Tuesday, September 30, 2003


From Eschaton comments (on this Atrios post):

The clues to what is really going on in Traitorgate have been revealed.

When a CIA Republican guy appears on national public television and he rips into other republicans and their toadies in the media, that is news.

When the RNC head admits on Hardball of all places, that traitorgate is WORSE than Watergate, that is news.

When the Guardian reports that reporters are fingering Rove, (Guardian is presumably not on the Bush payroll, nor likely to be intimidated by them) that is news.

They have all seen the handwriting on the wall, and are now running for cover. This will bring down the entire Bush administration in one form or another. It will just take time to unfold as to who gets jail time.

Honor and Dignity, indeed!


All of the events to which Denise refers can be read about on Eschaton's Tuesday posts.


The Other Lies of George Bush

While we're all sitting on the sidelines and watching the unfolding of a Presidential scandal that may very well be the beginning of the end for Bush (one hopes, anyway), it's worth considering the fact that our chief chimp has lied about far more than pseudo-uranium from Niger. Nation editor David Corn writes in an excerpt from his book The Lies of George W. Bush: Mastering the Politics of Deception.

But Bush's truth-defying crusade for war did not mark a shift for him. Throughout his campaign for the presidency and his years in the White House, Bush has mugged the truth in many other areas to advance his agenda. Lying has been one of the essential tools of his presidency. To call the forty-third President of the United States a prevaricator is not an exercise of opinion, not an inflammatory talk-radio device. Rather, it is backed up by an all-too-extensive record of self-serving falsifications. While politicians are often derided as liars, this charge should be particularly stinging for Bush. During the campaign of 2000, he pitched himself as a candidate who could "restore" honor and integrity to an Oval Office stained by the misdeeds and falsehoods of his predecessor. To brand Bush a liar is to negate what he and his supporters declared was his most basic and most important qualification for the job.

His claims about the war in Iraq have led more of his foes and more pundits to accuse him of lying to the public. The list of his misrepresentations, though, is far longer than the lengthy list of dubious statements Bush employed--and keeps on employing--to justify his invasion and occupation of Iraq. Here then is a partial--a quite partial--account of the other lies of George W. Bush.

Corn then goes on to recount in great detail Bush's lies about tax cuts, the environment, and the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Toward the end of the excerpt, Corn wonders:

Does Bush believe his own untruths? Did he truly consider a WMD-loaded Saddam Hussein an imminent threat to the United States? Or was he knowingly employing dramatic license because he wanted war for other reasons? Did he really think the average middle-class taxpayer would receive $1,083 from his second tax-cut plan? Or did he realize this was a fuzzy number cooked up to make the package seem a better deal than it was for middle- and low-income workers? Did he believe there were enough stem-cell lines to support robust research? Or did he know he had exaggerated the number of lines in order to avoid a politically tough decision?

It's hard to tell. Bush's public statements do suggest he is a binary thinker who views the world in black-and-white terms. You're either for freedom or against it. With the United States or not. Tax cuts are good--always. The more tax cuts the better--always. He's impatient with nuances. Asked in 1999 to name something he wasn't good at, Bush replied, "Sitting down and reading a 500-page book on public policy or philosophy or something." Bush likes life to be clear-cut. And perhaps that causes him to either bend the truth or see (and promote) a bent version of reality. Observers can debate whether Bush considers his embellishments and misrepresentations to be the honest-to-God truth or whether he cynically hurls falsehoods to con the public. But believer or deceiver--the result is the same.

For the entire excerpt, click here.

I've pretty much reached the conclusion that Bush is something of a half-wit, repeating the words of his advisors. He was a C student. His career as a businessman was, by most accounts, largely unsuccessful and sustained by cash infusions from Bush family friends. He even sounds like a moron. This means that the President may actually believe his own lies: he's a front, a bad actor playing the part of president, a frat boy having a good time. In other words, the US has been governed these past couple of years by an exclusive and secret committee.

Scary, huh?

If this scandal goes down the way it should, pretty soon Bush may find himself very much alone, wondering just what the hell is going on. His closest advisor, Karl Rove, was fingered earlier today (thanks to Eschaton for this link). Who's next?



Eschaton points out that even conservative websites are starting to get on the scandal bandwagon. From the right-wing NewsMax.com:

We need to reverse things: if the Clinton White House had sold out an active-duty CIA agent as 'payback' for some whistle-blowing article, we would be outraged. This crime is no less serious because it was done in a Republican White House.

And it's actually a pretty good essay. It's nice to see a conservative brain used constructively for once. Check it out.


CIA Leak Is Big Trouble For Bush

Nation editor David Corn gives the lowdown on the White House response Monday to the CIA leak scandal:

This is trouble for the White House. And that was evident today at McClellan's daily briefing for reporters. He was repeatedly asked what Bush intended to do to get to the bottom of this ugly episode. In essence, McClellan's answer was, nothing. Over and over, McClellan said the Justice Department, not the White House, was the "appropriate agency" to investigate. And he said that anyone with information on this matter should contact the Justice Department--not the president. But shouldn't the president be taking steps on his own? the reporters wondered. Every time that query was placed in front of McClellan, he batted it away with a stock reply, noting that the White House had no information beyond the media reports--which were based on anonymous sources--to "suggest White House involvement" in the Wilson leak. "Are we supposed to chase down every anonymous report in the newspaper?" McClellan asked. And several times, he challenged his inquisitors, "Do you have any specific information to bring to my attention suggesting White House involvement?"

This was a ruse. McClellan was claiming that the White House was not obligated to conduct an inquiry in response to allegations predicated on anonymous sources. But the CIA's request for an investigation indicated these allegations are serious and not merely the routine spin often attributed to anonymous sources in the media. After all, the anonymous quotes that appear in the papers each day rarely charge the White House with criminal behavior that possibly harmed national security. Isn't Bush--who promised to restore honesty and integrity to the White House--curious about whether his aides might have engaged in illegal and underhanded conduct? McClellan maintained that Bush takes the matter seriously. Just not seriously enough to order any action, such as questioning top White House aides.

For more, click here.

Heh. "Nothing" was also the Oval Office's proud course of action when Enron went belly up. Here's hoping they don't dodge this bullet.



My buddy, Matt, found this quote somewhere from Al Franken, author of Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right. Check it out:

''Asking the question whether the mainstream media has a liberal or conservative bias is like asking whether al Qaeda uses too much oil in their hummus. I might think they use a little bit too much oil; some people might think it's a little dry. But the problem with al Qaeda is they want to kill us. And the problem with the mainstream media is that it has these other biases that are much more important.''

Just for the record, I like oily hummus, myself. And alternative media.

Thanks, Matt.


One out of four Texans lacks health insurance

From the Houston Chronicle:

One out of every four Texans lacks health insurance, the highest percentage of uninsured residents in any state in the nation, according to new Census Bureau figures.

The findings are part of a report that shows the ranks of the uninsured nationwide swelled by 2.4 million last year as insurance costs kept rising and more Americans lost their jobs and health care coverage.

The number of people without health insurance the entire year rose to 43.6 million, a jump of almost 6 percent from 2001 and the second consecutive annual increase, the Census Bureau said. The percentage of Americans without health coverage rose from 14.6 to 15.2.

In Texas, the percentage of uninsured increased from 23.2 to 24.7 based on two-year averages. The 1.5 percent increase was among the highest in the nation.

Why does this not surprise me? Texas uber alles. Thanks very much neo-liberal ideology.

Click here for more.


Monday, September 29, 2003



From the Washington Post via Eschaton:

President Bush's chief spokesman said yesterday that the allegation that administration officials leaked the name of a CIA operative is "a very serious matter" and vowed that Bush would fire anybody responsible for such actions.

The vow came as numerous Democratic leaders demanded the administration appoint a special counsel to investigate the charges that a CIA operative's name was divulged in an effort to discredit her husband, a prominent critic of Bush's Iraq policy. The White House rejected those calls, also saying it has no evidence of wrongdoing by Bush adviser Karl Rove or others and therefore no reason to begin an internal investigation.


