Saturday, July 29, 2006

All-Time Favorite Mondegreens

Mondegreens are mis-heard lyrics.

1. Just call me angel of the morning, angel;
Just brush my teeth before you leave me, baby.

2. You can burn my house, steal my car;
Drain my liver in an old fruit jar.

3. Do a little dance; make a little rum --
Italian ice! Italian ice!

4. Gimme the Beach Boys and free my soul,
I wanna get lost in your rock 'n' roll
And drift away...

6. Doughnuts make my brown eyes blue.

7. Picture yourself in a boat on a river
With tangerine trees and marmalade skies.
Somebody calls you, you answer quite slowly
The girl with colitis goes by.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Raptured Duck

Twice in the past four days, CNN has run segments seriously inquirng whether current events in the Mideast are the prelude to the apocalypse.

"The July 26 edition of CNN's Live From ... featured a nine-minute segment in which anchor Kyra Phillips discussed the Apocalypse and the Middle East with Christian authors Jerry Jenkins and Joel C. Rosenberg -- who share the view that the Rapture is nigh. At one point in the discussion, Phillips asked Rosenberg whether she needed 'to start taking care of unfinished business and telling people that I love them and I'm sorry for all the evil things I've done,' to which Rosenberg replied: 'Well, that would be a good start.'"

Jenkins is one of the co-authors of the "Left Behind" series of books.

Also on CNN, on July 24 Paula Zahn did a segment on "What the Book of Revelation tell[s] us about what's happening right now in the Middle East."

Apparently the intersection of politics and religion is now deep inside La-La Land.

Just as the formerly "nutty" ideology of the John Birch Society now informs the policies of the government and the opinions of the supposed "mainstream," what used to be the superstitions of religious extremists are now put forward as the standard doctrine, and are perfectly acceptable to the "respectable" mainstream media.

Regarding the rest of the world, maybe the right question isn't "Why do they hate us?" but rather "Why do they feel sorry for us."

Better lay off those genetically modified foodstuffs, America. They're doing more damage than you think.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Not So Radical

Obviously, neither major party, and I'm speaking here of the Democrats, is going to launch a program any time soon to dismantle the war machine which has gotten us into so much trouble.

However, there are ways to gradually scale back the defense budget which are beginning to look attractive even to moderates. It's irrational, for one thing, to continue to commit to programs designed to defend us against the now-extinct Soviet Union when Social Security is threatened and our bridges and electrical infrastructure are crumbling.

We could save 60 billion dollars a year and shift the money to programs which are actually useful -- rebuilding infrastructure, supporting education, and subsidizing healthcare -- without raising taxes or increasing the defecit.

Dr. Lawrence Korb, a defense expert formerly with Raytheon Corp. and an assistant secretary of defense under Reagan has authored a report detailing exactly what programs could be cut (PDF file) without adversely affecting the "war on terr" or our actual defense capacity.

In the introductory abstract of his report, Korb details where the money would come from:

"• About $14 billion would be saved by reducing the nuclear arsenal to no more than 1,000 warheads, more than enough to maintain nuclear deterrence.
• About $8 billion would be saved by cutting most of the National Missile Defense program, retaining only a basic research program to determine if this attractive idea, which has proven to be an utter failure in actual tests, could ever work in the real world.
• About $28 billion would be saved by scaling back or stopping the research, development, and construction of weapons that are useless to combat modern threats. Many of the weapons
involved, like the F/A-22 fighter jet and the Virginia Class Submarine, were designed to fight threats from a bygone era.
• Another $5 billion would be saved by eliminating forces, including two active Air Force wings and one carrier group, which are not needed in the current geopolitical environment.
• And about $5 billion would be saved if the giant Pentagon bureaucracy simply functioned in a more efficient manner and eliminated the earmarks in the defense budget."

These are ideas which are beginning to gain political traction. They've also been adopted by the political action group True Majority, which presents the same agenda in a cartoon called "Oreos". If you haven't seen it yet, it's worth watching.

Of course, for some of us, the ultimate objective is the piecemeal dismantling of the war machine and the "war first" policies it has spawned, which have brought us to grief in Iraq, Vietnam, Palestine, and elsewhere. The war machine now so dominates the economy and political process in this country that we seem helpless to perform such basic functions as repairing our bridges, policing our borders, or providing our kids with a competitive education.

I know not everyone wants to do away with the apparatus of war in this country. But even conservatives should be able to appreciate the wisdom of scaling it back a bit. After all, were only talking about a little bit of money here -- $60 billion. That's only fifteen percent of the defense budget.

