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Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Bush Jive-Capital: Pretend Money Is Killing The Middle Class, Running Up National Deficit, Jim Kunstler

Finance has been trending away from economic reality since the Ronald Reagan era on an accelerating basis. By this I mean the role of finance no longer represents sets of mechanisms and institutions designed to raise legitimate capital for investment in legitimate productive activities. Finance is now an end in itself, essentially a racket. The capital is no longer capital, i.e. genuine wealth accumulated from previous productive activities. Now it is jive-capital: notional "wealth" spun out of activities that are fundamentally not productive -- for instance, sub-prime mortgages bundled into tradable securities. In reality, the mortgages backing these securities are contracts for repayment of huge loans made on hazardous terms by shifty means to people with poor prospects for making their payments for assets (suburban houses made of vinyl and glue) that are, in any case, fated to lose much of their nominal value, becoming worth less than the obligations yet due on them, and rapidly so.

The sub-prime loans were made in the first place because the contracting institutions (banks) could pass off the risks associated with these jive contracts by off-loading them to larger institutions such as the government sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae (the Federal National Mortgage Association) and Freddie Mac (the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation) which are largely exempt from regulatory oversight and hence could buy up whatever cockamamie paper contracts they felt like buying and convert them into bonds, certificates said to represent future earnings. (Not.)

These mortgage backed securities were only one species of engineered abstract financial "instruments" among many orders of incomprehensibly abstract mutant financial "products" (derivatives, credit default swaps) and procedures (carry trade, leveraged buyouts,) based on the fundamental unreality that it is possible to get something for nothing.

The inertia part of the story is that this collective hallucination (that jive-capital was real) was sustained through 2006 by the sheer massive weight and flow of jive capital and its ability to elude scrutiny by countless chimerical conversions from one abstruse form to another -- from loan, to bond, to bet, to position, to Christmas bonus. . . . The final result, though, was a nation with an increasingly impoverished middle class, a bankrupt public treasury, and all remaining wealth (notional or residual) creamed off by a racketeering upper crust of logrolling insiders who, for the moment, could convert their dollars into multiple mansions, private jet planes, and sky boxes at the gladiatorial combats du jour.

The rest of the US economy was increasingly composed of a suburban development hyper-boom that amounted to little more overall than a colossal misinvestment in a living arrangement with no future (and the irreparable destruction of the remaining US landscape). The building-and-selling of suburban houses and the ancillary accessorizing of them with collector highways, strip malls, and big box stores, fast food huts, and all the jobs associated with constructing, lending, evaluating, selling, servicing, and staffing these things, along with additional rackets like home equity withdrawal refinancing to keep the cash registers ringing in the Wal-Marts and Home Depots -- these were the activities supposedly keeping the "regular" (i.e. lumpenprole) economy chugging along. If you subtracted all this "housing bubble" activity from the rest of this economy since 2001 there was very little left besides, hair-styling, fried chicken, and open heart surgery.

Yet, marvelous to relate, the whole toxic, entropy-laden, creaking, reeking cargo of shit-and-deceit that comprised this system just managed to keep rolling along for another year without collapsing under its own stinking, fantastically stupid weight.

The luck part of the story came partly from the weather -- there was barely any hurricane activity in US territory last year and global warming was so advanced that the northern states set records for warm winter temperatures -- which redounded into the fossil fuel part of the 2006 story.

We came out of 2005 in very poor shape for oil and gas because so many platforms in the Gulf of Mexico were destroyed or damaged by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita -- something like 23 percent of total production capacity at the worst point, some of which never recovered -- not to mention the circumstances worldwide regarding oil supply (more on this ahead). The supernaturally warm winter kept home heating prices super low in early 2006. Nonetheless, oil prices began ramping up in the spring as we approached the happy motoring part of the year joined by fear of yet another harsh hurricane season. At midsummer, we got the spasm of the Hezbollah-Israeli war, which threatened to infect the oil-producing areas of the Middle East. Around this time, oil spiked to $78 a barrel.

But that little war terminated with next-to-zero immediate repercussions. Both Hezbollah and Israel went home to regroup. The US was not tempted to step on Hezbollah's sponsor, Iran, and Saudi Arabia kept its beak out of the beef, too. The world's focus returned to the ongoing fiasco of America's misadventure in Iraq, and that just ground on and on like a giant Cuisinart making human guacamole in wholesale batches day after day.

The hurricane season turned out to be a total bust. The panic buying of oil contracts at mid-summer turned to an autumn rout as inventories were already built up and bidders left the futures markets. Oil prices sank from $78 to the high $50s. The Amaranth hedge fund crapped out on an oil futures play. It was rumored that Goldman Sachs (its CEO Hank Paulson just elevated to Secretary of the Treasury last summer) used its vast resources to further queer the oil futures markets going into the November election to keep prices down and voters zonked out. Whether this was true or not, I simply don't know -- but obviously it didn't help preserve the Republican hold on congress.

But it brings us to a crucial final angle on the story-as-a-whole, which is that the stresses, distortions, and perversities we see in the financial markets and the economy are largely attributable to the peculiar circumstances of Peak Oil .-- namely, a grinding background reality that this point of the world's highest-ever petroleum production represents the final blow off of an economy that really has no future, an economy in which typical industrial growth is no longer possible. And if this growth, this ceaseless expansion of everything is no longer possible, if instead we enter a wholesale global contraction of available energy, of industrial activity, and expectation of future activity, why then the markers used to signify the expectation of growth (at least the retention of wealth) -- currencies, stock certificates, bonds, derivative contracts, mortgages -- all these things lose their legitimacy and finally their value. That is the fundamental underlying reality in Peak Oil's relation to our modern economies in general and to the finance sector that is supposed to serve it.


Tuesday, January 30, 2007

"Enemies of Peace": Political Partisanship Is The Result Of GOP Greed (excerpts), Paul Krugman

...The nastiness of modern American politics isn’t the result of a random outbreak of bad manners. It’s a symptom of deeper factors — mainly the growing polarization of our economy. And history says that we’ll see a return to bipartisanship only if and when that economic polarization is reversed. After all, American politics has been nasty in the past. Before the New Deal, America was a nation with a vast gap between the rich and everyone else, and this gap was reflected in a sharp political divide. The Republican Party, in effect, represented the interests of the economic elite, and the Democratic Party, in an often confused way, represented the populist alternative.

In that divided political system, the Democrats probably came much closer to representing the interests of the typical American. But the G.O.P.’s advantage in money, and the superior organization that money bought, usually allowed it to dominate national politics. “I am not a member of any organized party,” Will Rogers said. “I am a Democrat.” Then came the New Deal. I urge Mr. Obama — and everyone else who thinks that good will alone is enough to change the tone of our politics — to read the speeches of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the quintessential example of a president who tackled big problems that demanded solutions.

For the fact is that F.D.R. faced fierce opposition as he created the institutions — Social Security, unemployment insurance, more progressive taxation and beyond — that helped alleviate inequality. And he didn’t shy away from confrontation. “We had to struggle,” he declared in 1936, “with the old enemies of peace — business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering. ... Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me — and I welcome their hatred.” It was only after F.D.R. had created a more equal society, and the old class warriors of the G.O.P. were replaced by “modern Republicans” who accepted the New Deal, that bipartisanship began to prevail.

The history of the last few decades has basically been the story of the New Deal in reverse. Income inequality has returned to levels not seen since the pre-New Deal era, and so have political divisions in Congress as the Republicans have moved right, once again becoming the party of the economic elite. The signature domestic policy initiatives of the Bush administration have been attempts to undo F.D.R.’s legacy, from slashing taxes on the rich to privatizing Social Security. And a bitter partisan gap has opened up between the G.O.P. and Democrats, who have tried to defend that legacy.

What about the smear campaigns, like Karl Rove’s 2005 declaration that after 9/11 liberals wanted to “offer therapy and understanding for our attackers”? Well, they’re reminiscent of the vicious anti-Catholic propaganda used to defeat Al Smith in 1928: smear tactics are what a well-organized, well-financed party with a fundamentally unpopular domestic agenda uses to change the subject....Politicians who try to push forward the elements of a new New Deal, especially universal health care, are sure to face the hatred of a large bloc on the right — and they should welcome that hatred, not fear it.


Monday, January 29, 2007

Daffy Dick: Puppetmaster Cheney "Has Turned His Perversity Into Foreign Policy" (excerpts), Maureen Dowd

...Delusional is far too mild a word to describe Dick Cheney. Delusional doesn’t begin to capture the profound, transcendental one-flew-over daftness of the man. Has anyone in the history of the United States ever been so singularly wrong and misguided about such phenomenally important events and continued to insist he’s right in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary? It requires an exquisite kind of lunacy to spend hundreds of billions destroying America’s reputation in the world, exhausting the U.S. military, failing to catch Osama, enhancing Iran’s power in the Middle East and sending American kids to train and arm Iraqi forces so they can work against American interests.

Only someone with an inspired alienation from reality could, under the guise of exorcising the trauma of Vietnam, replicate the trauma of Vietnam. You must have a real talent for derangement to stay wrong every step of the way, to remain in complete denial about Iraq’s civil war, to have a total misunderstanding of Arab culture, to be completely oblivious to the American mood and to be absolutely blind to how democracy works....Mr. Cheney acts more like a member of the James gang than the Jefferson gang. Asked by Wolf what would happen if the Senate passed a resolution critical of The Surge, Scary Cheney rumbled, “It won’t stop us.”...

It is W. and Vice who learned no lessons from Vietnam, probably because they worked so hard to avoid going. They rush into a war halfway around the world for no reason and with no foresight about the culture or the inevitable insurgency, and then assert that any criticism of their fumbling management of Iraq and Afghanistan is tantamount to criticizing the troops. Quel demagoguery....After offering Congress an olive branch in the State of the Union, the president resumed mindless swaggering. Asked yesterday why he was ratcheting up despite the resolutions, W. replied, “In that I’m the decision maker, I had to come up with a way forward that precluded disaster.” (Or preordained it.)

The reality of Iraq, as The Times’s brilliant John Burns described it to Charlie Rose this week, is that a messy endgame could be far worse than Vietnam, leading to “a civil war on a scale with bloodshed that will absolutely dwarf what we’re seeing now,” and a “wider conflagration, with all kinds of implications for the world’s flow of oil, for the state of Israel. What happens to King Abdullah in Jordan if there’s complete chaos in the region?”

Mr. Cheney has turned his perversity into foreign policy. He assumes that the more people think he’s crazy, the saner he must be....

Parody Song: Halliburton Hillbilly, Paul Henning with Jerry Politex

Come 'n listen to my story 'bout a man named Dick
A neocon so wrong, he made our nation sick
Because one day, spouting lies very rude
He took us to Iraq to get their crude

Oil, that is, black gold, Texas tea

The first thing you know, Dick's friends are millionaires
But we said, "Dick, move those troops out of there"
Dick said, "Can't stop me, they ain't come'n back"
And he loaded up more troops and moved them to Iraq

Iraq, I said, dead bodies, civil war

Well, now it's time to say goodbye to Dick and all his ilk
Better late than never, though the milk's been spilt
But in '08 you're invited back again to his locality
To have another helpin' of his hospitality

Madness, that is: lies, theft, killing

Y'all come back now, hear?


Weekend Edition: Friday, January 26, 2007

Our Contributors: Jones, Fisher, Weiner, Uhler (2), Hirschhorn, Eland, Soderstrom, Pringle, Ostroy, Hirschhorn (2), Samples, Robertson, Floyd, Mickey Z., Baker, Kane

Al Gonzales: Of Secrets, Monsters, and Your Freedoms, John Calvin Jones
Threatening Justice: Bush Baby's Mea Culpa Minimus, William Fisher
Constitutional Amendments: Runaway American Brainwashing, Joel Hirschhorn
Wake Up, Dems! Ten Things Learned Since Dems' Election Victory, Bernard Weiner
Supporting the Troops? Sen. Webb Puts Bush in the Cross-hairs, Walter C. Uhler
Family Feud: Junior's Rebellion Over Iraq, Ivan Eland
Immigration: No Way In.. No Way Out, Shelia Samples
Christian Fundamentalists: A Fundamental Evil, Doug Soderstrom
"Disorganized": Bush FDA Feeling the Heat, Evelyn Pringle
Obama: The Democratic Messiah?, Joel Hirschhorn
Kerry Bows Out: Narrowing The Pack for a Likely Gore Run, Andy Ostroy
Court Circular: Richard Cohen and the Apologists of Power, Chris Floyd
Gun Sickness: Stone Cold Killers And Newsweek, Mickey Z.
Speaking Truth: Passing Lies And Myths As American History, Carolyn Baker interviewed
More Hoover Lies: Another Distortion of History by Hoover Think Tank Star, Walter C. Uhler
Surfing Birds: Ten Paragraphs for the YouTubers, Don Robertson
Read His Lips: Tax The Middle Class, Mad Kane


Thursday, January 25, 2007

Hagel Anti-Surge Resolution: Americans Soldiers Die In Defense Of No-Show Iraqi "Democracy" (transcript), Chuck Hagel

[Wednesday, Senate Foreign Relations Committee]...We have a constitutional responsibility as well as a moral responsibility to this country, to the young men and women we ask to go fight and die, and their families. They deserve a policy equal to their sacrifice. In my opinion, the opinion of others maybe in this body, we do not now have that policy. To ask these people to go out and lay their lives on the line, for what?...We could cite a Military Times poll this month. Thirty-five percent of the American military supports the President’s policies in Iraq. Now how are we helping the military and those individuals we’re sending off to fight and die by remaining silent? We’re not even debating this. We’re not even bringing a resolution up?

...This is a very real, responsible addressing of the most divisive issue in this country since Vietnam. Sure it’s tough. Absolutely. And I think all 100 Senators ought to be on the line on this. What do you believe? What are you willing to support? What do you think? Why are you elected? If you wanted a safe job, go sell shoes. This is a tough business. But is it any tougher, for us having to take a tough vote and express ourselves and have the courage to step up, then what we’re asking our young men and women do? I don’t think so.

When I hear on both sides of this argument impugning motives and patriotism to our country, not only is it offensive and disgusting, but it debases the whole system of our country and who we are. My goodness. Can’t we debate the most critical issue of our time out front, in front of the American people? They expect it. Are we so weak we can’t do that? I don’t think so. Like always, the American people are far ahead of us sitting here. Far ahead of us because we’re concerned about politics, we’re concerned about our position, we’re concerned about our next election. So we tinker. So we figure out wordsmithing. So should we oppose the President or should we just not support the President? Different languages, disagree with the President, that’s not as harsh as oppose the President. But you know what, the American people have got this sorted out, they always have. They’re not conflicted with the nuances of life. They understand what’s going on....

I just want to mention one relevant, immediate fact. Front page of the New York Times....Here’s the headline, we talk about responsibility, here’s the headline, “Iraq Parliament Finds a Quorum Very Hard to Come By.” I don’t know how many of you saw this but let me read you a paragraph or two because what we are asking our young men and women to preserve and to protect is what I’m about to read:

“Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, the speaker of Parliament, read a roll call of the 275 elected members with a goal of shaming the no-shows.” Shaming the no-shows. Now this is the responsible Iraqi government that we’re asking our young men and women to die for, because they want their freedom and they want their future more than we do. “Parliament in recent months has been at a standstill.” Now this is the same Parliament the President boasted about last night. The same Iraqi government the President took great pride; we all took great pride in that pre-election. They’re a sovereign nation we say. They have responsibility as a sovereign nation to govern their nation. But yet they can’t get a quorum over the last four months to do business in their country at a time their country is disintegrating.

There is very little debate now about whether this is a sectarian civil war or not; of course it is, has been....And yet the Iraqi Parliament that we boast about can’t meet because they can’t find a quorum. “The Parliament in recent months has been at a standstill. Nearly every session since November has been adjourned because as few as 65 members made it to work, even as they and absentees earned salaries and benefits worth about $120,000 a year....American officials long hoped that Parliament could help foster dialogue between Iraq’s increasingly fractured ethnic and religious groups, but that has not happened, either.” Because the Iraqi Parliament will not meet. Well that’s just but one insightful example. I don’t need to restate the obvious or go through an inventory of the issues that are occurring in Iraq.

...I don’t know how many United States Senators believe we have a coherent strategy in Iraq. I don’t think we’ve ever had a coherent strategy, in fact I would even challenge the administration today to show us the plan that the President talked about the other night. There is no plan. I happen to know Pentagon planners were on their way to Central Command over the weekend. They haven’t even team-B’d this plan. And my dear friend Dick Lugar talks about coherence of strategy. There is no strategy. This is a ping pong game with American lives. These young men and women that we put in Anbar province, in Iraq, in Baghdad, are not beans, they’re real lives and we better be damn sure we know what we’re doing, all of us, before we put 22,000 more Americans into that grinder. We better be as sure as you can be and I want every one of you, every one of us, 100 Senators to look into that camera and you tell your people back home what you think. Don’t hide any more. None of us. That is the essence of our responsibility. And if we’re not willing to do it we’re not worthy to be sitting right here. We fail our country. If we don’t debate this, if we don’t debate this we are not worthy of our country. We fail our country.

