Friday, March 31, 2006

Watergate figure Dean at hearing on Bush censure

From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

John W. Dean, Richard Nixon's White House lawyer, told senators today that President Bush's domestic spying exceeds the wrongdoing that toppled his former boss.

Bush, Dean told the Senate Judiciary Committee, should be censured and possibly impeached.

"Had the Senate or House, or both, censured or somehow warned Richard Nixon, the tragedy of Watergate might have been prevented," Dean said. "Hopefully the Senate will not sit by while even more serious abuses unfold before it."

Republicans and their witnesses rejected the comparison between Watergate and Bush's wiretapping program, and attributed Sen. Russell Feingold's censure resolution to posturing in a year of midterm elections.


In fact, only two Democrats have co-sponsored Feingold's resolution: Sens. Tom Harkin of Iowa and Barbara Boxer of California. The rest have distanced themselves from the proposal, with many saying the resolution is premature because a Senate Intelligence Committee investigation of the eavesdropping program has not concluded.

here for the rest.

This whole censure thing amazes me. Not the resolution itself, mind you, I'm really happy that Feingold's massive juevos continue to be a force with which to be reckoned. No, what gets me is how the two parties are reacting to it. I guess the GOP response is no surprise, but it's a wonder that they don't realize that conservatism itself, as the dominant American political philosophy, is now on the line--Bush's criminality and incompetence threaten to discredit right-wing ideas for at least a decade if not more. Why are Republicans so willing to drown with their leader? But if the Red State guys make me wonder, the Blue State guys piss me off. At this point, as the war in Iraq continues, perhaps indefinitely, after Katrina has made clear to the whole country that the Bush administration is simply incapable of providing us with "homeland security," and on and on, it ought to be clear that opposing the White House is nothing but a winning strategy. But, no, Senate Democrats continue to play it safe, which means, for them, losing, and are running away from Feingold's resolution as though...well...a good simile evades me, just fill in the blank with something really bad. What a bunch of pathetic losers. We'd all be much better off if both parties were disbanded and replaced by parties with real liberals and real conservatives. Ah, the stuff of dreams.

You know, it's ironic. The Republicans are dismissing the censure resolution as midterm electoral "posturing," but at the same time Democrats are criticizing Feingold because they feel his resolution is going to hurt their chances for taking back Congress in November; they think he's posturing for a Presidential run in '08 at everybody else's expense. Obviously, it can't be both. Here's my take on it. This has nothing to do with electoral politics: Feingold is pushing this because it's the right thing to do. I guess the politicians in Washington are so jaded they just can't believe that one of their own would do something on principle alone. Sickening.








Thursday, March 30, 2006

Opinions split over red, white and green

From the Houston Chronicle:

Reagan High School Principal Robert Pambello was ordered to remove a Mexican flag Wednesday morning that he had hoisted below the U.S. and Texas flags that typically fly in front of his school — a symbol he agreed to fly to show support for his predominantly Hispanic student body.

At nearby Hamilton Middle School, a child was asked to wipe off Mexican and U.S. flags painted on his face. Hundreds of other students carried Mexican flags during walkouts Wednesday — acts of protest that they vow to continue until Congress rejects legislation that would further restrict immigration.

"There's no other way to be heard ... It's not the best way or the right way, but it's our way," Reagan freshman Jose Lopez, 14, said of the effort.

The Mexican flag has become a lightning rod in the immigration debate that's consumed the city and the nation this week. Students say the flag represents their pride in the contributions Mexicans make to this country. Critics, though, said watching young Hispanics in the streets with the red, green and white flags is more than they can stand. These youngsters are in the United States and should — at the least — carry the U.S. flag, they argue.

"The whole thing just makes my blood boil," said Bruce R. Wing, a 52-year-old Missouri City resident. "I want them all out of here."

Wing said the Houston Independent School District should fire Pambello.

Click here for the rest.

I know both Reagan High School, where one of my education certification classes met, and Hamilton Middle School, where I interned. They're both in Houston's Heights neighborhood, a mix of Mexican-Americans and gentrifying white yuppies: it's not surprising that the Chronicle had to go all the way out to Missouri City to get a critical quote; the two racial factions in the Heights seem to coexist quite well. Indeed, the Heights, where my wife Becky lived for over a decade, and Houston's east side, where I lived for six years, and where whites, African-Americans, and Mexican-Americans live virtually side by side with very little visible strife, serve as a model of ethnic and racial tolerance. It is indeed possible for us to "all just get along."

The problems associated with illegal immigration are difficult enough to solve by themselves--the vested business and political interests which conspire together to exploit cheap illegal labor are powerful and not easily challenged. However, the xenophobia creeping into the debate makes a difficult problem that much more difficult. I don't think it's necessary to explain why fear of Spanish speakers is downright foolish, but I will observe that all of my interactions with Hispanic communities in the Houston area were always positive--obviously, very obviously, Spanish speakers are just like English speakers, some are cool, some are jerks, but they're all human beings. Yeah, it's fucking stupid that I even feel compelled to write that. I just don't get why so many non-Hispanic Americans get so stirred up about things like dual language ballots or the Mexican flag.

I think it's fair to say that mainstream American culture is facing no threat of extinction; the only thing I can conclude is that there is no rational basis behind opposition to Spanish speaking. It's just fear.

I have to admit, however, that I'm glad I'm not teaching anymore. I firmly support all these student walkouts--I displayed a Mexican flag in my classroom for most of my tenure. I haven't heard about any activism at the school in Baytown where I taught, although the above article does mention a walkout at the district's other high school, but if there was one, and I was still teaching, I would have found myself having to balance career concerns with moral concerns. That is, upon seeing so many teenagers taking to the streets in support of a just cause, I would have been majorly tempted to join them. Given the arrests and disciplinary responses coming down against these student activists, it's probably safe to say that any teachers joining in the fun would be dealt with harshly.

Anyway, good for Principal Pambello. Heh: "Principle Pambello." This is exactly the kind of man we need more of in public education.


Turning almost 12 million illegal
immigrants into felons will aggravate
the problem and solve nothing

From the Houston Chronicle editorial board:

AFTER an intense debate that saw an unusually high level of Republican infighting, members of the Senate Judiciary Committee rejected proposals that would have turned the 11 million or more illegal immigrants in the United States into felony fugitives. Members of the U.S. House, however, did not flinch: They passed a similar proposal by a wide margin last December.

Should such a large segment of the U.S. population be turned into criminals, how would their arrest, imprisonment and deportation be accomplished? The draconian antidrug laws passed in the 1980s should serve as a warning example.

Click here for the rest.

The Chronicle is absolutely right to observe that criminalizing illegal immigration will result in packed prisons along with ruined lives and families. I might also add that, because US prison conditions are racist and violent, such a law will also serve to create real criminals who did not previously exist. What this essay is missing, however, is the strongest argument that can be used against this bill: it's just plain wrong. The flood of illegal aliens into the US exists, by and large, because the federal government refuses to prosecute the crooked capitalists here who violate immigration, labor, and tax laws when they hire cheap workers, while at the same time doing business with and giving support to numerous corrupt crony-capitalist governments south of the border. We could end this issue right now without passing a single law--all we need to do is enforce already existing laws and inject some good sense morality into our foreign and economic policies. These poor, vulnerable people are being exploited, back at home where US supported government policy makes their economic prospects grim, and here where they are preyed upon by exploitative businesses. They're not criminals; they're victims.


