1/29/2005

Bush's press conference betrays his callousness

Matthew Rothschild of The American Prospect:
At his press conference Wednesday, Bush didn’t even bother to acknowledge, in his opening remarks, the 37 soldiers killed that day, the single highest fatality toll in the whole grisly war. Instead, he waited for a question about it, and then treated it as though it were principally a PR problem, which may have been the entire reason for the press conference in the first place—to deflect attention away from the bloody morass in Iraq. Said Bush: “The story today is going to be very discouraging to the American people. I understand that.” And then he went on: “We value life. And we weep and mourn when soldiers lose their life. But it is the long-term objective that is vital, and that is to spread freedom,” blah, blah, blah.
I wonder just how much weeping and mourning Bush actually is doing. And I wonder how many U.S. lives and Iraqi lives he’s willing to sacrifice in his messianic zeal, and in Cheney’s and Rumsfeld's imperial overreach.
Already, he has cost the lives of more than 1,400 U.S. soldiers.
Already, he has caused the wounds of more than 10,000 U.S. soldiers.
Already, his illegal war has killed between 15,000 and 100,000 Iraqi civilians.
But Bush seems almost serenely indifferent to this toll. And that’s because he believes, as he said at the National Prayer Service on January 21, “We have a calling from beyond the stars to stand for freedom.”
(At that same prayer service, the Reverend Billy Graham said, “Our Father, we acknowledge your divine help in the selection of our nation’s leaders throughout our history. And we believe that in your providence, you’ve granted a second term of office to our President George W. Bush, and our Vice President Richard Cheney.”)
I guess when you believe you’re driving God’s car, and when you believe He’s giving you global positioning, and when you believe He’s right there in the back seat blurting out directions, you don’t care so much if you run people over in the process, lots of people, even your own people. You’re just doing what He wants, and He is all knowing.
It’s all for the greater good, or as Bush put it, “the long-term objective.”
This is the callousness at the heart of Bush’s war policy.

And James Wolcott (http://www.jameswolcott.com) adds:
The president takes the podium fresh with the knowledge of (Marine helicopter crash) tragedy and radiates a cheerful disposition bantering with the press about senior citizens and their faulty memories. She can't see something scarily wrong with that? She doesn't spot some sort of emotional disturbance or disconnect? Imagine if Bill Clinton had been chirpy and chipper having just received the news of 31 soldiers dying in the theater of combat--Rush Limbaugh would have devoted three hours to it, and Fox News would have dragged Dick Morris out of the all-you-can-eat buffet for his "expert analysis."
When Bush did address the soldiers' deaths, he said that we "weep and mourn" when Americans die, but as he was saying it his hand was flatly smacking downwards for emphasis, as if he were pounding the table during the business meeting, refusing to pay a lot for a muffler. The steady beat of his hand was at odds with the sentiments he was expressing--he didn't look or sound the least bit mournful or sombre. And why should he? Death doesn't seem to be a bringdown for him. There isn't the slightest evidence that he experiences the anguish LBJ did as casualties mounted in Vietnam. His record as chief executioner in Texas is of a man for whom the death of another is an administrative detail, a power exercise.
As Sister Helen Prejean wrote in The New York Review of Books: "As governor, Bush certainly did not stand apart in his routine refusal to deny clemency to death row petitioners, but what does set him apart is the sheer number of executions over which he...presided. Callous indifference to human suffering may also set Bush apart. He may be the only government official to mock a condemned person's plea for mercy [Karla Faye Tucker's], then lie about it afterward, claiming humane feelings he never felt. On the contrary, it seems that Bush is comfortable with using violent solutions to solve troublesome social and political realities."
Comfortable, hell, he's downright enthusiastic about it. He's so cocky now that he can't even fake a semblance of sorrow after hearing news that would have made most presidents turn ashen.
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Cheney's deep thoughts about Auschwitz match his solemn attire

From Mike Whitney:
The appearance of Dick Cheney at the 60-year commemoration of the liberation of Auschwitz is an affront to anyone who has even minimal regard for the horrendous suffering of the victims of the Holocaust. Cheney is the driving force behind America's global resource-war and is personally liable for the estimated 100,000 dead Iraqis and countless others maimed or wounded. To hear Cheney recite his duplicitous platitudes about "freedom" and "evil" is enough to leave even the most hardened cynic among us retching.
"The story of the camps reminds us that evil is real and it must be called by its name and it must be confronted," Cheney opined.
Yes, Dick, and we also appreciate the "banality of evil" that appears in the form of dumpy, mid-level, plant managers whose meaningless lives of plodding mediocrity are only enriched by rising to power, where their fascination with inflicting pain on other human beings can be fully realized.
Is there a more apt summary of Cheney's miserable tenure in government?
How could the architect of Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib and Bagram Air force base and the countless other gulags in the Cheney archipelago of concentration camps, be invited to speak at Auschwitz? It boggles the mind.
Are the Jews who suffered under Hitler's despotic boot-heel comforted by the idea that the latest flourish of racism and sectarian hatred is now directed at Muslims rather than Jews? If so, that's false comfort, indeed. The root of racism is everywhere the same; only the names and the groups are changed.
Cheney's record on the topic is entirely straightforward. He fought to defend Africa's apartheid government to the very end. He supported the Reagan administration's decision to put Nelson Mandela on the State Dept "list of terrorists". He resisted "tooth-and-nail" the movement to celebrate Martin Luther King's birthday as a national holiday. And, now, he presides over a chain of prison camps that exclusively houses Muslims; the unwitting victims of his apocryphal war on terror.
Is there a difference between anti-Semitism and anti-Islam? Or is it just part of a broader political calculation?
Cheney's delusional ramblings were not without their moments of stunning irony: "The death camps were created by men with a high opinion of themselves-some of them well-educated and possessed of refined manners-but without conscience. And, where there is no conscience, there is no tolerance towards others...no defense against evil...and no limit to the crimes that follow."
It seems to me that Cheney may have begun work on his own epitaph?
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Cheney dresses down

BuzzFlash headline today:
"Dick Cheney, Dressing Down; Parka, Ski Cap at Odds With Solemnity of Auschwitz Ceremony. Maybe He Was Going Duck Hunting and Snowmobiling with Antonin Scalia Afterwards."
This links to an article in the WaPo today, in the Style section, of all places. Finally, a journalist gets tough on Cheney.
Check it out. It would be hilarious if it weren't so pathetic.
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"What If It Was All A Big Mistake?"