Justice Department officials said yesterday they have opened a preliminary inquiry to determine whether to investigate a possible violation of the law protecting the identities of undercover intelligence operatives. If the department's career counter-espionage lawyers find grounds for a full investigation, Attorney General John D. Ashcroft will have to decide whether to name a special counsel to oversee the case. Among the considerations that could lead to such action is the inherent conflict of interest in having the Bush Justice Department investigate employees of the Bush White House, department officials said.

For more, click here.

Talk about the rooster investigating the hen house. How much you want to bet that the D of J either drags its feet on this or ends up finding no compelling reason to open a full blown inquiry? For that matter, why haven't they already opened an investigation? This story first broke in mid July; the only new wrinkle is that the CIA is now looking into it. Given all the players that are coming forth at this point, it's going to be interesting to see the psychic acrobatics that the White House goes through while attempting to keep a lid on it all. Ashcroft is the first wall of defense, but I can't see this Maginot Line lasting for long: the Attorney General is a lying scumbag, and this is becoming all too apparent. From the New York Times:

U.S. Uses Terror Law to Pursue
Crimes From Drugs to Swindling

The Bush administration, which calls the USA Patriot Act perhaps its most essential tool in fighting terrorists, has begun using the law with increasing frequency in many criminal investigations that have little or no connection to terrorism.

The government is using its expanded authority under the far-reaching law to investigate suspected drug traffickers, white-collar criminals, blackmailers, child pornographers, money launderers, spies and even corrupt foreign leaders, federal officials said.

Justice Department officials say they are simply using all the tools now available to them to pursue criminals — terrorists or otherwise. But critics of the administration's antiterrorism tactics assert that such use of the law is evidence the administration is using terrorism as a guise to pursue a broader law enforcement agenda.


Publicly, Attorney General John Ashcroft and senior Justice Department officials have portrayed their expanded power almost exclusively as a means of fighting terrorists, with little or no mention of other criminal uses.

"We have used these tools to prevent terrorists from unleashing more death and destruction on our soil," Mr. Ashcroft said last month in a speech in Washington, one of more than two dozen he has given in defense of the law, which has come under growing attack. "We have used these tools to save innocent American lives."

Internally, however, Justice Department officials have emphasized a much broader mandate.

A guide to a Justice Department employee seminar last year on financial crimes, for instance, said: "We all know that the USA Patriot Act provided weapons for the war on terrorism. But do you know how it affects the war on crime as well?"

For more, click here (and brave the annoying NYT registration procedure, too).

Here's hoping for an independent investigation. If there is any shred of decency left in our nation's capital, we ought to see this happening in a few weeks, if not less. That's when the sparks will really start to fly. Stay tuned to Eschaton for up to the minute reporting. I know I will be.


Sunday, September 28, 2003

CIA Agent's Identity Was Leaked to Media

From the Washington Post via Eschaton:

At CIA Director George J. Tenet's request, the Justice Department is looking into an allegation that administration officials leaked the name of an undercover CIA officer to a journalist, government sources said yesterday.

The operative's identity was published in July after her husband, former U.S. ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, publicly challenged President Bush's claim that Iraq had tried to buy "yellowcake" uranium ore from Africa for possible use in nuclear weapons. Bush later backed away from the claim.

The intentional disclosure of a covert operative's identity is a violation of federal law.

The officer's name was disclosed on July 14 in a syndicated column by Robert D. Novak, who said his sources were two senior administration officials.

Yesterday, a senior administration official said that before Novak's column ran, two top White House officials called at least six Washington journalists and disclosed the identity and occupation of Wilson's wife. Wilson had just revealed that the CIA had sent him to Niger last year to look into the uranium claim and that he had found no evidence to back up the charge. Wilson's account touched off a political fracas over Bush's use of intelligence as he made the case for attacking Iraq.

"Clearly, it was meant purely and simply for revenge," the senior official said of the alleged leak.

For more, click here.

This is a pretty big deal. The long and the short of it is that a couple of unknown, highly placed White House officials did something really stupid. (That is, "stupid" is a relative word here. The Bush administration has been doing stupid things continually from the moment they came to power: this is stupid because they're probably going to get caught.) The Republicans have been approaching politics with all the zeal of Nazi Brownshirts for some time now--just look at the Tom DeLay engineered drive to remap congressional districts in Texas. This time they may have gone too far. Purposely blowing the cover of a CIA operative in order to punish her husband for criticizing the administration is insane even by conservative standards. As NY Times columnist Paul Krugman has observed, these guys don't give a rat's ass about what's good for the country; they just want power at all costs and screw everybody else.

Eschaton is all over this one, exploring all the damning ramifications. Go check it out (be sure to scroll down to read the earlier Sunday entries on this).




Our nation's flag slowly warps, degrades, and distorts to reflect the reality instead of the illusion.


Saturday, September 27, 2003


From the Nation:

What inhibits rational planning and management, he asserts, is that the Bush Administration has an ideological objection to a strong federal role in domestic security. Much of the crucial infrastructure--perhaps more than 90 percent of it--is in the hands of commercial interests. If the Administration were serious about making Americans more secure, it would have to intervene forcefully in the private sector, which would likely raise industry costs. "The Administration has made it very clear it is not interested in regulation," Flynn says. "So much of homeland security then ends up being just a talkfest." Flynn characterizes the White House attitude this way: "Homeland security costs too much money and involves too much government, so we have to go straight to the source"--that is, the terrorists. "It's a seductive argument," he adds. "We can deal with the problem over there and don't have to conduct assessments and make investments here.... But we'll never succeed at eliminating these problems at the source and go around the planet and identify every possible angry young man who has the means to do what happened on 9/11. It's a fool's game."


Is Bush, with his less-than-everything approach, assuming any political risk? "People cannot believe," Flynn remarks, "that no one in the federal government has inspected security plans for chemical plants or that the US Coast Guard has conducted only ten port-vulnerability studies in the past year." If there is another terrorist assault on the country, he adds, "there will be an accounting, and people will be shocked by how little has been done. The American people will be enraged." Maybe not, says Daalder. "The American people cannot fathom that Bush isn't doing everything. Another attack could either reinforce the notion that he's trying to protect the country or that he's incapable. I used to think this was a golden issue for Democrats: tax cuts for 1 percent of Americans or security for 100 percent. But the American people cannot comprehend that a US President is not doing all that is necessary and not spending all the money that needs to be spent."

Click here.

As I said in my ROARING NINETIES post below, neo-liberal ideology is putting the US in grave danger in multiple ways; the willful blindness of rank and file Americans is allowing this to happen. If the situation doesn't turn around soon, we're screwed.


Edward W. Said: 1935-2003

From the Nation:

Edward W. Said, the late University Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University, was for many years the magazine's classical music critic as well as a contributing writer. Known both for his groundbreaking research in the field of comparative literature and his incisive political commentary, Said was one of the most prominent intellectuals in the United States. His writing regularly appeared in the Guardian of London, Le Monde Diplomatique and the Arab-language daily al-Hayat, printed in every Arab capital in the world.

For more, click here.



This past week the London Guardian ran two articles excerpting from renowned economist Joseph Stiglitz's new book The Roaring Nineties.

Part one:

The fruits of irrationality

Our emerging understanding of the 1990s requires that we admit - to ourselves and the world - that we were engaged in a misguided attempt to achieve growth on the cheap.

Instead of curbing consumption to finance our boom, the US borrowed heavily, year after year from abroad, at a rate of more than a billion dollars a day. We did this to fill the widening gap between what we were saving and what we were investing - a gap that opened in earnest under Ronald Reagan but grew under George Bush Sr and Bill Clinton, and has reached new dimensions under the new President Bush.


The central lesson that emerges from this story of boom and bust - that there needs to be a balance between the role of government and the markets - is one which evidently the world has had to learn over and over again. When countries got that balance right they grew strongly - America through much of its history, East Asia in the sixties, seventies and eighties. When countries got that balance wrong, veering either toward too much or too little government, disaster awaited. Although the failures of excessive government - evidenced by the collapse of the communist system - are the most dramatic, there are failures on the other side as well. If we in the Clinton administration sometimes lost that balance, matters have become even worse in the next administration - with the predictable consequences that our economy's performance has become worse.

For the entire article, click here.

Part two:

New world potion that was poison to Dr Sam

That is, Uncle Sam as a snake oil salesman to the third world: the economic roots of anti-Americanism.