I'm assuming, of course, that a Democratic Congress will be seated in January of 2007. This program wouldn't be feasible with a Republican-dominated legislature. If you live in a district with a Democratic incumbent, you might want to e-mail this post to him or her. If you're in a Republican district, find out who the Democratic candidate is and send an e-mail or write. The Korb Report is not overly long and is easy to read, and True Majority is a great resource.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Articles of Impeachment

There are four separate counts:

1. Warrantless surveillance
2. Misleading Congress on the reasons for the Iraq war
3. Violating laws against torture
4. Subverting the Constitution’s separation of powers

You might want to visit the web site and check out the write-up on the book.

There is also a political action committee (PAC) with a list of pro-impeachment candidates.

In order for this necessary and long-overdue action to occur the Democrats will have to win back both the House and the Senate in the November elections. It's doable.

I've written a lot of harsh words against the Democratic Party here lately, but revolutionizing that party and re-orienting it to address the nation's real needs is our only realistic hope.

As Rumsfeld said, "You go to war with the army you've got."

If we don't get this done, we're looking at two and half more years of unrestrained slaughter in the Middle East and the funeral and burial of our dead Constitution at home.

Thanks, Poor Man.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Frank N. Stein, Part II

While people generally were horrified and disgusted by the abomination he had created, Frank N. Stein refused to believe it was a monstrosity. Indeed, in his mind the creature of his devising was potentially the paradigm of beauty and virtue.

But Frank N. Stein had no capacity for insight. He was unable to admit that his work was a reflection of himself. He was, it seems, blissfully unaware of having any shortcomings.

He decided to go to a dinner hosted by a Slavic scientist, Bladdy Mere Pooty, who was attempting to create conditions hospitable to generating a Phoenix.

No sooner had the meal begun than Frank N. Stein, ever the acme of tact and courtesy, began harshly and loudly criticizing Pooty's methods.

"Well," Pooty resonded archly, "I certainly wouldn't want it to turn out like your little experiment."

"Just wait. Heh heh," Frank N. Stein wittily answered, half-chewed chicken Cordon bleu and mashed potatoes dripping from his slack jaw all the while.

Eventually the monster tracked down Frank N. Stein rowing a boat in the formerly frozen far nothern latitudes. He cornered the alarmed scientist, announced that he was shunned by all humanity and very lonely, and demanded that Frank N. Stein make him a bride.

"Should be no problem, Bucko," chirped the ever-optimistic mad doctor. "Ya see, there's this other Mooslim country right next door to you..."

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Frank N. Stein

Wants upon a tom there was a mad scientist named Frank N. Stein, and he said "I will re-make the world according to a blueprint of my own devising, and then I shall be great as God. Bwah hah hah haaaa."

"They will call me 'The Modern Prometheus,'" he said. Frank N. Stein wasn't worried. His liver was already shot.

He decided to start by re-making a medium-sized country ruled by a brutal dictator who murdered his own people, and just coincidentally had enormous deposits of mineral wealth buried in its ground. He decreed that said country should be re-made in our own image.

"Don't do it, Frank N. Stein," said practically everyone who unlike the mad Dr. Stein had all his or her brain cells intact. But Frank N. Stein was endorsed by his train of sycophants, flatterers, garden-variety ass kissers, yes men, yes women, party hacks, lackeys, lubbers, twits, knaves, and war profiteers.

Soon Frank N. Stein realized he had created a monster. And in short order, the monster turned and began pursuing him.

And it will chase Frank N. Stein to the ends of the earth.

Saturday, July 22, 2006


Iraq is a smoking, stinking ruin, and Lebanon is well on its way to becoming one. This is the Bush legacy.

This is the bottom.

Wolcott says: "The war crimes of the United States compound by the minute, the hour, the day. I predict that George Bush, upon leaving office, will be the most despised president in American history. He will have his core support, the clotted, stunted brains that collect at sites like and Powerline, but he will enjoy no Reaganesque orange sunset afterglow (or Nixonian self-rehabilitation), so deep, lasting, and tragic is the damage he's done, a damage abetted by a craven, corrupt political class and a press that even now, as the full dimensions of the disaster unfold before us, is unable to sound alarm...History will not forgive Bush or the United States, nor should it..."

And he goes on to link to several other articulate expressions of absolute despair, one of which addresses a topic frequently overlooked in the past week, from Robert Dreyfuss at "Iraq is engaged in a full-fledged civil war. For those remaining defenders of the U.S. occupation of Iraq, who argue that the United States needs to stay put in order to prevent civil war, it’s too late. It’s here, in all of its brutality and ugliness.
"What’s shocking—especially if you’ve been paying more attention to the destruction of Lebanon by the Israeli armed forces and missed it—is that things in Iraq has gotten qualitatively worse in July. In June, Iraqis died at the rate of nearly 1,000 per week. In July, we can only speculate—but it’s not impossible that the toll is at least twice that, 2,000 per week. The word genocide comes to mind."

