ASHCROFT DIGS UP ANCIENT LAW
TO PROSECUTE GREENPEACE
Last year, two Greenpeace activists climbed aboard a ship carrying Amazon mahogany wood. They held a banner that said "President Bush: Stop Illegal Logging."
Instead of halting the shipment, the government is prosecuting Greenpeace in federal court in Miami. It has charged Greenpeace under an obscure 19th-century law never intended for this purpose. A trial is now set for December.
Leading legal experts, quoted in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and publications around the world, agree that this prosecution is disturbing and poses a threat to free speech.
Needless to say, instead of relentlessly pursuing terrorists, US Attorney General John Ashcroft has a better idea: squander tax dollars in a crusade against bong sellers and hippy environmentalists. I feel safer already.
Damed evil hippies. Click here for more.
Take that, Maynard G. Krebs!
Friday, October 31, 2003
ASHCROFT DIGS UP ANCIENT LAW
Posted by Ron at 11:56 PM
Thursday, October 30, 2003
Arsonist Burns Peace Activists' Home
From the Progressive:
"People would come by at night every few weeks or so and break our sign up," she says. "And one time last spring we had eggs tossed against our house," which is a few blocks from campus.
To spare the sign, they decided to bring it up on their porch.
"About two months ago, I attached it to a wood column on the porch, thinking it might be less offensive and more out of the way. I calculated badly on that one," says Nickels, who teaches Spanish in a local middle school.
Nickels says the final sign they had on their porch read:
"8,109 Iraqi civilians.
6,000-plus U.S. wounded.
345 U.S. and British soldiers."
At 4:50 a.m. on October 20, Hunter and Nickels were asleep. So were their three children, ages 7, 8, and 11. And so was Adama Sow, a 30-year-old refugee from Mauritania, who was living upstairs.
"Our smoke alarm went off, and my husband I got out of bed and saw smoke and got the kids out and our roommate out," Hunter says. "It was immediately clear to me that the sign had burned because the only fire you could see was on the right front of the house where the sign used to be."
This kind of bullshit isn't over yet, apparently.
Posted by Ron at 11:24 PM
THE MILITARY, INDUSTRIAL,
AND ENTERTAINMENT COMPLEX
Politics and Entertainment
There is no objective, independent scientific evidence to show that the populace prefers entertainment to reality. At the same time, dominant media's treatment of "reality" encourages mass withdrawal from democracy and the public sphere by making political and public life practically unintelligible. Reflecting a rigid elite consensus on how issues are to be framed and topics chosen, mainstream news is stuck within a narrow ideological spectrum that mandates biased, confusing, and uninspiring coverage. It is forbidden to tell the population what is really going on at home and abroad, making it exceedingly difficult for harried, time-squeezed ordinary people to determine whether or not Iraq really had "weapons of mass destruction" (forgetting of course that Uncle Sam possesses more WMD than any nation in history) or why the US (the supposed beacon of global freedom) has the highest incarceration in the world (to give two among countless possible examples) without undertaking their own exhausting independent research projects. Under the at-once Orwellian and Huxlean (Aldous Huxley's Brave New World depicted a nightmarish future in which totalitarian elites entertained the masses to political death) power of the dominant media corporations, current events are presented in a chaotic, de-contextualized, uninspiring (the heroic rebellion of the workers and peasants of Bolivia cannot be presented in a serious and justly favorable light), fatalistic/determinist (how many times were we told that Bush's attack on Iraq was "inevitable" even as the majority of the world's population opposed American "war" plans?) and power-worshipping fashion that seems calculated to send us all running to sit-coms, personal finance gurus, the World Wrestling Federation (WWF), Dr. Phil and/or the local psychiatric and related pharmaceutical authorities. At least MTV, WWF, the sit-coms and the movie channels are openly fictitious and contrived, making no pretense of doing anything other than putting us to moral, intellectual and political sleep.
It's not that television sucks (although it does suck bigtime); rather it's that television, movies, and popular music are sucking away the nation's attention from extremely important issues. This is not a problem that can easily be dismissed with "it's only a TV show" rhetoric. Our country is literally amusing itself to death, and it's not by accident.
For more, click here.
Posted by Ron at 10:55 PM
Wednesday, October 29, 2003
TWO GOOD ESSAYS FROM THE HOUSTON CHRONICLE
What the hell?
Attack on consumer reporting, First Amendment
For many years people have had the opportunity to read independent evaluations in publications such as Consumer Reports regarding the safety and value of cars and other products. While consumers might disagree with some evaluations, the reports generally have proved useful to shoppers trying to decide which brand or model to buy.
But independent consumer reports could become things of the past due to a ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in California. Unless reversed by the U.S. Supreme Court, the ruling opens the way for corporations and businesses to put a freeze on independent consumer reporting through threats of multimillion-dollar lawsuits that claim bias or actual malice on the part of the reporting organization.
truth is first casualty in intelligence reviews
If the CIA reports on Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction and his nuclear capability were unfounded, then the president's primary pretext for going to war also lacked foundation. If the CIA's nuanced analysis was wrong and irresponsible, then the unshaded, loudly proclaimed intelligence independently gathered by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his Pentagon aides was even further from the mark.
Posted by Ron at 11:57 PM
POLITICAL LINGUISTICS LESSON II
Courtesy of Eschaton, the Hullabaloo blog comments on yesterday's interview with UC Berkely linguistics professor George Lakoff:
Schwarzenegger’s campaign rested solely on his scripted action-hero persona. In fact, this may be the first election in which all pretense of substance was completely abandoned in favor of purely manufactured Hollywood symbolism. The “crisis” that precipitated the recall wasn’t real, the ensuing voter “anger” wasn’t real and the winning candidate wasn’t real. The entire narrative was scripted as a loose form reality TV show in which the drama was pushed and prodded by the “producers” even though the outcome wasn’t preordained. It was “real” in the same way that “Survivor” is real.
As Lakoff rightly points out, this stuff is important and the Democrats are just not getting with the program. The other side is doing it with a tremendous amount of sophistication and almost unlimited financial backing. California is the most populated state in the nation and if it can happen here, a Democratic state, it can happen nationally. In fact, in many ways, election 2000 was an early version.
Click here for more.
Posted by Ron at 11:52 PM
Tuesday, October 28, 2003
POLITICAL LINGUISTICS LESSON
how conservatives use language to dominate politics
From part one of an interview with UC Berkely linguistics professor George Lakoff:
How does language influence the terms of political debate?
Language always comes with what is called "framing." Every word is defined relative to a conceptual framework. If you have something like "revolt," that implies a population that is being ruled unfairly, or assumes it is being ruled unfairly, and that they are throwing off their rulers, which would be considered a good thing. That's a frame.
If you then add the word "voter" in front of "revolt," you get a metaphorical meaning saying that the voters are the oppressed people, the governor is the oppressive ruler, that they have ousted him and this is a good thing and all things are good now. All of that comes up when you see a headline like "voter revolt" — something that most people read and never notice. But these things can be affected by reporters and very often, by the campaign people themselves.
Click here for more.
From part two:
What about the phrase "free market"? Is that an example of framing?
Yes, but one that's so deeply embedded that it's difficult at first to see how. You have to start with the metaphor that the market is a force of nature, which comes from [the economist] Adam Smith, who says that if everybody pursues their own profit, then the profit of all will be maximized by the "invisible hand" — by which he means nature. There is also a metaphor that well-being is wealth. If I do you a favor, therefore making things better for you, then you say, "How can I ever repay you? I'm in your debt." It's as if I'd given you money. We understand our well-being as wealth.
Combine them, and you get the conservatives' version that says if everybody pursues their own well-being, the well-being of all will be maximized by nature. They have the metaphorical notion of a free market even in their child-rearing system. It's not just an economic theory; it's a moral theory. When you discipline your children, they get internal discipline to become self-reliant, which means they can pursue their self-interest and get along in a difficult world. Conservatives even have a word for people who are not pursuing their self interest. They're called "do-gooders," and they get in the way of people who are pursuing their self-interest.
Click here for the rest.
I remember a professor I had at UT when I was studying RTF lecturing about the concept of "cultural hegemony." That is, rule through the concept of "the way things are is because that's the way things are." So much of our political, cultural, and artistic landscape goes completely unquestioned by the vast majority of American citizens that when someone does dare to question the conventional wisdom, he's generally seen as stupid or crazy. Six months ago, people who opposed the invasion of Iraq were called America-haters. Now things are a bit different, but rank and file citizens who were so sure that the US was doing the right thing do not yet seem to have realized how absolutely wrong they were then. "Cultural hegemony" is strong medicine, indeed. Until liberals and progressives start emulating their conservative counterparts by both subtly and bluntly manipulating the conventional wisdom, we will live in a backward-ass right-wing USA.
Good luck, left wing.
Thanks to Eschaton for the links.