...No president can govern a nation and certainly cannot conduct a war policy without the support of the American public. That means the support of the Congress. We can’t be divided. Does it get better if we don’t talk about it? Is that what we’re thinking here? Well let’s just don’t talk about a resolution. Let’s not have a resolution. It will get better. Well all I would do is point to the last four years. Are things better in the Middle East today? No, they are more dangerous today in the Middle East than they’ve ever been. I challenge anyone to question that. You hear that from our panelists’ everyday we have hearings whether it’s Iran, whether it’s Lebanon, whether it’s Syria, whether it’s Iraq. It is far more dangerous than we have ever seen, we’ve ever seen. We have totally destroyed our standing and reputation and influence in the Middle East by what we are doing. And the more we sink down into this bog, the harder it is to get out of, the more enemies we make, just as Generals Abizaid and Casey said in November before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

We don’t need more American troops. I would quote General Chiarelli who was the 3-Star in charge of Baghdad who just recently left. You know what he said a couple months ago? I don’t need more American troops in Baghdad, I need more jobs. That’s what he said. We’re disconnecting the human dynamic, the human element. The people of Iraq are good people. That’s not the issue here. But when people have no hope, when there’s despair, little else matters. And this is not about terrorists don’t like freedom. Tell that to the Palestinian people who have been chained down for many, many years. Terrorism is not a strategy it’s a tactic. Terrorism is not a plan; it’s not a belief like democracy or monarchy. It’s a tactic. It’s a tactic. So it’s far more complicated than I think a lot of us are led to believe. And if it’s that complicated, we need to get into it....

Warner Anti-Surge Resolution: Senators Want To Talk Politics, Not Strategy (excerpts), Maureen Dowd

At a critical hearing [of the Foreign Relations Committee Tuesday], senators happily blew a chance to grill Lt. Gen. David Petraeus, W.’s choice to try to rescue Iraq, on whether those 21,500 additional troops will be cavalry to the rescue or lambs to the slaughter. Why dwell on the most consequential elements of American strategy when they can linger over something even more repercussive: their own political reputations?

Hillary Clinton, who dodged a recent important Iraq hearing by flying to Iraq, did not have any questions at all for the general. She simply lectured him crisply on her belated discovery that the administration has a “dead-end” and “blank check” policy, as she tried to seem like the kind of gal who could command the most powerful military on earth. This is odd from someone who is running infomercials on her Web site promising “a conversation.” In their questioning, Senator Joe Lieberman and Mr. McCain seemed most interested in enlisting the general’s prestige for their own campaign to discredit colleagues in both parties who are tired of passively watching W.’s disaster unfold....

“Honorable people have different views, and they will voice their criticisms,” chided John Warner, who presented a bipartisan resolution on Monday declaring that the Senate “disagrees with the ‘plan’ to augment our forces.”...The fact that Senator Warner attacked The Surge in a formal way means that a substantial majority of the Senate are willing to stick their necks out. It’s the beginning of a slow procession to limit spending on the war and rein in Mr. Bush. As one does in a job interview, the general tried to oblige everyone.... The poor man. He probably thought that he came all this way to talk about how to fight the war, not to talk about how to talk about the war.


Wednesday, January 24, 2007

State of the Union Speech: Bush Bull About Economy Rejected By Dems (transcript), Jim Webb

There are two areas where our respective parties have largely stood in contradiction, and I want to take a few minutes to address them tonight. The first relates to how we see the health of our economy how we measure it, and how we ensure that its benefits are properly shared among all Americans....When one looks at the health of our economy, it's almost as if we are living in two different countries. Some say that things have never been better. The stock market is at an all-time high, and so are corporate profits. But these benefits are not being fairly shared. When I graduated from college, the average corporate CEO made 20 times what the average worker did; today, it's nearly 400 times. In other words, it takes the average worker more than a year to make the money that his or her boss makes in one day.

Wages and salaries for our workers are at all-time lows as a percentage of national wealth, even though the productivity of American workers is the highest in the world. Medical costs have skyrocketed. College tuition rates are off the charts. Our manufacturing base is being dismantled and sent overseas. Good American jobs are being sent along with them. In short, the middle class of this country, our historic backbone and our best hope for a strong society in the future, is losing its place at the table. Our workers know this, through painful experience. Our white-collar professionals are beginning to understand it, as their jobs start disappearing also. And they expect, rightly, that in this age of globalization, their government has a duty to insist that their concerns be dealt with fairly in the international marketplace.

In the early days of our republic, President Andrew Jackson established an important principle of American-style democracy that we should measure the health of our society not at its apex, but at its base. Not with the numbers that come out of Wall Street, but with the living conditions that exist on Main Street. We must recapture that spirit today. And under the leadership of the new Democratic Congress, we are on our way to doing so. The House just passed a minimum wage increase, the first in ten years, and the Senate will soon follow. We've introduced a broad legislative package designed to regain the trust of the American people. We've established a tone of cooperation and consensus that extends beyond party lines. We're working to get the right things done, for the right people and for the right reasons....

Regarding the economic imbalance in our country, I am reminded of the situation President Theodore Roosevelt faced in the early days of the 20th century. America was then, as now, drifting apart along class lines. The so-called robber barons were unapologetically raking in a huge percentage of the national wealth. The dispossessed workers at the bottom were threatening revolt. Roosevelt spoke strongly against [this division]. He told his fellow Republicans that they must set themselves "as resolutely against improper corporate influence on the one hand as against demagogy and mob rule on the other." And he did something about it. Tonight we are calling on this President to take similar action....If he does, we will join him. If he does not, we will be showing him the way.

***

Correction by GUARDIAN: "A report which was posted on our website on June 4 under the heading 'Wolfowitz: Iraq war was about oil' misconstrued remarks made by the US deputy defence secretary, Paul Wolfowitz, making it appear that he had said that oil was the main reason for going to war in Iraq. He did not say that. He said, according to the department of defence website, 'The...difference between North Korea and Iraq is that we had virtually no economic options with Iraq because the country floats on a sea of oil. In the case of North Korea, the country is teetering on the edge of economic collapse and that I believe is a major point of leverage whereas the military picture with North Korea is very different from that with Iraq.' --June 7, 2003

Iraq War Is About Oil: Asked why a nuclear power such as North Korea was being treated differently from Iraq...,Paul Wolfowitz, U.S. deputy defence minister said: "Let's look at it simply. The most important difference between North Korea and Iraq is that economically, we just had no choice in Iraq. The country swims on a sea of oil." --June 4, 2003


Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Killing America: Bush State of the Union Health Plan Completes One-Two Punch Against Non-Wealthy U.S. Citizens, Jerry Politex

During his first term, Bush managed to get his Republican congress and a large portion of Democrats to go along with his plan to tighten up bankruptcy law and increase already-severe credit-card penalities on those who are least able to afford it. Today, up to half of the nation's credit card bankruptcy happens because people who can not afford health insurance usually don't have enough money to cover rising medical fees out of pocket. Now Bush wants to create a health care insurance plan that will drive more workers out of health care insurance, creating a growing market for credit card borrowing and more profit by "leaglized loan sharks." One reason Bush got elected twice was that he promised not to raise income taxes on working class Americans, and those citizens blindly voted for him, not realizing that many of them would be forced into a Bush-created system fleecing them of much, much more than the cost from a fair system of income tax. In the excerpted op-eds that follow, Paul Krugman and Bob Herbert explain how this Bush-created vicious greed system works and how it is killing our country.

Killing America: Bush Health Care Plan Rewards Wealthy, Penalizes Workers [excerpted] , Paul Krugman

...On the radio [Saturday], Mr. Bush suggested that we should “treat health insurance more like home ownership.” He went on to say that “the current tax code encourages home ownership by allowing you to deduct the interest on your mortgage from your taxes. We can reform the tax code, so that it provides a similar incentive for you to buy health insurance.” Wow. Those are the words of someone with no sense of what it’s like to be uninsured. Going without health insurance isn’t like deciding to rent an apartment instead of buying a house. It’s a terrifying experience, which most people endure only if they have no alternative. The uninsured don’t need an “incentive” to buy insurance; they need something that makes getting insurance possible. Most people without health insurance have low incomes, and just can’t afford the premiums. And making premiums tax-deductible is almost worthless to workers whose income puts them in a low tax bracket.

Of those uninsured who aren’t low-income, many can’t get coverage because of pre-existing conditions — everything from diabetes to a long-ago case of jock itch. Again, tax deductions won’t solve their problem. The only people the Bush plan might move out of the ranks of the uninsured are the people we’re least concerned about — affluent, healthy Americans who choose voluntarily not to be insured. At most, the Bush plan might induce some of those people to buy insurance, while in the process — whaddya know — giving many other high-income individuals yet another tax break.

While proposing this high-end tax break, Mr. Bush is also proposing a tax increase — not on the wealthy, but on workers who, he thinks, have too much health insurance. The tax code, he said, “unwisely encourages workers to choose overly expensive, gold-plated plans. The result is that insurance premiums rise, and many Americans cannot afford the coverage they need.” Again, wow. No economic analysis I’m aware of says that when Peter chooses a good health plan, he raises Paul’s premiums. And look at the condescension. Will all those who think they have “gold plated” health coverage please raise their hands? According to press reports, the actual plan is to penalize workers with relatively generous insurance coverage. Just to be clear, we’re not talking about the wealthy; we’re talking about ordinary workers who have managed to negotiate better-than-average health plans.

What’s driving all this is the theory, popular in conservative circles but utterly at odds with the evidence, that the big problem with U.S. health care is that people have too much insurance — that there would be large cost savings if people were forced to pay more of their medical expenses out of pocket. The administration also believes, for some reason, that people should be pushed out of employment-based health insurance — admittedly a deeply flawed system — into the individual insurance market, which is a disaster on all fronts. Insurance companies try to avoid selling policies to people who are likely to use them, so a large fraction of premiums in the individual market goes not to paying medical bills but to bureaucracies dedicated to weeding out “high risk” applicants — and keeping them uninsured....

What’s really striking about Mr. Bush’s remarks, however, is the tone. The stuff about providing “incentives” to buy insurance, the sneering description of good coverage as “gold plated,” is right-wing think-tank jargon. In the past Mr. Bush’s speechwriters might have found less offensive language; now, they’re not even trying to hide his fundamental indifference to the plight of less-fortunate Americans.

Killing America: Up To Half U.S. Credit Card Bankruptcies Medical-Driven [excerpted], Bob Herbert

...A disturbing new report shows that with health care costs continuing their sharp rise, low- and middle-income patients are reaching for their credit cards with alarming frequency to cover treatment that they otherwise would be unable to afford. This medical debt, to be paid off in many cases at sky-high interest rates, is being loaded onto consumer debt that is already at dangerously high levels. Many families have been crushed by the load, driven from their homes, forced into bankruptcy, and worse....

As deductibles and co-payments increase,” the report said, “hospitals are finding more patients unable to pay their medical bills. Some hospital management analysts are expecting an increase in self-pay patients and are bracing for higher levels of bad debt. “In recognition of the evolving payment landscape and the risk of hospital bad debt, health care providers are more aggressively seeking upfront collection of co-pays and deductibles. A component of this strategy is to encourage patients to use third-party lenders such as credit cards to pay for medical expenses they cannot afford, which families frequently do to meet high medical bills.”...A society is seriously out of whack when legalized loan sharks are encouraged to close in on those who are broke and desperately ill.

According to the report, called “Borrowing to Stay Healthy,” about 29 percent of low- and middle-income families with credit card debt reported using their credit cards to pay medical expenses — in most cases for major medical problems. Over all, a full 20 percent of low- and middle-income families with credit card debt said they had used their cards to cover major medical expenses over the prior three years. This indebtedness — subject to monthly late fees and penalties, and interest rates that can reach 30 percent — only adds to the trauma of serious illness.

It’s believed that 29 million Americans are burdened with medical debt of one form or another. Individuals who are already saddled with medical bills that they can’t pay are much more likely to avoid further medical treatment and to leave drug prescriptions unfilled. Such decisions often have life-threatening consequences. There is an epidemic of personal bankruptcies in the U.S. and medical factors are believed to play a role in as many as half of them.


Monday, January 22, 2007

Clueless: Bush Knows Little About The State Of The Union, Tarri Hall

As the world looks toward the US for the President's annual State of the Union address, are you wondering: is anyone in the entire world less likely to know the state of the union than President George W. Bush?

This is the same President Bush who didn't know the Republicans were in jeopardy of losing the mid-term elections the day before said elections. The same man who didn't realize that firing Don Rumsfeld would be a boon to Republicans facing re-election. And so, "released him" (while nominating him for the American Medal of Freedom) the week AFTER those elections because the "people have spoken." To whom?

Apparently not this President. This is the same man who continues to reminds us that he is going to stay the course in Iraq no matter what independent counsel recommends, what it costs, or what the American people want. What the American people wanted was New Orleans restored. What they got was Baghdad destroyed.

This President announced "we have won" in Iraq and yet is unable to control it’s oil wells ... its cities ... or even his own military despite his use of any and all violations of First Amendment rights, the Geneva convention and the bounds of what I thought were the limits of human decency.

This is a President with no sense of fiscal policy. Economists have told us that by 2050, Americans will pay 50% of every tax dollar just to service the interest on the debt. Clueless? Yes, but not totally unexpected from a man who never founded or managed a profitable corporation.

And speaking of fiscal mismanagement, the amount of treasure expended on Iraq is gone forever. But while the President's eyes have been focused on Iraq, India and China have surged ahead economically. And, coincidentally, these folks do have power, money and weapons of mass destruction. And they don't like each other. So, how’s your diplomacy, Mr. Bush?

This President announced at a previous state of the union address that women were now free in Afghanistan. Afghanistan – the country that bleeds Taliban from adjacent states like open bullet holes. Afghanistan – that is returning women to the same religious prisons as before the war.

Mr. Bush has some powerful friends in low places - corporate cronies who soared to unprecedented heights of prosperity this past year! In the meantime, American jobs are moving overseas and Americans are being laid off by the tens of thousands. American prosperity is deflating like a cooling Krispy Kreme doughnut. No doubt, Mr. Bush will try to make it all look good but even the most optimistic are having a hard time seeing that light.

George Bush openly and freely lies if his ambitions support a higher good. But lies? >From a Christian? A man who talks to and hears from God? A man whose lies have been responsible for the deaths of over 35,000 people last year alone? Here's the deal: first and foremost, if you're hearing from God (any god), you need professional help; you should not be running a country where you deliver a State of the Union address to any one. You are hearing voices ... that is a delusion. Just like everything else you think and say.

And while we're on the subject of God, god, Allah or whomever, George W. Bush in all his sun-baked, C-minus brain is convinced that he is the only one who knows what's best for a planet he didn't invent and can't restore and which is rapidly becoming uninhabitable for man or beast. Or plants. Or fish. Or Presidents.

Next week, George W. Bush, President of the most powerful country of the world is going to stand before a Congress that doesn't support him and attempt to tell Americans and the world all why we are all better off than we were a year ago because he's in charge. He will (according to Tony Snow) avoid troublesome topics and stick to his accomplishments – like the “No Child Left Behind” act … and if you need a tip on that, go talk to your nearest teacher to find out just how much education time is being wasted meeting the requirements of an act that leaves almost all America children behind.

Here's my deal... "Clueless" was never a favorite movie of mine so I'll pass on a repeat tomorrow night. Thanks to the internet I can read the whole thing the next day and save myself that kind of queasy feeling I get whenever George Bush’s face passes my eyes. Instead, I'm going to make some nachos, grab a Guiness and my partner and we're going to watch "Dave." A movie about an honest governmental leader is innocent, wholesome fantasy and, anyway, I prefer my entertainment to be less lethal and, frankly, more entertaining.


Weekend Edition: Sunday, January 21, 2007

Addendum: Hey, What About Books?, Jerry Politex

After posting my "best" list of personal 2006 cultural experiences in December, I was reminded that I didn't include books. Since I'm reading books all the time at the rate of one a week, it must be that I don't consider reading a book a cultural event, but, rather, something I just do, like having coffee when I wake up. At any rate, here's who I'm reading at the moment:

IAN MC EWAN: Winner of the Booker Prize, many consider McEwan the best novelist writing in England at the moment. In 2006 I read AMSTERDAM and SATURDAY. ATONEMENT is next on my list. In his post-9/11 SATURDAY which takes place in London, I was amazed by the research McEwan must have done to convince us that his protagonist was a surgeon.

RICHARD FORD: Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for INDEPENDENCE DAY, a novel that I'm reading now. THE SPORTSWRITER, Ford's previous novel with the same protagonist ,Frank Bascombe, and his latest Bascombe novel, LAY OF THE LAND, which I plan to read, makes up, according to the London Times, "an extraordinary epic [that] is nothing less than the history of the Twentieth Century." The cultural history, that is, if you can believe that such a trilogy could be written about life in central New Jersey, where I grew up.

HENNING MANKELL: Swedish novelist Mankell outsells Harry Potter in Germany. In FIREWALL, the latest novel I read, his police detective protagonist Kurt Wallander is growing old and thinking of quitting his thankless job as society changes around him. Mankell's plot complexity reached its a zenith in FIREWALL, a well-told story with so many contradictory clues that you wonder if Mankell will be able to put everything together by story's end. I'm looking forward to reading BEFORE THE FROST, the next book in the series, in which Linda, his adult daughter, becomes a cop. Married to Ingmar Bergman's daughter, Mankell also writes and directs plays.


Weekend Edition: Friday, January 19, 2007

Sick Puppy Watch: Bush's Idea Of "Sacrifice" for Iraq War: Watching TV, PBS News Transcript

MR. LEHRER:...Why have you not, as president of the United States, asked more Americans and more American interests to sacrifice something? The people who are now sacrificing are, you know, the volunteer military - the Army and the U.S. Marines and their families. They're the only people who are actually sacrificing anything at this point.

PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, you know, I think a lot of people are in this fight. I mean, they sacrifice peace of mind when they see the terrible images of violence on TV every night. I mean, we've got a fantastic economy here in the United States, but yet, when you think about the psychology of the country, it is somewhat down because of this war.

Now, here in Washington when I say, "What do you mean by that?," they say, "Well, why don't you raise their taxes; that'll cause there to be a sacrifice." I strongly oppose that. If that's the kind of sacrifice people are talking about, I'm not for it because raising taxes will hurt this growing economy. And one thing we want during this war on terror is for people to feel like their life's moving on, that they're able to make a living and send their kids to college and put more money on the table.

