kerry's swearing-in would not be until January 21, 2005.

The U.S. will not relinquish control of Iraq, period. There are many ways to circumvent the ultimate effects of elections, if indeed, by some remarkable chance of fate, they are actually carried out. The U.S., either through CIA black ops or outward agression against their Iraqi hosts (more likely), could just delegitimize any new government by talking about how corrupt the elections were. The U.S. could keep all of its military power in country, thereby not changing the actually power on the ground situation from what it is today. The CIA could actually stuff ballot boxes - or electronic ballot boxes, etc. We can barely keep track of the Republicans attempts to subvert democracy in Florida, never mind Baghdad. The list of ways to maintain control of our beloved desert oasis goes on and on.

UPDATE: Speaking of 'many ways to circumvent the ultimate effects of elections', the LA Times runs a piece on how the U.S. is circumventing democracy in Afghanistan. Ha-ha. I should get paid for this stuff.

UPDATE: Time runs a quick piece that tells of a CIA plan to rig the Iraqi elections. It apparently didn't go over too well on Capitol Hill. The CIA can still carry out the plan, I figure, with some help from Rummy, but it won't be as easy now.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Bush Policies Weakening U.S. National Security

U.S. military morale continues to head down the shitter (audio), and things will not get any better - at least until after the election is over. If Bush wins, he'll be free to do whatever he wants, no matter how politically unpopular. Kerry would at least bring sanity to the White House. But the peace has already been lost, so there's not much either guy could do now but withdraw, anyways.

This WaPo article indicates more than what I consider to be typical soldier complaints. This is most of it, but you should really read the whole thing (bold mine):

The 635 soldiers of a battalion of the South Carolina National Guard scheduled to depart Sunday for a year or more in Iraq have spent their off-duty hours under a disciplinary lockdown in their barracks for the last two weeks.

The trouble began Labor Day weekend, when 13 members of the 1st Battalion of the 178th Field Artillery Regiment went AWOL, mainly to see their families again before shipping out. Then there was an ugly confrontation between members of the battalion's Alpha and Charlie batteries -- the term artillery units use instead of "companies" -- that threatened to turn into a brawl involving three dozen soldiers, and required the base police to intervene.

That prompted a barracks inspection that uncovered alcohol, resulting in the lockdown that kept soldiers in their rooms except for drills, barred even from stepping outside for a smoke, a restriction that continued with some exceptions until Sunday's scheduled deployment.

This Guard unit was put on an accelerated training schedule -- giving the soldiers about 36 hours of leave over the past two months -- because the Army needs to get fresh troops to Iraq, and there are not enough active-duty or "regular" troops to go around. Preparation has been especially intense because the Army is short-handed on military police units, so these artillerymen are being quickly re-trained to provide desperately needed security for convoys. And to fully man the unit, scores of soldiers were pulled in from different Guard outfits, some voluntarily, some on orders.

As members of the unit looked toward their tour, some said they were angry, or reluctant to go, or both. Many more are bone-tired. Overall, some of them fear, the unit lacks strong cohesion -- the glue that holds units together in combat.

"Our morale isn't high enough for us to be away for 18 months," said Pfc. Joshua Garman, 20, who, in civilian life, works in a National Guard recruiting office. "I think a lot of guys will break down in Iraq." Asked if he is happy that he volunteered for the deployment, Garman said, "Negative. No time off? I definitely would not have volunteered."

A series of high-level decisions at the Pentagon has come together to make life tough for soldiers and commanders in this battalion and others. The decisions include the Bush administration's reluctance to sharply increase the size of the U.S. Army. Instead, the Pentagon is relying on the National Guard and Reserves, which provide 40 percent of the 140,000 U.S. troops in Iraq. Also, the top brass has concluded that more military police are needed as security deteriorates and the violent insurgency flares in ways that were not predicted by Pentagon planners.

The drilling to prepare this artillery unit for that new role has been intense. Except for a brief spell during Labor Day weekend, soldiers have been confined to post and prevented from wearing civilian clothes when off duty. The lockdown was loosened to allow soldiers out of the barracks in off hours to go to the PX, the gym and a few other places, if they sign out and move in groups.

"There's a federal prison at Fort Dix, and a lot of us feel the people in there have more rights than we do," said Spec. Michael Chapman, 31, a construction worker from near Greenville, S.C.

Sgt. Kelvin Richardson, 38, a machinist from Summerville, S.C., volunteered for this mission but says he now wishes he had not and has misgivings about the unit's readiness. Richardson is a veteran of the 1991 Persian Gulf War, in which he served with the 1st Cavalry Division, an active-duty "regular" unit. This battalion "doesn't come close" to that division, he said. "Active-duty, they take care of the soldiers."


"I think before we deploy we should be allowed to go home and see our families for five days, because some of us might not come back," said Spec. Wendell McLeod, 40, a steelworker from Cheraw, S.C. "Morale is pretty low. . . . It's leading to fights and stuff. That's really all I got to say."