Congressman Ron Paul, Republican from Texas, gave this amazing speech to the U.S. House of Representatives on January 26. I don't know why, or what prompted it, but it's worth printing the whole thing. He basically tees off on everything the government is doing in the name of "national security," with particular attention to the idiotic airport situation, and at the end asks a series of rhetorical questions that challenges everything the American people have been fed by the Bush regime.
To wit: "We don't understand the difference between a vague threat of terrorism and the danger of a guerilla war...Not understanding the difference makes it virtually impossible to deal with the real threats. We are obsessed with passing new laws to make our country safe from a terrorist attack. This confusion about the cause of the 9/11 attacks, the fear they engendered, and the willingness to sacrifice liberty prompts many to declare their satisfaction with the inconveniences and even humiliation at our nation's airports."
Put this with Hersh's speech in the post below and you've got some major stuff to send to everyone you know.
Paul's speech:
    America's policy of foreign intervention, while still debated in the early 20th century, is today accepted as conventional wisdom by both political parties. But what if the overall policy is a colossal mistake, a major error in judgment? Not just bad judgment regarding when and where to impose ourselves, but the entire premise that we have a moral right to meddle in the affairs of others? Think of the untold harm done by years of fighting - hundreds of thousands of American casualties, hundreds of thousands of foreign civilian casualties, and unbelievable human and economic costs. What if it was all needlessly borne by the American people? If we do conclude that grave foreign policy errors have been made, a very serious question must be asked: What would it take to change our policy to one more compatible with a true republic's goal of peace, commerce, and friendship with all nations? Is it not possible that Washington's admonition to avoid entangling alliances is sound advice even today?
    In medicine mistakes are made - man is fallible. Misdiagnoses are made, incorrect treatments are given, and experimental trials of medicines are advocated. A good physician understands the imperfections in medical care, advises close follow-ups, and double-checks the diagnosis, treatment, and medication. Adjustments are made to assure the best results. But what if a doctor never checks the success or failure of a treatment, or ignores bad results and assumes his omnipotence - refusing to concede that the initial course of treatment was a mistake? Let me assure you, the results would not be good. Litigation and the loss of reputation in the medical community place restraints on this type of bullheaded behavior.
    Sadly, though, when governments, politicians, and bureaucrats make mistakes and refuse to reexamine them, there is little the victims can do to correct things. Since the bully pulpit and the media propaganda machine are instrumental in government cover-ups and deception, the final truth emerges slowly, and only after much suffering. The arrogance of some politicians, regulators, and diplomats actually causes them to become even more aggressive and more determined to prove themselves right, to prove their power is not to be messed with by never admitting a mistake. Truly, power corrupts!
    The unwillingness to ever reconsider our policy of foreign intervention, despite obvious failures and shortcomings over the last 50 years, has brought great harm to our country and our liberty. Historically, financial realities are the ultimate check on nations bent on empire. Economic laws ultimately prevail over bad judgment. But tragically, the greater the wealth of a country, the longer the flawed policy lasts. We'll probably not be any different.
    We are still a wealthy nation, and our currency is still trusted by the world, yet we are vulnerable to some harsh realities about our true wealth and the burden of our future commitments. Overwhelming debt and the precarious nature of the dollar should serve to restrain our determined leaders, yet they show little concern for deficits. Rest assured, though, the limitations of our endless foreign adventurism and spending will become apparent to everyone at some point in time.
    Since 9/11, a lot of energy and money have gone into efforts ostensibly designed to make us safer. Many laws have been passed and many dollars have been spent. Whether or not we're better off is another question.
    Today we occupy two countries in the Middle East. We have suffered over 20,000 casualties, and caused possibly 100,000 civilian casualties in Iraq. We have spent over $200 billion in these occupations, as well as hundreds of billions of dollars here at home hoping to be safer. We've created the Department of Homeland Security, passed the Patriot Act, and created a new super CIA agency.
    Our government now is permitted to monitor the Internet, to read our mail, to search us without proper search warrants, to develop a national ID card, and to investigate what people are reading in libraries. Ironically, illegal aliens flow into our country and qualify for driving licenses and welfare benefits with little restraint.
    These issues are discussed, but nothing has been as highly visible to us as the authoritarianism we accept at the airport. The creation of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has intruded on the privacy of all airline travelers, and there is little evidence that we are safer for it. Driven by fear, we have succumbed to the age-old temptation to sacrifice liberty on the pretense of obtaining security. Love of security, unfortunately, all too often vanquishes love of liberty.
    Unchecked fear of another 9/11-type attack constantly preoccupies our leaders and most of our citizens, and drives the legislative attack on our civil liberties. It's frightening to see us doing to ourselves what even bin Laden never dreamed he could accomplish with his suicide bombers.
    We don't understand the difference between a vague threat of terrorism and the danger of a guerilla war. One prompts us to expand and nationalize domestic law enforcement while limiting the freedoms of all Americans. The other deals with understanding terrorists like bin Laden, who declared war against us in 1998. Not understanding the difference makes it virtually impossible to deal with the real threats. We are obsessed with passing new laws to make our country safe from a terrorist attack. This confusion about the cause of the 9/11 attacks, the fear they engendered, and the willingness to sacrifice liberty prompts many to declare their satisfaction with the inconveniences and even humiliation at our nation's airports.
    There are always those in government who are anxious to increase its power and authority over the people. Strict adherence to personal privacy annoys those who promote a centralized state.
    It's no surprise to learn that many of the new laws passed in the aftermath of 9/11 had been proposed long before that date. The attacks merely provided an excuse to do many things previously proposed by dedicated statists.
    All too often government acts perversely, professing to advance liberty while actually doing the opposite. Dozens of new bills passed since 9/11 promise to protect our freedoms and our security. In time we will realize there is little chance our security will be enhanced or our liberties protected.
    The powerful and intrusive TSA certainly will not solve our problems. Without a full discussion, greater understanding, and ultimately a change in the foreign policy that incites those who declared war against us, no amount of pat-downs at airports will suffice. Imagine the harm done, the staggering costs, and the loss of liberty if the next 20 years pass and airplanes are never employed by terrorists. Even if there is a possibility that airplanes will be used to terrorize us, TSA's bullying will do little to prevent it. Patting down old women and little kids in airports cannot possibly make us safer!
    TSA cannot protect us from another attack and it is not the solution. It serves only to make us all more obedient and complacent toward government intrusions into our lives.
    The airport mess has been compounded by other problems, which we fail to recognize. Most assume the government has the greatest responsibility for making private aircraft travel safe. But this assumption only ignores mistakes made before 9/11, when the government taught us to not resist, taught us that airline personnel could not carry guns, and that the government would be in charge of security. Airline owners became complacent and dependent upon the government.
    After 9/11 we moved in the wrong direction by allowing total government control and a political takeover by the TSA - which was completely contrary to the proposition that private owners have the ultimate responsibility to protect their customers.
    Discrimination laws passed during the last 40 years ostensibly fuel the Transportation Secretary's near obsession with avoiding the appearance of discrimination toward young Muslim males. Instead TSA seemingly targets white children and old women. We have failed to recognize that a safety policy by a private airline is quite a different thing from government agents blindly obeying anti-discrimination laws.
    Governments do not have a right to use blanket discrimination, such as that which led to incarceration of Japanese Americans in World War II. However, local law-enforcement agencies should be able to target their searches if the description of a suspect is narrowed by sex, race, or religion.
    We are dealing with an entirely different matter when it comes to safety on airplanes. The federal government should not be involved in local law enforcement, and has no right to discriminate. Airlines, on the other hand, should be permitted to do whatever is necessary to provide safety. Private firms - long denied the right - should have a right to discriminate. Fine restaurants, for example, can require that shoes and shirts be worn for service in their establishments. The logic of this remaining property right should permit more sensible security checks at airports. The airlines should be responsible for the safety of their property, and liable for it as well. This is not only the responsibility of the airlines, but it is a civil right that has long been denied them and other private companies.
    The present situation requires the government to punish some by targeting those individuals who clearly offer no threat. Any airline that tries to make travel safer and happens to question a larger number of young Muslim males than the government deems appropriate can be assessed huge fines. To add insult to injury, the fines collected from airlines are used for forced sensitivity training of pilots who do their very best, under the circumstances, to make flying safer by restricting the travel of some individuals. We have embarked on a process that serves no logical purpose. While airline safety suffers, personal liberty is diminished and costs skyrocket.
    If we're willing to consider a different foreign policy, we should ask ourselves a few questions:
What if the policies of foreign intervention, entangling alliances, policing the world, nation building, and spreading our values through force are deeply flawed?
What if it is true that Saddam Hussein never had weapons of mass destruction?
What if it is true that Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden were never allies?
What if it is true that the overthrow of Saddam Hussein did nothing to enhance our national security?
What if our current policy in the Middle East leads to the overthrow of our client oil states in the region?
What if the American people really knew that more than 20,000 American troops have suffered serious casualties or died in the Iraq war, and 9% of our forces already have been made incapable of returning to battle?
What if it turns out there are many more guerrilla fighters in Iraq than our government admits?
What if there really have been 100,000 civilian Iraqi casualties, as some claim, and what is an acceptable price for "doing good?"
What if Rumsfeld is replaced for the wrong reasons, and things become worse under a Defense Secretary who demands more troops and an expansion of the war?
What if we discover that, when they do vote, the overwhelming majority of Iraqis support Islamic (Sharia) law over western secular law, and want our troops removed?
What if those who correctly warned of the disaster awaiting us in Iraq are never asked for their opinion of what should be done now?
What if the only solution for Iraq is to divide the country into three separate regions, recognizing the principle of self-determination while rejecting the artificial boundaries created in 1918 by non-Iraqis?
What if it turns out radical Muslims don't hate us for our freedoms, but rather for our policies in the Middle East that directly affected Arabs and Muslims?
What if the invasion and occupation of Iraq actually distracted from pursuing and capturing Osama bin Laden?
What if we discover that democracy can't be spread with force of arms?
What if democracy is deeply flawed, and instead we should be talking about liberty, property rights, free markets, the rule of law, localized government, weak centralized government, and self-determination promoted through persuasion, not force?
What if Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda actually welcomed our invasion and occupation of Arab/Muslim Iraq as proof of their accusations against us, and it served as a magnificent recruiting tool for them?
What if our policy greatly increased and prolonged our vulnerability to terrorists and guerilla attacks both at home and abroad?
What if the Pentagon, as reported by its Defense Science Board, actually recognized the dangers of our policy before the invasion, and their warnings were ignored or denied?
What if the argument that by fighting over there, we won't have to fight here, is wrong, and the opposite is true?
What if we can never be safer by giving up some of our freedoms?
What if the principle of pre-emptive war is adopted by Russia, China, Israel, India, Pakistan, and others, "justified" by current U.S. policy?
What if pre-emptive war and pre-emptive guilt stem from the same flawed policy of authoritarianism, though we fail to recognize it?
What if Pakistan is not a trustworthy ally, and turns on us when conditions deteriorate?
What if plans are being laid to provoke Syria and/or Iran into actions that would be used to justify a military response and pre-emptive war against them?
What if our policy of democratization of the Middle East fails, and ends up fueling a Russian-Chinese alliance that we regret - an alliance not achieved even at the height of the Cold War?
What if the policy forbidding profiling at our borders and airports is deeply flawed?
What if presuming the guilt of a suspected terrorist without a trial leads to the total undermining of constitutional protections for American citizens when arrested?
What if we discover the army is too small to continue policies of pre-emption and nation-building? What if a military draft is the only way to mobilize enough troops?
What if the "stop-loss" program is actually an egregious violation of trust and a breach of contract between the government and soldiers? What if it actually is a backdoor draft, leading to unbridled cynicism and rebellion against a voluntary army and generating support for a draft of both men and women? Will lying to troops lead to rebellion and anger toward the political leadership running the war?
What if the Pentagon's legal task-force opinion that the President is not bound by international or federal law regarding torture stands unchallenged, and sets a precedent which ultimately harms Americans, while totally disregarding the moral, practical, and legal arguments against such a policy?
What if the intelligence reform legislation - which gives us bigger, more expensive bureaucracy - doesn't bolster our security, and distracts us from the real problem of revamping our interventionist foreign policy?
What if we suddenly discover we are the aggressors, and we are losing an unwinnable guerrilla war?
What if we discover, too late, that we can't afford this war - and that our policies have led to a dollar collapse, rampant inflation, high interest rates, and a severe economic downturn?

