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Health Care Plans: Just About Anything's Better Than What We Have Now, Atul Gawande, Jerry Politex
...There is not a place in this world that is not struggling to control health costs while providing high-quality, easily accessible care. No one — no one — has a great solution....Whether as a doctor or as a citizen, I would take almost any system — from Medicare-for-all to a private insurance voucher system — over the one we now have. Job-based insurance is bleeding away the viability of American businesses — even doctors complain about the cost of insuring employees. And it has left large numbers of patients without adequate coverage when they need it. In the last two years, for example, 51 percent of Americans surveyed did not fill a prescription or visit a doctor for a known medical issue because of cost. My worry is less about what happens if we change than what happens if we don’t.
This week, Barack Obama released his health reform plan. It’s a puzzle how you are supposed to regard presidential candidates’ proposals. They are treated, by campaigns and media alike, as some kind of political G.P.S. device — gadgets primarily for political positioning. So this was how Mr. Obama’s plan was reported: it is a lot like John Edwards’s plan and the Massachusetts plan signed into law by Mitt Romney last year; and it has elements of John Kerry’s proposal from four years ago. In other words — ho hum — another centrist plan. No one except policy wonks will tell the proposals apart from one another.
Well, all this may be true. And if what you care about is which candidate can one-up the others, it is rather disappointing. But if what you care about is whether, after the 2008 election, we’ll be in a position to finally stop the health systems’ downward spiral, the similarity of the emerging proposals is exactly what’s interesting. I don’t think you can call it a consensus, but there is nonetheless a road forward being paved and a growing number of people from across the political spectrum are on it — not just presidential candidates, but governors from California to Pennsylvania, unions and businesses like Safeway, ATT and Pepsi.
This is what that road looks like. It is not single-payer. It instead follows the lead of European countries ranging from the Netherlands to Switzerland to Germany that provide universal coverage (and more doctors, hospitals and access to primary care) through multiple private insurers while spending less money than we do. The proposals all define basic benefits that insurers must offer without penalty for pre-existing conditions. They cover not just expensive sickness care, but also preventive care and cost-saving programs to give patients better control of chronic illnesses like diabetes and asthma.
We’d have a choice of competing private plans, and, with Edwards and Obama, a Medicare-like public option, too. An income-related federal subsidy or voucher would help individuals pay for that coverage. And the proposals also embrace what’s been called shared responsibility — requiring that individuals buy health insurance (at minimum for their children) and that employers bigger than 10 or 15 employees either provide health benefits or pay into a subsidy fund.
It is a coherent approach. And it seems to be our one politically viable approach, too. No question, proponents have crucial differences — like what the individual versus employer payments should be. And attacks are certain to label this as tax-and-spend liberalism and government-controlled health care. But these are not what will sabotage success. Instead, the crucial matter is our reaction as a country when the attacks come. If we as consumers, health professionals and business leaders sit on our hands, unwilling to compromise and defend change, we will be doomed to our sliding global competitiveness and self-defeating system. Avoiding this will take extraordinary political leadership. So we should not even consider a candidate without a plan capable of producing agreement.
The ultimate measure of leadership, however, is not the plan. It is the capacity to take that plan and persuade people to find common ground in it. The politician who can is the one we want.
Atul Gawande, a surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and a New Yorker staff writer, is the author of the new book “Better.” He has been a [NYT] guest columnist this month.
OBAMA LIE WATCH: Yesterday, Obama rolled out his health care plan. MSNBC reported he called it "universal care." He lied. He later called it "virtual universal care." Sounds just like Bush, doen't it? (Hillary's plan doesn't even go as far as Obama's.) With Obama's plan, if you don't have health insurance, you don't have to get it, and the focus is upon private insurance. Edward's health care plan is truly universal health care. Guess which health care plan got major coverage in the mainstream media? You got it: Obama's. Reason: the mainstream media's narrative is that the Dem presidential battle is between Hillary and Obama. All others get second rate coverage. --Politex
The Golden Rule: Why Have the Dems Failed Us?, Jerry Politex, various
The Golden Rule: Why Have The Dems Failed Us? Jerry Politex
The Dems have failed us because they're part of the system. The system is a corporate-based capitalistic republic in which our elected representatives represent the corporations, rather than the country's citizens. This is known as "the Golden Rule." Whoever has the gold, rules. Of course some American citizens make up the corporations, but they are in a small, wealthy minority in this country, less than 10%. These are the people who put up most of the money for national elections, and those elections have become increasingly controlled by the men with the money, whose representatives are the President and Congress.
There are two groups of citizens who live under this small, wealthy minority: the well-off and the poor. The well-off are kept in line by the threat of losing their jobs, meaning their access to enough money to live lives that they think of as "the American Dream." They vote for the representatives of the wealthy who promise to keep them living "the American Dream." These are the foot soldiers of the wealthy minority. The poor, having no money, have no access to their representatives, and hence remain poor. Each major party, the Republicans and the Democrats, appeal to this group in different ways.
The Republicans appeal to the poor on the basis of a patriotic belief in the ideals of the country, beliefs that the wealthy know are bogus, becaue they contradict the way wealth is gained in this country. Further appeals are made through religion, myth, and supersition. The Democrats focus their appeal to the poor on promising them that they'll make the system fairer and increase the possibility that they, too, will be able to partake of "the American Dream." Meanwhile, it is the poor who are sent to die in war to protect the system, which is of little benefit to them.
While there is somewhat of a difference between Republicans and Democrats with respect to domestic policy, the difference is not as great as they say, because both parties have to answer to the wealthy minority, since both depend upon that group for their own survival, which comes before all else. With respect to foreign policy, there is less difference between the parties, since the wealthy minority needs to control other countries to ensure its own survival in what is called "the global economy."
Until our system of government changes, the goals and structure of our society will not change. While a third party might possible change the party affiliation of the President or members of Congress, it will not change our system of government, nor its direction. A change to a parliamentary system would help, somewhat, since it would provide some degree of accountability with respect to the tenure of the President, since, under a parliamentary system, he or she could be voted out of office in a short period of time. Such a change would be unlikely, since it would be of less immediate benefit to the wealthy minority than the present system. Political activists and the "alternative" media, either anti-corporate or anti-political, are needed to provide the appearance of democracy and are of little threat because the vast electorate have been trained by their leaders, the corporate media, and the demands of their materialist, marketed lifestyle to ignore their attacks.
What's more likely to happen is our present system will continue: A future President with increased dictatorial powers...powers that have been put in place during our present war, which was declared some years ago and will never end, since the enemy is not a country and definitions of who he is keep expanding...a future President will solidify his/her present hold over Congress and the Supreme Court. Then, in collusion with our major corporations, our system will evolve into a fascist state, a direction it is moving in at present. Naturally, the language of democracy will be retained, but the meaning of the words will change, as they are changing now. Under our new fascist system, our remaining riches will have been transferred to safer countries around the world as our physical infrastructure continues to crumble, our legal system deteriorates further, and other countries will have become more dominant than us. --Jerry Politex, Bush Watch
Shallow Throat Castigates The Dems (excerpt):
"I feel like crap because the tenure of these extremists in the White House has just been guaranteed for the next year-and-a-half by your liberal Democrat buddies. They had CheneyBush backed into a corner, on the ropes, reeling, and the Dems walked away."
"Whoa, wait a minute," [Shallow Throat], "I'm just as appalled as you are by the craven surrender of the Democratic leadership on the war-funding bill, lobbying reform and the possibility of impeachment hearings. So don't hang that charge around my neck. The progressive base of the party, which I support, has been very active in trying to get Pelosi and Reid and the others to do the right thing on these issues and in denouncing them when they don't."
Shallow Throat thundered a reply: "If you progressives want to get through to the Dem leaders, you'll have to lead them! Right now, they have you by the shorts. They know that regardless of what they do, you liberals have nowhere else to go. You're not going to support the GOP, you're not going to commit suicide by trying to form a third party, so the Bushistas can just run over you, time and time again, convinced that you'll eventually come back to the fold with your money and energy because the Republicans are even worse. Why shouldn't they take you for granted? You make it so easy for them."