The chaotic situation created for these soldiers readying for combat in Iraq has been directly caused by Bush's overstretching our military in every conceivable way. Bush's refusal to increase troop strength, or to force Dumsfeld to do it, is just another sign of his lack of leadership. The failed Iraq aftermath is getting multiple soldiers killed daily. The figure of 7,000+ injuries thus far in Iraq seems to have been cut by at least 50% of what the actual number is - at the direction of Dumsfeld. It is generally believed that the actual number of injuries is 17,000+, some number of which, maybe 50%, may be severe enough that the injured soldiers cannot return to combat duty.

The public is turning against this Iraq bullshit. The war never made sense. The invasion was illegal. The occupation is illegal. The soldiers don't know what they're there for. They don't want to be there. Their nerves are shot. The commanders don't have enough men. The troops are not trained properly. They lack equipment. They're short on bullets. Guerilla attacks are wearing our soldiers down faster than we can recuperate them. The serious injuries to our GI's are literally destroying our military's fighting power. A soldier with only one leg, one eye, one arm, or severe PTSD cannot be redeployed. That means we need to recruit more soldiers. It's getting tougher all the time. Big signing bonuses are the norm now (up to $20,000; other benefits can include college tuition benefits, advanced rank, expedited U.S. citizenship).

Soldiers leaving for Iraq know they might not come back. But more than that, some of them are starting to realize that coming back alive is only part of the battle. Coming back with all of your limbs is no longer guaranteed. And coming back with your brain and nerves in tact is yet another challenge - an especially scary one given the incredibly strong and debilitating stigma associated with mental breakdown. And many soldiers are likely to face severe mental duress because they're constantly dodging 360-degree guerrilla attacks. Can you imagine what it is like to not know whether you're going to be attacks from the front, back, side, top, or underneath?! Frickin-a. I can't imagine that a person could endure more than a month or two of that before falling off the sanity wagon.

Many of our 'volunteer' soldiers have now been enslaved by the U.S. government via stop/loss orders - requiring them to stay in the military until Uncle Sam decides they're no longer needed. have been threatened with deployment to the worst hotspots in Iraq if they don't re-enlist for a three-year stint.

Some troops volunteered. Some regret it now. The mission is in trouble. The mission, in fact, has already failed, but since there's a self-declared Republican in the White House, most of this country's self-declared Republicans won't think about voting against their party's guy - regardless of his endangering our troops and our nation.

  • When the only people willing to give a positive assessment of troop morale are officers, not enlisted men, you know your mission is in trouble.

  • When the troops are going AWOL to avoid being shot up in Iraq, you know your mission is in trouble.

  • When female troops are getting knocked up on the battlefield just to get a free trip away from the battlezone, you know your mission is in trouble.

  • When your troops turn to torturing innocent civilians for fun, or revenge, or out of frustration/fear/anxiety/anger/boredom/sadism, you know your mission is in trouble.

  • When your command-in-chief has never served in a combat zone and he talks tough like a cowboy, but he's afraid of horses, you know your mission is in trouble.

The 'all volunteer' label of the U.S. military is a joke. As Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 pointed out, the military gets most of its recruits from towns where the graduating high school seniors have no chance of a decent job. The new recruits enlist in the military as a way out of their jobless hometowns - not so they can donate a limb to Bush's imperial war for oil and hegemony. So technically, the new recruits my have volunteered to enlist, but did they really have much of a choice?

You start to wonder what these GI's would say if they weren't under orders to keep their mouths shut.

On the political tip, what can Kerry do to expose Bush's failed policies? He has to get direct, and he has to be brutal. The truth is brutal enough - no need to embellish. Looks like that's starting to happen already, and will continue.

I have a feeling Kerry won't ratchet up the rhetoric to where it needs to go - or, at least, to where I want it to be, but I'd be happy with any show of cajones at this point. Kerry needs to get angry - or at least pretend to be angry. Feigned outrage is a great political tool. His base (me) feels it, that's for sure. And it'll sell to undecides. So, I guess we'll just have to see what happens over the next couple of weeks. National polls are showing a dead heat. What happens as Iraq continues to escalate out of control? Kerry's team needs to be smart about this.

And I still don't understand why Kerry has not addressed his vote on the $87 billion Iraq appropriations bill. They continue to duck it, and there's no need. It's a more complicated issue than the dunce American people can fathom in one sitting, but he's gotta pay the price sooner or later - and it should have been sooner - 8 months ago. But hey, what do I know?

UPDATE: Britain is cutting and running.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Open Source Think Tank: The Wisdom Project

This is a pretty cool idea. No idea if it'll work, but it's worth a try. When I hear the term 'think tanks', I conjure up AEI, CATO, and Heritage. Those guys get the most press, by far, of any think tanks. They are Republican, Libertarian/Republican, and Republican, respectively. AEI and Heritage are openly proud of their 'propagandist' ways. The Brookings Institute has been labeled by some as 'left-of-center', but they fully supported the illegal Iraq War, and they continue to go all out pimping the Bush Administration's failed Middle East/War policies (@see work by Ken Pollack, Ivo Daalder, Michael O'Hanlon, Gregg Easterbrook, etc.).