    Why do I believe these are such important questions? Because the #1 function of the federal government - to provide for national security - has been severely undermined. On 9/11 we had a grand total of 14 aircraft in place to protect the entire U.S. mainland, all of which proved useless that day. We have an annual DOD budget of over $400 billion, most of which is spent overseas in over 100 different countries. On 9/11 our Air Force was better positioned to protect Seoul, Tokyo, Berlin, and London than it was to protect Washington D.C. and New York City.
    Moreover, our ill-advised presence in the Middle East and our decade-long bombing of Iraq served only to incite the suicidal attacks of 9/11.
    Before 9/11 our CIA ineptly pursued bin Laden, whom the Taliban was protecting. At the same time, the Taliban was receiving significant support from Pakistan - our "trusted ally" that received millions of dollars from the United States. We allied ourselves with both bin Laden and Hussein in the 1980s, only to regret it in the 1990s. And it's safe to say we have used billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars in the last 50 years pursuing this contradictory, irrational, foolish, costly, and very dangerous foreign policy.
    Policing the world, spreading democracy by force, nation building, and frequent bombing of countries that pose no threat to us - while leaving the homeland and our borders unprotected - result from a foreign policy that is contradictory and not in our self interest.
    I hardly expect anyone in Washington to pay much attention to these concerns. If I'm completely wrong in my criticisms, nothing is lost except my time and energy expended in efforts to get others to reconsider our foreign policy.
    But the bigger question is:
    What if I'm right, or even partially right, and we urgently need to change course in our foreign policy for the sake of our national and economic security, yet no one pays attention?
    For that a price will be paid. Is it not worth talking about?
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The Homeland Security State

From TomDispatch: Nick Turse on the security state and the imperial presidency:
The urge of the Bush administration to bring versions of the methods it's applying abroad back home is already palpable; the urge to free the President, as "commander-in-chief" in the "war on terror," from all the old fetters, those boring, restraining checks and balances, those inconvenient liberties won by Americans -- so constraining, so troublesome to deal with -- is equally palpable. Back in the Watergate era, we had a would-be imperial president, Richard M. Nixon, who provoked a constitutional crisis. Actually, it amounted to a near constitutional coup d'état -- and if you don't believe me, check out The Time of Illusion, Jonathan's Schell's classic work on the subject. Now, it seems, we're in Watergate II, but without a Democratic Congress, a critical media, or a powerful antiwar movement (yet). All we have at the moment is the constitutional crisis part of the equation, various simmering scandals, a catastrophic war abroad, and an ever more powerful military-industrial-security complex at home. And we're not just talking urges here, we're talking acts. We're talking programs. We're talking the continual blurring of distinctions between the domestic and the foreign, the civilian and the military, between liberties at home and "securing the Homeland." The problem is, we can only guess at the extent of that "securing" process because so much is clearly happening just beyond our sight (or oversight).
In the first of a two-part series, Nick Turse, who follows the military-corporate complex regularly for Tomdispatch, offers as solid a sense as we are likely to get right now of the outlines of the new Homeland Security State being created within the bounds of the old republic. Let's face it, this is frightening stuff, but too important not to read.
Click on the title to read the whole article.
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Bush's unprecented attacks on African Americans

From James Ridgeway of the Village Voice:
For four years Bush didn't meet with the Congressional Black Caucus and paid no heed to African Americans, except, of course, to repeat the Republican mantra of how terribly concerned we all are and how we just want to include you under the big Republican tent. But yesterday, reinvigorated by his election mandate, Bush called the caucus and fed them a line of bullshit. Arguing that his "reforms," ranging from education to Social Security, will help blacks, he offered an insulting cliché: "Civil rights is a good education. Civil rights is opportunity. Civil rights is home ownership. Civil rights is owning your own business. Civil rights is making sure all aspects of our society are open for everybody." When you get past the rhetoric, Bush's ownership society amounts to an unprecedented attack on black people.
Social Security reform that turns over substantial hunks of a person's account to Wall Street, where the vicissitudes of the marketplace can yo-yo it up and down, is little help to anyone, let alone blacks. The only source of retirement for 40 percent of all African Americans is Social Security, according to Melvin Watt, a Democratic rep from North Carolina. Without it, poverty rates among blacks would double.
The American Journal of Public Health reported in December that 886,000 more blacks died between 1991 and 2000 than would have died had equal health care been provided. The health of minorities, many of whom live in poor industrial brownfields, can only get worse if Congress passes Bush's "Clear Skies" clean-air legislation, which promises a 70 percent reduction in sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, and mercury emissions by 2018.
Members of the Black Caucus point out that Bush wants to cut Medicaid. "That would be disastrous for my state," said Tennessee congressman Harold E. Ford, Jr. Blacks are particularly hard-hit in rural areas, which face more cuts in social-welfare programs and dwindling access to health care. According to Mississippi congressman Bennie Thompson, insurance companies don't want to insure doctors in medically underserved areas. "And when you tie in blacks in [rural] areas, the disparities go off the charts."