ST scratched at the new wig and continued: "Your guys blew your one best chance to stop this war, or at least to begin to bring it to a close. I could understand the Dems' timidity if the population were evenly divided on the issue of the war and on the need to get our young soldiers out of there ASAP -- but, damn it, that's not the case!
"Nearly 70% of the public agrees that Bush's war strategy is mistaken and will lead to even more deaths and maiming of untold numbers of U.S. troops and Iraqi civilians. By nearly two-thirds, the public is in support of starting to withdraw our troops soon. In short, your ass was covered! Why on earth would you give in so easily after just one or two tries? You could have let Bush veto the war-funding bill for the second time and sent it back to him again and again, each time carving away a few more wavering Republicans. You could hammer Bush each time as not being willing to bend a bit to 'support the troops'.
"Instead, out of fear of being criticized for 'not supporting the troops' and and for being insufficiently 'patriotic,' you gave away the store, and became, ipso facto, enablers of the Republicans and this slaughter. The blood of young American troops is now on your hands too. Now it's not just Bush's war, but also the Democrats' war! How could your Dem buddies have been so stupid?"...
Krugman Blames Dem Failure On The Voters:
Osama is back: last week Mr. Bush invoked his name 11 times in a single speech, warning that if we leave Iraq, Al Qaeda — which wasn’t there when we went in — will be the winner. And Democrats, still fearing that they will end up accused of being weak on terror and not supporting the troops, gave Mr. Bush another year’s war funding. Democratic Party activists were furious, because polls show a public utterly disillusioned with Mr. Bush and anxious to see the war ended. But it’s not clear that the leadership was wrong to be cautious. The truth is that the nightmare of the Bush years won’t really be over until politicians are convinced that voters will punish, not reward, Bush-style fear-mongering. And that hasn’t happened yet. --Paul Krugman
Readers Blame Dem Failure On The Dems:
[Krugman has written] basically a propaganda piece by the Democratic Party.
Its all Bush’s fault. Lets just forget that the Democrats voted to start these wars and have voted to fund it every year along the way. ‘Oh, we were lied to’, is the response. I’m tired of that lame BS. Millions of people around the world could figure it out, and they marched in the street to try to tell these fools that they were being lied to, but the Democrats are too arrogant to listen to ordinary people these days. If they were listening, they’d have us out of Iraq and Bush and Cheney up on impeachment charges.
And oh, the Democrats are so wise to be cautious. Yeah right, go tell that to the loved ones of every American killed or injured in Iraq this year and next.
The Democrats have been equal partners in this war from the beginning.
And while most Americans have slowly figured out it was a bad idea, its mostly for the wrong reasons. They think its a bad idea because we are losing and taking casualties. If it had been the slam-dunk the fools predicted, the same 70% of Americans who oppose the war would be strutting around about how big and tough the nation is.
The notion that invading another nation, overthrowing its government and stealing its resources is just flat immoral and wrong, not to mention illegal, still doesn’t have much support in America.
You think I’m wrong in that. What’s the one thing the Democratic Congress did insist on when signing off on more blood money? That the Iraqis give the big oil companies a sweetheart deal. That’s the one benchmark the Democrats and the Republicans agree on. Its all about the oil.
BTW, the Democrats use the same campaign by fear techniques.
Often, its the same pseudo-enemies as the Republicans. Other times, its attacks on the conservatives and the neo-cons as if they were the problem. You see some of it in this piece. Bush is the boogey man.
Anyone associated with a 3rd party campaign knows this all to well. The Democrats come on full bore about how the Republicans are the enemy and they must be stopped and its only the Democrats who can stop them so if you dare vote for someone honest and decent who really cares about this country then you are just as bad as those evil Republicans and its your fault because you put the evil Republicans in office by daring to vote for someone decent. --COMarc
It’s a grand game of chicken between the Democratic leadership and the progressives - a game which the Democrats win over and over again. The problem is that too many progressives want a risk-free type of challenge to the corporate-friendly, militaristic policies of the Democratic hierarchy. They believe there is a way to keep the Democrats in control and minimize the power of the Republicans yet at the same time exert some kind of influence that will steer the likes of Clinton, Pelosi and Obama towards a more progressive platform. This is very unlikely to succeed.
1. The acceptance and advocation of a continuing strategy of voting for the Democrats to keep the Republicans in check can only decrease the leverage of the progressives. If the Democrats have no reason to believe the progressives are jumping ship, they have nothing to fear as far as their prestigious political careers are concerned. Why should do they do anything but serve their corporate paymasters, or pledge allegiance to the Israeli lobby, or pursue imperialistic objectives? The rank-and-file are never going to punish them for their actions because they have fearfully thrown away the only bargaining chip they have. In essence, this is a strategy of blind hope for progressives - the hope that somehow Lucy won’t pull the football away this time around.
2. The advocation of a more short-term, stopgap approach which keeps the Democrats in power yet buys time for the development and empowerment of a third party movement is a defensible approach yet still does not avoid the effective scare-tactics of the Democratic machine. The Democrats and their PR apparatus will do everything they can to frighten the progressives away from building and supporting a third party because even if the votes stay loyally Democratic for the time being, eventually enough people have to break ranks and that could only weaken the Democratic party; that is, unless somehow the third party movement is able to secure a massive bloc of voters from outside the normal voting public to put the new party immediately in the chips and seated at the big table with the two major parties. A wonderful outcome to hope for but a very unlikely one.
Unfortunately, the progressives have no choice but to A. Convincingly threaten and B. Carry out the abandonment of the Democratic establishment if need be. Only by not swerving away from the oncoming Democratic vehicle can the progressives hope to change the makeup of the Democratic party or replace it with a better alternative. Under the current conditions, The Democrats can play and win the “lesser of the two evils” game until hell freezes over.
Sheehan Quits Hostile Dems, American Idol Citizens
Cindy Sheehann quit the Democratic Party on Memorial Day because the Democratic Party could not take her criticism of their inaction on the war in Iraq. This tells you what you need to know about the Democrat Party. "I was the darling of the so-called left as long as I limited my protests to George Bush and the Republican party," she said. "However, when I started to hold the Democratic party to the same standards that I held the Republican party, support for my cause started to erode, and the 'left' started labelling me with the same slurs that the right used." Speaking of her son who died in Iraq, she said, "Casey died for a country which cares more about who will be the next American Idol than how many people will be killed in the next few months." --Jerry Politex
Empire or Republic? Bush and the Fall Of the United States, Jonathan Freedland
One of the few foreign policy achievements of the Bush administration has been the creation of a near consensus among those who study international affairs, a shared view that stretches, however improbably, from Noam Chomsky to Brent Scowcroft, from the antiwar protesters on the streets of San Francisco to the well-upholstered office of former secretary of state James Baker. This new consensus holds that the 2003 invasion of Iraq was a calamity, that the presidency of George W. Bush has reduced America's standing in the world and made the United States less, not more, secure, leaving its enemies emboldened and its friends alienated. Paid-up members of the nation's foreign policy establishment, those who have held some of the most senior offices in the land, speak in a language once confined to the T-shirts of placard-wielding demonstrators. They rail against deception and dishonesty, imperialism and corruption. The only dispute between them is over the size and depth of the hole into which Bush has led the country he pledged to serve.
Last December's Baker-Hamilton report, drawn up by a bipartisan panel of ten Washington eminences with perhaps a couple of centuries of national security experience between them and not a radical bone in their collective body, described the mess the Bush team had left in Iraq as "grave and deteriorating." The seventy-nine recommendations they made amounted to a demand that the administration repudiate its entire policy and start again. In the words of former congressman Lee Hamilton, James Baker's co-chair and a rock-solid establishment figure, "Our ship of state has hit rough waters. It must now chart a new way forward."