Posted by Ron at 11:01 PM
Monday, October 27, 2003
RAPID ESCALATION OF DEATH IN IRAQ
From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:
A team of suicide car bombers, bent on death for "collaborators," devastated the Red Cross headquarters and three police stations today, killing three dozen people and wounding more than 200 in the bloodiest day in Baghdad since the start of the U.S. occupation.
From north to south in this city of 5 million, the explosions over a 45-minute period left streetscapes of broken bodies, twisted wreckage and Iraqis unnerved by an escalating underground war. The dead included a U.S. soldier, eight Iraqi policemen and at least 26 Iraqi civilians.
"We feel helpless when see this," said an Iraqi doctor.
Iraqi and U.S. authorities in Baghdad blamed the coordinated quadruple blasts on foreign fighters intent on targeting those they accuse of collaborating with U.S. forces. One captive would-be bomber was said to carry a Syrian passport.
But in Washington, Pentagon officials said they believed loyalists of ousted President Saddam Hussein were responsible. President Bush said insurgents had become more "desperate" because of what he said was progress in Iraq.
The tactics suggested a level of organization that U.S. officials had doubted the resistance possessed. In past weeks, bombers have carried out heavy suicide bombings but in single strikes.
Click here for more.
So why the hell are US forces still in Iraq, inspiring such carnage? It can't be because they're still looking for those missing WMD's. From the Washington Post via Eschaton:
Search in Iraq Fails to Find Nuclear Threat
According to records made available to The Washington Post and interviews with arms investigators from the United States, Britain and Australia, it did not require a comprehensive survey to find the central assertions of the Bush administration's prewar nuclear case to be insubstantial or untrue. Although Hussein did not relinquish his nuclear ambitions or technical records, investigators said, it is now clear he had no active program to build a weapon, produce its key materials or obtain the technology he needed for either.
Click here for more.
No, it's not about WMD's, at least, not anymore. So what's it really all about? Here's one of the big reasons reported by the Nation:
Big Bucks in Iraq
They say the shock therapy being applied in Iraq will concentrate wealth in the hands of large US and Iraqi corporations, particularly the family-owned businesses that have won the majority of subcontracts from Bechtel and Halliburton. "I like the analogy of Wal-Mart coming into a town," says Timothy Mills, an attorney in the Washington law firm Patton Boggs who represents several US and foreign corporations that have contracted with the US government and are doing business in Iraq. "The downtown dies, Wal-Mart grows and the owners of local businesses are displaced. The effect of Iraq's new foreign investment law for the medium and small-sized Iraqi business could be very detrimental and could result in even more concentration of capital in Iraq." With the US Export-Import Bank providing $500 million to insure US investors, he added, "If I was an Iraqi and I was political, I'd say this was a ploy to favor US companies and let them steal the riches of Iraq." In a similar vein, Fareed Yasseen, an adviser to Adnan Pachachi, a member of the Governing Council, says that the CPA has made its economic plans "completely out of the Iraqi context." He worries that the CPA will sell state-owned assets to cronies of the previous regime and create a "new class of oligarchs" in Iraq. "They haven't taken into account Iraq's reality at all," he says.
Click here for more.
Yeah, that's right. American boys, foreign relief workers, and innocent Iraqi citizens are dying for corporate globalism! What a sickening day it's been...
Posted by Ron at 11:41 PM
Sunday, October 26, 2003
First, a New York Review of Books essay of his new one, The Great Unraveling: Losing Our Way in the New Century:
The Awful Truth
Krugman entered the journalism scene at a moment when most of the big newspapers and networks and the Bush political group were harmoniously telling the same story. The narrative line held that though Clinton may have left the economy in good shape, he was not to be trusted, especially not with other men's wives and daughters, so the nation was now fortunate to enjoy the governance of good, honest, born-again George W. Bush.
Their story line "had it that George W. Bush was dumb but honest," Krugman notes. After September 11 that was no longer good enough for a nation under attack. And so "the new story was that he was a tough-minded hero, all determination and moral clarity," he writes. "The overwhelming evidence that neither of these pictures bore any resemblance to reality was simply brushed aside."
From the beginning Krugman was persuaded that the story presented by press and television was false. He has spent the past three years "providing a picture of the world that differs greatly from the vision of most other mainstream pundits," he writes. "At a time when most pundits were celebrating the bold vision, skill, and moral clarity of our leaders, I saw confusion, ineffectuality, and dishonesty."
I've really got to read this book; it sounds pretty fantastic. Click here for the rest of the review.
Next, some video of a Krugman speech from Book TV:
Description: Paul Krugman discusses his book, "The Great Unraveling," at Harry W. Schwartz Bookshops in Shorewood, Wisconsin. Mr. Krugman explains how he came to be an op-ed writer and comments on some of the pieces included in his book. Specifically, he talks about President Bush's tax cuts, the war in Iraq, the environment, Americans for Tax Reform president Grover Norquist, and House Majority Leader Tom Delay. Mr. Krugman takes questions following his remarks.
Click here to get the video link. I turned it up really loud while I did some chores!
Thanks to Eschaton for the links.
Posted by Ron at 10:52 PM
THE TRUE MEANING OF CONGRESSIONAL REDISTRICTING
Tom DeLay Is One Vicious Bastard
Texas is just the tip of the rather gnarly iceberg of gerrymandering. With Republicans at a state level having controlled redistricting in such big states as Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and now Texas, GOP leaders have encouraged attempts to draw districts that not only get rid of white Democrats, but also moderate Republicans. The nationwide result has been nothing less than titanic. Increasingly, the House is polarized by representatives considerably to the left or right of most of the state's voters, even as the political center of the House has moved sharply rightward. Safe seats have become the rule, two party politics is dead in most districts, and entire regions of Red and Blue America have become balkanized one-party fiefdoms.
Click here for more.
Posted by Ron at 1:04 AM
The Politics of Media Filtration
Norman Soloman via AlterNet:
"I'm mindful of the filter through which some news travels," the president groused a few days ago, "and sometimes you have to go over the heads of the filter and speak directly to the people."
Some con artists are never satisfied.
The big media's filtration process has worked to Bush's great advantage.
In fact, I'm still amazed that the mainstream media has actually been reporting some of the truth about the Iraq debacle. They're still pretty quiet about Bush and his band of merry men continuing to steal from the poor and give to the rich while wrecking the economy at the same time. Our frat boy-in-chief should be thankful for that at least.
Posted by Ron at 1:52 AM
Saturday, October 25, 2003
THE FUTILITY OF PUBLIC "EDUCATION"
The Nation takes on No Excuses: Closing the Racial Gap in Learning, a new conservative book about race and education:
Which is to say that the Thernstroms want schools serving students, many of whom come from families headed by single mothers and/or homes where little or no English is spoken, to undertake two major tasks simultaneously, one cultural, one academic, for the same--and in many cases less--money and with fewer high-quality resources than suburban schools enrolling middle-class white kids. The fact that some schools can do it--often with self-selected students and parents and highly motivated teachers--doesn't mean they all can. Your local piano teacher probably couldn't write Don Giovanni, either.
Nor do they understand that if the barriers are bureaucratic, they're often created in response to strong community and political pressure. Most places want safe teachers who don't mess too much with secular humanism, witch tales and evolution, or ask too many searching questions. And despite all the talk about high standards, most parents are confident their kids do fine and don't want them treated too harshly by demanding schoolmasters, preferring schools that retain traditional anti-intellectualism and regard jocks at least as highly as brains.
For the entire review, click here.
While this is a fine refutation of what appears to be your typical right-wing voucher and choice crusade, it seems to dance around the real problem with public "education." That is, the schools cannot possibly do what society seems to be continually asking them to do. As I have said many times, education is not at all about learning. Rather, education is about indoctrinating children into the culture of obedience and authority--any learning that occurs is happenstance, an accident of the fact that education is the ruse that justifies the indoctrination: with all those books lying around, somebody's bound to pick up a few ideas every now and then.
Obstensibly, public "education" serves several funtions. It supposedly creates good citizens who know and perform their responsibilities well. It supposedly creates a force of thoughtful individuals ready to enter the job market with strong "basic skills." "Education" is supposedly the great enabler of democracy: it is supposed to erase the savage inequalities of racism and economic class.
Of course, that's complete bullshit. "Education" does none of these things. In fact, given its totalitarian leanings, "education" tends to do exactly the opposite of what it is supposed to do: in reality, "education" serves to replicate the existing class structure. Anyone with half a brain can see this. Kids from well to do families go on to college and get better paying jobs. Kids from blue collar families generally do not. As one critic has observed, we might as well abolish the SAT and instead judge the academic worthiness of students based on family income--the higher the income the more likely a student is to be accepted by a college. Indeed, upper income kids have higher levels of achievement because their families and communities expect it. Absent that expectation, the achievement levels drop. In other words, schools themselves have very little to do with a child's learning short of providing a place to learn. Family and community are the true educators and motivators.