Politex's Response to Bush's Statements: Based on our nation's economic realities, what Bush says above is a pack of lies. "Fantastic economy...growing economy"? By "growing economy," he must mean the money that goes to his friends in the top 1%. Based on his economic policy and his expenditures on the war, here are the facts:

1. Low wage growth.
2. Benefits disappear.
3. Family debt is on the rise.
4. Housing market slows.
5. Savings plummet.
6. Job growth is the weakest of any business cycle.
7. The unemployment rate overstates the strength of the labor market.
8. The poverty rate climbed.
9. Government deficits remain large.
10. These deficits won’t shrink.
11. This endangers our economic independence.
12. Record trade deficits mount.

Fore specifics, see below

Sacrifice? How The American People Will Pay For Bush's Ego-Driven Fantasy (excerpt), Paul Krugman
...The nation pays the price. The heaviest burden — in death, shattered bodies, broken families and ruined careers — falls on those who serve. To find the personnel for the Bush escalation, the Pentagon must lengthen deployments in Iraq and shorten training time at home. And the back-door draft has become a life sentence: there is no limit on the cumulative amount of time citizen-soldiers can be required to serve on active duty. Mama, don’t let your children grow up to be reservists. The rest of us will pay a financial price for the hundreds of billions squandered in Iraq and, more important, a price in reduced security....


Thursday, January 18, 2007

American Idol: Don't You Wish You Had A President, Just Like Me? Jerry Politex
As I watched "American Idol" last night, I thought of George Bush. One after the other, these young people, who couldn't sing to save their souls, proudly told America that they were the next American Idol, only to be given three thumbs down, larded by insults from the judges. One contestant in particular caught my eye: a grossly overweight woman in her mid-twenties: a straw-blond page boy, big, bright red lips, a golden tent of a shirt-smock draped over her nearly 300 pound body, spindly legs encased in back leotards. She breathlessly sang as flat as she spoke, and part of her lyrics were "Don't you wish you had a girlfriend just like me?"

If anything represents the triumph of misplaced American optimism in the face of a negative reality, this was it. Except George Bush's belief that Iraq and his surge toward dictatorship will be his positive legacies. Compared to the grotesque ugliness of George Bush and his plans, the woman on "American Idol" was a beautiful realist. In the essay that follows, Kent Southard explains how both Bush and the deluded singers on "American Idol" got this way.

Birthright: Fantasy Life In The 'Burbs and In Bush, Kent Southard
I'm of that tribe of (mostly) guys who recognize each other's membership when some reference to Monty Python finds its way into the conversation - instantly whole scenes from MP&the Holy Grail come pouring out complete with appropriate accents. It's our secret handshake, it means we've each found someone we can actually talk to. Python is our enduring template for life it seems, comically or tragically, both at once I guess. For the great gift Monty Python gave us was the insight that when you stop taking societies pretenses at face value, the inherent ludicrous absurdities underneath instantly stand exposed. (Maybe it's more of a guy thing because women, being somewhat less literal overall, may be less taken in by rigid pretense. I'm just guessing.)

I was reminded of a scene from the Holy Grail after reading the details of Bush's 'New Way Forward.' King Arthur and his knights are trying to lay seige to a French castle, thinking the Grail lies within. A scholarly knight, knowing of the Trojan Horse of ancient times, proposes building a huge wooden rabbit. The rabbit is built and in the dead of night left in front of the castle gates. In the morning, the French roll it inside. Still outside the castle, Arthur turns to the scholarly knight, with all the other knights gathered around, and says 'now what?' The knight says 'we wait until night and then spring out from inside the rabbit..........' the realization hitting all, of course, that it's somewhat too late for that step.

Apparently, the heart of the New Way Forward is to protect the 'mixed neighborhoods' of Bahgdad, those neighborhoods where Sunni and Shiia have lived side by side. More troops will allow these neighborhoods to become 'gated communities,' residents kept safe inside, 'bad guys' kept outside. The only problem with this plan is that, according to the LA Times, these neighborhoods are no longer 'mixed' at all - the militias and death squads have already done their work. Those not of the prevailing faith are now refugees in Jordon, Syria, Lebannon, numbering in the hundreds of thousands.

At this point, the scholarly knight says 'we could build this large wooden badger..' And so the fact-free and reality-defying nature of the Bush administration continues intact.

It was towards the end of her run with Murphy Brown that Candace Bergen gave an interview that has stuck with me - in it she said that she 'didn't understand people who sat home and watched TV every night. Don't they have lives?' Now Candace Bergen is in my estimation, one of the lovelier women that's ever graced the planet, and I don't mean to knock her here. Her statement can be seen as a possibly unconscious swipe at the audience of her own show; but beyond that, the reason the comment stuck with me is this: of course most people don't have lives in this country, they haven't had for a long time. And how could she or anyone not be aware of that?

The answer I've come to realize, and though I'm not inviting comparisons between the lovely one and the odious other, is also the answer to how George W. Bush can be so comfortable in his deep ignorance and error. Candace Bergen was the daughter of Hollywood royalty, schooled privately in Europe and so on. She didn't grow up in the suburbs as the rest of us did, with a dad (and now a mom too) that punched a clock and commuted long hours. The modern American life of rigid routine and conformity, mollified with a few dim diversions, television being central, has been intact for at least a half-century - and someone with the life of a Candace Bergen could remain so untouched by it as to be actually unaware of it.

Such also has been the life of George W. Bush, though of a different circle with his big-oil country clubs and elite schools of the princes in training. And if the payoff and focus of life of Hollywood Royalty was a certain freedom in life and living, in Bush's circle the focus is power. To such as Bush, power has never been dependent on any external truth or circumstance - it was a matter of birthright, a birthright that has seemed to remain intact no matter his actual progress through life.

That he has created the worst blunder in American history isn't sufficient to change his view of himself.

Postscript: I saw "American Idol," too, (my rabbit ears get Fox and ABC) and not just that poor woman, but so many so deluded like her. It does bring up a line of argument I've been thinking about, related to what I've written recently - how in the 70's when we finally became completely corporate, was when the American corporation became moribund, losing any original purpose and becoming merely self-perpetuating. Detroit put out pure crap, and when the Japanese threatened with quality, the response was cupholders. And where is Detroit today? Toyota at number two, and expected to be number one, domestically, within a couple of years. Rather than continue to make the effort to compete honestly, the American corporate model has turned to outsourcing - undercutting with cost. The only exception has been the computer world, where for a long time there was a conscious effort to not emulate the rest of the American corporate model. This direction is being increasingly blunted, alas.

And so it's been with the suburbs too, increasingly moribund, inert, isolated, especially when you drop below the upper-middle classes - where a young person can be so detached from reality that they think if they can imagine themselves on American Idol, that's all it takes. The management classes, by contrast, know full well the arts are only something for wives to occupy themselves with when the kids don't need them. Nobody from here expects to actually be in the arts. You might say political leadership has become moribund too, certainly detached from reality.


Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Op-Eds: Fisher, Partridge, Wokusch, Miller, Pringle, Fisher, Collins, Ostroy, Jones, Weiner, Kane

Tawdry Trio: Axes of Evil, William Fisher
MSM Worried: Mainstream Media to Bloggers: Bug Off, Ernest Partridge
Making a Killing on Perpetual War: Bush and the F-Word Forever, Heather Wokusch
Man fuel: Savage Imperialism, Pigskin Monopolists, Intellectual Emasculation, Miller
Oversight? The Bush Administration's FDA, Evelyn Pringle
Learning Civics: In Praise of Prof. Dryfuss, William Fisher
Fraud or Broken Machines? Arguments to Void Florida-13 Congress Election , Michael Collins
Infuriating Psychobabble: Condi Defends Her Madman Boss, Andy Ostroy
Anti-War: More than King for a Day, John Calvin Jones
Satire: Dick Cheney's "Modest Proposal", Bernard Weiner
Rhyme: Belicose Bush, Mad Kane


Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Bush 1% "Surge" Economic snapshot for January, 2007, Christian E. Weller

Day after day, month after month, year after year, the money vampires of the Bush years --most of the wealthiest 1% of the nation, along with the politicians who make it so-- have sucked our nation dry, now and for many years to come. While the Fox propaganda machine frightens and distracts us with the mushroom cloud of "24," the Bush economic mushroom cloud has already exploded in the real world. --Politex

1. Low wage growth. Factoring in inflation, hourly wages were 3.2% higher and weekly wages were 2.7% higher in November 2006 than in March 2001. As a share of the economy, all wages and salaries fell to historic lows in the third quarter of 2006.

2. Benefits disappear. The share of private sector workers with a pension dropped to 45% in 2005, the last year for which data is available, from 50.3% in 2000, and the share of people with employer-provided health insurance dropped to 59.5% from from 63.6% over the same period.

3. Family debt is on the rise. By September 2006, household debt rose to an unprecedented 130.9% of disposable income. From March 2001 to September 2006, personal debt relative to disposable income grew each quarter by 1.6 percentage points—almost five times faster than in the 1990s. In the third quarter of 2006, families spent 14.5% of their disposable income to service their debt—the largest share since 1980.

4. Housing market slows. Prices of existing homes grew by 0.9 percent in the third quarter of 2006, the smallest increase since the middle of 1998 and only about a quarter of the increase in the third quarter of 2005.

5. Savings plummet. The personal savings rate of -1.2% in the third quarter of 2006 marked the sixth quarter in a row with a negative personal saving rate.

6. Job growth is the weakest of any business cycle. Despite the 2003 tax cut, job growth averaged only 1.3% since then—the lowest growth increase than any recovery of the same length. Monthly job growth since March 2001 has averaged an annualized 0.5%.

7. The unemployment rate overstates the strength of the labor market. Since the employed share of the population has remained low, millions of workers have given up looking for jobs. If the employed share of the population had not dropped since March 2001, there would be 2.0 million more jobs, or the unemployment rate would be 5.7%.

8. The poverty rate climbed to 12.6% in 2005, the last year for which data are available, from 11.3% in 2000.

9. Government deficits remain large. For 2006, the deficit was $248 billion, reflecting the largest six-year deterioration in 50 years, from a surplus of 2.0 percent of GDP in 2000 to a deficit of 2.4 percent of GDP in 2006.

10. These deficits won’t shrink. Making the tax cuts permanent and introducing relief from the Alternative Minimum Tax would bring the deficits to $3.5 trillion for the next decade, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. In this scenario, the deficits will never dip below $284 billion, even if the costs of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan decline substantially.

11. This endangers our economic independence. Foreign investors bought 78% of new Treasury debt between March 2001 and September 2006. Over the same period, the share of U.S. foreign-held debt grew to 45% from 32%. The quarterly interest payments from the federal government to foreign lenders increased to $36 billion in June 2006 from $21 billion in March 2001.

12. Record trade deficits mount. In the third quarter of 2006, the trade deficit surpassed 6% of Gross Domestic Product again—a feat only accomplished once, in the fourth quarter of 2005, since the Great Depression. Payments on the international debt borrowed to pay for these deficits were $3.8 billion larger than the earnings on assets held by Americans abroad in the third quarter of 2006. The past four quarters were the first time the U.S. spent more on its debt than it earned on its assets since the government started to collect this data in 1960.

  • View the PDF with full graphs

  • Monday, January 15, 2007

    Patriot McCain? Two Reasons More Americans Will Die In Iraq:
    Republicans and Democrats (excerpts)
    , Frank Rich

    ...Mr. Bush’s own support from the American people is not coming back. His “new” Iraq policy is also in defiance of Iraqi public opinion , the Joint Chiefs, the Baker-Hamilton grandees, and Mr. Maliki, who six weeks ago asked for a lower American profile in Iraq. Which leaves you wondering exactly who is still in the bunker with the president besides the first lady and Barney. It’s a very short list led by John McCain, Joe Lieberman, and neo-conservative dead-enders like William Kristol and Frederick Kagan, who congregate at The Weekly Standard and the American Enterprise Institute, the Washington think tank. The one notable new recruit is Rudy Giuliani....

    The question now is how to minimize the damage before countless more Americans and Iraqis are slaughtered to serve the president’s endgame of passing his defeat on to the next president. The Democrats can have all the hearings they want, but they are unlikely to take draconian action (cutting off funding) that would make them, rather than Mr. Bush, politically vulnerable to blame for losing Iraq.

    I have long felt that it will be up to Mr. Bush’s own party to ring down the curtain on his failed policy, and after the 2006 midterms, that is more true than ever. The lame-duck president, having lost both houses of Congress and at least one war (Afghanistan awaits), has nothing left to lose. That is far from true of his party.

    Even conservatives like Sam Brownback of Kansas and Norm Coleman of Minnesota started backing away from Iraq last week. Mr. Brownback is running for president in 2008, and Mr. Coleman faces a tough re-election fight. But Republicans not in direct electoral jeopardy (George Voinovich of Ohio, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska) are also starting to waver. It’s another Vietnam-Watergate era flashback. It wasn’t Democrats or the press that forced Richard Nixon’s abdication in 1974; it was dwindling Republican support. Though he had vowed to fight his way through a Senate trial, Nixon folded once he lost the patriarchal leader of his party’s right wing.

    That leader was Barry Goldwater , who had been one of Nixon’s most loyal and aggressive defenders until he finally realized he’d been lied to once too often. If John McCain won’t play the role his Arizona predecessor once did, we must hope that John Warner or some patriot like him will, for the good of the country, answer the call of conscience. A dangerous president must be saved from himself, so that the American kids he’s about to hurl into the hell of Baghdad can be saved along with him.


    Weekend Edition: Sunday, January 14, 2007

    Bush "Surge" Speech: Dark Side of the Moon, Pink Floyd, with Jerry Politex

    The lunatic's on White House grass
    His lunatics are on that grass
    Talking of their Iraq war we gasp
    Got to send those loonies to the moon

    The lunatic is on the mall
    His lunatics are on our mall
    The paper holds their folded faces to the floor
    And every day the paper boy brings more

    And if the dam breaks open blood pours into our rooms
    And if there are no rooms beyond the Hill
    And if our heads explode from dark forbodings too
    We'll all be on the dark side of the moon

    The lunatic is in our heads
    His lunatics are in his head
    They take their blades and they revise their plans
    Let's send them to the dark side of the moon

    And while the facts spill thunder in our ears
    We shout and no one seems to hear
    And if the globe we're standing on starts playing different tunes
    We'll all be on the dark side of the moon

    Satire: White House Spokesman Blasts Sen. Boxer's Comment, Jerry Politex, Faux News

    WASHINGTON — The White House fired back Friday at Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer's verbal slap at herself, calling the California Democrat's caustic comments about her family life "outrageous."

    Boxer lit into her personal life on Thursday with a bitter diatribe during a heated line of questioning before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee looking into Iraq policies. At one point, Boxer turned to the broad question of who pays the ultimate price for war. Boxer has both children and a grandchild.

    "Who pays the price? I'm not going to pay a personal price. My kids are too old and my grandchild is too young," So who pays the price? The American military and their families."

    The White House spokesperson observed, "Senator Boxer is being too hard on herself. After all, many of us in the White House and in Congress have children and grandchildren, both young men and young women, who are of age to be in the military. Most of them have not considered serving in the military, having, like Mr. Cheney in his youth, other things to do."


    Weekend Edition: Saturday, January 13, 2007

    Politex News Wire: The U.S. War Against Iran (edited news), Dan Froomkin

    Early in White House deliberations that led to Bush's new Iraq strategy, which actually is his old strategy that never worked, Bush suggested that the war be split into two: the Iraqis would fight their civil war in Baghdad without U.S. interference, which is what PM Maliki has wanted all along, and the U.S. troops would fight a "terrorist" war against al Qaeda, Iranians, Syrians, and other outsiders who have been coming into Iraq since Bush began his war. Froomkin follows... --Politex

    According to the New York Times, Bush didn't necessarily start out pushing for escalation. "One senior official involved in the discussions said that Mr. Bush's instinct toward the start of the review process -- and that of others -- was to consider a withdrawal from Baghdad, allow Iraqi-vs.-Iraqi fighting to settle itself, and dedicate United States forces to focus on pursuing Qaeda fighters. . . .

    "At one point...the president asked his deputies, in effect: 'Why can't we just pull out of Baghdad and let the factions fight it out themselves?'" What happened to change Bush's mind? The Times reports: "In the end, the official said, Mr. Hadley's teams concluded that an American withdrawal from Baghdad would 'crater the government.'" I have my own guess: Cheney happened. As the Times notes: "According to a senior administration official, Vice President Dick Cheney was among those who wanted a bigger force."
    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/12/washington/12ticktock.html?ex=1326258000&en=eb9c19b49ad408dd&ei=5090&partner=rssuserland&emc=rss

    ***

    Many of us here in Washington are trying to figure out just what Bush had in mind Wednesday night when he asserted that "Iran is providing material support for attacks on American troops" and promised: "We will disrupt the attacks on our forces."

    Robin Wright and Nancy Trejos write in The Washington Post: ..."While the public focus is on Iraq, the administration is now spending as much time on plans to contain Iran as on a strategy to end Iraq's violence, U.S. officials said."
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/01/11/AR2007011100427.html

    Eugene Robinson, writing in his Washington Post opinion column, worries that Bush is trying to change the subject to Iran.

    "As cynical as I am about this administration, it's hard for me to imagine that at this point, with all the push-back he's getting from Congress and the public about escalating American involvement in Iraq, George W. Bush would even think about launching a new military adventure in Iran. But you have to worry about a president who talks so much about the judgment of history and who has such a Manichaean view of the world."
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/01/11/AR2007011101573.html

    Keith Olberman has another 'special comment' on MSNBC: "Only this president, only in this time, only with this dangerous, even messianic certitude, could answer a country demanding an exit strategy from Iraq, by offering an entrance strategy for Iran."
    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/16583889/

    CNN reports: "Sen. Joseph Biden, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, warned Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that Bush did not have the authority to send U.S. troops on cross-border raids.