So it comes as less of a surprise than once it might have to see Dennis Ross and Zbigniew Brzezinski—two further fixtures of the national security elite—step forward to slam the administration in terms that would, in an earlier era, have seemed uncouth for men of their rank. Neither Ross, who served as Middle East envoy for both George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, nor Brzezinski, a conservative Democrat and cold war hawk, could be dismissed as Nation-reading, Howard Dean types. Yet in withering new books they both eviscerate the Bush record, writing in the tone of exasperated elders who handed over the family business to a new generation, only to see their successors drive the firm into bankruptcy. Both books offer rescue plans for a US foreign policy they consider to be in tatters.
...For those with the stamina to face it, there are further indictments in both books of every aspect of US foreign policy, from the failure to take a lead on dealing with climate change to the distracted inattention to the rise of China. Some of these strategic blunders relate once again to the invasion of Iraq, whether it be the needless estrangement of European allies or the avoidable driving into a corner of Iran, whose influence from Baghdad to Beirut has self-evidently increased.
The accumulated result has been a plunge in global esteem for the United States. A survey in January 2007 for the BBC World Service found that only 29 percent of those polled in eighteen countries believed the US was playing a "mainly positive role in the world," a fall of eleven points in two years. As Brzezinski writes,
Because of Bush's self-righteously unilateral conduct of US foreign policy after 9/11, the evocative symbol of America in the eyes of much of the world ceased to be the Statue of Liberty and instead became the Guantánamo prison camp.
It's hard to read Ross and Brzezinksi without coming to share their nostalgia for the steady, realistic, and grounded statecraft of George H.W. Bush in contrast with the faith-based pursuit of neoconservative fantasy that has passed for international affairs under his son.
Scathing as they are, these books are mere slaps on the wrist compared to Nemesis, the third volume in Chalmers Johnson's blistering trilogy, which stands as the centerpiece of the American Empire Project, a series of works published by Metropolitan Books examining recent changes in America's strategic thinking, particularly under the Bush administration, and the consequences of those changes at home and abroad. The first in Johnson's series, Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire, argued that the United States had, particularly through the covert activities of the Central Intelligence Agency, spilled so much blood and caused so much damage in other people's countries that it was only a matter of time before it felt the wrath of those nations' vengeance. (The term "blowback," Johnson concedes, was not his own coinage: the CIA used it following its involvement in the 1953 overthrow of Iran's elected prime minister, Mohammad Mossadeq, an event that, according to Johnson, led to the blowback of the 1979 revo-lution and the installation by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini of the anti-American theocracy which has ruled ever since.) Blowback was published in March 2000, making little impact. It took only eighteen months, however, for Blowback suddenly to look chillingly prescient, winning an audience for Johnson he might otherwise have lacked.
For while Brzezinski in particular edges up to the outer limits of the Washington foreign policy consensus, Johnson unabashedly stands far outside it. Ross and Brzezinski, as former security officials, take as their premise the belief that the United States should be the dominant force in international relations; Brzezinski goes so far as to dub Bush, Clinton, and Bush as "Global Leader" I, II, and III. The chief complaint of both Brzezinski and Ross is that the current president has fumbled this designated role. Johnson's starting point is quite different: he brands as imperial arrogance the very assumption that America should extend its reach across the planet (and beyond, into the heavens).
The clue is in the subtitle: "The Last Days of the American Republic." Johnson joins those who urge Americans, despite their anti-imperial origins in ejecting King George, to see that they have succeeded both ancient Rome and nineteenth-century Britain in becoming the empire of their age. This impulse became fashionable in the post–September 11 period, including among those who saw the imperial mission in a benign light. Johnson's perspective is very different. He wants the scales to fall from American eyes so that the nation can see the truth about its role in the world, a truth he finds ugly. (to be continued)
Memorial Day, 2007: Bush's Iraq War For ME Oil Wealth Continues To Take Our Blood And Money, various
Out in the desert there’s a soldier lying dead
Dad’s Gonna Kill Me
You hit the booby trap and you’re in pieces
Dad’s Gonna Kill Me
I’m dead meat in my HumV Frankenstein
Dad’s Gonna Kill Me
I’ve got a wife, a kid, another on the way
Dad’s Gonna Kill Me
Dad’s in a bad mood, Dad’s got the blues
Dad’s Gonna Kill Me
Dawn Patrol went out and didn’t come back
Dad’s Gonna Kill Me.
And who’s that stranger walking in my dreams
Dad’s Gonna Kill Me
7 muzzle monkeys standing in a row
Nobody loves me here
Dad’s Gonna Kill Me
Another angel got his wings this week
Dad’s Gonna Kill Me
Slave Labor: Why The Bush-Backed Immigration Bill Will Make Things Worse, Paul Krugman
...In 1910, almost 14 percent of voting-age males in the United States were non-naturalized immigrants. (Women didn’t get the vote until 1920.) Add in the disenfranchised blacks of the Jim Crow South, and what you had in America was a sort of minor-key apartheid system, with about a quarter of the population — in general, the poorest and most in need of help — denied any political voice. That dilution of democracy helped prevent any effective response to the excesses and injustices of the Gilded Age, because those who might have demanded that politicians support labor rights, progressive taxation and a basic social safety net didn’t have the right to vote. Conversely, the restrictions on immigration imposed in the 1920s had the unintended effect of paving the way for the New Deal and sustaining its achievements, by creating a fully enfranchised working class.
But now we’re living in the second Gilded Age. And as before, one of the things making antiworker, unequalizing policies politically possible is the fact that millions of the worst-paid workers in this country can’t vote. What progressives should care about, above all, is that immigration reform stop our drift into a new system of de facto apartheid. Now, the proposed immigration reform does the right thing in principle by creating a path to citizenship for those already here. We’re not going to expel 11 million illegal immigrants, so the only way to avoid having those immigrants be a permanent disenfranchised class is to bring them into the body politic....
But the bill creates a path to citizenship so torturous that most immigrants probably won’t even try to legalize themselves. Meanwhile, the bill creates a guest worker program, which is exactly what we don’t want to do. Yes, it would raise the income of the guest workers themselves, and in narrow financial terms guest workers are a good deal for the host nation — because they don’t bring their families, they impose few costs on taxpayers. But it formally creates exactly the kind of apartheid system we want to avoid. Progressive supporters of the proposed bill defend the guest worker program as a necessary evil, the price that must be paid for business support. Right now, however, the price looks too high and the reward too small: this bill could all too easily end up actually expanding the class of disenfranchised workers.
The Goracle: Listening, Really Listening, To Gore. ---Gore, Dionne, Ostroy, Politex
With the blatant failure by the government to respect the rule of law, we face a great challenge in restoring America's moral authority in the world. Our moral authority is our greatest source of strength. It is our moral authority that has been recklessly put at risk by the cheap calculations of this wilful president....
Most Americans have tended to give the Bush-Cheney administration the benefit of the doubt when it comes to its failure to take action in advance of 9/11 to guard against an attack. Hindsight casts a harsh light on mistakes that should have been visible at the time they were made. But now, years later, with the benefit of investigations that have been made public, it is no longer clear that the administration deserves this act of political grace from the American people. It is useful and important to examine the warnings the administration ignored - not to point the finger of blame, but to better determine how our country can avoid such mistakes in the future. When leaders are not held accountable for serious mistakes, they and their successors are more likely to repeat those mistakes....
We as Americans should have "known then what we know now"- not only about the invasion of Iraq but also about the climate crisis; what would happen if the levees failed to protect New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina; and about many other fateful choices that have been made on the basis of flawed, and even outright false, information. We could and should have known, because the information was readily available. We should have known years ago about the potential for a global HIV/Aids pandemic. But the larger explanation for this crisis in American decision-making is that reason itself is playing a diminished, less respected, role in our national conversation....
This is an edited extract from his new book, The Assault on Reason, published this week by Bloomsbury.
