Wednesday, November 29, 2006
I am not a Democrat and certainly not a Republican, I am a citizen, a taxpayer and a voter. The labels mean little to me if the policies are barely distinquishable. The Republicans had to answer "how do we get a lock on political power" after the Reaganization of political thought culminated in the Contract on America and the mid 90's Republican capture of majorities in both houses. Their answer included hitching incumbency to the wealth of industries and conservative churches via K Street and other unhealthy and anti-democracy tactics These tactics let lobbying budgets blind legislators to the real needs in our country and eventually made some of them blind even to the difference between a bribe and a legal favor...anything goes as long as money goes into the campaign fund.
Republicans outspent their opponents in most of the recent election's campaigns, including the upsets, of which there were quite a few. That would seem to argue that there is a limit to the effects of money on a campaign: If you really are screwing your country or even just ignoring your constituents then no, you can't buy yourself another term for any amount of cash.
If that is the shift that has just hit the fans, if that is how bad things got and how badly the average voter wanted to fix them, then the climate has changed. Climate change is not readily detected by Republicans, if their speeches on the matter mean anything. Thus, there may have arisen here a great opportunity/challenge to the newly elected and possibly more ethical congress: Shouldn't they look into consolidating their win not by sewing up deals with power hungry and favor seeking donors but rather by making the neglected two-way channel with their constituents the loudest and most transparent stream of influence in Washington? Shouldn't they now on a regular basis canvas voters to see whats hurting them and what they hope for? Shouldn't these legislators each frequently and honestly update us on just which laws they study and debate over and of all the laws in play, what their position will be in voting? I think that sort of communication would cement a legislator with his or her constituents and move the debates about what our priorties and means of achieving them should be back where it belongs: among the constituents. We aren't as stupid as the campaign budgets would have you believe and our voting just proved it.
But until this happy state comes about, just watch their votes, keep an eye on when new lobbying and donated money comes to your senator or representative and see if they will respond to your letter or phone call about why they accepted the cash. They may be a little more attentive to voter's letters than they were back in 2004. If you get a non-answer, consider youself as having a non-representative in congress and start looking for a replacement.
The important power that has been retaken lately and which needs to be firmed up is that of the voter over the congress.
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
There seem to be two reasons that Jules Feiffer's 1968 play, "The White House Murder Case" has all but vanished from the world. Some reviewers fault the production and to a lesser extent the writing. These blemishes do not deter the usual suspects from trying to bring it back.
My play reading group read through it about three weeks before the election. Whatever its weaknesses in the craft of playwriting, its prescience concerning the depraved depths to which power and war-lust will stoop is simply stunning. The play ran off-Broadway and it did win an Obie award for direction.
So what is the other reason? According to no one but me, this play, when first produced the late 60's * was probably viewed by the average theatergoer as absurd. Absurd theater was an acceptable art-house kind of genre but not bound for long runs or stages outside campuses and large cities. Then as now, in America, artsy concepts are mostly a recipe for confining a work to a niche audience. Absurdity is an artsy concept but I think the Bush administration has lived down to the maxim that truth is more absurd than fiction. The times, thus altered by the unrelenting attack of crazed power upon truth in politics and public perception, are ready for a re-reading of this play. Find a copy if you can. It is short and you will gasp more with recognition of present mindsets than at the grim grim humor.
Was the play really such a turkey? Do you know where your president is right now?
Please pass the gravy.
*The variations in records of publication date are a clue that multiple re-writes were attempted but not a guarantee.
No amount of good writing will save the publication of a truth that has come before its time.
Monday, November 20, 2006
[more extensively quoted at TPM, to whom I am grateful ] Leave it to someone who has served to put in two sentences, most of what I take pages to try to say about how broken our country has become.
Outgoing Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told Congress in June 2005 that ''there isn't a chance in the world that the draft will be brought back.''Rangel's primary argument is, roughly summarized, "fairness": the proportion of young men and women dying in Iraq who enlisted for much needed pay and training is not the same as their share of the total population of draft-age men and women in this country. That much I agree with. As a secondary or consequential effect, Rangel hopes that when the well off and the powerful think that their kids could be called up, we won't rush into wars on the basis of a little faked evidence.
Americans would have to sign up for a new military draft after turning 18 under a bill the incoming chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee says he will introduce next year.That may be true. I would hope that as a prod to our electorate's present unrealistic notion that war is sanitary, this bringing of the war to each and every family in America could affect our choices. But other than congratulating Rangel for being less of a hypocrite than anyone else on this matter, I do not wish him success. If Bush has a draft, he will use it and as a lame duck, use it with impunity. Rangel's hope that a draft will simply reinstate the proper and now missing political consequences of warmongering is not a strong enough reason at this time. And, BTW, Rangel knows perfectly well how draft measures go over so maybe he is just making a statement?
Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., said Sunday he sees his idea as a way to deter politicians from launching wars.
In 2003, Rangel proposed a measure covering people age 18 to 26. It was defeated 402-2 the following year. This year, he offered a plan to mandate military service for men and women between age 18 and 42; it went nowhere in the Republican-led Congress.