The atrocity underway in Lebanon is addressed by Paul Craig Roberts at in an article posted today and appropriately titled "The Shame of Being an American:"

"Gentle reader, do you know that Israel is engaged in ethnic cleansing in southern Lebanon? Israel has ordered all the villagers to clear out. Israel then destroys their homes and murders the fleeing villagers. That way there is no one to come back and nothing to which to return, making it easier for Israel to grab the territory, just as Israel has been stealing Palestine from the Palestinians.

"Do you know that one-third of the Lebanese civilians murdered by Israel's attacks on civilian residential districts are children? That is the report from Jan Egeland, the emergency relief coordinator for the UN. He says it is impossible for help to reach the wounded and those buried in rubble, because Israeli air strikes have blown up all the bridges and roads. Considering how often (almost always) Israel misses Hezbollah targets and hits civilian ones, one might think that Israeli fire is being guided by US satellites and US military GPS. Don't be surprised at US complicity. Why would the puppet be any less evil than the puppet master?

"Of course, you don't know these things, because the US print and TV media do not report them.

"Because Bush is so proud of himself, you do know that he has blocked every effort to stop the Israeli slaughter of Lebanese civilians. Bush has told the UN "NO." Bush has told the European Union "NO." Bush has told the pro-American Lebanese prime minister "NO." Twice. Bush is very proud of his firmness. He is enjoying Israel's rampage and wishes he could do the same thing in Iraq.

"Does it make you a Proud American that "your" president gave Israel the green light to drop bombs on convoys of villagers fleeing from Israeli shelling, on residential neighborhoods in the capital of Beirut and throughout Lebanon, on hospitals, on power plants, on food production and storage, on ports, on civilian airports, on bridges, on roads, on every piece of infrastructure on which civilized life depends? Are you a Proud American?"

Finally, Wolcott gives us Larry C. Johnson at the blog No Quarter who clues us in on the shock that might be headed our way: "If the United States is perceived (emphasis on perceived) as encouraging or directing the Israeli response, the odds increase that Hezbollah will ratchet things up another notch by playing the terrorist card.

"We should not confuse Hezbollah with Al Qaeda. Unlike Al Qaeda, Hezbollah has a real and substantial international network. Unlike Al Qaeda, Hezbollah has a real and substantial international political and financial network. They have personnel and supporters scattered in countries around the world who have the training and resources to mount attacks. Hezbollah has no qualms about using terrorist attacks as part of a broader strategy to achieve its objectives. The last major Hezbollah attack against the United States was the June 1996 attack on the U.S. military apartment complex in Dharan, Saudi Arabia. Hezbollah also organized the attacks on the Israeli Embassy in Argentina in 1992 and Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires in 1994. But they also have exercised restraint when they felt they could achieve their objectives through political means. The ten year hiatus in major mass casualty attacks could come to a shattering end in the coming months, and American citizens are likely to pay some of that price with their own blood."

BushCo wanted war. They're getting what they wanted, only it's turning out to be more than they bargained for.

Be careful what you wish for.

I've never seen such despair.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Antediluvian Memories

The night was dark, the sky violet at the center point, the fourth chakra, the steadily-beating heart of the Arsenal of Democracy, where he struggles into life in the shadow of the Penis of the Plains.

At the center of everything.

This was the year before the beginning of the Slow Apocalypse, when the lease on the Redemption was up, when Jesus was called away from his desk due to a previous engagment, when the Fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil swelled diabolically and its shadow filled the entire earth and sea and sky, and the fuse on the pomegranate was lit and is burning still.

Then the action shifts to Vulcan's Smelter, where the Sacred Forge belches perpetual smoke and flame, and the shiny sheets and high-tensile tubes of Moloch's Divine Infernal Machine roll endlessly from the apertures of the Dark grimy Satanic Mills.

And in the shadow of the Forge, on a tree-lined street paved with red bricks, under a moistdripping sooty sky full of thunder, the genesis of thought and memory and awareness and words made with letters that are black marks on white pages, sometimes with pictures.

Only to return years later to find the Forge cold and silent, the Divine Infernal Machine now a rusted and shattered ruin, the degenerate hangers-on of this particular street depraved diseased lunatics, and of the old house, where the brain first engaged in a manner sufficiently cogent to generate memory, nothing but a hole.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Perpetual War

Gene Healy has a great post at his blog, Cato@Liberty, on the topic of the neocon war cult.

First he quotes a Washington Post article about how the hardest-core neocons are really mad at Bush right now for pursuing what they consider a timid foreign policy. "They believe that a perception that the administration is weak and without options is emboldening Syria and Iran and the Hezbollah radicals they help sponsor in Lebanon," says the WaPo.

Healy comments, "Now, you could marvel at the brazenness of all this: the same people who helped lead us into the biggest foreign policy disaster in 30 years trying to push another war (or wars) on us without so much as a prefatory 'sorry about the whole Iraq thing, old boy.' But the current squawking also strikes me as a useful reminder of how very, very important war is in the neoconservative vision. It is as central to that vision as peace is to the classical liberal vision.