The international agreements reflected our concerns, our interests: we forced those abroad to open up their capital markets to our derivatives and speculative capital flows, knowing how destabilising they could be. But Wall Street wanted it, and what Wall Street wanted, it more than likely got. Developing countries were told to open their markets to every form of import, including the things corporate America was best at, such as financial services and computer software.

Meanwhile, we maintained stiff trade barriers of our own on behalf of US agribusiness, thereby denying our market to the farmers of the third world. To a country fallen on hard times and having trouble paying its debts, our standard advice was to slash spending - even though we had routinely relied on deficit spending to get us out of economic downturns.


The policy framework we pushed abroad was the one that would help our businesses do well abroad. At home, there was a check on these policies, caused by concern for consumers and workers. Abroad, there was none. At home, we resisted pressure for changes in the bankruptcy law that would unduly hurt debtors. Abroad, a primary concern in any foreign crisis seemed the promptest and fullest repayment of debts to US and other western banks, even to the point of supplying billions of dollars to ensure that they happened. The deregulation mantra that we pushed too far at home we pushed even further abroad.

Not surprisingly, the policies we pushed and the way we pushed them generated enormous resentment. The already visible results include growing anti-Americanism in Asia and Latin America. Today, in many countries, the endorsement of a policy by the US government is almost certain to lead to its defeat.

For more, click here.

I think I can sum this up in one sentence: the hypocritical philosophy of neo-liberalism, which is now the conventional economic wisdom, gets the lion's share of the blame for the very dangerous situation in which our country now finds itself. Greed is not good and the market is not magical. That so many intelligent Americans so blindly believed (and still believe) such bullshit is a profound lesson in and of itself. My faith in the human race grows ever weaker.

Thanks to J. Orlin Grabbe for the tip.


Friday, September 26, 2003


For some reason, Atrios was trying to sound like Bill O'Reilly for much of the day. Weird, but funny. Here's a sample:

Long time viewers of the factor know that I, Bill O'Atrios, am a tireless crusader against the death penalty. I'm a Catholic, and the it's against my religion, and it's just wrong, you see. Absolutely and totally utterly wrong. In fact, anyone who supports the death penalty is human filth, lowering than anything except maybe Al Franken.

If you want to read this bizarre satire-blogging, click here for Atrios' final O'Reilly-speak post and scroll down for earlier entries.

Heh. I love it when people make fun of the big butthole.


Thursday, September 25, 2003

Report Faults Anti-American "Industry of Blame"

From the Progressive:

A new report, with big name support, condemns the way U.S. history is being taught in the United States and demands that students be instructed to have more "gratitude" for, and "a deep loyalty" to, our political institutions.

Entitled "Education for Democracy," the forty-four-page report is by the Albert Shanker Institute, named after the former head of the American Federation of Teachers and sponsored by that union.

"In too many instances, America's sins, slights, and shortcomings have become not just a piece of the story but its essence," the report states. "Legitimate self-criticism has too often turned into an industry of blame."

This really illustrates why teaching is such a filthy profession. I thought about composing my own response to this outrageous report issued by my own damned union, but at the end of the article historian Howard Zinn does a much better job of it than I could ever do:

"The advice offered in 'Education for Democracy' is more accurately described as 'Education for Obedience to Authority,' " says Zinn, a columnist for The Progressive. "It wants to inculcate a 'deep loyalty to the political institutions' of the United States when those political institutions do not deserve that loyalty, having been used again and again to maintain slavery and then racial segregation, to enrich the wealthy, to use armed force against working people here and abroad."

Right on!

For the entire article, click here.


NBC Poll: Bush rating lowest ever

From MSNBC.com:

George W. Bush is in the worst political trouble of his presidency, according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released Wednesday night. Bush’s approval rating now stands at 49 percent, the lowest point of his tenure. Whether Democrats will be able to exploit Bush’s woes is unknown, since they are four months away from their first primary, but party activists say they are ever more determined to find the candidate who can go toe to toe with Bush in a debate and reduce his standing to political rubble.

For the lowdown on the good news, click here.

Of course, ousting Bush is only getting us out of the fire. The frying pan which hopefully awaits us is still a rather unpleasant place. Pretty much any Democrat (excluding, perhaps, Kucinich) that may beat Bush is still going to be pretty pro-corporate and mainstream: expect good jobs to continue to be transported to the low-wage third world; expect one hell of a time attempting to roll back the massive amount of damage caused by the Bush administration, especially if the GOP retains control of Congress; expect wealth to continue to exercise a great deal of influence on government. Defeating Bush will only keep things from getting worse. I fear that electing a Democrat will not make things much better.

But this new poll does put a smile on my face.

Thanks to Eschaton for the link.


Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Why Hospitals Overcharge the Uninsured

From an AlterNet article posted last July:

But Shaffer – and millions like her around the country – are actually subsidizing Advocate and other major hospitals, according to a report recently released by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). That's because the approximately 41.2 million Americans who don't have health insurance today not only have to pay astronomically high healthcare bills out of their own pockets, but they actually pay around 50 to 70 percent more than insurance companies do for health coverage.

When an insurance carrier foots a hospital bill, the company "negotiates" a price with the hospital that is usually about half the original billing price. Yet when an individual without insurance is forced to pay for healthcare, they don't have this bargaining power. So they end up paying the "full" rates, making up the slack for the deals the insurance companies have gotten (as well as the uninsured individuals who never pay their bills).

For more, click here.

I am truly amazed when I think about how massive the American health care crisis has become. That so many Americans must live nervous lives without regular access to doctors and medicine, that many more (including myself) must base important life decisions on the availability of health insurance is a moral outrage. The insurance companies are little more than organized crime rackets. The pharmaceutical corporations are worse. Doctors and hospitals find themselves in impossible situations that force them to heavily compromise their commitment to care for the sick. Meanwhile, politicians do nothing--they and their campaign donors all have good health insurance.

The US pays more for health care than any other nation in the world and we get this absurd and immoral situation. What's it going to take to change things? An outbreak of the plague?

For an earlier Real Art post on the sick state of US health care, click here.


US plans to send special force to protect Iraq's oil

From Reuters via the Houston Chronicle:

The Bush administration plans to create a special force to protect Iraq's oil industry and to deploy a rapid-reaction team to repair pipelines after terrorist attacks.

The administration, according to documents obtained by Reuters today, also plans to provide "continuous personal security" to Iraq's minister of oil and his director-generals.

The administration said providing personal security to oil officials -- at an estimated the cost at $8 million -- was a "critical requirement," noting that "the life of one of the director-generals was threatened as recently as late August."

But...I thought the war wasn't about oil. I thought it was about getting all those weapons of mass destruction. I mean, stopping those "programs to create" weapons of mass destruction. I mean, deposing that awful dictator Saddam Hussein and freeing the Iraqi people so they could praise our humanitarian intervention.

Boy, foreign affairs really confuse me.

Click here.


Tuesday, September 23, 2003

It really is no exaggeration

From Max Cleland, Vietnam vet, former U.S. senator, and head of the Veterans Administration under President Carter:

Sound familiar? It does to me.

The president was Lyndon Johnson. The cocky, self-assured secretary of defense was Robert McNamara. The congressional resolution was the Gulf of Tonkin resolution. The war was the war that I, U.S. Sens. John Kerry, Chuck Hagel and John McCain and 3 1/2 million other Americans of our generation were caught up in. It was the scene of America's longest war. It was also the locale of the most frustrating outcome of any war this nation has ever fought.

Unfortunately, the people who drove the engine to get into the war in Iraq never served in Vietnam. Not the president. Not the vice president. Not the secretary of defense. Not the deputy secretary of defense. Too bad.

Click here for more on lessons of Vietnam ignored.



Black = Terrorist = Thug: The New Racial Profile?

A personal account in the Village Voice reveals how the "war on terrorism" unites with good old fashioned American racism to put the wrong man in jail for three Kafkaesque days:

Saturday night, November 23, 2002, I was pulled over on the Bruckner Expressway because of a broken taillight. The police officer who ran my license claimed I had multiple warrants out for my arrest, and I was thrown in jail to begin a weekend I will not soon forget.