Wednesday, March 29, 2006

DeLay says he sees war on Christianity in U.S.

From the Houston Chronicle:

The Sugar Land Republican said some commentators — the "chattering classes" — will argue that there is no war on Christianity in this country.

"But in a sense, there always has been and always will be," he said. "Our faith has always been in direct conflict with the values of the world. We are, after all, a society that provides abortion on demand, has killed millions of innocent children, degrades the institution of marriage and all but treats Christianity like some second-rate superstition."

Despite those factors, DeLay said, "we have been chosen to live as Christians at a time when our culture is being poisoned. ... God made us specifically for it. ... Jesus Christ himself made us just so that we could live in this nation at this time."

Click here for the rest.

Okay, that's just too rich. Never mind the irony of a criminal like DeLay trying to take some moral high ground. The exact opposite is true; Christianity is waging war on America. Or perhaps I should say that Christian fundamentalism is waging war on the US, rather than Christianity in general--I know there are many moderate and relatively silent Christians who are sickened by what people like DeLay are doing in the name of Christ. America could really use the help of those quiet Christians now: the fundamentalists are wired into the GOP, which runs everything at the federal level, and are finding success in forcing their twisted values on everybody else through legislation. They really are at war, or, at least, understand what they're doing in terms of combat metaphor: they speak of donning "spiritual armor" while going to fight the good fight for Jesus. Man, just yesterday here at LSU I had a frothing-at-the-mouth evangelist screaming at me, and many other passers by, that we are "God haters," and condemned to Hell. They're the hostile ones; they're the ones who are literally trying to take over and remake this country into a theocracy. Sounds like war to me. And unless sane Americans figure this out, now, we may be all wearing birkas in the not too distant future.


Abramoff sentenced to 70 months in prison

From the Houston Chronicle:

Assuring the judge he is working to become "a new man," disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff was sentenced today to nearly six years in prison for committing fraud in the purchase of a fleet of gambling boats.

He will remain free while helping prosecutors with a vast bribery investigation involving members of Congress.

Abramoff, 47, and former business partner Adam Kidan, 41, received the minimum under federal guidelines: five years and 10 months.


He also agreed to cooperate in a corruption probe that could involve up to 20 members of Congress, including former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas. No date has been set for his sentencing in that case.

Click here for the rest.

Abramoff is a criminal of the highest order. Five years seems not enough. His crimes attacked the very nature of democracy itself, bending the will of the people by bribing their representatives. In my opinion, what he did is almost as bad as murder; he helped move the country further down the slippery slope toward plutocracy. And that's pretty damned sick. Of course, Abramoff is only one part of the overall plot to destroy America, a plot that has, by and large, already succeeded. Thousands of people are in on this--and I'm not talking conspiracy; this is done openly (see my post yesterday). The real fun's going to happen soon when Abramoff starts naming names. Maybe when a few of these guys go down we'll start hearing about some real reform. Nothing like fear to make the rats scurry. I guess the lenient sentence is well worth it, if only for that.


Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Divide and Conquer

Another good post on illegal immigration from Greg Saunders over at This Modern World:

So the findings seem to suggest that there’s a nugget of truth in the xenophobic “they’re stealing our jobs” line in that unskilled workers are forced to compete with their immigrant counterparts, but the only “stolen” jobs are taken by greedy employers who want to skirt our labor laws and make a few extra bucks. The total lack of price reductions additionally supports the fact that there is no great economic incentive for this shift in the workforce. Sure, immoral businesses are saving money, but those savings are being put into their pockets, not passed onto consumers.


The struggle in the streets of Los Angeles and elsewhere isn’t one between immigrants and Americans, but between the working class and the business/government entities that are looking for new avenues to cheap labor, even if it means exploiting ethnic tensions to turn people against each other.

Click here for the rest.

This echoes both what I and Mike over at This is not a compliment have been saying the last couple of days: the illegal alien issue has been constructed by businesses trying to make more money by exploiting the poor, both American and foreign. American because these businesses refuse to pay US workers what they're actually worth; foreign because they're preying on desperate vulnerable people. When you get right down to it, the interests of American xenophobes and the foreign nationals they hate are exactly the same. They both want to earn a living. It's the greedy and corrupt US capitalists, and the politicians who support them, that are their enemy, not each other. Classic capitalist exploitation; classic race baiting. They walk hand in hand.

Also, just for good measure, don't forget the US plays a role in the dire economic circumstances abroad that send so many people here illegally for work: our government supports both corrupt governments south of the border and the pirate capitalism which thrives in those countries. It's quite a good thing that so many socialists are coming to power in South America. It sounds like they're sick of this shit, too.


How to Be a Lobbyist Without Trying

From Rolling Stone courtesy of
Working For Change:

The activist handed me a printout with the details: "Please join us for Senator Burns's Birthday!!!" It was $1,000 a ticket for organizations, $500 for individuals. RSVP Amy Miller, the Bellwether Group.

It sure would be interesting to go to that party, I thought.

"So go to the party!" said my Friend in Politics. "Just say you're a lobbyist and go. Who's stopping you?"

We hashed out a plan. All I needed to do, he said, was print out a few business cards, and maybe -- for just-in-case verisimilitude -- type out a jazzy-looking fact sheet with a plan for some bogus project my "clients" would be pushing. "But make it as ridiculous as possible," my Friend insisted. "The magic words are: 'My clients will be seeking some regulatory relief' and 'Our project has an energy-independent profile.' Trust me, a guy like Conrad Burns will pop a boner in ten seconds flat."

here for the rest.

This is as funny as it is depressing. It's classic Rolling Stone political reporting, the kind I remember reading when I was a teenager, irreverent, personal, guerilla. It's important to note that it was written in the post Abramoff era: this shit is still going on, and apparently none of the hooplah and reform rhetoric amount to anything at all. This guy goes in with a fake story about drilling for oil in the Grand Canyon and actually makes some headway, gets a little "access" as they say in the business. This story is like something out of The Simpsons, but, sadly, completely true. Go check it out.


Monday, March 27, 2006


Responding in comments to my post yesterday on illegal immigration, my buddy Mike, who blogs over at
This is not a compliment, had this to say:

the solution could be as simple as enforcement of current labor laws...

if firms hiring illegal immigrants were charged with not only hiring illegals but with a host of other labor violation s (minimum wage, reporting, tax, etc.) and we really made this a priority it wouldn't be long before the economic advantages of hiring illegal workers would disappear...

and it wouldn't be hard...

anyone who knows their own city even fairly well could point you to a few places to start looking for violations...

of course if the companies are forced to make good with back pay for violations of minimum wage laws, that $$$ should go to the worker, legal or not.
Mike's entirely right of course. The problem is entirely manufactured. The reason there is a demand for cheap labor is because employers are allowed to get away with ripping off a vulnerable population. And this is extraordinarily illegal. But why should I fumble through this when Greg Saunders over at This Modern World has already explained it much better than I can:

The key to unraveling this bullshit is that the anonymous laborer quoted above likely ended his gripe with “unless you pay me more”. The President wants you to think this is because American workers are shiftless elitists, but it’s the employers and their shills who are the assholes here.