See my earlier lament on the status of Brookings here.

There are a couple of centrist-type think tanks - the Urban Institute, and I guess the Carnegie Endowment gets a little play once in a while, though at least one of their scholars wrote a piece with Ivo Daalder berating old Europe to 'get on the bus' now that the U.S. had successfully turned Iraq into a failed state. It was a piece that even Richard Perle would have been proud of.

So, let's hope The Wisdom Project gets off the ground. Here's a clip of what it's all about:

The Open Source model inspired the Wisdom Project to operate in fundamentally different ways than most modern think tanks. Unlike most think tanks which are classic closed source "invitation only" systems, The Wisdom Project invites anyone and everyone to enter their forums and present their arguments and solutions. Members then work together to evaluate the quality of the commentary and the solutions offered using a simple system of judging the "wisdom" of individual posts. Post ratings are then used to identify the most promising solutions and to calculate a 'wisdom rating' for each active member. Ready says, "Our tools help us easily identify the best contributions to our dialogues and the people who most regularly make those contributions." The system is unique and it encourages accountability. Ready explains, "Our post rating system discourages the juvenile antics common on most internet message boards. As a result, we are building a membership culture of healthy, energized, and creative thought."

One of the ironies of traditional think tanks today is that they often have little inclination to question their assumptions. As Wikipedia describes, many think tanks may be "little more than tools for propaganda." Ready adds, "The purpose of many think tanks is not to figure out how to solve problems, but rather to figure out how to promote their ideology. When you are watching Fox News or reading the New York Times editorials, the arguments and solutions you hear about are not always the result of individual inspiration. Often, those ideas are born in privately funded think tanks and force fed to the public through sympathetic media outlets." The Wisdom Project open source model guarantees that any and all ideological premises are open to examination.

Undecideds Suck!

Well, that's my take. Larry David, of Curb Your Enthusiasm fame, has a slightly more comical take:

Los Angeles — I'd like to address this to the Undecideds: I'm on to you. You may be fooling everyone else with your little "undecided" act, but you're not fooling me. You know perfectly well whom you're voting for. The only reason you say you're undecided is that it's a cheap ploy to get attention. How do I know? Because I'm the most indecisive person in the world. I set the template, baby, and you're not passing the smell test.

Proto-Fascism in America

The Moscow Times is probably powerless to criticize Putin too harshly, but they're not afraid to tear into GWB:

You think it's not true, you think it's not coming, you think "it can't happen here." But it can, and it is, right before your eyes.

George Bush's United States is clearly in a proto-fascist condition. Of course, there's no such thing as direct equivalence between historical events. The same dangers never come around again -- not in the same form nor with precisely identical content. At every point in time, a new set of elements and circumstances coalesce to create the unique reality of that particular historical moment.

But if you take the general definition of fascism provided by its founder, Benito Mussolini -- "the merger of corporate and state power" -- and apply it to the elements that are coalescing in America at this historical moment, you could hardly find a more apt description of the Bush Regime. Couple that with the Bushists' radical transformation of party politics into a quasi-religious cult of militarism and leader worship, and you have not an equivalence but certainly an ever-deepening resonance with the malevolent spirit that swept Germany and Italy during the first half of the 20th century.

Scary stuff...

Thursday, September 16, 2004

University Activism

Michael Moore was supposed to speak at Cal State San Marcos, until the president of the school caved and 'uninvited' him. I felt compelled to drop the prez an email:

Dear President Haynes,

I think your decision to ban Michael Moore from coming to your campus was wrong, cowardly, and dishonest. You've set a terrible example for all of your students. It's never too late to make up for your mistakes.

Have a good day!


Now, the students are trying to right the wrong committed by their own president. Read about it here and here.

Newspaper Activism

If you wonder how you might be able to help the political discourse in the country a wee bit, consider contacting authors who write nonsense articles. If an author knows that (s)he will be stung by criticism, they'll think twice about dropping unsubstantiated claims in their writings.

The San Diego Union Tribune had an op-ed today on Kerry's failing candidacy. I sent the author an email:

You wrote:

With six weeks to go, John Kerry has reached the nadir of his presidential campaign. It's not just that he trails in the polls, but that he is doing little to catch up. At this point it would be foolish to bet against George W. Bush.

There is really no excuse for making such an irresponsible statement. All polls since a couple of days after the convention have shown the race re-tightening. Kerry is still surging, and even leading in some polls.

At this point, it would be foolish for you to write any more articles until you switch off CNN/MSNBC/FOX for a few minutes and find out what is going on in the real world.

From your own e-newspaper today:
Poll: With Bush lead after convention fading, race now in a virtual tie

Have a good day!


Probably not the nicest letter I ever wrote, but I was pissed, and he was either brain-dead, or too lazy to do his job and find out what the polls have been showing for weeks now. We can't have that. It's not acceptable.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Hip-Hop In Progressive Activism: dead prez?