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Safe, Legal, and Never

William Saletan of Slate Magazine argues that Hillary Clinton gave a highly effective speech last week that helps reposition the Democratic Party to win the "abortion war." Highlights:
Clinton's speech began by talking about Romania and China, two regimes that in the last two decades forced women to abort (in China's case) or not to abort (in Romania's case). Bush says he's liberating women around the world; Clinton said Bush is repressing them with a "global gag rule" against internationally funded family planning. What China and Romania illustrate is the ugly mechanics of turning anti-abortion morality into law. Clinton said: "With all of this talk about freedom as the defining goal of America, let's not forget the importance of the freedom of women to make the choices that are consistent with their faith and their sense of responsibility to their family and themselves."
Note the concluding words: faith, responsibility, family. This is the other side of Clinton's message: against the ugliness of state control, she wants to raise the banner of morality as well as freedom. Abortion is "a sad, even tragic choice to many, many women...There is no reason why government cannot do more to educate and inform and provide assistance so that the choice guaranteed under our constitution either does not ever have to be exercised or only in very rare circumstances."
Safe, legal, and never.
Once you embrace that truth--that the ideal number of abortions is zero--voters open their ears.
They listen when you point out, as Clinton did, that the abortion rate fell drastically during her husband's presidency but has risen in more states than it has fallen under George W. Bush. I'm sure these trends have more to do with economics than morals, but that's the point. Once we agree that the goal is zero, we can stop asking which party yaps more about fighting abortion and start asking which party gets results.
Admit the goal is zero, and people will rethink birth control.
Clinton says we can cut the abortion rate through sex education, money for family planning, and requiring health insurers to cover contraceptives. What's your plan, Bush? Ban abortion and monitor everyone's womb like Romania did? Or ban it and look the other way while the pregnancies go on and the quacks take over?
This is the way to shake up the Democratic position on abortion--not with tiny defensive concessions but with a big offensive to promote responsibility and bring down the abortion rate.
A message of responsibility allows Democrats to turn the moral tables on the GOP.
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1/27/2005

Bill O'Liely and the Weirdly Tanned Guy

I assume that if you're reading this blog, you probably have some reservations about Bill O'Reilly's integrity. Well, here he goes again, this time with Barbara Boxer in his sights:
Apparently she has a soft spot for brutalizing senior citizens.
"O'REILLY: She sponsored a bill, the Aviation Security Act, where they shake you down to get on a plane. She likes that. 'Let's shake everybody down. Let's get granny, turn her upside down and hold her by the ankles.' She's big on that. So, she was the sponsor of that. Next time you go in and some pinhead grabs your crotch, thank Barbara Boxer for that. Okay?"
As Media Matters points out, Ernest "Fritz" Hollings, the former Democratic senator from South Carolina, was the lead sponsor and putative author of the Aviation and Transportation Security Act, while Boxer was merely one of 30 cosponsors of the bill -- a list also comprising numerous Republicans, including Sen. John Warner of Virginia, Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas, and Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska.

And for those of you who think something is wrong with Brian Williams besides that weird orange tan, you're right: He's a Rush fan. Says he listens to him almost every day. In an interview with C-SPAN:
"Rush said to millions of Americans, you have a home. Come with me. For three hours a day you can listen and hear the likeminded calling in from across the country and I'll read to you things perhaps you didn't see that are out there. I think Rush gave birth to the Fox news channel. I think Rush helped to give birth to a movement. I think he played his part in the contract with America. So I hope he gets his due as a broadcaster."
Cowardly little weenie, isn't he?
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More ethically challenged right wing commentators

From Salon's "Right Hook" column:
William Kristol, editor of the conservative flagship the Weekly Standard, had nothing but high praise for President Bush's high-flying inaugural speech. "Informed by Strauss and inspired by Paine, appealing to Lincoln and alluding to Truman, beginning with the Constitution and ending with the Declaration, with Biblical phrases echoing throughout -- George W. Bush's Second Inaugural was a powerful and subtle speech," Kristol pronounced. "It will also prove to be a historic speech. Less than three and a half years after 9/11, Bush's Second Inaugural moves American foreign policy beyond the war on terror to the larger struggle against tyranny."
It appears Kristol was pleased with his own handiwork -- he helped put the speech together. From the Washington Post:
"The planning of Bush's second inaugural address began a few days after the Nov. 2 election with the president telling advisers he wanted a speech about 'freedom' and 'liberty.' That led to the broadly ambitious speech that has ignited a vigorous debate. The process included consultation with a number of outside experts, Kristol among them."
Both Kristol and columnist Charles Krauthammer -- who also served as a consultant -- appeared on Fox News Channel's live Inauguration Day coverage and praised the address ("revolutionary," Krauthammer dubbed it), without disclosing their roles in its inception.
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For people of faith who are really, really angry...

Robin Meyers, a UCC pastor in Oklahoma City, courageously speaks out (thanks to a reader for this excellent speech):

Tonight, I join ranks of those who are angry, because I have watched as the faith I love has been taken over by fundamentalists who claim to speak for Jesus, but whose actions are anything but Christian. We've heard a lot lately about so-called "moral values" as having swung the election to President Bush.  Well, I'm a great believer in moral values, but we need to have a discussion, all over this country, about exactly what constitutes a moral value -- I mean what are we talking about? Because we don't get to make them up as we go along, especially not if we are people of faith. We have an inherited tradition of what is right and wrong, and moral is as moral does. Let me give you just a few of the reasons why I take issue with those in power who claim moral values are on their side:

-- When you start a war on false pretenses, and then act as if your deceptions are justified because you are doing God's will, and that your critics are either unpatriotic or lacking in faith, there are some of us who have given our lives to teaching and preaching the faith who believe that this is not only not moral, but immoral.
-- When you claim that Jesus is the Lord of your life, and yet fail to acknowledge that your policies ignore his essential teaching, or turn them on their head (you know, Sermon on the Mount stuff like that we must never return violence for violence and that those who live by the sword will die by the sword), you are doing something immoral.
-- When you act as if the lives of Iraqi civilians are not as important as the lives of American soldiers, and refuse to even count them, you are doing something immoral.
-- When you ignore the fundamental teachings of the gospel, which says that the way the strong treat the weak is the ultimate ethical test, by giving tax breaks to the wealthiest among us so the strong will get stronger and the weak will get weaker, you are doing something immoral.
-- When you wink at the torture of prisoners, and deprive so-called "enemy combatants" of the rules of the Geneva convention, which your own country helped to establish and insists that other countries follow, you are doing something immoral.
-- When you claim that the world can be divided up into the good guys and the evil doers, slice up your own nation into those who are with you, or with the terrorists -- and then launch a war which enriches your own friends and seizes control of the oil to which we are addicted, instead of helping us to kick the habit, you are doing something immoral.
-- When you use hatred of homosexuals as a wedge issue to turn out record numbers of evangelical voters, and use the Constitution as a tool of discrimination, you are doing something immoral.
-- When you favor the death penalty, and yet claim to be a follower of Jesus, who said an eye for an eye was the old way, not the way of the kingdom, you are doing something immoral.
-- When you dismantle countless environmental laws designed to protect the earth which is God's gift to us all, so that the corporations that bought you and paid for your favors will make higher profits while our children breathe dirty air and live in a toxic world, you have done something immoral. The earth belongs to the Lord, not Halliburton.
-- When you claim that our God is bigger than their God, and that our killing is righteous, while theirs is evil, we have begun to resemble the enemy we claim to be fighting, and that is immoral. We have met the enemy, and the enemy is us.
-- When you tell people that you intend to run and govern as a "compassionate conservative," using the word which is the essence of all religious faith-compassion, and then show no compassion for anyone who disagrees with you, and no patience with those who cry to you for help, you are doing something immoral.
-- When you talk about Jesus constantly, who was a healer of the sick, but do nothing to make sure that anyone who is sick can go to see a doctor, even if she doesn't have a penny in her pocket, you are doing something immoral.
-- When you put judges on the bench who are racist, and will set women back a hundred years, and when you surround yourself with preachers who say gays ought to be killed, you are doing something immoral.