During the next three days, I was interrogated about "terrorist activity"—whether I was involved with a terrorist group or knew anyone else who was—without an attorney present. My Legal Aid lawyer claimed she was also a medical professional and diagnosed me as mentally ill when I told her I teach poetry at New York University. After my bail was posted, I was held behind bars another night because central booking ran out of the receipts required for my release. On my third day in jail, accused of two misdemeanors and a felony I knew nothing about, I was finally found innocent, and allowed to go home.

These events are not in themselves that extraordinary. Black men and women in this country have for centuries experienced far worse episodes with law enforcement. This incident is striking because it occurred at a time when I have been working to expose the injustice and inhumanity of the prison crisis in America, and because it was not the first time I was unjustly jailed.

For the full story, click here.

Journo claims proof of WMD lies

Pilger uncovered video footage of Powell in Cairo on February 24, 2001 saying, "He (Saddam Hussein) has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbours."

Two months later, Rice reportedly said, "We are able to keep his arms from him. His military forces have not been rebuilt."

Powell boasted this was because America's policy of containment and its sanctions had effectively disarmed Saddam.

Of course, we already knew that they were lying. Click here for more.

Instant messaging service workers warned of 9/11 attack

From the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz:

Odigo, the instant messaging service, says that two of its workers received messages two hours before the Twin Towers attack on September 11 predicting the attack would happen, and the company has been cooperating with Israeli and American law enforcement, including the FBI, in trying to find the original sender of the message predicting the attack.

The more that information like this gets out, the more I drift into conspiracy-nut territory about 9/11. It sounds like somebody knew beforehand, but who? Click here for more.


Monday, September 22, 2003


From ZNet:

White House Ambushed

The dissenters - many of whom have risked deep disapproval from the military establishment to voice their opinions - have set up websites with names such as Bring Them Home Now. They have cried foul at administration plans to cut veterans' benefits and scale back combat pay for troops still in Iraq. They were furious at President Bush for reacting to military deaths in Iraq with the phrase "bring 'em on".

And they have given politically embarrassing prominence to such issues as the inefficiency of civilian contractors hired to provide shelter, water and food - many of them contributors to the Bush campaign coffers - and a mystery outbreak of respiratory illnesses that many soldiers, despite official denials, believe is related to the use of depleted uranium munitions.

Click here.

Also from ZNet, a US soldier speaks out:

Soldier Dissents

So what is our purpose here? Was this invasion because of weapons of mass destruction, as we have so often heard? If so, where are they? Did we invade to dispose of a leader and his regime because they were closely associated with Osama bin Laden? If so, where is the proof?

Or is it that our incursion is about our own economic advantage? Iraq's oil can be refined at the lowest cost of any in the world. This looks like a modern-day crusade not to free an oppressed people or to rid the world of a demonic dictator relentless in his pursuit of conquest and domination, but a crusade to control another nation's natural resource. Oil - at least to me - seems to be the reason for our presence.

There is only one truth, and it is that Americans are dying. There are an estimated 10 to 14 attacks every day on our servicemen and women in Iraq. As the body count continues to grow, it would appear that there is no immediate end in sight.

Click here.

Finally, from AlterNet, a speech from an activist and mother:

Bring Our Children Home Now

Yes, war is hell; but this is something else, and our loved ones and all our troops have been betrayed. We were all betrayed by this administration when it cited a litany of reasons for invading Iraq that shifted like desert sands and seemed to be based upon quicksand. We were betrayed by an administration that went against the international community and called millions of protesters a "focus group."

We were betrayed by a lack of planning – active military and their families are now dealing with back-to-back two year deployments, announced a few weeks ago. And today National Guard and reservists and their families are reeling from the news about their tours of duty being extended. And yes, there is a problem with troops being short on water, short on food, short on supplies and short on equipment. This morning we received an email from a mother whose son is in Iraq. The email read:

"Our soldiers have been killed because there were not enough Kevlar vests to go around. One of my son's friends was shot in the back in Fallujah and two of his platoon members were killed in an ambush in May because they only had 30 vests for 120 men. No one at his checkpoint had a vest, thus nine people were injured."

We're betrayed by a President who on May 1st landed on a photogenic aircraft carrier decked out with a massive sign reading "Mission Accomplished" –and more of our troops have died since then than during so-called "major combat." We're betrayed by an administration that allows our loved ones to be occupiers, securing safety for Halliburton and Bechtel to reap billions.

Click here.

Clearly, it's time to hand this awful, misguided adventure over to the UN and get the hell out of there. Bring the boys back home. Now.


Sunday, September 21, 2003


American attorney and teacher David Hoffman in (gasp!) the Russian newspaper Pravda muses on widespread dishonesty in the US and how it affects our politics:

Former British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli once said, "There are three types of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics" Adolph Hitler opined in his book Mein Kampf that when leaders lie, they should tell "great" lies, because while people tend to recognize "little" lies, they have a proclivity to believe that political leaders would not be untruthful about issues or events of great magnitude or severity.

Lying as a political strategy, of course, is not confined to the American political arena. But it has surreptitiously become such an integral part of this arena that the "art of lying" is now widely accepted in other venues as well. In fact, despite the idealistic adages that "honesty is the best policy," or "cheaters never prosper," the tragic reality is that far too frequently the dishonest are the ones who do prosper. In fact, I can honestly (a word perhaps out of place in an article about lying) say that I have rarely in my adult life been in an employment situation where people
did not lie.

For more, click here.

This essay makes a good argument connecting dishonesty about the most routine things at the very lowest levels of American society to the grand lies concocted by the powerful--both lying and believing in lies is now as American as apple pie. Go check it out.


It's Working Exactly Like It's Supposed To

From UPI writer Cynthia Tucker:

The president's economy policy is working just as he planned it -- for the well-to-do. The stock market is bouncing back, sales of Rolexes and Range Rovers are humming right along, and compensation for CEOs is still in the stratosphere. Among the president's friends, there is little anxiety about the kids' trust funds. (Notice how well Halliburton has been doing since the invasion of Iraq?)

Bush's multibillion-dollar tax cuts largely benefited the wealthy while doing little to produce jobs for average workers. Conservatives fiercely defended the tax cuts as redress to rich capitalists who paid most of the taxes and who would create jobs if given appropriate incentives. They neglected to mention that many of those jobs would be created in other countries.

For the entire essay, click here.

I read an old joke in an essay on ZNet a few months back. It went something like this:

A liberal and a leftist are walking down the street one day. They turn a corner and encounter a homeless man begging for food. The liberal says, "the system is broken." The leftist replies, "the system is working exactly like it's supposed to."

Indeed, the American economic system relies on large numbers of people to be either poor or out of work. In fact, the conventional wisdom is that it is somehow bad for the economy if we have full employment--this would create upward pressure on wages which cuts into profits. A quick read between the lines shows that profits are the real goal instead of economic health for most of America. For as long as I've been paying attention, I've been hearing the so-called experts insist that the government must always give business what it wants; this creates jobs, and jobs are good. Jobs are good. It has now become completely clear, however, that giving business and the wealthy whatever they want does not always equal more jobs, and many of the jobs that are created are low-wage crap jobs. Bush's crazed economic policy is perhaps not so crazed: he's simply taking care of his own.



Here's some interesting info from Counterpunch on the "anti-war" warrior running for president as a Democrat:

The latest trick of the neo-cons is running retired General Wesley Clark for President as a Democrat. But not just any Democrat -- a "New Democrat." The same bunch that are pushing Joe Lieberman's candidacy are obviously hedging on their bets and want to have Clark in the race as a potential vice presidential candidate (to ensure their continued influence in a future Democratic administration of Howard Dean, John Kerry, or Dick Gephardt) or as a "go-to" candidate in the event that Lieberman stumbles badly in the first few Democratic primaries next year.

The "New Democrats" (neo-cons) are as much masters at the perception management (lying) game as their GOP counterparts (Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, and Donald Rumsfeld). Clark's presidential candidacy announcement in Little Rock is one warning sign. This city is a sort of "Mecca" for the neo-con Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) and its main nurturers, Al From and Bruce Reed. It was from Little Rock where the DLC propelled a little known governor named Bill Clinton into the White House. And although Clinton did not turn out exactly as conservative as the DLC hoped for, his support for globalization and selected use of U.S. military power abroad were neo-con keystone successes.