Some hip-hoppers are making a name for themselves by mixing dope beats with a political message. New groups in this space are dead prez, cee-lo, and Kanye West.

I first caught wind of controversial dead prez via this New Republic article which is fairly critical of dead prez, but not of the movement in general. The old Sony site for dead prez has a link to an audio clip of earlier song of the group's entitled Police State which talks about the Ashcroftian-type surveillance U.S. citizens are being put under these days, especially in the cities. And it starts out with a line about hurling a firebomb at a police station. I guess if you want to attract attention, that's one way to do it. Check out some of the lyrics for that song below:

I throw a Molotov cocktail at the precinct, you know how we think
Organize the hood under I Ching banners
Red, Black and Green instead of gang bandanas
F.B.I. spyin on us through the radio antennas
And them hidden cameras in the streetlight watchin society
With no respect for the people's right to privacy
I'll take a slug for the cause like Huey P.
while all you fake niggaz {*UNNNGH*} try to copy Master P
I want to be free to live, able to have what I need to live
Bring the power back to the street, where the people live
We sick of workin for crumbs and fillin up the prisons
Dyin over money and relyin on religion for help
We do for self like ants in a colony
Organize the wealth into a socialist economy
A way of life based off the common need
And all my comrades is ready, we just spreadin the seed

The average Black male
Live a third of his life in a jail cell
Cause the world is controlled by the white male
And the people don't never get justice
And the women don't never get respected
And the problems don't never get solved
And the jobs don't never pay enough
So the rent always be late; can you relate?
We livin in a police state

The dead prez's new album and video - presumably about to be released on MTV - are pretty shocking. And totally different from the above screed. At least, their title track is. I preserved the full video as published on their website, here (~15 MB), as I suppose it was meant more to garner attention than to actually be released via MTV. Some part of the video will be released, but not the car-jacking in the beginning. Yes, car-jacking. The song is about trying to 'get paid' while being oppressed by 'the man'. I have to say, I'm very disappointed. I thought these guys were gonna be like a hard-core, militant type PE, but seems they sold out. Not blaming them - that cash has to be crazy tempting, but I'm allowed to be disappointed.

These guys talk about a lot of the early movers in the civil rights movement, especially the more militant ones, and I really respect that because I feel that's where I would have been if I was black back in the day. I'm almost positive I would have felt as though MLK was selling out to the man, and I would have stood behind the teachings of Malcolm X and Marcus Garvey and others like them.

In David Adler's New Republic piece, mentioned above, he says this ('M-1' is one of two lyricists that make up dead prez):

In the RBG liner notes, M-1 also offers a shout to the late Khalid Abdul Muhammad, the former Nation of Islam spokesman and founder of the New Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. During a speech in 1997, Muhammad said, "There is absolutely no evidence to substantiate, to prove that six million so-called Jews lost their lives in Nazi Germany." It's not clear whether M-1 means to endorse Muhammad's anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial specifically; perhaps he's saluting the "fallen soldier" who spearheaded the Million Youth March and protested white supremacist violence in Jasper, Texas. But the tribute is unqualified, and thus troubling.

This is just another double-standard. A couple of week's ago, at the Republican National Convention, the Governator, Arnold Schwarzenegger, offered this:

I finally arrived here in 1968. I had empty pockets, but I was full of dreams. The presidential campaign was in full swing. I remember watching the Nixon and Humphrey presidential race on TV. A friend who spoke German and English, translated for me. I heard Humphrey saying things that sounded like socialism, which is what I had just left. But then I heard Nixon speak. He was talking about free enterprise, getting government off your back, lowering taxes and strengthening the military. Listening to Nixon speak sounded more like a breath of fresh air.

This ode to one of the biggest criminals in U.S. history, Richard Nixon - a man who disgraced the country and the Presidency, escalated the nation into a losing war - which, coincidentally, killed several thousand more U.S. military personnel and several tens of thousands of innocent civilians - was not shouted down universally, as I imagine dead prez will be when they finally hit it big. dead prez is black - and their militant heros are black - so they'll be castigated. Schwarzenegger is white, and his criminal hero was white, so he won't be castigated. Double. Standard.

Members of the elite classes don't often feel compelled to use hateful rhetoric (unless they're Republican - and therefore, just a little off-balance), but members of the oppressed are angry, because they're oppressed, and they're not comfortable, and they want change. The elite are comfortable, so can afford to act comfortably - it comes naturally. What's there to be angry about when you're living off of other people backs? So I'm wary of any high-minded authors who automatically attempt to discredit an artist because they give a shout-out to a controversial leader from the past, even if that leader sometimes preached hateful, racist rhetoric.