"For the neoconservatives, it’s not about Israel. It’s about war. War is a bracing tonic for the national spirit and in all its forms it presents opportunities for national greatness. 'Ultimately, American purpose can find its voice only in Washington,' David Brooks once wrote. And Washington’s never louder or more powerful than when it has a war to fight."

This is all true, but it also misses a point. The main reason for perpetual war, IMHO, is that it's the only feasible justification for the erection of the sort of tyranny we currently suffer under. How could you justify spying on your own citizens were it not for the "war emergency?"

By what means could you excuse rounding up suspected enemies, holding them without charging them, and subjecting them to torture if it wasn't for the extreme pressures exerted by the anxiety and danger of war?

How could you possibly get away with overthrowing Article I of your own government's founding document and usurping the power of the legislature with "signing statements" except under the dire threat posed by the ever-vigilant enemy.

And why would people tolerate blatant attacks on and threats against "subversive" newspapers such as the New York Times, whose right to report facts is constitutionally guaranteed. We've been told that this paper and others are endangering America's security by reporting facts inconvenient to the administration.

"Those are hard words, I know. But this country's at war!"

And why don't you let George Orwell tell you exactly why it's at war:

The war is waged by each ruling group against its own subjects, and the object of the war is not to make or prevent conquests of territory, but to keep the structure of society intact.

And how does one keep the structure of society intact, according to Orwell and Hermann Goering? By keeping people frightened, paranoid, revved up with fanatical anger, and stupid.

Hey, it worked for Hitler. It worked for Stalin. And it works for Bush and Cheney.

Make no mistake, the object of the neocon worship of perpetual war is their stimulation and your subjugation.

It's a policy that can take some strange twists and turns, however. While there is an auxiliary cult of "the ultimate sacrifice," which places the war dead on the same spiritual level as the early Christian martyrs, we are not allowed to see the individual flag-draped coffins as they are flown home from Iraq or wherever else the neocons have decided we need to murder people this week.

Seeing them might bring us a little too close to the knowledge that the remains of a human being are lying in that box.

But don't worry about that; just praise the Lord and pass the ammunition, and, as Healy concludes "Who we’re fighting is secondary. That we’re fighting is the main thing. To be a neoconservative is to thrill to the sound of gunfire. (From a nice, safe distance, generally.)"

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Hug a Tree But Not a Joshua Tree

Workers and peasants of the Cyber Universe, stop it already! You have nothing to lose but your Visa cards.

And those ludicrous debts that go along with them. What did you actually get for those debts?

Gas is up. Housing is up. Health care is up. Have you noticed you're not able to buy as much shit as before?

The effects are monetary, but the solution is political. Uh oh, too bad our political system has failed.

A new political system will arise, one adapted to the new realities. We just don't know what it will be yet. So drop back ten yards and punt.

"War is not the answer," as a bumper sticker I saw on a Ford Expedition said the other day. Unfortunately, for that driver war is the answer. So do as George did (Clooney, not Bush), and buy an electric car.

You can't afford to heat and cool that McMansion any more. But you can probably afford a little piece of land and a tiny little house to put on it.

Forget about these clowns of the political circus. Be they George or Hillary or Howard or Tom, Dick, or Harry they can't help you.

Stop eating at McDonald's and donate to the food bank.

Take a beaver to lunch and save a tree.

Turn your thermostat up to 78 and don't forget to floss.

Hard Times

People begin lining up early at Food Now, an independent food bank in Desert Hot Springs, CA. Senior citizens go to the head of the line and are admitted first when the converted one-story house opens at nine a.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

"You've got two baskets," a young female volunteer brusquely informed one old lady. "You'll have to leave one, because you're only allowed one." Single clients are allowed to fill a single hand basket, as the bank's resources are limited.

I asked Board Member Dale Derr if Food Now is servicing more clients now than it did at this time a year ago. "About 25 percent more" he said without hesitating.

"At least that much," store Manager Cheryl Calzaretta added, but neither she nor Derr can determine what percentage of Food Now's clients are working people.

"We have them fill out a form when they apply," Derr said, "that gives us an income figure, but that income might be from welfare or S.S.I.; there's really no way of telling whether they're working or not."

However, the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank newsletter for spring, 2006 reports survey results indicating that nearly a third of its client households, 31 percent, have at least one working adult.

Food banks all over Southern California are experiencing supply crunches just as demand for their services is increasing. Fortunately, donations are up following sharp decreases during the latter part of 2005, due to the amount of relief flowing to the Gulf Coast in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, according to Michael Flood, president of the L.A. Food Bank. However, increased donations have been offset by funding cuts in the federal Commodity Supplemental Food Program, which serves seniors, pregnant women, and infants and children up to six years old. The Bush administration has threatened to "zero out" this progam in 2007.