This reality drives me mad whenever I encounter standard liberal critiques of conservative views on education. Liberals, like conservatives, tend to accept the idea that our society's basic conceptualization of schooling is sound. Liberals seem to notice that certain structural problems exist, but they never seem to connect the dots and come to the inescapable conclusion that the authoritarian nature of "education" is utterly at odds with the concept of learning. Liberals seem to think that the schools as they exist now can somehow be fixed.
Unfortunately, most liberals are blind about this: the schools cannot be fixed. We must abandon the present system and completely start over. If our society is truly interested in creating thoughtful, responsible, free citizens, education must be based on knowledge and inquiry instead of authority and obedience.
Sadly, I fear that society doesn't really want that. We could have a renaissance the likes of which have not been seen in Western civilization for 500 years. I bet it doesn't happen.
Posted by Ron at 1:56 AM
Thursday, October 23, 2003
THE NEW GAY MINSTRELSY?
From the American Prospect online:
Some have argued that the Fab 5 of Queer Eye should break out as well -- from the stereotype of the hysterical, prissybritches, shopaholic gay man. The Fab 5 are indeed fabulous. But isn't it disturbing to have this stereotype, "positive" though it may be, stand in for a diverse population? Is the Fab 5 anything other than hilariously bitchy and culturally on point? I personally feel delivering cultural shrewdness with a soupçon of snark is a lofty and laudable goal, but concede the validity of the question. Are gay men just the comic relief, the zany, artistic freakshows straight people bring home to make their lives aesthetically pleasing -- and remove before the gay folks start doing something aesthetically displeasing, like talking about their rights or kissing one another? Is the Fab 5 the new queer help?
Click here for more.
Personally, I both love and hate Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. While I enjoy the clash of cultures and the victory of taste over the mundane, I think I would prefer a thirty minute show instead of an hour--I often grow tired of being subjected to uber-queen Carson Kressley's awful shirts and mullet haircut. Despite my misgivings, it is important to assert that as gay characters increasingly infiltrate the television medium it becomes all the more vital to meditate on what exactly their presence means to mainstream society. More is not necessarily better.
Posted by Ron at 11:33 PM
ON THE SO-CALLED LIBERAL MEDIA
What Liberal Media? author Eric Alterman now oversees, edits, and sometimes writes a new column on the media at the Center for American Progress site. Here's a sample of the first post:
Try to follow the logic of Time’s Joe Klein, who skewers Democrats for opposing the monstrous bill, created by a bungled foreign policy. He calls the vote “an embarrassment” for Democrats. Upfront Klein concedes, “Bush was playing politics” by refusing to break out the funding into one for the military operation, and one for the rebuilding. And Klein admits, “The original casus belli was, at the very least, oversold. The post-Saddam period has been marked by American arrogance and incompetence. The prognosis for Iraq is grave. It is not even clear that the three main ethnic and religious groups — the Kurds, Iraqi Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims — can be knitted into a coherent country.”
But then, turning his eye towards Democrats, Klein — in a view that was echoed over the weekend by Chris Matthews on NBC, Brit Hume and Tony Snow on Fox, and many others - insists, “These are not plausible reasons to oppose the $87 billion.”
Huh? What would be a plausible reason to oppose it then? The pundits’ position is that America needs to start dumping as much money as possible into Iraq, for however long it takes, as long as the Bush White House is asking for the dollars. Why bother having two parties?
It's a good column. Click here.
Thanks to Eschaton for the link.
Posted by Ron at 11:10 PM
Wednesday, October 22, 2003
MORE RELIGIOUS ABSURDITY
Poking Holes In Condoms
From Katha Pollitt via the Nation:
But what do doctors know? Or the Centers for Disease Control, or the World Health Organization, or the American Foundation for AIDS Research (Amfar)? These days, the experts on condoms are politicians, preachers and priests, and the word from above is: Condoms don't work. That is what students are being taught in the abstinence-only sex ed favored by the religious right and funded by the Bush Administration--$117 million of your annual tax dollars at work. The theory is that even mentioning condoms, much less admitting that they dramatically reduce the chances of pregnancy or HIV infection, sends a "mixed message" about the value of total abstinence until marriage. How absurd--it's like saying that seat belts send a mixed message about the speed limit or vitamin pills send a mixed message about vegetables. Anti-condom propaganda can backfire, too: True, some kids may be scared away from sex although probably not until marriage; others, though, hear only a reason to throw caution to the winds. According to a 2002 Human Rights Watch report on abstinence-only sex ed in Texas, a condoms-don't-work ad campaign led sexually active teens to have unprotected sex: "My boyfriend says they don't work. He heard it on the radio." Why is the Bush Administration giving horny teenage boys an excuse to be sexually selfish? You might as well have high school teachers telling them using a condom during sex is like taking a shower in a raincoat.
Click here for more.
Posted by Ron at 10:55 PM
HEY KIDS! MORE COMICS!
The Gospel of Supply Side Jesus
From Al Franken's Lies: And the Lying Liars Who Tell Them -- A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right via BuzzFlash:
No, James, leprosy is a matter of personal responsibility. If people knew I was healing lepers, there would be no incentive to avoid leprosy.
This is REALLY funny. Click here and be sure to read through all eleven panel pages.
Posted by Ron at 10:48 PM
Tuesday, October 21, 2003
BUZZFLASH INTERVIEWS TOM TOMORROW
BUZZFLASH: With so much hypocrisy, absurdity and lying, and such an Orwellian world that’s almost cartoonish in and of itself -- if it weren’t so threatening and tragic and menacing -- how do you settle on one idea? It’s hard for us to write an editorial because just when we think it’s gotten as bad as it can get, or as absurd as it can get, there’s something within the next hour that beats it.
TOMORROW: [laughter] Yeah, it is an embarrassment of riches right now for a cartoonist. And honestly, I would be happy to go back to a time when maybe the subject of my cartoons was not so immediately obvious. I would rather have to work a little harder. Having said that, there are times when there’s so much that I have a hard time. I think it sounds a little counter-intuitive, but it can actually be more difficult at times, because, as you say, reality has become satire.
In fact, when I was upstate giving one of these talks that I occasionally give to colleges, I have a visual presentation I give off my computer, and I usually open it up with that clip that was going around a few months ago of Bush saying, "There’s an old saying in Texas: you fool me once" -- and then he’d stumble over the rest. He had this astonishing blank look on his face. And the reason I open with that is precisely for this reason -- to discuss how difficult it is to be a satirist when real life has become satire, when that guy with that deer-in-the-headlights look on his face is the most powerful man in the world.
Click here for the full interview.
Tom Tomorrow's This Modern World strip is pretty funny this week, too: Interesting Things We Have Learned From Republicans Lately.
And here's one I've had on my fridge for nearly two years now.
I really love Tom Tomorrow!
Thanks to Eschaton for the interview link.
Posted by Ron at 11:25 PM
Is Syria Next?
From the Nation:
In an eerie replay of the buildup to the war on Iraq, the demonization of Syria has swelled to a chorus in Washington, whose members include not only Republicans but pro-Israel Democrats like Tom Lantos, the senior Democrat on the House committee that passed the act. The leading Democratic presidential candidates backed Bush's support for Israel's bombing in Syria. Only months ago we were told that the "road to peace in Jerusalem runs through Baghdad." As resistance to the US occupation of Iraq grows and the road map continues to crumble, the neocons are having a much harder time making that argument, so we are now being told that the twisted road to peace runs through Damascus.
Keep watching this story. I really think there's going to be a nasty payoff to the whole thing in a few months--you know, the kind of sensational and frightening event occurring close to the election that might be just enough to push our frat boy prez over the top. God, what a country we have!
Posted by Ron at 11:11 PM
Monday, October 20, 2003
INVADING SYRIA: NOT IF BUT WHEN
Think the neo-conservatives who dominate White House foreign policy have learned their lesson from the quagmire in Iraq? Think again. From the Villiage Voice:
The Widening Crusade
In his new book, Winning Modern Wars, retired general Wesley Clark, a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, offered a window into the Bush serial-war planning. He writes that serious planning for the Iraq war had already begun only two months after the 9-11 attack, and adds:
"As I went back through the Pentagon in November 2001, one of the senior military staff officers had time for a chat. Yes, we were still on track for going against Iraq, he said. But there was more. This was being discussed as part of a five-year campaign plan, he said, and there were a total of seven countries, beginning with Iraq, then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Iran, Somalia and Sudan. . . . I left the Pentagon that afternoon deeply concerned."
A five-year military campaign. Seven countries. How far has the White House taken this plan? And how long can the president keep the nation in the dark, emerging from his White House cocoon only to speak to us in slogans and the sterile language of pep rallies?
Click here for more.