After all is said and done, I wonder about rising unrest and militancy in the black community. Is it there? Is it happening? And if it was, would anyone care? Foreign wars help distract the American public from domestic problems, rallying everyone to 'the cause' as laid out by our corrupt leaders, but what happens if/when Iraq and this phony war on terrorism goes away? Well, I guess there's our answer - don't count on that happening anytime soon.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Tariq Ramadan, Muslim Scholar, Denied U.S. Visa

Why did the U.S. revoke his visa, really? Well, he doesn't agree with U.S. policy in the Middle East. That's the biggie. And that's why we're all pissed at George.

Why is it bad that his visa was revoked? Well, outside the immediate financial/emotion damage/stress incurred by himself and his wife and children (all their sh*t is in South Bend, already), there's the issue of academic freedom. Will the U.S. only allow scholars to emigrate to the U.S. who agree with U.S. policy in the Middle East? Aside from the fact that we're supposed to be a nation of ideas, and that free speech and all that are guaranteed in the Constitution, we only hurt our own national interests by not allowing this guy to come and exchange ideas with our experts. The free-flow of information is supposed to make us all a little bit better informed. With that, we at least have a chance of making the right foreign policy decisions. We do that, and we make ourselves more secure. We don't do that, and we make ourselves less secure.

So, yes, this is about academic freedom, and it's about the vibrancy of our democracy, but it's also about our national security. And considering that Ramadan is a moderate Muslim - espousing the mixing of Muslim values with those of Western culture (e.g. independence of women) - he represents the best of what we hope to achieve internationally. To win the 'war of ideas', we need to have an idea of what this Islam stuff is all about. We have experts in country, no doubt, but why turn away one of the best? Especially if he brings the special expertise of having thought long, hard, deep thoughts about how to successfully merge Islam with Western culture? It's just another Kremlinesque - and idiotic - move by the Bushies.

[NOTE: Speaking of the Kremlin, Putin's power grab struck me as funny. It's the same thing Bush has done since 9/11 - albeit, in much more sophisticated ways (outrageously partisan political appointments, recess judicial appointments, the Patriot Act, intimidation of the press corps, etc.).

It works like this. First, a big terrorist event. Next, the government attempts to grab power, and the people, in general, allow it to happen because they believe their government wants to protect them from terrorists. Anyone who protests the upcoming war or the power grab is labeled a traitor or appeaser (see quotes below from Ashcroft and Göring on this technique). The government succeeds in taking more more power. Government abuses power. Government sometimes becomes uncontrollable, fascist even (see Reichstag Fire).

Göring quote:

Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.

Ashcroft quote:
To those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty, my message is this: your tactics only aid terrorists, for they erode our national unity and diminish our resolve. They give ammunition to America's enemies, and pause to America's friends.

Here, Ashcroft is condemning as traitors people who oppose the Patriot Act. The 'phantoms of lost liberties' phrase was a worldwide hit as soon as the religious extremist uttered the words. By using the word 'phantoms', Ashcroft suggests that worries about losing liberties via the Patriot Act are unfounded, ridiculous, not real, they're just apparitions - ghosts in the wind. The 'lost liberties' are the ones being stripped from U.S. citizens by the Patriot Act - like, privacy, for starters. This is already one of the most infamous quotes of King George's reign. It really doesn't get any more plain than this - protest George's policies/wars/power grabs, then you are providing aid to the enemy - thus, you are a traitor.

Think the above scenario is unlikely in America? Well, Bush got his wars, one of which could be justified on some level (Afghanistan), and he got his power grab (above, with Patriot Act, etc.). So what's left? Well, more wars. More power grabs. Less liberty for you and me. Fun stuff.

Oddly enough, there are people who are concerned about Russia moving away from democracy. Unfortunately, our experts only recognize Kremlinesque power grabs either a) when those said experts are not in power themselves, or b) when it's happening in another country. Kinda makes one wonder - if terror attacks are so good for the ruling party, then why not, you know, just have a little terror attack? Or maybe a big one? What better way to get all the power you want, and get all your policies implemented? Well, now you're talking.

You can certainly imagine how a President and his cabal could come to some tortured explanation for sacrificing a few thousand of their citizens for 'the greater good'. It happens in war all the time (see Churchill's decision to allow Coventry to be sacrificed(pdf) during WWII, though there still seems to be some debate about how much Churchill knew, when he knew it, and what, if anything, he did about it.) And an article arguing, among other things, that Churchill instigated the bombing of English cities - i.e. Coventry - to draw the U.S. into the war. He hoped Americans would be moved by the horrible pictures.

Now you'll start to see why all these people (and me) think there's been a coverup by the Bush administration on the 9/11 terror attacks. Did Bush himself know? Yes, he knew there was going to be something - the August 6 PDB said so - but I don't think he knew how big and bad it would be. I think many other people in his administration, the CIA, FBI, and other agencies knew.]

Ramadan was supposed to teach at the Joan B. Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies. It's part of the University of Notre Dame.

