1/18/2005

Good citizenship

From MakeThemAccountable.com:
Repressing cognitive dissonance has become an essential aspect of patriotism. And you better believe unquestioningly, or else you are not a good citizen. In modern America, you don't have to be a conspiracy theorist to be marginalized as a nut. If you merely accept what has been proven...and you notice the suspicious...then you qualify as being demented. Dissidents are exiled from the chattering class, where free speech consists of self-righteously parroting socially acceptable lies, and what is socially acceptable always coincides with what is best for the establishment...Anyone who dares discern that our national mission statement has been rewritten is eviscerated for "hating America." The economic hierarchy has succeeded in convincing Joe Sixpack that mercantile interests are indistinguishable from the national interest, thereby insuring that populism and sedition are now synonymous...And in Fantasy America, the majority religion is being viciously assailed, so our response is to elect deeply spiritual politicians who then strengthen social mores by revoking "satanic" health and safety regulations that have been ruthlessly imposed on wholesome multinational conglomerates.
Yet in an era where good citizenship consists of repudiating truth in favor of embracing myth, bad Americanism is looking better all the time.
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White House forces Social Security Administration to mislead people

From the Center for American Progress "Talking Points":
The Social Security Administration is supposed to be a neutral institution focused on serving the American public and staying above partisan politics. Not any more.  According to the New York Times, the Social Security Administration recently developed a new "tactical plan" to help the White House market its all-out campaign to convince Americans the system is in crisis. Internal documents show Social Security officials told employees to get the word out that "Social Security's long-term financing problems are serious and need to be addressed soon." The White House is using the Social Security Administration to mislead and confuse Americans. The new crisis-marketing plan also said Social Security managers should "discuss solvency issues at staff meetings," "insert solvency messages in all Social Security publications" and spread the word at places like farmers' markets and "big box retail stores." By law, the Social Security Administration is not supposed to be another propaganda tool of the White House. Americans have seen this ploy before on Medicare and education – use scare tactics to push unsound policies and then use taxpayer money and government employees to back up the claims.
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Bush's 34 Scandals

Salon.com has an awesome listing of the 34 scandals of Bush's first 4 years. At the link above, you can go to TruthOut for a sampling, or you can go to Salon and get a "day pass" to read the whole story for free. Great material.
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"Ownership Society"

From Mark Kleiman's blog:
The "ownership society" will obviously be a major Bushite theme for the next few months, at least. I'm sympathetic to the idea that spreading the benefits of ownership more broadly would have personal and social benefits. The current distribution of wealth is much more lopsided than the distribution of income. Moreover, at any given income level, African-Americans have much less wealth than whites. Those are big problems, and worthy of big solutions. But ownership brings with it risk. Risk-taking is indeed a vehicle of economic dynamism, but risk itself is always bad. Increased economic insecurity seems to be a fact; it would be absurd to make it into a policy goal.
Indeed, one way to encourage risk-taking at an individual level is to have a strong safety net, so that someone who quits his job to start a business doesn't have to worry that his kids won't be able to get high-quality medical care, or go to college, if the business fails (as most do).
So should liberals be in favor of an "ownership society"? If that means a society where public policy supports and encourages wealth formation at every economic level, absolutely.
If it means a society where only owners are full citizens, and non-owners are treated like dirt, absolutely not.
Now what we need is a leader who can communicate that simple point to the voters.
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1/17/2005

Another disgusting lie

Great Minneapolis Star-Tribune editorial:
Of all the lies -- let's call them by their right name -- that the Bush administration is spreading about Social Security, none is as vile as the canard Bush repeated last Tuesday, when he said, "African-American males die sooner than other males do, which means the [Social Security] system is inherently unfair to a certain group of people. And that needs to be fixed." That is an entirely phony assertion; it has been debunked by the Social Security Administration, by the Government Accountability Office and by other experts. Bush and those around him know that. For them to repeat what they know to be a blatant lie is despicable fear-mongering. Bush didn't make up this phony line on his own; it comes from the Heritage Foundation.
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Seymour Hersh's "The Coming Wars: What the Pentagon Can Now Do In Secret"

