Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Pornographic Marine Mammals

saltwater love

Back on December 4, Conan O'Brien was doing one of the crazy ad libs he specializes in on his late night t.v. show, and off the top of his head threw out the name of a non-existent website:

In doing so he unwittingly created the potential for enormous legal problems. As Jacques Steinberg, television critic at the New York Times explains it:

"(A)s of the taping of that show, which concluded at 6:30 p.m., no such site existed. Which presented an immediate quandary for NBC: If a viewer were somehow to acquire the license to use that Internet domain name, then put something inappropriate on the site, the network could potentially be held liable for appearing to promote it.

"In a pre-emptive strike inspired as much by the regulations of the Federal Communications Commission as by the laws of comedy, NBC bought the license to, for $159, after the taping of the Dec. 4 show but before it was broadcast."

Once the network had the license to the site, O'Brien and his colleagues went to work and actually put it together. Since then, has gotten over three million hits. Check it out here.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Sorta Like 2% Milk, Eh...

A California woman is suing Kraft foods because its guacamole consists of only two percent avocado.

Brenda Lifsey was outraged when she read the small print on a package of Kraft's green stuff, which is only green because the giant "food" manufacturer and wholesaler uses blue and yellow dyes to color the wheys, hydrogenated soybeans, coconut oil, corn syrup (gotta have that one), and something called "food starch" (the assorted starches of various foods?) that compose 98 percent of its faux-guac.

So without the dyes Kraft's frankenguac would be the color of...what? Dirty snow?

Thanks to AmericaBlog for alerting us to this item, although we've noted there seems to be some disagreement among the AmericaBloggers themselves over the efficacy and desirability of processed foods, especially the cheese-like ones. Well then, here's the word, for all you Velveeta eaters at AmericaBlog and elsewhere:

So, are you serious about "dropping out," showing your disdain for "the system" and "the establishment?" Do you ever find yourself muttering under your breath that you'd like to "stick it to the man?" Have you ever awakened from vivid midnight dreams and found yourself repeating, "I just wanna do my own thing, man!"? Then here's lesson number one: Processed food may be edible, but it's not food. Don't eat it except when faced with dire emergency, such as, you'll starve and die unless you eat Kraft guacamole right now.

Eating processed food all the time is advisable only if your life's most ardent desire is to have half your colon removed.

Here's the world's easiest recipe for real guacamole. My daughter showed me this.

*In a bowl mix the flesh of one, two, three, or more avocados.

*Add the juice of about a quarter lemon for each avocado, and pepper, to taste.

*Mash it up real good. Scoop it up with unsalted corn chips. Enjoy.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Wreath Wrath, and the History of the Peace Sign

Bill, left; Lisa, right; wreath, center

By now everybody's heard the story about the lady in a Colorado suburb who got in trouble with her homeowners' association for hanging a Christmas wreath in the shape of a peace sign.

The homeowners' assoc president fired a five-member neighborhood panel that refused to cite Lisa Jensen for posting an offensive symbol, saying that the wreath was "anti-Iraq" and "anti-Christ." He levied a fine of $25 a day in an attempt to force her to take it down.

Jensen said she wouldn't pay the fine and wouldn't remove the offending symbol.Now she's been vindicated and has gotten an apology from this moron.

For the real meaning and history of the peace sign, see here.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Grime Time

The most important job the new Democratic Congress will undertake in late January, 2007 will be its investigations of the secret machinations and corruptions of the past six years.

One of the key players in these investigations will be Henry Waxman, Democrat of Beverly Hills and the new Chairman of the House Government Reform Committee.

Clearly, there's too much accumulated dirt to investigate everything that's happened since the Bush/Cheney cabal, backed by its Congressional Greek chorus ascended the throne. Waxman, Senator Patrick Leahy, and other new committee chairmen will have to pick and choose carefully among the many possible subjects they might look into.

Waxman has said he plans to "reassert congressional checks on the executive branch." His priorities are "government contracts: for Hurricane Katrina cleanup, homeland security and the Iraq war. "

The AP story on Waxman's plans also reveals that "Contrary to Republican portrayals, Waxman said he doesn't plan to issue scattershot subpoenas. He said he has little interest in revisiting Bush administration failures that are already well known, such as Iraq war intelligence."

It's a good decision. The lies leading to Iraq are already well-known sewage under the bridge, and investigating them would lead to little of pragmatic value. Investigating the cronyism involved in the letting of contracts should turn up some indictable offenses, and we can look forward to some of the culprits trading in their Armani suits for orange coveralls.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Sorrows of Empire

Nobody wants to see Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri locked up in an iron cage in Times Square more than I do.

About a year and a half ago Pakistan’s military dictator Musharrif said they were hiding in the mountains of his country’s North West Frontier Province, and there they remain. Catching them would require complex and difficult undercover work by skilled operatives fluent in several languages. They would need to neutralize and if necessary buy off the resistance of the tribesmen who rule that remote region. We’re talking very high-level police work – extremely tough, but doable.

But the Lords of the American Empire don’t like police work. They don’t like any relatively inexpensive solutions. Catching the masterminds of 9/11 wouldn’t give them a chance to use their armies, their stealth bombers, their tanks, or their naval armadas, not to mention their interactive computer maps and flow charts.

And most importantly of all, police work does not give the war machine’s enablers and feeders in the Fed a chance to let out no-bid contracts to their buddies (for a modest consideration, of course).

Militarism in the United States is a multi-trillion-dollar business (invest your son). I’ve been revisiting what may be the best book on this topic ever written, Chalmers Johnson’s “The Sorrows of Empire” (2004), a 312-page dead-center bulls-eye that strikes at the very center of the war machine.

Johnson observes that after the Cold War ended in 1989, the American government and military decided they could “not allow the equally virulent cold wars in East Asia and Latin America to come to an end. Instead of the Soviet Union, the ‘menace’ of China, Fidel Castro, drug lords, ‘instability,’ and more recently terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, and the ‘axis of evil’…would have to do as new enemies.”

Indeed, with the advent of the Bush dictatorship in 2001, the war machine grew even larger, more voracious, and more aggressive than it had been at the height of the Cold War. “By 2002…” Johnson observes, “The United States no longer had a ‘foreign policy.’ Instead it had a military empire.”

Despite the fall of our one significant enemy, the 400-billion-dollar-a-year-plus rip off rolled on. Johnson is right in insisting that it had to. He lists all the various groups and institutions whose fortune is linked to the war machine, including financial institutions, energy suppliers, “strategic thinkers” in “think tanks,” and arms suppliers and manufacturers, and concludes, “(I)t is hard to imagine the United States ever voluntarily getting out of the empire business.”

He’s right. But now that the pursuit of empire has brought us to grief, and we’ve been humiliated and bankrupted by an inexcusably stupid and clumsy attempt to subdue a land very far away from us both geographically and spiritually, and considering that this has happened not once, but twice in a generation, it’s time to begin to undermine and dismantle this war machine.

We can’t live with it, for obvious reasons. Chalmers Johnson notes dryly that the Roman Empire was finally brought down by the enemies it had created.

It will take generations of unrelenting effort to dismantle the war machine. But destroying it is a prerequisite of our survival. The most important thing we can do now is to keep the pressure on the Democrats to conduct full investigations of the war crimes of the last three years. We’ll need to keep the pressure on them because I’ve observed they have short memories.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Unperson's Protest-Suicide

Back on November 3, a 52-year-old Chicago man burned himself to death to protest the Iraq War. The reason you haven't heard about it is because the establishment media has ignored the story.

Malachi Ritscher set himself on fire near an off-ramp of Chicago's Kennedy Exprssway, next to a four-year-old abstract sculpture called "The Flame of the Millenium." Drivers passing by on the freeway looked up and saw that the statue seemed to be on fire. When police arrived they found an empty gas can, a video camera, and a body so thoroughly charred that its gender couldn't be determined.

Authorities later discovered Ritscher had left a note which said in part, "I too love God and Country, and feel called upon to serve. I can only hope my sacrifice is worth more than those brave lives thrown away when we attacked an Arab nation under the deception of 'Weapons of Mass Destruction.'"

There was scant mention of the event in Chicago-area local news and none in the national media. I picked up this story from the Rag Blog, and there's a well-researched account of the event and Ritscher's life by Pitchfork's Nitsuh Abebe at

Ritscher was a loner, a divorcee, and apparently had no close friends, although he had many acquaintances from Chicago's jazz and alternate music scene, in which he was well known as a video cameraman and sound engineer. Of course some will ask whether he was a martyr or a mentally troubled suicide. Nitsuh Abebe points out corectly that those are not mutually exclusive categories.