    "'I believe the present authorization granted the president to use force in Iraq does not cover that, and he does need congressional authority to do that,' Biden, D-Delaware, said during a Thursday hearing on Iraq. 'I just want to set that marker.' . . .
    http://edition.cnn.com/2007/POLITICS/01/11/iraq.iran/index.html

    Farah Stockman writes in the Boston Globe: "Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice refused yesterday to rule out cross-border US military action against Iran, a day after President Bush pledged in a major speech to 'seek out and destroy' Iranian and Syrian networks providing weapons and training to anti-American forces in Iraq.

    "Speaking before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Rice said the United States plans to target the networks inside Iraq, but added, 'obviously the president isn't going to rule anything out to protect our troops.'"
    http://www.boston.com/news/nation/washington/articles/2007/01/12/rice_wont_rule_out_military_actions_on_iran/

    ***

    On MSNBC, Chris Matthews and Snow had a contentious exchange. Via Think Progress:
    "MATTHEWS: So he will seek congressional approval before any action against Iran?
    "SNOW: You are talking about something we are not even discussing.
    "MATTHEWS: Yeah, but you are, Tony, because look at this. 'I recently ordered the deployment of an additional carrier strike group to the region.' Isn't that about Iran?
    "SNOW: It, it -- yeah, it is, in part, and what it is is it's saying, look, we are going to make sure that anybody who tries to take aggressive action -- but when Bill Clinton sent a carrier task force into the South China Sea after the North Koreans fired a missile over Japan, that was not as a prelude to war against North Korea. You know how it works.
    "MATTHEWS: No, I'm just concerned because, very much in the years, in the months building up to this war in Iraq, we heard a kind of a drumbeat of the dangers from Iraq and the nuclear weaponry and what we're going to do about it, and then gradually we went to war....
    "My concern is we're gonna see a ginning up situation whereby we fall in hot pursuit any effort by the Iranians to interfere with Iraq. We take a couple shots at them, they react, then we bomb the hell out of them and hit their nuclear installations without any without any action by Congress. That's the scenario I fear, an extra-constitutional war is what I'm worried about.
    "SNOW: Well, you have been watching too many old movies --
    "MATTHEWS: No, I've been watching the war in Iraq, is what I've been watching."
    http://thinkprogress.org/2007/01/11/snow-matthews-iran/


    Weekend Edition: Friday, January 12, 2007

    Analysis: The U.S. War Against Iran, Jerry Politex

    One of the most important jobs Austin, Texas-based Bush Watch had during Bush's pre-presidential years was to spread the word that Bush was an unstable person of limited abilities fronting a mean-spirited political agenda. Given his skills as a charming liar and the skills and money of the people around him, he managed to be given the presidency by the Republican-majority U.S. Supreme Court. He didn't change when he became President, practicing the same negative skills that got him there. Then came 9/11 and the Texecutioner was given the warhorse that he rode on until Katrina showed the nation what a nasty, thoughtless, ego-driven person he is. Unfortunately, such people are dangerous when cornered, and cornered he is with his disasterous Iraq bloodbath of a war.

    Being particularly limited and unsophisticated in foreign policy and saddled with a weak yes-man and now a weak yes-woman, Powell and Rice, Bush has been easily manipulated by Cheney and the other neocons who drive his foreign policy to this day. The Dem's strategy of isolating him from leading congressional members of his own party has been working, but it's driven him back into the arms of his discredited neocon friends, and that's where we are today. In the last month we have had numerous reports that Bush still considers Iraq to be his legacy; his personality and character are such that he is unwilling to admit defeat. Clearly, he wants to stall and stall in Iraq, leaving the decision to leave to his successor. (As he left Texas and was reminded that he was leaving the state in a financial mess, Bush blithly said, "That's the new Governor's problem.") At the cost of more bloodshed of American lives and an even higher national debt, Bush wants his legacy to be that of the President who never quit.

    Meanwhile, with the help of Cheney and his other neocon warhawks, he's not giving up on sucking Iran into a war to distract the nation from his Iraqi bloodbath, of turning Iraq into just one stop on his worldwide terrorist trip. This is what is being said and implied by the pundits below, and this is what the news is telling us. This self-serving "decider" and flaunter of the very laws he signs wants to decide the fate of every single living American for generations to come. Bush wants that to be his legacy, also. Right now, he's most dangerous to the nation, because he's cornered and his actions suggest he's willing to do nearly anything to get out of this ugly, bloody trap of his own making.

    If this were Canada or England, countries living under the more democratic parliamentary system, Bush would be gone by now. Unfortunately, Bush knows it. He knows that he can get away with most anything as President of the U.S., with the Supreme Court on his side and a U.S. Congress too timid to act. His TV face shows greater and greater fright and confusion as he drifts into the kind of delusional and irrational state that marked the final days of Richard Nixon, surrounded by toadies, warhawks, power-mad neocons, and corporate suck-ups willing to do anthing to make a buck. We have good reason to be very concerned about what could be done to the nation during his final two years by this man who was never fit for the office given him.

    Attack On Iran: MSNBC Post-Speech Transcript Redacted, Transcript and Politex

    MATTHEWS: Well, instead of engaging Iran in a diplomatic effort, it looks like the president wants to engage them at sea. Here he is announcing the deployment of a carrier group to the Persian Gulf to interrupt or intersect any effort by the Iranians to get involved in the Iraqi civil war.

    So we have potentially another war front here. The president of the United States not only will not talk to Iran, it‘s sending our carrier group into that part of the world to make sure they don‘t get involved, which is, of course, going to challenge the Iranians on the high seas. This could be very interesting, a small part of the rhetoric here, but why is the president bringing this point in here at this point?

    OLBERMANN: Now, we will disrupt the attacks on our forces, we will interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria and we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advance weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq. And saying as you said specifically, positing the possibility of interference with Iran....

    MATTHEWS: I was amazed, back in the fall of 2001, after the horror of 9/11, not that we went to Afghanistan—that was terribly vital and critical and essential—but when I heard there was talk of going after Iraq, that had nothing to do with 9/11, I was baffled by that. I wasn‘t baffled. I was stunned that someone on the right would have the chutzpah to say, “Oh, let‘s go attack Iraq.”

    Now I‘m amazed, after a month of the national sort of consensus evolving, that it‘s time to redeploy to reduce our commitment in that country, for the president to say, not only are we going to put an extra 20,000 GIs in the streets of Baghdad and Anbar Province, but we‘re going to start pushing the Iranians towards some sort of military confrontation. He‘s widening the war; he‘s challenging the American people....

    ...We‘re joined right now by NBC‘s Brian Williams and NBC News Washington bureau chief and moderator of “Meet the Press,” Tim Russert. Gentlemen, you both had a private meeting with President Bush today....

    OLBERMANN: [In the Bush speech] there was a finiteness put to the open-ended policy about Iraq that this government has propagated for the last four or five years. But did we, at the same time, see in the region -it‘s no longer open-ended in Iran—or no longer open-ended in Iraq, but it is now open-ended, perhaps, in the region, in Iran. We may be closing down this shop, but moving it next door?

    RUSSERT: Terrific question, because, in fact, if Maliki and Iraq is not able to secure and stabilize his country, and it erupts into wholesale civil war, and spills over into Turkey, and spills over into Iran, and becomes a regional conflict, what then is the United States‘ position? And does that become a new front on the war on terror?

    That is something that the president will not discuss. He said, “I‘m not going to Plan B, because if I go to Plan B, I‘ll have suggested that Plan A hasn‘t worked.” But it is something that must be on the minds of everyone tonight listening carefully to the president....

    Chris, in terms of Iraq and any doubts now looking back, as I was listening to the president and talking about the safe haven for terrorists and safe haven for Al Qaeda, similar to Afghanistan, my mind racing, saying, “Well, if we hadn‘t gone to war, that wouldn‘t be the case. Saddam would be there that many think is a buffer to Iran.”

    He suddenly said, And by the way, yes, I‘m glad Saddam is gone, because if he was still there, he and Iran would be in a race to acquire a nuclear bomb. And if we didn‘t stop him, Iran would be going to Pakistan or to China and things would be much worse.

    That is the way he sees the world. His rationale, he believes, for going into Iraq still was one that was sound.

    MATTHEWS: And it could be the rationale for going into Iran at some point.

    RUSSERT: [Looking blank, shocked, sputtering...Politex] It‘s going to be very interesting to watch that issue. And we have to cover it very, very carefully and very exhaustively.

    THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

    POLITEX: Here is my paraphrase from memory of what was said next:

    CHRIS MATTHEWS: After Tim and Brian, a lot of Americans will go to bed worried tonight. For someone who is willing to go into Iran...Bush still thinks like that. He hasn't changed. He's still on a hair-trigger. Bush still thinks he can go into any country and do what he wants to do. That's frightening...

    ***

    Attack On Iran: Scarborough Country' for Jan. 10, 11 p.m., Transcript

    SCARBOROUGH: ...There‘s talk in Washington right now, not just about Iraq, but also Iran, a coming war with Iran. Is that possible?

    BUCHANAN: Well, listen, let‘s—our Israeli friends are really pushing as hard as they can. Their generals are speaking openly. Netanyahu says we have got to convince the Americans, we have got to convince the Democrats to support George Bush in taking out the Iranian nuclear facilities. You have got Cheney and Bush right now looking at a legacy of having gotten the United States into two wars, and maybe lost those wars, or legacy where they have destroyed Iran‘s nuclear capacity, validated the Bush doctrine, saved Israel. I think there is a real temptation—there will be—and a real drive, in both parties, to get the United States, whatever it does, to go in from air and sea, and take out Iran‘s nuclear facilities. I will bet you that is coming. I will bet you the president and vice president are considering it, even as we speak.

    SCARBOROUGH: And, Craig Crawford, I would bet just about any amount of money that I had available that George Bush will not leave office with a nuclear Iran. And I want you to take a listen to what the president said tonight about that country.

    (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

    BUSH: Iran is providing material support for attacks on American troops. We will disrupt the attacks on our forces. We will interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria. And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq.

    (END VIDEO CLIP)

    SCARBOROUGH: Craig, that tack's a bit different from what the Baker commission suggested, which, of course, was diplomacy.

    CRAIG CRAWFORD, NBC POLITICAL ANALYST: A bit different. I mean, one of the—of all the fascinating things that have been happening here in the last 24 or 48 hours, is—one is, we see that Dick Cheney won, and Jim Baker lost...There was a real tension there between those two for the president‘s heart and mind. I always was betting on Cheney. But this is what Baker—you know, Baker‘s approach is one that I think the country needs to consider. And—and Pat‘s right. It‘s a belligerent leadership in Iran. But we keep talking about Iran as a monolith. There are—there are moderate elements in Iran. It—it—there are Westernized elements in Iran. I think our strategy of total military approach, belligerence, really precludes the opportunity that some of these moderate elements could eventually get back in to power in Iran....

    SCARBOROUGH: We keep hearing about these moderates in Iran. Talk about that country. I mean, I think 60, 70 percent of Iranians are under 30 years old, and fairly moderate.

    JOAN WALSH (Salon): They love Western culture. I mean, look, I‘m not pretending that there—that there aren‘t bad people in charge right now. But the idea that our only answer is to—is a military one, to make enemies of this new generation of Iranians, who love the Internet, who love our music, who love our movies, the women who want our freedom, I mean, it‘s a ridiculous approach.

    And, even if I supported the approach, how are we going to open a new front in this war, when we cannot even win the war that we‘re in, when we cannot even come up with 21,000...We don‘t have the—we can barely scrape together 21,000 troops. It means that people are not going to have their leaves. They‘re going to have their training cut short, just to get 21,000 troops. That‘s pathetic. And we‘re going to open another front?

    You know, Joe, if I came on your show night after night, and I lied to you, or I said things that just turned out to be demonstrably false, you would not have me back, I‘m sure. And the idea that we‘re supposed to listen to this president just talk in such a crazy, deluded way, again and again, and say, well, you know, maybe, maybe we can go in to Iran and we can do it—and, then, on top of everything else, the Nixonian “mistakes have been made” language, when we‘re supposed—we are told, oh, he is going to apologize. He‘s going to say he made a mistake. We didn‘t go in with enough troops. He‘s been wrong from start to finish. He‘s wrong about Iran.

    News Analysis: The Growing U.S.-Iran Conflict, News Sources

    1. "In December, the United States apprehended two men described as senior Iranian agents, in the process seizing lists of weapons and weapons shipments, organizational charts and other documents. In a decision that angered U.S. officials, the Iraqi government decided to simply expel them to Iran." --WP.

    2. "In his speech Wednesday night (Jan 10, 2006) calling for deployment of more U.S. troops, Bush said that part of Iraq's security "begins with addressing Iran and Syria. These two regimes are allowing terrorists and insurgents to use their territory to move in and out of Iraq. Iran is providing material support for attacks on American troops. We will disrupt the attacks on our forces. We will interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria. And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq." --WP.

    3. "American forces backed by helicopters raided the Iranian consulate in the mainly Kurdish city of Erbil in northern Iraq before dawn today, detaining at least five Iranian employees in the building and seizing some property, according to Iraqi and Iranian officials and witnesses...A statement from the United States military today did not mention the Iranian consulate specifically, saying only that six people were taken into custody in “routine security operations” in the Erbil area. --NYT.

    4. "The Iranian embassy in Baghdad has sent a letter to the Iraqi Foreign Ministry protesting the US' illegal move....[Iran's] Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad-Ali Hosseini...said Washington's decision to deploy Patriot missiles over Iraq is intended to bolster its support for the Zionist regime purportedly to protect the Islamic state. "We and all world Muslims condemn such a move," Hosseini added." --IRNA.


    Thursday, January 11, 2007

    Politex News Wire: The Bush Terrorist Speech, Jerry Politex

    Last night President Bush addressed the nation on terrorism in Iraq. During his speech he referred to "al Qaeda and insurgents" on a number of occasions. He also noted that we need to help democracy in Iraq to help the Iraqis "fight terrorists instead of covering for them." Like his State of the Union speech that hinged on implied lies about WMDs, Bush wanted to leave viewers with the idea that the Iraqi government was primarily battling terrorists, not sectarian insurgents. This, or course, is a lie, if world-wide news reports, including those from the U.S., are to be believed.

    Yesterday we concluded that Bush's last refuge in this speech would be to focus upon terrorists, rather than the sectarian civil war that is actually going on in Iraq. What that means is we're back where we started from: Bush lying to the American public about his reasons for going to war against Iraq. It was insulting. It was distasteful. It was impeachable, given the number of Americans who will die in Iraq for a lie that has been disproven years ago. Clearly, Bush is so beaten down by his years of lies and blood and egotistical stubborness that he's even incapable of coming up with a new lie.

    ***

    Bush "Apoligizes" For His Mistakes In Iraq: "Mistakes [by others, not me] have been made, and I take responsibility for them [because I'm a good guy and I don't want to embarrass my underlings who screwed up.]

    ***

    Bush: "The question is will our new strategy bring us closer to success. I believe it will."

    2008: "I never said our new strategy will bring us success."

    ***

    Paraphrased Dialogue:

    Tim Russert: The other day in a private meeting Bush said that we had to take out Saddam, because a nuke race between Iraq and Iran would be intolerable.

    Brian Williams: Meaning that Bush could invade Iran next?

    Russert: Pause. Shock. Stuttering: That will be something we'll need to keep an eye on in the coming years.

    ...

    Chris Matthews: After Tim and Brian, a lot of Americans will go to bed worried tonight. For someone who is willing to go into Iran...Bush still thinks like that. He hasn't changed. He's still on a hair-trigger. Bush still thinks he can go into any country. That's frightening...

    ...

    Pat Buchanan: I will bet you an attack on Iran is coming. I wll bet you Bush and Cheney are talking about it right now. I will bet you the Bush-Cheney legacy will be two wars.

    Transcript tomorrow...

    The Bush "Surge": Bush and Neocons "willing to see more Americans killed" to save reps, Walter C. Uhler

    Although none of the following news nuggets were found in the speech that President Bush delivered tonight, recently, we learned: (1) that an official from the Bush administration admitted to NBC News that President Bush's decision to "surge" troop levels in Iraq "is more a political decision than a military one," (2) that General John Abazaid, commander of the U.S. forces in the Middle East, "asked every top commander in Iraq whether more troops would add considerably to the odds of success…they all said no," and (3) that as many as nine Republican Senators oppose Bush's proposed "surge," as do the majority of polled Americans. However, we also recently learned that most of the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group had been blown off by the Bush administration, due to the resurgent influence of discredited and disgraced chickenhawk neoconservatives...

    Sexual Innuendo Edition: The Bush "Surge" Plan, Garlic Inerviews

    Last night President Bush gave a "surge" speech, in which he reported that he planned to send 22,000 more troops to Iraq in order to continue his war. What do you think?


    Wednesday, January 10, 2007

    "Surge" Op-Eds: Politex, Weiner, Ostroy, Velvel

    For The Record: What We Know On The Morning Of Bush's "Surge" Speech, Jerry Politex

    Hours before Bush's "surge" speech and based on mainstream news reports, we know the following:

    1. "By 2010 we will need [a further] 50 million barrels a day. The Middle East, with two-thirds of the oil and the lowest cost, is still where the prize lies"
    Dick Cheney; US Vice-President, 1999

    Despite US and British denials that oil was a war aim, American troops were detailed to secure oil facilities as they fought their way to Baghdad in 2003. And while former defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld shrugged off the orgy of looting after the fall of Saddam's statue in Baghdad, the Oil Ministry - alone of all the seats of power in the Iraqi capital - was under American guard. Halliburton, the firm that Dick Cheney used to run [and still gets money from], was among US-based multinationals that won most of the reconstruction deals. The Independentr
    http://news.independent.co.uk/world/middle_east/article2132574.ece

    2. "The Iraqi government plans to introduce a law that will give Western oil companies rights to the country's huge oil reserves, a British newspaper says." CBC
    http://www.cbc.ca/world/story/2007/01/08/iraq-oil.html

    3. "The US government has been involved in drawing up the law, a draft of which has been seen by The Independent on Sunday. It would give big oil companies such as BP, Shell and Exxon 30-year contracts to extract Iraqi crude and allow the first large-scale operation of foreign oil interests in the country since the industry was nationalised in 1972.