Sunday, November 19, 2006
Truthout brings you stories which otherwise sink from view in the "readers don't care, writers won't share" news environment of MoneyStreamMedia. You should keep Truthout from sinking
If you are tired of this, if you just don't want to hear any more of the kind of news Halliburton buries and Truthout or Project Censored exhume, you are part of the problem. If you wait until something like the following quote is read to you on Fox or CNN, it will be a few weeks after Bush/Cheney order an attack on Iran. How better, after all, for Dick Vader to cover his tracks?
Cheney was the chief executive of Halliburton Corporation at the time he uttered those words. It was Cheney who directed Halliburton toward aggressive business dealings with Iran-in violation of US law-in the mid-1990s, which continued through 2005 and is the reason Iran has the capability to enrich weapons-grade uranium. It was Halliburton's secret sale of centrifuges to Iran that helped get the uranium enrichment program off the ground, according to a three-year investigation that includes interviews conducted with more than a dozen current and former Halliburton employees.
If the US ends up engaged in a war with Iran in the future, Cheney and Halliburton will bear the brunt of the blame. But this shouldn't come as a shock to anyone who has been following Halliburton's business activities over the past decade. The company has a long, documented history of violating US sanctions and conducting business with so-called rogue nations.
No, what's disturbing about these facts is how little attention it has received from the mainstream media. But the public record speaks for itself, as do the thousands of pages of documents obtained by various federal agencies that show how Halliburton's business dealings in Iran helped fund terrorist activities there-including the country's nuclear enrichment program.
When I asked Wendy Hall, a spokeswoman for Halliburton, a couple of years ago if Halliburton would stop doing business with Iran because of concerns that the company helped fund terrorism she said, "No." "We believe that decisions as to the nature of such governments and their actions are better made by governmental authorities and international entities such as the United Nations as opposed to individual persons or companies," Hall said. "Putting politics aside, we and our affiliates operate in countries to the extent it is legally permissible, where our customers are active as they expect us to provide oilfield services support to their international operations. "We do not always agree with policies or actions of governments in every place that we do business and make no excuses for their behaviors. Due to the long-term nature of our business and the inevitability of political and social change, it is neither prudent nor appropriate for our company to establish our own country-by-country foreign policy."
Halliburton first started doing business in Iran as early as 1995, while Vice President Cheney was chief executive of the company and in possible violation of US sanctions.
Why, for instance isn't this story about CIA finding lack of Iranian nuke development in today's NYTimes?
Am I my brother's keeper?
The sermon can never change the sacred text, only the context. Out of its context more than not, the passage gets kindly but thoroughly misused even by the most humane people. The closer the reading stays to the context, the more we get of the original intent of the passage. I like this example of the better usage. The usage I understand is that that question is a sneering lie by a murderer and its not meant to be answered. Anyone who thinks it is a deep question about the lines to be drawn around individualism is a fool and needs to reread Genesis.
Thursday, November 16, 2006
Prof. Friedman was a thorough champion of economic [and probably most other ] freedoms from government, beloved of Grover Norquist and the libertarians at the Cato Institute. And, as pointed out in the NPR coverage [click the "listen" for audio] of Mr. Friedman's passing, he had many critics who thought he took a good idea way too far: the claim is that Mr. Friedman thought an unfettered market, operated by businesses or individuals free of burdens of regulation, could do no wrong. I will have to read one of his books to see if I think that is what he meant. But for now, knowing the folks at the Cato Institute are selfish but not stupid, I'll presume he favored nearly unregulated everything and was a grand daddy of the current blind faith neocons have in market solutions for everything.
Similar to the neocons [except they are still breathing] Mr Friedman is no longer in this world and as he leaves us, he was still thinking his ideas have triumphed. In a 1999 NPR interview he was asked what 20th century event would leave the most lasting effects and he said it was the collapse of communism:
"...Because it marked the philosophical supremacy of the idea of free markets and private enterprise over the idea of collective central planning. ...Its a good interview and short, read it to see what the man thought. He was not a bad guy. He was privately saying "who cares" about drug use in the years when Reagan's catch phrase was "just say no" [I'd aver that Reagan introduced republican rudeness in that campaign..it should have been "just say no, thank you"]. Friedman helped dismantle the draft and urged economic incentives for recruiting: a mercenary army. The lack of a draft does have a long reach: it was Bush/Cheney's one inkling of "reality based" thought that they could never sell a war on Iraq with Shinseki's and Colin Powell's notion of troop numbers because reinstituting a draft would never fly. So they lied about the cost of the war in money and troops and that problem is very much with us today. But Milton's ideas are easily misused too. He provided strong excuses to people making favor-the-rich economic policy in spite of his own earnest vision that freedom favors even the small players with opportunity. Although I admire empiricism, which Friedman genuinely appears to have stuck too, it lacks the heart and intuition that good government must have.