What people like the George W. Bush don’t understand is that capitalism is not a one-way street. When the demand for workers is high and the supply of laborers is low, the rational solution would be for employers to raise wages, increase benefits, or both to ensure that supply catches up to demand. But that would mean actually spending more money, and we can’t have that.

Instead, employers have found a way to get around their obligations by employing “undocumented” workers (and thus creating a demand for illegal labor). Why are these men and women willing to do the same job that Americans are unwilling to do for less money? Well, they’re here illegally, for one. They probably don’t speak English well and have little familiarity with existing labor laws. They’re doing a job that’s unskilled while under the constant threat of deportation. Sounds like the new face of indentured servitude to me, but the President and his allies are trying to figure out ways to make it acceptable.

here for the rest.

This is a big rip off, of both foreign and American workers. You can put up walls, throw people in jail, and on and on, but the flow of illegals into the US will not end until American businesses are forced to obey the law like everyone else. But given the mainstream rhetoric on this issue, I don't see that happening anytime soon.


Means "Who Polices the Police?"

From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

Wisconsin Officers Stand Trial in Beating Case

Black residents were incensed when four months went by before charges were filed against white police officers accused of punching, kicking and choking a biracial man outside a house party.

The 2004 incident intensified racial tensions in this city that is 37 percent black and has some of the nation's most segregated neighborhoods.

With the trial of three officers accused of the beating set to start Monday, some say the animosity has eased. And the defendants and nine other officers have been fired.


In October 2004, Frank Jude Jr., two white women and a black friend went to a party at the home of police officer Andrew Spengler in a mostly white, working-class neighborhood on the city's south side.

One officer at the party accused Jude of stealing a badge. The four left, but prosecutors say a group of off-duty officers followed them out to the street and some of the officers beat Jude severely while using a racial slur. Defense lawyers say Jude fought when confronted outside.

here for the rest.

This is a classic Quis Custodiet story: arrogant cops, believing that their authority has been somehow disrespected, beat the crap out of somebody, showing that, for many of them, their elite status is far more important than the laws they are sworn to protect. Stories like this are pretty much why I do these kinds of posts. As I've said many times, there are countless good cops who take their roles seriously, but the police culture in which they operate creates circumstances, again and again, where they end up either helping bad cops do bad things or helping to cover up their brethren's misdeeds. Cop culture is corrupt and out of control. It is ruled by a sense of us-versus-them, where pretty much anybody, especially people of color, might qualify as "them." Furthermore, cop culture posesses a sense of arrogance born of the belief that putting on a badge clearly makes one a good guy; with arrogance comes a sense of infallibility, which is why so many officers think it's okay to break the law. They're cops--they are the law. I readily admit that we need police, but not like this. Cops are supposed to protect us, not prey on us.


Sunday, March 26, 2006

L.A. marchers voice support for immigrants

From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

Joining what some are calling the largest mobilization of immigrants ever in the U.S., a crowd estimated by police at more than 500,000 boisterously marched here Saturday to protest federal legislation that would crack down on undocumented immigrants, penalize those who help them and build a security wall on the U.S. southern border.

Spirited marchers — non-affiliated immigrants alongside labor, religious, and civil-rights groups — stretched more than 20 blocks to City Hall.

It was believed to be the largest protest march in Los Angeles history, far surpassing the 70,000 who rallied downtown against Proposition 187, a 1994 state initiative that denied public benefits to undocumented migrants. Police said there were no arrests or injuries.

The demonstrators included both longtime residents and the newly arrived.

here for the rest.

And there were large rallies around the country on Friday as well, with more to come if I understand correctly. These bills being considered are real stinkers, and I wholeheartedly support these protesters' opposition to them. I mean, what does it mean to criminalize the aiding of illegal immigrants? Will I be busted for giving someone directions or a band-aid? That's bullshit, of course, and if this crap becomes law, I have no intention of obeying. I'm not a cop, god forbid, and I will not lift a finger to report anyone I think is here illegally. I don't believe it's a crime to want to feed your family. On the other hand, I think there are some legitimate grievances about illegal immigration. I know that many illegals pay taxes, but because so many of them make such low wages, there probably is a strain on social services. I also believe that illegal immigrants put a downward pressure on wages--personally, I don't believe the old adage that they'll do the jobs nobody else will; plenty of citizens will do shit-work if it pays well enough. But then, I guess I'm really arguing for universal health care and a massive hike in the minimum wage. Maybe these grievances are misplaced; maybe they're actually about the brutalities of cut-throat capitalism, which affect all workers in the US, citizen and non-citizen alike. One thing's for sure, as long as the US economic and political elite continue to deal with the corrupt crony-capitalists in Mexico and other Latin American nations without pressuring heavily for reform, the flow of illegals north of the border will not end. Because that's where the problem really lies, not with poor souls who are simply trying to survive. The US has some responsibility here, and the problem won't be solved until it lives up to that responsibility.



From the New York Post courtesy of
the Daily Kos:

A Republican challenger to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is bizarrely claiming that the former first lady has been spying in her bedroom window and flying helicopters over her house in the Hamptons, witnesses told The Post yesterday.

Former Reagan-era Pentagon official Kathleen "KT" McFarland stunned a crowd of Suffolk County Republicans on Thursday by saying:

"Hillary Clinton is really worried about me, and is so worried, in fact, that she had helicopters flying over my house in Southampton today taking pictures," according to a prominent GOP activist who was at the event.

"She wasn't joking, she was very, very serious, and she also claimed that Clinton's people were taking pictures across the street from her house in Manhattan, taking pictures from an apartment across the street from her bedroom," added the eyewitness, who is not involved in the Senate race.

here for the rest.

I don't much like Hillary Clinton myself, but I certanly don't think she has either the resources or the gumption to pull off what this weirdo is accusing her of. Clearly, this McFarland person is a real nut, paranoid even, and may want to get some therapy, or at least some good meds. But, oh my, how far we've come since the 90s. It is interesting that this report comes from the New York Post, owned by the same guy behind Fox News, Rupert Murdoch. Needless to say, the Post is as much of a shill for the GOP as Fox is. Back in the day, the Post, as well as Fox, was completely willing to take at face value pretty much any crazy claim about the Clintons that came along. Murder, wild drug orgies, bizarre witchcraft and lesbianism, child molestation, you name it, it was all fair game if the accusations were directed at Bill or Hillary. So what's the deal now? Helicopters and spying strike me as being much more credible than the mud being slung in the 90s. I wonder why they've decided to take the moral high road with this one. I guess they just don't care anymore: maybe the guy in the White House now has actually made them miss the peace and stabilty we enjoyed a decade ago. Who knows?


Saturday, March 25, 2006

Country star Buck Owens dies

From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

His career was one of the most phenomenal in country music, with a string of more than 20 No. 1 records, most released from the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s.

They were recorded with a honky-tonk twang that came to be known throughout California as the "Bakersfield Sound," named for the town 100 miles north of Los Angeles that Owens called home.

"I think the reason he was so well known and respected by a younger generation of country musicians was because he was an innovator and rebel," said Shaw, who played keyboards in Owens' band, the Buckaroos. "He did it out of the Nashville establishment. He had a raw edge."

here for the rest.