We could ask a similar question about the press coverage, or lack of it in this case. Did the media ignore this event because Ritscher was kind of a nobody, or were they hesitant to expose the public to the full measure of shame and disgrace this war has brought the nation? Is the United States truly evil and homicidal, or just nuts?

Friday, November 24, 2006

Bye Bye Unitary Executive

Despite all rumors to the contrary, there is such a thing as the United States Congress. It's back, and has laid to rest all spurious and anticonstitutional theories maintaining the existence of something called "the unitary executive."

Although the new Congress has not been sworn in yet, the Senate Judiciary Committee is already demanding the release of dozens of classified documents the Justice Department has tried to stonewall them on.

Time to pop open those coffin lids and see what's in there.

“I expect real answers, or we’ll have testimony under oath until we get them,” says chairman-to-be Patrick Leahy.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


A poll by the Research Opinion Corporation and broadcast by CNN shows that 58 percent of Americans now believe the Iraq War is turning out like Vietnam.

Gee, d'ya think?

Now that a majority of our citzens are belatedly willing to face facts, I suppose it would be rude to say that some of us could have told them that three and a half years ago, when a concerted effort to head off this disaster might have had some effect.

Sometimes I'm angry and frustrated with my fellow Americans because of their dim and persistent cluelessness. Other times I see them as victims of the blanket of propaganda relentlessly laid on by the corporate news media, who set nonsensical, government-approved parameters on any public debate.

In this case, as with Vietnam, the debate, besides being idiotic, is always about them: was Saddam planning to wipe us out? Did he have those weapons? Is "Islamofascism" a threat to what some jocularly refer to as "American civilization?"

It should be about us instead. Why do we want to turn other countries into clones of ourselves, sort of like mini-me's? I recall that before South Vietnam dissolved into a puddle, it had a President, a Congress, and a cute little Supreme Court -- institutions as relevant to that culture as balls on a duck.

It's time we came to terms with the real problem, which has nothing to do with Saddam Hussein or Islamofascism or Communist aggression from Hanoi. The real problem is this: the 400-plus billions we spend each year on "defense." And it's my understanding that this doesn't even include the 94 billion or so we've been spending each year since 2003 on the two wars we have going at the moment.

The war machine is Godzilla in the living room. Our continuing to think of it as normal, despite the prevalence of that opinion, is mass insanity. It's taken us into two idiotic, hubris-generated orgies of destruction in a generation. With over a million Vietnamese dead and now two-thirds of a million Iraqis, isn't it time we took a serious look at ourselves?

"And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for mortar. And they said, 'Come, let us build us a city and a tower whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.'

"And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower...And said, 'Now nothing will be withheld from them which they have imagined to do.'" (Genesis 11)

We need a permanent anti-war movement in this country powerful enough to neutralize the corporate media, and to let people know that in maintaining this tower of destruction and carnage, we're not only destroying other parts of the world, we're destroying ourselves.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Pahrump Parliament

The town of Pahrump, Nevada, has passed an ordinance making the flying of foreign flags illegal.

In Pahrump, you can only fly the flag of Mexico, or the Philippines, or Liechtenstein if you display the U.S. flag above it.

According to USA Today, "The elected town board in the remote Mojave Desert community voted 3-2 on Tuesday to enact an ordinance making it illegal to fly a foreign nation's flag by itself.

"Flying another country's flag, whether it is a British Union Jack or the flag of Mexico, is punishable by a $50 fine and 30 hours' community service, unless it is flown below an American flag," the paper reported.

"Old Glory is sovereign," board member Paul Willis soberly intoned.

"People are nuts out there," muttered Lisa Rasmusson of the Nevada ACLU, "Totally nuts," and added that the ordinance violates the first amendment.

We tried to find a local second source for this story, but a web search for a site belonging to the town's newspaper, the Pahrump Titty Rump Titty Rump Rump Rump, returned no results.

The town board, whose official name is the Pahrump Parliament, passed the new law as part of a package that also declares English the official language of Pahrump and denies town benefits to illegal immigrants.

"We don't have any" benefits, town manager David Richards says, adding "If we ever have any, they'll be denied to illegal immigrants."

The fate of the town's Taco Bell restaurant remains unclear at this time.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Fat and Clueless

For those of us living in it, America tends to have a quality of unreality, as if the whole country were an extension of Disneyland/Anaheim's idealized and cutsiefied "Main Street." Happy suburbanites haul cornucopia loads of meat, produce, sugars, fats, and carbonated waters to their suburban McMansions from antiseptic mega-super-markets in their gigantic SAV's (suburban attack vehicles), or happily fetch piles of cheap, Chinese-made tchotchkes from Wal-Mart or one of the other big boxes. They work jobs which may or may not -- and usually don't -- support this lifestyle, but that's what credit cards and debt are for. If a few people are left out of this bright, smiley-faced, comfortable life, it's their own fault.

Other times, life in these United States has the surreal quality of a nightmare as when two rival gangs of overweight, impenetrably stupid parents duke it out on the field where their five- and six-year-old sons are playing peewee football.

Whether you're delighted or horrified by our way of life, the one thing about it that's certain is that it's not going to last, no matter whether Republicans or Democrats are at the helm of the ship. And this is the fact of life about which the overwhelming majority of Americans remain hopelessly clueless. It's the story of the century, and you can't get it from the corporate news media, which are institutionally locked into maintenance of the status quo. In order to get the real facts, you have to go to the blogs.

Despite their material opulence, Americans have been troubled and uneasy lately, especially by the interminable oil war going on in Iraq. Other, equally troubling problems are beginning to crop up, such as the fall in house prices and the consequent mortgage crunch. If we should lose access to that Mideast oil...if we end up owing more on that house than it's worth, and can't keep up the payments...

But on the horizon, we see Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats riding in to save us.

"Not so fast," says the ex-Ranger turned Marxist/feminist, Stan Goff, at his blog The Feral Scholar. Goff says of the two major parties: "(T)hey are all on the same cruise, headed for the same destination.

"That destination includes perserving American supremacy in the world, which allows us to live our profligate and completely unsustanable lifestyles here long enough to get through another business and election cycle… all at the direct expense of the poorer people in the world. Yes, I know this is an unpopular thing to say; but the manner to which we have become accustomed is paid for by a steady flow of value drained from the peripheral regions and sucked into this giant, wasteful, dangerous, and dirty technomass that will one day leave our children stranded on a toxic scrap heap wondering how we let this happen."

Goff's entire post, "The Bipartisan Ship," will appear on page three of the upcoming issue of the Los Angeles Free Press. It's a stunning indictment of both the American political system and the American way of life.

Less shrill, more analytical, but drawing the same conclusions is University of Texas at Austin journalism professor Robert Jensen, in a piece posted at Counterpunch, "Blood on the Tracks." Jensen identifies four major aspects of dysfunction in contemporary America.

"--Our deepest values concerning justice and solidarity will be undermined by the anti-human values of capitalism and empire.

"--Truly democratic politics, in which ordinary people have a meaningful role, will be subverted the concentration of wealth.

"--An increasingly fragile economy mired in self-indulgent deficit and debt, with an artificially inflated currency, will start to collapse when our military and political power are unable to keep the rest of the world in line.

"--The ability of a finite planet to sustain life as we know it will diminish dramatically in a system based on fantasies of unlimited growth marked by the glorification of domination."

Noting that "the vast majority of Democrats and virtually all Republicans avoid these realities," Jensen concludes that "If we don"t take radical action relatively soon, every ending we can imagine is likely to be brutal and violent, deadly not only for most of the world"s population but also for the non-human world. This isn"t irrational apocalypticism but a rational approach to the evidence in front of us. No one can predict how this will play out, but it will most certainly play out ugly unless we change the trajectory."

In drawing his runaway train metaphor, Jensen refers to an unattributed book title: "The Long Emergency." As it happens, no one has done better analysis of the coming train wreck than the author of that work, James Howard Kunstler, proprieter of the weekly blog "Clusterfuck Nation." I recently removed Kunstler's site from the list of recommended blogs because of his unconscionable and incoherent support of Israel's invasion and gang rape of Lebanon, but he's back to his old form and forte now, and in an essay entitled "Energy Indpendence" he reviews and synopsizes the anatomy of the coming disaster.

"The collapse of suburbia will be the Democrats chief inheritance from the 'free-market' economically neo-liberal Republicans who were too busy money grubbing at all levels to notice that there was such a thing as the future," Kunstler says, and "The tragedy of suburbia will finish off whatever is left of Reagan-Bush1-Bush2 Republicanism -- although the truth is that Bill Clinton did as much to promote this way of life, indeed, to turn suburban development into a new basis for the US economy when manufacturing crapped out.