What accounts for this year's escalating demand for food relief?

See below.

Monday, July 17, 2006

And the Good News Is...

Today the price of crude oil closed down $1.73, to $75.30 a barrel. Last week oil prices spiked wildly again, on news of fighting in the Middle East and instability in Nigeria, at one point reaching as high as $78.

How quaint last year’s all-time high prices (twenty dollars below this year’s all-time highs) now seem, and how comforting that three-, four- and even five-dollar gas is here to stay. We’ve known for a long time that the only way to moderate petroleum consumption with its attendant Middle-Eastern petroleum dependency is to use less of it.

And so we are. Even though there are more cars on the road now than 12 months ago, “Gas use last month was 0.6% less than a year ago, the American Petroleum Institute reported, because ‘high fuel prices have led to decreased demand for gasoline and other refined oil products,’” according to a story that ran in April in USA Today.

But that’s only half the story. As significant as gas and oil prices is the fact that retail sales have taken a sudden unexpected downturn. American families are waking up on Sunday morning and realizing that they can’t, on this particular Sunday, pile into the old Ford Explorer and go tooling off to a distant Mega-WalMart to buy Chinese tchotchkes and sneakers. Between the rising prices of gas, and food, and rent, and the tchotchkes themselves…well, you get the picture.

Nariman Behravesh, an economist with Global Insight in Lexington, Mass says the latest sales figures are another indication that gasoline prices “are beginning to bite and are beginning to squeeze consumers pretty hard.”

What he doesn’t mention in his estimation of the plight of citizens is that we “consumers” are also getting squeezed between stagnant wages (for all but the very well off) and escalating housing and health care as well as energy prices.

There are times when I want to stand on a soapbox at the corner of Palm Canyon and Plaza Streets and shout to the workers and peasants of Palm Springs that these hardships they are experiencing are not temporary, that they are in a regime of higher prices and lower expectations for the long haul.

“For the long haul” is a very harsh phrase. It means “from now on.”

To what can we attribute the historically noteworthy health, contentment, satisfaction, docility, and mediocrity of the American people? To a very high standard of living, of course, but now that has begun to change. And yet, this might be good news.

I encourage people to try making do with less. You really might be happier that way.

Don’t count on politicians to restore our overrated standard of living. The political system in this country has failed.

I’m not saying we should swear off politics, however. A new politics will arise, appropriate to the new realities. And as Pericles is reported to have said, “If you don’t take an interest in politics, be assured that politics takes an interest in you.”

But what form that new politics will take is a total question mark at this point. As John Adams wrote to his wife Abigail in 1774, “We live, my dear soul, in an age of trial. What will be the consequence, I know not.”

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Ignoratio Elenchi -- Missing the Point

Why do I keep hearing talking heads on the boob tube saying, "Israel has a right to defend herself."

Did somebody say she doesn't?

Is there some particular reason that people are missing the obvious fact that Israel has been the aggressor in this conflict? Like, since about 1948?

Is no one aware that these crimes are being perpetrated with hardware we gave to the perpetrators? Greetings from the USA.

I've been sometimes listening to but more often avoiding media coverage of these tragic and heartbreaking events for the past couple of weeks. It's simply too nonsensical to bear. All I can say about it is that there's got to be a pony in it somewhere.

Thursday, July 13, 2006


New record today -- $78.35/barrel.

Get ready for four-dollar gas.

According to the AP story: "Light sweet crude for August delivery settled at a new high of $76.70 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, then continued climbing in after-hours electronic trading, when volumes are significantly lower, to $78.35. The rally came as fighting between Israel and Lebanon intensified, explosions hit Nigerian oil installations and a diplomatic standoff dragged on between the West and Iran over its nuclear program."

This should come as no surprise since, as I'm fond of repeating, I told anyone who would listen this was going to happen back in january of '05.

I told them to read Jim Kunstler's book, "The Long Emergency," or in lieu of that, take an occasional look at his blog (the link to his "Clusterfuck Nation" is directly to the right of what you're reading this very moment; check it out).

For my trouble I got called "Chicken Little" and other epitheta opprobria.

Dig it: if you have credible reasons to believe that a disaster is brewing, the thing to avoid is the instinctive ostrich-like reaction of blanket denial and rationalization. The thing to do is get ready, and deal with it.

So I'll say it again: five or six or seven years from now we will NOT be living the way we're living now. We won't be jumping into our cars every time we need something from the store, or have to go to work. We won't be building endless tracts of McMansions farther and farther out from urban clusterfucks like Atlanta and Houston. It won't be possible.

So do the smart thing and get ready.

Eighty bucks a barrel is right around the corner, and sometime next year it'll hit a hundred.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Magic Marker Moustache

Who said this? Was it Adolf Hitler, or the Coultergeist?