And from Counterpunch:
Israel's Raid on Syria
Stage Four in the Terror War
Expect the charges against Syria to proliferate; Haaretz reports that there are $3 billion in Iraqi assets in Syrian government-owned banks that may be "financing terror." And the saber rattling, both from Israel (which threatens another strike), and U.S. officials. On October 14, super-hawk, Defense Policy Board member, and member of Jerusalem Post board of directors Richard Perle told an applauding audience of Jewish and Christian "analysts and politicians opposed to conceding a Palestinian state" that he was "happy to see the message [that] was delivered to Syria by the Israeli air force, and I hope it is the first of many such messages." (Repeat: he is happy about Israel bombing Syria, and hopes Israel sends many more such messages! And this warmongering, habitual prevaricator and high-profile Iraq war advocate regularly has the president's ear.) Perle was quoted the next day in the Jerusalem Post as stating: "President Bush transformed the American approach to terrorism on Sept. 11, 2001, when he said he will not distinguish between terrorists and the states who harbor them. I was happy to see that Israel has now [sic] taken a similar step in responding to acts of terror that originate in Lebanese territory by going to the rulers of Lebanon in Damascus." When asked whether this would include possible U.S. military action against Syria, he said: "Everything's possible," adding that despite heavy commitments elsewhere, it would be easy to commit U.S. forces to Syria too, because "Syria is militarily very weak."
Click here for more.
The bloodthirsty neo-cons are down but not out. They still whisper their version of reality into our President's ear. They still control the US military. They still encourage the "man of peace" and warrior-leader of Israel, Ariel Sharon, to continue his campaign of violence against Palestine and now Syria. In short, the puppet masters continue to hold all the important strings. I would not at all be surprised to see a US and Israeli invasion of Syria at some point next spring or summer. The eternal war does not simply endure; it expands.
Thanks to J. Orlin Grabbe for the links.
Posted by Ron at 11:08 PM
From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:
An elite unit of American soldiers mutilated and killed hundreds of unarmed villagers over seven months in 1967 during the Vietnam War, and an Army investigation was closed with no charges filed, The Blade reported today.
Soldiers of the Tiger Force unit of the Army's 101st Airborne Division dropped grenades into bunkers where villagers -- including women and children -- hid, and shot farmers without warning, the newspaper reported. Soldiers told The Blade that they severed ears from the dead and strung them on shoelaces to wear around their necks.
This is where we will be if we stay in Iraq. The glory has ended, but the killing continues. Reports of low morale among US soldiers continue to mount. US casualties continue to mount. There is no way that our troops can be psychologically immune to these realities. Strong morals don't matter. God-fearing homes don't matter. War is about killing and dying, slaughter and survival. Occupation is about brutal control. The longer US forces are subjected to this insanity, the more likely it is that we will eventually learn of gross atrocities performed by good American kids. For the sake of our soldiers' souls, we must bring them home. Now.
Posted by Ron at 2:15 AM
BUSH VERSUS BUSH
"I want to kill you."
What on Earth could possibly compel George H. W. Bush to defile the ultra-conservative campus of Texas A & M University by presenting there the 2003 George Bush Award for Excellence in Public Service to ultra-liberal icon and George W. Bush hater, Senator Edward Kennedy?
From the Boston Globe:
More curious, and in many ways depressing, is the fact that this President Bush has embarked upon a policy designed to counter, or even to wipe out, his father's entire political legacy.
The father lived his life in the service of moderate and intelligent internationalism. His manners were always meticulously courteous, as he wooed even critics overseas to see the American position. He was even-handed in the Middle East and thus brought the area to the verge of peace for the first time in history; he was capable of using force but preferred to do it supported by coalitions of friendly states, thus cementing international cooperation.
The son seems to have made posturing against his father's accomplishments and beliefs his life's work.
Me and my dad just kind of yelled at each other here and there over the years until we finally had a major heart to heart a while back. I guess the rich and powerful do things differently.
Click here for more on the Bush family rift.
Thanks to J. Orlin Grabbe for the link.
Posted by Ron at 1:46 AM
Friday, October 17, 2003
TWO DAY REAL ART HIATUS
I'm leaving for Austin tomorrow morning to meet with my old acting professor. He's going to work some of my monologues and advise me about getting into grad school. I'm a bit nervous; this guy always intimidated me, but he's pretty good at what he does. I'm actually pretty lucky that he's willing to take the time to help me out. But I'm still a bit nervous.
Tell me to "break a leg."
I should be back at Real Art on Sunday. In the meantime, check out Eschaton or any of the other cool links to the left. And listen to the old Ernie Kovacs Nairobi Trio tune "Solfeggio," which is also the Real Art theme song.
See ya soon!
Posted by Ron at 12:53 AM
Rush and Chong: Trippin' in Court Part II
Film writer David Ehrenstein muses on Rush Limbaugh's drug addiction. Actually, he skewers the big blowhard. It's a good read. I also note that Ehrenstein makes the same comparison to Tommy Chong's incarceration for selling bongs over the internet that I, myself, made last Friday:
Needless to say the chance that Rusty may face jail time for his legal drug purchases may well be remote. Tommy Chong is looking at nine months for merely selling drug "paraphernalia" -- "bongs" for pot-smoking.
But he's just half-of a once-famous comic duo, now a semi-regular on That 70's Show, where he plays a stoned-out relic of a hippie.
Clearly he doesn't have powerful Republican friends in high places like Rusty.
And clearly he can't afford the sort of PR advice that can parlay a MASSIVE APPETITE FOR CONTROLLED SUBSTANCES into an "addiction to painkillers."
Go check it out. Click here.
Posted by Ron at 12:45 AM
O'REILLY ON NPR'S FRESH AIR
Notes on the Atrocities presents a transcript of the fiery last five minutes of the big butthole's interview on NPR. Here's a sample:
GROSS: --it isn't the review, it's how you handled it. And I think it's okay to ask you to be accountable for the things that you said.
O'REILLY: Accountable for what? You know, I came on this show, I came on to this program to talk about Who's Looking Out for You? And what you've done is thrown every kind of defamation you can in my face. All right, did you do this to Al Franken? Did you? Did you challenge him on what he said?
GROSS: We had a different interview.
O'REILLY: Yeah, a different interview. Okay. Fine, "Fresh Air?" Is this what "Fresh Air" is? I'll get a transcript of this interview--you want me--of the Al Franken interview. You want me to do that, and compare the two?
GROSS: You're welcome to.
I always love it when the big butthole makes an idiot of himself. Of course, he does that pretty much every time he opens his mouth. Heh, heh. Click here.
Posted by Ron at 12:32 AM
Wednesday, October 15, 2003
Elect George Orwell Bush in 2004
Someday there will be no reality, only spin. Perhaps we're already there now. From ZNet:
The most chilling, openly Orwellian remarks recorded by Bubmiller came from G. Clotaire Rapaille, who Bubmiller describes as a "French-born medical anthropologist who has done psychological consumer research for clients like Seagram, Proctor and Gamble, and Ford" (an imposing resume!). Rapaille has a different take on how Bush might overcome his terrible record to score his first victory in a presidential election. "Everything that happened yesterday," Rapaillle claimed, consistent with standard totalitarian doctrine, "is irrelevant." Rather than focus on past mistakes - being unprepared for the difficulties of the occupation - Bush's publicists should, Rapaille thinks, create friendly in-the-moment story lines about individual Iraqis who are now free to pursue their purely personal, private dreams: a young Iraqi child who wants "to study" and "become an engineer;" "a young [Iraqi] woman who wants to be married and have children;" a "guy who wants to start a shop to repair cars." "Right now," Rapaille told Bubmiller, "it's not that the president is not good, it's that the story is bad." (Bubmiller, New York Times, September 28, 2003, sec. 4. p.1).
Rapaille warns the White House against selling their occupation with "statistics" about tedious stuff like the number of schools and hospitals being built in Iraq. That sort of material is "kind of boring," says Rapaill, who is attuned to the rampant social and political Attention Deficit Disorder and related entertainment addiction spread amongst the populace by MTV and the like. "The important thing," Bubmiller learned from Rapaille, "is to tell a story."
It just might work, too. Disgusting. Click here.
Posted by Ron at 11:07 PM
US State Department protests televangelist's nuclear threat
Still think fundamentalists are simply kooky but essentially harmless? You're dead wrong. Here's yet more evidence of why the fundamentalist movement is dangerous to the United States and the world:
The US State Department has lodged a vehement complaint with prominent conservative televangelist Pat Robertson for comments suggesting that its Foggy Bottom headquarters should be destroyed with nuclear weapons, officials said Thursday.
The amazing thing is that Robertson actually seemed to mean what he said. I'm not surprised, though. Fundamentalists live in a fantasy world of demonic posession, guardian angels, and Divine violence. If you're not with them, you're against them; there's no neutrality for the Bible Nazis: because the State Department doesn't follow policies that adhere to fundamentalist lunatic interpretations of the scriptures, it opposes the almighty, wrathful, jealous God. Hangin's too good for 'em. Nuke 'em.