Click here for more dirt on Clark.

So, there is something to Clark's weird Arkansas/Clinton connection. I've never before thought of the DLC Democrats in neo-conservative terms, but it makes a great deal of sense to do so. Clinton's eight year reign continued the first Bush's "New World Order" foreign policy for the most part--that is, the DLC fully supports a US dominated world, both economically and militarily. True Machiavellians like the neo-cons do not concern themselves with trivialities such as personalities: rather, they concern themselves with amassing power in order to further their ends. Democrat or Republican, it doesn't matter; both parties can be used to execute the neo-conservative agenda.

Creepy stuff, if true.

Vote Green.


Saturday, September 20, 2003

U.S. soldier kills rare tiger at Baghdad zoo

From the Houston Chronicle:

A U.S. soldier shot dead a rare Bengal tiger at Baghdad Zoo after the animal injured a colleague who was trying to feed it through the cage bars, the zoo's manager said today.

Adil Salman Mousa told Reuters a group of U.S. soldiers were having a party in the zoo Thursday night, after it had closed.

"Someone was trying to feed the tigers," he said. "The tiger bit his finger off and clawed his arm. So his colleague took a gun and shot the tiger."

The soldiers, casually dressed but in military vehicles, had been drinking beer when they entered the zoo Thursday night after it closed, said a zoo guard, Zuhair Abdul-Majeed.

"He was drunk," Abdul-Majeed said of the bitten soldier.

Click here for more.

Drunken soldiers killing rare tigers in their cages is really going to win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people, let me tell you. Or not. Probably not. God, this is pathetic.



If you haven't been reading Krugman's essays in the Times, you're missing out on one of the few sane voices in mainstream journalism. Here's a sample from the interview:

The main theme of [Krugman's book of collected essays] "The Great Unraveling" is how much Bush lies. But Reagan lied, Clinton lied, Johnson lied, all presidents lie. What's the difference between them and Bush?

Actually, I miss Reagan. I never thought I'd say that, but....

Reagan lied a little bit, and his policies were often crazy, but they wouldn't do 2 -1 = 4. They'd say, if we have our tax cut we'll have this wonderful supply side thing and the economy will boom and it will pay for itself, which was a crazy theory, but it wasn't a blatant lie about the actual content of the policy.

Bush says, I've got a tax cut that's aimed at working people, ordinary working people, and then you just take a look at it and discover that most of it's coming from elimination of the estate tax and a cut in the top bracket, so it's heavily tilted toward just a handful of people at the top. It's just a flat lie about what the tax cut is.

So this is different, this is really more extreme. We're not talking about disagreements about policy at this point, we're talking about people who insist that things that are flatly not true are true, that black is white, up is down.

Go read this fantastic interview; it's well worth your time. Click here. And be sure to look for Krugman's fantastic essays in the op-ed section of the New York Times.

Thanks to Eschaton for the link.


GOP senators put 'Texas 11' on probation

From the Houston Chronicle:

Sen. Kyle Janek, R-Houston, Thursday, in what he described as "an act of generosity," offered a motion to suspend the fines and sanctions but put the Democrats on probation until January 2005. If they break a quorum again before that time, they will have to pay the fines.


Sen. Frank Madla, D-SanAntonio, said he had not been treated this way since "I was a little Mexican boy who had his first taste of what white supremacy was like."

You see, it's seperate, but it's equal.

For more, click here.


No proven link between Saddam, 9/11, says Bush

From the Houston Chronicle:

President Bush said Wednesday there was no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 -- disputing an impression that critics say the administration tried to foster to justify the war against Iraq.

"There's no question that Saddam Hussein had al-Qaida ties," the president said. But he also said, "We've had no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved with September the 11th."

The president's comment was the administration's firmest assertion that there is no proven link between Saddam and Sept. 11. It came after Vice President Dick Cheney on Sunday clouded the issue by saying, "It's not surprising people make that connection" between Saddam and the attacks.

Cheney, on NBC's Meet the Press, also repeated an allegation -- doubted by many in the intelligence community -- that Mohamed Atta, the lead Sept. 11 attacker, met with a senior Iraqi intelligence official in Prague five months before Sept. 11.

"We've never been able to develop any more of that yet, either in terms of confirming it or discrediting it," Cheney said Sunday.


Rice said, "We have never claimed that Saddam Hussein had either direction or control of 9/11."

Bush said there was no attempt by the administration to try to confuse people about any link between Saddam and Sept. 11.

Then why the hell do so many people think that Hussein was involved with 9/11? And why does the White House keep pushing this bogus al-Qaeda connection that was dismissed by the recently released Congressional intelligence investigation findings? Oh, those forked-tongued bastards!

Click here for more.


Thursday, September 18, 2003

Dear Hollywood

My old friend, bandmate, and songwriting mentor Ken Womack writes a scathingly satirical open letter to Hollywood over at The Morning News:

But are movies really ‘worth it’ in the first place? Let’s parse that idea for a moment, just as the talking heads do on the political talk shows every Sunday morning. And make no mistake about it, you’re crafting a political statement when you wink and tell American consumers that movies merit a portion of their disposable income. Heck, in those terms, the commercial you play in your own theaters might even be construed as propaganda…

Which brings me to why I’m really writing this letter: Why shouldn’t I feel like pirating movies or buying contraband DVDs on the Internet? You’ve been obviously lining your pockets at my expense for decades, and now you’re threatening to fire some poor guy so that you can make me feel guilty. Who do you think you are?

And worse, your behavior isn’t fair. I didn’t mind it when you made me feel guilty for the plight of Native Americans at the conclusion of Dances with Wolves – I deserved that – but I’ll be damned if you’re going to rake me over the coals for the economic difficulties that might or might not befall David’s family. Make no mistake about it: Your bottom-line attitude will breed cynicism among consumers – and cynical consumers will think nothing of purchasing pirated DVDs. Heck, they’ll buy them as stocking-stuffers. And after a while, those same consumers will begin to feel like piracy is their economic birthright. If you don’t believe me, just ask the recording industry (who will be too busy fleecing 12-year-old downloaders to answer the phone).

For the whole letter, click here.



As if France bashing wasn't stupid enough already. From good guy journalist Greg Palast's weblog:

How sad. The last remaining neurons of Thomas Friedman's shrinking brain were apparently lost in hot bubbling tub of deep fatuousness today.

The evidence is in Friedman's loony-tunes comment, "Our War with France," in this morning's Paper of Record. You can only conclude the man's mind has been French Fried.

What got Friedman's brain a-boilin' is the impertinent suggestion by French diplomats that, if the US invaded Iraq to bring democracy, then why not allow Iraqis to vote. Vote! Can you imagine! It's all that silly 'libertay, equalitay' stuff that unsophisticated Americans believed before the Patriot Act.

Friedman calls voting a, "loopy symbolic transfer of Iraqi sovereignty." Friedman, Rumsfeld and Saddam Hussein all have the same line: Iraqis aren't ready for democracy. Well, I suppose Tom Paine would have disagreed -- but, hell, he moved to France.

For the entire Palast essay, click here. And be sure to read the above linked Thomas Friedman essay in the New York Times: it's good for a few ironic laughs. As Atrios said over at Eschaton, "It's time for the NYT to put this guy out to pasture."


Wednesday, September 17, 2003


That is, my old friend Matt, not to be confused with that Drudge guy.

Matt wrote me about Wesley Clark's entry into the the Democratic presidential nomination fray:

You know, I always love having a military type come out against a Republican. But I must admit, every time I see or hear Wesley Clark I expect him to start going on about "precious bodily fluids."

Of course Matt is referring to the fictional insane General Jack D. Ripper (played by Sterling Hayden) who instigates WWIII in the Stanley Kubrick directed dark comic masterpiece Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb from 1964. Quite the grim comparison. I wrote back to Matt:

I think you've kind of hit on some of my misgivings about the guy. What's his deal, anyway? What's with the weird Arkansas/Clinton connection? So far, all I've been able to tell about Clark is that he's been inconsistent with his views on the Iraq war in his role as TV pundit. I like his criticism of Bush, but at this point even lots of conservatives are bashing the Chimp-in-Chief.