"Human life requires the balancing of freedom with other goals, including security and equality," said Richard Parker, a senior fellow at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. "Friedman's repeated neglect of these other values has been the repeated source of error in his policy advice."If you are going to form world-shaping policies and ideas from evidence, you must take in much more evidence than even the vast studies of Mr. Friedman. He only studied people in their immediate economic settings: money. His empirical bent enables him to sound so wise when the replies to this interviewer:
STAMBERG: Professor Friedman, let's talk some, though, about the human cost of the free market, because we all know that everything free comes with a price, and very often the price has been tremendous hardships and insecurities. I wonder what it would take to make the free-market system work and not take too heavy a toll on the extremely poor, the people at the very bottom rungs?And in the NPR coverage this evening, for which the transcript is not yet on line, Friedman is quoted to the effect that it was the untrammeled freedoms of our free enterprise system that allowed the US to provide so much opportunity to immigrants like his parents and produced that rapid growth of the American economy. I wish I could ask the man if he thought this freedom was meant to include freedom from responsibility for the future. The hidden factor, unvarying until the late 20th century, that invisibly shored up all economic prediction was that nature appeared inexhaustible and human activity had no impact on earth's capacity to warm and feed us. Those days are gone and classical liberalism must be buried with them.
FRIEDMAN: Well, I can't agree with the assertions you're making. You have to compare one system with another. There's no point in comparing an actual, operating system with an ideal system that doesn't exist. I would say that, in contrary to your generalization, the free market has involved less hardship, has imposed far less of a cost than almost any alternative system. Can you compare any of the costs of the free market with the costs that were imposed by, let's say, either the Soviet Union or China?
STAMBERG: You know, lots of people are lucky to get their wisdom by sitting in your classroom over the years and reading your books. Others of us get our wisdom by talking to taxi drivers. Now this goes back to the Russian model again, and I'm sure you'll incorporate that in your answer. But I don't know how many Russian cabbies in New York have told me -- in the course of a really bumpy, pothole-filled ride -- how dreadfully tough their lives are here, having made that transition from a government which took care -- yes, in very brutal, cruel ways -- but took care of most of their human needs, and try to fight it out on the streets of the major city of capitalism.
FRIEDMAN: And why did they come there?
STAMBERG: Gold in the streets, was it?
FRIEDMAN: Yeah. Why didn't they stay in the Soviet Union?
STAMBERG: Of course, they saw more opportunities. That's true, Professor, but in terms of...
FRIEDMAN: Do they regret having come?
STAMBERG: Well, I think they did. I'm not saying...
FRIEDMAN: Don't you think that the most meaningful vote is a vote with your feet?
STAMBERG: So you're saying pack up and go back if it's so tough for you here?
FRIEDMAN: Well, how many have done so?... Don't misunderstand me. I'm saying if you really want to know what they really believe about the relative merits of the two systems, see what they do, not what they say. And what they do is to stay here. They don't go back. I think of my own family. My parents came here from Europe at the age of 14 and 16. And they had a hard time, a very difficult time, but it opened up a world of opportunity for them. And the same thing with these cab drivers whom you're talking about who are bitching about it. Look at what they do, not what they say.
Like I said before: A market is a crowd that has forgiven itself in advance for its avarice, saying greed is the norm. Mr. Friedman came up with his theories based as much as possible on the evidence he found. But he collected all his data in a field where human nature, that sad and sorry oxymoron, was the only "natural" force. The fuller context, the thoughtlessly exploited substrate of all life, our earth, was not a factor in Mr Friedman's calculations. Since a free market presumes all economic actors are indeed free to act it is presumed fair...but the future, our heirs, are not free to act. They are altogether absent unless our consciences or regulations of the market that would be to the advantage of no present player are enforced. [It occurs to me nature actually does get one rather sick sort of consideration: "depletion allowance" tax breaks for mineral resource exploiters]
No parliament however inclusive of the day's political stake holders, no number of bomb laden planes, not even profit itself will sustain a "freedom" that in the long run is just another word for the selfishness of an economics that believes the interests of those present are all that count.
Note: The Chicago Tribune has one of the most detailed of the glowing retrospectives of this economist's extremely influential life, fitting in light of Milton's 30 year tenure at U of Chicago. Richard Adams at Guardian Unlimited points out that for all the effusive eulogies, it was a successor, Paul Samuelson, who gave advice to government that stayed in effect longer than most of Professor Friedman's directions.
Of Prof. Friedman's very many quotes, one that I think captures the essence of his errors is this:
“Freedom is the major objective in relations among individuals,” Dr. Friedman wrote in a 1968 essay collection, “Dollars and Deficits,” and “the preservation of freedom requires limiting narrowly the role of government and placing primary reliance on private property, free markets, and voluntary arrangements.”
Because the word "freedom" has become a mantra rinsed clean of the awareness that fairness is a co-equal objective in human interactions without which most freedoms are soon ground away.
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
No, we can never "get even" with this man and his cohorts, we can never restore the thousands of lives snuffed out by his unnecessary war. The best reason for dragging the spoiled conniving son of a Bush before a public court is this: We need to officially air his breaches of law and spell out their consequences in the public record. We need to do this so that his supporters are on notice that he really did bad things and denial becomes that much more foolish an escape. This will give the people he fooled into voting for him the scapegoat they need as he is not worthy of even the foolish admiration of a kneejerk conservative. This will remove all doubt and surprise about the monumental and probably unpopular costs of redressing the harms he has done.