It's weird: even though I've never really been into Buck Owens, he's been a part of my life, all my life. When I was a kid, I watched him on Hee Haw with my Dad. His weird, goofy facial expressions and natural comic timing always made me laugh. When I was a bit older, approaching my teenage years and shunning everything country, I was blown away to find out that the Beatles had covered his hit "Act Naturally." A couple of years after that, I was further blown away when I discovered that the 60s garage band Creedence Clearwater Revival had referenced him in their song "Looking Out My Back Door." It wasn't until I was in my twenties that I started to get over my silly hatred of country and western music, which was really only about not wanting to be identified with hicks and rednecks, rather than the music itself. That's when I started taking Owens more seriously. Taking his work at face value, I was blown away again. His sound epitomized, to me, the classic country that had been playing in the background of my childhood years. It's great stuff, simple and unadorned, honest and cool, proving that an artist doesn't have to delve into T.S. Eliot territory in order to verge on greatness.

Here's a one minute sample of his song "
Tiger by the Tail," courtesy of his website--god, it's great.

It's a damned shame that my cultural elitism, that is, my juvenile hatred of rednecks, kept me from really getting into his work over the years. It's time to change that. I think I'm gonna go get me some Buck Owens records as soon as I can make it to the mall.

Farewell Buck.

Johnny Cash and Buck Owens from an episode of Hee Haw


Texas out with 70-60 loss to LSU

From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

Glen Davis scored 26 points, including a decisive 3-pointer in overtime, and Tyrus Thomas added 21 points and 13 rebounds today, leading LSU to its first Final Four since 1986 with a 70-60 victory over Texas in the Atlanta Regional final.

Click here for the rest.

Well. I would have preferred Texas, but LSU works okay. I guess. I don't even like basketball. For some reason, however, even though my current school made it to the Final Four, I feel the bitter taste of defeat. At least my Longhorn buddy Matt, who bet against his own school in his office pool, might have gotten a few bucks out of it. Man, that overtime period was hard to watch. Texas just fell apart.

Ah, hell. Geaux Tigers!


Friday, March 24, 2006


In basketball, that is, a sport which, admitedly, I don't really like that much, if only because I totally sucked at it when I was a kid. But very cool things are happening right now, cool things that have the potential to divide my scholastic loyalties.

From the Houston Chronicle:

Tigers surprise top-seeded Duke by
forcing Redick into 3-for-18 night

Tyrus Thomas high-stepped to half-court, turned to the LSU crowd and took a few swings with his fists.

Down goes Duke!

Down goes Duke!

LSU continued its magical ride through the NCAA Tournament on Thursday night, upsetting No. 1 seed Duke 62-54 in the semifinals of the Atlanta Regional at the Georgia Dome.

here for the rest.

Also from the Chronicle:

Paulino rescues Longhorns

In the season celebrating the 100-year anniversary of Texas basketball, Kenton Paulino etched his name in the history books.

Paulino drained a 3-pointer as time expired, sending the second-seeded Longhorns to a thrilling 74-71 victory over No. 6 West Virginia in the Atlanta Regional semifinals on Thursday night at the Georgia Dome.

As the shot swished through the basket, Paulino stood in a daze for a few seconds before he was mobbed by teammates. Game officials briefly reviewed the play, but the Longhorns already had begun to celebrate one of the biggest victories in school history.

here for the rest.

Okay, cool, Texas and LSU have both advanced to the NCAA Basketball Tournament quarterfinals. As longtime Real Art readers know, I got my two undergraduate degrees from Texas, so I'm a Longhorn from way back, but I currently attend LSU as a graduate student--it's been pretty difficult to not get caught up in Tiger mania here; this place is pretty spirited. So I should be really stoked about all this, right?

Here's why it's a nightmare scenario:

The immediate significance for the Longhorns: Texas is one victory away from its second trip to the Final Four in four years. The Longhorns (30-6) will play No. 4 seed LSU (26-8) at 3:40 p.m. Saturday at the Georgia Dome for the right to advance to the Final Four in Indianapolis.

Yes, that's right. The potential situation that had me slightly worried all football season long has come to pass during basketball season: Texas is playing LSU, and the stakes are extraordinarily high. They're playing for admittance to the Final Four. I want them both to win, but, of course, that's impossible--only one team will make it. So what am I supposed to do? Hope that everybody has a good time?

Nah. I figured this all out almost as quickly as I learned that I had gotten into grad school. Back in May of '04 when I announced here that I had gotten into LSU, and threw in an obligatory "Geaux Tigers" for good measure, my old buddy Matt, with whom I attended UT, reminded me of my heritage in comments:


However, remember something. You are a Texas Longhorn. You do not cheer for crawfish-sucking, swamp-dwelling, Ricky-Williams trading, Gold-and-Purple clad foreigners!

Where's your head, man?!?
Momentarily shamed, I immediately understood what I'm about:

Matt is, of course, absolutely right. I'll go watch the Tigers play some good football next fall, but my blood is burnt orange, and that's the way it'll always be. I am, indeed, a Texas Longhorn, and I promise to not let weird, LSU mania go to my head during my tenure in the swamps.
Uh huh.

So you see, there really is no conflict, no nightmare scenario. I'm a Longhorn, damn it, always have been and always will be. I'm rooting for Texas tomorrow, and I hope to god the running 'Horns gore the intestines out of the Tigers, and leave their entrails all over the Georgia Dome, grossing out tens of thousands of hapless LSU fans. That's what I want to see.

Understand, however, I only want to see that when LSU plays Texas. Otherwise, geaux Tigers!





Frankie and Sammy

(All photos today taken by my wife Becky. It's also her birthday today.)


Thursday, March 23, 2006

Don’t buy The Professors by David Horowitz

This Modern World:

Seriously, it’s the same “radical professors” crap that conservatives have been whining about for years. We’ve seen this argument a million times before and it’s still as simple-minded as it was forty years ago. To conservatives like Horowitz, liberalism on college campuses is the result of political bias and intolerance for alternative views. While cherry-picked examples of political correctness run amok can certainly be strung together to support that thesis, there’s a more obvious answer that’s being overlooked by the egomaniacs on the right. When educated people disagree with you, it has nothing to do with political bias. They disagree with you because you’re wrong. If Horowitz and his peers had the slightest bit of humility, they’d take the unpopularity of their views among intellectuals as a sign that they might need to reevaluate their views. But that would require flip-flopping and we all know how wingnuts feel about that.

here for the rest (which is essentially a plug for Tom Tomorrow's new collection of This Modern World strips, and worth checking out if only because he's great).

Whether in his 1960s guise as a Stalinist radical or his current one as a paranoid conservative extremist, David Horowitz has always been the same thing, a professional bully. His latest crusade is to root out the "intolerance" of conservative academics by colleges and universities. His central premise is that most professors are liberal, which is probably true if one excludes business schools and economics departments, and that the reason why is that schools systematically discriminate against conservative teachers. A corollary of this premise is that all these liberal professors are brainwashing millions of American students year after year into becoming wild eyed communist America-haters. This proposition is obviously absurd. Never mind the fact that most college educated Americans are not radicals. Most colleges and universities, especially the big state supported ones in "red" states, are run by conservatives who are well connected to business and government interests. There's just no discrimination to speak of.