    "The huge potential prizes for Western firms will give ammunition to critics who say the Iraq war was fought for oil. They point to statements such as one from Vice-President Dick Cheney, who said in 1999, while he was still chief executive of the oil services company Halliburton, that the world would need an additional 50 million barrels of oil a day by 2010. "So where is the oil going to come from?... The Middle East, with two-thirds of the world's oil and the lowest cost, is still where the prize ultimately lies," he said." The Independent
    http://news.independent.co.uk/world/middle_east/article2132569.ece

    4."President Bush’s new Iraq policy will establish a series of goals that the Iraqi government will be expected to meet to try to ease sectarian tensions and stabilize the country politically and economically, senior administration officials said Sunday.... Another measure that was carried over from the old list of benchmarks is the final completion of the long-delayed national oil law...."New York Times
    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/08/world/middleeast/08strategy.html?ex=1325912400&en=0eaaf272d4320e54&ei=5088&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss

    5. "With or without American troops, a nightmare future for Iraq is a nightmare future for the United States, too, whether it consists of an expanding civil war that turns into a regional war or millions of Iraq’s people and its oil fields falling under the tightening grip of a more powerful Iran." New York Times editorial
    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/09/opinion/09tue1.html?ex=1325998800&en=945909641604881e&ei=5088&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss

    6. "Iraq is the central front in the global war against radical Islamic terrorism. If we abandon that nation today, we risk the very same situation that gave rise to the Taliban in Afghanistan and one that created a safe harbor for terrorists like Al Qaeda to plan attacks against our people," said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee who attended one of the meetings [with Bush prior to his "surge" speech]. "It was clear to me that a decision was made for a surge of 20,000 additional troops," said Smith, who also serves on the Armed Services Committee. "[Bush] did not affirm that that would be the number, but he said roughly … that amount. I understood it as a hypothetical." LA Times http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-usiraq9jan09,1,475186.story?coll=la-headlines-nation&ctrack=1&cset=true

    Our Conclusion: The Iraq War has really been about oil all along, as Bush Watch has contended from the beginning. Plans for getting Iraq's oil had been made prior to 9/11. The events of 9/11 provided an excuse to get Iraq's oil, and that excuse is still being used today. The purpose of the "surge" is to force the Iraqis to give control of its oil resources to U.S., British, and European corporations, so that a firm contract is in place prior to getting out when the civil war in Iraq makes it necessary. Since the Russians and the Iranians have oil plans of their own, time is of the essence. Bush and his corporate backers see the control of oil and the growing wealth of the oil corporations as being "in the national interest," so the continuing loss of American lives is seen as an unfortunate, but necessary, result. --Jerry Politex

    Surging Towards Bethlehem: How to Stop the Madness, Bernard Weiner

    In the Vietnam-War era, we had a devil of a time trying to get the Democratic Party to recognize the necessity for withdrawing our troops from that ill-advised, unwinnable war. With regard to Bush's misadventure in Iraq, it turns out not all that much has changed."

    American Psycho: How Many Soldiers Have to Die Before this Dangerous Fool Realizes That It's Over?, Andy Ostroy

    It's been 3 1/2 years and 3000 dead soldiers since the worst military blunder in U.S. history began. It's such an obvious failure that even the generals on the ground are saying more troops will not accomplish Bush's goals. Mind you, this is the same president that's on record as saying that the generals will be the ones to decide when and if more troops are needed. And the same president who said that sending more troops will send a message to the enemy that they're winning. But this dangerous fool couldn't care less what anyone thinks because, as long he doesn't pull out, he hasn't lost. As long as he keeps us fighting, in his delusional head, there's still a chance of winning....

    March On Washington Needed: Force Immoral Democrats To End This War, Lawrence Velvel

    When it recently began to look as if George Bush would send more troops to Iraq despite the verdict of November 7th, it was suggested here, only half facetiously, that opponents of the war should begin to plan a two to five million person march on Washington to protest. Now that it is a certainty that Bush, like Lyndon Johnson in Viet Nam, intends to escalate by sending more troops, the suggestion is being repeated, with not the slightest degree of facetiousness. It is entirely serious. For it may well be that only a massive march of unheard of dimensions, one vastly exceeding in size the famous march at which Martin Luther King made his “I have a dream” speech, will cause the American government to stop conduct which furthers the conversion of this nation from a democracy, in which voting results like those of November 7th have meaning, into the political and economic plutocracy it has increasingly become. It is already far enough along this horrible path....


    Tuesday, January 09, 2007

    It Really Was About Oil: Bush Surge Aimed at Securing Iraqi Oil, Chris Floyd

    The reason that George W. Bush insists that "victory" is achievable in Iraq is not because he is deluded or isolated or ignorant or detached from reality or ill-advised. No, it's that his definition of "victory" is different from those bruited about in his own rhetoric and in the ever-earnest disquisitions of the chattering classes in print and on-line. For Bush, victory is indeed at hand. It could come at any moment now, could already have been achieved by the time you read this. And the driving force behind his planned "surge" of American troops is the need to preserve those fruits of victory that are now ripening in his hand.

    At any time within the next few days, the Iraqi Council of Ministers is expected to approve a new "hydrocarbon law" essentially drawn up by the Bush Administration and its UK lackey, the Independent on Sunday reports. The new bill will "radically redraw the Iraqi oil industry and throw open the doors to the third-largest oil reserves in the world," say the paper, whose reporters have seen a draft of the new law. "It would allow the first large-scale operation of foreign oil companies in the country since the industry was nationalized in 1972." If the government's parliamentary majority prevails, the law should take effect in March.

    As the paper notes, the law will give Exxon, BP, Shell and other carbon cronies of the White House unprecedented sweetheart deals, allowing them to pump gargantuan profits from Iraq's nominally state-owned oilfields for decades to come. This law has been in the works since the very beginning of the invasion – indeed, since months before the invasion, when the Bush Administration brought in Phillip Carroll, former CEO of both Shell and Fluor, the politically-wired oil servicing firm, to devise "contingency plans" for divvying up Iraq's oil after the attack. Once the deed was done, Carroll was made head of the American "advisory committee" overseeing the oil industry of the conquered land, as Joshua Holland of Alternet.com has chronicled in two remarkable reports on the backroom maneuvering over Iraq's oil: Bush's Petro-Cartel Almost Has Iraq's Oil and The U.S. Takeover of Iraqi Oil.

    Bush will make explicit the connection between the "surge" and the oil law when he reveals his "New Way Forward" on Wednesday, the New York Times reports. According to senior Bush minions talking up the plan for what is not a surge but a long-term escalation of urban warfare that the U.S. ground commander in Iraq says will likely last for years, Bush's new "stratergery" includes "benchmarks" that the natives must meet to keep in favor with their colonial master. One of the most prominent of these is the demand that Iraq "finalize a long-delayed measure on the distribution of oil revenue."...

    The Manly Thing: The Seventies, Then and Now, Kent Southard

    My favorite Jerry Ford quote, I guess the only Jerry Ford quote that ever stuck in my head, came from the 1976 Republican primary race where he was being challenged by Ronald Reagan - he was reported to have said Reagan's hair was 'prematurely orange.' I like this for a couple of reasons, for one it seemed to indicate that Ford might have been a bit sharper a tool than generally assumed, and it succinctly got to the essential fey kitsch quality at the heart of the Hollywood cowboy butchness of Reagan's far right. Butch as lifestyle, given full flower now three decades later in our time of monster trucks driven by suburban guys who won't cut their own grass, and pointless wars pursued because it is the manly thing to do.

    This was also the justification for Nixon's war in Vietnam, those of us present at the time may recall. Whereas that war may have begun under Kennedy and Johnson under a pretext of containing Communism, under Richard Nixon the continuation of the war became justified as a matter of 'national honor' and saving face. In other words, we weren't to be un-manned. Such were the lessons of Vietnam when Ford moved into the White House and found Cheney, Rumsfeld, et. al. rattling around in the basement, the few Nixon remainders that weren't currently in prison. As young men in sudden political career apogee, they were to find in their proudest personal moment abject humiliation, first in Nixon's resignation, then by Ford's election defeat. The American public just didn't fully appreciate yet that they were the ones that stood for true manliness; they were deeply wounded, and not about to forgive.

    With George W. Bush and his Iraq war I don't think we're at a moment of 60's-70's redux exactly, rather the nation took a shape then that remains intact, with economic, social, and cultural divides and structures that simply continue to produce the same results.

    What I remember from that time was that the nation had become, finally, completely corporate. The counter-culture with its improbable communes and unfocused individualism, were simply somewhat sad reflections of a society that no longer had viable small towns, family business, or true respect for the individual and family. There was little in the way of gainful employment other than with a corporation, there was scant place to live other than the corporate plantation of the suburbs, mental horizons seemed to narrow and lower and harden according to lines that seemed most convenient to management.

    I recall a conversation I had in the late 70's with the woman that was my sister's mother-in-law at the time. She was an upper-middle-class moderate Republican, a college math professor. We were talking about Vietnam somehow, and she remarked that for her and hers 'it had hardly seemed to exist.' The remark seemed completely un-unselfconscious, and it said everything there was to be said about the Vietnam war in America. For her class, the class of management and professionals, the war hadn't even risen to the level of inconvenience - it was simply something on television for a few minutes in the evening, and like everything else on television was reduced to the same weight as the local weather and 'Petticoat Junction.' It was the same economic-social divide that allowed me as a high schooler to be quite the young conservative until Nixon, in a move to make the draft more 'equitable,' decreed that in 1971 college freshmen that were 19 couldn't get a deferment. And that was me. And my draft number was 14. Fortunately for such as myself, the National Guards and Reserves seemed to simultaneously open up their enlistment. Imagine.

    For the corporate management and professional classes then, the conditions of employment require complete focus on the demands of conformity to the extent actual citizenship is no longer possible. To those classes underneath, the conditions of employment require having smoke blown up your ass in various ways subtle and unsubtle.

    Such was the makeup of Nixon's 'silent majority,' the silent and the silenced. Such were the lessons of Vietnam taken forward by the apparatchiks of empire, Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld, also by the emperor in training, George W. They perceived that corporate employment rendered much of the population ethically inert; and that while the Vietnam war had been 'lost' because the mass media had created a wall of criticism that eventually carried public opinion with it, without which public opinion of its own wasn't sufficiently stirred to take action against their masters.

    And so in our present situation, it seems to me that the Bush regime has from the beginning been trying to establish precedents in a 'unified field' way taken from their lessons from Vietnam: wars launched without legal justification other than the needs of empire, and the destruction of the rule of law at home, are accompanied by a silencing and corruption of the media in order to make it all possible. It's probably this corruption of the media that has shaken many of us boomers to the core - there seems to be nothing left to do our fighting for us. With the late, sublime Peter Jennings replaced with the happy-talk master Charlie Gibson, ABC News for one is a dark shadow of its former self. Such recent prime time features as 'Christian' high school football movies and 'Christian' gyms leave little doubt as to where its marching orders are coming from, and would have been unimaginable under Jennings.

    Hard-right religion is a big part of the kitsch, the smoke blown up the ass, given to the other-than-professional classes in substitute for real purpose, power or place in our society. The kitsch quality of this 'religion,' its moral weightlessness even at its highest ranks, is evidenced by any number of recent headlines - the Rev. Ted Haggert, with his Colorado mega-church and West Hollywood lifestyle, Mary Cheney's baby, the Bush twins frolicking naked in Argentina, the 50% of evangelical men (and 25% of women!) who are self-described porn addicts.

    That much of male culture in America, in a parallel to the Stockholm Syndrome, maintains a strict kitsch-ification only helps the powers that be. Uselessly huge trucks and SUVs, mandatory hard-right attitudes, complete lack of skepticism regarding corporate motives and dictates, and uncritical acceptance of whatever snake oil the economic cheerleaders are pushing this week, are held to be landmarks of mainstream masculinity.


    Monday, January 08, 2007

    Should The Dem Party Be Eradicated? Dem Survey Suggests It's Backing Dictator Bush, NYT Ed Concerned, by Politex, Parry, NYT Ed

    Background: Last October when I wondered aloud if the Democratic Party should be eradicated and be replaced by a truly progressive movement on the grounds that its inaction is rubber-stamping Bush legislation leading to dictatorship, I was assured by shocked readers that, once in power, the Dems will make it a priority to eliminate such legislation. Well, here we are, with the Dems in control of Congress, and, according to their December survey, no such priority is being considered. Robert Parry reports that Dem contributors were asked in a survey "to rank 9 priority issues in order of importance for the new Congress. No reference was made to...restoring constitutional safeguards that have been overridden during the 'war on terror,' such as the habeas corpus right to a fair trial." Further, this excerpt from a Jan. 7, 2006 NYT editorial echoes what I wrote last year, that if the Dems don't change their priorities and take on their responsibilities they will be no better than the Republicans, treating our people as consumers, not citizens, ignoring our Constitution, and taking our nation down the road to dictatorship. --Jerry Politex

    "...The Democratic majority in Congress has a moral responsibility to address all these issues: fixing the profound flaws in the military tribunals act, restoring the rule of law over Mr. Bush’s rogue intelligence operations and restoring the balance of powers between Congress and the executive branch. So far, key Democrats, including Mr. Leahy and Senator Richard Durbin of Illinois, chairman of a new subcommittee on human rights, have said these issues are high priorities for them.

    "We would lend such efforts our enthusiastic backing and hope Mr. Leahy, Mr. Durbin and other Democratic leaders are not swayed by the absurd notion circulating in Washington that the Democrats should now “look ahead” rather than use their new majority to right the dangerous wrongs of the last six years of Mr. Bush’s one-party rule. This is a false choice. Dealing with these issues is not about the past. The administration’s assault on some of the nation’s founding principles continues unabated. If the Democrats were to shirk their responsibility to stop it, that would make them no better than the Republicans who formed and enabled these policies in the first place."

    Screw We The People: Bush Plan To Escalate His Lost Iraq War Means More Dead Americans (excerpt), Frank Rich

    ...It’s against the backdrop of both the Hussein video and the Ford presidency that we must examine the prospect of that much-previewed “surge” in Iraq — a surge, by the way, that the press should start calling by its rightful name, escalation. As Mr. Ford had it, America cannot regain its pride by refighting a war that is finished as far as America is concerned and, for that matter, as far as Iraq is concerned. By large margins, the citizens of both countries want us not to escalate but to start disengaging. So do America’s top military commanders, who are now being cast aside just as Gen. Eric Shinseki was when he dared assert before the invasion that securing Iraq would require several hundred thousand troops.

    It would still take that many troops, not the 20,000 we might scrape together now. Last month the Army and Marines issued an updated field manual on counterinsurgency (PDF) supervised by none other than Lt. Gen. David Petraeus, the next top American military commander in Iraq. It endorsed the formula that “20 counterinsurgents per 1,000 residents” is “the minimum troop density required.” By that yardstick, it would take the addition of 100,000-plus troops to secure Baghdad alone.

    The “surge,” then, is a sham. It is not meant to achieve that undefined “victory” Mr. Bush keeps talking about but to serve his own political spin. His real mission is to float the “we’re not winning, we’re not losing” status quo until Jan. 20, 2009. After that, as Joseph Biden put it last week, a new president will “be the guy landing helicopters inside the Green Zone, taking people off the roof.” This is nothing but a replay of the cynical Nixon-Kissinger “decent interval” exit strategy concocted to pass the political buck (to Mr. Ford, as it happened) on Vietnam.

    As the White House tries to sell this flimflam, picture fresh American troops being tossed into Baghdad’s caldron to work alongside the Maliki-Sadr Shiite lynch mob that presided over the Saddam hanging. Contemplate as well Gerald Ford’s most famous words, spoken as he assumed the presidency after the Nixon resignation: “Our Constitution works; our great republic is a government of laws and not of men. Here the people rule.” This time the people do not rule. Two months after Americans spoke decisively on Election Day, the president is determined to overrule them. Our long national nightmare in Iraq, far from being over, is about to get a second wind.


    Weekend Edition: Friday, January 05, 2007

    Op-Eds: Froomkin, Wokusch, Lendman, Jenkins, Uhler, Elich, Taylor, Hirschhorn, Hall, Ireland, Velvel, Kane

    Constitutional Crisis: Bush Claims Right to Open Your Mail, Dan Froomkin

    The New York Daily News today reports on a signing statement President Bush quietly issued two weeks ago, in which he asserts his right to open mail without a warrant. Signing statements have historically been used by presidents mostly to explain how they intend to enforce the laws passed by Congress; Bush has used them to quietly assert his right to ignore those laws....

    Bush's signing statements have been widely ignored by the traditional media...Sadly, most of the questions about signing statements that I raised in a Nieman Watchdog essay last June still remain unaddressed. Foremost among them: Are these signing statements just a bunch of ideological bluster from overenthusiastic White House lawyers -- or are they actually emboldening administration officials to flout the laws passed by Congress? If the latter, Bush's unprecedented use of these statements constitutes a genuine Constitutional crisis.

    Part Two: The Return of Bush and the F-letter Word, Heather Wokusch

    The Bush administration's overall record in 2006 was one of public manipulation for the benefit of crony capitalism and imperial overreach. Can the 110th Congress stop them in 2007? The pessimistic view is that Bush has nothing left to lose anyway, so will crash and burn the country in the next two years, much as he did many business ventures in the past. He'll let the economy melt and watch as Americans struggle to stay afloat. He'll attack Iran, increase troop presence in the Middle East and bring back the draft. He'll roll back more civil rights in the name of national security, women's rights in the name of God. He'll pin all of the above on the Democrats come 2008. Pessimistic? Yes. Possible? Yes, because the Bush administration is far from incompetent....