The cost of cleaning up, at least in the political sense, needs to remain on the shoulders of the son of a Bush and not be accounted to those who come in his wake and actually spend the money to repair the damage. For the record, we must lay the blame where it belongs and expose the depths of the damage.
Saturday, November 11, 2006
Throughout history, but previously in merely local contexts, when men ran out of nature's gifts, they ran up against each other. The conflicted political powers and the constrained natural conditions of our times make it difficult to be a fair citizen of this planet or even to just get by with a completely clear conscience. We all have to make deals to get things done and tomorrow does not bring itself to the negotiations except through our consciences.
Would you be willing to have a finger chopped off if you knew it would suspend the killing in Iraq long enough for diplomats to work out the grievances, disparities and misrepresented intentions that brought the world to today's precarious situation? Would you give up a hand, an arm? To bring even a tense silence to Iraq in place of the likelihood of yet more thousands killed and the constant threat of retaliation by irate Muslims, would you offer your own life?
Any soldier who enlisted to fight or accepted an assignment to fight in Iraq has more regard for the welfare of his country in his little finger than the whole gang of Bush appointees and grafty hangers-on. Anyone who ever was in a combat situation and in uniform knows that from experience. That is the value of valor.
What do you think such a hypothetical trade-off means to the thousands of GI's who have come back from Iraq with shattered and truncated bodies? Leave aside the need for wages, help with tuition and job skills that prompted many to sign up and presume the soldier had some better and less fleeting reason than the missing WMD, Al-Qaida's alleged Baghdad brigade or even democracy at gunpoint. And they do find reasons. One Captain who served there mailed us a ballot. I put it up on the wall. We Americans will pass up an election if it is raining but people in Baghdad went to fill in this ballot when it was raining bullets. It touched that Captain, and it touched me but in the end that hope of democracy was premature or superficial like the rocky crust on a lava flow. But whatever their reason to go there, no one under arms in that country wants more war or expects to serve without risk of grave harm: This is the deal.
When I hear "support our troops" from conservative media personalities, its usage and context makes it clear that the words mean something like "Don't you dare say this is not a legitimate war! Get in line and don't doubt the president and his chain of command." That's funny, I would have taken the phrase to mean "support" as in equip, arm, armor and don't expose to danger unnecessarily "our troops" as in the men and women taking hits in Iraq rather than the corps of gung-ho desk soldiers in Washington who never shot anything except maybe a fellow bird hunter. My understanding of "support our troops" also includes full VA benefits when they come back, especially those who come back because the deal didn't work out so well for them. That is a cost of war Republicans have been skimping on and it takes someone like Senator Byrd to keep them honest. Our soldiers are in Iraq today but when they come home, many of them will have just begun to fight and we owe them support tomorrow as much as now. "Support our troops" is just the other side of the coin by which the soldier bought into the deal: the country must have high regard for the welfare of the soldier.
Thursday, November 09, 2006
Rummy says good bye to dummy. He finally got the hints...or maybe just enough notice to give him time to shred anything that would embarrass his boss even more if that is possible.
To me, this long overdue departure seemed like the most achingly immanent requiting when I sat to write yesterday morning and there was so much good change to contemplate. But I can't fairly claim "I told you so". I didn't know it was coming, I just knew it should come. We have not had a SecDef so reviled by his own generals, not in the history of the repbulic. It was an unprecedented infection of a fool trusting an arrogant fast talker more than he trusted his own citizens. Its over. But the clean-up will take years. Some of Rumsfeld's pet technology projects might be in jeopardy. The annoying need to get men killed in order to win wars has already cut in to the budget for new weapons development. It is so clear to so many outside Cheney's charmed circle that it was an unnecessary war but why would a man of Rumsfeld's intelligence go along with it? Character. Rumsfeld has been the champion of a "transformation" program to put the world's most dangerous superpower on a course to ever greater fighting readiness by fighting smarter with technology. That in itself is not an evil thing but signing on to an evil war just to prove your restyled military could do the job is egotistical. It is tragically and abundantly clear this war was not Rummy's kind of war and what it needs, as was known by the generals from the outset, was massive troop strength, as much as four times the numbers deployed if it is to wind up with anything resembling conventional "victory". The real enemy was never in Iraq until we drew them there. The threats we faced before Iraq were entirely unconventional and would have been better countered by renewed peace initiatives in the Israel-Palestine conflict and by better intelligence with Arab-speaking agents on the ground and commando operations. We know now that Saddam was ready to cave but his concessions were hushed up to keep the war plan on track. I have made a very comfortable living as a technologist on one of Rumsfeld's favorite projects. I think the project has intrinsic strategic value outside the context of this stupid war and for the long term. But if Rummy's going takes a few plush jobs with it, so be it. I will gladly find more honest work if that hardship is the cost of restoring the integrity of military leadership and reasserting the military's role as a defense capability rather than a tool of baseless aggression. The cost that has been born by our fighting men and women, on the other hand, is unacceptable and unfair. How soon will they stop paying for arrogant mistakes?