Tom Tomorrow hits the nail on the head when he says, "When educated people disagree with you, it has nothing to do with political bias. They disagree with you because you’re wrong." Simply put, the reason there are so few conservatives in academia is because their views just don't cut it intellectually--the only place these guys can find employment is with right-wing think tanks or as propagandists for corporations. That is, there's really no such thing as a conservative "intellectual." The people who call themselves that are simply con men.

What Horowitz's crusade amounts to, then, is simply neo-McCarthyism. That is, bullying. And that's what Horowitz does best. I'm glad he's found his niche.


Can't We All Just Get Along?

The always wise Rob Salkowitz over at Emphasis Added has found something good about the snake oil and bullshit "religion" known more popularly as Scientology:

That's why I'd like to take this moment to publicly thank the Church of Scientology for providing us with some common ground.

Liberals distrust Scientology because it's a weird authoritarian cult. Conservatives distrust Scientology because it's a weird authoritarian cult that isn't Christian. Conservatives are suspicious of anything embraced openly by Hollywood celebrities. Liberals are concerned about anything that has driven more than a few Hollywood celebrities visibly insane.

Click here for the rest.

And that's the only good thing I've ever heard about Scientology: they're so darkly screwy that opposing them creates common ground between conservatives and liberals. But then, what else can one say about a group that bases most of its teachings around the use of the pseudo-scientific device known as an e-meter? Just so you know, an e-meter is essentially a polygraph hooked up to a biofeedback machine, the kind of thing ten year old boys used to make out in the garage with spare radio parts. I'm personally much more comfortable with snake handling or speaking in tongues. The Scientologist rank and file are just plain nuts; the Scientologist elite are con artists, ripping off these poor souls for as much as they can take. They make Fred Phelps look good. Fuck 'em.


Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil,
and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century

Democracy Now, Amy Goodman interviews former GOP strategist Kevin Phillips about his new book that shows in exhaustive detail how the religious right's influence over the Republican Party affects, well, pretty much everything:

AMY GOODMAN: The war in Iraq was over oil?

KEVIN PHILLIPS: I think it was principally over oil. If you – and let me qualify that by saying I think a certain amount of the reason for the war in Iraq was a larger geo-strategic situation in which we were going to have to leave Saudi Arabia. And the way to develop an alternative oil supply and base was to aim at Iraq. Now, that went beyond purely oil as a consideration.

Another facet of the invasion of Iraq, in 2002, George W. Bush gave a speech in Texas, in which he talked about how Saddam Hussein had tried to assassinate his father. So there you have sort of the family aspect. And lastly, the Middle East is a battleground of biblical Armageddon and everything. And that's swimming into play. A number of the religious right people talked about Saddam Hussein as the anti-Christ, and the Left Behind series, which is the Tim LaHaye 60 million sold context of the end times and Armageddon, while the Antichrist comes from New Babylon and Iraq, and the attempt was to portray Baghdad, Babylon, as the focal point of the end times, so that a whole lot of supporters of the administration, they didn't care about weapons of mass destruction. This was part of the unfolding biblical epic of the end times and the war between good and evil. And this is something that I get into in the book; it’s hard to explain it just in a short conversation.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, we’ve got some time.

KEVIN PHILLIPS: Well, this is very central to the whole Republican constituency. What you’ve got is that 45% of American Christians believe in Armageddon, and the more religious ones, the fundamentalists and evangelicals more than anybody else. So, my assumption is that the Bush electorate is probably 50 to 55% people who believe in Armageddon and probably more or less the same numbers who believe that the Antichrist is already on earth. And when you have this backdrop and you have a president who got his start in national politics as his father’s liaison with the religious right back in 1987 and ‘88, you just have an enormous exposure to this whole psychological context and an awareness on the part of people in the White House that this huge constituency interprets the Middle East in this very unusual way.

here to watch, read, or listen to the rest.

Phillips moves seamlessly from subject to subject, from politics to banking and credit to history to the judiciary to oil, always carefully illustrating how fundamentalist Christianity lurks in the background, and finally concludes that the United States is facing for numerous different reasons several massive crises. The short version is that the religious right appears to live in a different reality where deficits, oil shortages, fiscal collapse, and the future itself have no importance. And they have massive influence over the Republican Party. And the Republican Party runs everything now. We're screwed.

Years ago my buddy Vince, an atheist, flat out rejected my assertion that the fundamentalists were a dire threat to our very way of life. "No they're not," he said, "they're just a bunch of lunatics, and I think most people realize that." Of course, my belief at that time, the early mid 90s, was probably coming more from the fact that I had recently quit being a Southern Baptist, and had (and still have) an axe to grind, than from any sort of political brilliance on my part. Nonetheless, it turns out I was right. The GOP play to these people hardcore; the religious right is one of their most reliable voting blocs. We're now at the point, after years of incremental increases in their political power and influence, where the fundamentalist vision for America is becoming a reality, and as my pal Vince correctly observed years ago, these people are, indeed, lunatics. Consequently, America is increasingly in a state of dangerous lunacy. That's not good at all.


Scientology: Funny and scary
This is a little long, but it was all too good to cut.

The battle between Tom Cruise and Scientology and its foes is heating up.

Cruise and Scientology have been in the news lately because of an allegedly censored “South Park” parody of the religion— and now Scientology and the “Top Gun” star are being blamed for a woman’s death.

“Thanks, Tom Cruise and the Church of Scientology, for your expert advice on mental health,” blasts an ad in LA Weekly. The ad goes on to say that a woman was killed “by the schizophrenic son she was told to treat with vitamins instead of psychiatric care.”

The ad refers readers to a Web site, which provides details on the case of Jeremy Perkins, a 28-year-old schizophrenic who stabbed his mother to death. Perkins was a staunch Scientologist and his mother was a counselor in the church — which opposes psychiatry and psychiatric drugs and “believes modern psychiatric medicine derives from an ancient alien civilization’s plot to drug and enslave humanity,” notes the site.

A spokesman for the Celebrity Center of the Church didn't respond to requests for comment by deadline.

So, I know this is tabloid crap and we shouldn't waste our time even thinking about the Hollywood rumor mill, but this religion is getting scary. Let's start with the rumor:

Unnamed "inside" sources have claimed that Tom Cruise threatened Viacom with refusing to participate in the publicity campaign for MI3 (let's pause for a minute and think about what a bad idea that is) if they re-aired the episode of South Park called "Trapped in the Closet." This episode apparently shows Nicole Kidman, John Travolta, and R. Kelly trying to talk Tom Cruise out of a closet (get it), as well as including other stuff that Ron post a few days ago. This episode was not re-aired, instead something about Chef's Salty Balls was re-aired.

This would be funny, if not for the allegation that one person's money can interfere with another person's freedom of speech. I mean, yes, this is kind of a trivial thing-- the episode has aired the first time, portions of it are on the internet (maybe the entire episode), the creators are not being told to stop saying anything, but something strikes me as really wrong. It seems to me Scientologists are starting to get REALLY out of hand. Maybe more than my favorite out of control religious group, the Southern Baptists. I couldn't (in a full two minute search) find the Southern Baptists trying to stop any episodes of South Park.