Boy, it would be fun if Al Gore changed his mind and ran for president -- fun for the voters, anyway. Imagine a candidate whose preelection book is devoted in large part to an attack on the media for waging war on reason....It's entertaining to talk to Gore these days because he's so clearly enjoying himself. (That's probably why he won't run for president.) During a 40-minute telephone interview yesterday, he did not speak as if there were focus-grouped sentences dancing around in his head. Nor did he worry about saying things that some consultant would fret about for weeks afterward...
When Gore is asked if any of the Democrats running for president were changing the system he holds in such low esteem, he pulls no punches. "They're good people trapped in a bad system," he says, "and I think it's the system that needs to be changed and I don't see them changing it." The campaign dialogue so far, he says, has not been "very enriching or illuminating" in "either party." But, no, that doesn't mean he's going to run, though he never completely shuts the door. It's part of the fun he's having....Gore, to his credit, won't talk about Florida, but I will. Whatever flaws he has, Gore suffered through an extreme injustice with great dignity. His revenge is to have been right about a lot of things: right about the power of the Internet, right about global warming and right about Iraq.
The signs are all there. Despite the coy denials, the Washington-outsider positioning, and his status as the global warming rock-star, a position through which he enjoys immense power and freedom, Al Gore is running. Make no mistake. And it has never been more evident than in this week's Time Magazine cover story and interview, The Last Temptation of Al Gore. Consider the following, when The Goracle was asked what it would take for him to run:
In addition to his 3-decade-long environmental advocacy and his early anti-war stand with regard to Iraq, Gore's been a harsh critic of President Bush, his corrupt administration, and the GOP in general. Messages that are timely and resonate tremendously with voters. His orating is almost messianic to many, and he commands a respectful 12% poll number (same as John Edwards) without even being in the race. Throw in his untouchable dossier--two terms in the Senate, four in the House, eight years as VP, and his Vietnam service--and Gore's about as attractive as they could possibly come for the Dems. An Oscar and Nobel Peace Prize would be delicious icing on his campaign cake. Ya think he doesn't know all this? Get real people. Al Gore is [not] gonna sit on the sidelines in '08....
Personally, I don't think Gore is going to run. He didn't run against Bush the second time around, not because he didn't want to, but because he couldn't get the backing of the Dem money men, even though he beat Bush the first time around. This time, in '08, the only thing he has going for him is that he's the best, most accomplished person for the job. That's not enough in U.S. politics.
In his new book Gore implies that another reason he didn't run the second time was his doubt in the fairness of the media. Why run on the basis of important ideas, only to be trivialized for wearing brown suits and putting on weight. And we're not just talking about conservative opinion makers. He'll never beat Maureen Dowd. Dowd did her part to help Bush win the first time around by getting on Gore's case as often as she could. She can't control herself; she's proven time and time again that she'll sell out a cogent idea for a condescending yuck.
Dowd's response to Gore's new book, which is crammed with serious and provacative ideas, is to ignore the ideas and focus an entire NYT column on questions and jokes about Gore's weignt problem. This is the way too many columnists and reporters work: they construct a narrative and then cram and distort the facts into it. Michiko Kakutani summerizes the situation in his NYT review of the book (see below), Gore looks at "the ailing condition of America as a participatory democracy — low voter turnout, rampant voter cynicism, an often ill-informed electorate, political campaigns dominated by 30-second television ads, and an increasingly conglomerate-controlled media landscap." If Gore is considering running for President again, he might be concluding, "Who needs it?"
Run, Gore, Run: Impassioned Gore Book Provides Blistering Overview Of American Politics, Michiko Kakutani
Part civics lesson, part political jeremiad, part philosophical tract, “The Assault on Reason” reveals an angry, impassioned Al Gore — a far cry from the carefully scripted, earth-tone-wearing Al Gore of the 2000 presidential campaign and the programmed “creature of Washington” described in the reporter Bill Turque’s 2000 biography of him, “Inventing Al Gore.” Much the way that the movie “An Inconvenient Truth” showed a more accessible Al Gore — at ease with himself and passionate about the dangers of global warming — this book shows a fiery, throw-caution-to-the winds Al Gore, who, whether or not he runs for the White House again, has decided to lay it all on the line with a blistering assessment of the Bush administration and the state of public discourse in America at this “fateful juncture” in history....
For all its sharply voiced opinions, “The Assault on Reason” turns out to be less a partisan, election-cycle harangue than a fiercely argued brief about the current Bush White House that is grounded in copiously footnoted citations from newspaper articles, Congressional testimony and commission reports — a brief that is as powerful in making its points about the implications of this administration’s policies as the author’s 2006 book, “An Inconvenient Truth,” was in making its points about the fallout of global warming. This volume moves beyond its criticisms of the Bush administration to diagnose the ailing condition of America as a participatory democracy — low voter turnout, rampant voter cynicism, an often ill-informed electorate, political campaigns dominated by 30-second television ads, and an increasingly conglomerate-controlled media landscape — and it does so not with the calculated, sound-bite-conscious tone of many political-platform-type books, but with the sort of wonky ardor that made both the book and movie versions of “An Inconvenient Truth” so bluntly effective.
Mr. Gore’s central argument is that “reason, logic and truth seem to play a sharply diminished role in the way America now makes important decisions” and that the country’s public discourse has become “less focused and clear, less reasoned.” This “assault on reason,” he suggests, is personified by the way the Bush White House operates. Echoing many reporters and former administration insiders, Mr. Gore says that the administration tends to ignore expert advice (be it on troop levels, global warming or the deficit), to circumvent the usual policy-making machinery of analysis and debate, and frequently to suppress or disdain the best evidence available on a given subject so it can promote predetermined, ideologically driven policies....
Moreover, Mr. Gore contends, the administration’s penchant for secrecy (keeping everything from the details of its coercive interrogation policy to its National Security Agency surveillance program under wraps) has dismantled the principle of accountability, even as what he calls its “unprecedented and sustained campaign of mass deception” on matters like Iraq has made “true deliberation and meaningful debate by the people virtually impossible.” Mr. Gore points out that the White House repeatedly implied that there was a connection between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein, between the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and Iraq, when in fact no such linkage existed. He observes that the administration “withheld facts” from Congress concerning the cost of the Medicare prescription drug benefit, which turned out to be “far higher than the numbers given to Congress by the president.” And he contends that “it has become common for President Bush to rely on special interests” — like those represented by the Iraqi exile Ahmad Chalabi before the war, and ExxonMobil on the climate crisis — for “basic information about the policies important to these interests.”...
The former vice president contends that the fiasco in Iraq stems from President Bush’s use of “a counterfeit combination of misdirected vengeance and misguided dogma to dominate the national discussion, bypass reason, silence dissent and intimidate those who questioned his logic both inside and outside the administration.”...The administration’s pursuit of unilateralism abroad, Mr. Gore says, has isolated the United States in an ever more dangerous world, even as its efforts to expand executive power at home and “relegate the Congress and the courts to the sidelines” have undermined the constitutional system of checks and balances....
Sicko Food: How Bush's Ideology Makes You Sick...Literally, Paul Krugman
These are anxious days at the lunch table. For all you know, there may be E. coli on your spinach, salmonella in your peanut butter and melamine in your pet’s food and, because it was in the feed, in your chicken sandwich. Who’s responsible for the new fear of eating?...
...Without question, America’s food safety system has degenerated over the past six years. We don’t know how many times concerns raised by F.D.A. employees were ignored or soft-pedaled by their superiors. What we do know is that since 2001 the F.D.A. has introduced no significant new food safety regulations except those mandated by Congress. This isn’t simply a matter of caving in to industry pressure. The Bush administration won’t issue food safety regulations even when the private sector wants them. The president of the United Fresh Produce Association says that the industry’s problems “can’t be solved without strong mandatory federal regulations”: without such regulations, scrupulous growers and processors risk being undercut by competitors more willing to cut corners on food safety. Yet the administration refuses to do more than issue nonbinding guidelines.