I have been on this case for a while now:
It will be good to take a rest. Of course the problem is not solved. The retention of Rumsfeld so far past the time when he and his vision of the military were discredited is just one of the many examples of gross managerial incompetence that no president should be allowed. But it is the Bush mistake with the worst consequences.
Next? I hope Bolton goes very soon. The election has shown that Americans are not interested in bullying the world any more and our in-your-face UN embarrassador must go.
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
" Residents in South Carolina, Tennessee, Idaho, Wisconsin and Virginia voted to define marriage as exclusively between a man and a woman."What about South Dakotans clearly denouncing their proposed abortion ban? Had you already written places like South Dakota off as backward swamps of right wing ignorance? The vote tells us for sure that everybody is stirred up and paying more attention than before. Would have been nice if the environment were better represented in yesterday's voting. I happen to live in that environment and deeply wish to see it healed. Perhaps others live elsewhere. Perhaps the new crop of Democrats will not be so narrowly focused as the Repbulicans they replace. Perhaps.
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
Our November surprise turned out to be how little the Republican party knows or cares about legal or ethical campaign practices. Well, surely someone must be surprised. Plenty of fouls against FCC and other regulations but not enough MSM coverage and a downright peculiar failure on the part of many major media news organizations to point out that Dems are NOT doing dirty tricks. But this technique of probing for a voter's biases and pinning a vote suggestion to either religious intolerance or homophobia does not strike me as an intrinsically unfair campaign tool. Disgusting, pandering, encouraging the very worst in the psyche of the american electorate? Yes. Unfair? Not really. Giving voters the things they need is rare but promising them what they want is politics as usual.
New Telemarketing Ploy Steers Voters on Republican Path
An automated voice at the other end of the telephone line asks whether you believe that judges who Âpush homosexual marriage and create new rights like abortion and sodomyÂ should be controlled. If your reply is Âyes,Â the voice lets you know that the Democratic candidate in the Senate race in Montana, Jon Tester, is not your man.
In Maryland, a similar question-and-answer sequence suggests that only the Republican Senate candidate would keep the words Âunder GodÂ in the Pledge of Allegiance. In Tennessee, another paints the Democrat as wanting to give foreign terrorists Âthe same legal rights and privilegesÂ as Americans....
Today the news will be of balky voting machines, mysteriously erased or misplaced voter registration rolls, hostile voter credential challenges in contested districts and just generally a huge sideshow of broken election infrastructure mostly to the advantage of Republicans that distracts from the real story that unfolds today: Can America regain is conscience today? The whole world dreads our elections now.
It is harmful to the prospects of any nation for its leaders to pander to the narrow mindedness, selfishness and fear of voters. These negative traits are simply human and universal pitfalls, not specifically American or Republican. They are a shortsighted toe hold for political ambitions, a dead end. It is the downward path by which fascists lead their nation's to disgrace and destruction. But it is politics as usual. Our vote this year, perhaps a little more so than in other years, is a referendum on whether America is just another "politics as usual" country and therefore destined for the same fates as other "empire as usual" nations that have gone before us.
Beside that long term rot of the moral reasoning among the voters, is there a short term harm in this vile appeal? Can blatant appeals to fear and bigotry rescue the Republicans? I wonder. The harm seems small because the bigots on whom such a phone call would work are the anxious little minds that already know who serves their special interests and insecurities. That phone call is not going to change the minds of anyone whose mind isn't already in a private fog of ignorant homophobia or having Fox News-induced nightmares about islamofascists hiding among the mosques in America. The hope [it certainly isn't facts I can cite from polling] that I am voicing is that the mysterious body of voters we label "undecided" are in fact mostly decent people who feel numbed or badgered or disgusted by the coarse, crass tone and divisive trickery that has become common procedure for getting elected. Or at least, its what got many of our current crop of defective congressmen elected. We may call these potential voters undecided only because of what a few of them told a pollster, but any sample of people who "don't know" who they are voting for seems like a useless basis to infer either indecision, indifference or reticence in service of their privacy. So it is just a hope then that among the mystery crowd there are those who need a nudge to feel that one candidate represents the best hope for all the people and for the long term and need a nudge to care enough to go to the polls. And there is a hope that such undecideds out number the bigots who balance between disgust and fear and could be tipped by an egregious phone trick. That is why I keep making the phone calls.
UPDATE: I just finished an hour of MoveOn calls-for-change into Connecticut congressional districts and maybe I was just having a good day but of the live people I talked to, one hung up and all the rest said they had or would vote for the Democratic candidate. Joe the republicrat will be all by himself among his state's delegation if that was a valid sample.
Note:As you can see from the links, I owe particular thanks to the gratifying speed and authority of Josh Marshall's resources and his contributors at TPM where a handy scoreboard will go live when the first polls close.