I hesitate to continue without saying that I think everyone has the right to believe (or not believe) whatever they want. And if Scientologists want to boycot South Park-- then more power to 'em, but when Scientologist (or Southern Baptists, or Catholics, or whomever) start to demand that the rest of the country live accoording to the belief structure held by that group, they have gone entirely too far.

This is why I get angry about Tom Cruise's constant public abuse of celebrities and their use of pharmaceutical and talk therapies. I know drugs aren't always the answer, but to tell others that using doctor prescribed anti-psycotic drugs makes them pawns in an ancient alien plot to enslave humanity is wrong! Does anyone else remember Oprah getting sued by the beef people for saying mad cow stopped her from eating burgers? Can't the pharmeceutical people sue Tom Cruise and Scientology for being public menaces? I am infuriated by this. And now it seems as though there could be some kind of suit for the death of the mother at the hands of her schizophrenic son. Ahhh... America. The land where you can sue a religion, but can't talk smack about it on an animated TV show. What will we think of next?

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Bush: Troops to Stay in Iraq for Years

From the AP via Yahoo courtesy of Eschaton:

Bush has adamantly refused to set a deadline for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq. Asked if there would come a day when there would be no more U.S. forces in Iraq, Bush said, "That, of course, is an objective. And that will be decided by future presidents and future governments of Iraq."

Pressed on whether that meant a complete withdrawal would not happen during his presidency, Bush said, "I can only tell you that I will make decisions on force levels based upon what the commanders on the ground say."

White House officials worried Bush's remarks would be read as saying there would not be significant troop reductions during his presidency. They pointed to comments Sunday by Gen. George W. Casey, commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, who said he expected a substantial troop reduction "certainly over the course of 2006 and into 2007."

Click here for the rest.

Wow. I've been asserting frequently lately that the US will never leave Iraq, most recently here. But I never expected the President to just come out and admit it. It's possible, I suppose, that some "future presidents" may defy my expectation and decide to get out, but that would surprise me a great deal--the ability to control the world economy by influencing oil markets with Iraq's massive deposits is just too damned tempting, to both Republicans and Democrats. There is historical precedent for this, too: it took the US ten years of brutal war against Filipino insurgents to stabilize American control over the Philippines, and then we stayed there for nearly forty years afterward. That took us through eight Presidents, from both parties. And there was no oil there, either! Anyway, Bush's admission is weird; his staffers certainly seem to agree with me on that.


Rewriting the Science

From 60 Minutes courtesy of
Crooks and Liars:

And Cicerone, who’s an atmospheric chemist, said the same thing every leading scientist told 60 Minutes.

"Climate change is really happening," says Cicerone.

Asked what is causing the changes, Cicernone says it's greenhouse gases: "Carbon dioxide and methane, and chlorofluorocarbons and a couple of others, which are all — the increases in their concentrations in the air are due to human activities. It's that simple."

But if it is that simple, why do some climate science reports look like they have been heavily edited at the White House? With science labeled "not sufficiently reliable." It’s a tone of scientific uncertainty the president set in his first months in office after he pulled out of a global treaty to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.


Dozens of federal agencies report science but much of it is edited at the White House before it is sent to Congress and the public. It appears climate science is edited with a heavy hand. Drafts of climate reports were co-written by Rick Piltz for the federal Climate Change Science Program. But Piltz says his work was edited by the White House to make global warming seem less threatening.

"The strategy of people with a political agenda to avoid this issue is to say there is so much to study way upstream here that we can’t even being to discuss impacts and response strategies," says Piltz. "There’s too much uncertainty. It's not the climate scientists that are saying that, its lawyers and politicians."


"We have to, in the next 10 years, get off this exponential curve and begin to decrease the rate of growth of CO2 emissions," Hansen explains. "And then flatten it out. And before we get to the middle of the century, we’ve got to be on a declining curve.

"If that doesn't happen in 10 years, then I don’t think we can keep global warming under one degree Celsius and that means we’re going to, that there’s a great danger of passing some of these tipping points. If the ice sheets begin to disintegrate, what can you do about it? You can’t tie a rope around the ice sheet. You can’t build a wall around the ice sheets. It will be a situation that is out of our control."

But that's not a situation you'll find in one federal report submitted for review. Government scientists wanted to tell you about the ice sheets, but before a draft of the report left the White House, the paragraph on glacial melt and flooding was crossed out and this was added: "straying from research strategy into speculative findings and musings here."

here to read the rest. Video here.

This is all very frightening. So frightening that it's pretty difficult to imagine it actually happening. But we don't have to imagine. Here in Baton Rouge, we've got a real life model of how this is all going down just an hour and a half drive east on I-10. Most of New Orleans still lies in ruins after the devastating flooding caused by levee breaks during Hurricane Katrina, and it still remains to be seen if the political and economic will exists to bring my favorite city back to some semblance of normality. This situation, New Orleans in ruins, is the future of the world.

Global warming will not simply cause a few floods, won't simply make us all move inland a few miles: it will cause massive destruction on a Biblical scale, not just to property, but to the world economy, and virtully all political structures. Unlike the Big Easy, where there is at least hope for a comeback, there will be no rebuilding. The eventual loss of countless miles of heavily developed coastal areas will ripple into continental interiors as the people who live there, at an enormous disadvantage due to the devastated economy, deal with countless numbers of displaced people. There will be no place to put them, and nothing to feed them. Chaos will ensue, starting first with riots, then, most likely, civil war around the globe. It will be every man for himself, and the people with the most guns will win. But I don't think their prize will really be worth having. We're looking at Escape from New York conditions, a real Mad Max reality, complete with warlords and such.

Of course, all this will happen much more slowly than the drama that unfolded down the road, but the effects will be the same. It really doesn't matter how much warning we'll get, how much time we'll have to prepare. Because, like I said, New Orleans is a pretty good glimpse into the future. Everybody knew the "big one" was eventually going to happen there. But no one prepared. Everybody just tried not to think about it. Then it came. And because everybody was in intense denial mode, except, of course, for the people in the city dealing with the disaster's effects first hand, the only institution in this country that had the ability to do anything to help out, the federal government, did nothing for days.

That's what we're looking at with global warming. Everybody knows; everybody's in denial. We've got about a decade to take drastic steps to reverse this, but my gut instinct is that nothing will happen. And as we start to feel the first effects gradually creeping in, even then I bet nothing will happen. The first victims will most likely be left to fend for themselves, branded as being stupid for living in flood zones. The feds won't react until the hunger riots begin, but by then it'll be too late. We'll all be living in Hell.



Atrios over at Eschaton offers a rare piece of extended commentary:

News, current events, whatever, is an ongoing story about the state of reality. It's an ongoing story with a cast of characters, a set of plotlines, a backstory. It's story told by thousands of different unreliable narrators, and every individual hears some combination of these narrators and then roughly synthethsizes it all into a basic narrative about what's going on. For a long time conservatives have had a very large and loud narrative generation machine, which has for its viewers and listeners been able create the narrative by emphasizing certain facts (true or not), by creating bad guys and good guy, by determining what the important stories of the day were, by inserting certain basic assumptions into the debate, etc. In other words, to write the story. And, this machine has been loud enough to have a big impact on how the less partisan media told their story, too.

Click here for the rest.