    NYT, WSJ, PBS: Thought Control by the Corporate Media in a Democracy (Tom Paine), Stephen Lendman

    Reflecting broadly on the corrupting and dumbing-down power of the US corporate media, noted British journalist Robert Fisk once remarked "you really have a problem in this country." Uruguayan author and historian Eduardo Galeano cites a large part of the problem saying: "I am astonished....by the ignorance of the (US) population, which knows almost nothing about....the world. It's quite blind and deaf to anything....outside the frontiers of the US." They know little inside it as well, and of course, that's the whole idea to maintaining control. Misinform, distract, and control all ideas and thoughts reaching the public - it's the key to "keeping the rabble in line." If done well, it works better than all the might of the most powerful nation on earth. Nowhere is the problem of the dominant media more apparent and acute than in what passes for news, information and punditry on broadcast and cable television, where the programming presented is poor enough to give pulp fiction a worse name than it already has. But special condemnation is reserved for the so-called "newspaper of record"....

    Bush's Bunker: Bush Breakdown Dead Ahead?, W. David Jenkins III

    Although the thought has crossed my mind many times in the past, I have to admit that my concern for the psychological stability (or lack thereof) of George Dubya has increased tenfold since his joint appearance with Tony Blair a few weeks ago. In the wake of the release of the ISG Report the day before, Bush’s statements and mannerisms during that press conference revealed a level of disconnect and desperation that I had to wonder if the men with the big nets and white coats might be lurking in the White House somewhere. Bush’s statements were not anything that we hadn’t heard in the past, but when taken in the context of the present situation he and his administration find themselves in, those statements took on a darker connotation. We were watching a man whose main concern was that his world was falling apart while failing to comprehend that the real world was also crumbling due to his ineptitude. But after a few minutes into the question and answer session, a troubling thought occurred to me; what if Bush’s infamous bubble is really beginning to break?...

    Bush and Cheney: Bringing the "Perps" to Justice, Walter C. Uhler

    It's...a shame that Americans seem...incapable of bringing their criminals in the Bush regime to justice. Criminals? Yes! As I've argued in an earlier article (http://www.walter-c-uhler.com/Reviews/pelosi.html ), the Bush administration's decision to launch an unprovoked invasion of Iraq violated the United Nations Charter, which, as a treaty signed by the United States, is "the supreme Law of the Land." Unprovoked war is the highest of war crimes under international law. But, as a former federal prosecutor, Elizabeth de la Vega, demonstrates in her recent book, U.S. v. Bush, prima facie evidence indicates that President Bush, Vice President Cheney, former Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, former National Security Adviser, Condoleezza Rice, and former Secretary of State, Colin Powell, also broke the law by violating [the law which] "prohibits conspiracies to defraud the United States."...

    Rewriting History: How We Used Saddam Over The Decades, Gregory Elich

    Tyrants, like war criminals, are in the eye of the beholder, and actions that might win praise and support for one man might be condemned for another. Saddam Hussein found himself on both sides of that equation at one time or another. How does it happen that a man can be regarded as a friend and ally one day, and an enemy the next? How is it that as praise fades away, that same man comes to deserve capture and death? Is it because his behavior has changed, or because there has been a transformation in perception? At one time, Saddam Hussein was backed and promoted by the US His brutal methods were regarded as effective measures in furthering US objectives. But as his actions began to threaten US interests, he earned opprobrium. In his early years, Saddam Hussein was on the CIA payroll. Contacts began in 1959, when the agency sponsored him as a member of a small team assigned to assassinate Iraqi Prime Minister Abd al-Karim Qasim....

    Educational Goals: Teachers Pay: You Get What You Pay For, Andrew Taylor

    It is a fine thing indeed, to awaken each morning knowing that Democrats will soon control Congress and put the brakes on some of Bush's worst violations of constitutional law and human decency. But we cannot grow complacent - the hardest work is yet to come. The changed Congress still represents the same old country. Politicians get elected the same way they always have - by telling the public what they want to hear. Changing what the public wants to hear is the real trick, and in this respect, the Democrats are every bit as much an enemy of a free society as the Republicans....

    New Year's Resolution: A New Year's Resolution for ALL Presidential Candidates, Joel S. Hirschhorn

    No matter how awful you think our government and political system have become, odds are you do not know about this travesty of justice, an incredible failure to honor our fabled Constitution. This failure has removed the sovereignty of we the people, and made Congress much more powerful than it should be. Let me acknowledge that even though I have been pegged as "Democracy's Mr. Fix It," until recently I too was ignorant about this blatant disregard for a key part of our Constitution....

    Letter From Canada: PM Harper Dances The Bush Shuffle, Tarri Hall, Canada Editor, Bush Watch

    Stephen Harper's 39th Parliament priorities, as stated in April 2006, were government ethics, tax reform, something about guns, child care credits, and patient wait times. Recently, Mr. Harper avowed (after the nomination of Stephane Dion as Liberal Party leader) his passion for a legacy of strong enviornmental advocate and leader - a new priority that and quite at odds with his actions to date! Meanwhile some of those old priorities have yet to be accomplished. Naming a Cabinet Minister to deal with Seniors might make them feel better about not seeing a doctor any time soon but does that signify a new level of enlightenment in Mr. Harper? Has he changed? Really? Fundamentally?

    With his cabinet reshuffle, the Prime Minister created a new cabinet committee on the environment and energy security that is intended to "pursue practical, results-oriented solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, reduce pollution and improve the health and well-being of Canadians." Mr. Harper said before the holidays that he wants Canadians to give him a chance to prove that his environmental plan will be responsible and good for Canadians. This is the same Harper that flew up to the Artic Circle to scout out a port location in the melting far north instead of appearing at the International AIDS conference being hosted in his back yard. The same Harper that broke an international treaty on the environment because it wasn't good for Canadians economically. And the same Harper who lied to Canadians about a fundamental taxation issue - income trusts. Mr. Harper, what has changed? Other than removing his most ardent supporter and devotee, Rona Ambrose, what exactly does he plan to do that will in any way make up for what he hasn't done since his election?

    Book Review: UNSPEAKABLE LOVE: Gay and Lesbian Life in the Middle East , Doug Ireland

    UNSPEAKABLE LOVE is a valuable introduction to the difficulties of being homosexual in the Arab world, and one of the few recent books in English to discuss contemporary Arab same-sex relations from a sympathetic point of view....Whitaker writes that “the dearth of coverage about Arab homosexuality encourages the idea that it is almost entirely a foreign phenomenon.” It is the great merit of this book that it helps to give a fuller picture of both the wide-spread existence of same-sex love in the Arab world and of the increasing number of Arabs who are choosing to define themselves through a gay identity....

    Ignorant Southerners? Velvel Taken to Task For View of the South , letters

    Dotson: I would like to take a moment to protest one small thematic element that seems to creep periodically into your postings - specifically: a tendency to belittle the intellectual capacities of those who live South of the Mason-Dixon line and to paint the entire region with a broad brush which clearly displays a lack of first-hand knowledge of the region and a good bit of historical inaccuracy....

    Velvel: You are correct, of course, that a certain anti Southern bias appears in my writings. As said to you previously, this is not because I have any desire to insult educated, competent, thoughtful Southerners such as yourself, ...nor are my views based on ever having been assaulted or insulted by a Southerner. Thus, personal experience has nothing to do with the intellectual views I express about the South. Rather, my views have been formed by both history and modern events....

    A Mad Preview Bush's "Surge" Speech, Mad Kane

    It appears that we’re right on the verge
    Of what Bush and McCain call a surge.
    Once again, George the Madman
    Behaves like an adman
    Whose product leads only to dirge.


    Thursday, January 04, 2007

    Redwashed: Marketing That Troop Surge In Iraq, Jerry Politex

    Now that we're pretty sure Bush is going to send more troops to Iraq. leading to more deaths to satisfy his ego (see Olbermann), it might be a good time to remember that Bush did best in marketing courses while working on his Harvard BA. We can assume that he'll offer a plan sweetened by a promise of putting additional money to some good use, but history suggests that money will never come or come with too many strings attached, like his recent aid to Africa. However, the increased deaths are sure to come. To Bush, it's all about packaging, just like marketing typical consumer products.

    We were reminded of this by a recent article by Kim Severson in the NYT: "Be It Ever So Humespun, There's Nothing Like Spin." Severson's idea is that mass marketeers and branding experts are packaging the same old stuff in ways that are fooling consumers into thinking the old products will do you good in new ways. She calls such packages "greenwashed":

    “'Somebody becomes successful with a specific point of view, and the consumer begins to identify with it and it spreads like a virus,' said Paula Scher, a partner in Pentagram, an international design firm. From there it’s only a matter of time before Cap’n Crunch shows up in a hemp jacket, raising money to save the manatees. Buy a greenwashed product and you’re buying a specific set of healthy environmental and socially correct values. "If the package does its work, then the food inside doesn’t actually have to be organic, only organic-ish. The right cues on a package free mass-market consumers from doing any homework, said Elizabeth Talerman, a branding analyst. They can assume that a group she calls the green elite — those early adopters who pushed for organic food laws and who helped make Whole Foods markets a success — have done the work for them. 'The mass market wants an instant identifier,' said Ms. Talerman, a longtime New York advertising consultant.'"

    It's truly stunning and very sickening how Severson's description of the specifics of marketing food products that do not correspond to reality mirror Bush's marketing of his Iraq slaughterhouse that does not correspond to reality. It takes little imagination to be reminded of Bush speeches and photo-ops as we read Severson's descriptions of mass marketing identifiers:

    "So what are the identifiers? After shopping for dozens of products in places as varied as food co-ops and convenience stores, I’ve uncovered the essential elements of a greenwashed product. Start with a gentle image of a field or a farm to suggest an ample harvest gathered by an honest, hard-working family. To that end, strangely oversize vegetables or fruits are good. If they are dew-kissed and nestled in a basket, all the better. A little red tractor is O.K. Pesticide tanks and rows of immigrant farm laborers bent over in the hot sun are not. Earth’s Best, a baby and toddler food company, offers a delicious example. Its whole grain rice cereal features two babies working the rice fields. One is white and one is black....My Family Farm of Fort Thomas, Ky., sells packaged cookies and crackers and promises to give some of the money to charity....A cause is important. Nature’s Path, the maker of Koala Crisp, promises that 1 percent of sales will be spent saving endangered species."

    Of course, nothing lasts forever. Eventually, the American consumer catches up with the marketeers, and that's when repackaging comes in:

    "Ms. Talerman, the New York advertising consultant, predicted that the fascination with what she called the green identifiers will last about five years longer. Then, she said, green-elite food consumers will push companies for even more information about environmental impact, labor practices and community involvement, and mass market consumers will start reading labels instead of just searching out easy identifiers. 'As soon as the mass market starts to understand these issues more,' Ms. Talerman predicted, 'we’ll get away from the fields and the giant vegetables and get back to better design.'”

    Similarly, the early adapters of Bush's Iraq war, his neocons, have sold the nation a package of lies that have led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands Iraqis, Americans, and other nationalities. (Lancet puts the number at 655,000. --BBC) We can say that the Bush package has been "redwashed" in blood, with the socially correct values of "democracy" and "freedom" on the propagaqnda package. Of course, like "greenwashed" food, the actual values didn't have to be used to create "democracy" or "freedom" in Iraq. Eventurlly, when the reality of what was really happening in Iraq intruded upon the American consumer, when the actual events could no longer be distorted by the administration with the cooperation of the mainstream media, the value packaged for continuing the war was changed to "victory." Hence, propaganda huckster Bush's description of the marketing of "victory" in a recent NYT story:

    "Mr. Bush still insists on talking about victory, even if his own advisers differ about how to define it. 'It’s a word the American people understand,' he told members of the Iraq Study Group who came to see him at the White House in November, according to two commission members who attended. 'And if I start to change it, it will look like I’m beginning to change my policy.'”

    Bush likes to think of the American people as consumers, not as informed citizens working with him to win an honorable war. As he said five days before Christmas,

    "As we work with Congress in the coming year to chart a new course in Iraq and strengthen our military to meet the challenges of the 21st century, we must also work together to achieve important goals for the American people here at home. This work begins with keeping our economy growing. … And I encourage you all to go shopping more."

    Will the American consumer buy Bush's repackaged Iraq slaughterhouse for two more years? He and his marketing analysts appear to think so. To paraphrase former Bush White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card, "From a marketing point of view, you don't introduce new [political] products in August," you wait until after Christmas.


    Wednesday, January 03, 2007

    KILLER DECISION: "FIRST WE SENT AMERICANS TO THEIR DEATHS FOR YOUR LIE, MR. BUSH, NOW WE ARE SENDING THEM TO THEIR DEATHS FOR YOUR EGO." transcript (video above), KEITH OLBERMANN

    If in your presence an individual tried to sacrifice an American serviceman or woman, would you intervene?

    Would you at least protest?

    What if he had already sacrificed 3,003 of them?

    What if he had already sacrificed 3,003 of them — and was then to announce his intention to sacrifice hundreds, maybe thousands, more?

    This is where we stand tonight with the BBC report of President Bush’s “new Iraq strategy,” and his impending speech to the nation, which, according to a quoted senior American official, will be about troop increases and “sacrifice.”

    The president has delayed, dawdled and deferred for the month since the release of the Iraq Study Group.

    He has seemingly heard out everybody, and listened to none of them.

    If the BBC is right — and we can only pray it is not — he has settled on the only solution all the true experts agree cannot possibly work: more American personnel in Iraq, not as trainers for Iraqi troops, but as part of some flabby plan for “sacrifice.”

    Sacrifice!

    More American servicemen and women will have their lives risked.

    More American servicemen and women will have their lives ended.

    More American families will have to bear the unbearable and rationalize the unforgivable —“sacrifice” — sacrifice now, sacrifice tomorrow, sacrifice forever.

    And more Americans — more even than the two-thirds who already believe we need fewer troops in Iraq, not more — will have to conclude the president does not have any idea what he’s doing — and that other Americans will have to die for that reason.

    It must now be branded as propaganda — for even the president cannot truly feel that very many people still believe him to be competent in this area, let alone “the decider.”

    But from our impeccable reporter at the Pentagon, Jim Miklaszewski, tonight comes confirmation of something called “surge and accelerate” — as many as 20,000 additional troops —f or “political purposes” ...

    This, in line with what we had previously heard, that this will be proclaimed a short-term measure, for the stated purpose of increasing security in and around Baghdad, and giving an Iraqi government a chance to establish some kind of order.

    This is palpable nonsense, Mr. Bush.

    If this is your intention — if the centerpiece of your announcement next week will be “sacrifice” — sacrifice your intention, not more American lives!

    As Sen. Joseph Biden has pointed out, the new troops might improve the ratio our forces face relative to those living in Baghdad (friend and foe), from 200 to 1, to just 100 to 1.

    “Sacrifice?”

    No.

    A drop in the bucket.

    The additional men and women you have sentenced to go there, sir, will serve only as targets.

    They will not be there “short-term,” Mr. Bush; for many it will mean a year or more in death’s shadow.

    This is not temporary, Mr. Bush.

    For the Americans who will die because of you, it will be as permanent as it gets.

    The various rationales for what Mr. Bush will reportedly re-christen “sacrifice” constitute a very thin gruel, indeed.

    The former labor secretary, Robert Reich, says Sen. John McCain told him that the “surge” would help the “morale” of the troops already in Iraq.

    If Mr. McCain truly said that, and truly believes it, he has either forgotten completely his own experience in Vietnam ... or he is unaware of the recent Military Times poll indicating only 38 percent of our active military want to see more troops sent ... or Mr. McCain has departed from reality.

    Then there is the argument that to take any steps toward reducing troop numbers would show weakness to the enemy in Iraq, or to the terrorists around the world.

    This simplistic logic ignores the inescapable fact that we have indeed already showed weakness to the enemy, and to the terrorists.

    We have shown them that we will let our own people be killed for no good reason.

    We have now shown them that we will continue to do so.

    We have shown them our stupidity.

    Mr. Bush, your judgment about Iraq — and now about “sacrifice” — is at variance with your people’s, to the point of delusion.

    Your most respected generals see no value in a “surge” — they could not possibly see it in this madness of “sacrifice.”

    The Iraq Study Group told you it would be a mistake.

    Perhaps dozens more have told you it would be a mistake.

    And you threw their wisdom back, until you finally heard what you wanted to hear, like some child drawing straws and then saying “best two out of three … best three out of five … hundredth one counts.”

    Your citizens, the people for whom you work, have told you they do not want this, and moreover, they do not want you to do this.

    Yet once again, sir, you have ignored all of us.

    Mr. Bush, you do not own this country!

    To those Republicans who have not broken free from the slavery of partisanship — those bonded still, to this president and this administration, and now bonded to this “sacrifice” —proceed at your own peril.

    John McCain may still hear the applause of small crowds — he has somehow inured himself to the hypocrisy, and the tragedy, of a man who considers himself the ultimate realist, courting the votes of those who support the government telling visitors to the Grand Canyon that it was caused by the Great Flood.

    That Mr. McCain is selling himself off to the irrational right, parcel by parcel, like some great landowner facing bankruptcy, seems to be obvious to everybody but himself.

    Or, maybe it is obvious to him and he simply no longer cares.

    But to the rest of you in the Republican Party:

    We need you to speak up, right now, in defense of your country’s most precious assets — the lives of its citizens who are in harm’s way.

    If you do not, you are not serving this nation’s interests — nor your own.

    November should have told you this.

    The opening of the new Congress on Wednesday and Thursday should tell you this.

    Next time, those missing Republicans will be you.

