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Saturday, June 30, 2007

Would Gore Lead Pack? Is this the Sign We've Been Waiting for About Al Gore Running for President?, Andy Ostroy

On Air America Radio's "Sam and Army" program Thursday morning co-host Sam Greenfield said he has learned that Al Gore has instructed the Harry Walker Agency to cancel all of his scheduled speaking engagements for the next six months, indicating that the former VP has decided to seek the presidency in 2008. "I guess he's running, " Greenfield said....

[Later...] So let's assume Al Gore enters the presidential race. What next? Would he capture the attention and support of Democratic voters so late in the game? If an informal poll conducted Friday evening during Air America Radio's Rachel Maddow show by stand-in host David Bender is any indication, the answer is yes. By a 3-1 margin, callers stated their support for Gore over Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton. This result is most astonishing given that Gore's not even a declared candidate...yet. Could this be a foreshadowing of what's to come this Fall once The Goracle flings his hat into the crowded ring?

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Shoveling...Snow: Washington Mafia Sees Libby As Made Man (excerpts), Frank Rich

It's disgusting that people are still obsessed with Gotti and the mob," [the daughter of the dead Don, John Gotti] told The Daily News. "They should be obsessed with that mob in Washington. They have 3,000 deaths on their hands." She demanded to know if the president and vice president have relatives on the front lines. "Every time I watch the news and I hear of another death," she said, "it sickens me."...

The Washington mob isn't as sexy as the Gotti or Soprano clans, but there is now a gripping nonfiction dramatization of its machinations available gratis on the Internet, no HBO subscription required. For this we can thank U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton, who presided over the Scooter Libby trial. Judge Walton's greatest move was not the 30-month sentence he gave Mr. Libby, a fall guy for higher-ups (and certain to be pardoned to protect their secrets). It was instead the judge's decision to make public the testimonials written to the court by members of the Washington establishment pleading that a criminal convicted on four felony counts be set free....

One correspondent writes in astonishment that Mr. Libby once helped "a neighbor who is a staunch Democrat" dig his car out of the snow, and another is in awe that Mr. Libby would "personally buy his son a gift rather than passing the task on to his wife."...What makes these letters rise above inanity is the portrait they provide of a wartime capital cut adrift from moral bearings. As the political historian Rick Perlstein has written, one of the recurrent themes of these pleas for mercy is that Mr. Libby perjured himself "only because he was so busy protecting us from Armageddon." Has there ever been a government leader convicted of a crime — and I don't mean only Americans — who didn't see himself as saving the world from the enemy?

The Libby supporters never acknowledge the undisputed fact that their hero, a lawyer by profession, leaked classified information about a covert C.I.A. officer. And that he did so not accidentally but to try to silence an administration critic who called attention to the White House's prewar lies about W.M.D. intelligence. And that he compounded the original lies by lying repeatedly to investigators pursuing an inquiry that without his interference might have nailed others now known to have also leaked Valerie Wilson's identity (Richard Armitage, Karl Rove, Ari Fleischer)....

Much has been said about the hypocrisy of those on the right, champions both of Bill Clinton's impeachment and of unflinching immigration enforcement, who call for legal amnesty in Mr. Libby's case. To thicken their exquisite bind, these selective sticklers for strict justice have been foiled in their usual drill of attacking the judge in the case as "liberal." Judge Walton was initially appointed to the bench by Ronald Reagan and was elevated to his present job by the current President Bush; he was assigned as well to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court by the Bush-appointed chief justice, John Roberts. Such credentials notwithstanding, Judge Walton told the court on Thursday that he was alarmed by new correspondence and phone calls from the Libby mob since the sentencing "wishing bad things" on him and his family.

In Washington, however, hypocrisy is a perennial crime in both parties; if all the city's hypocrites were put in jail, there would be no one left to run the government. What is more striking about the Libby love letters is how nearly all of them ignore the reality that the crime of lying under oath is at the heart of the case. That issue simply isn't on these letter writers' radar screen; the criminal act of perjury isn't addressed (unless it's ascribed to memory loss because Mr. Libby was so darn busy saving the world). Given that Mr. Libby expressed no contrition in court after being convicted, you'd think some of his defenders might step into that moral vacuum to speak for him. But there's been so much lying surrounding this war from the start that everyone is inured to it by now. In Washington, lying no longer registers as an offense against the rule of law.

Instead the letter writers repeat tirelessly that Mr. Libby is a victim, suffering "permanent damage" to his reputation, family and career in the typical judgment of Kenneth Adelman, the foreign-policy thinker who predicted a "cakewalk" for America in Iraq. There's a whole lot of projection going on, because to judge from these letters, those who drummed up this war think of themselves as victims too. In his letter, the disgraced Paul Wolfowitz sees his friend's case as an excuse to deflect his own culpability for the fiasco. He writes that "during the spring and summer of 2003, when some others were envisioning a prolonged American occupation," Mr. Libby "was a strong advocate for a more rapid build-up of the Iraqi Army and a more rapid transfer of sovereignty to the Iraqis, points on which history will prove him to have been prescient."

History will prove no such thing; a "rapid" buildup of the Iraqi Army was and is a mirage, and the neocons' chosen leader for an instant sovereign Iraq, Ahmad Chalabi, had no political following. But Mr. Wolfowitz's real point is to pin his own catastrophic blundering on L. Paul Bremer, the neocons' chosen scapegoat for a policy that was doomed with or without Mr. Bremer's incompetent execution of the American occupation....

No wonder Victoria Gotti denigrated "that mob in Washington." When the godfathers of this war speak of never leaving "a fallen comrade" on the battlefield in Iraq...they are speaking first and foremost of one another. The soldiers still making the ultimate sacrifice for this gang's hubristic folly will just have to fend for themselves.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Constitution or Cheese? Up and Down the Bush Philosophy, Walter Brasch

Every president has a political philosophy that guides him and, sometimes, the nation.

George W. Bush believes he has divine inspiration to do what he wants to do, when he wants to do it, and to make his subjects adhere to whatever beliefs he holds for the moment. His political philosophy is a chunk of swiss cheese that is being forced down the throats of a lactose-intolerant nation.

During his first campaign for presidential office, he preached a doctrine against nation building and pre-emptive military strikes. But, within a year of his inaugural he was already planning to export his version of democracy to the world. Within two years, he had begun plans to launch a pre-emptive strike against Iraq and to create a “regime change.” That “nation building” plan, however, has proven as strong as a bridge built by non-union labor working for a corrupt contractor.

As the “commander-in-chief,” which he is not hesitant to use on almost every occasion, he found out he could move billion dollar warships as easily as the toy boats and rubber duckies in his bathtub.

George W. Bush, in attacking Bill Clinton for putting troops into Bosnia, demanded deadlines for withdrawal. But, for the war he created in Iraq, and which looks like the quagmire that became the Vietnam War, he has decided that deadlines were blueprints for failure, that “It makes no sense to tell the enemy when you plan to start withdrawing.”

As president, George W. Bush pushed the No Child Left Behind Act, which requires extensive testing of students to see that they meet Republican-approved goals. Within months of the creation of the program, teachers were forced to “teach to the test,” rather than to improve a student’s education. Yet, President Bush becomes infuriated when critics suggest he has failed every test of success in Iraq, and defiantly tells a nation worn down by the cost of a failed foreign policy that it’s impossible to measure success in war.

When the majority of Americans declared, in poll after poll, they opposed the use of torture, even against al-Qaeda operatives, the commander-in-chief decided the majority didn’t matter.

He has disregarded the wishes of the people who believe in better health care for all Americans. Shortly after he took office, President Bush withdrew the United States from the Kyoto Agreement, signed by 37 industrialized nations. His response was to gut the environment and, against the findings of an overwhelming majority of scientists, has not only claimed that global warming isn’t a problem, but has suppressed the views of government scientists.

In almost every campaign speech, even those after he was elected, he pontificates about fiscal responsibility, personal freedom, and less government in the lives of people. His fiscal irresponsibility has led to deficit spending and a national debt that our grandchildren will still be paying; he launched an extensive spy system against Americans, and believes there needs to be even more legislation—Constitutional amendments, specifically—to ban flag burning (an issue the Supreme Court has already dealt with) and same sex marriage.