Why would the administration refuse to regulate an industry that actually wants to be regulated? Officials may fear that they would create a precedent for public-interest regulation of other industries. But they are also influenced by an ideology that says business should never be regulated, no matter what. The economic case for having the government enforce rules on food safety seems overwhelming. Consumers have no way of knowing whether the food they eat is contaminated, and in this case what you don’t know can hurt or even kill you. But there are some people who refuse to accept that case, because it’s ideologically inconvenient.
That’s why I blame the food safety crisis on Milton Friedman, who called for the abolition of both the food and the drug sides of the F.D.A. What would protect the public from dangerous or ineffective drugs? “It’s in the self-interest of pharmaceutical companies not to have these bad things,” he insisted in a 1999 interview. He would presumably have applied the same logic to food safety (as he did to airline safety): regardless of circumstances, you can always trust the private sector to police itself.
O.K., I’m not saying that Mr. Friedman directly caused tainted spinach and poisonous peanut butter. But he did help to make our food less safe, by legitimizing what the historian Rick Perlstein calls “E. coli conservatives”: ideologues who won’t accept even the most compelling case for government regulation. Earlier this month the administration named, you guessed it, a “food safety czar.” But the food safety crisis isn’t caused by the arrangement of the boxes on the organization chart. It’s caused by the dominance within our government of a literally sickening ideology.
Fallwell's Words Brand Him Religious Bigot, Anti-Semite, ed by Wikipedia, Politex, Morford
Religious leaders and members of the mainstream media are coming to the defense of Jerry Falwell, the dead religious leader and well-known anti-Semite and religious bigot. Well-known, that is, if you have ever seen him on TV, listened to him on radio, or read what he wrote or said in the mainstream press. The defense, similar to conservatives' defense of what Bush has said, is something like this: "Who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes and ears?" Ryan Rush, Bannockburn Baptist Church pastor said of Falwell after his death, "He was certainly misunderstood because cameras and sound bites cannot record the heart of a man who genuinely loves people." Only his heart specialist knows, right? Nonsense. Falwell spent his career talking to cameras in sound bites, and his many quoted statements are of a piece. Decades of words have told us what he was, a religious bigot, an anti-semite, a man who hid behind religion to spread hate in the name of the Bible. Lest we forget, here are some of his documented words. ---Jerry Politexon JEWS
"God doesn't listen to Jews."
"If he's going to be the counterfeit of Christ, [the Antichrist] has to be Jewish. The only thing we know is he must be male and Jewish."
"You'll be riding along in an automobile. You'll be the driver perhaps. You're a Christian. There'll be several people in the automobile with you, maybe someone who is not a Christian. When the trumpet sounds you and the other born-again believers in that automobile will be instantly caught away -- you will disappear, leaving behind only your clothes and physical things that cannot inherit eternal life. That unsaved person or persons in the automobile will suddenly be startled to find the car suddenly somewhere crashes. ... Other cars on the highway driven by believers will suddenly be out of control and stark pandemonium will occur on ... every highway in the world where Christians are caught away from the drivers wheel." (from Falwell's pamphlet "Nuclear War and the Second Coming of Christ")
Regardless of the response from the Jewish person, we remain friends in support of the State of Israel as required by scripture.
I have been on record all 54 years of my ministry as being opposed to dual covenant theology... I simply cannot alter my deeply held belief in the exclusivity of salvation through the Gospel of Christ for the sake of political or theological expediency. Like the Apostle Paul, I pray daily for the salvation of everyone, including the Jewish people.
on OTHER RELIGIONS
[Jimmy Carter's] message of peace and reconciliation under almost all circumstances is simply incompatible with Christian teachings as I interpret them. This 'turn the other cheek' business is all well and good but it's not what Jesus fought and died for. What we need to do is take the battle to the Muslim heathens and do unto them before they do unto us.
I think Muhammad was a terrorist. I read enough by both Muslims and non-Muslims, [to decide] that he was a violent man, a man of war.
"If you're not a born-again Christian, you're a failure as a human being." [unsourced]
The idea that religion and politics don't mix was invented by the Devil to keep Christians from running their own country.
"I hope I live to see the day when, as in the early days of our country, we won't have any public schools. The churches will have taken them over again and Christians will be running them. What a happy day that will be!"
"Christians, like slaves and soldiers, ask no questions."
"The Bible is the inerrant ... word of the living God. It is absolutely infallible, without error in all matters pertaining to faith and practice, as well as in areas such as geography, science, history, etcetera." [unsourced]
on DEMOCRACY and CIVIL RIGHTS
"The abortionists have got to bear some burden for [the attacks of Sept. 11] because God will not be mocked. And when we destroy 40 million little innocent babies, we make God mad. I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way -- all of them who have tried to secularize America -- I point the finger in their face and say, 'You helped this happen.'"
Civil rights for all Americans, black, white, red, yellow, the rich, poor, young, old, gay, straight, et cetera, is not a liberal or a conservative value. It’s an American value that I would think that we pretty much all agree on....Housing and employment are not special rights. I think—I think the right to live somewhere and to live where you please or to work where you please, as long as you‘re not bothering anybody else, is a basic right, not a—not a special right. "The Situation with Tucker Carlson" on MSNBC (5 August 2005)
on FREE SPEECH
"The ACLU is to Christians what the American Nazi party is to Jews."
"The First Amendment is not without limits."
And here at Liberty University, we have a football team that scores occasionally. And we brought suit against the NCAA and we won that. And now it‘s legal for any athlete—it‘s free speech—to—if they want to pray in the end zone when they score, they can do it.
"Tinky Winky is gay."
"AIDS is not just God's punishment for homosexuals; it is God's punishment for the society that tolerates homosexuals."
"Someone must not be afraid to say, 'moral perversion is wrong.' If we do not act now, homosexuals will 'own' America! If you and I do not speak up now, this homosexual steamroller will literally crush all decent men, women, and children who get in its way ... and our nation will pay a terrible price!"
"I truly cannot imagine men with men, women with women, doing what they were not physically created to do, without abnormal stress and misbehavior."
"I listen to feminists and all these radical gals -- most of them are failures. They've blown it. Some of them have been married, but they married some Casper Milquetoast who asked permission to go to the bathroom. These women just need a man in the house. That's all they need. Most of the feminists need a man to tell them what time of day it is and to lead them home. And they blew it and they're mad at all men. Feminists hate men. They're sexist. They hate men -- that's their problem."
"It appears that America's anti-Biblical feminist movement is at last dying, thank God, and is possibly being replaced by a Christ-centered men's movement which may become the foundation for a desperately needed national spiritual awakening."
"The National Organization for Women (NOW) is the National Order of Witches."
on THE ENVIRONMENT
"I believe that global warming is a myth. And so, therefore, I have no conscience problems at all and I'm going to buy a Suburban next time."
"It is God's planet -- and he's taking care of it. And I don't believe that anything we do will raise or lower the temperature one point."
"The whole global warming thing is created to destroy America's free enterprise system and our economic stability."
Labor unions should study and read the Bible instead of asking for more money. When people get right with God, they are better workers.
"God continues to lift the curtain and allow the enemies of America to give us probably what we deserve."
"I am such a strong admirer and supporter of George W. Bush that if he suggested eliminating the income tax or doubling it, I would vote yes on first blush."
And the fact that John Kerry would not support a federal marriage amendment [prohibiting gay marriage], it equates in our minds as someone 150 years ago saying I'm personally opposed to slavery, but if my neighbor wants to own one or two that's OK. We don't buy that.
I do question the sincerity and non-violent intentions of some civil rights leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Mr. James Farmer, and others, who are known to have left wing associations.
"There's been a concerted effort to steal Christmas."
"The argument that making contraceptives available to young people would prevent teen pregnancies is ridiculous. That's like offering a cookbook as a cure to people who are trying to lose weight."