Monday, November 06, 2006
The TV news is full of coverage of preparations for the expected surge of violence at the announcement of the verdict. Odd that there would be so much anticipation since we all know damn well he is to be found guilty. I wanted to read the text of the verdict because the news coverage I heard only mentioned Saddam's crimes against Shia populations. Where's the rest of the verdict? I searched for "text of verdict" Saddam and the top of the search hits was the Bush Crimes Commission verdict against Bush. I also found a liberal bashing website making an interesting attempt to spin the verdict, using Chris Matthew's claim that the verdict works against the pro-war Republican party. That was a proof that "Dem outrage" at its obvious timing is over done. Matthew's claim is that any attention drawn to the war hurts Republicans. Yeah, right. That must be why the President got on the news last night talking up his trophy trial's unsurprising outcome. Despite the administration's claims that this trial shows Iraqis are now taking charge of their own country, the fact is that Bush "diplomacy" is exerting as much force as any Iraqi and the real action in Iraqi politics at this point is sectarian militias unfriendly to any Iraqi government that smells of Bush. If this trial were the objective or the proof of any substantial "iraqification" of the war, we'd like to hear the president say "mission accomplished" again and this time mean it and get us the hell out of there before any more people get killed. We aren't going to hear that because trial or not, the place is a bloody mess and the US owns much of the blame for botching the peace and fomenting the insurgency through sheer arrogant incompetence.
The various news reports of the verdict on the web only mention Saddam's guilt in killing Shiites. Nobody on the planet, liberal or conservative, doubts he was a cruel murdering despot. But a show trial that only nets a few of his henchmen and omits vast amounts of evidence is yet another wasted opportunity. Is there justice for the Kurds in a verdict that does not mention the genocide they suffered? Is there even safety or security to be reaped if the trial stops at a handful of culprits and does not ferret out the Baathist party operatives and lieutenants that made Saddam's choke hold on the country possible? No. We have left much undone in our haste here.
Even if you give Bush credit for bagging his Baghdad nemesis, it is by now an overstated and overshadowed triumph. Was this triumph, which may only be a personal vendetta of Bush and a few close advisors, worth the cost? The cost is more than the hundreds of thousands of lives lost. The cost is more than the 200 billion per year that is sapping our economy and starving our urgent domestic health, infrastructure and retirement programs. The cost is not just the bitter division of Americans into camps claiming and disclaiming that trumped up wars make us "more secure". The cost is Iraq itself. The country and its 26 million suffering souls, which Mr. Bush convinced too many Americans he could save from despotism by making war, was in fact a rather fragile arrangement of factions. Iraq was always much easier to break than it was to fix and its obvious now to all. It was obvious to many before March of 2003 but they were purged from Bush's counsels or ignored. That country is now badly broken and in a scary echo of Iraq's fatal factional strife, America too is torn over its involvement in the debacle. Bush the "uniter", indeed. If this concocted "Surprise" hanging lets the Republicans hang on to power, maybe they deserve it: fixing the mess they made will be a much greater effort than the already costly effort of the backfired "war on terror". No popular options I can envision are going just quickly and cheaply set things right. It would be fair, if foolish, to let that thankless job be the work for the Republicans who made it necessary.
This verdict is one of the most actively spun pieces of news I have ever tried to get a grip on. Fisk's more deeply moral analysis of the verdict is rare and refreshing. For now I just wanted facts. I had to resort to a Canadian newspaper to get an article that stuck to quotes and narrative without telling me what to think. Of all the politicians talking, Reid of NV may have best got it down to the simple without loosing the dismaying truth:
Senate minority leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, said: "Iraqis have traded a dictator for chaos" and that White House policy had left U.S. troops "caught in the middle."In the most damning fusillade from frustrated military professionals yet, those who can best speak for the "troops caught in the middle" blasted the bungling of the Secretary of Defense who none the less continues to enjoy Bush's unquestioning support. I repeat an old thought: this persisting at false and immoral agendas that characterizes the Bush administration has worked the saddest and scariest detriment to our defense: fracturing the cohesiveness of the military.
Four leading U.S. military publications - the Army Times, Navy Times, Air Force Times and Marine Corps Times - said in an editorial to be published today Rumsfeld had "lost credibility" with senior U.S. commanders and shoulders the blame for strategic blunders in Iraq.
"His strategy has failed, and his ability to lead is compromised," the editorial says.
"And although the blame for our failures in Iraq rests with the secretary, it will be the troops who bear its brunt."
While I do not have any personal knowledge of whether or not the administration colluded with Iraqi authorities to get a favorably timed release of the verdict, the facts may no longer be the interesting news in this regard but rather the story becomes how deeply cynical this administration's frequent and clumsy lying have led us to become. Pity poor Tony Snow having to fend off all the doubters:
White House press secretary Tony Snow said it was "absolutely crazy" to suggest U.S. influence in the timing of the verdict.I have had enough of this. This country has fought wars in the past that put all Americans on same side. It is stupid wars and unjust wars that divide countries. In my calls to voters yesterday, I only had time to hear views of a few people. They don't always like the Democratic candidate so much but they all fear keeping one of Bush's yes-men in office. Please understand, if you think you don't need to vote because poll numbers are looking good, you are setting us up for a terrible outcome. Your vote may be the one that exceeds the margins that corrupt vote counting can conceal. VOTE. If you are not sure where to vote or what the polling hours are in your precinct, call 1-866-MY VOTE -1 [1-866-698-6831] . If you know someone who is unsure or uninterested about voting, ask them why. The war is not the only issue but it is draining so much good will and money from the nation that almost every other domestic issue you can name [except jobs in munitions factories] is suffering some neglect and shortage of money. If you hear an admission that vague fear seems to have translated itself into specific wishes for leaders of military action, point out that while the world is not filled with friends of the US:
- War has not made us safer, Spain and the UK have already felt the backlash of war.