When the Republicans controlled Congress, the smirky President demanded that the senate adhere to an “up-or-down” vote on all of his appointees—a majority vote was all that should be needed to approve his candidates. His belief, echoed by the nation’s elected Republicans and googles of conservative radio talk show hosts, opposed the entire history of the Senate that allows debate until 60 or more senators vote to end that debate. President Bush invoked that ‘up-or-down” vote on the appointment of John Bolton, who had a long history of opposition to the United Nations, to be the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. President Bush demanded “up-or-down votes” in the Senate to approve his nominees to the federal courts, ambassadorships, and the cabinet. It’s democracy, he bleated. Majority vote. Majority rules. Of course, he conveniently forgot that had he truly believed in majority vote, Al Gore would have been president.

Nevertheless, after the Democrats took control of Congress, President Bush saw the light and decided that up-or-down votes didn’t matter. The President’s lieutenants blocked an up-or-down vote on the “surge” in Iraq. When the House voted 247–176 and the Senate voted 63–37 to allow federal funding for stem cell research, the oh-so-moral President decided the majority and up-or-down votes didn’t matter, and vetoed the proposed legislation.

When Congress voted to require phased withdrawals from Iraq, President Bush vetoed that legislation. When the Senate, by 53–38, voted “No Confidence” in Attorney General Ambrose Gonzales, the President ignored the wishes of the majority; the “Decider-in-Chief” decided that he would continue to mismanage the country without judicial or Congressional advice or overview.

To an audience at Tsinghua University, President Bush said that “life in America shows that liberty paired with law is not to be feared. In a free society, diversity is not disorder, debate is not strife, and dissent is not revolution.” How his Administration created and enforced the USA PATRIOT Act; how he and his Administration have routinely and maliciously suppressed the rights of dissent, linking dissent to treason; and how he and his Administration have consistently shown the disregard for to Bill of Rights puts the lie to what he told Chinese students was his philosophy of government.

In forming the Constitution, this nation’s Founding Fathers rejected the concept of the divine right of kings. It’s doubtful the President has read the Constitution. Perhaps if he had, his philosophy, like swiss cheese, would not be so full of holes, and he might not be so cavalier in thinking he has divine wisdom to shred that document as easily as one shreds a pound of cheese.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

U.S. Scam: 20 Things You Should Know About Corporate Crime (excerpts), Russell Mokhiber

Number 20: Corporate crime inflicts far more damage on society than all street crime combined.

Number 19: Corporate crime is often violent crime.

Number 18: Corporate criminals are the only criminal class in the United States that have the power to define the laws under which they live.

Number 17: Corporate crime is underprosecuted by a factor of say – 100. And the flip side of that – corporate crime prosecutors are underfunded by a factor of say – 100.

Number 16: Beware of consumer groups or other public interest groups who make nice with corporations.

Number 15: It used to be when a corporation committed a crime, they pled guilty to a crime.

Number 14: Now, corporate criminals don’t have to worry about pleading guilty to crimes.

Number 13: Corporations love deferred prosecution agreements.

Number 12: Corporations love non prosecution agreements even more.

Number 11: In health fraud cases, find an empty closet or defunct entity to plead guilty.

Number 10: Corporate criminals don’t like to be put on probation.

Number 9: Corporate criminals don’t like to be charged with homicide.

Number 8: There are very few career prosecutors of corporate crime.

Number 7: Most corporate crime prosecutors see their jobs as a stepping stone to greater things.

Number 6: Most corporate criminals turn themselves into the authorities.

Number 5: The market doesn’t take most modern corporate criminal prosecutions seriously.

Number 4: The Justice Department needs to start publishing an annual Corporate Crime in the United States report.

Number 3: We must start asking – which side are you on – with the corporate criminals or against?

Number 2: We need a 911 number for the American people to dial to report corporate crime and violence.

Number 1: . And the number one thing you should know about corporate crime? Everyone is deserving of justice. So, question, debate, strategize, yes. But if God-forbid you too are victimized by a corporate criminal, you too will demand justice. We need a more beefed up, more effective justice system to deal with the corporate criminals in our midst.

[And we don't get it because too many of our politicians, from villages and cities to the President of the United States, are being paid off by corporations in the form of campaign contributions. Remember ENRON. Remember "Kenny Boy." --Politex]

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Op-Eds: From Our Contributors

Election 2004: Bush Victory Was "Urban Legend", Michael Collins
No Constitution, No Bill of Rigts: The Delinquent Congress, Ernest Partridge
Honest Abe, He Ain’t: Why Barack Obama Needs a Whuppin’, Glen Ford
Spineless: Enough of "Symbolic" Dem Votes on Capitol Hill, Buzzflash Ed
Bush Scandals: It's the Politics, Stupid, Bernard Weiner
Hidden Wars: U.S. Troops in Germany, Heather Wokusch
Letter from Rome: Bush's Italian Visit, Judy Harris
Foxbats over Dimon: Revisionist History or Marvelous (Zionist) Fantasy? Walter C.Uhler
Proudly We Serve: What Service Qualifies Bush To Lead the Military? Evelyn Pringle
Illusions and Delusions: Lies, Dam Lies, and Lies That Unleash Hell, Jason Miller
Song: GOP Piety, Mad Kane

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Reports: Dictator Bush Committs Felony, Plans To Take Over Country,
Congressman Nadler, Boston Globe

Dictator Bush Secret Plan To Take Over Country Gets Little Press.
"The unanswered questions have provoked anxiety across ideological lines. The conservative commentator Jerome Corsi , for example, wrote in a much-linked online column that the directive looked like a recipe for allowing the office of the presidency to seize "dictatorial powers" because the policy does not discuss consulting Congress about when to invoke emergency powers -- or when to turn them off."

Dictator Bush And Consigliery Gonzale Committed Felony: Congressman.
Congressman Jerrold Nadler, Chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties, said today that there is no question that the warrantless wiretaping engaged in by the Bush Administration is a felony offense and that the President and Attorney General engaged in a criminal conspiracy worse than Watergate. Nadler was referring not to the mysterious program that the Acting Attorney General refused to support, but rather to the program the Attorney General approved of. Nadler said he finds the lack of attention to the obvious criminality of the President "incredible."

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Scooter Libby Is Ordered Back to Jail (Parody)

WASHINGTON, June 9 — The national obsession with celebrity collided head-on with the more serious issue of the equal application of justice on Friday, as a judge sent the politician Scooter Libby to jail some 36 hours after he was pardoned by Albert Gonzales for an unspecified mental problem.

Judge Michael X. Sour ordered Mr. Libby to serve his sentence in a federal lock-up after the special federal attorney, whose office had prosecuted the politician, filed a petition asking that the Department of Justice be held in contempt or explain why it had given him an ankle monitor on Thursday, just days after being sentenced to 2 1/2 years in a federal prison.

Mr. Libby had been sentenced for lying to the court. With time off for good behavior, he had been expected to serve a year.

Mr. Libby, 55, wearing no makeup and with his hair disheveled, sobbed and screamed, “Man, this isn’t right,” as he was taken from the packed courtroom by deputies.

It was a rare moment in this politician-filled city, where badly behaving politicians can seemingly get away with anything — or at least habitual lying. But Mr. Libby, for all his political power and celebrity, seems to have been caught between battling arms of the legal justice system here, with prosecutors and a federal Judge determined to make a point by incarcerating him, only to have Albert Gonzales let him go.

“He’s a pawn in a turf fight right now,” said Sam Levenson, a law professor at Loyola Law School Los Angeles. “It backfired against him because he’s a celebrity. He got a harsher sentence because he was a celebrity. And then when his lawyer found a way out of jail, there was too much public attention for it to sit well with the court.”

The struggle between the judge and the Justice Department, which runs the prison, incited indignation far beyond the attention normally paid to a minor criminal matter such as lying to the court and ruining the lives of people.

Judicial and police officials here said they were inundated with calls from outraged citizens and curious media outlets from around the country and beyond. The Rev. Al Sharptack, the civil rights activist and media fixture, decried Mr. Libby’s release as an example of “double standards,” where consideration was given to a pampered politician that would never be accorded an average inmate.

Even the presidential candidate Borat Alabama found himself drawn into the debate. When asked about Mr. Libby’s release on Thursday he said, “Without regard to Scooter Libby, we have two Americas and I think what’s important is, it’s obvious that the problem exists.”

Washington has been struggling to comply with a federal order to ease overcrowding in its jails and prisons, and has for the past year implemented a program of early release. But that has frustrated prosecutors who believe that early release undermines their efforts to punish those found to have broken the law.