Indeed, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting has released a statement about Clark's "anti-war views." Read on:

As time wore on, Clark's reservations seemed to give way. Clark explained on CNN (1/21/03) that if he had been in charge, "I probably wouldn't have made the moves that got us to this point. But just assuming that we're here at this point, then I think that the president is going to have to move ahead, despite the fact that the allies have reservations." As he later elaborated (CNN, 2/5/03): "The credibility of the United States is on the line, and Saddam Hussein has these weapons and so, you know, we're going to go ahead and do this and the rest of the world's got to get with us.... The U.N. has got to come in and belly up to the bar on this. But the president of the United States has put his credibility on the line, too. And so this is the time that these nations around the world, and the United Nations, are going to have to look at this evidence and decide who they line up with."

For the entire report, click here.

Right now, the most that I can say about Clark is that I really don't know much about him--that's a big minus from where I sit.

Matt also sent me a link to this story posted on AlterNet:

US Plan for Global Domination Tops
Project Censored's Annual List

The reminder that the media often reports the 'news" as fed to it by those in power, and skips past the real news – the reasons for the behaviors and policies – is good reason for the continued existence of Project Censored, a program in its 27th year that collects under-reported stories from around the country and compiles a list of the top 10 "censored stories" as well as 15 runner-ups. About 200 students and faculty from Sonoma State University compiled and reviewed the stories for Project Censored. The project describes its mission "to stimulate responsible journalists to provide more mass media coverage of those under-covered issues and to encourage the general public to demand mass media coverage of those issues or to seek information from other sources."

Most of the stories on Project Censored's Top Ten relate to the US's war on terrorism and the invasion of Iraq. On the one hand, this emphasis indicates how the issue dominates the news, but on the other, how few news consumers really understand very little about how it happened and why. Taken together, these stories paint a chilling picture of a long-ranging plan to dominate huge sections of the globe militarily and economically, and to silence dissent, curb civil liberties and undermine workers' rights in the course of it. Some of the information published as part of the project is pretty shocking, like the fact that the US removed 8,000 incriminating pages from Iraq's weapons report to the UN; or that Donald Rumsfeld may have a plan to deliberately provoke terrorists so we can react. Other issues like the attacks on civil liberties have been covered in the mainstream press, but not in the comprehensive way Project Censored would like to see.

You've got to go read this list! Click here. And while you're at it, swing by the Project Censored site as well.

Thanks for the content, Matt.


Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Or, more originally, Conscience and Conviction

At this point in my life, I have been called for jury duty more than a few times. The day after Labor Day, however, was the closest I've ever been to actually serving on a jury. It was also the most disturbing case for which I have been on a jury panel. Read this from the Houston Chronicle:

A jury Thursday sentenced a Pasadena woman to 77 years in prison after convicting her of murder for suffocating her 7-week-old son.

Elizabeth Jane Burke, 27, trembled and sobbed as the verdicts were read by state District Judge Carol Davies.

She was accused of holding a blanket over the head of Ian Nathaniel Noel on Oct. 14 because she was mad at her husband, Eugene "Eddie" Noel III.

He did not show up at the couple's trailer park home in the 1900 block of Red Bluff the night before because they had had a heated argument.

Burke confessed while being tape-recorded by a neighbor cooperating with police, and she later confessed to a Pasadena detective.

For more, click here.

The whole thing made me nervous. I was number twenty on a panel of sixty five potential jurors--I had a good chance of being selected. When I started to realize what the case was about, I became all the more anxious. I was relieved to learn that the prosecutor wasn't going for the death penalty, which I adamantly oppose. Unfortunately for me, however, the state wanted life in prison.

While I sat in the courtroom, I remembered the words I had recently written on Real Art concerning the murder of pedophile priest John Geoghan in prison:

Our prisons are horrible, violent, despicable places. Murder is commonplace in prison and seemingly most Americans have little sympathy for the victims. Rape is commonplace in prison and Americans joke about it. Racial hatred is encouraged by guards and wardens as a way to keep order. Health care behind bars is a joke. Most convicts leave the penal system as worse criminals than they were when first incarcerated. Our prisons are a clear example of cruel and unusual punishment. In the long term, they harm our society more than they help it.

My conscience reared its inopportune head: I didn't know if I was personally capable of sending someone to prison. I understand that society must protect itself by removing dangerous elements, so I do not condemn the jurors who ultimately sentenced Elizabeth Burke to prison. For myself, however, I really did fear that my own bias might paralyze my decision-making ability.

It was weird. As the grandmotherly judge asked the jury panel questions about their opinions, I saw a few people clearly trying to get out of their civic responsibility by taking bogus extreme positions--as Homer Simpson once suggested, "tell 'em that you hate all blacks," or something to that effect. I didn't really want to be inconvenienced, either, so I questioned myself about my bias. Did I really have a problem with sending someone, regardless of their crime, to prison? Yes, I did, and I do.

When the judge asked us about sentencing, I nervously spoke up. I've always been a pretty good public speaker, always quick to voice my opinions, but not that day: I publicly proclaimed that I might have a problem sending a child killer to prison. I must have sounded like a moron to all those people. I know I sounded scared. I said "um" repeatedly as I told her that what I had read about prisons made me think that I might have a problem being objective during the sentencing phase of the trial. I told her that I understood that society needs to do what it needs to do, but I didn't know if I could really be a part of it all, myself.

I felt the stares of everyone in the courtroom.

Later, during a break, one guy, about my age, told me he understood what I was talking about. That was the only uplifting event I experienced that awful day. Well, not being picked was uplifting, too. Or simply a relief.

When we were done, I got out of there in a hurry, hoping it would be a long time before I had to do this again.

So, what's my point in relating all this? I guess it's that following your conscience is often difficult. It would have been much easier to have kept my mouth shut. I'm not sure if I even did the right thing or not.

I do know, however, that I remained true to myself. For what that's worth these days.


Monday, September 15, 2003

The politics of science

From UPI writer, Cynthia Tucker:

Scientific and medical research has been overwhelmed by powerful business interests and single-issue extremists. Chemical manufacturers, automakers, religious zealots and others spend torrents of money to quash public disclosure, weaken government regulation and intimidate scientists and researchers into backing away from the truth. Public health takes a back seat to Big Business and partisan politics.

For the entire essay, click here.

I can't help but think of this in terms of my comments in the post below. That is, bad reporting combined with Americans' lust for obedience to strong authority has made this situation all but inevitable. As a people, we are so strongly conditioned to believe and obey those in power that questioning the "experts" is almost unthinkable. Americans cannot, for the most part, think for themselves or against the conventional wisdom because our schools have taught us that doing so is bad--good Americans get in line and do as they're told; nobody likes a trouble maker.

I don't know how many times I've been told by people who disagree with me that I'm "just trying to be different."


Across the U.S., Concern Grows About the Course of War in Iraq

From the NY Times via This Modern World:

But there is, by many measures, a gnawing unease about the course of this mission and a realization that the conflict will be deadlier, more expensive and longer-lasting than Mr. Bush signaled when he landed on an aircraft carrier off San Diego on May 1 to celebrate the fall of Saddam Hussein. In the most recent evidence of that, a Washington Post/ABC News poll published today found a nine-point jump in the last three weeks, to 46 percent, in the number of Americans who disapprove of Mr. Bush's Iraq policy, while the number who expressed support for the policy slipped to 52 percent from 56 percent.

For more, click here.

The effects of the Jedi mind tricks are starting to wear off. This is pretty significant, actually, given the overwhelming support that the war enjoyed during the "major combat phase." So, I suppose that's something to be happy about.

What burns me, however, is that the troubled occupation was totally predicted for anybody who was paying attention at the time. Rank and file Americans should have known, but they didn't. Who's to blame? The media, I guess, along with our rotten public schools. It's nice to know that there's been something of a turnaround in mainstream news reporting, but as long as American culture is so obsessed with obeying authority, we have a problem. A big problem.

We're not out of this yet.