- We are being manipulated into a state of fear by the administration's constant use of terrorism's specter and by media that prosper when viewers are anxious and find themselves in a position to fan anxiety.
Sunday, November 05, 2006
GREELEY, Colo., Nov. 4 -- During the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, President Bush and his aides sternly dismissed suggestions that the war was all about oil. "Nonsense," Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld declared. "This is not about that," said White House spokesman Ari Fleischer.
...You can imagine a world in which these extremists and radicals got control of energy resources," he said at a rally here Saturday for Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R-Colo.). "And then you can imagine them saying, 'We're going to pull a bunch of oil off the market to run your price of oil up unless you do the following. And the following would be along the lines of, well, 'Retreat and let us continue to expand our dark vision.' "
Bush said extremists controlling Iraq "would use energy as economic blackmail" and try to pressure the United States to abandon its alliance with Israel. At a stop in Missouri on Friday, he suggested that such radicals would be "able to pull millions of barrels of oil off the market, driving the price up to $300 or $400 a barrel.
The man who put the most pressure and planted the most toadies among the defense intelligence analysts to get his war decision also has close ties to the defense contractor that went on to overcharge millions to provision the warriors under a no-bid contract. [that is over a million google matches, few involving refutations...well? ]
Why are we still in Iraq?
-  She is a vacuous hate monger,
-  She is a lying right wing provocateur,
-  She is a vicious hussy
But what I got was a guilefully worded invitation to provide my e-mail address in order to receive I-forget-what useful information. Fortunately, I provided the addy of my email dumpster account, a box to which a torrent of commercial and dubious crap flows with scant attention from me. I have ever since then been bombarded by "news" from the publisher of Limbaugh's lambastings and Coulter's calumnies, Newsmax. The inbox looks like this now and you can tell by the subjects that you don't want to open the mail:
Maybe an "easy six-figure income for life" is a credible appeal to the sort of people who buy Limbaugh books. Sheesh!
As you can see, I also take my MoveOn mail here. It makes a juxtaposition of jarringly different versions of reality. I will be making phone calls and stuff from now until Tuesday so there won't be much posting...I am sorry I never got around to my intention of a series of posts on what I thought were the important issues. But who reads me anyway? More than enough to read out there already. I would urge you to read less in fact and do more, like calling voters to go and do their jobs.
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
The very names, when you look into their Greek roots, speak of an important difference between the two parties that dominate the US at this time. One name posits representatives to speak on behalf of the people...leave government to the pros. The other name puts the power, and therefore the responsibility to govern, directly on the people governed. They are just names of course but which kind of government do we have these days? We can't get the power of the vote liberated from "winner take all" electoral mechanics and we are not even talking about direct democracy though we have more than enough technology to pull it off. We are still a nation of people who expect to be governed, and none of us more so than those who speak of shrinking or drowning government. It is only the part of government that costs money [their money!] which they magically think can be abolished. Which part doesn't cost money? Under Bush, Departments have appeared, services to individuals have been reduced yet the federal payout to cronies in business and to a lesser extent, payroll, has grown...and that is not counting the growth of military expenditures. Debt has exploded. Is that a "smaller" government?
A crowd with principles. That is not the vision some of us have. A market is a more favored view or model of society on the part of the neocons who do most of the theorizing for the Republicans these days. I wonder what they mean in characterizing market forces as benign and fair. A market is a crowd that has forgiven itself in advance for its avarice, saying greed, gain and advantage, its principal principles, are the natural norm. I have no quarrel with capitalism as it has harnessed human nature for our material benefit far more effectively than pure socialism but it is NOT to be mistaken or substituted for democracy.
Its not the best fitting example but I wanted to make my little point here by an anecdote concerning the operation of a group who pioneers what may be the near future of democracy. MoveOn.org is going to get a few more evenings of my time for making phone calls, and unfortunately leave me less time for blogging. For all I know, it may look like the bottom tiers of Rove's GOP GOTV machine, but Rove's machine has a top tier of indu$try and religiou$ reactionaries and set-piece messaging you would find missing if you strayed into a MoveOn office. Obviously, I cannot claim complete impartiality. The operation of MoveOn, how it decides what issues to tackle, is based as far as I can tell, on constantly canvassing its members via email and online polls. But that is more of a view from the outside. I have spent one evening a week at a call center, working with organizers and making calls and so I think I can say a little, a very little, about the inside.
It looks chaotic. Visually, the office is not Martha-Stuart-neat and looks a lot more like nerd-messy. The phones work. The computers work. The sign-up sheets and call tally sheets do get filled in, collected and processed. But what do the people say and think as they handle the gazillion little issues that come up?
My illustration of this concerns a troll who commented the last time I mentioned MoveOn. The commenting went thus:
Bill Levinson said...
Before you make any more phone calls on behalf of MoveOn.org, I suggest that you Google on "MoveOn.org" and "anti-Semitism," "racism," and/or "hate speech." I don't think you will like what you see....