At a news conference on Friday, Mr. Chewbaca, a DOJ spokesman, said, “The special treatment appears to be his celebrity status. He got more time in jail.” Under the normal terms of the early release program, he said, Mr. Libby would not have served “any time in our prison.”

The federal attorney whose office prosecuted Mr. Libby’s case, Rocky Deli, said preferential treatment had led to him being sent home with an ankle bracelet. In the original order sentencing Mr. Libby to prison, the judge had specifically stated that Mr. Libby would not be allowed a work furlough, work release or an electronic monitoring device in lieu of jail time.

“We cannot tolerate a two-tiered jail system where the rich and powerful receive special treatment,” Mr. Deli said after learning of the release.

In a news conference on Friday afternoon, Mr. Chewbaca said that Mr. Libby “had a serious mental condition,” though he declined to say what it was. He said, “This is evidence that this man has severe problems.” But, he added, “The criminal justice system should not make a football out of Mr. Libbyn’s status.”

In a scene that seemed a strange parody of O. J. Simpson’s low-speed chase more than a decade ago, news cameras from across D.C. followed a police cruiser containing Mr. Libby as it drove slowly down from his apartment in the White House to FederalCourt Friday .

The issue became non-stop fodder for news channels like CNN and Fox News, crowding out news on immigration legislation or the latest from Iraq, as legal experts debated how rare the decision was to release him, and whether doing so neutralized, negated or otherwise neutered the judge’s original order.

Amid the debate over serious questions of equal justice under the law came speculation over the nature of Mr. Libby’s “mental situation,” which Mr. Chewbaca gave as the reason for his release. On television, commentators questioned whether he was a suicide risk or if he was eating properly in prison.

Judge Sour had ordered the hearing for 9 a.m. When Mr. Libby did not appear, apparently believing that he could participate by telephone, he sent sheriff’s deputies to escort him from his White House apartment.

When he arrived and the hearing began, the judge said he had received a call on Wednesday from an undersheriff informing him that Mr. Libby had a mental condition and that the Department of Justice would submit papers to the judge to consider releasing her early. The judge said the papers describing a “psychological” problem never arrived and, every few minutes during Friday’s court session, interrupted the proceedings to state the time and note that the papers had still not shown up.

In ordering his return to jail, Judge Sour said that there were adequate mental facilities within the system to deal with Mr. Libby’s problems.

[Note: The following is a direct quote from a NYT article. --Politex]

Also on Friday, the judge who sentenced Mr.Libby to prison just this week issued an order dripping with acid sarcasm after receiving a supporting brief from a dozen prominent legal scholars, including Alan M. Dershowitz of Harvard and Robert H. Bork, the former Supreme Court nominee.

The judge, Reggie B. Walton of the Federal District Court in Washington, said he would be pleased to see similar efforts for defendants less famous than Mr. Libby, formerly the chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney.

“The court trusts,” he wrote, in a footnote longer than the order itself, that the brief for Mr. Libby “is a reflection of these eminent academics’ willingness in the future to step up to the plate and provide like assistance in cases involving any of the numerous litigants, both in this court and throughout the courts of our nation, who lack the financial means to fully and properly articulate the merits of their legal positions.”

“The court,” he added, “will certainly not hesitate to call for such assistance from these luminaries.”

[Maria Clearly and Adam Lipstuck contributed from New York. Anna Contrary contributed from Washington.]

Friday, June 8, 2007

Habeas Corpus: Senate Committee Votes To Restore Cornerstone Of U.S. Justice System, Melber

[Yesterday,] the Senate Judiciary Committee passed an important bill to restore habeas corpus, the sacrosanct Constitutional right to challenge government detention in court, by a vote of eleven to eight.

[Note: Habeas Corpus was established in England in the 12th Century. The original document is on display in London at its national library. Those members of the Senate Judiciary Committee who voted against restoring this backbone of the American justice system, all Republicans, were:

Orrin G. Hatch R-UTAH
Charles E. Grassley R-IOWA
Jeff Sessions R-ALABAMA
Sam Brownbeck R-KANSAS
John Cornyn R-TEXAS

Of course, even if the bill passes both houses, Dictator Bush will veto it. And if the American people protest and Bush signs it into law, he can always write a signing statement, indicating that he, as Dictator, will not follow it. At that time, Congress could then request a court ruling or impeach. It's that important. --Politex]

Habeas corpus was revoked by last year's Military Commissions Act, which has been assailed as unconstitutional and un-American by leaders across the political spectrum. Today's habeas bill was backed by the Judiciary Committee's Democratic Chairman, Patrick Leahy, and its Republican Ranking Member, Arlen Specter. "The drive to restore this fundamental right has come from both sides of the aisle," said Sharon Bradford, an attorney at the bipartisan Constitution Project, in response to today's vote. "Restoring America's commitment to the rule of law is not a partisan cause; it is a patriotic one," she added.

Today's vote means the habeas bill can now be brought to the Senate floor at any time. One source with knowledge of the legislative plan said Majority Leader Harry Reid has committed to bringing the bill to a vote within the month.

Some Democrats are pushing Reid to go further, advocating more comprehensive human rights protections and a repeal of the entire Military Commissions Act. Senator Chris Dodd, the most aggressive defender of the Constitution in the presidential race, is pushing legislation that would not only restore habeas, but also ban the use of evidence obtained through torture and recommit the U.S. to the Geneva Conventions. "We must recognize that our security is enhanced by upholding our nation's historic legal principles as we vigorously pursue terrorists," he said in a statement today. Dodd is giving a major address about his proposal at the Cardozo School of Law Commencement exercises in New York on Thursday, part of a larger effort to prioritize Constitutional rights on the national agenda – and in the presidential campaign. The Dodd Campaign has gathered over 10,000 "citizen cosponsors" for his bill, the Restoring the Constitution Act, while using YouTube, blog and netroots outreach to rally more support.

Obama, Clinton and Biden, the other Senators in the presidential race, have cosponsored the habeas legislation but not Dodd's bill, which currently has eleven cosponsors. The legislation faces an uphill battle in the Armed Services Committee, a much less hospitable venue for Constitutional rights than the Judiciary Committee. But there is one influential Armed Services member who opposed the Military Commissions Act and could jump start the effort to restore Constitutional rights: Hillary Clinton.

Republicrats Face Off: When Hillary admitted that she had not read the National Intelligence Estimate before voting to authorize the president to go to war, Senator Obama had a clear shot. The woman who always does her homework did not bother to do her homework on the most important vote of her Senate career because her political viability was more important than the president’s duplicity: She felt that, as a woman, she could not cast a flower-child vote if she wanted to run for president. At this fateful moment, she was thinking more of herself than her country. As someone who has been known to tailor the truth to accommodate her ambition, she looked away while W. was doing the same. Mr. Obama let the opportunity for a sharp comment pass. --Maureen Dowd

Thursday, June 7, 2007

What, We Worry? Our TV War , David Sarasohn

For a bureaucratic policy, at least paragraph 11(a) of IAW Change 3, DOD Directive 5122.5 reads pretty clearly: “Names, video, identifiable written/oral descriptions or identifiable photographs of wounded service members will not be released without the service member’s prior written consent.”...

It’s the favorite refrain of the Bush administration that we’re at war, but it’s worth asking who “we” is. A tiny proportion of American families have a member who’s served in Iraq or Afghanistan, and the same people keep getting sent over and over again — now for third or even fourth tours of duty. More literally, some of us are at war. The rest of us are kept away from it, urged to support the troops but not to do anything in particular. Not to pay war taxes, not to buy war bonds, not to change anything about our lives, not even specifically to enlist to fight in it.

Watching sports over a weekend, Americans can see a lot of armed forces recruitment ads. But they’re all about educational benefits and learning leadership skills; none of them mention that there’s an actual war going on at the moment. And, of course, nobody wants to mention that if there were a Vietnam-era draft in place, the history of the last five years would have been very different.

Of all the possible things that the people running this war could have learned from Vietnam — the problems of fighting in a country you don’t understand, the difficulties of a land war in Asia, the need for a back-up plan because things will probably go wrong — the one that they absorbed most deeply is the need to control information about the war.

So there were limits on how the return of casualties could be covered, and limits on who could talk to reporters, and now limits on how photos and footage of U.S. casualties can be released. The military has also declared limits on how soldiers are supposed to use YouTube.com. There are other constrictions that have nothing to do with official policy.