"The nation as a whole -- however it reconfigures itself politically in the aftermath of this fiasco -- is going to have to come to grips with a lot of hard truths. One will be that 'energy independence' means a whole different scale and system for daily life, not just 'new and innovative' fuels for cars. As long as we are stuck in a foolish national wish-fest aimed at keeping all the cars running and propping up all the trappings of car-dependency, we will remain lost in a wilderness of our own making."

These blogging analysts are actually nothing more or less than what right-wing Republicans like to call themselves -- "hard-nosed realists." But the picture they draw of the present and the future is an impossibly difficult one for the vast majority of luxury-addicted Americans to comprehend, especially when you consider the degree to which they lack real political leadership or accurate information from the corporate media. My guess is a viable, progressive political movement capable of dealing with these realities will only coalesce after the hydra-headed disaster of the twenty-first century has begun.

As for what we can do right now, Robert Jensen suggests "Our political work should focus on connecting with people on common ground, and then working to shape a radically new vision of justice and sustainability. The time for that is now; the direction and speed of the train dictate that we not put it off any longer.

"This isn"t about who can be most radical for the sake of being radical -- it"s about whether we can be realistic. Such an approach cannot promise political transformation in the short-term, but I believe it is the only hope for our future."

Sunday, November 12, 2006

We'll Meet Again; Don't Know Where, Don't Know When...

Carrying a little more weight and a little less hair than he did in the eighties, Daniel Ortega reclaimed the presidency of Nicaragua this past week, just as one of his former adversaries was being tapped to replace Donald Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defense. Neither Ortega's chronic heart ailment nor his moderated, non-confrontational tone kept Nicaraguans from turning to him to lead them once more, after a nearly 20-year interregnum.

According to the Associated Press story covering Ortega's political rebirth, the former Sandinista revolutionary: "Balding, weakened by heart trouble and often appearing almost preaches reconciliation and stability, and promises to maintain close ties with the U.S. and the veterans of the Contra army it trained and armed against him." The story also says Ortega has renounced his Marxist-based atheism, replacing it with a traditional form of Latin Catholic piety.

Ortega has a tendency to send mixed messages. During his third, failed run for the presidency in 2001 he actually waved an American flag onstage during one of his speeches. Yet only a year and a half ago, celebrating May Day in Cuba, Ortega made a fiery speech in which he referred to Americans as "the enemies of humanity." The Iraq War has obviously not helped the reconciliation process.

He still promotes the most tried and trusted socialist ideals: free education and medical care for all, and welcomes the support of other leftist Latin leaders such as Venezuela's Chavez and the Castros in Cuba. He strongly opposes the U.S. intervention in Iraq, but then so do the majority of U.S. citizens.

But the most striking aspect of Ortega's return to power is his promise to maintain close ties with the U.S., and to reach out to veterans of the Contra army the Reagan administration trained and armed against him.

Like Sr. Ortega, Robert Gates is re-ascending the pinnacle of power after years of relative obscurity. Since retiring from the CIA in 1993, Gates has worked in the sedate ivory towers of academia, first as a lecturer at Harvard, Yale, Johns Hopkins and Georgetown among others, then as Dean of the George Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M, and since August, 2002 as President of Texas A&M, where he has led a placid and decidedly low-temperature existence along with the secret records the Iran-Contra affair, in which he played a central part. These are housed in the George Herbert Walker Bush Library at A&M, entrusted to Gates's care and held secret in perpetuity by an executive order of George Bush II from November, 2001.

According to Wayne Madsen Reports, Bush II's 2001 order "upended the 1978 Presidential Records Act and permits the Bush Iran-Contra papers to be kept secret...The executive order also affects 60,000 pages of papers from the Reagan Presidential Library that include details of then-Vice President George H. W. Bush's role in Iran-Contra."

Gates will probably be confirmed as Secretary of Defense easily by the Republican-dominated Senate, although he may face some tough questions from Democrats about his role in Iran-Contra, which has now been detailed in an important new book by John Prados, "Safe for Democracy: The Secret Wars of the CIA." Excerpts from the book, along with the full three volumes of Gates's confirmation hearings for CIA director in 1991 are posted on line at the website of the National Security Archive. The hearing records were the most detailed examination of U.S. intelligence practices since the Church and Pike investigations of the 1970s.

As Secretary of Defense, Gates will be multitasking. First, he will probably wind down the Iraq War to an "acceptable" level. The best guess is that "acceptable" means stationing 25-50,000 troops on four or five permanent bases in country, and generally keeping them clear of the street fighting.

Just as importantly, Gates will be operating the shredder full time. Important documents relating to the runup to the war and its subsequent prosecution will either be destroyed or spirited off to the vaults of the Texas A&M library system, to be locked in the deep freeze of information which cannot be revealed because of "national security."

The investigators of the war who are sure to begin work in January will probably not have access to many of the documents they need, and without the necessary documentation they'll get stonewalled by the witnesses they call, just as they were during the investigation of Iran-Contra.

Gates has been down this road before. Although never indicted, he was without doubt one of the key players in the sales of TOW missiles to Iran in the 80's, in exchange for the release of prisoners held in Lebanon by Hizbollah. Money from the missile sales was illegally diverted to the Contra army working to overthrow the elected government of Nicaragua.

Many of the papers relating to that earlier affair were never seen by Judge Lawrence Walsh, due to Gates spiriting them off to the George H.W. Bush Library at A&M, as detailed above.

Gates is a made man in the Bush family mafia. He'll do what he needs to do to protect the capos, past and present. It's what a good Secretary of Defense is supposed to do, and what the outgoing one didn't do.

Like Gates, Ortega is haunted by his past. The Associated Press story covering his re-election noted that "Leaders of the country's Miskito Indians have accused him of genocide for forcing thousands to relocate during the U.S.-backed Contra civil war. He has apologized for moving them, but denies genocide." The Permanent Commission on Human Rights, an independent Nicaraguan organization, has announced it will continue to push the Miskotos' case against Ortega.

In addition Ortega's stepdaughter, Zoilamerica Narvaez, claims he molested her for years, starting when she was 13. She often speaks against him publicly, but Ortega and his wife both deny the accusation. They say Narvaez is mentally unstable.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Cooler Days Ahead

Barbara Boxer of California will replace James Inhofe of Oklahoma as chair of the Senate Environmental Public Works Committee. She promises major shifts on global warming and air quality policy and toxic waste cleanup.

Inhofe, whose approach to the environment is faith-based, once called global warming "the greatest hoax perpetrated on the American people." He supported the administration's 2002 rules which rolled back parts of the Clean Air Act.

An environmental aide at the White House has indicated that the administration will work with Boxer.

This is a positive development for the most part, but Boxer needs to be schooled on a few issues, especially the future of the automobile. A few months ago I heard her talking about the promise of hydrogen as an alternative to gasoline, which is pie in the sky.

Even if hydrogen was safe (which it isn't) and economical (it costs more petroleum energy to produce than it saves), fuel cell cars in any numbers are at least 20 years away. We don't have 20 years. The only feasible alternative to gasoline is electricity.

If she's serious about greenhouse gases and global warming, she needs to seriously get behind the idea of abolishing the petroleum-powered car. Exxon and Chevron might have a few things to say about that.

During this honeymoon love fest of flowery bipartisanship, we need to keep in mind that a life-and-death struggle with the corporate power structure is inevitable and unavoidable, and in no area is this more obvious than in issues pertaining to the environment.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Exit Through the Gates

When Bush fired Don Rumsfeld and named his replacement yesterday he wasn't just changing changing suits. With his choice of Bob Gates, Bush has tipped his hand and revealed his Iraq exit strategy.

Gates is a member of the Iraq Study Group, the bipartisan committee headed by James Baker III and Lee Hamilton which Congress created last March to study the war and make recommendations.

The Group's report and recommendations haven't been made public yet (they were waiting until after the election to release them), but leaks have indicated they will call for a phased withdrawal and re-deployment of U.S. forces from Iraq, and the initiation of dialogue among the U.S., Iran, and Syria to determine the best policies for Iraq in particular and the Middle East in general.

Gates is currently president of Texas A&M and an old CIA hand. He was director of the agency under the first Bush, and was the first person who ever started at CIA in an entry-level position to rise to the top.

He was implicated in the Iran-Contra scandal during the Reagan administration but never charged with a crime.

"He'll provide this department with a fresh perspective and new ideas on how American can achieve our goals in Iraq," Bush said, although he did not indicate that the "goals" have now changed from "victory" to getting out.

The fact that Bush has appointed an Iraq Study Group member to head the "Defense" Department indicates a dramatic change of policy on the horizon. The Group's approach to the Iraq War is diametrically opposed to the outgoing secretary's uncompromising "victory" stance.

As he departed, Rumsfeld muttered that the Iraq conflict is a "little understood, unfamiliar war" that is "complex for people to comprehend."