Bush may not be the brightest bulb in the chandelier but, as soon as an organization welcomes hate speech directed at Jews and Catholics (as well as put-downs of African Americans), it pretty much closes the door to intelligent and rational discourse.
I googled as you suggested. That was a surprise.
The Anti-Defamation League was satisfied with MoveOn's official response but of course we want to know if leaders of MoveOn, loose cannons within MoveOn, or really who posts odious crap like that.
If you read the correspondence between ADL and MoveOn officials you would be led to believe that persons intent on harming the reputation of MoveOn took advantage of the openness of the forum on which the offensive remarks were posted.
Numerically, the lion's share of the google hits that derive from what appear to be no more than two spates of foul material from as yet unidentified submitters, were hits on all the posts and pages of persons and organizations that are only too happy to repeat that MoveOn is a hatemongering organization. MoveON has a lot of us refugees from politics-as-usual who retreat from the vile and corrosive process that was introduced largely by Republicans [swiftboating takes $] to replace what used to be campaigning and debating. I see that the spiteful rabidity will hound us wherever we go. So I am standing my ground here and facing you.
Your facts please? Here's all we've got: There is the fact that hateful words and "ads" were put up on the MoveOn web site or forum. Is there more than that? Were the offensive things removed and repudiated? Would you like an apology? The ADL could certainly be identified as an aggrieved party in this and they were satisfied with the apology they got. Do you know who put the posts up? I agree you really did point to a question that needs answering.
I am not a lawyer but I always ask: "who benefits?"...
Leadership of the Democratic party,another organization that fears MoveOn, also tries to make a conflagration out of a spark that has yet to be associated with anyone on staff at MoveOn. Kinda unsurprising to find MoveOn is on Lieberman's enemies list.
Some of the links I find from google are to articles in Israpundit playing up the idea that Moveon is a hatemongering organization, articles written by someone named Bill Levinson. I congratulate you on rising to the top page rank for "hate speech" searches. Its a kind of honesty, I suppose. Since you basically told me where to look, I am wondering if you thought the mere sight of your page would make me toss out experience in favor of assertion. Where is it considered true that MoveOn is, as you put it, "best known for vicious anti-Semitic hate speech? What kind of honesty is that? If I remove the term "hate speech" from the search terms the page match count goes from 50 thousand to 2 and half million. Where ever this place is that knows your special truth about MoveOn, they don't have no internets.
I judge by results, not reputations, especially when the adversaries are desperate and the disrepute is so easily manufactured and so eagerly picked up. Not one communication to me from MoveOn, not one word to me from the organizers I have worked with...not one word that reflects any such bigotry can I recall. I'd be out of there like a shot on as little as one such word. I write about an organization I have experience with, not just some outfit whose write-up on the internets agrees with me. MoveOn has no guards at the portals, no message control police...it has to be the most loosely put together project I have worked with. They actually look like a democracy to me. They are still trying to find out who their real friends are. They are trivial to penetrate but that does not change their values. You will find them much harder to embarrass. And yes, some of the MoveOn members are angry people, angry about stupid priorities of an administration that runs wars and relief efforts corruptly, angry about the removal of the wall between church and state...plenty of things to resent and that was before you signed on to help with their public relations. They will from time to time be the victims of their own openness and lack of control, something that will never happen in the disciplined media of the right.
The google chase you sent me on turned up a lot of things I didn't know about,for instance, funding. The GoP like rumors of foreign financing as well as disclosing MoveOn takes money from the nefarious Mr. Soros. I caught an interview he did with Charlie Rose the other day. I was very surprised to see that he does not have horns. I kinda like the guy actually. I also give money to MoveOn but the GoP did not report this.
Has Rush played this hit on his show yet?
So, you warned me I might not like what I see. I am not terribly different from anyone else out here on this foggy little playground: I tend to see what I expected to see. The class and quality and count of my enemy reassure me. I am dismayed at human nature today Bill, but not by any facts I found.
Since I just winged that, I thought I ought to mention it to one of the MoveOn staffers next time I was at their office. The response was more or less that what I said was fine and they don't have a hand-out of talking points to give me. They all wing it. The scared sockpuppetry and the attempts to break the reputation of an organization by smearing it with ridiculous claims will probably melt away when its clear that the vigor and effectiveness of the organization have much less to do with leaders and agendas and more to do with the volunteers and their wish to speak up for change.
Was this Levinson person spreading the lie because he didn't know better? Even that would be a poor reflection on his enterprise. If his research stops at counting pages and does not proceed to reading them then maybe he didn't know. If he did know, well then I don't think he would be too interested in democracy: he has an issue that trumps honesty. Either way, he was dealing in rumors. Since the writing of the Talmud, the traditional moral teachings forbid gossip [loshon harah] and consider character assasination, even casually or through negligence, on a par with physical and financial damages [ona'ah] but worse in that the damage from verbal ona'ah is harder to repair. Of the many who claim to support Israel, those ignorant of Jewish teachings are often the least helpful.
A real democracy can't look like anything but its citizens. The only way you can hurt a real democracy is by not getting involved.