At the worst moments of Vietnam, American reporters could walk the streets and talk to Vietnamese. In Iraq, that would be suicidal — not only for the reporter but also for the Iraqi talking to him. Last week, two Iraqi staff members of ABC News were murdered on their way home. Between danger — more than 100 news media people have now died in Iraq — and expense, the number of reporters even trying to convey the reality of the war is dropping.

“This tiny remaining corps of reporters,” says James Glantz, a Baghdad correspondent for the Times, “becomes a greater and greater problem for the military brass because we are the only people preventing them from telling the story the way they want it told.”

Controlling the information limits our sense not only of the reality of the war, but of the cost paid by the Americans who fight it....

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Be Afraid: Is There Any Doubt That Bush Uses Terror Warnings For Political Purposes?
Keith Olbermann

The Nexus of Politics and Terror updated through today.  Please judge for yourself. 


OLBERMANN:  Number one, May 18th, 2002; the first details of the president‘s daily briefing of August 6th, 2001 are revealed, including its title “Bin laden determined to strike in U.S.”  The same day, another memo is discovered revealing the FBI knew of men with links to al Qaeda training at an Arizona flight school.  The memo was never acted upon. 

Questions about 9/11 intelligence failures are swirling.  May 20th, 2002. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The terror warnings from the highest level of the federal government tonight are—

OLBERMANN:  Two days later, FBI Director Mueller declares that another terrorist attack is “inevitable.”  

The next day, the Department of Homeland Security issues warnings of attacks against railroads nationwide, and against New York City landmarks like the Brooklyn Bridge and the Statue of Liberty. 

Number two, Thursday, June 6th, 2002. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I never really anticipated this kind of impact. 

OLBERMANN:  Coleen Rowley, the FBI agent who tried to alert her superiors to the specialized flight training taken by Zacarias Moussaoui, whose information suggests the government missed the chance to break up the 9/11 plot, testifies before Congress.  Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Graham says Rowley‘s testimony has inspired similar pre-9/11 whistle blower. 

Monday June 10th, four days later. 

JOHN ASHCROFT, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL:  We have disrupted an unfolding terrorist plot. 

OLBERMANN:  Speaking from Russia, Attorney General John Ashcroft reveals that an American name Jose Padilla is under arrest, accused of plotting a radiation bomb attack in this country.  In fact, Padilla had by this time already been detained for more than one month. 

Number three, February 5th, 2003; Secretary of State Powell tells the United Nations Security Council of Iraq‘s concealment of weapon, including his 18 mobile biological weapons laboratories, justifying a U.N. or U.S.  first strike.  Many in the U.N. are doubtful. 

Months later, much of the information proves untrue. 

February 7th, 2003; Two days later.  As anti-war demonstrations continue to take place around the globe. 

TOM RIDGE, FORMER HOMELAND SECURITY DIRECTOR:  Take some time to prepare for an emergency. 

OLBERMANN:  Homeland Security Secretary Ridge cites credible threats by al Qaeda and raises the terror alert level to orange.  Three days after that, Fire Administrator David Paulison, who would become the acting head of FEMA after the Hurricane Katrina disaster advises Americans to stock up on plastic sheeting and duct tape to protect themselves against radiological or biological attack. 

Number four, July 23rd, 2003; the White House admits that the CIA, months before the president‘s State of the Union Address, expressed strong doubts about the claim that Iraq had attempt to buy uranium from Niger.  On the 24th, the Congressional report on the 9/11 attacks is issued.  It criticizes government at all levels.  It reveals an FBI informant had been living with two of the future hijackers. 

It concludes that Iraq had no link to al Qaeda.  Twenty eight pages of the report are redacted.  On the 26th, American troops are accused of beating Iraqi prisoners. 

July 29th, 2003, three days later; amid all of the negative headline. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Word of a possible new al Qaeda attack. 

OLBERMANN:  Homeland Security issues warnings of further terrorist attempts to use airplanes for suicide attacks. 

Number five, December 17th, 2003; 9/11 Commission co-chair Thomas Kean says the attacks were preventable.  The next day, a federal appeals court says the government cannot detain suspected radiation bomber Jose Padilla indefinitely without charges, and the chief U.S. weapons inspector in Iraq, Dr. David Kay, who has previously announced he has found no weapons of mass destruction there, announces he will resign his post. 

December 21st, 2003, four days later; the Sunday before Christmas. 

RIDGE:  Today the United States government raised the national threat level. 

OLBERMANN:  Homeland Security again raises the threat level to orange, claiming credible intelligence of further plots to crash airliner into U.S.  cities.  Subsequently, six international flights into this country are canceled after some passenger names purportedly produced matches on government no fly lists.  The French later identified those matched names.  One belongs to an insurance salesman from Wales, another to an elderly Chinese woman, a third to a five-year-old boy. 

Number six, March 30th, 2004; the new chief weapons inspector in Iraq, Charles Duelfer, tells Congress we have still not found any WMD in that country.  And, after weeks of having refused to appear before the 9/11 Commission, Condoleezza Rice relents and agrees to testify. 

On the 31st, four Blackwater USA contractors working in Iraq are murdered.  Their mutilated bodies dragged through the streets and left on public display in Fallujah.  The role of civilian contractors in Iraq is now widely questioned. 

April 2nd, 2004 -- 

BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS ANCHOR:  The FBI has issued a new warning tonight. 

OLBERMANN:  Homeland Security issues a bulletin warning that terrorists may try to blow up buses and trains using fertilizer and fuel bombs like the one detonate in Oklahoma City, bombs stuffed into satchels or duffel bags. 

Number seven, May 16th, 2004; Secretary of State Powell appears on “Meet the Press.”  Moderator Tim Russert closes by asking him about the enormous personal credibility Powell had placed before the U.N. in laying out a case against Saddam Hussein.  An aide to Powell interrupts the question, saying the interview is over. 

TIM RUSSERT, NBC NEWS ANCHOR:  I think that was one of your staff, Mr.  secretary.  I don‘t think that‘s appropriate. 

COLIN POWELL, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE:  Emily, get out of the way. 

OLBERMANN:  Powell finishes his answer, admitting that much of the

information he had been given about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq was

POWELL:  Inaccurate and wrong, and, in some cases, deliberately misleading. 

OLBERMANN:  On the 21st, new photos showing mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison are released.  On the 24th, Associated Press video from Iraq confirms U.S. forces mistakenly bombed a wedding party, killing more than 40. 

Wednesday, May 26th, 2004, two days later. 

ASHCROFT:  Good afternoon. 

OLBERMANN:  Attorney General Ashcroft and FBI Director Mueller warned that intelligence from multiple sources—

ASHCROFT:  Indicates al Qaeda‘ specific intention to hit the United States hard. 

OLBERMANN:  And that 90 percent of the arrangements for an attack on the United States were complete.  The color coded warning system is not raised.  The Homeland Security secretary, Tom Ridge, does not attend the announcement. 

Number eight, July 6th, 2004; Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry selects Senator John Edwards as his vice-presidential running mate, producing a small bump in the election opinion polls and producing a huge swing in media attention towards the Democratic campaign. 

July 8th, 2004, two days later. 

RIDGE:  Credible reporting now indicates al Qaeda is moving forward with its plan to carry out a large scale attack in the United States. 

OLBERMANN:  Homeland Secretary Ridge warns of information about al Qaeda attacks during the summer or autumn.  Four days after that, the head of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, Deforest B. Soaries Jr., confirms he has written to Ridge about the prospect of postponing the upcoming presidential election in the case the event it is interrupted by terrorist attacks. 

Number nine, July 29th, 2004; at their party convention in Boston, the Democrats formally nominate John Kerry as their candidate for president.  As in the wake of any convention, the Democrats now dominate the media attention over the subsequent weekend. 

August 1st, 2004, Monday morning, three days later. 

RIDGE:  It is as reliable a source—a group of sources as we‘ve ever seen before. 

OLBERMANN:  The Department of Homeland Security raises the alert status for financial centers in New York, New Jersey and Washington to orange.  The evidence supporting the warning, reconnaissance data left in a home in Iraq; later prove to be roughly four years old and largely out of date. 

Number ten, October 6th, 2005, 10:00 a.m. Eastern Time; the president addresses the National Endowment for Democracy, once again, emphasizing the importance of the war on terror and insisting his government has broken up at least 10 terrorist plots since 9/11. 

At 3:00 p.m. Eastern Time, five hour after the president‘s speech has begun, the Associate Press reports that Karl Rove will testify again to the CIA leak Grand Jury and that Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald has told Rove he cannot guarantee that he will not be indicted. 