This article gives us a brief rundown of what happened:

So what happened with the visa? The Department of Homeland Security, apparently acting under provisions of the USA Patriot Act, requested the State Department to reverse an earlier decision to grant the visa. This is done to those who have used a "position of prominence within any country to endorse or espouse terrorist activity." There is virtually no evidence that is public suggesting that Ramadan has ever espoused terrorism. As immigration expert Paul Donnelly wrote in the Washington Post a few days after the imbroglio erupted, "Notre Dame officials insist that they have reviewed every charge against the Swiss scholar and agree with the likes of Scotland Yard and Swiss intelligence, which have found them to be groundless."

Letter to the Editor of the WaPost from 'a senior research fellow at the University of Illinois at Chicago's Great Cities Institute'.

An Editorial in the WaPost critical of the State Department's decision - calls for more info.

Jewish Council on Urban Affairs critical of decision.

NPR's All Things Considered has an audio report on the revocation of Ramadan's visa.

Democracy Now! has two segments with Tariq.

Ramadan answers to criticms from Bush appointee Daniel 'kill-all-the-Muslims' Pipes here. Not sure why he took the time.

Ramadan as the Muslim MLK?

Ramadan's open letter published in Toronto's Globe and Mail.

The Chronicle on Higher Education has an article. They deserve a shout-out just because it's their territory.

Monday, September 13, 2004

Iraq Not Another Vietnam?

You've heard the wingnuts proclaim that Iraq is not, and never will be, another Vietnam. It's not a quagmire. Yadda yadda yadda.

With U.S. killed in Iraq surpassing the 1,000 mark, that takes us to almost 2% of the number killed in the Vietnam conflict - 58,226 (killed or missing in action).

U.S. involvement in Vietnam lasted at least 11 years - from about 1961 to 1973. I don't know the exact progression of killing of US forces during the conflict, only that it escalated rapidly before falling off towards the end. The kill rate is currently escalating in Iraq. So, our 1 1/2 year war has so far resulted in 1,000 killed. Stretch that to 11 years and we'd have approximately 7,326 killed. That would still only account for 12% of Vietnam kills, but that doesn't take into account the escalation in killing that is currently ongoing.

Of course, the kill rate will continue to go up as the resistance continues to grow and prosper - meaning, that 7,326 could easily go much, much higher. And many think this war could last as long as the Vietnam War - if the American public allows it. I don't think they will, but no politician or member of the 101st Fighting Keyboard Division wants to cut and run - especially not Bush - he's not man enough to admit that he's wrong. He'd rather kill a few more thousand GI's and a few more tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians.

At what point do the chickenhawks admit this is Vietnam? 5,000 killed? 10,000? 5 years of occupation/war? 10?

I'm not sure what their answer will be. I can't tell when they really think they know what they're talking about, and when they're just being dishonest.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Howard Kurtz Misses Again

Kurtz' column today, Excavating Bush's Past, starts out with this:

After a month of media digging and regurgitation of who did what to whom on the Bay Hap River in 1969, we are now deep into what George Bush did or didn't do as a younger man.

Sorry, Howie. Sorry you actually have to put up with all this fun mud-slinging nonsense. Sorry that we are so busy re-examining trivial events from Bush's past as 'a younger man.' Sorry. Of course, if you'd done your job during the 2000 campaign, maybe we wouldn't have to go through this yet again. But, sorry.

Kurtz continues:

On one front: Taking a page from the swifties, a group called Texans for Truth is airing a spot questioning Bush's National Guard service. But in a conference call, the former Alabama guardsman who appears in the ad, Bob Mintz, was less than convincing about how he could be sure that W. had not shown up over the course of a year. Mintz said he reported for duty only 60 to 80 days a year and did not have the exact dates.

I have several problems with this passage. First, Mintz never claims that he is 'sure' that Bush didn't show up for duty over the course of that year. Mintz simply claims that he never saw Bush during Mintz' time on base, period. He is sure that he didn't see Bush. Is that so difficult to understand? Could Bush have shown up on every other odd Tuesday in between the hours of 2 am and 5:30 am? Sure. Likely? Of course not. I don't mind Kurtz trying to get to the facts, but to outright dismiss Mintz because he hasn't brought reams of documentary evidence to the table is outrageous, especially in light of how much play the Swifties garnered, even while they continued to be proven liars, time and again. Do your homework, Kurtz.

Next, Kurtz wants us to believe that 60 to 80 days is chump change. It would be if Mintz and Bush were full-time enlisted men, but they were not, they were guardsmen - so they served on a part-time basis. My guess is that most of their time would have been served during weekends - excepting for the full two-week period.

Going by the old guard adage, "one weekend a month, two weeks a year," Bush and Mintz would have been required to serve a minimum of 38 days for the entire year (12 months at 2 days per, plus 14 days). If Mintz and Bush served at the same time, they would surely have seen each other. And even if by some miracle Mintz did not witness the young Mr. Bush in the flesh, Mintz would certainly have heard about Bush's time spent on base because Bush was a known celebrity - the son of a big-wig. Celebrities are like that - their reputations precede and follow them. Is this Kurtz once again dismissing Mintz' story because Kurtz is just too lazy to do even the most basic analysis?