Buncha crazy weirdos.
Thanks to Eschaton for the link.
Posted by Ron at 10:53 PM
Tuesday, October 14, 2003
WAR ON TERRORISM FLASHBACK
Reagan Blows It in Beirut, 1982
Five days later, on April 23, 1983, Reagan announced to the press: "The tragic and brutal attack on our embassy in Beirut has shocked us all and filled us with grief. Yet, because of this latest crime we are more resolved than ever to help achieve the urgent and total withdrawal of all American forces from Lebanon, or I should say, all foreign forces. I'm sorry. Mistake." But the actual mistake was a U.S. policy that would cost hundreds of Americans their lives.
By late summer 1983, the Marines were being targeted by Muslim snipers. In the same way that some Bush administration officials are shocked by the Iraqi resistance to American troops, Reagan administration officials seemed surprised at rising attacks on American soldiers.
The Reagan administration responded to sniper potshots and scattered mortar attacks on U.S. troops with a massive escalation. On September 13, Reagan authorized Marine commanders in Lebanon to call in air strikes and other attacks against the Muslims to help the Christian Lebanese army. Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger vigorously opposed the new policy, fearing it would make American troops far more vulnerable. Navy ships repeatedly bombarded the Muslims over the next few weeks.
At 6:20 A.M. on Sunday morning, October 23, 1983, a lone, grinning Muslim drove a Mercedes truck through a parking lot, past two Marine guard posts, through an open gate, and into the lobby of the Marine headquarters building in Beirut, where he detonated the equivalent of six tons of explosives. The explosion left a 30-foot-deep crater and killed 243 marines. A second truck bomb moments later killed 58 French soldiers.
The 1982-84 deployment of U.S. troops in Beirut achieved nothing. And, contrary to the arguments of today's hardliners, a larger, longer deployment would have merely boosted the number of body bags arriving at Dover Air Force base. The Israelis were far more aggressive against perceived opponents in Lebanon than were the American troops. But even the Israelis were effectively driven out of Lebanon over a decade and a half later, after failing to suppress Hezbollah and losing more than twice as many soldiers there as it lost during the 1967 Six Day War.
The Reagan administration paid no political price for its Beirut debacle. Reagan and Bush Sr. succeeded in falsifying, blustering, and smearing their way out of political trouble. Now, two decades later, the only "lesson" that seems to be recalled is to stick resolutely to floundering policies - at least until the number of dead soldiers threatens to become politically toxic.
"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." George Santayana
Click here for more.
Thanks to J. Orlin Grabbe for the link.
Posted by Ron at 10:39 PM
The White House Is Still
Knee Deep in a Major Scandal
From Democracy Now's website:
The whole scandal began in July a week after Wilson went public in an op-ed piece in the New York Times saying he was the diplomat sent by the Bush Administration to Niger to investigate whether Saddam Hussein tried to buy uranium from the African country. His findings: the accusations were baseless.
Wilson was not alone. The US ambassador to Niger, Barbro Owens-Kirkpatrick, knew of the allegations of uranium sales to Iraq and had already debunked them in her reports back to Washington. Wilson's conclusions also coincided with those of Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the US Armed Forces four-star Marine Corps General, Carlton Fulford, who had also researched the matter on the ground in Niger. Wilson felt he had authoritatively debunked the Niger rumor and "the matter was settled."
But the lie refused to die. In January 2003, Bush made his famous 16 word line in his State of the Union address: "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."
In July, soon after Wilson blew the whistle in The New York Times, the White House was forced to admit that the accusation should not have been included in the State of the Union.
A few days later, conservative columnist Robert Novak wrote a column in which he cited "two senior administration officials" and stated that Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, was a CIA operative dealing with weapons of mass destruction.
Click here for a good recap of the events.
Posted by Ron at 10:30 PM
Monday, October 13, 2003
MORE ON ELECTRONIC THE VOTING SCAM
From the Moscow Times:
The American vote-count is controlled by three major corporate players -- Diebold, ES&S, and Sequoia -- with a fourth, Science Applications International Corporation, coming on strong. These companies -- all of them hardwired into the Bushist Party power grid -- have been given billions of dollars by the Bush Regime to complete a sweeping computerization of voting machines nationwide by the 2004 election. These glitch-riddled systems -- many using "touch-screen" technology that leaves no paper trail at all -- are almost laughably open to manipulation, according to corporate whistleblowers and computer scientists at Stanford, Johns Hopkins and other universities.
The technology had a trial run in the 2002 midterm elections. In Georgia, serviced by new Diebold systems, a popular Democratic governor and senator were both unseated in what the media called "amazing" upsets, with results showing vote swings of up to 16 percent from the last pre-ballot polls. In computerized Minnesota, former Vice President Walter Mondale -- a replacement for popular incumbent Paul Wellstone, who died days before the vote -- was also defeated in a large last-second vote swing. Convenient "glitches" in Florida saw an untold number of votes intended for the Democratic candidate registering instead for Governor Jeb "L'il Brother" Bush. A Florida Democrat who lost a similarly "glitched" local election went to court to have the computers examined -- but the case was thrown out by a judge who ruled that the innards of America's voting machines are the "trade secrets" of the private companies who make them.
For anybody who thinks that no American would ever do such a thing as rig elections on a grand scale, I have to point out that it's been done before, just a couple of years ago in Florida--our dimwitted president is the illegal result. Beware: the ashes of our once strong democracy are in danger of being scattered.
Thanks to my old buddy, Michael, for the link.
Posted by Ron at 11:01 PM
TWO FROM COUNTERPUNCH
The Other Race Card:
Rush Limbaugh and the
Politics of White Resentment
Statements of this nature exist not in a vacuum, as if mere isolated flotsam and jetsam on the national airwaves, but rather within a broader context, where their interpretation and symbolic value become greater than the sum of their linguistic parts.
In the case of a comment such as Limbaugh's, one must consider the effect, not simply the intent behind the words. It is this consideration that can legitimately cause Limbaugh's remarks to be viewed as racist or at least an example of white racial resentment, which in turn can feed the problem of racism, whether or not this was the goal of the speaker.
That Rush would likely never understand this is not surprising. Indeed, his understanding of racism, like that of most white Americans it seems, is so limited that it only allows the label to be used to describe the most vicious and deliberately bigoted of statements or actions. In other words, Rush, like most whites, views racism as requiring the evil intent of an individual racist, and thereby considers the event through the eyes of the perpetrator rather than the victim. If he didn't mean any harm, then there was no foul.
Fantastic essay! This really hits on some sophisticated truths about the confusing underpinnings of racist subtleties deeply embedded in American discourse. I've said many times that simply refraining from usage of the "n-word" does not make one anti-racist. This essay reveals why that is the case.
Can the Republicans Get Much Worse? Of Course, They Can
But as outrageous as Limbaugh and Schwarzenegger are, nothing can top Missouri Republican Senator Christopher Bond's now former communications director, Ernie Blazar. He decided to set up an anti-Democrat web site called "N8354N," the tail number of the plane that carried Missouri Democratic Governor Mel Carnahan, his son, and his assistant. All were killed in the crash. The plane crashed just prior to the 2000 election that pitted Carnahan against the incumbent John Ashcroft. Carnahan, whose name remained on the ballot, beat Ashcroft anyway.
Blazar just exemplified a party that is now under the spell of dirty tricksters like Bush's guru, Karl Rove. Maybe someone should check Minnesota Senator Norm Coleman's staff to see if they have a web site called "N41BE," the tail number of the plane that crashed killing Senator Paul Wellstone, his wife, daughter, three staff assistants, and two pilots. Maybe the Republican National Committee has a web site called "N9253N," the tail number of the plane flown by John F. Kennedy, Jr., which crashed off Martha's Vineyard, killing him, his wife, and sister-in-law. Naming web sites after tail numbers of planes in which Democratic leaders died has the appearance that some Republicans are gleeful over these tragic deaths.
At this point, it has to be obvious that "compassionate conservatism" was simply a ruse. In fact, I would go so far to say that anyone who believed in Bush's carefully crafted oxymoron had his head up his ass to begin with.
Posted by Ron at 10:45 PM
Sunday, October 12, 2003
THE LATEST CHOMSKY
Dominance and its Dilemmas
Noam Chomsky via ZNet on the problems with the new American empire:
The new "imperial grand strategy," as it was aptly termed at once by John Ikenberry, presents the US as "a revisionist state seeking to parlay its momentary advantages into a world order in which it runs the show," a "unipolar world" in which "no state or coalition could ever challenge" it as "global leader, protector, and enforcer. These policies are fraught with danger even for the US itself, he warned, joining many others in the foreign policy elite.