I'm tired of people thinking that because I'm a Christian, I must be a supporter of President Bush, or that because I favor civil rights and gay rights I must not be a person of faith. I'm tired of people saying that I can't support the troops but oppose the war...This war is wrong--the only question is how many people are going to die before these make-believe Christians are removed from power? This country is bankrupt. The war is morally bankrupt. The claim of this administration to be Christian is bankrupt. The only people who can turn things around are people like you--young people who are just beginning to wake up to what is happening to them.  It's your country to take back.  It's your faith to take back.  It's your future to take back.
Don't be afraid to speak out.  Don't back down when your friends begin to tell you that the cause is righteous and that the flag should be wrapped around the cross, while the rest of us keep our mouths shut.  Real Christians take chances for peace.  So do real Jews, and real Muslims, and real Hindus, and real Buddhists--so do all the faith traditions of the world at their heart believe one thing: life is precious.  Every human being is precious.  Arrogance is the opposite of faith.  Greed is the opposite of charity.  And believing that one has never made a mistake is the mark of a deluded man, not a man of faith.
And war -- war is the greatest failure of the human race -- and thus the greatest failure of faith.
And what is the dream of the prophets?  That we should study war no more, that we should beat our swords into plowshares and our spears into pruning hooks. Who would Jesus bomb, indeed?  How many wars does it take to know that too many people have died?  What if they gave a war and nobody came?  Maybe one day we will find out.
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Hope for the future

Cool story about a group of Boulder High students who organized a "slumber party" at their school, with the blessing of the principal, to protest W's reelection and the Iraq war.
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A little humor

A blog reader passed along this wisecrack from her dad:
"They keep talking about drafting a constitution for Iraq. Why don't we just give them ours? It was written by a lot of really smart guys, it's worked for over 200 years, and we're not using it anymore."
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1/26/2005

Seymour Hersh speech: US being taken over by a "cult"

I can't even begin to summarize this. It is so damn good - read the whole thing if you can. Hersh recently gave a speech at a synagogue in NYC. The gloves totally came off.
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Principled Opposition from the Senate Democrats

A great post on Daily Kos today about the fact that all 8 Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee voted against confirming Alberto Gonzales as Attorney General:
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid seems to be setting things up to go after what I believe is one of the most disturbing facts about Alberto Gonzales, namely his advocacy of policies consistent with tyranny.  
Think about it: Gonzales' legal briefs arguing that Presidential statements shielding torturers from arrest imply that the President is above the law, or that the President himself IS the law; that sovereignty and law emanate from him. The founding fathers, having read their Paine and Montesquieu, knew that tyranny had to be resisted or prevented by countervailing power within the body politic and the government. Of course, with the current composition of Congress, there's little chance that the Democrats can directly prevent Bush and the Republicans from achieving their goals.
Although Gonzales will be confirmed, Reid and the Democrats are doing the right thing and will probably achieve two small but imporatant success from the proceedings. Under the Constitution, only Congress can write laws, and it's not the prerogative of the President to abide by only those laws he finds acceptable. It's clear that Bush would like to ignore laws he finds inconvenient or constraining, and he stocks his retinue with people who indulge his desires. But by drawing out the confirmation process to draw attention to Gonzales' key role in justifying the repudiation of the rule of law in favor of Presidential diktat, Reid and the Senate Democrats are not only doing a service to fellow Democrats who desire a muscular opposition party willing to inflict wounds on their partisan adversaries. Reid and the Senate Democrats are serving the interests of the entire country by upholding the Senate's responsibility to exercise its power and liberty to approve or reject the nominations of the executive. Democrats should be proud, and everyone opposed to tyranny should be thankful.
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Ted Turner tees off on...everything

Some choice comments by Ted Turner, keynote speaker at the National Association of TV Broadcasting Executives' annual meeting:
On Fox News: While Fox may be the largest news network [and has overtaken Turner's CNN], it's not the best, Turner said. He followed up by pointing out that Adolph Hitler got the most votes when he was elected to run Germany prior to WWII. He said the network is the propaganda tool for the Bush Administration. "There's nothing wrong with that. It's certainly legal. But it does pose problems for our democracy. Particularly when the news is dumbed down," leaving voters without critical information on politics and world events and overloaded with fluff," he said.
On media consolidation:"The consolidation has made it almost impossible for an independent. It's virtually impossible to start a cable network." Broadcasters and programmers "don't want more independent voices out there. They own everything. That's why I went into the restaurant business. Either that or I'd work for a salary for one of the big jerks.
The war in Iraq: "We've spent 200 billion destroying Iraq. Now we've got to spend 200 billion to rebuild it, if they'll let us -- and all to find a nut in a fox hole -- one guy," Turner said. "He posed no threat to any of his neighbors, particularly with us there with overwhelming military superiority. It is obscene and stupid."
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Boxer Rebellion

Some great butt-kicking from Senator Barbara Boxer, according to John Nichols of The Nation:
Give Barbara Boxer credit for sparking the most engaged debate that the Senate has yet seen over the Bush Administration lies that led the United States into the quagmire that is Iraq...Yes, of course, Rice's confirmation was certain...But Rice's road to Foggy Bottom proved to be far rockier than had been expected. Tuesday's Senate debate on her nomination was one of the most charged that the chamber has seen in recent years, and while Rice survived, she did not finish the day unscathed. Senator after Senator rose to recall what Senator Edward Kennedy, D-Massachusetts, described as Rice's "false reasons" for going to war, and to charge, as Kennedy did, that had Rice told the truth "it might have changed the course of history."
Some great excerpts from Boxer's comments:
"I will...not shrink from questioning a war that was not built on truth."
"Perhaps the most well known statement you have made was the one about Saddam Hussein launching a nuclear weapon on America, with the image of a 'mushroom cloud.' That image had to frighten every American into believing that Saddam Hussein was on the verge of annihilating them if he was not stopped...I will be placing into the record a number of other such statements which have not been consistent with the facts nor the truth."
"This war was sold to the American people like a new product. You rolled out the idea and then you had to convince the people, and as you made your case, I personally believe that your loyalty to the mission you were given overwhelmed your respect for the truth. That was a great disservice to the American people. But worse than that, our young men and women are dying. So far, 1,366 American troops have been killed in Iraq. More than 25 percent of those troops were from California. More than 10,372 have been wounded."
Although Rice whined that Boxer was "impugning her integrity," Rice's problem was that she had done this to herself. All Boxer did was bring Rice's deceptions to light and, perhaps most significantly, to link them to the continuing crisis in Iraq. In so doing, she shamed a number of her fellow Democrats into joining her in opposition not just to Rice but to the Administration's entire approach to the war.
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The World's Dispensable Nation