Hersh's latest piece in the New Yorker. Bottom line:
Bush and his national-security advisers have consolidated control over the military and intelligence communities' analyses and covert operations.
They have an aggressive and ambitious agenda for using that control against Iran and against terrorist targets.
The C.I.A. will continue to be downgraded, and the agency will increasingly serve as "facilitators" of policy emanating from W and Cheney. This process is well under way with Cheney's man, Porter Goss, installed at the CIA.
Rumsfeld's reappointment as Defense Secretary was never in doubt. He will become even more important during the second term; the agenda was determined before the election, and much of it will be Rumsfeld's responsibility.
The war on terrorism will be expanded and effectively placed under the Pentagon's control. W has authorized secret commando groups and other Special Forces units to conduct covert operations in as many as ten nations in Asia.
The President's decision enables Rumsfeld to run the operations off the books-free from legal restrictions imposed on the C.I.A. The Pentagon doesn't feel obligated to report any of this to Congress.    
Hersh says he was repeatedly told in his interviews that the next strategic target is Iran.
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Bush's Energy Secretary Pick...Another Exemplary Citizen

Jason Leopold of Common Dreams writes:
In the bizarro world that President Bush lives in, it pays-literally-to be a miserable failure, a criminal and a corporate con man. But one of the President's most outrageous decisions (besides naming Alberto Gonzales as Attorney General) has got to be choosing 66 year-old Sam Bodman to serve as Secretary of Energy. This is a guy who for a dozen years ran a Texas-based chemical company (Cabot) that spent years on the top five lists of the country's worst polluters..and was the fourth largest source of toxic emissions in Texas. Cabot is the world's largest producer of industrial carbon black, a byproduct of the oil refinery process. Bodman was part of the original working group that drafted legislation that then Gov. Bush signed into law that basically permitted Cabot and other companies to continue to emit the same level-and in some cases more-toxic emissions as they had been years earlier without so much as receiving a slap-on-the-wrist by then Gov. Bush.
Bodman's shoddy environmental record aside, he may also be complicit in one of Africa's deadliest wars. In October 2002, Bodman's former company came under fire when a United Nations Panel of Experts produced a report accusing the company, along with several other U.S. corporations, of helping to fuel the wars in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) while he ran Cabot by purchasing coltan from Congo during the conflict and illegally plundering the country's vast natural resources.
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Whitewashing Dr. King