Bush fired him a week after saying Rumsfeld would remain on the job until 2009. At the same time, he maintained that the only acceptable outcome in Iraq was victory, but apparently that policy is up for revision also.

Looks like we're doin' the old switchola.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Democrats and the War Machine

In the midst celebrating the end of overt dictatorship and one-branch government, we need to ask ourselves what a Democratic Congress is able and willing to do to prevent another fascist interlude. Are the Democrats willing to contemplate the structural changes which would deliver our political system from systemic corruption, executive usurpation, and habitual warfare? Sadly, no.

Thank God Donald Rumsfeld has already resigned. That's one bit of trivial fecalia the new Congress won't spend six wasted months agonizing about. Rumsfeld is not and never was the problem, any more than "poor execution" of the Iraq War is a problem. In fact, the war itself is not the problem, since, like the Vietnam debacle, it issues from the source of all our problems -- big money's control of the political system, and the plutocracy's crown jewel: history's largest, most lethal, and most out of control war machine.

If you look at the lists of the ten largest donors to the Republican and Democratic parties, you'll find that seven of the same corporations appear on both lists. And those are only the top tens; there are hundreds of companies and special interest groups such as the National Association of Realtors pouring money into this trough at which the members of both parties swill.

"Show me where a man gets his cornbread," Mark Twain said, "and I'll show you where he gets his politics." And the plutocracy supplies the same cornbread to both parties. And sitting astride the economy of this business-government merger like a diseased, corpulent demon is that abomination President Eisenhower christened "the military-industrial complex."

It gorges itself on half the federal budget and produces mountains of debt. It's the constellation of an enormous, standing military establishment combined with companies which produce that establishment's engines of destruction under contract. And even companies not directly integral to the wonderful Orwellian euphemism of "defense," such as General Electric and Halliburton, do a major share of their business under military contract.

The economy in which both parties have a stake cannot exist without being at war or preparing for war.

The Democrats, as deeply implicated as the party of fascism and the "unitary executive," in this state of affairs, are not going to rock the boat. They simply will refuse to address the underlying causes of our national malaise.

But, on the other hand, it's conceivable the Democrats will set in motion a set of circumstances that will render real, substantial, structural change unavoidable.


Speaking at a press conference today, President Bush was quick to embrace "bipartisanship" (by which he means "don't get in our way") and to express his hope there won't be any "witch hunts" (by which he means "Don't try to uncover or hold us accountable for our secret illegalities"). Unfortunately for him, there'll be little of the former and much of the latter.

Democrats have already indicated that there will be extensive investigations of all that has been kept secret for the past six years. Like the sorcerer's apprentice, Democratically-led investigative committees may set in motion a train of events that surpasses their ability to control them.

What will the public's reaction be when they finally see the transcript of Cheney's secret 2001 meetings with the heads of the energy companies, during which the participants decided to quash any serious moves toward developing alternative sources of energy (electricity is the big one), to distract the public with irrelevant non-alternatives like hydrogen and ethanol, and to prolong the country's petroleum dependency? Even the unschooled know that oil addiction and the need to import it is our paramount national security issue.

How will the American people respond to the information that lobbyists, such as the ones who represent the pharmaceuticals and insurance industries, paid the K-Street Republicans for the privilege of being able to write legislation that robs the taxpayers of billions, such as the prescription drug plan for seniors.

It's possible that a huge majority of Americans may finally awaken to the reality of "democracy" in their country, shake off their propaganda-induced narcosis and lethargy, and finally see an empty space and an oil spot in the driveway where the car used to be. They might at long last realize that their political system has been hijacked. And at that point, Democrats as well as Republicans will have what amounts to a real revolution on their hands, and may lose control of the game.

The world is changing, and we'll have to change along with it or get left behind, paying for ever-more-expensive gasoline to go out and shop at ever-more-meaningless malls and big box stores. And amidst all the brouhaha about the Democratic victory yesterday, we lost sight of something that caused the godfather of American fascism, Ronald Reagan, to turn over in his grave.

Daniel Ortega was returned to power in Nicaragua.

Viva Augusto Sandino!

Viva la revolucion!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Who's Kayo?

Kayo -- Keith Olbermann -- is still unknown to many of my fellow Americans. Maybe that's a good thing. A lot of my co-citizens just aren't ready for Kayo. He'd be too much for their cholesterol-laden pipes and delicate nervous systems.

The other day I was talking to another resident of the geriatric ghetto where I live and mentioned Olbermann. "Who's Keith Olbermann?" he asked.

"Well," says I, "imagine what the news would be like if it wasn't being read by Baghdad Bob. Or in the case of CBS, Baghdad Bim."

Here's what Olbermann had to say a couple days ago:

Yesterday at a fundraiser for an Arizona congressman, Mr. Bush claimed, quote, "177 of the opposition party said, ‘You know, we don’t think we ought to be listening to the conversations of terrorists.’"

The hell they did.

One hundred seventy-seven Democrats opposed the president’s seizure of another part of the Constitution.

Not even the White House press office could actually name a single Democrat who had ever said the government shouldn’t be listening to the conversations of terrorists.

It's called straight news. Baghdad Bob would never call his Beloved Leader a liar, much less point to one of his lies, even though the whole world (except for the faith-based one-third) knows it.

You can read Kayo's whole commentary here.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Master DeFoe

OK, so I'm not ready to leave entirely yet. I'll use this space for items in which the Free Press would have no interest.

I'm 169 pages into Daniel DeFoe's 600-page "A General History of the Pyrates," (the modern book with soft covers, not the original letterpress edition with all the f's), and finding it very uneven. DeFoe wrote quickly and prodigiously, and apparently never proofread or revised anything.

He wrote novels, topical journalism, partisan journalistic propaganda, histories, historical fiction, and some indifferent poems. DeFoe made his living churning out words, although his recurring dream was to become a rich and respected businessman. Unfortunately, his wine and tile manufacturing businesses brought him nothing but debts and bankruptcies.

What I'm learning from "The Pyrates" is that these desperate men, colorful and romantic according to our modern perception of them, were sleazy, illiterate, mostly sadistic, violent gangsters who were generally eased into their way of life by first following the occupation of privateers, an arrangement by which tough gunsuls obtained government licenses to engage in legalized piracy, as long as they didn't attack their own monarch's vessels, and as long as said monarch got his cut of the action.

When the license was eventually withdrawn, as it invariably was, these professional robbers and cutters of throats as often as not simply continued their chosen profession without benefit of license, or the habit of restraining themselves from attacks on their own country's ships.

The worst pyrate was Blackbeard. He was such a villain that when the brave Leftenant Bobby Maynard went after him with nary cannon nor shot nor shell, just pistols and cutlasses, and did a David-and-Goliath turn by cutting off the criminal's head and hanging it on his bowsprit, I found myself cheering inwardly.

DeFoe's "Pyrates" was a commercial success, as was his most famous book, the historical novel "Robinson Crusoe." However his masterpiece, a work Virginia Woolf described as "one of the few works in English that is indisputably great," was his account of the foundling who became a borderline prostitute and petty thief, Moll Flanders.

Although it was written as quickly as any of his other productions, "Moll" sustains an intensity from beginning to end that's singularly beautiful, and the writing throughout is a virtuoso flight. DeFoe was, I think, wrestling mightily within himself over the thorny question of who was to blame for Moll's criminal and predatory way of life.

Was the culprit she herself, a morally weak and spiritually bankrupt voluptuary who never, after her first youthful infatuation, gave a thought to anyone except (as we say today) old number one? Or was her turning toward crime and the seamy London underworld of part-time sex workers and full-time pickpockets forced upon her by a callous, stratified, male-dominated, hypocritical society in which a poor woman with no family connections, no dowry with which to snag a financially viable husband, and no friends in high places was forced to live by her wits?

My reading of the novel is that DeFoe was never able to answer his own question.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

New Destinations, New Horizons

It's time to shut down the blog shop here at Omnem Movere Lapidem and move on.

Actually, I won't be ceasing operations, but just transferring the franchise to the Los Angeles Free Press blog. I hope to see all four or five of my regular readers there, where I post under the name "Catboxer."

Happy trails.

Sunday, October 22, 2006


According to this Reuters article the Democrats have a good chance of taking control of Congress next year.

Their imminent control of the House has been a foregone conclusion for some time, but now it looks like they have a good chance of taking the Senate as well.

There's been a lot of criticism of the Democrats coming from the left side of the blogosphere for the past few weeks, and I've been one of the harshest critics. But I still think the Democrats taking Congress will be a positive development.

They probably won't muster the necessary backbone to derail the administration's worst policies, the war and tax breaks for the rich, but they will question them, and more importantly a changing of the guard will break the stranglehold the neocon regime has had in all departments of government the past six years.