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC ANCHOR:  We‘re awaiting a news conference at the bottom of the hour. 

OLBERMANN:  At 5:17 p.m. Eastern time, seven hour after the president‘s speech has begun, New York official disclosed a bomb threat to the city‘ subway system based on information supplied by the federal government.  The Homeland Security spokesman says the intelligence upon which the disclosure is based is of doubtful credibility. 

And later it proves that New York City had known of the threat for at least three days and had increased police presence in the subways long before making the announcement at that particular time.  Local New York television station WNBC reports it had the story of the threats days in advance of the announcement, but was asked by high ranking federal officials in New York and Washington to hold off on its story. 

Less than four days after having reveal the threat, Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York says, since the period of the three now seems to be passing, I think over the immediate future, we‘ll slowly be winding down the enhanced security.  While news organizations, ranging from the “New York Post” to NBC New quote sources who say there was reason to believe the informant who triggered the warning simply made it up. 

A senior U.S. counter terrorism official tells the “New York Times,” quote, there was no there there. 

Number 11, a sequence of event in August 2006 best understood now in chronological order.  As the month begins, the controversy over domestic surveillance without legal warrants in this country crests.  Then on August 9th, the day after the Connecticut Democratic Senatorial Primary, Vice President Cheney says the victory of challenger Ned Lamont over incumbent Joe Lieberman is a positive for the, quote, al Qaeda types, who he says, quote, “clearly betting on the proposition that ultimately they break the will of the American people, in terms of our ability to stay in the fight.”

The next day, British authorities arrest 24 suspects in an alleged imminent plot to blow up U.S. bound aircraft using liquid explosives smuggled on board in sports drink bottles.  Domestic air travel is thrown into chaos as carry-on liquids are suddenly banned. 

On August 14th, British intelligence reveals it did not think the plot was imminent.  Only the U.S. did.  And our authorities pressed to make the arrests.  Eleven of the 24 suspect are later released.  And in the months to come, the carry-on liquids ban is repeatedly relaxed. 

Number 12, May 7th, 2007, Greensburg, Kansas leveled by a tornado and the state‘ governor notes, more in sorrow than in anger, that the redeployment of so much of the Kansas National Guard and its equipment to Iraq might now cripple the soldiers‘ ability to respond if another disaster hits Kansas. 

GOV. KATHLEEN SEBELIUS (D), KANSAS:  What we‘re really missing is equipment.  And that is putting a strain on recoveries like this one. 

OLBERMANN:  The next day, the authorities announce arrests in a far-fetched plan to attack soldiers at Fort Dix in New Jersey.  The so-called terrorists planned to gain access to the base by posing as pizza delivery men.  It is not a suicide mission.  They state clearly, they intend to kill personnel and then retreat to safety, even though they were going to attack a closed compound, full of trained soldiers with weapons. 

And though the plan is branded sophisticated, its perpetrators are not sophisticated enough to have not handed over the videotape of themselves training with weapons to a Circuit City store in order to be transferred to DVD.  The Fort Dix plot not only erases from most news coverage the issue of disaster readiness in Kansas, but it also obscures the next day‘ story that in anticipation of his testimony to a House panel, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has submitted opening remarks that match, virtually word for word, the remarks he had given the previous month to a Senate committee. 

ALBERTO GONZALES, ATTORNEY GENERAL:  Recognizing my limit involvement in the process, a mistake I freely acknowledge—

a mistake that I freely acknowledge, I have soberly questioned my prior decisions. 

OLBERMANN:  And number 13, June, 2007, the JFK plot to blow up the jet fuel pipeline feeding John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City, thus causing the entire airport to be consumed in an horrific conflagration.  One of the men arrested has, as past employee access, to the sprawling complex, but little knowledge of the reality of the pipeline system. 

The manager of that system tells the “New York Times” that the pipeline is not some kind of fuse.  Shut off valves throughout would have easily contain any damage, just as a leak in a tunnel in any city would not flood everything in that city below ground.  The so called plot happens to be revealed the day before the second Democratic presidential debate. 

And as the scandal continues to unfold over the firings of U.S.  attorneys, and their replacements by political hacks, the so called plot is announced by the Bush appointed U.S. attorney for Brooklyn, New York, and by the police chief of New York City, the father of a correspondent for Fox News Channel. 


Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Empire or Republic? Bush and the Fall Of the United States, Part 2, Jonathan Freedland

Last Tuesday we posted excerpts from the first half of Freedland's analysis of books by Ross and Brzezinski. Today we post the concluding excerpts, an analysis of Chalmers Johnson's NEMESIS, and Freedland's conclusion. --Politex

Official figures speak of 737 US military bases in foreign countries, adding up to an armed American presence, whether large or small, in 132 of the 190 member states of the United Nations.

Johnson reckons the number is actually higher, if one includes those bases about which the Pentagon is coy. The 2005 Base Structure Report omits to mention, for example, garrisons in Kosovo, as well as bases in Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel, Kyrgyzstan, Qatar, and Uzbekistan, even though it is well known that the US established a vast presence in both the Persian Gulf and Central Asia after September 11. (Admittedly, the US was evicted from its base in Uzbekistan in 2005.) Nor does the Pentagon ledger include the extensive military and espionage installations it maintains in Britain, estimated to be worth some $5 billion, since these are nominally facilities of the Royal Air Force. "If there were an honest account, the actual size of our military empire would probably top 1,000 different bases overseas, but no-one—possibly not even the Pentagon —knows the exact number for sure," writes Johnson. Intriguingly, he notes that the thirty-eight large and medium-sized US facilities around the world, mostly air and naval bases, match almost exactly both the thirty-six naval bases and army garrisons Britain maintained at its imperial peak in 1898 and the thirty-seven major sites used by the Romans to police the empire from Britannia to Egypt, Hispania to Armenia in 117 AD. "Perhaps," muses Johnson, "the optimum number of major citadels and fortresses for an imperialist aspiring to dominate the world is somewhere between thirty-five and forty."

Precise figures are hard to come by, but there are an estimated 325,000 US military personnel deployed abroad, often alongside dependents and large numbers of civilians, most of them living in sealed compounds, each one a little island of America. As Johnson showed in his 2004 book, The Sorrows of Empire, this is a parallel world that has its own airline, the Air Mobility Command, connecting one base to another, and an elaborate system, known as Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR), dedicated to ensuring that America's imperial servants feel they have never left home. They can be entertained in their own multiplexes playing the latest blockbusters, amused by satellite television airing American shows, and fed by fully stocked branches of Burger King....

This is the core of his argument, that by extending its reach in the world America is not only endangering itself physically, by increasing the risk of blowback, but bankrupting itself, financially, constitutionally, and morally. The economic evidence is devastating, a succession of numbers each more stark than the last. The annual Pentagon budget, which falls short of $500 billion, is far from the whole story. There are also the separately accounted costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which stood in 2006 at approximately $450 billion since their inception. When those sums are combined with military spending by agencies other than the Pentagon, the national defense outlay for 2007 reaches $622 billion. Johnson would have us add to that figure the ongoing costs of wars past, including the lifetime care of the seriously wounded ($68 billion) and widows' pensions, as well as State Department subsidies paid to foreign countries to encourage their purchase of US-made weapons ($23 billion). That would still exclude the interest paid on the share of the national debt incurred by military spending, for which Johnson cites one estimate of $138.7 billion. Even on the most conservative reckoning, the US is spending more in real terms on defense now than at any time since the Second World War. If it accounts for a relatively modest share of GDP, perhaps less than 5 percent, that is only because the US economy is now so much bigger than it was.

What's driving this is a nexus of military, political, and financial interests, all of whom benefit from ever-increasing military spending....Seeking fat contracts, the big defense companies give donations to those politicians who will pay them back by commissioning expensive defense projects; the contractors then reward the politicians by locating their firms in their districts; finally the voters, glad of the jobs, reward the politicians by reelecting them. Johnson offers dozens of examples, including Florida's Democratic senator Bill Nelson, a member of the Armed Services Committee, who in the 2006 federal budget "obtained $916 million for defense projects, about two-thirds of which went to the Florida-based plants of Boeing, Honeywell, General Dynamics, Armor Holdings, and other munitions makers." Since 2003, Nelson has received $108,750 in campaign contributions from thirteen companies for which he arranged contracts. It's a cycle perpetuated by everyone involved: contractors, politicians, voters. Everyone benefits from this untamed form of military Keynesianism—except the next generations of Americans who can be expected to drown in a debt that now measures $9 trillion and grows daily....