Michael Lind has a powerful commentary piece in today's Financial Times (London) that discusses the emerging "global rejectionism" of American policy, with many examples of the decreasing leadership role of the US in key global issues. Lind writes that the US has become the world's dispensable nation, while "the rest of the world is building institutions and alliances that shut out the US...Given Bush's belligerence, the world really had two options -- prostrate itself before the American juggernaut and let itself be dominated by a self-serving, might-is-right, administration (and one now ratified by the US voters), or it could build international institutions to offset American power. Given the options, the choice was obvious. The results will haunt the US for decades to come...In a second inaugural address tinged with evangelical zeal, George W. Bush declared, 'Today, America speaks anew to the peoples of the world.' The peoples of the world, however, do not seem to be listening. A new world order is indeed emerging - but its architecture is being drafted in Asia and Europe, at meetings to which Americans have not been invited."
He asks readers to consider the Asean Plus Three (APT) trade organization, the recent moves by South American countries to bolster an economic community, the EU's rapid progress toward military independence, the EU's developing its own satellite network (with China's participation) to break the monopoly of the US global positioning satellite system, the plans for joint Russo-Chinese military exercises. The US is being sidelined even in the area that Bush identified in his inaugural address as America's mission: the promotion of democracy and human rights.
Lind says: "It is true that the US remains the only country capable of projecting military power throughout the world. But unipolarity in the military sphere, narrowly defined, is not preventing the rapid development of multipolarity in the geopolitical and economic arenas -- far from it. And the other great powers are content to let the US waste blood and treasure on its doomed attempt to recreate the post-first world war British imperium in the Middle East."
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Creep

Bush at today's press conference:
REPORTER: I seem to remember a time in Texas on another problem, taxes, where you tried to get out in front and tell people it's not a crisis now, it's going to be a crisis down the line -- you went down in flames on that one. Why --
THE PRESIDENT: Actually, I -- if I might. (Laughter.) I don't think a billion-dollar tax relief that permanently reduced property taxes on senior citizens was "flames," but since you weren't a senior citizen, perhaps that's your definition of "flames."
REPORTER: I never got my billion --
THE PRESIDENT: Yes. Because you're not a senior citizen yet. Acting like one, however. Go ahead. (Laughter.)
REPORTER: What is there about government that makes it hard --
THE PRESIDENT: Faulty memory. (Laughter.) Go ahead. (Laughter.)

Terry Moran of ABCNews says Bush was joking about the reporter's poor memory, i.e., this was an Alzheimer's joke, or at best, a senility joke.
I'm sure Nancy Reagan really appreciates this too.
Some other gems:
Bush said he will be direct with Russia's Vladimir Putin when they meet next month in Slovakia. "I will remind him that if he intends to continue to look West, we in the West believe in Western values."
Bush said he is leading the United States toward an honorable goal in Iraq and across the world. "I firmly planted the flag of liberty," he said.
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Dr. and Mrs. Evil visit Auschwitz

And what the hell are they smiling at?
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Affirming a woman's right to choose

From TomPaine.com:
While religion is often used as the basis for a pro-life position, faith can also be the foundation of believing in a woman's right to choice. Recognizing the 32nd anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, the Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice and Healing issued an open letter on "Abortion as a Moral Decision." The letter calls on religious leaders to support the women of their communities no matter what their reproductive decisions may be. In addition, the leaders underscore the need for comprehensive sexuality education, contraception and reproductive health services, and counsel for both those who decide to carry pregnancies to term and those whose make the difficult decision to terminate.
You can read the letter by clicking on the link above.
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"I'm Not A Geologist!"

Chris Mooney of The American Prospect:
Dear President Bush: Americans don't want you to be a geologist. We only want you to talk to geologists when it becomes necessary for your job. In fact, as a general matter, we would prefer in the future that you consult relevant experts before you go before the cameras -- and (this is the tricky part) even before you decide on your policies.
...Unfortunately, Bush’s party has a long tradition of disregarding expertise, which often goes hand-in-hand with putting policy decisions ahead of the science...But if we have four more informationally challenged years ahead of us, there's little doubt that the greatest tensions will arise surrounding global climate change. This scientific, environmental, economic, and international mega-issue won’t go away. Rather, in all likelihood, it will continue to rear its head as more evidence coalesces suggesting that global climate change is caused by humans.
Thus far, the administration's inclination has been to spin or to downplay each new, major study that shows that humans are destabilizing the climate -- frequently by selectively citing remaining scientific uncertainties rather than accepting what scientists know with confidence. But what will the administration do when the fourth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change -- the leading global body charged with weighing the evidence on this issue -- emerges, as scheduled, in 2007? In each of its successive reports so far, the IPCC has grown more confident in the conclusion that humans are partly responsible for rising temperatures. If the fourth assessment also fits this pattern, the Bush administration’s strategy of hyping uncertainties, as a way of ducking the core conclusion from the scientific community, will become still more untenable.
Of course, at the beginning of a new term, perhaps we shouldn't prejudge Bush on science. Maybe the tune will change and the 48 Nobel Laureates who opposed his reelection will simmer down. On the other hand, many of the special interests that thronged Washington for the inaugural bash -- and contributed a heck of a lot of money to it -- will now be seeking special dispensations from the administration, often relating to science-based areas of public policy. If the past provides any indication, they’ll get them.
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"Why Republicans Win"

From Dave Johnson of "Seeing The Forest":
A typical generic blog post written by a Progressive in the last several months would read something like this: "Everyone can sum up the Republican core beliefs in a sentence or two, while Progressives need to search for a candidate who can articulate core Progressive values." Some bloggers might also refer to George Lakoff's "framing" work as a solution to the problem. Not being able to explain your product concept in a sentence is a classic marketing problem, and what these posts show is a budding awareness that Republicans have been outmarketing Democrats. Think about this - if you are in a "red state" area you are told a hundred different ways every day why business is good and government is bad and why unregulated free markets work better than democracy. But you are never told the other side of the story.
The Republicans win because the modern Right has developed around the core idea of persuading people to support their ideology, which then leads to support for their issues and candidates. In other words: marketing. The Right developed this persuasion capability in reaction to the dominance of the existing "liberal establishment." Because of this, most of their organizations are designed as advocacy and communications organizations, with the mission of reaching the general public and explaining what right-wing ideas are and why they are better for people. Today's Progressives, on the other hand, think there already is a public consensus supporting their ideals and values, so they have not developed a culture that is oriented around persuading people, and their organizations are not designed at their core to persuade the public to support them.
For example, everyone used to think that it is moral to help the poor or protect the environment, so there are organizations that are designed to do that. Then along comes the right, funding organizations designed to convince people it is wrong to do these things. The result today is that on one side you have organizations trying to help the poor, protect the environment, etc. On the other you have organizations telling people what those organizations are doing is wrong. But now you have no one explaining to people that it is GOOD to help the poor and protect the environment so over time support for helping the poor obviously will erode and eventually the organizations that help the poor will be in trouble and have little public support.
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"So What?"

Excerpts from a column in Newsday today:
In a week marked by the confirmation hearings of Condoleezza Rice, discussion about the dismantling of Social Security, and the president's second inauguration, the issue at the center of American discourse was the threat of SpongeBob SquarePants.
Two of the most vocal conservative Christian organizations - Focus on the Family and the American Family Association - claimed that SpongeBob SquarePants was being used as a subtle advocate of homosexuality in a video produced for children and intended to promote diversity. What is shocking about this is not that the radical right would stage another assault in America's endless culture war, but that liberals are cowed by such ridiculous tactics.
...When faced with charges that they are promoting tolerance of homosexuality as a valid aspect of American life, would not the better response have been, "Yes ... so what?"
...The issue of importance is, of course, not this particular incident but the increasing impotence of American liberals. The Democratic Party is the clearest example of how progressives in this country have gotten in the habit of reacting to provocations from conservatives rather than rigorously defending a clear set of beliefs. In contrast, the religious right has transformed what was once considered radical into an exemplar of mainstream values by sticking to their agenda. Just try accusing conservative Christians of wanting to outlaw abortion, suppress homosexuality and promote Jesus as the only true savior. What happens? They don't apologize and say that there must be some mistake. They say, "Absolutely."
...American liberals in general and Democrats in particular find themselves in an awkward situation when confronted with homophobic attacks from the right, because many of these supposed friends of the gay community in fact demonstrate only a provisional support for homosexual rights. It is one thing to have gay friends and espouse messages of diversity but, when the going gets rough, few liberals will stand with gay people on principle, regardless of the cost.
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1/24/2005

Announcing...The Ten Worst Corporations of 2004!