Sunday, September 14, 2003

A Mystery the US is in No Hurry to Resolve

From British reporter and longtime Iraq correspondent Robert Fisk on the recent killings of Iraqi policemen by US troops:

The 3rd Infantry Division are tired, so the story goes here. They invaded Iraq in March and haven't been home since. Their morale is low. Or so they say in Fallujah and Baghdad. But already the cancer of rumour is beginning to turn this massacre into something far more dangerous. Here are the words of Ahmed, whose brother Sabah was a policeman caught in the ambush and taken away by the Americans - alive or dead, he doesn't know - and who turned up to examine the blood and cartridge cases yesterday. "The Americans were forced to leave Fallujah after much fighting following their killing of 16 demonstrators in April. They were forced to hire a Fallujah police force. But they wanted to return to Fallujah so they arranged the ambush. The BMW gunmen' were Americans who were supposed to show there was no security in Fallujah - so the Americans could return. Our police kept crying out: We are the police - we are the police'. And the Americans went on shooting."

In vain did I try to explain that the last thing Americans wanted to do was return to the Sunni Muslim Saddamite town of Fallujah. Already they have paid "blood money" to the families of local, innocent Iraqis shot down at their checkpoints. They will have to do the same to the tribal leader whose two sons they also killed at another checkpoint near Fallujah on Thursday night. But why did the Americans kill so many of their own Iraqi policemen? Had they not heard the radio appeals of the dying men? Why - and here the story of the Jordanian Hospital guards and the policemen's relatives were the same - did the Americans go on shooting for an hour and a half? And why did the Americans say that they had "no information" about the slaughter 18 hours after they had gunned down 10 of the very men whom President Bush needs most if he wishes to extricate his army from the Iraqi death trap?

For more, click here.


Cheney: Bush may seek yet more Iraq funds

From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

On CBS' "Face the Nation," Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld wouldn't go even that far. He said consultations are under way with lawmakers, and how long the $87 billion will last has not been determined.

"It's a process that's being handled by the president and the Office of Management and Budget," Rumsfeld said. "I think that after those consultations with Congress, we'll have the answer to your question."

"I think it's important to let the people who are engaging in that process define it."

For the entire article, click here.

Just one point to make: the outrageous spending on the Vietnam War made the US economy sluggish for over a decade. Given the shakey state of today's economy, I wonder just what the hell these bozos think they're doing.



I wrote about the differences between neo-conservatives and neo-liberals, two types of conservatives, last month. In short, neo-libs (or supply-siders) are in favor of small government and tax cuts; neo-cons are hawkish and believe in the superiority of American culture. These two points of view are now seemingly headed for collision due to the mounting costs of the Iraq war.

From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

Bush's perceived complacency toward the soaring deficit is setting off a mini-rebellion among otherwise loyal members of the political right who advocate smaller government.

"It's very clear that the one source of contention between Bush and conservatives now is the inability by the White House to show any fiscal discipline," said Stephen Moore, president of the anti-tax, supply-side Club for Growth.

"And he can't blame Congress for the spending orgy when he has signed every spending bill," said Moore, otherwise a staunch Bush supporter.

For sure, the president remains extremely popular among conservatives. They applaud his handling of the fight against terrorism. They appreciate his strong positions against abortion and same-sex marriages. They are grateful for his three consecutive big tax cuts.

Still, new strains are evident.

For more, click here.

And from Slate via J. Orlin Grabbe:

The neocons are the party of war, which is the favored path to what Bill Kristol and David Brooks have termed "national greatness." The supply-siders are the party of tax cuts, which is the favored path to prosperity and, for some, limited government. Thus far, the two camps have coexisted more or less peacefully because the two goals have not come into conflict. Or rather, the two goals have come into conflict, but both camps have refused to recognize that.

For more, click here.

The bottom line is that even hard core conservatives are starting to recognize the insanity of Bush's endless war on terrorism. Frankly, I'm surprised it's taken the neo-libs this long to realize that the White House has created a really bad atmosphere for business. I guess the weird stupor created by 9/11 is beginning to wear off.


Adios, Johnny Cash

Counterpunch on the man in black:

It's part of the Cash legend that he "came out against the Vietnam War." That he did, but the way he did it is telling. The song in question, "Singing in Vietnam Talking Blues," relates how he and June Carter Cash went to play for the boys overseas, and how much they liked the soliders, and how rough things are over there; it ends with the declaration that they sure hope the boys can come home soon, "in peace."

For more, click here.

Thanks to J. Orlin Grabbe for the link.


Saturday, September 13, 2003


Folsom Prison Blues

I hear the train a comin'
It's rollin' 'round the bend,
And I ain't seen the sunshine,
Since, I don't know when,
I'm stuck in Folsom Prison,
And time keeps draggin' on,
But that train keeps a-rollin',
On down to San Antone.

When I was just a baby,
My Mama told me, "Son,
Always be a good boy,
Don't ever play with guns,"
But I shot a man in Reno,
Just to watch him die,
When I hear that whistle blowin',
I hang my head and cry.

I bet there's rich folks eatin',
In a fancy dining car,
They're probably drinkin' coffee,
And smokin' big cigars,
But I know I had it comin',
I know I can't be free,
But those people keep a-movin',
And that's what tortures me.

Well, if they freed me from this prison,
If that railroad train was mine,
I bet I'd move out over a little,
Farther down the line,
Far from Folsom Prison,
That's where I want to stay,
And I'd let that lonesome whistle,
Blow my Blues away.


Exploiting the Atrocity

The latest essay from the NY Times' Paul Krugman via Eschaton:

Yet it's almost certainly wrong to think that the political exploitation of 9/11 and, more broadly, the administration's campaign to label critics as unpatriotic are past their peak. It may be harder for the administration to wrap itself in the flag, but it has more incentive to do so now than ever before. Where once the administration was motivated by greed, now it's driven by fear.

That's a pretty creepy thought, indeed. Click here.


Customs Fails to Detect Depleted
Uranium Carried From Europe to U.S.

On July 4, in a train station in Europe, a suitcase containing 15 pounds of depleted uranium, shielded by a steel pipe with a lead lining, began a secret 25-day, seven-country journey. Its destination was the United States.

It was the kind of uranium that — if highly enriched — would, by some estimates, provide about half the material required for a crude nuclear device and more than enough for a so-called dirty bomb — a nightmare scenario for U.S. authorities.

"I would say that the single largest, most urgent threat to Americans today is the threat of nuclear terrorism," said Graham Allison, an expert on nuclear terrorism. Allison is the director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government and a former assistant secretary of defense.

This suitcase's journey was not part of a terrorist plot, but rather part of an ABCNEWS investigation into whether American authorities could, in fact, stop a shipment of radioactive material. The depleted uranium packed in the suitcase was not highly enriched and therefore not dangerous, but similar in many other key respects.

In other words, to the to the human eye or to an X-ray scanner, the depleted uranium would look the same as an actual radioactive shipment.


And while the shipping container holding ABCNEWS' suitcase was selected by customs for this kind of screening, it sailed right through the inspection and left the port without ever being opened by customs inspectors. And a few days after its arrival in the United States, the container was on the back of a truck headed for New York City.

I hope everybody realizes the gravity of this. The Bush administration has invaded two countries, indefinitely incarcerated thousands of people, rolled back numerous cherished civil rights, spent billions of dollars for "homeland security," and utterly failed to make our nation even one bit safer from terrorists. This really pisses me off. This really scares me, too.

There could be a nuke in your city right now ticking away. What the hell is going on?

For the entire article, click here (and you'd better click quickly: my buddy, Matt, who sent me the link, fears that this article may be buried soon--apparently it's already come and gone in under 24 hours at Drudge, and was hard to find on the ABC site).


Thursday, September 11, 2003


Why Don't We Have Answers to These 9/11 Questions?

From the Philadelphia Daily News via Eschaton, a list of twenty questions about the terrorist attacks. Here's an example:

6. Why did the NORAD air defense network fail to intercept the four hijacked jets?

During the depths of the Cold War, Americans went to bed with the somewhat reassuring belief that jet fighters would intercept anyone launching a first strike against the United States. That myth was shattered on 9/11, when four hijacked-jetliners-turned-into-deadly-missiles cruised the American skies with impunity for nearly two hours.

Why did the North American Aerospace Defense Command seem unaware of literally dozens of warnings that hijacked jetliners could be used as weapons? Why does NORAD claim it did not learn that Flight 11 - the first jet to strike the World Trade Center about 8:45 a.m. - had been hijacked until 8:40 a.m., some 25 minutes after the transponder was shut off and an astounding 15 minutes after flight controllers heard a hijacker say, "We have some planes..."?