Finally, Kurtz tells us that Mintz did not have the exact dates of his service. So? If it's important to you, Kurtz, look it up. Don't call the guy a liar without evidence. Fact-checking - it's your job, after all. We know he probably served a bunch of weekends, and one two-week period. If you asked for his attendance records I'm sure he'd provide them to you, or give you permission to seek them from the appropriate authorities. I realize Kurtz was doing more of a blogger-style piece, here, but why cast aspersions on Mintz' story without reason? I mean, does not remembering the exact dates you served 30 years ago indicate duplicity, a la Bush? C'mon.

Of course, Kurtz is all wrapped around himself, enthralled at being a big media reporter who is just so amused by all the senseless, trivial mud-slinging that he can hardly bring himself to see what's going on right in front of his eyes.

Fortunately for us regular folk, Kurtz' colleague, Dan Froomkin, points out the obvious:

Back in February, the White House assured everyone that all the existing, relevant documents about President Bush's disputed National Guard service had been made public.

But just in the past two days, several new documents have emerged -- as have new, intensive examinations of the record.

How many times now has Bush said he released all of his records? 5? 6? 10?

Bush is lying. The White House is lying. Dan Bartlett is lying. The Bush Campaign is lying. They've all been lying. And they'll continue to lie as long as self-congratulatory reporters like Kurtz continue to let them get away with it. Whatever way you want to say it, Mr. Bush is a liar - in the very recent past - plain and simple. And that should matter very much to Mr. Kurtz, because it matters very much to voters.

Too bad Howard Kurtz is too enamored with himself to do his job correctly.

The Politics Of Risk

AlterNet has a good article up called Politics of Risk. The gist of the article goes something like this:

We now live in a 'risk society,' where voters are looking to choose not the best leader, but the safest one.

This is an especially timely article given Cheney's recent declaration that a vote for Kerry would mean America would be hit by another terror attack. I'm not sure of his rationale, but it's definitely an effective scare tactic.

All of the terrorizing of the American people at the hands of the Bushies for the last four years - to maintain political power - has certainly been effective. Many voters are scared out of their minds, and could care less about real risks in their lives - like the risk of losing health insurance, etc. Expect lots more scare tactics coming down the pike, all the way until November 2. And don't count on the press to point it out.

On the topic of being afraid of the right things, I'm reminded of that book I always see in Barnes - The Culture of Fear: Why Americans Are Afraid of the Wrong Things. I have a feeling it would be able to quantify for us the statistical chance of us getting hit by some type of terrorist attack. I suppose it might look something like this:

Table. Chances of dying from selected causes (USA)

        Cause of death                                                    Chances

Motor vehicle accident 1 in 100
Homicide 1 in 300
Fire 1 in 800
Firearms accident 1 in 2,500
Electrocution 1 in 5,000
Asteroid/comet impact 1 in 20,000
Passenger aircraft crash 1 in 20,000
Flood 1 in 30,000
Tornado 1 in 60,000
Terrorist Attack* 1 in 88,000
Venomous bite or sting 1 in 100,000
Fireworks accident 1 in 1 million
Food poisoning by botulism 1 in 3 million
Drinking water with EPA limit of tricholoethylene 1 in 10 million
(From C.R. Chapman & D. Morrison, 1994, Nature 367, 33-40.)
* The 'Terrorist Attack' info is not from Chapman's report. It is a figure quoted
around the Internet, and I haven't been able to confirm the source of it yet.

This table shows how there are many things we should be more concerned about than terrorism. The first two caught my eye as very real possibilities. So, while it may seem counter-intuitive at first, instead of pouring money into all these wars and international donation programs that supposedly fend off terrorism, we should be pouring money into any and every program that decreases the chances of us getting killed in a motor vehicle accident (e.g. safer car research) or murdered (e.g. more cops back on the street). Only when the statistical chances of all the things that threaten us more than terrorist attacks are diminished until they are equally as likely to cause us to be killed as terrorist attacks should we start putting money back into programs that prevent terrorist attacks. That's simple math, and that's what will keep us safest.

P.S. Bush has cut funding to the COPS (Community Oriented Policing Services) program by 90%. The program, introduced under Clinton, literally put more cops on the beat. The murder rate has jumped up 1.5% in the last year. Is there a connection? Tough to tell, but I would have rather kept the COPS program, thank you very much. And that's only one significant effect from Bush's cuts. The reduction in COPS funds also prevents police from successfully solving murders - the money is just not there for long, expensive investigations. So, anyone who murdered and got away with it will probably feel like there's a good chance they'll get away with another. Feel safer?

The odd part is, Bush and Cheney have no real incentive to prevent further attacks against the U.S. - especially in the run-up to the election. As long as they can cover their tracks long enough to make sure the public doens't find out they were negligent and/or complicit in the attacks, they'll be re-elected. Nice.

(p.s. Half of New York City's population thinks that Bush/Cheney knew about the 9/11 attacks beforehand, and purposely ignored warnings of the impending attack.)