    And to the Democrats now yoked to the helm of this sinking ship, you proceed at your own peril, as well.

    President Bush may not be very good at reality, but he and Mr. Cheney and Mr. Rove are still gifted at letting American troops be killed, and then turning their deaths to their own political advantage.

    The equation is simple. This country does not want more troops in Iraq.

    It wants fewer.

    Go and make it happen, or go and look for other work.

    Yet you Democrats must assume that even if you take the most obvious of courses, and cut off funding for the war, Mr. Bush will ignore you as long as possible, or will find the money elsewhere, or will spend the money meant to protect the troops, and re-purpose it to keep as many troops there as long as he can keep them there.

    Because that’s what this is all about, is it not, Mr. Bush?

    That is what this “sacrifice” has been for.

    To continue this senseless, endless war.

    You have dressed it up in the clothing, first of a hunt for weapons of mass destruction, then of liberation ... then of regional imperative ... then of oil prices ... and now in these new terms of “sacrifice” — it’s like a damned game of Colorforms, isn’t it, sir?

    This senseless, endless war.

    But — it has not been senseless in two ways.

    It has succeeded, Mr. Bush, in enabling you to deaden the collective mind of this country to the pointlessness of endless war, against the wrong people, in the wrong place, at the wrong time.

    It has gotten many of us used to the idea — the virtual “white noise” — of conflict far away, of the deaths of young Americans, of vague “sacrifice” for some fluid cause, too complicated to be interpreted except in terms of the very important-sounding but ultimately meaningless phrase “the war on terror.”

    And the war’s second accomplishment — your second accomplishment, sir — is to have taken money out of the pockets of every American, even out of the pockets of the dead soldiers on the battlefield, and their families, and to have given that money to the war profiteers.

    Because if you sell the Army a thousand Humvees, you can’t sell them any more until the first thousand have been destroyed.

    The service men and women are ancillary to the equation.    

    This is about the planned obsolescence of ordnance, isn’t, Mr. Bush? And the building of detention centers? And the design of a $125 million courtroom complex at Gitmo, complete with restaurants.

    At least the war profiteers have made their money, sir.

    And we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain.

    You have insisted, Mr. Bush, that we must not lose in Iraq, that if we don’t fight them there we will fight them here — as if the corollary were somehow true, that if by fighting them there we will not have to fight them here.

    And yet you have re-made our country, and not re-made it for the better, on the premise that we need to be ready to “fight them here,” anyway, and always.

    In point of fact even if the civil war in Iraq somehow ended tomorrow, and the risk to Americans there ended with it, we would have already suffered a defeat — not fatal, not world-changing, not, but for the lives lost, of enduring consequence.

    But this country has already lost in Iraq, sir.

    Your policy in Iraq has already had its crushing impact on our safety here.

    You have already fomented new terrorism and new terrorists.

    You have already stoked paranoia.

    You have already pitted Americans, one against the other.

    We ... will have to live with it.

    We ... will have to live with what — of the fabric of our nation — you have already “sacrificed.”

    The only object still admissible in this debate is the quickest and safest exit for our people there.

    But you — and soon, Mr. Bush, it will be you and you alone — still insist otherwise.

    And our sons and daughters and fathers and mothers will be sacrificed there tonight, sir, so that you can say you did not “lose in Iraq.”

    Our policy in Iraq has been criticized for being indescribable, for being inscrutable, for being ineffable.

    But it is all too easily understood now.

    First we sent Americans to their deaths for your lie, Mr. Bush.

    Now we are sending them to their deaths for your ego.

    If what is reported is true — if your decision is made and the “sacrifice” is ordered — take a page instead from the man at whose funeral you so eloquently spoke this morning — Gerald Ford:

    Put pragmatism and the healing of a nation ahead of some kind of misguided vision.

    Atone.

    Sacrifice, Mr. Bush?

    No, sir, this is not “sacrifice.” This has now become “human sacrifice.”

    And it must stop.

    And you can stop it.

    Next week, make us all look wrong.

    Our meaningless sacrifice in Iraq must stop.

    And you must stop it.

    ***

    Bush 'to reveal Iraq troop boost', BBC

    US President George W Bush intends to reveal a new Iraq strategy within days, the BBC has learnt.

    The speech will reveal a plan to send more US troops to Iraq to focus on ways of bringing greater security, rather than training Iraqi forces.

    Its central theme will be sacrifice.

    Already one senior Republican senator has called it Alice in Wonderland.

    ***

    Chaos Overran Iraq Plan in ’06, Bush Team Says, NYT

    Mr. Bush still insists on talking about victory, even if his own advisers differ about how to define it. “It’s a word the American people understand,” he told members of the Iraq Study Group who came to see him at the White House in November, according to two commission members who attended. “And if I start to change it, it will look like I’m beginning to change my policy.”

    This is a well-researched, full, must-read story. --Jerry Politex


    Tuesday, January 02, 2007

    Op-Eds: Miller, Wokusch, Samples, Floyd, Weiner, Partridge, Brasch

    Gerald Ford: Dissecting the Big Lie, Jason Miller

    “If we ever pass out as a great nation we ought to put on our tombstone 'America died from a delusion that she had moral leadership'.” ---Will Rogers

    With the intensity of Dale Earnhardt, Jr vying for victory in the Daytona 500, America’s mainstream media outlets have been racing furiously to imbue the citizenry of the Empire with unusually large doses of heavily choreographed agitprop. Another unindicted US war criminal has casually ridden off into a peaceful crimson sunset. In response, pundits, talking heads, reporters and various other infotainment personnel are working feverishly to perpetuate America’s collective delusion that we embody integrity, decency, and enlightened values. Like virtually all of his predecessors and successors in the White House (regardless of their party affiliation), Gerald Ford was guilty of a host of egregious offenses against the human race. But the Big Lie must not die...

    Bush and the F-word: Police State or Progressivism?, Heather Wokusch

    It's not overstating the case to say that 2007 could be make or break for US democracy. The Bush administration's cutbacks and rollbacks in 2006 were so frequent and so egregious that many Americans stopped paying attention, gave up hope or else failed to see the onslaught as part of a larger pattern. Which brings up the f-word. In 2003, Laurence W. Britt wrote a seminal article comparing fascist regimes, such as Hitler's Germany and Mussolini's Italy, to life under Bush. While the term fascism has been widely overused (in August, Rumsfeld even accused war critics of "a new type of fascism") Britt's analysis eerily resonated back then and is worth a second look today....

    Bush's Flatulence Jokes: Will Stinky Cut The Big One?, Shelia Samples

    It's almost painful to watch the disintegration of George W. Bush and what's left of his murderous administration. Those who haven't fled are racing blindly through the halls of power, lurching into one another in a desperate attempt to distance themselves from Bush and to escape reaping what they have sown. Even cutting a bit of slack, it's still inconceivable that any thinking person could spend more than five minutes in the presence of Bush without the shock of recognizing what a total idiot this country has as its president. Other than breaking stuff, killing anything in his path, refusing to admit mistakes, and making an obscene mess of anything he touches, apparently the only thing Bush can do with any success is break wind --pass gas -- fart....

    Last Bad Deal Gone Down: War Profits Trump the Rule of Law, Chris Floyd

    Slush funds, oil sheikhs, prostitutes, Swiss banks, kickbacks, blackmail, bagmen, arms deals, war plans, climbdowns, big lies and Dick Cheney – it's a scandal that has it all, corruption and cowardice at the highest levels, a festering canker at the very heart of world politics, where the War on Terror meets the slaughter in Iraq. Yet chances are you've never heard about it – even though it happened just a few days ago. The fog of war profiteering, it seems, is just as thick as the fog of war....

    Shallow Throat: Don't Let Dems Drink Bush's Iraq Kool-Aid, Bernard Weiner

    A gleeful "Shallow Throat" talks about the gloom & doom inside the Bush Administration and issues a warning to the Democrats not to get suckered into supporting Bush's war.

    Snobocracy: When “The Right People” Run Washington, Ernest Partridge

    Washington “snobocracy” decides, through its “establishment” media, what news, information and opinion is worthy of the public’s attention. And it determines if a politician’s life in the nation’s Capital will be comfortable and productive or an unremitting misery, as Bill and Hillary Clinton were to discover.

    Satire: Making the World Safer for Terrorism, Walter Brasch

    One-fourth of all Americans declared that George W. Bush is the Biggest Villain of 2006. Osama bin Laden was far behind, with only 8 percent of the vote. Deep in a cave or high on a mountain, in Pakistan or Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan or, maybe, sunning on the French Riviera, is a furious Osama bin Laden. “Infidels!” he screamed to his aide. “Yes,” said the Aide reassuringly, “that is truly what the Great Satan is.”...


    Happy New Year! Monday, January 01, 2007

    Top Cultural Experiences: My Personal Best List of 2006, Jerry "Politex" Barrett

    This is the "best" list of my cultural experiences in 2006. It's a complilation based on my personal tastes and quirks, coupled with where I was over the course of the year:

    ARICHITECTURE, MUSEUMS: BOAT RIDE ON AMSTERDAM'S CANALS "Canal Bus [boat] provides the ideal transport along the canals of Amsterdam. The boats operate a regular service along the canals on three routes: the Green Line, the Red Line and the Blue Line. The 14 stops are located near the major museums, attractions and shopping centers. With the Amsterdam Canal Bus Hop on Hop Off Day Pass, which is valid until 12:00pm (noon) the next day, you can hop on, hop off as often as you like." One visitor wrote, "Seeing Amsterdam's old merchant houses from the canal boats does justice and you see a lot more than if you are on foot. Most of these homes date from the 16th and 17th Centuries...Along the way, we saw many houseboats dotting the canal banks with people living in them. [Around $25 includes free admission to the Van Gogh Museum and other perks.]

    JAZZ VENUE, ARICHITECTURE: AMSTERDAM'S BIMHUIS 'Ask jazz guitarist Bill Frisell, a seasoned road veteran, where in the world he would send music aficionados, and he brightens at the challenge: "Anywhere in the world? Even if I didn't know who was playing? The Bimhuis (pronounce: bim-house)", he volunteers at once, naming the Amsterdam venue that has played a crucial role in that city's creative music evolution (...)'. The New Yorker --photo, schedule.

    ARCHITECTURE: FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT: MARIN COUNTY CIVIC CENTER Frank Lloyd Wright's only design for a public building is in San Rafael (Marin County), north of San Francisco, about a 30 minute drive from Alameda, up I-880 and across the I-580 bridge....It's hard to get a close full shot of the Marin County Civic Center because it's so long. Based on the concept of the Roman aqueducts with Middle Eastern design elements, it was built in two sections and spans the tops of two hills. --Photos

    ARCHITECTURE: SAN FRANCISCO MUSEUM OF MODERN ART AND THE MOSCONE CIVIC CENTER San Francisco's newest cultural center, the Yerba Buena gardens atop the Moscone Convention Center, is directly across from the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. In this photo, it's the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, serving as a grand entrance to the all-seeing Horus eye of modern art rising up out of the parting rust cubes of post-modernism. (Block that metaphor, art critics!) The interior degign of SFMOMA is as intriguing as its exterior. I call it "Escher's Nightmare," and I love it. Each angle and each floor tells a different story. --scroll down for Photos

    FOOD: AMSTERDAM With the euro climbing out of sight, it's good to know that you can get excellent restaurant food at half the price in the kitchen stores right next to two of Amsterdam's best restaurants, both near major canals in center city. Many consider Rakang Thai in the Jordan the best Thai restaurant in town, with its authentic specialties, pop art decor, and welcoming atmosphere, but at its kitchen shop next door, the food's just as good. Not far away, the Kantjil en de Tijger (Antelope and the Tiger) on Spuistrat offers some of the best Indonesian food in town in a "very popular...chic, modern, and cool" [Frommers] environment, but right next door one can get the same food to go at half-price.

    FOOD: AMSTERDAM With the euros saved by eating in, we tried Lucius, named after a kind of fish found in nearby waters. It's down the block from Antelope and the Tiger. It was pouring rain on a busy Friday night with no table available for several hours, but management fixed us up with a table for two next to the bar across from the kitchen. Right in the action, it turned out to be our own chef's kitchen table at no additional charge. One reviewer writes, "An awe-inspiring shellfish plate [for two] beckons to hearty appetites." We decided to go for it, thinking it had better be "awe-inspiring" at 50 euros. And it was. The feast of shellfish, some varities we had never seen before, filled up a metal plate the size of a large pizza, perched [no pun intended] on a wire plateform a half foot off the table for easy grazing.

    FOOD: SAN FRANCISCO The Tadich Grill is the oldest operative restrurant in San Franciso, over 150 years old. It's very popular and long lines are usually out front, but it's worth visiting, so a mid-afternoon visit is recommended. It's a great room with lots of character. R. W. Apple, Jr., the New York Times food critic, recommends cioppino, a tomato-based seafood stew. I wasn't disappointed; a crisp white wine and slabs of minced garlic bread were a fine compliment. --scroll down for Photos

    FOOD: AUSTIN We spent New Year's Eve at Uchi, a Japanese fusion restaurant that specializes in small dishes of beautifully presented, inventive food and excellent cold saki served by a knowledgable staff in an artful Austin setting. Our favorites were maguro sashimi and goat chees with craked pepper, fuji apple and pumpkin seed oil; "Sear it yourself" wagyu beef with ponu sauce on a boiling hot japonese river rock; lamb chops (not on the menu); creamy baked tiger shrimp and krab, served in an avocado; asparagus wrapped in smoked bacon; and valrhona chocolate and wasabi foundant with raspberry-hibiscus coulis and five spice tuile.

    DVD: ERIC RHOMER BOX Criterion's...commitment to the highest standards in visual quality, value-added supplements and scholarship has seldom been more strongly represented than by this boxed-set edition of six Rohmer films (including “My Night at Maud’s” and “Claire’s Knee”), which represent one of the signal accomplishments of the French New Wave. --David Kehr.

    DVD: ‘PRESTON STURGES — THE FILMMAKER COLLECTION’ (Universal Studios Home Entertainment, $59.98) Sturges, the Mark Twain of American movies, receives his belated due from Universal, the studio that currently owns most of his important work. There are seven films in the set, ranging from his first as a director, “The Great McGinty” (1940), to his daring satire on war-fueled patriotism, “Hail the Conquering Hero” (1944). (Missing, inevitably, is his supreme achievement, “The Miracle at Morgan’s Creek” — a ribald retelling of the Nativity story.) --David Kehr.

    Film: "A PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION" No American director of his era meant more to me than Mr. Altman did, and his last movie was a characteristically cantankerous and generous comedy of valediction. With Meryl Streep at her sublime silliest, it was a lovely final gesture. We miss you, Bob. --A. O. Scott.

    Film: "MIAMI VICE" Michael Mann doesn’t always receive the critical respect he deserves, partly because he likes to make genre films; maybe if he had hired Jack Nicholson to run around with Crockett and Tubbs he might have at least seduced the audience. Glorious entertainment, “Miami Vice” is a gorgeous, shimmering object, and it made me think more about how new technologies are irrevocably changing our sense of what movies look like than any film I’ve seen this year. Partly shot using a Viper FilmStream camera, the film shows us a world that seems to stretch on forever, without the standard sense of graphical perspective. When Crockett and Tubbs stand on a Miami roof, it’s as if the world were visible in its entirety, as if all our familiar time-and-space coordinates had dropped away, because they have. --Manohla Dargis.

    CD: THOM YORKE: ‘THE ERASER’ (XL). Misery loves keyboards and staticky, ominous electronics on the first solo album by Thom Yorke of Radiohead. The music folds grooves in on themselves, converting momentum into claustrophobia as Mr. Yorke’s bittersweet voice croons his chronic anxieties. --Jon Parles.

    CD: PAUL MOTIAN TRIO 2000 + ONE: ‘ON BROADWAY, VOL. 4, OR THE PARADOX OF CONTINUITY’ (Winter & Winter). The great no-frills jazz drummer, keeping a strong pulse inside another of his unlikely groups — this one convened to play standards, including the the oracular pianist Masabumi Kikuchi and the sweet-voiced singer Rebecca Martin. --Ben Ratliff.

    CD: GNARLS BARKLEY: ‘ST. ELSEWHERE’ (Downtown/Atlantic). Danger Mouse and Cee-Lo’s futuristically retro, joyously kooky fusion of soul-rock-techno-whatever embodies a pure-hearted infatuation with sound. And regarding “Crazy”: When is the last time an inescapable global smash featured a line as nakedly idealistic as “My heroes had the heart to lose their lives out on a limb” --Sia Michel.

    SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT Here at Bush Watch we're excited about the upcoming world premier of our first feature film, "Outsiders." It will be in Austin on Feb. 11th. We're presently working on possible screenings in Paris, Vienna, and Amsterdam, and we'd love to show it to your film or political group, with a live introduction by yours truly. --info and photo Here.


    Weekend Edition: Sunday, Dec. 31, 2006

    Read This: Rigged Elections By GOP? Is There Any Doubt? , Jerry Politex

    Until every electronic voting machine in the United States provides each voter with a hard copy of his vote, just like state lotteries do, and until those machines provide a verifiable paper trail of votes to check against the electronic results, we should assume that the machines are rigged. The Democrats are as culpable in this scandal as the Republicans obviously are, since they are doing and saying so little to correct this blatant attack on the very roots of the democratic process. (History suggests they have their reasons.) This should be a number one priority; instread, it's an afterthought. As for the Republican-controlled voting machine companies that claim they are not rigging their machines, why do they fight every attempt to ensure just that? They answer, "trust us." No way. For those readers who are not sure that Republican-controlled voting machines that do not provide a specific and detailed paper trail could very well be used to steal elections, read this from the New York Times, buried deeply in Saturday's print and online editions:

    "Democrats said Friday that they would open the new Congress by formally objecting to the election result in Florida’s 13th District, in the hope that the Democrat who is contesting the narrow outcome there will ultimately take the place of the Republican whom the state has certified as the winner....The race between Mr. Buchanan [R] and Ms. Jennings [D], for a Sarasota-area seat held until now by Representative Katherine Harris, a Republican, was one of the closest in a Congressional election that featured several recounts and challenged outcomes. On Nov. 20, the Florida Elections Canvassing Commission, made up of Gov. Jeb Bush and two other Republicans, declared Mr. Buchanan the winner by 369 votes.