Tellingly, however, [Johnson's] most powerful evidence is drawn from the Bush years since 2001. [He] may argue that these are trends that have been in evidence for decades, but it is the current administration which has illuminated them. By declaring the nation at war and himself a wartime president, Bush has grabbed powers to himself that America's founders never intended him to have. As the infamous "torture memo" made clear, Bush's legal team has constructed something it calls the "unitary executive theory of the presidency" to place the Oval Office outside the law, arguing that there can be no infringement on his "ultimate authority" as commander in chief in the conduct of war. Because practically any measures taken, at home or abroad, since September 11, 2001, can be construed as the conduct of war, this doctrine is nothing less than a claim of absolute power. Whether it be treaties signed and ratified by the US, like the Geneva Conventions, or the laws of the land passed in Congress, nothing can touch him. He is Caesar....

With the license granted by the "war on terror," and the acquiescence of both Congress (until January 2007) and much of the US press and television, as well as several federal judges, the administration has been able to trample on the Constitution and the once-cherished liberties it contains. The pattern is clear, whether it involves eavesdropping without a warrant by the National Security Agency; the denial of habeas corpus to inmates of Guantánamo Bay; the deliberate obstruction of the Freedom of Information Act; the constant use of presidential "signing statements" usually to nullify legislation passed by both houses of Congress and signed by the President himself; or the torture at Abu Ghraib and Camp X-Ray. As Johnson writes:

"Over any fairly lengthy period of time, successful imperialism requires that a domestic republic or a domestic democracy change into a domestic tyranny.... The United States today, like the Roman Republic in the first century BC, is threatened by an out-of-control military-industrial complex and a huge secret government controlled exclusively by the president. After the attacks of September 11, 2001, cynical and short-sighted political leaders of the United States began to enlarge the powers of the president at the expense of the elected representatives of the people and the courts.

"The public went along, accepting the excuse that a little tyranny was necessary to protect the population. But, as Benjamin Franklin wrote in 1759, 'Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.'"...

Brzezinski is equally brimming with advice, calling, like Ross, for a Washington that shows more respect to the world and one that would shore up the Euro-Atlantic area of nations, lest it lose its influence to East Asia. Most radically, he advocates for a shift in the American social model, away from excess consumption and income inequality toward a more ecologically sustainable pattern that would appeal internationally. One of Brzezinski's most striking observations is that an "awakening" is underway around the world, a stirring, if vague, sense of injustice—and that the United States can only succeed if it is held to be on the right side of the divide. "In today's restless world, America needs to identify itself with the quest for universal human dignity," he writes. What that will take, he adds provocatively, is both "a cultural revolution and regime change."

Necessarily, it is Johnson, who has diagnosed a more radical problem, who has to come up with a more radical solution. He cannot merely call for greater powers for Congress, because by his own lights, "the legislative branch of our government is broken," reduced to the supine creature of large corporations, the defense contractors first among them. Instead, he urges a surge in direct democracy, "a grassroots movement to abolish the CIA, break the hold of the military-industrial com-plex, and establish public financing of elections"—but he has the grace to recognize how unlikely such a development is.

So he is left offering not an eleven- or twelve-step program, but rather a historical choice. Either the United States can follow the lead of the Romans, who chose to keep their empire and so lost their republic. Or "we could, like the British Empire after World War II, keep our democracy by giving up our empire." That choice was neither smooth nor executed heroically, but it was the right one. Now much of the world watches the offspring of that empire, nearly two and a half centuries later—hoping it makes the same choice, and trembling at the prospect that it might not.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Mugged By Corporations: A Spy In A House Of Cards, Kent Southard

A while back I got cable for the first time in a long time - (there was the year living in the car, but things have generally been a bit thin since the layoffs.) It's been interesting to see the changes: first time I've seen Tony Snow as White House spokesman, for instance. He looks like the all-night clerk at the porn store. I know there's an illness, but very often, sickness of the soul manifests itself in sickness of the body, yes? The Daily Show's production values have risen considerably; especially evident in the graphics of its spinoff, the Colbert Report.

And I've watched some Sopranos, which I hadn't done much before. Even when I had the opportunity, it all seemed rather too much. And I don't mean too much violence, or harshness, or coarseness - I thought Deadwood was masterful, maybe the best thing on TV ever, and that show was very harsh; but it also had characters who embodied the decent, and characters who were believably flawed, the villains weren't always what they seemed and neither were some of the apparently 'good' people. The Sopranos takes a long, very long, look at the inner workings of mental depravity, but without, it seemed, any countervailing example.

Back in the 70's, the Sopranos' creator, David Chase, wrote several episodes of 'The Rockford Files,' in which was explored the basic theme of The Sopranos - the twinship of mental illness and criminality in the mafia. The difference was that there was always the contrasting example of the solid sanity and wised-up decency of James Garner's Rockford, who represented, it might be said, the values of the rest of us.

There was a time in my paying-for -college white-tablecloth waiter days, that I worked at a couple of places that were 'family' affiliated. From that time I took this observation: most of us take this existence as the belief (dream, sense) of life in matter. To mafia types, there's only matter. They have the most immeasurably lifeless mentality imaginable. Lifeless and lightless. They're like completely dried-out leaves, needing only a touch to turn to dust. Which is why their only animating force is violence, their only response to the life surrounding them is to destroy it.

I remember a bartender, a longtime 'friend' of this particular family. The restaurant is in an old house, and on the second floor, he looks out the window to see some drunk leaning on the bartender's car - he flies into a rage, producing a baseball bat from behind the bar. (I mean, why would a very upscale place need a baseball bat behind the bar in the first place?) That scene in the recent Sopranos where Tony's father's in the mental ward, and he's made a friend of a young fellow ward, only to have the guy explode into a violent rage seemingly inexplicably? Pretty much like that. Psychotic. Textbook.

But I tell you what. The mafia types always treated me with more respect than I typically got from the corporate world. And maybe, for our current times of corporate rule, The Sopranos has it right - there is no current model of decency in the wider culture to hold up as a countervailing example.

Which takes us to the subjects of chocolate and Alberto Gonzales. And to begin, I'd like to introduce another semi-Proustian moment: When I was young, like any child, I'd outgrow my shoes a couple of times a year. My mom would take me to the Department Store in Oklahoma City (whose name escapes me) where the same nice man would wait on us, repeating the ritual of having me stand on the metal sizing device, telling me to stand up straight, and then with a new sample, pinching the toe of the shoe to see where I fit.

For dress shoes, my mom always insisted on Stride-rite. This, in the face of a constant marketing campaign by Buster Brown shoes. Buster Brown employed the image of a cute boy, and a cute dog (which was Buster Brown, I've forgotten) and I think there were prizes if you bought their shoes, and maybe little cartoons on tv, a large Buster Brown standup display in the shoe department, the whole 'marketing tie-in' our country has come to know and loath. But I had fallen for it completely, and each trip to the get shoes I'd ask for Buster Brown, and each time my mom would quite firmly say 'No, Stride-rite is the quality shoe, you just want Buster Browns because of advertising.'

She never yielded. And I'm so grateful she didn't. I'm also grateful for her firmness in resolve in the subject, as I remember it striking me a little odd at the time, because after all, it was just shoes. But quality was the real lesson, and quality is really another word for honesty, or truthfulness. And so, as an adult, it seems with me that quality wins out over marketing every time. There's hardly anything I own that's had any significant mass-marketing behind it.

And so it was, during the time of the hearings in which Alberto Gonzales was telling the American people and their elected representatives to go screw themselves, that I took notice of a news item wherein the American chocolate industry was lobbying the government to 'revise' the definition of chocolate. Said revision to allow the use of other than cocoa butter while still labeling it chocolate. Quality-minded independents such as See's are against the changes, such as Hershey's, alas, are for it. A trade spokesman was quoted as saying 'It's just the hollowing out of the middle like everything else. We're left with the high-end and Walmart.' Which is to say, the very high quality, and junk.

I was reminded of Levi's, who had to take out what was left of their quality in order to sell at Walmart, of the Hane's I'd bought there to discover it wasn't the same Hane's I'd bought elsewhere.

Of course, if need be stated, America used to stand for the opposite - a standard of high quality in all manufactured goods available at reasonable prices for the broad middle class. The America of my youth.

But somewhere along the way, quality became re-defined as a luxury good. It was the Reagan years, of course.