What is to be "protected" is US power and the interests it represents, not the world, which vigorously opposed the conception. Within a few months, polls revealed that fear of the United States had reached remarkable heights, along with distrust of the political leadership, or worse. As for the test case, an international Gallup poll in December, barely noted in the US, found virtually no support for Washington's announced plans for a war carried out "unilaterally by America and its allies": in effect, the US-UK "coalition."
The basic principles of the imperial grand strategy trace back to the early days of World War II, and have been reiterated frequently since. Even before the US entered the war, planners and analysts concluded that in the postwar world the US would seek "to hold unquestioned power," acting to ensure the "limitation of any exercise of sovereignty" by states that might interfere with its global designs. They outlined "an integrated policy to achieve military and economic supremacy for the United States" in a "Grand Area," to include at a minimum the Western Hemisphere, the former British empire, and the Far East, later extended to as much of Eurasia as possible when it became clear that Germany would be defeated.
Click here for more.
Posted by Ron at 10:48 PM
REPUBLICANS SPIN "TRAITORGATE"
Nation editor David Corn (the guy who first reported that the White House leak of CIA operative Valerie Plame's cover might be a criminal act) writes in LA Weekly about his first hand experience as a guest on Fox News with the GOP spin machine:
How many disingenuous remarks can you spot in his comments? Here’s a clue: Count the sentences. Portman tried to dismiss the controversy as too bizarre to be true. He claimed that there was no motivation for the leak, almost suggesting it didn’t really happen, and that only a jaded soul could suspect the leak came from the top ranks of the administration. Yet there were plenty of motives. Take your pick. The leakers could have been trying to smack Wilson for criticizing the administration, attempting to intimidate others who might consider speaking out, or endeavoring to discredit the February 2002 trip Wilson had made to Niger for the CIA as no more than the result of nepotism. And one need not be a cynic to point an accusing finger at the “highest levels.” It was Novak who said his sources were “senior” officials. Later, the Washington Post reported that, according to a “senior administration official,” two “top White House officials” had called reporters to spread word of Valerie Wilson’s CIA connection.
Click here for more.
Thanks to J. Orlin Grabbe for the link.
Posted by Ron at 9:21 PM
SUNDAY MORNING REAL ART READING
Why Bush Likes a Bad Economy
From the Progressive:
Finally, stagnation and the Bush tax policy promote rightwing plans to cut and privatize essential services, including health, education, and pensions. As financial wealth escapes tax, neither states nor cities nor the federal government can provide vital services--except by taxing sales and property at rates that will provoke tax rebellions, especially when middle class incomes are not rising. Every public service will fall between the hammer of tax cuts and the anvil of deficits in state, local, and federal budgets. The streets will be dirtier, as also the air and the water. Emergency rooms will back up even more than they have; more doctors will refuse public patients. More fire houses and swimming pools and libraries will be closed. Public universities will cost more; the public schools will lose the middle class. Eventually, federal budget deficits will collide with Social Security and Medicare, putting privatization back on the agenda.
I am from Texas, where you can see this future happening now.
Say what you will, the leaders of the Bush team are plainly not pandering after votes. They are pursuing a governing agenda that favors the factions they represent: tax cuts for the misanthropic wealthy; tax increases for the middle class; imperial control over oil; deregulation, privatization, and cuts in public services at all levels; defiance of international agreements; a systematic spoilage of the environment; an all-out offensive against labor rights; and the placement of right-wingers in government, most insidiously in the courts.
Will the 2004 Election be Stolen
With Electronic Voting Machines?
An interview from BuzzFlash:
BUZZFLASH: You have charged that the owners of some of these companies have close connections with the Republican Party. The head of Diebold, for instance, publicly vowed to do everything possible to see that Bush wins in Ohio in 2004. Are you concerned that the Republican Party affiliation of some of these companies could result in voting results skewed toward the GOP, in short, as a result of manipulating the software?
HARRIS: It’s a conflict of interest, just as having military defense contractors involved in our voting system is a conflict. “Conflict of interest” provides a motive to do something impure. Allowing secret code and combining it with conflict of interest is just playing with electoral fire.
Thanks to Tom Tomorrow for the link.
Chasing a Mirage
Even mainstream corporate news sources like Time Magazine are now agreeing that the White House was flat wrong on WMDs in Iraq:
Over the past three months, TIME has interviewed Iraqi weapons scientists, middlemen and former government officials. Saddam's henchmen all make essentially the same claim: that Iraq's once massive unconventional-weapons program was destroyed or dismantled in the 1990s and never rebuilt; that officials destroyed or never kept the documents that would prove it; that the shell games Saddam played with U.N. inspectors were designed to conceal his progress on conventional weapons systems—missiles, air defenses, radar—not biological or chemical programs; and that even Saddam, a sucker for a new gadget or invention or toxin, may not have known what he actually had or, more to the point, didn't have. It would be an irony almost too much to bear to consider that he doomed his country to war because he was intent on protecting weapons systems that didn't exist in the first place.
These tales are tempting to dismiss as scripts recited by practiced liars who had been deceiving the world community for years. These sources may still be too frightened of the possibility of Saddam's return to power to tell his secrets. Or it could be that Saddam reconstituted an illicit weapons program with such secrecy that those who knew of past efforts were left out of the loop. But the unanimity of these sources' accounts can't be easily dismissed and at the very least underscores the difficulty the U.S. has in proving its case that Saddam was hoarding unconventional arms.
And finally, again from the Progressive, the great leftist historian and writer of A People's History of the United States Howard Zinn on the US presence in Iraq:
An Occupied Country
It is often said that this Administration can get away with war because unlike Vietnam, the casualties are few. True, only a few hundred battle casualties, unlike Vietnam. But battle casualties are not all. When wars end, the casualties keep mounting up--sickness, trauma. After the Vietnam War, veterans reported birth defects in their families due to the Agent Orange spraying in Vietnam. In the first Gulf War there were only a few hundred battle casualties, but the Veterans Administration reported recently that in the ten years following the Gulf War, 8,000 veterans died. About 200,000 of the 600,000 veterans of the Gulf War filed complaints about illnesses incurred from the weapons our government used in the war. In the current war, how many young men and women sent by Bush to liberate Iraq will come home with related illnesses?
For more, click here.
Posted by Ron at 1:13 AM
Saturday, October 11, 2003
WAR ON DRUGS BULLSHIT
Rush and Chong: Trippin' in Court
Two from the Associated press. First via the Washington Post:
Actor Tommy Chong Reports to Prison
Actor-comedian Tommy Chong reported to a privately run federal prison to serve his nine-month sentence for conspiring to sell bongs and other drug paraphernalia over the Internet even as his attorneys prepared to argue for his release pending appeal.
Second via the Houston Chronicle:
Rush Limbaugh admits addiction to painkillers
Conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh announced during his radio show today that he is addicted to painkillers and is checking into a rehab center to "break the hold this highly addictive medication has on me."
"You know I have always tried to be honest with you and open about my life," Limbaugh said during a stunning admission aired nationwide. "So I need to tell you today that part of what you have heard and read is correct. I am addicted to prescription pain medication."
Forget Limbaugh's over-the-top hypocrisy here for a moment. There are a couple of points that need to be addressed when considering these two stories together.
First, I simply don't understand why Chong is being sent to jail for selling a product that one can legally buy at a sleazy establishment that's only a five minute walk from where I live. I do understand, however, that the goofy stoner-comedian has been made a scapegoat symbol of US Attorney General John Ashcroft's quixotic crusade against internet bong salesmen. The incarceration of Chong is clearly meant as both a message to other businessmen of his ilk and as a meaningless trophy for Ashcroft in the ever insane "war on drugs." This bust will not prevent a single individual from smoking marijuanna and it will do absolutely nothing to stop the legal sale of drug paraphernalia. This is simply tragic theater with an absurdist flourish. In short, Tommy Chong got screwed by a big butthole Republican for no good reason.
Never mind the fact that real criminals (and terrorists, I might add) are running around, scot-free, while the AG tilts at windmills.
Second, Rush is beginning to spin his own story. Don't get me wrong, here: he's doing the right thing by trying to break his addiction; jail will not help him at all--it would only make things worse. The thing is that I'm starting to get the feeling that the rehab gambit might work, that the corpulent one may very well not see any jail time, (which is, I must repeat, just and fair because addiction is a disease, not a crime, despite what hard-liners like Limbaugh think). Americans are suckers for repentance.
When comparing the big fat idiot's situation to Tommy Chong's, however, it becomes obvious that any realistic concept of justice has been tossed out the window. Neither of them should be in jail, but the stoner guy gets locked up while the racist loud mouthed guy runs off to rehab. Simply put, this really reeks (no pun intended) of unequal justice under the law. But then the "war on drugs" has never been about justice or even about drugs for that matter. It's about politics, plain and simple. Rush has the right politics (pun intended), while Chong is a virtual poster child for the enemy in this so-called war--when seen from this point of view, their differing treatment (again, no pun intended) makes much more sense.
What a bunch of bullshit it all is.