"You know when I see somebody burning the flag, I'm a Baptist preacher I'm not a Mennonite, I feel it's my obligation to whip him. In the name of the Lord, of course. I feel it's my obligation to whip him, and if I can't do it then I look up some of my athletes to help me. But, as long as at 72 I can handle most of the jobs I do it myself, and I don't think it's un-spiritual. When I, when I, when I hear somebody talking about our military and ridiculing and saying terrible things about our President, I'm thinking you know just a little bit of that and I believe the Lord would forgive me if I popped him."
American I-Dolt: Are Voters For President As Inept As Voters For Singers? Letters
Before you get too worked up about the AI results and attempt to draw any parallels about the can't-come-soon-enough presidential elections you need to remember that A. There are NO age restrictions to being allowed to vote for your favorite American Idol. Heck, my 10 year old votes every week. And B. There's no limit to how many times you can vote. My kids would call till I shoved them into bed, but 3 votes would be a safe guess on any week. Now do the numbers. 60 million votes divided by 3 equals 20 million of which I would guess a quarter to a third are underage. Relax. --Alan Morris
It was more than looks for Melinda. it was "personality." Which is and has always been the American (or even the worldwide) way. You can't sell anything if the salesman doesn't sell. (See: Dukakis, McGovern, et. al.) Clinton had it over Bush Sr., etc. etc. --Viewer
...The whole point of the current system [is] to keep people distracted by such banality [as AI], which is easily accomplished, so that the people who know how to wield power for their own agendas can do so without too much distraction from the masses....I don't see either Obama or Hillary being electable on either image or substance. The GOP candidates are just as inane. Bill Richardson seems to be the only real person running, but his campaign is almost non-existent. --Greg
I agree that Obama is no improvement over Hillary. I also agree with Greg's sentiment that " the whole point of the current system --- to keep people distracted by such banality"; however, I think that the latter is not so willful or consciously constructed on the part of an elite as it appears. I think that institutions are created not by the people at the top but by the mass action of all the people including the ones at the top and that the effect of people being "distracted by banality" is created by the action of the masses that are in reality disempowered at the scale of the whole 300 million or 1.2 billion or 26 million and so on. Most people correctly recognize that even on the best of days in the best of institutions they have little direct influence on the broad sweeping currents that affect their lives - including earthquakes and hurricanes as well as the whims of "leaders".
As the institutions come to hold sway over larger and larger groups of individuals the influence of most individuals becomes vanishingly small - even gwb must viscerally sense his impotence in the face of the scale of the planet. In any event institutions evolve so as to provide more or less tolerable social contexts that allow individuals to function in some relative state of satisfaction - until the institution becomes too dysfunctional and then a phase changes occurs. Rather than obsessing over what they can't affect most people opt to spend time absorbed in all manner of diversions from the gnawing concern that somebody at the top is doing stuff that is not in their best interests. Schelling's "Micromotives and Macrobehavior" is really good on this topic. --Christine
All of the above make telling comments, but my point was that presidential elections are being dumbed down to the level of the American Idol electorate. Yes, there are those who are being distracted away from voting, and adults, not children, vote for President. But, as noted, there are those who vote but do so on the basis of the same trivial values as those who vote for American Idol, rather than the qualifications needed for President. Am I being too idealistic about what the American people want in a President? Perhaps they really want someone like Bush has actually said he is: a "cheerleader" (which he was in prep school) for corporate values (the CEO, Presidency) who is uninformed (he's the "decider") and will listen to the money men (Cheney, etc.) standing behind the throne.
As for specifics, I really have yet to see how Obama is an improvement over Hillary. I believe they're both part of the problem; in my estimation, neither comes close to being part of the solution. As previously noted, Edwards has not made it with the money men with his non-corporate focus on unions and the poor. Given Bill Richardson's qualifications as statesman rather than celebrity, the fact that his moneyless campaign has not taken off and will never take off says volumns about what corporate backers want and will get in the next President. It won't be a man like Gordon Brown, the UK's Labor Party replacement for Blair, that's for sure. Brown: “I have never believed presentation should be a substitute for policy....I do not believe politics is about celebrity.”--Jerry
American I-Dolt: Why Barak Obama Will Be The Next President, Jerry Politex
Last night Melinda Doolittle was kicked off American Idol. Of the remaining three, she was the best singer by far. The judges knew it. Those who appreciate singing knew it. The only group who didn't know it was the majority of voters who voted for the alternate male and the alternate female, both lesser singers who looked better than Melinda. Obviously, the Sanjaya voters haven't stopped voting, they've simply switched over to the remaining eye canday. In short, when the chips were down American Idol wasn't about singing, it was about who looked the best. Keep in mind that American Idol voters outnumber those who vote for President. We're talking about American taste and values, here.
That's why Barak Obama will be our next President. There's little difference between the taste and values of the American Idol voting audience and the taste and values of the admittedly more adult American I-Dolt Presidential audience. Obama is pretty, like Tiger Woods, but unlike John Edwards who spends too much on his haircuts. The American people love to pretend that their celebrity presidents are naturally gifted. "Obama has presented himself as a fresh face, not steeped in Washington and the proverbial politics as usual. It is, to be sure, a cornerstone of his appeal, but also an effort to turn what many could see as a potential handicap — his inexperience — into an asset," writes Mark Liebovich in the NYT. Obama's so poll-driven, so safe, so colorless in his thinking that he doesn't upset the apple carts of his corporate backers. In other words, frontman Obama isn't a winner, but he looks like a winner, and that appears to be good enough for the American people.
Robber Baron Bush: Attack On Social Programs, Less Taxation Of Rich Mark New Gilded Age, Paul Krugman
One of the distinctive features of the modern American right has been nostalgia for the late 19th century, with its minimal taxation, absence of regulation and reliance on faith-based charity rather than government social programs. Conservatives from Milton Friedman to Grover Norquist have portrayed the Gilded Age as a golden age, dismissing talk of the era's injustice and cruelty as a left-wing myth. Well, in at least one respect, everything old is new again. Income inequality -- which began rising at the same time that modern conservatism began gaining political power -- is now fully back to Gilded Age levels....
Every available measure of income concentration shows that we've gone back to levels of inequality not seen since the 1920s. The New Gilded Age doesn't feel quite as harsh and unjust as the old Gilded Age -- not yet, anyway. But that's because the effects of inequality are still moderated by progressive income taxes, which fall more heavily on the rich than on the middle class; by estate taxation, which limits the inheritance of great wealth; and by social insurance programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, which provide a safety net for the less fortunate.
You might have thought that in the face of growing inequality, there would have been a move to reinforce these moderating institutions -- to raise taxes on the rich and use the money to strengthen the safety net. That's why comparing the incomes of hedge fund managers with the cost of children's health care isn't an idle exercise: there's a real trade-off involved. But for the past three decades, such trade-offs have been consistently settled in favor of the haves and have-mores.
Taxation has become much less progressive: according to estimates by the economists Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez, average tax rates on the richest 0.01 percent of Americans have been cut in half since 1970, while taxes on the middle class have risen. In particular, the unearned income of the wealthy -- dividends and capital gains -- is now taxed at a lower rate than the earned income of most middle-class families....
Meanwhile, the tax-cut bill Congress passed in 2001 set in motion a complete phaseout of the estate tax. If the Bush administration hadn't been too clever by half, hiding the true cost of its tax cuts by making the whole package expire at the end of 2010, we'd be well on our way toward becoming a dynastic society. And as for the social insurance programs ---- well, in 2005 the Bush administration tried to privatize Social Security. If it had succeeded, Medicare would have been next.... It's much too soon to declare the march toward a New Gilded Age over...