I hit on this subject only last month myself. The point, for me, is that, while most mainstream journalists honestly believe that they are trying to report objective reality, the truth is that they are only contributing to an overall narrative that is constructed, shaped, and molded by numerous influences, conservatives being one of the stongest, but reporters do their fair share as well, skewing factual events toward their own subjective understanding of that overall narrative. This idea isn't at all a new one; it's been understood in academia for a couple of decades at least. Strangely, well educated journalists either just don't get it or purposely ignore it--I'm not sure which. As long as journalists stay away from consideration of this sense of constructed narrative and how it is used in political debate, as long as they pretend that what they report doesn't play a part in this game, they're pawns of opinion manipulators. That screws America. Bigtime.


Bill O’Reilly’s baroque period

The New Yorker writes a nice piece about my favorite asshole, Fox New's Bill O'Reilly, courtesy of Eschaton:

O’Reilly has been playing O’Reilly so successfully for so long, and has developed such a substantial library of hooks, tics, and subplots, that he sometimes seems to be parodying himself, or parodying Colbert’s parody of him; “The O’Reilly Factor” and “The Colbert Report” are a matched pair. Both shows air twice most weeknights—the rebroadcast of the previous night’s “Colbert Report” is on during the broadcast of “The O’Reilly Factor,” and the broadcast of “The Colbert Report” is on during the rebroadcast of “The O’Reilly Factor.” With those hours, plus the regular anti-O’Reilly sallies of Olbermann and other hosts, and the relentless promotion of O’Reilly on other Fox shows, O’Reilly dominates cable news as much as Walter Cronkite dominated network news during his heyday, if not more so.

Click here for the rest.

While the essay is definitely an attack piece, and how I hope O'Reilly whines about it on his show, the one thing that comes through in this article more than any other is that the big butthole is wildly successful in terms of ratings. As far as the commercial television industry goes, that means he's a major money-maker for his employers. I've got to admit some small bit of admiration for him because of that. And not just because of all the cash he's generating for himself and Fox: there is a reason O'Reilly has so many viewers; he's great at what he does. He is, in short, an excellent showman, on the scale of PT Barnum, and he really knows who his audience is and how to work them. Hell, I really love hating him. He's a great villain, as good as Doctor Doom or Darth Vader in his own way. Let's face it, O'Reilly may be a nut, but he's damned good TV.

Too bad so many viewers take him seriously. That's why, ultimately, he's a threat to the entire nation.


Monday, March 20, 2006


Only temporarily, I hope. I mentioned yesterday that I'm working on a paper, and I'm totally exhausted by it tonight. I'm not even finished, which is okay, I guess, because it's not due until Wednesday, but I wanted to finish this weekend in order to have the next couple of nights free to work on other projects. So much for that. Anyway, I've got nothing for Real Art tonight; maybe one of my team mates, Tara or Miles, will jump in tomorrow morning and bail me out. Otherwise, Monday sucks here at Real Art this week.

Really, I'm kind of surprised that it's taken me this long to get into such a bind.

I did manage to do one thing. I listened to a podcast when I was showering of Friday's episode of Now: it's an hour long special dealing with the rise of governmental secrecy, covering the NSA wiretapping scandal, a couple of mothers who lost their sons in Iraq and have dealt with Pentagon stonewalling about it, and a mayor in a New England town who's getting the run-around about a liquid natural gas terminal being placed there. They don't have the video up yet, but they do have transcripts and supplemental articles, so go check it out.

Hopefully, I'll have a fuller post on something or other tomorrow.


Sunday, March 19, 2006


Another busy homework day; I'm writing a paper on a book for my movement class and I don't even know if I'll have time for any commentary here tomorrow, either. Anyway, to keep the content coming, here are excerpts from and links to a couple of good essays from
Working for Change.

Will 'censure Bush' bomb hurt Dems in midterm elections?

But Democrats, unlike Republicans, have yet to develop a healthy relationship between activists willing to test and expand the conventional limits on political debate and the politicians who have to calculate what works in creating an electoral majority.

For two decades, Republicans have used their idealists, their ideologues and their loudmouths to push the boundaries of discussion to the right. In the best of all worlds, Feingold's strong stand would redefine what's "moderate" and make clear that those challenging the legality of the wiretapping are neither extreme nor soft on terror.

That would demand coordination, trust and, yes, calculation involving both the vote-counting politicians and the guardians of principle among the activists. Republicans have mastered this art. Democrats haven't.

Turning a minority into a majority requires both passion and discipline. Bringing the two together requires effective leadership. Does anybody out there know how to play this game?

here for the rest.

Why are we sick of George W. Bush? Pick a reason

I don't know about you guys, but I am so sick and tired of these lying, thieving, holier-than-thou, right-wing, cruel, crude, rude, gauche, coarse, crass, cocky, corrupt, dishonest, debauched, degenerate, dissolute, swaggering, lawyer shooting, bullhorn shouting, infrastructure destroying, hysterical, history defying, finger-pointing, puppy stomping, roommate appointing, pretzel choking, collateral damaging, aspersion casting, wedding party bombing, clear cutting, torturing, jobs outsourcing, torture outsourcing, "so-called" compassionate- conservative, women's rights eradicating, Medicare cutting, uncouth, spiteful, boorish, vengeful, noxious, homophobic, xenophobic, xylophonic, racist, sexist, ageist, fascist, cashist, audaciously stupid, brazenly selfish, lethally ignorant, journalist purchasing, genocide ignoring, corporation kissing, poverty inducing, crooked, coercive, autocratic, primitive, uppity, high-handed, domineering...

And it just goes on from there. Click
here for the rest.


Friday, March 17, 2006

War-Loving Pundits

CounterPunch courtesy of J. Orlin Grabbe, an essay by media critic Norman Soloman looking back on the absolute certainty of the pundit class about the rightness of the US invasion of Iraq:

The third anniversary of the Iraq invasion is bound to attract a lot of media coverage, but scant recognition will go to the pundits who helped to make it all possible.

Continuing with long service to the Bush administration's agenda-setting for war, prominent media commentators were very busy in the weeks before the invasion. At the Washington Post, the op-ed page's fervor hit a new peak on Feb. 6, 2003, the day after Colin Powell's mendacious speech to the U.N. Security Council.

Post columnist Richard Cohen explained that Powell was utterly convincing. "The evidence he presented to the United Nations -- some of it circumstantial, some of it absolutely bone-chilling in its detail -- had to prove to anyone that Iraq not only hasn't accounted for its weapons of mass destruction but without a doubt still retains them," Cohen wrote. "Only a fool -- or possibly a Frenchman -- could conclude otherwise."


One of the most gleeful commentators on network television was MSNBC's "Hardball" host Chris Matthews. "We're all neo-cons now," he crowed on April 9, 2003, hours after a Saddam Hussein statue tumbled in Baghdad.

Weeks later, Matthews was still at it, making categorical declarations: "We're proud of our president. Americans love having a guy as president, a guy who has a little swagger, who's physical, who's not a complicated guy like Clinton or even like Dukakis or Mondale, all those guys, McGovern. They want a guy who's president. Women like a guy who's president. Check it out. The women like this war. I think we like having a hero as our president. It's simple."

Click here for the rest.