Geov Parrish of "Working For Change" on the MLK we've lost:
Dr. King would have turned 76 today. If he had survived. And in every conceivable sense of the word, he has not. At least, not in White America.
In many ways, Ronald Reagan did the worst possible thing for the memory of Dr. King by acceding -- reluctantly -- to the national holiday that bears King's name. Because the holiday has become a feel-good lie.
King, the man, was, along with Mohandas Gandhi, one of the two most internationally revered symbols of nonviolence in the 20th century. He spent his too-brief adult life defying authority and convention, citing a higher moral authority, and gave hope and inspiration for the liberation of people of color on six continents. MLK Day, the holiday, has devolved into the Mississippi Burning of third Mondays. What started out as gratitude, that they made a movie about it, gradually becomes revulsion as new generations of white people mislearn the story.
King is not a legend because he believed in diversity trainings and civic ceremonies, or because he had a nice dream. He is remembered because he took serious risks and, as the Quakers say, spoke truth to power. He is also remembered because, among a number of brave and committed civil rights leaders and activists, he had a flair for self-promotion, a style that also appealed to white liberals, and the extraordinary social strength of the black Southern churches behind him. And because he died before he had a chance to be widely believed a relic or buffoon.
What little history TV will give us in the next week is at least as much about forgetting as about remembering, as much about self-congratulatory patriotism that King was American as self-examination that American racism made him necessary and that our government, at every level, sought to destroy him. We hear "I have a dream"; we don't hear his powerful indictments of poverty, the Vietnam War, and the military-industrial complex. We see Bull Connor in Birmingham; we don't see arrests for fighting segregated housing in Chicago, or the generations of beatings and busts before he won the Nobel Peace Prize. We don't hear about the mainstream American contempt at the time for King, even after that Peace Prize, nor his reputation among conservatives as a Commie dupe.
We don't see retrospectives on his linkage of civil rights with Third World liberation. We forget that he died in Memphis lending support for a union (the garbage workers' strike), while organizing a multi-racial Poor Peoples' Campaign that demanded affordable housing and decent-paying jobs as basic civil rights transcending skin color. We forget that many of King's fellow leaders weren't nearly so polite. Cities were burning. We remember Selma instead. And we forget that of those many dreams King had, only one -- equal access for non-whites -- is significantly realized today. And nearly a half-century after the Montgomery bus boycott catapulted a 26-year-old King into prominence, even that is hardly achieved. Instead, blacks are being systematically disenfranchised in our presidential elections, and affirmative action and school desegregation are all but dead.
But an even bigger problem is as a generation dies off and the historical memory fades, that King has become an icon, not a historical figure (distorted or otherwise). The racism he challenged four and five decades ago in Georgia and Alabama was also dominant throughout the country. Here in Seattle, for example, few whites know that history: the housing and school segregation, laws barring Asians from owning land (overturned only in the '60s), the marches downtown from predominantly black Garfield High School, police harassment of both radical and mainstream black activists, the assassination of a local NAACP leader, still unsolved.
Every city in America has such histories. We don't know the stories of the people, many still with us, who led those struggles. And we rarely acknowledge that the overt racism of Montgomery 1955 is no longer so overt, but still part of America 2005; it shows up in our geography, in our jails, in our voting booths, in our shelters and food banks, in our economy, and yes, in the very earnest and extremely white activist groups that still carry the banner on these issues.
If our cities were serious about his legacy, Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. would run through downtowns. Instead, literally, in just about every big city in the U.S., urban planners and city councils put King back in the ghetto, along with both the legions of people who worked with him and the many more who've taken up his work since.
Opponents of affirmative action and racial equality can claim King's mantle and "if he were alive today" approval only because in 2005, TVland's MLK has no politics. And, for that matter, no faith.
If the King of 1955 or 1965 were alive today, he would be accused of treason for his pacifism, as he was reviled for "Communism" then; instead of the FBI trying to bring him down, he, and most of his associates, would be prosecutable under new anti-terrorism statutes. And the moral outrage of Americans that made his work so effective? We don't do that any more. We can torture thousands of mostly innocent Iraqis and Afghans, in plain sight, and nobody is held accountable. It'd take a whole lot more than police dogs to make the news today.
Instead, for white America, King's soft-focus image often reinforces white supremacism. (See? We're not so bad. We honor him now. Why don't those black people just get over it, anyway? We did.)
Dr. King, nonviolent martyr to reconciliation and justice, has become a Hallmark Card, a warm, fuzzy, feel-good invocation of neighborliness, a file photo for sneakers or soda commercials, a reprieve for post-holiday shoppers, an excuse for a three-day weekend, a cardboard cutout used for photo ops by barely retired generals and ungrateful Supreme Court justices. Be sure to check out the Three-Day-Only White Sale at WalMart. Always a better price. Always.
He deserves better. We all do.
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1/16/2005

The Republican Noise Machine in a nutshell

Digby says it elegantly:
While diligently working the refs for the last 30 years, (Republicans) were simultaneously building an alternative media to push from the competitive side and drive the discourse to the right.
Today, that dream of control is fully realized. Republicans routinely bully any reporter or organization that doesn't play ball while they feed lots of juicy propaganda to their bought and paid for media like FOX, Rush, Drudge and The NY Post, knowing that the story will work its way into the mainstream anyway. They created an entertainment model for news in which entertainment values superceded civic values, and it attracted a different kind of person to the field. Over time, fewer and fewer reporters wouldn't play ball because those that refused were weeded out in a form of (un)natural selection. In the end, the survivors don't even know they are biased. They are so enmeshed in this system of celebrity punishment and rewards that their own self esteem is now drawn from their acceptability to the (Republican) establishment. And each and every day the partisan right wing media pushes the discourse a few inches further to the right.
So just this week we find out that Armstrong Williams is being paid by the taxpayers to promote the President's political agenda, and the social security administration employees are being required to disseminate Republican talking points to the public during a major policy battle. There are undoubtedly many more examples of the literal merging of state and party.
But the media has long since been corrupted by a far more sophisticated, legal system of payola and influence peddling. It makes little difference now whether there are more Armstrong Williamses because there are many, many people who will happily perform his function while taking a check from a right wing foundation or think tank.
The right wing noise machine works like a single organism, relentlessly attacking any threat to the Republican party, unquestioningly advancing anything their leadership directs. It's just plain greed that led them to use taxpayer money when there is so much special interest money to be used for the exact same purpose.
In a just world, this Armstrong Williams scandal would get at least the exposure the "selling" of the Lincoln Bedroom tale got in the Clinton administration. At the time there were endless stories about abusing the public trust and and forcing the taxpayers to foot the bill for partisan activity. There were months of handwringing and hankie clutching and "how will we ever sleep again knowing that political activity took place in the People's House!"
Anybody want to lay a bet that this scandal produces anything like that? Are any Democrats prepared to go on television and perform a soap opera prosecution featuring phony pathos and crocodile tears about "sending a message to the children?" Are we prepared to boost ratings and give the media reason to defy the White House and the right wing message behemoth with a show they can't resist? (Certainly, when given the chance our hard boiled political operative Paul Begala didn't even nick Armstrong with a ball point pen, much less stick the shiv in as Novak would have been so delighted to do if the shoe were on the other foot.)
I'm not holding my breath. The fact that no WMD in Iraq is causing nary a peep from anybody tells me that even body bags and billions can't shake the machine. I'm not sure anything will except total economic meltdown. Sadly, we may just get our wish.
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Dammit Jim, I'm Not a Poltician, I'm a Doctor!