Consumers, Not Citizens: The Governing Philosophy Behind Bush Corruption, Incompetence, Scandal, and Lies (excerpts), Frank Rioh
...By my rough, conservative calculation — feel free to add — there have been corruption, incompetence, and contracting or cronyism scandals in these cabinet departments: Defense, Education, Justice, Interior, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs, Health and Human Services, and Housing and Urban Development. I am not counting State, whose deputy secretary, a champion of abstinence-based international AIDS funding, resigned last month in a prostitution scandal, or the General Services Administration, now being investigated for possibly steering federal favors to Republican Congressional candidates in 2006. Or the Office of Management and Budget, whose chief procurement officer was sentenced to prison in the Abramoff fallout. I will, however, toss in a figure that reveals the sheer depth of the overall malfeasance: no fewer than four inspectors general, the official watchdogs charged with investigating improprieties in each department, are themselves under investigation simultaneously — an all-time record.
Wrongdoing of this magnitude does not happen by accident, but it is not necessarily instigated by a Watergate-style criminal conspiracy. When corruption is this pervasive, it can also be a byproduct of a governing philosophy....It’s not the philosophy Mr. Bush campaigned on. Remember the candidate who billed himself as a “different kind of Republican” and a “compassionate conservative”? Karl Rove wanted to build a lasting Republican majority by emulating the tactics of the 1896 candidate, William McKinley, whose victory ushered in G.O.P. dominance that would last until the New Deal some 35 years later. The Rove plan was to add to the party’s base, much as McKinley had at the dawn of the industrial era, by attracting new un-Republican-like demographic groups, including Hispanics and African-Americans....As always, the salesmanship was brilliant....As Matthew Dowd, the disaffected Bush pollster, concluded this spring, the uniter he had so eagerly helped elect turned out to be “not the person” he thought, but instead a divider who wanted to appeal to the “51 percent of the people” who would ensure his hold on power.
But it isn’t just the divisive Bush-Rove partisanship that led to scandal. The corruption grew out of the White House’s insistence that partisanship — the maintenance of that 51 percent — dictate every governmental action no matter what the effect on the common good. And so the first M.B.A. president ignored every rule of sound management. Loyal ideologues or flunkies were put in crucial positions regardless of their ethics or competence. Government business was outsourced to campaign contributors regardless of their ethics or competence. Even orthodox Republican fiscal prudence was tossed aside so Congressional allies could be bought off with bridges to nowhere.
This was true way before many, let alone Matthew Dowd, were willing to see it. It was true before the Iraq war. In retrospect, the first unimpeachable evidence of the White House’s modus operandi was reported by the journalist Ron Suskind, for Esquire, at the end of 2002. Mr. Suskind interviewed an illustrious Bush appointee, the University of Pennsylvania political scientist John DiIulio, who had run the administration’s compassionate-conservative flagship, the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. Bemoaning an unprecedented “lack of a policy apparatus” in the White House, Mr. DiIulio said: “What you’ve got is everything — and I mean everything — being run by the political arm. It’s the reign of the Mayberry Machiavellis.”
His words have been borne out repeatedly: by the unqualified political hacks and well-connected no-bid contractors who sabotaged the occupation and reconstruction of Iraq; the politicization of science at the Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency; the outsourcing of veterans’ care to a crony company at Walter Reed; and the purge of independent United States attorneys at Alberto Gonzales’s Justice Department. But even more pertinent, perhaps, to the Republican future is how the Mayberry Machiavellis alienated the precise groups that Mr. Bush had promised to add to his party’s base.
By installing a political hack, his 2000 campaign manager, Joe Allbaugh, at the top of FEMA, the president foreordained the hiring of Brownie and the disastrous response to Katrina. At the Education Department, the signature No Child Left Behind program, Reading First, is turning out to be a cesspool of contracting conflicts of interest. It’s also at that department that Bush loyalists stood passively by while the student-loan industry scandal exploded; at its center is Nelnet, the single largest corporate campaign contributor to the 2006 G.O.P. Congressional campaign committee. Back at Mr. Gonzales’s operation, where revelations of politicization and cover-ups mount daily, it turns out that no black lawyers have been hired in the nearly all-white criminal section of the civil rights division since 2003....
...The once-reliable evangelical base is starting to drift as some of its leaders join the battle against global warming and others recognize that they’ve been played for fools on “family values” by the G.O.P. establishment that covered up for Mark Foley. Meanwhile, most of the pressing matters that the public cares passionately about — Iraq, health care, the environment and energy independence — belong for now to the Democrats....You don’t see Democratic candidates changing the subject to J.F.K. and F.D.R. They are free to start wrestling with the future while the men inheriting the Bush-Rove brand of Republicanism are reduced to harking back to [Ronald Reagan's] morning in America on which the sun set in 1989.
Breaking News: U.S. Government Warns About Nepal, But Not England, Jerry Politex
The U.S. government recently warned its citizens against travel to Nepal because of the threat of demonstrations turning dangerous. Yesterday, reports Christine, she got out of a car in front of the Royal Palace, blocked by a mob protesting recent gas scarcity, and walked through a block-long crowd to her favorite bookstore in the Themel tourist district two blocks away.
Meanwhile in inexpensive York, England, reports the New York Times in yesterday's travel section, "At 200 pounds ($400 American dollars) a night for our room [at Best Western], this was a good deal for five in expensive England." The childrens' menu offered kids shepherd's pie for $20.00. Doesn't our government need to issue a travel warning about super-expensive England?
I'm Back! Random Thoughts After Two Months Away, Jerry Politex
Getting back behind the Bush Watch news desk after spending two months in third-world country, Nepal, I'm amazed at how so little new has happened in U.S. politics during that time. Months of the same old same old, it seems. Examples in random order:
1. After a great deal of thought about the trend in presidential power since Nixon, we've decided to call the next presidential election DICTATORSHIP '08.
2. Or as the International Herald Tribune might have written, based on a headline that remained on its site for hours last week, The Road to the "WSHITE HOUSE."
2. John Edwards continues to take himself out of the running by focusing upon the poor and the need for labor unions. Unlike Hill and Borat [sic], doesn't he understand that corporations run this country and its presidential candidates?
3. Meanwhile, Bush continues to do the corporate bidding of those who put him in power, much to the detriment of the average American: "In the Bush years high profits haven’ t led to high investment, and rising productivity hasn’t led to rising wages....Every available measure of income concentration shows that we've gone back to levels of inequality not seen since the 1920s." [Krugman]
4. The first Republican presidential debate had 10 middle-aged white male used car salesmen trying to convince us that Ronald Reagan is presently in the White House.
5. If there ever was a doubt that Americans are dying every day in Iraq to keep our future oil supply running, apologist Thomas Friedman put in unmistakable terms: "You can’t be serious about getting out of Iraq if you’re not serious about getting off oil."
6. Albert Gonzales continues to lie and make fools of the American people by saying he was clueless about why nine fed prosecutors were fired. The NYT called his last meeting with a House committee a "stumbling, evasive, amnesia-filled performance [which] defied belief [and contained] memory lapses and apparent prevarications." Bush Watch reported similar behavior when he was Gv. Bush's lawyer back in '99. (Sigh.)
7. What important event of the last two months are we missing re domestic politics? Please write
Olbermann Given Molly Ivins Award
8. As Wolfowitz continues to play "Let's Make a Deal" on his way out of the World Bank, we have the ugly spectacle of the world's bankers promising that he'll be replaced by another American. Anything to get rid of the Bush man who is proving that Bush men don't need to be members of his administration to continue their corruption. When Bush says someone's "a good man," he means the guy's a corrupt liar who understands nothing's personal, it's all businesss.
9. Tony Blair has quit to collect his Bush bribe for backing him in the Iraq blood bath, a lucrative position with the Carlyle Group. The Guardian: "Since the start of the "war on terrorism", the firm - unofficially valued at $13.5bn - has taken on an added significance. Carlyle has become the thread which indirectly links American military policy in Afghanistan to the personal financial fortunes of its celebrity employees, not least the current president's father." (2001)
10. Germany's "Iron Frau Angela Merkel and [France's recently elected] Nicolas Sarkozy, dubbed 'Thatcher without petticoats.'" [Dowd], along with Austria and Italy, are turning Europe to the right, in part as a response to immigration. Corporations like cheap labor from abroad, then get an additional boost when governments become repressive to fight unacceptable immigrant values.