Take the quiz and see how little fascism changes over the decades. I thought I would do well, because I imagined there must be some historical markers in the quotations.

I was wrong. I didn't do well at all.

Really, truly, without any exaggeration whatsoever, there is now very little difference between the "good Germans" of the 1930's and '40's and the "patriotic Americans" of the first decade of the brave new millenium.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The Most Dangerous Man in America

Few Americans have heard of David Addington, Vice-President Cheney’s long-time legal advisor, and his chief of staff since the demise of Scooter Libby. Yet Addington, more than any other individual, is responsible for the authoritarian and increasingly dictatorial course the Bush administration has pursued over the past five and a half years.

Cheney’s influence on the president is famous, and a common topic of political conversation in and out of Washington. But Addington’s influence over the vice-president, though less notorious, has been just as, if not more important in the birth and implementation of key administration policies: the use of torture, the incarceration of uncharged terror suspects, illegal wiretapping of American citizens, and particularly the practice of amending legislation with presidential “signing statements,” in which the chief executive frequently declares his intention to ignore provisions of bills he has signed.

Sometimes referred to by Washington insiders as “Cheney’s Cheney” or “Cheney’s hit man,” Addington is this administration’s best-kept secret because he is obsessively private. He never speaks to reporters and doesn’t allow photographs to be taken for news stories. The door to his office is always locked, and he has left no public paper trail. Although he has worked in government his entire professional career, he has never run for elective office.

But now Addington has become the subject of two high-profile articles in nationally-influential publications, and informed observers are rapidly becoming better aware of his role in the shaping the Bush administration’s radical and sometimes bizarre assertions of presidential power. Jane Mayer’s article “Hidden Power” appears in the July third New Yorker, and draws on a wealth of named and unnamed governmental sources, several of whom are former members of the current administration, to describe Addington’s pivotal role in creating the Bush team’s legal strategy for the war on terror, which they have dubbed “The New Paradigm.”

For example, she quotes Bruce Fein, a “Republican legal activist,” Bush supporter, and a deputy attorney general in Reagan’s Justice Department, who says the current administration has “staked out powers that are a universe beyond any other Administration. This President has made claims that are really quite alarming. He’s said that there are no restraints on his ability, as he sees it, to collect intelligence, to open mail, to commit torture, and to use electronic surveillance. If you used the President’s reasoning, you could shut down Congress for leaking too much. His war powers allow him to declare anyone an illegal combatant. All the world’s a battlefield—according to this view, he could kill someone in Lafayette Park if he wants! It’s got the sense of Louis XIV: ‘I am the State.’ ”

Mayer’s New Yorker piece closely followed the appearance of Elizabeth Drew’s “Power Grab” in the June 22 New York Review of Books. Concentrating mainly on Bush’s use of “signing statements” as a means of usurping Congress’s lawmaking authority, Drew notes that this practice “received little attention” since Bush’s assumption of office in 2001 “because it has been carried out largely in obscurity. The press took little notice until Bush, on January 5 of this year, after signing a bill containing the McCain amendment, which placed prohibitions on torture, quietly filed a separate pronouncement, a ‘signing statement,’ that he would interpret the bill as he wished.”

But these “signing statements” are not a new development. Bush has claimed the right to ignore more than 750 laws since he took office. His supposed right to do so is based on two legal justifications, according to Drew: “One is the claim of the ‘inherent’ power of the commander in chief; second is a heretofore obscure doctrine called the unitary executive, which gives the president power over Congress and the courts. The concept of a unitary executive holds that the executive branch can overrule the courts and Congress on the basis of the president's own interpretations of the Constitution.”

And who might be the inventive legal mind who authored these expansive theories of constitutionally mandated, unlimited executive power? Drew’s article answers that question too: “Cheney and his chief of staff, David Addington, formerly his counsel, are understood by most informed observers to be mainly responsible for the expansive interpretations of the president's powers, as well as the unprecedented secrecy with which the administration conducts public affairs.”

Mayer, quoting a Boston Globe article on Addington’s influence, asserts that “Addington has been the ‘leading architect’ of these signing statements, which have been added to more than seven hundred and fifty laws. He reportedly scrutinizes every bill before President Bush signs it, searching for any language that might impinge on Presidential power.”

In addition to being the principal author of the theory of the “unitary executive,” which supposedly legitimates these signing statements, Addington has worked tirelessly to implement the “New Paradigm” with its nearly unlimited view of the president’s powers as commander in chief, not just of the armed forces but of the entire nation during wartime. He is the author of Office of Legal Counsel memos claiming that there is no valid legal prohibition against the inhumane treatment of foreign prisoners held by the C.I.A. outside the U.S. He secretly drafted the memoranda which set up the military commissions to try these foreign prisoners, so that the executive order of November 13, 2001 which established them took many members of the administration totally by surprise, Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice among them.