Posted by Ron at 12:54 AM
NEW PAUL KRUGMAN ESSAY
Lessons in Civility
But conservatives are distressed because those liberals are so angry and rude. O.K., they admit, they themselves were a bit rude during the Clinton years — that seven-year, $70 million investigation of a tiny money-losing land deal, all that fuss about the president's private life — but they're sorry, and now it's time for everyone to be civil.
Indeed, angry liberals can take some lessons in civility from today's right.
Consider, for example, Fox News's genteel response to Christiane Amanpour, the CNN correspondent. Ms. Amanpour recently expressed some regret over CNN's prewar reporting: "Perhaps, to a certain extent, my station was intimidated by the administration and its foot soldiers at Fox News." A Fox spokeswoman replied, "It's better to be viewed as a foot soldier for Bush than as a spokeswoman for Al Qaeda."
Damned hypocritical conservatives. Actually, that's something of an oxymoron: given the absolutist views of virtually all conservatives, it seems that conservatism and hypocrisy walk hand in hand. Click here for more of Krugman's essay.
Posted by Ron at 12:02 AM
Thursday, October 09, 2003
UBER-TEXAN MOLLY IVINS
It's a Fine Fall Irony Fest
Not that any of us is in a position to criticize the Great Scriptwriter in the Sky, but don't you think She's been going a little heavy on the irony lately?
All those folks who had conniption fits over Bill Clinton's affair are now pooh-poohing Arnold Schwarzenegger's sexual misconduct -- and vice versa. The right-wingers who are always griping about Hollywood stars who express political opinions -- "Shut Up and Sing" -- suddenly find an actor perfectly fit for high political office based on his experience as The Terminator.
For more ironies, click here.
Posted by Ron at 11:58 PM
ON THE EDUCATIONAL HORIZON
Drug czar: Test for drugs in schools
From the Bennington Banner via Eschaton:
BOSTON (AP) -- President Bush's drug czar told New England governors Wednesday that drug testing in schools would be an effective way to combat a growing problem of drug use among young people, but area school officials caution there are problems with it.
Well, at least someone has a problem with it. Click here for more.
Here's what I wrote on Eschaton comments in response to another commenter having a problem with Atrios describing schools as gulag-like when he linked to this story:
Actually, this is a rather appropriate metaphor. Even though it is not well known, the American public school system was quite consciously based on the 19th century Prussian school system which essentially was designed to militarize the Prussian population in the wake of a big defeat by the French.
Check this out:
(education expert John) Gatto says the American educationists imported three major ideas from Prussia. The first was that the purpose of state schooling was not intellectual training but the conditioning of children "to obedience, subordination, and collective life." Second, whole ideas were broken into fragmented "subjects," and school days were divided into fixed periods "so that self-motivation to learn would be muted by ceaseless interruptions." Third, the state was posited as the true parent of children.
Needless to say, this is how US schools operate today. Trust me on this one, I'm a teacher. Since Columbine, things have only gotten worse, what with increased surveillance, security, and idiotic "zero-tolerance" policies.
The school where I teach is, indeed, a soft-touch gulag, and f$$k you if you disagree with me. By the way, I'm quitting at the end of this school year, it sucks so bad.
Posted by Ron at 11:55 PM
Wednesday, October 08, 2003
WAL-MART STILL SUCKS
Is Wal-Mart Too Powerful?
From Business Week:
However, Wal-Mart's seemingly simple and virtuous business model is fraught with complications and perverse consequences. To cite a particularly noteworthy one, this staunchly anti-union company, America's largest private employer, is widely blamed for the sorry state of retail wages in America. On average, Wal-Mart sales clerks -- "associates" in company parlance -- pulled in $8.23 an hour, or $13,861 a year, in 2001, according to documents filed in a lawsuit pending against the company. At the time, the federal poverty line for a family of three was $14,630. Wal-Mart insists that it pays competitively, citing a privately commissioned survey that found that it "meets or exceeds" the total remuneration paid by rival retailers in 50 U.S. markets. "This is a good place to work," says Coleman H. Peterson, executive vice-president for personnel, citing an employee turnover rate that has fallen below 45% from 70% in 1999.
Critics counter that this is evidence not of improving morale but of a lack of employment alternatives in a slow-growth economy. "It's a ticking time bomb," says an executive at one big Wal-Mart supplier. "At some point, do the people stand up and revolt?" Indeed, the company now faces a revolt of sorts in the form of nearly 40 lawsuits charging it with forcing employees to work overtime without pay and a sex-discrimination case that could rank as the largest civil rights class action ever. On Sept. 24, a federal judge in California began considering a plaintiff's petition to include all women who have worked at Wal-Mart since late 1998 -- 1.6 million all told -- in a suit alleging that Wal-Mart systematically denies women equal pay and opportunities for promotion. Wal-Mart is vigorously contesting all of these suits.
Wal-Mart might well be both America's most admired and most hated company. "The world has never known a company with such ambition, capability, and momentum," marvels a Boston Consulting Group report. On Wall Street, Wal-Mart trades at a premium to most every other retailer. But the more size and power that "the Beast of Bentonville" amasses, the greater the backlash it is stirring among competing retailers, vendors, organized labor, community activists, and cultural and political progressives. America has a long history of controversial retailers, notes James E. Hoopes, a history professor at Babson College. "What's new about Wal-Mart is the flak it's drawn from outside the world of its competition," he says. "It's become a social phenomenon that people resent and fear."
For yet more reasons why Wal-Mart uber alles totally sucks, click here.
To hear my song "Wal-Mart Sucks," click here for mp3, or here for streaming audio.
Posted by Ron at 11:13 PM
Tuesday, October 07, 2003
BUTTLOADS OF MICHAEL MOORE
First, an interview from the London Guardian via ZNet:
The Capped Crusader
But for all that, looking back on it, he does not see how he could have not said anything. "I did not make a film about birds or insects. I made a film about American violence. Let's turn the clock back and it's 1936 in Berlin and you got a theatre award: would it be inappropriate if you say something then, or do you just accept the award because 'You don't mix up politics and theatre'?"
Berlin in 1936 is a fairly good analogy for where Moore thinks America is at the moment. Not that he is comparing Bush to Hitler, but because he believes America's democracy is in peril, as Germany's was in the years following the burning down of the Reichstag. "Since 9/11, the Bush Administration has used that tragic event as a justification to rip up our constitution and our civil liberties. And I honestly believe that one or two 9/11s, and martial law will be declared in our country and we're inching towards a police state." He admits "it's not happening tomorrow", but some well-placed suicide bombs or terrorist attacks, he believes, could change everything. "At that point, you will find millions of Americans clamouring for martial law. I'm not talking about a takeover by Bush and his people. They won't have to fire a shot. The American people will be so freaked out they will demand that the White House take action, round up anyone and everyone. That's what I fear. It won't happen with a bang but with the whimpering sound of a frightened nation."
Click here for the entire interview.
Next, also from the Guardian, the first part of three excerpts from Dude, Where's My Country, Moore's new book:
How to talk to your conservative brother-in-law
Let's face it, almost every family has at least one rightwing reactionary of its very own, and there's not much you can do about it. It's a statistical certainty that for every two liberals, there will be one person who longs for the days of Strom Thurmond and legally accepted date rape. I seem to have encountered most of these guys in the past year. Many of them have written me long letters filled with a passion rarely seen on our side of the political fence. Some stop me on the street. A few of these times I have asked if they would like to sit down and have a cup of coffee with me (though I don't even drink coffee, and they themselves clearly have had way too much of it). I don't engage them in argument but, rather, listen to them rant and rave about Bush, liberals, towelheads and welfare queens. It's quite a spiel.
Just one note. I don't agree with everything Moore says here, especially his remarks about Mumia Abu-Jamal and his ideas about kids. However, the excerpt is still great reading. Click here.
Answers please, Mr Bush
I have seven questions for you, Mr Bush. I ask them on behalf of the 3,000 who died that September day, and I ask them on behalf of the American people. We seek no revenge against you. We want only to know what happened, and what can be done to bring the murderers to justice, so we can prevent any future attacks on our citizens...
1. Is it true that the Bin Ladens have had business relations with you and your family off and on for the past 25 years?
2. What is the 'special relationship' between the Bushes and the Saudi royal family?
3. Who attacked the US on September 11 - a guy on dialysis from a cave in Afghanistan, or your friend, Saudi Arabia?
4. Why did you allow a private Saudi jet to fly around the US in the days after September 11 and pick up members of the Bin Laden family and fly them out of the country without a proper investigation by the FBI?
5. Why are you protecting the Second Amendment rights of potential terrorists?
6. Were you aware that, while you were governor of Texas, the Taliban travelled to Texas to meet with your oil and gas company friends?
7. What exactly was that look on your face in the Florida classroom on the morning of September 11 when your chief of staff told you, 'America is under attack'?