Another news item appearing at this time was about the newspaper itself - the LA Times was announcing (yet another) round of staff cuts, in the name of 'economic competitiveness.' A friend who writes for the paper complained that the Times was making good money, just not 'enough.' Not 'enough' increase in profit from year to year, an odd measure traditionally for a newspaper, but the only one allowed these days when Wall Street rules all. Those cuts were complete yesterday - they included 6 Pulitzer Prize winners, the leader of the Times environmental reporting, one of the important reporters on Iraq, etc. They weren't cutting the fat. They cut out the filet mignon.

I couldn't help but wonder if some agenda wasn't at play here - as quality has been re-defined as a luxury item in goods, perhaps also the truth is becoming the property of the rich as well? Replaced for the rest of us, Walmart style, with Stephen Colbert's famous 'truthiness'? Too much of a stretch? Consider that after 9/11 it came to light that high-end corporate America already has its own government warning system to allow our betters to escape an imminent attack. Consider how inconvenient news has often been to our corporate/GOP masters.

(Consider also, coincident with the 9/11 attacks, were the anthrax attacks directed only at the leadership of the Democratic Party and the major media, Fox excepted.)

So, does it seem too much to depict Alberto Gonzales performance before Congress as merely representative of this new state of affairs? He didn't tell the truth because we are no longer entitled to it. Didn't his boss say afterwards he'd done a great job? Like Karl Rove said, 'we're the reality makers now.'

But this isn't mere conjecture, not anymore. Because, I, myself, personally, have been to a modern Wannsee Conference, one of many no doubt, but all saying the same thing.

I have heard the truth.

It was in my usual capacity these days as a catering waiter that I recently worked the 3-day quarterly meeting of a very high-end money management firm. Almost 3/4tr's of a trillion dollars in assets under management, they recently hired Alan Greenspan as a consultant, the first firm to be able to do so since his retirement from the Fed. As a hired house-nigga, it was assumed I had the IQ of a potted plant, and was accorded as much respect. I didn't hear everything, but over 3 days, I heard a lot. This is what I heard:

'From the income distribution patterns of 1979 (which is to say, just before the start of the Reagan Revolution) to those currently in force, $600 Billion, per year, every year, is transferred from the bottom 80% to the top 1%. To those in the bottom 80%, this amounts to $5,000 per year, every year, from every working adult.'

'This figure may be felt more strongly than its actual impact, because when somebody gets a promotion, it's never because there was nobody else available; or when somebody's laid off, it's never because they're an idiot.' - That's verbatim. In other words, everybody in the bottom 80% of the country is an idiot and a loser. There were lots of laughs here.

Now lets do a little math here - the average per capita income in the country is what, in the low $20's; average household in the low-mid $40's, because after all, most women work. $5k per individual per year, $10k per couple per year, is 20-25% of their income. Taken. Stolen.

Is this possibly 'felt' more strongly than its actual effect? Let's see - when C., whom I loved dearly, couldn't afford both housing and health insurance, could an extra $5k a year made a difference? Can't ask her, she didn't survive that equation. With an extra $10k a year, every year, could my folks have provided some college for my siblings? Too late now. Hounded by financial worries, could my mom have avoided an early grave? Too late now.

In my prime working years, could an extra $5k a year maybe have put me in a home, probably. If every working couple in the country had an extra $10k a year, do you think they might qualify for a regular mortgage, instead of the sub-prime teaser loans that are the signature feature of our Potemkin prosperity?

'This has been a conservative era. The middle class has been sold on this by telling them two things - if you vote for the democrats, they'll tax your money and give it to welfare cheats; and if you don't vote GOP, the boogeyman'll get ya.'

So there you have it - none of what has been done to the middle class in the last quarter-century has been because of free-acting 'market forces;' there's been an agenda, clear and firm - deprive the middle class of its economic freedom, (and hence its political freedom, because the 60's were just way too scary for the powers that be) and install the corporate elite as the sole rulers. The agenda was sold thru simple marketing, initially by a 'President' who was after all an actor, who whatever the job, merely read the lines written for him.

But currently, thanks largely to the person of George W., there's a problem.

'This political sell seems no longer possible, no longer convincing.' i.e., Iraq has upset the Boogeyman postulate big time; and at the same moment in history, too many people have been laid off, too many people have been hurting for too long, and it's now being properly identified as the fault of the corporate elite, not some welfare queen.

'We don't yet have a replacement. 18 months out, it looks like the Democrats will win with 60%.' (This was before the Dems caved on the Iraq spending bill, so who knows.)

That was one speech. Some excerpts from others:

'Capitalism is a religion.'

'The rich must be encouraged to stay in the game, to keep wanting more and more money, to keep this system going.' i.e., to keep depriving the bottom 80%.

'We don't have to worry about paying the mechanic or whatever, because there's an endless supply of immigrants willing to take his job.' There's your 'immigration debate', right there.

'This has all been made possible by the re-flation of assets.' You wonder why the Dow trades at many times the historic values of price versus P/E ratio? By the magic trick of making their own assets worth more, they have 'more,' and so are able to control more, buy more, take what you've got. Neat, huh?

Here's the thing - at one point they showed on the screen a cartoon of Tom Toles, where he shows the American economy as a house of cards, labeled consumer debt and so on, with a man at the door announcing 'I'm here for the rug.' (That's underneath the cards, of course.) Everybody laughed. Because they knew it was true.

'That man should be known as the Central Bank of Asia.' And for some time, there was much discussion about why it was against the best interest of this Asian Bank to pull the rug on the American economy. Because then, we couldn't buy their big-screen tv's, and what not. Which they lend us the money to do. Because we don't have it ourselves. Because the rich have taken it all from us, to follow the meeting's line of argument to its logical conclusion.

In other words - the corporate elite have completely fucked up this country, they somewhat realize it, they trust there won't be any consequences because they hope the Central Bank of Asia won't consider it in its interests.

Does all this sound less than brilliant to you? There was no doubt they considered themselves brilliant. But we had a name for them - evil nerds. Because that's what they were. As simple and pathetic as that.

(Interesting detail - some weeks previous this same firm had hosted a 'career day' for their children, for which we caterers were costumed as future career choices. Careers of a child's fantasy, one and all, especially for this crowd, from baseball player to astronaut to artist. One costume that was explicitly forbidden, however, was that of a military uniform. That was one fantasy that was absolutely forbidden. Reminded me of Tom Wolf's observation in the Right Stuff that even in the 50's, the economic elites were turning their sons away from careers in the military. As so many returning Iraq vets have said, they feel that they don't have a country? Yep, to the actual powers that be, there is no country of citizens, to protect and serve - they are the sole power, and the military to them is merely another type of butler.) So there you have it, our present condition, all mystery removed.

Haven't seen much discussion of this on the TV news? Or even much in the better papers? See my point about news being hallowed out? It allows the robbing of $600 billion per year, every year, from you and me to give to some guy who already has 5 Ferrari's. (I've been to his house, he has the V-10 mid-engined Porsche too.)

So, more recently, I gave up cable. I was hating it, what very little that was good didn't outweigh the lies and crap. Actually, the cable company pulled the plug. I couldn't pay the bill.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Bush, Again: Who Benefits From Floods?, Politex, various

"We'll not just rebuild, we'll build higher and better. Tonight I propose the creation of a Gulf Opportunity Zone, encompassing the region of the disaster in Louisiana and Mississippi and Alabama. Within this zone, we should provide immediate incentives for job-creating investment, tax relief for small businesses, incentives to companies that create jobs, and loans and loan guarantees for small businesses...It is entrepreneurship that creates jobs and opportunity; it is entrepreneurship that helps break the cycle of poverty; and we will take the side of entrepreneurs as they lead the economic revival of the Gulf region....The people of this land have come back from fire, flood, and storm to build anew -- and to build better than what we had before. Americans have never left our destiny to the whims of nature -- and we will not start now. --Bush's post-Katrina speech in New Orleans' Jackson Square

In "The Water's Edge: Profits and Policy Behind The Rising Catostrphe of Floods" a documentary presently being shown on PBS (consult your local PBS) and available for purchase, we learn that the cost of flooding in central Texas is one of the highest in the nation, that Bush gained a lot of political credit and federal disaster funding as the caring Governor of Texas, that the state spends nothing for flood education, that municipalities in central Texas have allowed dangerous flood areas to be shrunk by developers and builders while gaining property taxes by so doing, and that banks turn a profit through all of these processes. We also learned that the Clinton administration created a national flood education program that was deleted when Bush became President. --Jerry Politex

DESCRIPTION: Who makes money from floods? Who benefits from building in harm's way? And why are flood disasters growing with no end in sight? "The Water's Edge" offers a well-researched critique of the systemic failures behind the deadliest and most costly natural disaster. Compelling flood victims, renowned scientists, and amazing footage from recent events reveal how government and business interests perpetuate flood catastrophes. The pseudo-science behind the "100-year flood" is exposed as a deadly convenience that fosters delusional building and rebuilding in harm's way. Tens of thousands will suffer each year all across this country but their misfortune churns huge profits few have considered. New Orleans fate is clearly foretold five weeks before Katrina. And we see how financial incentives in the politically driven aftermath of floods (along the Gulf Coast and elsewhere) ensure that much worse disasters are likely in the near future.