Why didn't the fighters that were finally scrambled at Otis Air Force Base in Massachusetts and Langley Air Force Base in Virginia fly at top, supersonic speeds? Why didn't fighters immediately take off from Andrews Air Force Base, just

outside Washington, D.C.? Why was nothing done to intercept American Airlines Flight 77, which struck the Pentagon, when officials knew it had been had been hijacked some 47 minutes earlier?

And why has no one been disciplined for the worst breakdown in national defense since Pearl Harbor?

Click here.

The Other, Almost Forgotten 9/11

From Counterpunch via J. Orlin Grabbe, a brief history of the US backed September 11, 1973 Chilean coup, and what it means today:

Almost all Americans know that 9/11 now refers to the horrendous events two years ago when almost 3,000 people died in terrorist attacks. Few Americans, however, recall that 9/11 also refers to the day in 1973 on which the Chilean armed forces, with US encouragement and help, launched air and ground strikes against the presidential palace, the office of Dr. Salvador Allende, the elected president. Allende died that morning. A reign of terror followed the coup in which tens of thousands of Chileans underwent torture, hundreds of thousands were forced or fled into exile and the democratic institutions of the country were systematically destroyed. The coup leader, General Augusto Pinochet, remained military dictator of Chile for seventeen years four years longer than Hitler.

Click here.


Wednesday, September 10, 2003


It's been a while since I checked out the mysterious J. Orlin Grabbe's page of daily links, so I figured a Real Art post highlighting some of his recent picks was in order:

FCC: Stern's raunchy radio show is a news program

That's right. The Federal Communications Commission ruled Tuesday that Stern's raunchy radio program is a "bona fide news interview" program.

The decision was in response to a request made by New York-based Infinity Broadcasting Operations Inc., which wanted a ruling that its widely syndicated Stern show is a news program and exempt from equal time requirements for political candidates.

The decision will allow Stern to put actor Arnold Schwarzenegger on the air without having to offer time to the scores of other candidates running for governor in California.

Well...when I think about it this makes a weird kind of sense, given how crappy most of the "real" news programs are. I mean, Bill O'Reilly is just Howard Stern with a haircut if you get right down to it. Minus the strippers and dwarves, that is.

Click here.

Santa Cruz to ask Congress to consider impeaching Bush

The Santa Cruz City Council has become the first local government in the country to pass a resolution that will call for Congress to look into impeaching President Bush over his handling of the war in Iraq.

"It's time for us to open up this can of worms," said councilman Tim Fitzmaurice.

The resolution, approved Tuesday by a 6-1 vote, authorizes Santa Cruz Mayor Emily Reilly to send a letter to House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner asking if Bush has committed any impeachable offenses that could lead to his ouster.

City leaders say Bush violated international treaties by going to war in Iraq, and that the president manipulated public fears to justify the war and undercut Constitutional rights.

I'd like to say that this gives me hope, but the numerous city council resolutions opposing the invasion of Iraq didn't stop the war. I don't know; maybe this will help set the rhetorical stage or something. At any rate, it makes me giggle.

Click here.

Calling a Lie a Lie: The dicey dynamics of exposing untruths

Every day, journalists struggle to reconcile two clashing professional mandates. On the one hand, their stature rests on a reputation for fairness and objectivity; if they appear to be taking ideological shots at a president, their credibility suffers. Yet they also hearken to the muckraker's trumpet, the injunction to scrutinize and challenge the powerful. One principle calls for restraint and evenhandedness, the other for skepticism and zeal.

Almost uniquely, official deceptions allow reporters to align these goals. When a public figure lies, journalists can simultaneously flaunt their adversarial stance and style themselves defenders of truth.

To the axiom that journalists love lies, however, there's one important corollary — and it helps explain Bush's Teflon coating. Reporters like only certain lies. Perversely, those tend to be the relatively trivial ones, involving personal matters: Clinton's deceptions about his sex life; Al Gore's talk of having inspired Love Story; John Kerry's failure to correct misimpressions that he's Irish. Here, the press can strut its skepticism without positioning itself ideologically.

The lies reporters dislike, in contrast, center on what are usually more important matters: claims about public policy — taxes, abortion, the environment — where raising questions of truthfulness can seem awfully close to taking sides in a partisan debate. Most of Bush's lies have fallen in this demilitarized zone, where journalists fear to tread.

This Columbia Journalism Review essay, rather than looking at pervasive news-distorting corporate influences (one of my own favorite topics), analyzes some biases that are inherent in the discipline of journalism, and shows how those biases have given the White House a free ride, for the most part.

Click here.


Tuesday, September 09, 2003

Evidence of Desperation

From the New York Times:

But interviews with executives at record labels, Internet companies and research companies revealed a much more complex array of problems facing the music business than just digital piracy.

"It's not all file-sharing," said Andy Gershon, the president of V2 Records, home to the recording artists Moby and the White Stripes. "I do think that right now, the business is sick but music is great."

Other record label executives agreed. Among the problems they cited were the consolidation of radio stations, making it harder to expose new bands and records, and the lack of a widely popular musical trend like teen-pop, which relied on stars like Britney Spears and `N Sync to drive young people to record stores.

They also blamed a poor economy and competition for the limited time and money of teenagers and young adults, their main customers, who often find that they prefer buying DVD's, video games, sneakers and more.

In other words, the corporate model for the music industry is finally starting to flounder. Read on:

And as major record labels have become part of large international corporations, industry insiders say, less attention is being paid to discovering and marketing music properly.

"So many labels are in play — they're trying to be acquired or acquire another company or merge — so anything that affects their immediate balance sheet is slashed," one record-label executive said. "Money is not being put into marketing and A.& R. because people don't want to spend the money because it looks bad on the balance sheet."

For the whole article, click here.

As I have said before, pop culture has always been run by business. It has only been in the era of mega-corporate domination of pop culture, however, that we see a profound lack of understanding of the product. That is to say, music is not microwave ovens or soap. The state of American pop music will not improve until those who run the business start to understand better what they are selling. Unfortunately, corporate business structure would seem to make that unlikely.

For more of my thoughts on corporations and pop culture, click here and here.



Remember those exciting days when the war first started? Remember the confidence and national pride? Remember how our troops were going to be cheered as liberators? Remember how we were going to be out of there in ninety days? Jay Bookman of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution remembers, and he seems pretty angry about the White House's massive self-delusion:

In response, defenders of postwar planning in essence ask, "Who knew . . . ?"

Who knew Iraq's oil industry was so decrepit? Who predicted guerrilla war? Who knew it would cost so much? Who knew that the Iraqi army, which we disbanded back in May, would have been so useful in keeping peace?

Well, a lot of people knew. The administration simply did not listen.


But perhaps the most perceptive work was done by the U.S. Army War College, the military's own think tank. Its report, issued in February, reads like an after-the-fact autopsy:

• "Having entered into Iraq, the United States will find itself unable to leave rapidly, despite the many pressures to do so."

• "A small number of terrorists could reasonably choose to attack U.S. forces in the hope that they can incite an action-reaction cycle that will enhance their cause and increase their numbers."

• "If the United States assumes control of Iraq, it will assume control of a badly battered economy."

• "To tear apart the [Iraqi] army in the war's aftermath could lead to the destruction of one of the only forces for unity within the society."

For the entire essay, click here.

Thanks to Eschaton for the link.



Gorilla, You're a Desperado

Big gorilla at the L.A. Zoo
Snatched the glasses right off my face
Took the keys to my BMW
Left me here to take his place

I wish the ape a lot of success
I'm sorry my apartment's a mess
Most of all, I'm sorry if I made you blue
I'm betting the gorilla will too

They say Jesus will find you wherever you go
But when He'll come looking for you, they don't know
In the meantime keep your profile low
Gorilla, you're a desperado

He built a house on an acre of land
He called it Villa Gorilla
Now I hear he's getting divorced
Laying low at L'Ermitage, of course

Then the ape grew very depressed
Went through transactional analysis
He plays racquetball and runs in the rain
Still he's shackled to a platinum chain

Big gorilla at the L.A. Zoo
Snatched the glasses right off my face
Took the keys to my BMW
Left me here to take his place