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Are the Democrats growing a spine?

Two encouraging developments for Democrats/progressives:
1. As the LeftCoaster blog puts it, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid did something this morning that an opposition party is supposed to do: Senate Democrats stopped playing defense and began playing offense by setting forward an ambitious agenda of their own. In a conference call this morning, Reid’s staff announced their top ten priority bills for the 109th Congress, and they addressed many of the needs accumulated by this country but ignored by the White House and the GOP Congress under Bill Frist and Denny Hastert. The agenda is impressive and includes veterans' rights, health care, education, troop strength, voting reform, support for family planning, Medicare, fiscal responsibility, and a more effective anti-terrorism strategy.
Click on the link in the title of this post to read the whole agenda.
Senator Reid is asking people to co-sponsor this agenda by going to:
http://democrats.senate.gov/cosponsor-form.html
2. According to the Christian Science Monitor, Tuesday's extended debate over the nomination of Condoleezza Rice to be Secretary of State marks the first warning shot of the 109th Congress. Although no one in official Washington doubts that Rice will be confirmed, the delay signals that Senate Democrats, while returning in fewer numbers, still have the clout to derail administration plans, or at least to insist that their concerns be given a fair hearing.
Joe Biden, Barbara Boxer, Barack Obama, and John Kerry, among others, have really been standouts so far in asking tough questions of both Rice and Gonzales.
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1/23/2005

An Israeli perspective on "King George"

From Uri Avnery of Avnery News:
George Bush is a very simple, very violent person with very extreme views, as well as being very much an ignoramus. This is a very dangerous combination. Such people have caused many disasters in human history. It could have been hoped that after the total debacle in Iraq and the less obvious but equally serious failure in Afghanistan, Bush would shrink from more such actions. But as almost always happens with rulers of this type, he cannot admit defeat and stop. On the contrary, failure drives him on to more extremes, vowing, rather like the captain of the Titanic, "to stay the course." There is no way to guess what Bush may perpetrate, now that he has been re-elected by his people. His ego has been blown up to giant proportions, reaffirming what the Greek fabulist Aesop said some 27 centuries ago: "The smaller the mind the greater the conceit." Now the order is "clear the deck for action". On this deck, Bush is a loose cannon, a danger to everyone around. The results of these elections may be viewed by history as a worldwide catastrophe. After four more years of this, America may be a very different country from the one we loved and admired in our youth...A friend of mine asserts that there are two souls residing in the American nation, a good and a bad one. That may be true for every nation, including even Israel and Palestine, but in America it is much more extreme. There is the America of Thomas Jefferson (even if he liberated his slaves only on his death), Abraham Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower, the America of ideals, the Marshall Plan, science and the arts. And there is the America of the genocide perpetrated against the Native Americans, the country of slave traders and the Wild West myth, the America of Hiroshima, of Joe McCarthy, of segregation and of Vietnam, the violent and repressive America. During Bush's second term, this second America may reach new depths of ugliness and brutality. It may offer the whole world a model of oppression. I would not want my country, Israel, to be identified with such an America. Any advantage we can derive from it may well turn out to be short-term, the damage long-lasting, and perhaps irreversible. One of the advantages of the US constitution is that Bush cannot be re-elected for a third term. As the popular Israeli song goes: "We survived Pharaoh, we shall survive this, too." Perhaps this could become an anthem for the whole world.

 
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Freedom's just another word for...trigger-happy neo-conservatism

From the Sunday Herald of Scotland:
Bush began his second term in office with a ringing encomium about the benefits of freedom and democracy and the need not just to uphold these values at home but also to export them to all those countries which share his aspirations.
Under normal circumstances, nobody would quarrel with those sentiments. They underpin the values which brought the US into being in 1776 and they endorse a commonly held belief that it is wrong to allow oppression to flourish and right to seek relief for those who are the victims of persecution. Except, of course, these are not normal circumstances. Bush led his country, and encouraged Britain to follow, into an illegal war against Iraq and there is widespread global distrust about the US’s increasingly reckless unilateralist policies. If anyone thought that a less focused and more forgiving president would emerge from the inauguration, they will be disappointed.
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Progressives absent from cable TV inaugural coverage

Media Matters for America inventoried all guests who appeared on FOX News, CNN, and MSNBC during the inauguration coverage. Republican and conservative guests and commentators outnumbered Democrats and progressives 19 to 7 on FOX, 10 to 1 on CNN, and 13 to 2 on MSNBC. Moreover, the rare Democrat or progressive guest usually appeared opposite conservatives, whereas most Republican and conservative guests and commentators appeared solo or alongside fellow conservatives.
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Losing the War?

Knight-Ridder has done its own investigation of the US military operation in Iraq. Its conclusions:
The United States is steadily losing ground to the Iraqi insurgency, according to every key military yardstick. Its analysis of U.S. government statistics shows that through all the major turning points that raised hopes of peace in Iraq, including the arrest of Saddam Hussein and the handover of sovereignty at the end of June, the insurgency, led mainly by Sunni Muslims, has become deadlier and more effective. The analysis suggests that unless something dramatic changes - such as a newfound will by Iraqis to reject the insurgency or a large escalation of U.S. troop strength - the United States won't win the war. It's axiomatic among military thinkers that insurgencies are especially hard to defeat because the insurgents' goal isn't to win in a conventional sense but merely to survive until the will of the occupying power is sapped. Recent polls already suggest an erosion of support among Americans for the war.
The unfavorable trends of the war are clear, including sharp increases in US military fatalities/casualties, attacks on the coalition forces, mass-casualty bombings, and sabotage of electricity and oil production. Most worrisome, the insurgency is getting larger. Gen. Mohammed Abdullah Shahwani, the director of the Iraqi intelligence service, said there are 200,000 insurgents, including at least 40,000 hard-core fighters. The rest, he said, are part-time fighters and supporters who provide food, shelter, funds and intelligence.
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Bob Herbert: Dancing the War Away

In today's NY Times, he writes:
Times have changed. President Bush and his equally tone-deaf supporters spent the past few days partying hard while Americans, Iraqis and others continued to suffer and die in the Iraq conflagration. Nothing was too good for the princes and princesses of the new American plutocracy. Tens of millions of dollars were spent on fireworks, cocktail receptions, gala dinners and sumptuous balls. As the well-heeled Bush crowd was laughing and dancing in tuxedos and designer gowns, the situation in Iraq was deteriorating to new levels of horror...The disconnect between the over-the-top celebrations in Washington and the hideous reality of Iraq does not in any way surprise me. It's exactly what we should expect from the president and his supporters, who seem always to exist in a fantasy realm far removed from such ugly realities as war and suffering. In that realm you can start wars without having to deal with the consequences of them. You don't even have to pay for them. You can put them on a credit card.
People traveling in the real world may see Iraq as a place where bombings, kidnappings and assassinations are an integral part of daily life; where police officers are blown to pieces as they line up for their pay; where innocent men, women and children are slain by the thousands for no good reason; where cities like Falluja are leveled in order to save them; where America's overwhelming superiority in firepower has not been enough to win the war; and where the upcoming elections seem very much like a joke since many of the candidates have to keep their identities secret and the locations of many polling places remain undisclosed. People traveling in the real world may see Iraq that way. But in the fantasy-laden Bush realm, Iraq is a place where freedom is on the march. So why not raise a toast to freedom, and dance the night away.