From Paul Waldman at Gadflyer:
As we know, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is incapable of answering a question about anything without mentioning that he is a doctor. Ask him what time it is, and he'll tell you, "As a doctor, I can tell you it's 2:30." But he may have set a new record on Sunday's "This Week." When George Stephanopoulous asked him whether Social Security was really in crisis, he said, "There is a crisis. It's a little bit like in medicine, if I see a patient..."
We get it - you're a doctor.
Frist long ago passed the point where this shtick went from impressive to irritating. I'd love it if he was successful in his quest to become the GOP's nominee for president in 2008, since he has a beautiful combination of political imcompetence and transparent phoniness. But if he thinks this supercilious act is going to win over any voters, even in the Republican primaries, he's in for a rude awakening.
Kind of like when you think a patient needs a heart transplant, but then you find out he doesn't want it because he thinks you're a putz. Or something like that.
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Did he really say this??

The Birmingham News reports:
Three new associate justices of the Alabama Supreme Court took oaths of office Friday in ceremonies at Troy University's Davis Theatre.
New justice Tom Parker had already taken his formal oath of office Thursday before U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas in Washington.
Parker said Thomas told him a judge should be evaluated by whether he faithfully upholds his oath to God, not to the people, to the state, or to the Constitution.
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Pearls of wisdom from W

In an interview with the Washington Post yesterday, President Bush said the public's decision to reelect him was a ratification of his approach toward Iraq and that there was no reason to hold any administration officials accountable for mistakes or misjudgments in prewar planning or managing the violent aftermath.
He said Osama had not been found yet "because he's hiding."
And he said he was "puzzled" that he only received 11% of the African-American vote this time.
Oh, and one more thing...he said he had NO plans to lobby the Senate to pass a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.
A new RNC chair who is reportedly gay...the chair chooses a co-chair who is pro-choice...no plans for the same-sex marriage thing...Kid Rock at the inaugural...appointing an Attorney General who is not an abortion hardliner...Those poor right-wing evangelicals, persecuted again.
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Here's one governor who understands civil rights

The Sun Journal of Maine reports:
Gay rights is a top priority for Gov. John Baldacci this session, taking a back seat only to tax relief, passage of the state budget and a bonds package. Baldacci says he plans to seek passage of a law this year that would outlaw discrimination against gays and lesbians in employment, housing, credit and access to public places and services.
In all, a dozen municipalities in Maine now have such ordinances.
Baldacci was campaigning for the Maine Senate 20 years ago when he heard a story that catalyzed his conviction for a gay-rights law. He met two men in Bangor. They told him they had hoped to buy a home together, but the bank turned them away. "They were just very embarrassed," Baldacci said recently, and they had no place to turn to for help. "People who are being discriminated against ... there is no recourse for them. There is for everybody else. But not for them. And that's not right."
Although he knew as governor he eventually would press state lawmakers for a gay-rights law, Baldacci said a threat issued last spring spurred him to act. Michael Heath, who heads the Christian Civic League of Maine, had threatened to publicly expose gay and lesbian legislators and political leaders because of his frustration with the Legislature's refusal to consider banning same-sex marriage. Heath was suspended by the League's directors for the threat and rebuked by Baldacci and a host of state lawmakers.
"That may have reignited a fire in me to get it done," Baldacci said.
He acknowledged that the current political climate may hurt his proposal's chances, but he expressed confidence it will pass and withstand subsequent challenges. "I don't know that there's any particular time (that's good) when it comes to issues like this," he said, noting, however, "I think Maine people are very fair people."

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