It would be too much to expect of the Democrats that they should seriously attack the hostile takeover of U.S. government by big money -- the corporations and special-interest-funded PAC's.

However, once the wheel of change finally starts moving, who knows where it might take us? Once political change gathers momentum, it might develop a mind of its own, and take us to places the Democrats can't imagine at the moment.

But one thing's for sure: the neocon mafia has been cresting the top of the roller coaster for a long time, and now they're looking down that first steep drop.

(Photo credit: Reuters via

Thursday, October 19, 2006

RIP Constitutional Republic, 1787-2006

The 219-year-old constitutional republic known as the United States of America died this past Wednesday when its newly-designated monarch signed the Military Commissions Act of 2006.

Among other things, this new law terminates the right of habeus corpus in the United States and enables the monarch or his appointed deputies to indefinitely detain anyone they deem an "unlawful enemy combatant," defined as "a person who has engaged in hostilities or who has purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States."

Makes no difference if you're an American citizen. If you're "a person" and you've "materially supported hostilities" against what used to be the United States, by, say, giving money to a group deemed "terrorist," you may be tossed into jail without having the right, formerly guaranteed under the provisions of habeus corpus, to appear in court and ask why you have been so tossed. You may languish there forever, without being charged with a crime. You may be tried before a military tribunal without having the opportunity to examine the evidence against you, since such evidence as there is may, under the terms of this act, remain secret.

The Military Commissions Act repeals the Bill of Rights. Free speech and freedom of the press are fatally compromised by it, since the monarch has specifically stated that "...for people to leak that program, and for a newspaper to publish it does great harm to the United States of America." (The program he was speaking of was his own electronic surveillance of his subjects, or formerly, citizens.)

So what are the chances that any day now, the publisher of the New York Times might be fingered by Alberto Gonzales as "a person who has engaged in hostilities or who has purposefully and materially supported hostilities" against the monarchy?

The fourth-amendment right to privacy is no longer guaranteed, since law enforcement agencies connected with these tribunals can secretly gather, then later refuse to divulge whatever evidence they choose.

The right to avoid self-incrimination is rendered moot by this law's allowing of confessions obtained by types of torture (such as waterboarding) that are less odious (as determined by the monarch and his staff) than "grave breaches" of the Geneva Convention's Common Article Three.

As for Amendments six, seven, and eight (the right to a speedy trial, trial by jury, and prohibition of "cruel and unusual" punishments), see paragraph number three above, and the paragraph preceding this one.

The centrality of Habeus corpus to an understanding and practice of law based on citizens' rights is much older than the U.S. Constitution. It's enshrined in English common law and goes back to the 13th-century Magna Carta and beyond.

As MSNBC's Keith Olbermann pointed out on his commentary program "Countdown," "(E)ven without habeas corpus, at least one tenth of the Bill of Rights, I guess that's the Bill of 'Right' now, remains virtually intact. And we can rest easy knowing we will never, ever have to quarter soldiers in our homes… as long as the Third Amendment still stands strong.

"The President can take care of that with a Signing Statement."

Olbermann also adds, "Countdown has obtained a partially redacted copy of a colonial 'declaration' indicating that back then, 'depriving us of Trial by Jury' was actually considered sufficient cause to start a War of Independence, based on the then-fashionable idea that 'liberty' was an unalienable right.

"Today, thanks to modern, post-9/11 thinking, those rights are now fully alienable."

Olbermann broaches a pertinent topic by citing the 1776 Declaration of Independence, in which aroused subjects served notice that they would no longer tolerate the excesses of an arbitrary monarch, and said of him that "A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people."

If that was true of George III of England, a king whose rule was legitimized by law and tradition, how much more true is it of King George II of America, who is self-appointed, self-anointed, and the self-declared "decider?"

People of the former Republic of the United States, what will it take for you to realize just how much power you have? When will you discover the tremendous persuasiveness of a mass movement based on non-cooperation? When will you realize that he's only the decider until we decide otherwise?

Humming Along

It's time to fire up that pimped-out faux combat vehicle you've been keeping parked in the backyard. The price of crude oil fell to $57.65 a barrel yesterday.

Crude oil and gasoline prices are now sliding to a level equal to the lowest point we've seen in the past year -- about $52, on 12/02/05. This in spite of a threat from OPEC to cut production by a million barrels a day.

So all us "consumers" had better take advantage of the situation while we can. Let's plan a road trip! Just be sure you're home by election day.

Monday, October 16, 2006

The Candidate Redux

In 1972 Robert Redford starred in a movie about a liberal urban storefront lawyer doing advocacy work for the poor who was talked into running for governor. It didn't hurt that the Redford character, McKay, was the son of a former governor of the state in which he was to run, and the guy who talked him into running was a well-known power broker with extensive media connections.

McKay starts off as a leftist idealist, but by the time his consultants and handlers get through crafting his image, he finds that he discarded his principles one by one as he naively sauntered down the primrose path to power, and that in the end his commitment to social justice has somehow been transformed into "caring."

Jeremy Larner, a former speechwriter for the 1968 presidential hopeful Eugene McCarthy, wrote the script and won an oscar for "The Candidate," whose theme is as pertinent to politics today as it was in '72. Bill McKay was not the first and certainly not the last progressive politician who has sadly discovered that getting ahead politically entails at least a partial sacrifice of one's principles.

Enter Barack Obama.

Obama burst onto the national scene like a fireworks exhibition when his keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention made him the overnight political equivalent of a rock star. Prior to that he was an obscure and virtually unknown state senator toiling in the Illinois legislature.

The appeal of "The Audacity of Hope" wasn't just in its articulate, intelligent, and gracefully crafted message; Obama, the messenger, was immediately recognizable as the politically-correct progressives' wet dream. Young, handsome, black, the son of an African immigrant and a native Kansan, and with his impeccable progressive credentials intact and a matter of public record thanks to his work in the Illinois legislature, Barack Obama appeared as nothing less than the young Moses, destined to lead his long-suffering people out the nightmare of supply-side Egyptian bondage.

Obama was elected to the U.S. Senate that fall in a walk after his Republican opponent, Jack Ryan, dropped out of the race due to a sex scandal. Since then he has become one of the major disappointments of the 109th Congress, his formerly progressive approach to most major issues having dissolved in a blurry miasma of timid, delicate, anemic and vapid stands on the Iraq War, the impoverishment of the middle class, and the long-term consequences of petroleum dependency.

In the past year Obama has been criticized harshly by author/bloggers such as Alexander Cockburn and David Sirota, and this month is scrutinized in a major magazine piece, "Barack Obama Inc.," by Ken Silverstein in the November Harper's.

Silverstein documents Obama's changes of position, comparing his pre-Senate stands on issues such as the war with his current pronouncements, including his rejection of John Murtha's withdrawal plan with the comment that the U.S. needs to exit Iraq "in a responsible way -- with the hope of leaving a stable foundation for the future," which substitutes platitudes for his earlier opposition to "a dumb war."

Obama helped defeat a measure that would have capped credit-card interest rates at 30 percent, reversing his long-standing opposition to predatory financial practices aimed at the poor and middle classes, and his favorite solution to the energy quandry is ethanol, a certifiable hoax which costs more petroleum energy to produce than it saves and primarily benefits gigantic agribusiness firms like Archer, Daniels, Midland, whose production centers are in midwestern states such as Obama's Illinois.

Silverstein concisely synopsizes the reasons behind Obama's transformation: "After a quarter century when the Democratic Party to which he belongs has moved steadily to the right, and the political system in general has become thoroughly dominated by the corporate perspective, the first requirement of electoral success is now the ability to raise staggering sums of money. For Barack Obama, this means that mounting a successful career, especially one that may a include a run for the presidency, cannot even be attempted without the kind of compromising and horse trading that may, in fact, render him impotent."

That Obama has become a major player in national politics so quickly is phenomenal, but not surprising, considering the way he's played his cards. And in the final analysis, it's not the candidate, but the system in which all candidates are trapped that's at fault for having leeched the courage of his convictions from the young senator's agenda.

"(I)t is startling to see how quickly Obama's senatorship has been woven into the web of institutionalized influence-trading that afflicts official Washington," Silverstein says. "He quickly established a political machine funded and run by a standard Beltaway group of lobbyists, P.R. consultants, and hangers-on...Obama's top contributors are corporate law and lobbying firms."

It's as if we can hear Obama asking his consultants and contributors the same question Robert Redford's movie character Bill McKay asked his handlers at the successful conclusion of his first campaign, "What do we do now?"

And here I thought it was the leaders who were leading us.