 
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America "Celebrates"

Thanks to a reader who sent me this link to photos of the thousands of protesters who lined the streets of DC for the coronation of W. You may not see these folks on CNN, but they had a massive presence.
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Torture Takes a TV Holiday

Frank Rich in the NY Times (registration required) points out that, due to a combination of politics, lack of new pictures, and paranoia about the FCC's "indecency" policy, TV news enables the American people to look the other way rather than confront the evil committed in our name in a prison we "liberated" from Saddam Hussein in Iraq, as well as our government's cover up of war crimes. The torture story has all but vanished from television, even as there have been continued revelations in the major newspapers and magazines like The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books and Vanity Fair. If a story isn't on TV in America, it doesn't exist in our culture. While the ringleader of the abuses deserved everything that was coming to him and then some, there have yet to be any criminal charges leveled against any of the prison's officers, let alone anyone higher up in the chain of command. Nor are there likely to be any, given how little information about this story makes it to the truly mass commercial media. What information does surface is usually so incomplete or perfunctorily presented that it leaves unchallenged the administration's line that, in President Bush's words, the story involves just "a few American troops" on the night shift.
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Eve of Destruction

Rick Perlstein of The Village Voice nails it on the plans of the Bush Regime. The highlights:
You might wonder – were you someone unfamiliar with or in denial about the ways of the Karl Rove Mafia – how George W. Bush could blunder into nominating someone as attorney general so obviously implicated in the most legally questionable and morally indefensible practices of his administration. You might wonder, too, how the administration seemed to be caught unawares by the bottomless pit of scandal in the past of its initial nominee for Homeland Security secretary.
Or you could realize that such nominations were not blunders, but intentional: that they were made not in spite of Alberto Gonzales' and Bernard Kerik's unsuitability for high office but precisely because of them. Keeping embarrassing facts on file about confederates is the best way to grip them into loyalty like a vise. Forcing a guy who knows he's dirty but knows his bosses are dirtier to sweat out a congressional hearing is a perfect way to test his loyalty. It's also a great way to test Congress's mettle – to probe just how atrophied the opposition party's willingness to oppose has become. What's more, once you've got them through the ordeal, you've stockpiled one more scapegoat to toss into the fire in case Congress ever gets hot on the trail of the higher-ups who issued the orders. Then there's the implicit dare: Go ahead, Democrats, make our day. Vote against them. Then we can show you up as the obstructionists to America's national security you are.
Mr. and Mrs. America and all the ships at sea, welcome to the Next Four Years: to George Walker Bush's revolutionary second term, where nothing is done by accident, and no sin can be too brazen.
Social Security established a principle unacceptable to many Republicans: that government economic programs help people, and can become wildly popular. When someone like Eliot Spitzer uncovers a major corporate scandal, a Republican will be able to say, 'He's attacking your retirement fund.' When the employees of a company try to unionize, a Republican will be able to say, 'They are attacking your retirement fund.' When a community refuses to let a Wal-Mart build in their neighborhood, a Republican will be able to say, 'They're attacking your retirement fund.' Environmental regulations will be framed as an attack on your retirement fund. Liability law, too. Corporate taxes, certainly. People will presume it is in their interest for the companies in which they hold a temporary position to goose their stock no matter the long-term cost to the corporation, to our institutions, to society as a whole.
Breaking Social Security is central to passing Bush's "tax reforms," which will remove taxes on investment income and shift the tax burden to wage earners who can't afford to save any money – thereby creating newly outraged tax-hating constituencies bent on decimating government's legitimacy yet further.
That's just how the Bushies do things: They plan. Every action is calculated to set in motion a cascade of consequences, to change the world. Whatever the United States does to preserve its interest is always already "peaceful," even when it requires war, is always already "democratic," even when it requires installing governments by fiat, is always already selfless, even as it establishes only two categories of states, those who cooperate and those who do not, in a situation of crisis defined unilaterally and whose time horizon stretches to infinity.
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SpongeBush SquarePants

Great NYT Maureen Dowd column today:
We can only hope that Dr. Dobson doesn't pick up on the resemblance. SpongeBob, as his song goes, "lives in a pineapple under the sea/absorbent and yellow and porous is he!" SpongeBush lives in a bubble in D.C./absorbent and shallow and porous is he!
SpongeBush ensnared the country in a whale of a mess in Iraq because he guilelessly absorbed the neocons' dire warnings about Saddam's weapons capabilities and their rosy assumptions about Ahmad Chalabi's leadership capabilities.
Dick Cheney is a gruff Mr. Krabs taskmaster to SpongeBush, but SpongeBush is crazy about him anyhow. W. trustingly let his vice president make the worst-case scenario about Iraq a first-case scenario.
Mr. Bush might have thought he was just blowing pretty bubbles full of lofty ideals about freedom and liberty in his speech, but Mr. Cheney and the neocons seem intent on filleting Iran and Syria. (Doesn't Richard Perle remind you of the snarky and pretentious next-door neighbor to SpongeBob, Squidward Tentacles?)
The difference between SpongeBob and Sponge Bush?
Even if he's a little light in the flippers, SpongeBob has brought children good, clean fun. SpongeBush has brought the world dark, endless fights.
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Inaugural BushWorld

Joe Conason of Salon.com writes about the inaugural address:
The Iraqis, if they were listening, must have wondered what Bush was celebrating, aside from his own electoral victory. They have been learning the hard way that liberty is meaningless without security. Leaving aside the false premises the president cited in going to war against Iraq, his administration's incompetence has created an environment in that country closer to anarchy than freedom. He might at least have acknowledged the Iraqis' intense suffering and the enormous price they have paid for his mistakes. Instead he merely flattered his American audience for its "patience"...There was something quite unreal in the president's message to the rest of the world. When he spoke of America's opposition to tyranny and commitment to democratic reform everywhere, he wasn't talking about China, Russia, Saudi Arabia or Pakistan, where realpolitik has consistently undermined libertarian principle. He issued his blustery warning to "outlaw regimes," a category that includes small and isolated targets such as North Korea, Iran, Myanmar and Cuba...And his effort to link his worldwide crusade with his campaign to dismantle Social Security is almost too silly and bizarre to refute. How that would serve the "broader definition of liberty" he has yet to explain in detail.

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The Fog of Phony War

David Corn of "The Nation" writes in TomPaine.com:
There are weeks when I detest our political-media culture. And this is such a week. When Bill Clinton was faced with incontrovertible evidence that he had misled his family, his friends and the public about his bizarre affair with Monica Lewinsky—that is, semen stains on a blue dress—he had to face the music. He conceded he had acted improperly and had lied about his scandalous behavior. The shouting-heads on the left and the right then only had to argue over the consequences of Clinton's misconduct and the suitable punishment. When George W. Bush has been confronted with evidence that everything—yes, everything—he said before the war about Iraq's WMDs was absolutely false, he has refused to acknowledge that he peddled misinformation (or disinformation). He just keeps on dancing. And many in the media have enabled his sidestepping. While the debate over Bush's use—or abuse—of the WMD argument for war in Iraq should be over and done with, the White House and its allies in the media refuse to admit the undeniable. It's no surrender, no retreat. If they don't stop arguing the point, then they do not have to accept responsibility.
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Progressive Majority's Agenda

For the 2004 election, Progressive Majority  built a "farm team" of 100 progressives to run for public office. They are recruiting, training and electing the next generation of "Paul Wellstones" who will champion a progressive agenda, engage people in politics and win elections—even in tough states. For example, in Washington State, Progressive Majority made it their number-one political goal to shift control of the State Senate—and they did. They held their ground in Wisconsin even though conservatives turned out in record numbers. And they elected two new progressive stars to the Pennsylvania legislature as part of their long-term strategy for taking that state back for progressives. In all, 41 of their candidates won election, and 33 who lost will continue in their program. Check out their website.
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The Restoration of a Myth, by Gary Hart

TomPaine.com has an article by Gary Hart, who argues that "George W. Bush's election was a victory for the grandchildren of the enemies of FDR...Gary Hart looks at their agenda—to return America to the 1920s—and marvels at their mythmaking: populist privatization, a Christian judiciary and idealism by force. All three run deeply counter to the dominant trends of American history, leading Hart to wonder how history will correct Bush's hubris."
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