My first thought when looking back on the specifics of how virtually all mainstream pundits did as much as anybody to get the US public to support the invasion is something like "what were they thinking?" As though this was all some sort of aberration from some sort of normal state of media sanity. Of course, the steady drum beat in favor of the invasion was the normal state of media "sanity." It happened with Yugoslavia before Iraq, and Iraq before Yugoslavia, and Panama before Iraq, and Grenada before Panama, and Vietnam before Grenada--the US effort in Vietnam, I must admit, did lose the press' support, but only after it was utterly clear that the war was total folly, when public support was already waning; for the first few years, however, the media loved it.

The conventional wisdom, if anybody really even believes it anymore, is that the press is the "fourth branch" of government, serving the public by keeping them informed about what the other three branches are up to, and whether or not what they're doing is good for the country. The reality, however, is that the mainstream news media are owned and operated by enormous corporations, pillars of the US power establishment, and tend to reflect the views of that establishment. That is, the news is not at all a "fourth branch" governmental watchdog; it's real function is to perpetuate the political and economic elite's narrative about the way the world works--unsurprisingly, such a narrative always supports whatever the elite decides the country needs to do. The parade of pundits who "knew" that invading Iraq was a good idea is a perfect example, if only because the US military failure there is on such a monumental scale that only a fool, or possibly a Republican, would still believe these guys were right.

This is no conspiracy theory: Noam Chomsky and Edward Hermann studied the inner workings of the news industry in their 1988 book Manufacturing Consent and found that business structure and practices, rather than a conscious desire to lie to the public, results in what amounts to pro-government and pro-corporate propaganda. The journalistic travesties that Solomon describes in his essay will happen again. We've all figured out that they were wrong about Iraq, but the career incentives and business practices that resulted in such a colossal mistake in punditry are still in place, and no change is on the horizon. Give it a few years for the public's distaste over Iraq to fade. The lemming-like idiocy of the pundit class will be in full force, and the US public will again take at face value their pro-war assertions.



Paz, Frankie, Sammy, and Phil together at last!

(From back to front, counter clockwise)


Thursday, March 16, 2006

Air assault targets insurgents

From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

In a well-publicized show of force, U.S. and Iraqi forces swept into the countryside north of the capital in 50 helicopters Thursday looking for insurgents in what the American military called its "largest air assault" in nearly three years.

The military said the assault — Operation Swarmer — detained 41 people, found stolen uniforms and captured weapons including explosives used in making roadside bombs. It said the operation would continue over several days.

There was no bombing or firing from the air in the offensive northeast of Samarra, a town 60 miles north of Baghdad, the U.S. military said. All 50 aircraft were helicopters — Black Hawks, Apaches and Chinooks — used to ferry in and provide cover for the 1,450 Iraqi and U.S. troops.


White House spokesman Scott McClellan denied the offensive was tied to the new campaign to change opinion about the war. "This was a decision made by our commanders," he said, adding that President Bush was briefed but did not specifically authorize the operation.


The Pentagon said there were no reporters embedded with U.S. troops, and it released video and a series of photos of preparations for the assault.

Click here for the rest.

It is very interesting to obverve that the AP quotes no witnesses who actually saw the attacks, only Pentagon statements, and witnesses who weren't really there; there were no "embedded" reporters, either. What I'm getting at is that only a fool would trust what the Pentagon has to say these days. It is now clearly understood that the US military is every bit as image conscious, that is, completely willing to bend, stretch, and alter the truth, you know, lie, in order to look good to a skeptical US population, as the White House is. Pat Tillman, Jessica Lynch, and the US use of napalm and other chemical weapons against Fallujah, all lied about by the Pentagon, serve as ready examples of what I'm talking about. Oh yeah, Abu Ghraib, too.

Anyway, the point is that, given the Pentagon's reputation for lying, it's probably a good idea to doubt their stated motivations and look for more reasonable ones. Like Bush's low approval ratings: even though the White House declared that the attack has nothing to do with their latest pro-war publicity campaign, which obviously is an attempt to boost Bush's abysmal approval ratings, I think it's pretty safe to say that today's action has everything to do with opinion polls. Nothing like some good old fashioned war to hep everybody to the White House's coolness.

But there's more. As New Yorker reporter Symour Hersh, the guy who broke both the My Lai story during the Vietnam era and the Abu Ghraib story two years ago, has observed, the insurgents are guerilla fighters; the US military doesn't really know how to find them. These "search and destroy" styled missions can't possibly be aimed at fighting the insurgency. Rather, they're about going in and blowing the hell out of civilians who are suspected of helping the insurgents: today's attack was about striking terror into the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people, attempting to make them more afraid of us than of the insurgents. That is, the attack was US sponsored terrorism.

Furthermore, I speculate that the use of so many helicopters to ferry in troops is simply a model for how the US military will exist in Iraq for the next couple of decades. That is, as I've observed several times before, the ability to heavily influence oil markets to America's overall economic advantage by sitting on top of Iraq's oil reserves is so tempting a prize that no future president, Republican or Democrat, is really ever going to pull out. It is increasingly looking like the plan is to purposely keep Iraq in a near civil war state, in total chaos, in perpetuity, while our five soon-to-be-completed permanent bases respond only to perceived threats to US control of Iraqi oil, using rapidly deployed massive force, pulling out of the crisis zone as quickly as they came.

Just some thoughts.


Military Jailing Vietnam War Resisters
40 Years After They Refused to Serve

From Democracy Now:

AMY GOODMAN: Tod Ensign, you are Buck McQueen's attorney? How uncommon is this?

TOD ENSIGN: Well, there appears to be a unit within the Pentagon called the AWOL Apprehension Unit, and they have been going out and actively searching for people like Buck and Jerry and others, and when they find them or locate information, they send local police after them. So they're very aggressive in finding people and prosecuting them. Jerry was actually under court-martial charges down at Camp Lejeune. So it appears to us that what they're trying to do is say, look, these guys have been gone a long time. They're obviously of no use to us as soldiers, but we want to let young people in Iraq know that if they leave now, we will pursue them and criminalize them for the next -- for the rest of their lives. That's the message I believe they're trying to send.

AMY GOODMAN: Is it happening more now than a year ago, than five years ago, than before the invasion?

TOD ENSIGN: Well, the Pentagon says that the desertion rates are lower than they were before we invaded in 2003. I don't have other figures. I would really question the accuracy of those figures. They claim it's lower, but it's definitely growing now, as the U.S.A. Today story said. There are more people deciding, “I just can't go back.” There was a story just yesterday that some people are facing their fourth tour over there. That's an incredible amount of combat burden on people.

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Even though this tactic, harassing old soldiers with consciences in order to intimidate young soldiers with consciences, seems to be simply that, harassment, it's pretty low-down and dirty. This obviously has nothing to do with these individual Vietnam era soldiers, and everything to do with how much it sucks to be caught up in the unwinnable quagmire of the immoral and illegal war in Iraq: before the rate of Iraq war resisters picked up to what appear to be alarming levels, the Pentagon could have cared less about the guys who ducked out of our last quagmire. In short, these poor guys are now disposable pawns in the neo-cons' global strategic game; they're being screwed over, having their lives majorly disrupted, for no good reason at all. Pretty unjust. Sounds like the military is getting desperate.