Silverstein's story is not online yet. It's available in the November issue of Harper's magazine, now on newsstands, and should be posted on the publication's updated website within the next few days.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

The Enemy Within

Our executive branch's Secret Service, on the job twenty-four/seven, has defused another glowering threat to our national security.

Fourteen-year-old freshman Julia Wilson was pulled out of her biology class at Sacramento's McClatchy High School on Wednesday and grilled by two SS agents. According to the AP's account, Julia had used her web page at to post "a picture of the president, scrawled 'Kill Bush' across the top and drew a dagger stabbing his outstretched hand. She later replaced her page on the social-networking site after learning in her eighth-grade history class that such threats are a federal offense."

She told the Secret Service guys she'd made a mistake with the original post, but they weren't having any mea culpa.

According to the Sacramento Bee, Julia said the agents "threatened her by saying she could be sent to juvenile hall for making the threat. 'They yelled at me a lot,' she said. 'They were unnecessarily mean.'"

The girl's parents were upset about not being present when she was grilled. But an assistant principal at the school said he usually does not notify parents when law enforcement comes to the school to interview students because "parents usually interfere with an investigation."

A regional ACLU lawyer, Ann Brick, believes Julia Wilson's Myspace post did not sound like a "true threat" to the president, and said the offending page was political speech that is protected by the First Amendment.

Apparently the Sacramento area is a hotbed of insurrection, and little Julia Wilson is not the only area resident to have posed a threat against the person and dignity of the president recently. According to the Bee, "Earlier this month, federal officials arrested two Sacramento-area men for allegedly threatening the president. Elk Grove resident Michael Lee Braun has been charged with sending two threatening letters to the El Dorado Hills country club where Bush recently made an appearance. Rocklin resident Howard J. Kinsey is accused of threatening the president through a text message."

At this time the Secret Service has not investigated any of my friends yet, although several of them have been known to sit in their living rooms sending out hostile thought beams in the direction of the White House.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Playing for the Gallery

Seems Kim Jung Il finally got himself a little nukie, or if you want that in Spanish, a nukito. The practical consequences of this developmentette don't amount to much unless Kim has misread the hazardous debris field that is the mind of the most important member of his audience -- Mr. G.W. Bush.

On this score one of my favorite bloggers, Dennis Perrin at Red State Son, has a few choice words.

"The hysteria over North Korea's nuclear testing is no surprise: countries not under our thumb nor on our payroll aren't allowed to have deterrent capability. How are we supposed to bomb and/or invade them when they can hit back and hit hard? At bottom, this is what the present 'crisis' is really all about. Of course, an isolated regime run by a man exhibiting questionable emotional stability is not something the sane wish to see wielding genocidal weaponry. But enough about Bush. What of Kim Jung Il?"

The whole thing is eminently worth reading.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

The World Still Waits

A small but enthusiastic crowd of antiwar demonstrators marched through the streets of Seattle and rallied for several hours in front of the Federal Building October 5 after police-instigated violence at one of the crowd's gathering places threatened to disrupt the day's events.

When uniformed Seattle police forcibly confiscated flags from several demonstrators at Cal Anderson Park on Capitol Hill at about one p.m., just as a contingent of student marchers arrived from the University of Washington, at least one protester began wrestling with officers in an attempt to recover his banner. He was shoved to the ground and arrested as a small and short-lived melee erupted which resulted in two other arrests.

Dian Hassel, a Seattle resident who witnessed the incident, said "One of the flags had a metal piece on top of the pole -- an eagle with spread wings -- and the police were saying it could be used as a weapon."

Following the arrests a dozen or so uniformed officers and at least one undercover cop formed a line on the sidewalk skirting the park while half a dozen police cruisers with lights flashing stood by in the street. The disturbance quickly subsided and speakers began addressing the crowd of several hundred. After that the rest of the day's events were peaceful.

Many of those present had never participated in any sort of public demonstration before. One such was Shawna, a 53-year-old former flight attendant who showed up carrying a large sign reading "Drive Out the Bush Regime," and said "I've never been this upset about things before. Something's got to change."

"I can go to Washington, D.C. for $20 and do more of this kind of thing," she added, referring to her discount priveleges as a former airline employee, "and I'm planning to."

Another first time demonstrator was Susanne Romaine, who marched in costume as a beauty pageant winner, "I Miss America" and said, "I miss the sense of democracry."

Shortly after two p.m. the demonstrators began winding down the west flank of Capitol Hill and proceeded downtown, where they marched down the middle of Second Avenue bringing traffic there to a halt. It was at this point that the protest reached its maximum size, containing at the most 500 participants. People began gradually drifting away when the march terminated at the Federal Building, where the most committed and dedicated protestors settled in for more speeches until darkness fell.

The Seattle demonstration was just one of approximately 200 such events taking place on October 5 in large and small cities nationwide, in Canada, and overseas, organized and sponsored by the World Can't Wait (to drive out the Bush Regime). The organization took out full-page ads in big-city newspapers to promote the event, during which the largest turnout occurred, as usual, in New York and San Francisco.

Approximately 5000 protesters gathered in Dag Hammerskjold Plaza across the street from the U.N. in New York City according to event organizers, where the demonstration began with modest numbers but swelled throughout the day.

In San Francisco rain did not deter approximately 3000 demonstrators from marching and rallying at Justin Herman Plaza, where their permit for a mass demonstration inexplicably did not include a permit to operate a sound system. Speakers including Daniel Ellsberg and Miguel Molina used bullhorns to address the crowd.

While demonstrations were individually covered by local newspapers and broadcasting outlets in the cities where they occurred, the national media took no notice of the events of October 5, and its impact on the national debate over the war was consequently minimal.

Undeterred, World Can't Wait spokespersons have already announced plans to begin organizing another nationwide round of protests and demonstrations later this week.

Saturday, September 30, 2006


As the president continues to flog the debris and shattered remnants of what used to be a war, attempting to massage it back to life, Bob Woodward may have delivered the funeral oration for this dear, departed misadventure.

Woodward's first two books in his "Bush at War" series were flattering to the boy king. The most recent one, "State of Denial," emphatically is not.

Speaking last May Bush giddily predicted the war would be remembered as the time when "the forces of terror began their long retreat." Two days later a secret memo from the Joint Chiefs' intelligence division reported to the White House that "Insurgents and terrorists retain the resources and capabilities to sustain and even increase current level of violence through the next year (2007)."

Woodward identifies and documents the four salient facts about the late, great Iraq War. First, there was never a war strategy or objective beyond terminating the Saddam Hussein regime; once that was done, the entire strategy has consisted of the happy chatter of public relations.

Item: In 2004, "Robert D. Blackwill, the NSC's top official for Iraq, was deeply disturbed by what he considered the inadequate number of troops on the ground there. He told (Natonal Security Advisor Condoleeza) Rice and Stephen J. Hadley, her deputy, that the NSC needed to do a military review.

"If we have a military strategy, I can't identify it," Hadley said. "I don't know what's worse -- that they have one and won't tell us or that they don't have one."

Keep in mind, Hadley, who later replaced Rice as national security advisor, was giving vent to the same criticism as the war's detractors, who are constantly characterized as "objectively pro-terrorist" by people like Cheney.

Secondly, secret government interoffice memos have consistently referred to Iraq as a failed state for the past year and half.

Upon becoming secretary of state, Rice hired Philip D. Zelikow, an old friend, and sent him to Iraq to report back to her on conditions there. The resulting memo said in part, "At this point Iraq remains a failed state shadowed by constant violence and undergoing revolutionary political change." This was in February, 2005.

Third, Bush has been relying more and more as time goes by on Henry Kissinger for advice concerning the war, apparently on the assumption that what didn't work in Vietnam will work in Iraq. Kissinger has inexplicably been trotting out memos he wrote in 1969 as support for Bush's failed Iraq non-policy.

Fourth, Bush has lied habitually and repeatedly by saying commanders on the ground determine troop levels. Woodward's evidence on this topic is worth quoting at length:

"Vietnam was also on the minds of some old Army buddies of Gen. Abizaid, the Centcom commander. They were worried that Iraq was slowly turning into Vietnam -- either it would wind down prematurely or become a war that was not winnable

"Some of them, including retired Gen. Wayne A. Downing and James V. Kimsey, a founder of America Online, visited Abizaid in 2005 at his headquarters in Doha, Qatar, and then in Iraq.

"Abizaid held to the position that the war was now about the Iraqis. They had to win it now. The U.S. military had done all it could. It was critical, he argued, that they lower the American troop presence. It was still the face of an occupation, with American forces patrolling, kicking down doors and looking at the Iraqi women, which infuriated the Iraqi men.

"'We've got to get the fuck out,' he said."

Read all of Woodward's extensive book excerpt here. Thanks to Georgia10 at DailyKos.