It was also Addington and Cheney who secretly, without even alerting the top Pentagon lawyer in charge of supervising the National Security Agency’s legal advisers, held meetings with the N.S.A.’s legal staff in Cheney’s office and advised them that the president as commander in chief had the constitutional authority to override F.I.S.A. and engage in warrantless domestic electronic surveillance.

Taken altogether, the Bush administration’s record, under the direction of its most important legal advisor, David Addington, has been one of unprecedented assault on the U.S. Constitution with its system of governmental checks and balances. And as Elizabeth Drew points out, “(T)he Bush White House has made the executive branch less accountable than at any time in modern American history. And because of the complaisance of Congress, it has largely succeeded in its efforts.”

This rush toward dictatorship and the imposition of a police state went largely unimpeded for the Bush administration’s first few years, especially in the wake of 9/11, but lately the other branches of the federal government have shown some first stirrings of resistance against the rising tide of executive encroachment. On June 29, by a five-to-three vote, the Supreme Court struck down the administration’s military tribunals which Addington had engineered to try the terror suspects (or “illegal combatants”) held at Guantanamo, Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, and elsewhere.

More recently, on July 11, one of the most conservative members of the House of Representatives, Michigan Republican Peter Hoekstra, harshly criticized the Bush White House for its failure to inform Congress about “significant activity” involving secret intelligence programs.

“It is not optional for this president or any president or people in the executive community not to keep the intelligence committees fully informed of what they are doing,” Hoekstra said.

However, whether such squeaky protests will help restore constitutional government in this country remains to be seen. Drew concludes her New York Review of Books article with a quote from Madison, author of The Federalist No. 47: “The accumulation of all powers legislative, executive and judiciary in the same hands, whether of one, a few or many...may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.” All the more so, one might add, when such concentrated power is exercised in secret star chambers by secretive individuals who issue secret orders, possibly because they know that what they’re doing won’t stand the light of day.


Jane Mayer’s “Hidden Power,” from the July 3 New Yorker, is available online at the magazine's website.

Elizabeth Drew’s “Power Grab” from the June 22 New York Review of Books is available at that publication's internet address.

Friday, July 07, 2006

The Dictator

The Bush administration is a dictatorship. This president has assumed the power to re-write the laws Congress sends to his desk, and has reduced the legislature to a cipher, just as Augustus, the first Roman emperor, did with the Roman Senate. His justification for subverting the Constitution and establishing what he and the architects of the dictatorship refer to as the "unitary executive" is 9/11.

Two important articles analyzing the workings and progress of the dictatorship have recently appeared in high-profile publications. Elizabeth Drew's "Power Grab" ran in the New York Review of Books on June 22, and is mainly a catalogue of the extent and impact of the so-called "signing statements" by which Bush alters or announces his intent to ignore legislation which he signs, then amends. In addition Drew speculates about the ways in which old laws may have been altered or destroyed by the dictatorship.

She also names Vice-President Cheney and, most particularly, Cheney's chief of staff, David Addington as the principal and most important architects of the dictatorial policy. Addington, of whom many Americans have never heard, is probably the most influential spokesman within the administration pushing for executive usurpation of Congressional powers and the establishment of one-man rule, even though he is not directly answerable to the president.

Not surprisingly, then, Addington is the primary subject of Jane Mayer's July 3 New Yorker article "The Hidden Power", which analyzes the relationships of power within the administration and focuses on Addington's singular role.

Of course, as both writers point out, the attempt to establish a military dictatorship as the government of the former democratic republic of the United States would have come to nought if Congress had not rolled over and accepted the administration's blatant and bald-faced usurpation of the legislative function.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Palast Looks at bin Laden

Al-Qaida's primary objective is to inspire Muslims to restore the Ummah, or pan-Islamic nation formerly known as the Caliphate. By 750 CE the Muslim world was also a political unity which stretched from present-day Pakistan in the east to the Spain in the west, and was ruled by a single individual who styled himself the successor of Muhammad. A restored ummah would unite all Middle-Eastern and North African Muslims in a political and religious unity which would control the lion's share of the world's petroleum resources, and hence control the world.

The first step in the reconstitution of the Ummah, according to bin Laden's 1996 "Declaration of War Against the Americans Occupying the Land of the Two Holy Places" is to drive out the "crusaders" from the Arabina Peninsula not only because it's the cradle of Islam, but also because "(T)he presence of the world largest oil reserve makes the land of the two Holy Places an important economical power in the Islamic world."

As Greg Palast has noted in his analysis of bin Laden's "Declaration" (which appears in the first chapter of his new book, "Armed Madhouse"), "Bin Laden's causus bellum for war on America: The presence of the U.S.A. Crusader military forces on land, sea and air in the states of the Islamic Gulf is the greatest danger threatening the largest oil reserve in the world.