The National Safety Council has a more comprehensive listing of risk of death due to various causes.

Found a diary over at DailyKos with same type of info.

Terror As A Political Tool

We've talked before about Bushco using the terror alert system - the LifeSaver thing - as a political tool. Whenever some really damaging political news comes down the pike, Tom Ridge would be holding a press conference talking about exploding beer coolers and the like, or maybe Ashcroft would be talking about the lastest Muslim he arrested on trumped-up charges.

Well, Josh Marshall found a nifty little 'coincidence' the other day. I've copied the entire post:

AP: 'U.S. death toll in Iraq passes 1,000 mark' ... 4:27 PM, Sept. 7th, 2004

AP: 'Ridge: Terrorists hope to disrupt election' ... 4:40 PM, Sept. 7th, 2004

So, if you do the math, you'll see the bad political story for Bush, followed by the terror alert - just 13 minutes later. Why would the Bushies do this when they know we're watching? Dunno. I guess the figure that the press will not bother to report the 'coincidence', and with that, they're probably right.

The U.S. GI death toll in Iraq had just hit 1,000 - forcing some Americans to take a look at what the hell we're doing over there in the first place. Bush was going to be forced to make a statement on the 1k milestone, but any deflection of the story is a good deflection.

How to deflect? Well, there are *lots* of ways, but our homegrown terror alert system - the one that tells us Americans when to be terrified - is the tool most enjoyed by the Bushies. Ridge loves the spotlight, and the media continues to eat it up.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

The 'T' Word

Pat Buchanan is a bit of a religious freak, but he's been very sensible about this Iraq War - it was a horrendous blunder in almost every aspect. His new book, Where the Right Went Wrong, details his point of view on just how disastrous the Iraq War has been.

AntiWar.com has an article up that includes a transcript of Buchanan when he appears on Meet the Press with the Pumpkinhead. It's good stuff. Check it out.

Oh, that 'T' word? Treason.

Philosophy: The New Rock 'n Roll?

A good read on how philosophy is fusing with populism. Read this article for a quick take on the phenomenon that is bringing us books like Alain de Botton's philo-self-help-literary-criticism-type books The Consolations of Philosophy (my take: good), How Proust Can Change Your Life (my take: good), and Status Anxiety.

Other more straightforward philosophy-as-junkfood-for-the-mind texts include The Sopranos and Philosophy: I Kill Therefore I Am, The Simpsons and Philosophy: The D'oh! of Homer, Seinfeld and Philosophy: A Book about Everything and Nothing, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Philosophy. I may be being a bit unfair, here, as I've read none of them, and some universities have chosen to offer courses using these books as texts.

Penguin has a new series of bite-sized philosophy-type books, but some people are not so happy with the 20 chosen philosophers.

(Props to Political Theory Daily Review for once again finding the most interesting text on the web.)

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Bush As Churchill?

At the RNC Convention, former NYC mayor Rudy Giuliani sought to align dunce Bush with the massive figure of Churchill:

He compared Bush to British wartime leader Winston Churchill, assuring more than 2,500 delegates that the president "will remain consistent in the purpose of defeating terrorism while working to make us safer at home."

This struck me as odd for a couple of reasons.

First, upon the close of the (second world ) war in Europe, Churchill got his arse handed to him in an election. He was de-Prime Ministered, as it were, while already in Potsdam - working out post-war agreements with Stalin and Truman. Not a wonderful sendoff for the 'war hero'. In this case I do hope that Bush takes after Churchill.

Second, Churchill was an unapologetic racist, and quite possibly a mass murderer. Among his other exploits are the gassing of the Kurds in Iraq (yes, those Kurds, and yes, that same Iraq, and yes, gas, chemical weapons, the whole enchilada), and the deliberate nonresponse to the Great Bengal Famine of 1943 which left at least 2.5 million dead. So, I don't think we can quite put Bush up on that same Churchillian pedestal just yet - but you never know what can happen if Bush gets another four years.

Thus far, Bush has proved wonderfully efficient in the indiscriminate killing of Iraqi civilians by the thousands, using assorted aerial bombing tactics. It's not exactly chemical weapons, but it is an admirable start for any aspiring tyrant. And Bush has effectively ignored the ongoing famine/genocide in Sudan - even when his editors at the WaPost are telling him to sit up and take notice. One editorial even tells Bush to at least act like he wants to do something, even if he doesn't give a sh*t, to save himself politically. Now that's a ballsy call, even for a psycho wingnut editorial writer!

Churchill the racist:
"I do not admit...that a great wrong has been done to the Red Indians of America, or the black people of Australia...by the fact that a stronger race, a higher grade race...has come in and taken its place"
- Churchill to Palestine Royal Commission, 1937.

Churchill the chemical weapons expert:
"I do not understand this squeamishness about the use of gas. I am strongly in favour of using [it] against uncivilised tribes."
- Churchill, Secretary of State, British War Office, 1919, authorising use of chemical weapons against Iraqis.