Everybody knows the Iraq War is dead. Bush knows it, Rice knows it, Rumsfeld knows it, possibly even our delusional and schizoid vice president knows it. Their private despair contrasts gruesomely with their public happy chatter.

Therefore, it's past time to bury this moldering corpse of a lost war, which, despite having been dead over a year, continues to render Iraq a smoking, stinking ruin, and the U.S. the most hated country on earth since Nazi Germany.

To that end, it's important to skip work or school on Thursday, October 5, and take to the streets in one of the 114 demonstrations and marches happening nationwide, because George Bush has made clear he will never quit Iraq. That's why The World Can't Wait (to drive out the Bush regime).

Friday, September 29, 2006

What Are They Saying?

Here are a few samples collected at random from around the blogosphere of people's reaction to Congress passing a bill yesterday that legalizes torture and abolishes the right of habeus corpus.

"Surprised? You shouldn't be. This is who we are. Oh yes, there are angwy wibwals out there, mourning the "real" America that appears lost. I don't know what movie they've been watching for the past 40 or so years (not to mention the classics from long before), but judging from their astonished reactions, it looks like it was directed by Frank Capra or perhaps the early Spielberg, with the young Mickey Rooney, Kristy McNichol and Haley Joel Osment waving American flags, washing down caramel corn with sidewalk-bought lemonade as Ray Charles, in a glittering Old Glory tux, sings 'America The Beautiful' while the spirits of Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy hold hands, gaze from the clouds and smile over the proceedings.

"Well, that film is pulled and back in the can. Get ready for coke-fueled Scorsese, baked Tarantino, or Rob Zombie with a blockbuster budget."

"Yeah, the shit is covering the fan, or to paraphrase Burroughs, we now see what's at the end of every fork."

--Dennis Perrin at Red State Son.

"The first thing to do is apparently quite controversial, why, I have no idea. But it is imperative that we fully recognize how seriously godawful the situation is.

"I'll say it again: Americans are living in a fascist state. Don't like the word 'fascism?' Neither do I. So what? It's ludicrous to call the gutting of habeas corpus, etc, etc, by near unanimous consent merely 'authoritarian.' We are living in a fascist state.

"Some commenters...said I am being too discouraging. Hardly. This country's government has been transformed and is no longer recognizable as a working democracy. That's simply a fact and we better accept it.

"Because when you're dealing with fascism, 'We can beat this, people if we just fight harder!' is naive win-one-for-the-Gipper fantasy-land. It's gonna get a lot worse than it is now before it gets better. We're gonna be lucky if more of us don't end up 'persons of interest' to the Bush administration. Remember, if you're not with Bush, you're objectively pro-terrorist and I can't tell you how many times when commenting on rightwing blogs I've been accused of 'aiding and abetting' the terrorists."

tristero at Hullabaloo

"It's good to see that many Senate Democrats (32 out of 44) voted against this bill, but it's too little, too late. Many of them announced only for the first time today (September 28) that they are opposing the bill (though, to be fair, many Democrats attributed their opposition to the recent changes made to the bill over the last few days, ones which were made even after the oh-so-noble McCain-Graham-Warner-White House 'compromise' was announced).

"But it is still difficult to understand the Democrats' strategy here. They failed to try to mount a filibuster because they feared being attacked as coddlers of the terrorists. But now they voted against the bill in large numbers, thereby ensuring those exact accusations will be made anyway -- and made loudly (the White House already started today). Yet they absented themselves the whole time from the debate (until they magically appeared today), spent the last several weeks only tepidly (at most) opposing the President's position, and thus lost the opportunity to defend and advocate the position they took today in any meaningful way. As a result, the Democrats took a position today (opposition to this bill) which they have not really defended until today.

"They make this same mistake over and over. Isn't this exactly what happened when they sort-of-supported-but-sort-of-opposed the Iraq war resolution in 2002 because they were afraid of being depicted as soft on terrorism, only to then be successfully depicted as soft on terrorism because they were too afraid to forcefully defend their position? It's true that fewer Democrats voted for the President's policy this time around, but it's equally true that they found their voice only on the last day of the debate -- on the day of the vote -- after disappearing for weeks while they let John McCain 'debate' for them.

"Nonetheless, it is fair to say, given how lopsided this vote was (both in the House and the Senate), that the Republicans are the party of torture, indefinite and unreviewable detention powers, and limitless presidential power, even over U.S. citizens on U.S. soil. By contrast, Democrats have opposed these tyrannical, un-American and truly dangerous measures. Even if Democrats didn't oppose them as vociferously as they could have and should have, this is still a meaningful and, at this point, critically important contrast."

Glenn Greenwald

Thursday, September 28, 2006

The Patriarch

Among the list of sponsors of the World Can't Wait (to Drive Out the Bush Regime) rallies, marches, and meetings occurring in 80 U.S. cities on October 5, there is one name particularly noteworthy for its novelty, as well as its owner's remarkable longevity and moral authority.

Studs Terkel, now 94, will be agitating for regime change in D.C., in Chicago on October 5. No stranger to protest, Terkel has participated in every significant American movement for social change and liberation since the early days of the Great Depression, when he decided to abandon his youthful plan to become a lawyer and instead went to work for Roosevelt's Works Progress Administration (WPA).

He was blacklisted during the McCarthy era and in the front line of protest against the Vietnam War.

His first book, "Giants of Jazz," came out in 1956 (I read it in about 1960). But his most famous work is 1970's "Hard Times: an Oral History of the Great Depression."

Born in New York, but raised in Chicago from a very early age, Terkel grew up in a hard-working Jewish family on the South Side. His father, a tailor, and mother, a seamstress, ran a boarding house as a sideline for a time, and Studs credits his juvenile fascination with the odd collection of guests at the evening dinner table for his lifelong curiosity about what makes people tick.

Somewhere in his youth friends tagged him with the nickname because they thought he resembled Chicago novelist James T. Farrell's fictional protagonist, Studs Lonigan, a brawling, working-class Irish wastrel and quick-buck artist. Presumably Studs's friends slapped this inappropriate moniker on him because they thought he was tough. In fact, he turned out to be a great deal tougher than Lonigan, who died young, ground down by an abrasive world. By contrast, Terkel has shown amazing elasticity throughout his long life, and astonished his doctors by surviving, then thriving after open heart surgery last year, at age 93.

He'll need a ride to the Chicago protests next Thursday because he's never learned to drive.

Earlier this year he joined other Chicago-area plaintiffs in filing a suit in federal district court against AT&T to stop them from giving customer phone records to the National Security Agency without a court order. He's obviously not done yet.

On the subject of the upcoming protests, Studs Terkel offers us a sort of prose poem, also posted at the World Can't Wait site:

It’s time we assert ourselves,
And said to these outrageous liars
Who offended our sense of decency
And native intelligence

It’s time to BUGGER OFF!
Get lost!
And let’s unite on behalf of peace and sanity
and all that makes life rich and worthwhile.

Tom Paine was perhaps the most eloquent visionary
of the American Revolution.

His book, "Common Sense," sold a couple of hundred thousand copies.
The population was hardly four or five million,
which means, of course, people read it.
It was a best seller for years.

He says, in that,
"Let us not let them confuse reason with treason.
Enough of that nonsense."

Bush administration!

What I’m saying, really, is:
The World Can’t Wait!
Drive Out the Bush Regime!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

And Tonight We're Gonna Party Like It's 1969

Daniel Ellsburg, the patriot who stole the Pentagon Papers during the Vietnam War, then photocopied them and passed them to the New York Times for publication, is back and stirring up an October surprise for the regime.

Actually, he never went away. But whenever the times call for heavy doses of truth and decisive action, he steps into his natural leadership role and provides both.

Ellsburg is one of the organizers of the demonstrations sponsored by "The World Can't Wait (to drive out the Bush Regime)" scheduled nationwide for October 5.

Speaking at the umbrella group's organizational meeting in San Francisco on September 7, Ellsburg recalled the critical days of 1969 and his role in them, and linked that historic crisis to the Iraq War, the potential for war with Iran, and the need to get people activated to demand change, truth, and accountability once more.

"I keep looking at that date on the calendar – October 5. I think of 1969-- I was copying the Pentagon Papers with Tony Russo in that month," Ellsburg recalls, "starting October 1. My intention, however, at that time was to bring them out in connection with something called the Moratorium on October 15, 1969...because on that day, across the country 2 million people marched. Not in any one place, they were counted up and added up because they all walked out -- it was a weekday -- out of school, out of businesses...They met in rallies, heard many speakers... But it was a weekday and they called it the Moratorium because people thought the word general strike was too provocative, but that’s what they had in mind.

"It was a walkout, in other words it was no business as usual. The president was watching it in the White House, hour by hour, while pretending that he wasn’t. In fact he was in the situation room getting half-hour reports on how many people. They were being counted, in Washington and New York, from a U2 [plane] above."