MORE: Through an amazing collection of flood footage and in-depth coverage of repetitive flood victims, this movie uncovers the profiteering and neglect that ensure increasing devastation for our ever-urbanizing society. The precious land at the water' edge, so vital for wildlife corridors and open space, is being turned into a federally-subsidized disaster zone that brings great fortune to bankers and builders and the perpetual debt of the underclass. We even get a clear and uncanny prediction for New Orleans fate from renowned flood expert, Dr. Victor Baker, just five weeks before Katrina makes landfall. And we see how (and why) wake up calls for such disasters are routinely missed with much worse events likely in the near future. "The Water's Edge" offers a well-researched and personalized critique of the cultural denials, financial incentives, and policy failures behind the growing natural disaster causes the most death and damage in the U.S. and worldwide. Events like Hurricane Katrina [and the circumstances of flash-flood alley in central Texas, which is the focus of the film,] have just begun to open our eyes to the politics and economics underlying natural disasters. --notes on "The Water's Edge"

Play Excellent, Informative Trailer

Friday, June 1, 2007

Cindy Sheehan Speaks Out: The Corporate War Machine, Politicians, And A Distracted Public,
Democracy Now! Interview

...I set out on this quest really to make [my son] Casey's death count for something, to make it meaningful, not to be, you know, counted as death and destruction, as occupying a country that was no threat to the United States of America, not for lies. I didn’t want to think that he died for lies, that he died because my government is callous and has no regard for human life or human suffering. I wanted his death to count for peace. I want it to count for love. I want it to count for justice. And, you know, in this system we have, it’s ruled by the corporations, it’s ruled by the corporate war profiteers. They use people like they’re things and not people.

And I am just really devastated and frustrated with an American population, you know, not counting the people who listen to your show or who watch your show, an American population that doesn’t give the Iraq war one, you know, bit of attention, doesn’t think about it, doesn’t have to think about it. They don’t want to think about the death and destruction and the pain that’s being caused by the government that they’re giving their tacit support to by their silence. You know, we care more about who’s the next American idol, what was in Anna Nicole’s refrigerator when she died, than the hundreds of thousands of innocent lives that have been sacrificed for the greed for power and money that this country is always on the prowl for. So it just makes me think that Casey is going to go down in a long line of people who have been sacrificed to the corporate war machine in this country....

It was not an easy decision [to say goodbye to an active role as one of the leaders of the peace movement in this country], and it wasn’t a spur of the moment decision or a quick decision....Anyway, I’ve been thinking about it for a year, when I -- after last summer, when I almost died [from gynecological problems], and I started thinking about pulling back a little bit. And after, you know, I regained some of my strength, I just went back into it full force. And it’s hard to work within this movement that is so divided, that is so -- really has a lot of negative energy. It’s draining. It’s drained my energy. And I used to -- you know, I still get so much support from so many people, but when people -- our new left really is just barely right of center, but when people there start criticizing me and calling me the same names that the right has been calling me, I think it’s time to reevaluate, pull back, you know, see what other direction we can come at this from....

We have gotten -- in any way people can reach me, we’ve gotten hundreds and hundreds of emails -- and, you know, very few negative ones -- offering support, offering emotional support, offering places I can go to rest, offering financial support. And I’m very overwhelmed, again, by the good-hearted nature of Americans. But I think that we have to realize that if you’re going to put so much pressure on one individual, that person has to be supported continually, not get to the point where I did, where I just had to throw my hands up and say, “I give up. I can’t do this anymore. I don’t have any more energy. I don’t have any more money. I don’t have any more stamina. I have to go away.”

And there are so many people, there are so many worthy organizations who are struggling financially, who could do so much, who have people who can be effective voices, that aren’t supported by the peace movement or people in America, the millions of people in America who oppose George Bush and who oppose the war. If they aren’t physically able to get out and do the work, then I think that they -- and if they have the financial resources -- should be supporting people in the movement who can do this.

AMY GOODMAN (Democracy Now!): As you talk about cash-starved organizations, I think about the tens of millions of dollars that the candidates are raising, who are running for president in 2008, that money -- majority of it, of course -- going to the major corporate networks for advertising.

CINDY SHEEHAN: Right. You know, it’s an obscenity. I can imagine people in third world countries looking at, you know, someone like Hillary Clinton raising $35 million for her presidential campaign that goes to really, you know, nonproductive means, and they see that, and they just -- it’s just really immoral, I believe. And we’re spending $12 million in Iraq. How many people could that help, not only around the world, but in our own country? You know, it’s very immoral and obscene what we do with our resources....

We’re going to seriously reevaluate our place -- and when I say “our,” I’m talking about Gold Star Families for Peace, I’m talking about the Camp Casey Peace Institute, my skeletal staff. We’re going to -- and my sister Dee Dee, of course. We’re going to just hunker down and find a way that we can be more productive, that we can be more useful to humanity. Like I said, I’ve come to a dead end in what I’m doing now. We’ve found a chink in the armor. We exploited that chink. Now, most of the country is on our side. I don’t think we can work with the politicians. When we come back, we won’t work with or against politicians, but we’ll work with humanity.

Since I’ve been traveling the globe, I’ve met so many people who have been encroached upon or damaged or their families damaged by this corporate military imperialism of the United States. We want to help them. And we’re hoping by helping our brothers and sisters around the world struggle against the imperialism of the US military and the US corporations, that it will have a residual effect in helping America. We don’t want to abandon our soldiers there in the field like the Democrats did. You know, last night I was on Air America. Laura Flanders calls it to sacrifice the troops, instead of support the troops. We don’t want to leave them abandoned in the field. We don’t want to give the impression to the people of Iraq that they have no hope.

But I just want to let you know that I was just a small cog in this movement. It’s a large movement. And I think that this will encourage people to step up to the plate. And I sacrificed too much for this movement, and I’m not blaming anybody except myself. I was a willing participant. And I would be willing to keep sacrificing, if I thought we were making progress, if I thought my sacrifices could help. But I don’t think that it’s helping anymore, so we’re going to pull back and figure out how we can help. But, you know, people need to step up now. And everybody in America is going to have to sacrifice something. We have too much. We work too much to get things that we don’t even need, while 24,000 people a day die of starvation in the world. So everybody is going to have to sacrifice a little bit. If everybody sacrifices a little bit, you know, a few people wouldn’t have to sacrifice so much...

I don’t -- you know, I’m very disillusioned with our political system. If we don’t wake up in America and realize that we have to vote out of our courage and integrity for candidates who reflect our own beatitudes, and not the beatitudes of the war machine and the corporations, we are -- we’re doomed. And if we don’t get a viable third party -- or some people say second party; you know, the Democrats and Republicans are so similar, and their pockets are lined by the same people -- we are -- our representative republic is doomed, where George Bush has assumed all the powers to himself and Congress has given him those powers. And we really need an opposition party in this country. But we vote out of our fear. We go and we vote for the lesser of two evils, and we always end up getting somebody evil. And, you know, I say “evil,” not in the Christian sense of the word. But, you know, I do believe that.

I’m not going to join any party. If I do vote again and if I do become, you know, politically active, it will be independent. I’m not going to, of course, run for anything, be in the system. I have been asked by the Green Party to run for president, but, you know, that’s not anything that I want.

And I know John Stauber. He has been struggling against MoveOn. I was really upset with MoveOn, and plus with the corporate media, who were characterizing MoveOn as the antiwar left in America, which was just really, for people who are on the inside know how hilarious that is. So I think that MoveOn has a lot of resources, and they should be trying to represent -- truly represent the opposition to, instead of being, you know, so tied in with the Democratic Party, to really represent the views of the left.

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Bush And The Carlyle Group
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Bush And The Taliban Drug Trade
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The Bushes And The Bin Ladens

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