"Threatening Islamic oil reserves. Osama even launches a sophisticated tirade against the suppression of oil production by U.S. operators in the Gulf. This wealthy engineer knows the petroleum biz, that's for sure."

Closely following the historical record, Palast penetratingly notes that after bin Laden's successful leadership role in helping rid Afghanistan of the Soviet invaders, "Osama's next target was not The Great Satan America but The Little Satan: Iran. In Osama's view, Iranians are Shia 'dogs and lackeys' who hold, infuriatingly, OPEC's third largest oil reserves." Not only that, but the Shia are always a threat to unconditional Sunni/Arabian Peninsular domination of bin Laden's coveted pan-Islamic nation -- his ummah.

However, Palast's analysis of the "Declaration of War..." is overly cynical. While bin Laden may be guilty of a certain amount of unconscious hypocrisy, no one could read this document without concluding that his primary motivations are profoundly religious

"O you protectors of unity and guardians of Faith," bin Laden exorts his potential Mujahadeen recruits, "O you descendents of the ancestors who carried the torch of guidance and spread it all over the world. O you grandsons of...those pious companions who fought Jihad alongside them; you competed to join the army and the guard forces with the intention to carry out Jihad in the cause of Allah, raising His word and defending the faith of Islam and the land of the two Holy Places against the invaders and the occupying forces. That is the ultimate level of believing in this religion!"

Therefore, I must disagree with Greg Palast when he concludes of bin Laden, "What motivates Osama? Same thing as George and Dick. It's all about the oil." Because Persian Gulf oil is only a means for controlling the world, but what is bin Laden's purpose in wanting such control? Only that it would give a decisive advantage to those who wish to propogate what he sees as the One True Faith.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006


Frederick Douglass gives us some appropriate words for this particular Fourth of July, via Brad de Long.

Brush up on the life of Douglass, escaped slave, orator, and writer extraordinaire, here.

Sunday, July 02, 2006


Terrorism is a type of warfare fought with inexpensive weapons.

It's also the name applied by the western imperialist nations, particularly the United states, to the irregular armies ranged against them throughout the Muslim world and concentrated most intensely at the moment in Iraq and Palestine.

Characterizations of the enemy as "terrorists," or "Islamofascists," or "illegal combatants" may be emotionally gratifying to those who use such loaded terms, but they are neither accurate nor useful.

On close examination, Mr. bin Laden proves remarkably similar to President Bush, with a couple of significant differences. One is that bin Laden and his ideological counterparts don't have a trillion dollar, technologically advanced armed force at their disposal, so in prosecuting their side of the current war they have to use cheap weapons, or even improvise free weapons such as stolen commercial airliners. Another difference is that bin Laden is much more intelligent and articulate than Mr. Bush, and possesses a learned grasp of history, something the American president is totally lacking.

Their ambitions, however, are identical. Bin Laden's 1996 Declaration of War reveals that he hopes to inspire Muslims to restore the Ummah, or pan-Islamic nation formerly known as the Caliphate. It would stretch from Pakistan in the east to the Straits of Gibralter in the west, would control the lion's share of the world's petroleum resources, and hence control the world.

The first step in the reconstitution of the Ummah is to drive out the "crusaders" (not surprisingly, the "terrorists" also possess pejorative terms with which to characterize their enemies).

The Ummah would be united politically under a single faith, and at its center would be the "two holy places" of Saudi Arabia. Its legal system would be based on Koranic law -- Shar'ia.

I would strongly urge anyone who's interested in knowing the real al-Qaida, rather than than the ideologically informed, chauvinistic construct of wingnuts and neocon ideologues, to read this document, even though it's long (21 standard single-spaced pages in Microsoft Word), repetitive, and frequently tedious.

The Americans' ambition is likewise control of the Persian Gulf region and its oil resources, and hence control of the world. Like the so-called "Islamofascists," the Americans, who were once a secular and a civilian society, have reverted to tribalism, and are united by a religion. It's not, however, the religion of Jesus Christ, who for all but the most fundamentalist Christians is something of an auxiliary totem, but a fanatical worship of patriotism, the military, including the death cult of the "ultimate sacrifice," and their flag, whose desecration is about to be prohibited by an amendment to the dead, departed U.S. Constitution.

There is no such thing as "terrorism." The so-called terrorists are soldiers on one side of a two-sided tribal conflict for control of the world's most valuable real estate and resources.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

OK, Remind Me, Who's Always Saying "Never Again?"

Wolcott says, "(T)oo little heed is being paid to the horrendous actions being waged against the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip."

Dennis Exposes Crimes in Gaza

...and the rest of us really ought to listen and take heed.

The Israel-Palestine war is an endlessly tiresome, depressing, and trying topic, I know, but ongoing serious war crimes demand our attention, and the blood of the victims cries out to us from the ground. The subject may be monotonous, but it's real, and real people are really dying and suffering.