So, we might ask if we were talking to Ellsburg, "What good did it do? It didn't stop the war, which went on until 1975." Likewise, skeptics might be excused for adopting a "so what" attitude toward the demonstrations coming up on October 5, and for believing that Bush pays no attention to them (or so he says).

But Ellsburg has an answer for that.

"What (the 1969 demonstrators) didn’t know was that in fact they were stopping nuclear war. The president had made threats of nuclear war secretly several times starting in May and in August and September, saying that he was prepared to use nuclear weapons on Vietnam. They said that to the Russians and the North Vietnamese directly in Paris."

But, Ellsburg claims, with two million people in the streets, Nixon decided he couldn't nuke Vietnam, that the public backlash would simply be too great.

Consider the situation we're in now, with a madman in the White House and another in charge at the Pentagon, threatening to bomb Iran, and when asked if those bombs would be nuclear, responding that "all options are on the table; nothing is ruled out."

I would urge people in the strongest possible terms to turn out on October 5 and register your disapproval of the direction this country has taken, is taking, will take if it's not stopped. So far we haven't seen significant mass disruption of the administration's war and propaganda effort, but they're only one day away from being run off the rails if a couple million people suddenly decide that all is not hopeless, that protest is not futile, and that there's no machine, however huge, multi-tentacled, and ominous, that can't be monkeywrenched and disabled.

Read the entire text of Ellsburg's speech to the World Can't Wait organizational meeting here. You'll find links to the organization's home page there also.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Dumb Stupid Big Mean Nasty Poophead Chavez

I noticed a couple of the wingnut tirades against Hugo Chavez this week included the shoking charge that he reads Noam Chomsky.

True...but not in the original.

He also looks at Playboy. No need to translate the pictures.

He's a bad ass.

He also says big, mean things about the U.S., and George W. Bush. He's a big meany.

He's also says that unlike the cooperative and courteous princes of Saudi Arabia, he will never re-invest his petrodollars that he gets from the oil he sells us in the U.S. Instead, he will do what he's been doing and invest them in socialist schemes in Latin America, thereby undermining U.S. hemispheric hegemony.

He learnt that word "hegemony" from Noam Chomsky. What a big poopy pants. If he doesn't want to play ball with us, we'll take our ball and go home.

Either that or take our bat and knock his big, Chomsky-reading, Playboy-ogling, Petrodollar-withholding dumb stupid fat round shiny big mean head off.

Red and Redder

In late 2004, after the election, a film maker named Michael Shea decided he had to find out what makes heartlanders tick.

Shea didn't understand how Bush could have gotten re-elected. He didn't know anybody who'd voted for him, and lived in one of the bluest states (California). So he and some friend/assistants set out for the intercoastal heart of the country, with the idea of interviewing red-state Republican/Christians. They planned to approach their subjects politely, avoid confrontation, and just ask them what they believe and to describe themselves.

I haven't seen the movie Red State, but I've read some partial transcripts. I'm finally beginning to understand why it's impossible to talk, or relate to many of our fellow citizens, probably even a majority, who appear to live in a parallel universe.

For example one interviewee, Dennis Mansfield of Boise, Idaho, who describes himself as a "Republican activist," says:

Those of us who are conservatives and call Christ the king of our lives realize that we really serve a kingdom and not a democracy. In a sense we're citizens in two cultures at the same time. We are Americans, but we really realize that the longer, bigger picture, sort of the eternal picture, is that we're also citizens of a king, and his name is Christ; his name is Jesus...Christ is love, but he's also the god, Jehovah, that had tons of people taken out because of their complete idolatry.

This is the first I've ever heard of God's bipolar disorder.

Equally perplexing was the testimony of Gladys Gill, Director of the Mississippi chapter of Concerned Women for America:

Mrs. Gill: I think we lost more than we gained with civil rights. I hope to see them repealed...I don't know where you folks were when we were trying to hang on to state's rights.

Shea: I was two I think.

Mrs. Gill: Yeah, right

Shea: In fact I was born in the year the Civil Rights Act was passed.

Mrs. Gill: Yeah. Right. So you don't remember what life was like when we had liberty to do what we needed to do in our own lives.

The blogger Digby, who saw the movie day before yesterday, says, "My favorite moment was when Mrs Gill, the Mississippi director of Concerend Women For America, gets upset that she's been 'worked over' by this interviewer who had just asked her what she believed in. It's clear that when the totality of Mrs Gill's racism and intolerance became manifest in the few minutes that she spoke, she suddenly realized that she had given herself away as a white supremecist (sic) and Christian nationalist. Naturally she claimed victimhood and ended the interview."

The people in the Red State movie aren't just from another country; they're from another planet. Welcome to Uranus.

You can see clips of this parallel reality on the movie's site.

Digby's got one more interesting thing to say: "One of the things that's obvious in this film is that these people are practiced phonies too. They say things like 'we took us a trip to California and couldn't believe what we saw out there!' like it's 1952 and they're Andy and Barney. You can't tell me these people don't watch TV. There's a good part of their schtick that's pure poseur --- the 'heartland hick fer Jesus' is very often a thoroughly modern American who's playing just as many games as anybody else. Taking their 'moral concerns' at face value and thinking they can be persuaded by tweaking issues and changing rhetoric is to be a chump. This is a tribal game."

Digby's word "tribal" hit me like a silver bullet between the eyebrows. Suddenly I understood why debate, appeals to reason, the marshalling of factual information, and the revelation of lies and criminal behavior is futile in today's political climate. Progressives, who tend to be educated, secular, and committed to rationalism, are wasting their time documenting their carefully constructed arguments, hoping to find the combination of facts and persuasion that will burn off the fog of ignorance, superstition, and bloodthirsty, enraged fanaticism.

We had the right idea in the sixties. We're not going to win any elections. What we need to do is put some distance between ourselves and that other tribe.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

D.C. Ethics = Oxymoron

The dictionary defines ethics as "The study of the general nature of morals and of the specific moral choices to be made by a person; moral philosophy."

But if you were to judge by the behavior of the House Ethics Committee, "ethics" is a redundant term. The Committee seems to believe that "ethical" is a synonym for "legal," and that if it ain't illegal, it's not unethical.

Consider the case of Jeffrey Shockey. He makes $160K a year working as a top aide to California Congressman Jerry Lewis, currently under investigation by the feds for his close relationship with Cunningham-connected lobbyist Bill Lowery.

Before he worked for Lewis, Shockey worked for Lowery's lobbying firm. And before he worked for Lowery's lobbying firm, he worked for Lewis.

Ask not for whom the revolving door revolves...

Besides making $2 million with Copeland, Lowery, Jacques, Denton, and White in 2004, he was awarded a $1.9 buyout package by the firm when he was re-hired by Lewis in January, 2005.

It might be the first time anybody ever got a "buyout" for quitting a job.

But since he did nothing illegal, the House Ethics Committee decided in mid-September that Shockey's ethical integrity was spotless, and in a September 15 letter told him he had not broken "any applicable laws or House rules."

But, "We strongly urge you against taking any officianl action in any matter that may affect the interests of Copeland, Lowery, its successors or any of its clients through the end of the the 109th Congress," the letter added sternly and irrelevantly.

Certainly the clients for whom Shockey lobbied, all governmental entities including the towns of Redlands, Yucca Valley, and Twenty-Nine Palms, Riverside and San Bernardino Counties, and the governing board of Cal State San Bernardino, will miss his efforts on their behalf, but can take consolation from the presence of his wife now filling his old job at Copeland, Lowery.

And all of them, incidentally, have been subpoenaed in connection with the Lewis investigation. TPM Muckraker has all the sordid details of the Lewis-Shockey-Lowery affair, or, more accurately, affairs.

The House Ethics Committee may have overlooked some of the more interesting details of Shockey's finances. His Wikipedia profile claims the 40-year-old aide-lobbyist "according to tax records of the District of a senior citizen who earns less than $100,000 a year. That qualifies him for a major reduction of the taxes he pays on his District home, worth over a million dollars. The tax break essentially reduces the assessed value of an elderly person's home in half."

The Ethics Committee is a standing joke on Capitol Hill. Its members have to be forced to serve, and are extremely reluctant to "delve into the conduct of friends and possibly fellow party members – and perhaps endanger their own political futures," according to a recent Copley News Service Article by Joe Cantlupe.

One Congressman who heard he was in line to serve on the ethics crew started ducking calls from the speaker of the House.

The Committee in recent years has not taken action against any member or employee that wasn't already under indictment by the Justice Department, as happened in the cases of Tom DeLay of Texas, Randy Cunningham of California, and Bob Ney of Ohio.