For Moore's explanation of these questions, click here.
Face it, you'll never be rich
The fear drug works like this: you are repeatedly told that bad, scary people are going to kill you, so place all your trust in us, your corporate leaders, and we will protect you. But since we know what's best, don't question us if we want you to foot the bill for our tax cut, or if we decide to slash your health benefits or jack up the cost of buying a home. And if you don't shut up and toe the line and work your ass off, we will sack you - and then just try to find a new job in this economy, punk!
The other drug is nicer. It is first prescribed to us as children in the form of a fairy tale - but a fairy tale that can actually come true! It is the Horatio Alger myth. Alger was one of the most popular American writers of the late 1800s. His stories featured characters from impoverished backgrounds who, through pluck and determination and hard work, were able to make huge successes of themselves in this land of boundless opportunity. The message was that anyone can make it in America, and make it big.
We are addicted to this happy rags-to-riches myth in this country. People in other industrialised democracies are content to make a good enough living to pay their bills and raise their families. Few have a cutthroat desire to strike it rich. They live in reality, where there are only going to be a few rich people, and you are not going to be one of them. So get used to it.
I decided in my mid twenties that I would never be rich. I've been supporting liberals and leftists ever since. Click here.
Posted by Ron at 10:17 PM
Bush says Israel has right to defend itself
AP via Houston Chronicle:
President Bush declined to criticize Israel today for its air strike inside Syria, saying Israel "has got a right to defend herself." But Bush also said he had cautioned Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to try to avoid escalating tensions in the region.
Bush decried the "needless murder" of 19 people in a suicide attack by a Palestinian militant group in Israel on Saturday that led to the Israeli attack on a suspected terrorist camp in Syria.
Bush said that the Palestinian Authority must do more to fight terror and "must use whatever means is necessary .... All parties must assume responsibility."
Of course, in this case "defend" means "attack Syria." And let's not forget that the blimp-like warrior-leader Ariel Sharon is, according to Bush, "a man of peace." You know, at this point such blatant disregard for the truth is starting to sound almost normal; these guys are starting to get to me.
Saturday's terrorist attack in Israel was horrible, and I agree that it's government must do everything humanly possible to try to prevent more attacks. The problem is that expanding the hostilities will do nothing of the sort. Tit for tat violence will only make things worse: this is an extraordinarily sophisticated problem; it cannot be solved with Dirty Harry philosophy. The Palestinians are not crazy religious zealots; they have some real, concrete grievances about which Sharon has shown no concern. The cycle of violence in Israel/Palestine will only end when these grievances are addressed. Sadly, Sharon has made it absolutely clear that this will never happen on his watch.
Posted by Ron at 1:01 AM
ANYBODY OUT THERE IN CALIFORNIA?
Read this Greg Palast Stuff
on Ah-Nald Before You Vote
From Palast's weblog:
Hasta la Vista to $9 Billion if
the Governator is Selected
Now, 34 pages of internal Enron memoranda have just come through this reporter's fax machine that tell all about the tryst between Maria's husband and the corporate con men. It turns out that Schwarzenegger knowingly joined the hush-hush encounter as part of a campaign to sabotage a Davis-Bustamante plan to make Enron and other power pirates then ravaging California pay back the $9 billion in illicit profits they carried off.
Let's see now, California is dealing with an $8 billion dollar budget deficit. The power company pirates may very well owe the state $9 billion...and the Running Man wants to blow the deal? Hmmm...sounds pretty crooked to me, far worse for the state than any groping or Nazi sympathies. This is big money we're talking about here, and the Conan of the West wants it to remain in the hands of the corporate bastards. Vote "no" on the recall, Californians.
Click here for more.
Posted by Ron at 12:43 AM
Sunday, October 05, 2003
Cook: 'Blair admitted to me that
Saddam had no usable WMD'
Former British foreign secretary Robin Cook in the London Telegraph via Eschaton:
Mr Cook continues: "There were two distinct elements to this exchange that sent me away deeply troubled. The first was that the timetable to war was plainly not driven by the progress of the UN weapons inspections. Tony made no attempt to pretend that what Hans Blix [the chief UN weapons inspector] might report would make any difference to the countdown to invasion.
"The second troubling element to our conversation was that Tony did not try to argue me out of the view that Saddam did not have real weapons of mass destruction that were designed for strategic use against city populations and capable of being delivered with reliability over long distances."
For more, click here.
Here's what I wrote in Eschaton comments:
I think I've read Noam Chomsky speculating that Thatcher, Major, and Blair have all taken on a strategy of being US junior partner--that is, if the UK is no longer the world power that it once was, it's better to be with the big guy than it is to be against him. Ideally, this junior/senior "partnership" allows the Brits to impose some kind of moderating influence over some of the more extreme US positions.
Unfortunately for Blair it doesn't really seem to have worked out that way. Neo-con radicalism has forced him to adhere to some really wacked out views. That is, I'm not very surprised about Cook's statements: I don't think that Blair ever really believed any of the bullshit that he and Bush were selling during the lead up to the war, but he was already locked into this junior partner approach and seemingly had no choice.
From that point of view it's kind of hard not to feel a bit sorry for him--he's smart enough to see that he's already screwed up big time. Bush, on the other hand, is so stupid that he probably hasn't figured it out yet.
And here's an appropriate song lyric from an appropriately British band:
Puppy dog leader sooner or later
We'll dig up your cellar and try you for murder
from Chumbawamba's "Jacob's Ladder"
Posted by Ron at 8:19 PM
RESTLESSNESS IN THE COLONIES
Pay-cut rumors trigger deadly riots
AP via the Houston Chronicle:
Former Iraqi soldiers angry over rumors their pay would be cut off clashed Saturday with coalition troops in Baghdad and in the southern city of Basra in riots that left two Iraqis dead and dozens injured. Coalition officials said Saddam Hussein supporters fomented the violence.
Elsewhere, a U.S. soldier from the 4th Infantry Division was killed and another was wounded in an ambush early Saturday in Sadiyah, 60 miles north of Baghdad.
The death brought to at least 88 the number of American soldiers killed by hostile fire since President Bush declared major combat over on May 1.
The trouble started in Baghdad when hundreds of ex-soldiers assembled Saturday morning at a U.S. base at the city's former downtown airport to collect their $40 monthly stipend, which the coalition has been paying since Saddam's army was disbanded in May.
The crowd began hurling stones at U.S. troops and Iraqi police, who fired shots to try to disperse them.
Iraqis say contract bidding is rigged
From the Houston Chronicle:
The scramble to win U.S.-financed contracts to rebuild Iraq has been marred by misunderstandings and complaints from Iraqis that the American bidding process is bewildering and biased.
Many Iraqi businessmen feel shut out of the billion-dollar reconstruction of their country. While seeking subcontracts from huge American companies overseen by U.S. government agencies, the Iraqis claim that contracts have gone to foreign companies that charged many times more for the same work that they do.
After bids are solicited, the Iraqis say, contract winners are not announced and losers hear nothing, creating suspicions among the Iraqis that the process is rigged.
Click here for more.
As New York Times columnist Paul Krugman has said about the bidding, something "weird" is going on.
Posted by Ron at 8:02 PM
ISRAEL BOMBS SYRIA
"This is not an invasion of Cambodia." Richard Nixon April 30, 1970.
AP via the Houston Chronicle:
Israel bombed a target inside Syria that it claimed was an Islamic Jihad training base, striking deep inside its neighbor's territory today for the first time in three decades and widening its pursuit of Palestinian militants.
The airstrike -- a retaliation for a suicide bombing Saturday that killed 19 Israelis -- alarmed the Arab world and deepened concerns that three years of Israeli-Palestinian violence could spread through the region.
Washington urged both sides to show restraint -- but added pointed criticism of Syria, saying Damascus "must cease harboring terrorists and make a clean break from those responsible for planning and directing terrorist action from Syrian soil."
For more, click here.
Why, there's no need to worry about the entire Middle East erupting into intense armed conflict: "man of peace" Ariel Sharon is simply fighting the good fight in the "war on terrorism," just as his good buddy President Bush taught him to do it. How could this be wrong? Move along. Nothing more to see here.
All kidding aside, this strikes me as being pretty dangerous. Sharon really wanted the US to continue it's Iraq invasion into Syria. The fact that we did not seems to be making him try to start something up on his own. It's a major joke that our government suggests "restraint" to both sides--if we were truly interested in reining in Israel, all we would have to do is cut off the billions of dollars in military aid that we give them every year. The neo-cons in the White House would have absolutely no problem with Sharon invading Syria; they wanted to do it themselves, but the money and the national war hysteria ran out. Israel's latest aggressive move may very well be the precursor to an all new war in Syria that may very well see some American involvement before it's all over.
Ideally, this will make everyone forget about the CIA leak scandal. I'm telling you, those neo-con bastards in the White House are evil.
Posted by Ron at 7:53 PM