    "But Ms. Jennings, and some voters, have complained of irregularities. Paperless electronic voting machines used in the district recorded a significant percentage of what are known as “undervotes”: some 18,000 ballots, or about 15 percent of the total cast in the district, registered votes in races for other offices but not in the House contest. In some counties in the district, there was an undervote of 25 percent or more, Mr. Holt [D-NJ] said, and in one area an undervote of 38 percent. In contrast, he said, the undervote among absentee ballots was only 2.5 percent. “Something was wrong there,” the congressman said.

    "Ms. Jennings has said she intends to take a seat that is rightfully hers, and she even attended freshman orientation for new House members in November. Legal filings on her behalf say she would have won by 3,000 votes if the tallies had been done properly. Her campaign suffered a setback Friday, however, when a Florida circuit judge ruled that she could not examine the programming code of the electronic voting machines used in the election. The judge, William Gary, said her arguments about the possibility of undervotes were "conjecture" and did not warrant disclosing the trade secrets of Election Systems & Software, a voting machine company...."

    Election Systems & Software (ES&S) is an American company that provides voting services. It was founded in 1996 as American Information Systems Inc. (AIS), it merged with Business Records Corp. the following year and changed its name to ES&S. ES&S is a subsidiary of McCarthy Group Inc., which is jointly held by the holding firm and the Omaha World-Herald Co., the publisher of Nebraska's largest newspaper. ES&S is one of the four largest voting companies used in the 2004 election. (Diebold Election Systems, Sequoia Voting Systems, Hart Intercivic)

    [Republican] Chuck Hagel was CEO of the company until shortly before his election to the United States Senate from Nebraska. The election was conducted almost exclusively on equipment provided by his former company. For ES&S related information in the 2004 elections see: 2004 United States presidential election: Specific issues relating to ES&S machines and practices.

    The U.S. primary elections of March 2006 revealed an overextension of ES&S's resources when multiple counties across the nation found poor quality control (faulty memory cards), reported poor service, and problems with election preparation. Following harsh criticism of Diebold, ES&S has become the second major electronic voting vendor (after Diebold) to see lawsuits and criminal charges rising out of their failure to provide adequate service under their contracts. --Wikipedia.

    Kyle Michaelis, The Omaha World-Herald Should Divest from Election Systems and Software New Nebraska Network November 17, 2006. Last week, the Omaha World-Herald published what read like a post-election press release for Election Systems & Software on the general success of its vote counting software and hardware across the country. "'It's been, all things considered, a smooth day,' said Jill Friedman-Wilson, a spokeswoman for Omaha-based Election Systems & Software. 'When you look at the scale and the scope of this election, what you're seeing are problems you would expect,' she said....On Tuesday, nearly 67 million people were expected to vote using ES&S equipment. The company's machinery counts well over half the votes in a national election through 1,800 voting jurisdictions in 43 states....Some voters in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas complained that touchscreens showed a vote for Republican candidates when they wanted to vote Democratic. Election officials said that wasn't the case, and ES&S' Friedman-Wilson said touchscreen machines were designed to highlight candidate selections so a voter could change them if an error were made."

    Meanwhile, this weekend, the World-Herald suggested that slow election night returns in Omaha/Douglas County resulted because the county "printed its own ballots instead of purchasing them from Election Systems & Software." Synergy, baby! It seems fair to say that the above article, for whatever reason, underplays some of the substantial voting irregularities that were reported both pre- and post-election day on ES&S vote counting machines. Election count watchdog Brad Friedman has made note of several published reports of serious failures of ES&S machines that have been routinely dismissed by the company and largely neglected by the press.

    Most notorious, however, is the on-going recount and legal battle in Florida's 13th Congressional District, where an inexplicably high number of unrecorded votes in a Democratic-leaning county (18,000 "undervotes") are still being investigated as the current count shows a slim lead for the Republican candidate of less than 400 votes. There, the ES&S vote machines have been "immediately sequestered and preserved" by the courts for further examination. Now, across the Internet and amongst many liberal activists, there has long been a building sense of fear and distrust about the expansion of new vote counting technologies and the threats they pose to the integrity of our democracy - be they from hacking, software glitches, or even conspiratorial possibilities of outright vote manipulation.

    ...The Omaha World-Herald has no place maintaining its investments in Election Systems & Software. Continuing their corporate relationship does great disservice not only to both companies but also to our democratic institutions....A newspaper having a financial stake in so political and such highly controversial an on-going national debate undermines the World-Herald's credibility and feeds into a perception that democracy itself is being vertically integrated to the benefit of corporations and at the expense of the American people. In Nebraska, the Omaha World-Herald already plays an unparalleled role in shaping public perceptions and the political climate. As a decision-maker, the newspaper's influence can easily be over-stated, but the simple fact remains that it is the most powerful voice in the Nebraska media and one of the most powerful forces in Nebraska politics. Because of a lack of established alternatives, it can be said in many quarters of this state that if something isn't reported in the World-Herald it may as well not even have happened because it is the primary source of news for so many, with no other entity having anything close to its reach across the state. That is a lot of power. That is a lot of responsibility - a responsibility the World-Herald does not live up to by maintaining part ownership in ES&S....


    Weekend Edition: Saturday, Dec. 30, 2006

    Top Ten: U.S. Political Events of 2006 , Jerry Politex

    1. Bush creates, signs bills that provide him with dictatorial powers, weakening Constitution, Bill of Rights, as approval rating plummets to 30%, but Dems promise not to impeach him.

    2. Dollar continues to fall, tax cuts and benefits for top 10% and corporations continue, national deficit grows, but corruption so widespread that Krugman throws in the towel on fixing it.

    3. Bush loses Iraq War, aids global nuclear proliferation with India treaty, fails to halt N.Korean, Iranian nuke activities.

    4. Democrats take over Congress, with House and Senate wins, weak agenda.

    5. Conservative Supreme Court Confirmed, with Roberts and Alito

    6. Bush supports, uses Israel in proxy ME wars.

    7. Bush's domestic agenda collapses, Republican Congress fails to resolve major problems such as immigration, health, fair wages, and the environment, but continues to support projects that reward corporations, the rich, their backers, and themselves.

    9. Republican House leader DeLay quits under fire, but GOP-created House redistricting remains.

    8. Foley, Abramoff, other Republican scandals stain Congress, as GOP blocks ethics oversight.

    10. In 2001 Bush Watch was one of the first to call attention to Bush's persistent lying, and published a book about it in 2004. By 2006, polls suggested the majority of our citizens grew to suspect that anytime Bush's lips were moving, he was probably telling a lie.

    Any suggestions for another ten?


    Weekend Edition: Friday, Dec. 29, 2006

    Typical American President: Gerald Ford's Pluses and Minuses , Jerry Politex

    The official word on Gerald Ford is that he was a nice guy who took us out of the horror of the Nixon years into a great new day of the Republic. What made him a nice guy was that he was unsuited for the job of President of the United States as it has been generally practiced, particularly since the mid-Twentieth Century. He was down-to-earth, fairly bipartisan, not much of a liar, and did not have dreams of dictatorship. Yet, his pluses as a typical American President was that he was comfortable being run by the corporations, didn't have a problem with the growing gap between the rich and the poor, was willing to cover up the crimes of past Presidents, and believed in our country's imperialist ambitions to conquer the world "for democracy," even when it resulted in the deaths of thousands, rationalized as being "in the national interest."

    Now we get word that Ford told Woodward that he was against Bush's Iraq war from the start, but embargoed Woodword for reporting it because of an "agreement" by past Presidents that they would never criticize the President in office. That never stopped Jimmy Carter from doing just that, considering the "agreement" to be absurd, since it put loyality to the system over the needs and rights of the average citizen. Naturally, the result has been that Jimmy Carter is considered to be a "bad" President, while Ford is the "good" President who saved us from the reality of Presidential corruption by sweeping it under the rug.

    Impeachment? Gerald Ford's Memoirs Reveal Nixon Deal , Victor Navasky Interview

    VICTOR NAVASKY: Publisher Emeritus of the Nation Magazine and chairman of the Columbia University Journalism review.

    In August of 1974, which was about a week before Nixon resigned, General Hague took Gerry Ford for a walk in the rose garden, and told him that Nixon was going bonkers and they had to get him out of there, and there were four possible ways to do that. The first three turned out to not realistic. But the fourth, he said, was if you would promise to pardon him after you become president, I think he would agree to resign. Now, some years later Ford wrote about this in his memoir....It turned out that there was this one chapter that dealt with this conversation. And, the way Ford told the story, he put a gloss of innocence on it...

    After Hague took Ford for a walk in the rose garden, Ford writes in his memoir that he came back to his office, and he mentioned this to an aide of his named, Bob Hartman, and the aide said, and then what did you say after you heard that? And, Ford said well, I didn't say anything. And, the aide said, gee, that's not good, silence implies assent. Because Ford had asked Hague well, is it possible to pardon someone before he is indicted? And Hague said yes, we checked it out with our lawyers and it is. So Ford says, he then went to sleep and he didn't say anything to Betty about it and the next morning he got up and he mentioned it to another aide, a fellow named Jack Marsh. And Marsh said, and then what did you say? And, Ford said, I didn’t say anything, and this aide said, gee, that could be a time bomb.

    So, Ford then writes, that he then went and called General Hague and read him a statement, which he reprints in his book, and the statement said, nothing I did or didn't say yesterday should be taken to mean that I did or didn't agree to pardon or not to pardon Richard Nixon. And, he writes it as a kind of proforma thing, and the way I read it was it was a an attempt to put a gloss of innocence on a deal they had made. And this is a possible obstruction of justice, and that it’s something that he shouldn’t have done and against the law, and possibly, after he got nominated and confirmed, an impeachable offense, even.

    AMY GOODMAN: Finally, Victor Navasky, your thoughts today on President Ford's legacy.

    VICTOR NAVASKY: Well, I think he--the most important thing he did was he pardoned Richard Nixon. And he--if that was, indeed, the result of a deal, rather than this he's being credited, and maybe properly so, with trying to heal the nation. But, if he--his attempt to heal the nation was a result of a deal he made while he was Vice President of the United States, that's an important missing piece of history. So he'll be celebrated because he's a nice guy and he was a football player and all of that stuff for the next week or two. But if it turns out that this deal was made then history is going to have a harsher judgment about him.

    "Smoking Gun Memo": Ford Supported Indonesian Invasion of East Timor that Killed 1/3 of Population , Brad Simpson Interview

    AMY GOODMAN: An excerpt of the documentary Massacre: The Story of East Timor which I produced with journalist Alan Nairn who’ll be joining us in a minute. But first to talk more about President Ford's legacy and his role in East Timor, we are joined by Brad Simpson. Brad Simpson works for the National Security Archives and is a Professor at the University of Maryland. Brad, welcome to Democracy Now!...You recently got documents declassified about President Ford and his role in 1975, in meeting with the long reigning dictator of Indonesia, Suharto. Can you explain what you learned?

    BRAD SIMPSON: Yes. Gerald Ford actually met twice with Suharto, first in July of 1975 when Suharto came to the United States. And later in December of 1975, of course, on the eve of his invasion of East Timor. And we now know that for more than a year Indonesia had been planning its armed takeover of East Timor, and the United States had of course been aware of Indonesian military plans. In July of 1975, the National Security Council first informed Henry Kissinger and Gerald Ford of Indonesia’s plans to take over East Timor by force. And Suharto of course raised this with Gerald Ford in July when he met with Gerald Ford at Camp David on a trip to the United States. And then in December of 1975 on a trip through Southeast Asia, Gerald Ford met again with Suharto on the eve of the invasion, more than two weeks after the National Security Council, CIA, other intelligence agencies had concluded that an Indonesian invasion was eminent. And that the only thing delaying the invasion was the fear that US disapproval might lead to a cut-off of weapons and military supplies to the regime.

    AMY GOODMAN: How knowledgeable was President Ford at the time of the situation?

    BRAD SIMPSON: Well, Ford was very much aware. He was receiving hourly briefings, as was Henry Kissinger, as his plane lifted off from Indonesia, as the invasion indeed commenced. And immediately afterwards Gerald Ford flew to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, or to Guam—excuse me, where he gave a speech saying that never again should the United States allow another nation to strike in the middle of the night, to attack another defenseless nation. This was on Pearl Harbor Day, of course. Realizing full well that another day of infamy was unfolding in Dili, East Timor. As thousands of Indonesian paratroopers, trained by the United States, using US supplied weapons, indeed jumping from United States supplied airplanes, were descending upon the capital city of Dili and massacring literally thousands of people in the hours and days after December 7, 1975.

    AMY GOODMAN: Brad, how difficult was it to get this declassified? The memos that you got? And how long were these memos about Ford and Kissinger's meeting with the long reigning Suharto? How long were they kept classified?

    BRAD SIMPSON: Well, they are kept classified until the fall of 2002. We now know, actually, that a Congressman from Minnesota, Donald Fraser, had actually attempted to declassify the memo, the so-called Smoking Gun Memo, the transcript of General Suharto’s conversation with Gerald Ford, in December of 1975. Congressman Fraser actually tried to declassify this in document in 1978 during the Suharto adm--or during the Carter years and Carter's National Security Adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, realizing full well the explosive nature of this cable would show that the United States had been an accomplice in an international act of aggression, recommended that the State Department refuse to declassify the memo, a mere three years after the invasion.

    And it took another 25 years after this episode before the cables were finally declassified and of course much more has come out. And I think it's incontrovertible that the United States played the crucial role in enabling the Indonesian invasion of East Timor. And I think it's wrong to say that Gerald Ford was completely unconcerned with the aftermath of the invasion. We now know that just a few days after the invasion Gerald Ford sent a telegram to the State Department asking that an emergency diplomatic cable be sent to General Suharto, in response to his recent visit. And inside the cable, which was sent by diplomatic pouch from the US Embassy, was a set of golf balls from Gerald Ford....


    Thursday, Dec. 28, 2006

    Bush's Ford Administration: Memories of the Ford Administration , Jerry Politex, Maureen Dowd (excerpts)

    The Ford administration was a combination of cold war warriors (including Powell, Cheney, and Rumsfeld), big business bureaucrats (including O'Neill), and ideologues. Welcome to the Bush administration, a combination of cold war warriors, big business bureaucrats, and ideologues. If they're not from Ford's they're from Nixon's, Reagan's, and Poppy's administrations. In fact, at an average age of 59, the Bush administration is one of the oldest ever. More important than actual age, their thinking reflects a bygone era, particularly with respect to social policy. No matter what their positions are, what seems to hold most of the nominees together is their anti-abortion, anti-environment, pro-gun positions. Also, there are too many nominees who have been accused of being either racists or homophobes, which is surprising in both instances, given the members of the Bush team. And of course one bigot in a cabinet is one too many, particularly in such a key position. --Politex, 1/5/00

    On Monday Mr. Bush again heeded Mr. Cheney and chose a Ford official to be Treasury secretary (replacing the Ford official who was just fired from the job) to work with the Ford official who is Fed chairman. Yesterday he chose an old Ford hand as head of the S.E.C. And we have the recrudescence of the secretary of state under Ford and Nixon, Henry Kissinger. Ford was the Fillmore of our time. His administration was famous for its hapless economic policy, fighting inflation with marketing, passing out those silly little buttons that read WIN (Whip Inflation Now). What do we remember of that era except the pardoning of Nixon, the fall of Saigon and the falls of Chevy Chase?

    The lasting mark of that White House was tamping down the post-Watergate zeal for truth, containing Congressional and media investigations into C.I.A. abuses such as assassinations of foreign leaders and F.B.I. overreaching on infiltrating civil rights groups. It was in that battle that the Ford alumni -- Rummy, Cheney & Kissy -- forged their worldview that the greatest threat to the country was the prying eyes of the public, the press and Congress. Trent Lott may want to turn the clock back to Jim Crow. Mr. Cheney just wants to go back to a time before Vietnam and Watergate, when there was more government secrecy and less moral relativism.

    The administration is chockablock with people who kept the public and Congress in the dark on foreign intrigue. Adm. John Poindexter, who took the fall for Iran-contra, is now in charge of expanding the universe of secrets to include dossiers at the Pentagon on every living American, under the Orwellian heading of Office of Information Awareness. Elliott Abrams, who misled Congress on Iran-contra and was pardoned by the first President Bush, is in charge of the Middle East for the second President Bush. Otto Reich, who worked with Ollie North and ran the covert program to get public support for the contras, now runs Latin American policy. Maybe instead of worrying about American children who don't do history lessons, we should worry about American presidents who don't care about the lessons of history. --Maurene Dowd, 12.11.02

    E. Timor Dead: The Enduring Legacy of Gerald R. Ford, Chris Floyd

    It was Gerald R. Ford who took those famously amoral and criminally incompetent backroom operators, Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney, out of the lower quadrants of the twisted bowels of the Nixon White House and raised them to the highest levels of American government, where, in one form or another, overtly and covertly, they have inflicted their primitive ideology and violent psychodramas on the nation, and the world, for more than three decades.

    But Ford's enduring legacy is in no way exhausted by the glories of his bloodthirsty political progeny. For the sad occasion of the statesman's death is certainly a most appropriate time to recall what is probably his greatest geopolitical masterstroke: the green-lighting of Indonesia's 1975 invasion of East Timor -- an act of state-sponsored terrorism that killed more than 200,000 people....


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