Bush Poodle Quits: Tony Blair As Sid Vicious In "Sid & Nancy" , Steve Bell
See video of Tony Blair (Gary Olderman) on "I Quit" tour HERE
French Election: WHAT SARKOZY'S VICTORY MEANS, Doug Ireland
In the third consecutive defeat for the French left in a presidential election, NICOLAS SARKOZY (left) has been chosen to lead France with a comfortable 53.7% of the vote, as the pre-election opinion polls had predicted. His Socialist opponent, Segolene Royal, received 46.3%, according to the exit polls. A whopping record 86% of French voters went to the polls today to give an unambiguous victory to the autocratic, demagogic, hard-right nationalist Sarkozy, who campaigned on promises of a "rupture" with France's mixed economy and its welfare state, one of the most extensive in Europe.
The crowd in the hall where Sarkozy declared victory after the polls closed repeatedly sang the national anthem, La Marseillaise -- with its famous xenophobic refrain, "Marchons, marchons! Qu'un sang impur abreuve nos sillons!" (Translation: Let us march, let us march, May impure blood soak the furrows of our fields.) And Sarkozy's campaign was marked by incessant appeals to racism and the fear of immigrants, symbolized by his adoption of a slogan used by the neo-fascist leader Jean-Marie Le Pen, "France, love it or leave it," and by his proposal for a new "Ministry of Immigration and National Identity," which was widely criticized by the left and by anti-racist groups for amalgamating the two concepts and suggesting a fundamental opposition between the two.
In fact, the campaign strategy of "Sarko," as he is referred to in France, was based on appeals to the electorate of Le Pen (right) and his Front National party, which in the last presidential election in 2002 had beaten the Socialists for the place in the run-off against then-president Jacques Chirac. That lurch to the right five years ago by a significant portion of formerly left voters was confirmed by today's vote, in which more than two-thirds of former Le Pen voters -- many of them from the one-time Communist-dominated working class suburbs -- went for Sarkozy, according to the exit polls.
Indeed, as the weekly Le Canard Enchaine -- which has the best insider political gossip -- reported a couple of weeks ago, a Sarkozy confident of victory had already discussed his long-term political strategy for remaining in power -- for, as Le Canard revealed, he plans to integrate the Front National into his ruling UMP party in his second term, uniting the hard-right and the neo-fascist extreme right in an alliance imitating that operated by the Italian Silvio Berlusconi with the "post-fascist" Alleanza Nationale of Gianfranco Fini (right), who was Berlusoconi's vice-premier.
In his victory remarks within minutes after TV declared him the winner, Sarkozy -- frequently referred to the in the French press as "Sarko l'americain" for his aggressively Atlanticist views and his sympathy for Bush -- promised a cheering audience of supporters that "the American people can count on our friendship" and that the war on terrorism "is of primary importance in the world, it is a fight that will be our fight" under his leadership. In fact, President Bush called Sarkozy within a few minutes after the polls closed to congratulate him, according to a report on France 2 public television. (At left, a widely-circulated satirical poster, based on the French title of the movie "Fatal Attraction," showing Sarkozy during a visit with George W. Bush in the White House. This famous photo was widely commented upon in France, for it shows Sarko the same height as Bush -- even though the diminutive Sarkozy is several inches shorter than the U.S. president. Sarko had worn lifts in his shoes for the photo-op meeting to make them seem of equal height. No wonder the iconoclastic centrist magazine Marianne recently portrayed Sarko on its cover as Napoleon, another tiny authoritarian.)
But in reality, what Sarkozy's victory means for France is something closer to the so-called "Reagan Revolution" in the U.S. that began in 1981 the process of dismantling and destroying the institutional New Deal legacy of Franklin D. Roosevelt. Chirac was a Gaullist, and the political heritage of General Charles De Gaulle, who led France from 1958 to 1969, included a vigorously statist approach to the economy and defense of a wide series of social protection and social safety-net measures that had been instituted by the left's Popular Front government in the mid-1930s, and which were renewed and extended by post-war governments dominated by the political activists of the Resistance movement to Nazi occupation, who had a conception of government as a guarantor of economic security for all. Sarkozy is of a new generation than his predecessor Chirac and, ideologically, is not a Gaullist -- but rather Sarko is in phase with the "Chicago school" of economics led by Milton Friedman.
Sarko believes in minimal government, a slimmed-down state that interferes as little as possible in the economy, an aggressively laissez-faire approach that is dear to the economic barons of the MEDEF, the French business leaders' association, whose tycoons were solidly behind Sarkozy's candidacy. Sarkozy has already promised to, in effect, abolish the ISF (the tax on large fortunes), accord more tax breaks to big business and the upper-middle-classes, and make more cuts in the state-run national health system (declared by a U.N. survey to be the finest in the world in terms of delivery of health services and quality of care.) Sarkozy's economic program is designed to help the already-privileged classes retain and extend their socio-economic position, to the detriment of the have-nots (the massive pro-Sarkozy vote in the upper-income neighborhoods today confirms that they understood Sarko's message to them.) And he has promised a major down-sizing of the civil service employed by state agencies.
Sarkozy is a skilled demagogue who, on the stump, tried to give the impression (like Bush's first presidential campaign did) that he was a "compassionate conservative." But Sarkozy's so-called "compassion" is strictly rhetorical -- his concrete economic orientation is bound to deepen the gulf between the haves and the have nots, to aggravate what Jacques Chirac -- in a famous phrase from his 1995 re-election campaign -- had baptized the "social fracture."
Sarko's speech tonight had accents of Petain, when he declared that his election represented "a break with the past," and that he intended to rehabilitate work, authority, morality, respect and merit.” Another odious moment in Sarkozy's victory peroration came when he proclaimed that France would no longer be a country of "repenting" -- this was a dig at Chirac, who was the first French president to apologize for the crimes committed by the Vichy French state against Jews under the Nazi occupation, and who'd sent an ambassador to apologize to the Algerians for the French massacre of thousands of civilians in the city of Setif that had triggered the bloody war for Algerian independence from France's colonial rule. It was an ugly moment in Sarko's frightening speech, and a bow to Le Pen's notorious anti-Semitism, and Sarko's "break with the past" means a closing of the books on the most unsavory parts of France's recent history.
Life for the have-nots will become even more difficult under Sarkozy's hard-right, anti-immigrant, law-and-order society. He has announced "zero tolerance" for illegal immigration, has deported tens of thousands of immigrants during his two terms as Interior Minister and split up immigrant families while making it tougher for them to become French citizens. He has proposed strict minimum sentences for all sorts of crimes, thus removing all discretion from French judges, and France's already-crowded prisons will soon be overflowing with expanded, and younger, populations. French prisons, like ours, are training institutes for criminals, and by sending ever-larger numbers of young people to them for petty offenses Sarkozy will, in fact, be manufacturing new generations of hardened voyous (thugs in French.) (Above left, Sarko as his puppet character in the popular satirical TV show "Les Guignols," showing him as the Chilean dictator Pinochet. Above his head, the balloon has him saying, "Too much liberty kills liberty.") In 1986, I was in Paris during the legislative elections that made Jacques Chirac prime minister for the first time -- and the next day, the police -- who sensed that the right's victory had unleashed them -- displayed an openly hostile and noticeably new aggressive posture toward people of color in the streets. I've had reports from French friends that the same thing happened after Sarkozy's strong, lead showing in the first round of this presidential election two weeks ago. Now, with Sarkozy's election, one can expect that the forces of law-and-order will consider that all restraints on them have been removed, and it will be more unpleasant than ever to be an Arab or black in France, no matter how many generations one's family has lived there or how perfectly one speaks French. (Remember Sarkozy's hard-line program of repression during the October 2005 ghetto riots against racism, exclusion, and unemployment that had all France in flames?)
Sarkozy absolutely hates the left -- in part because the Communists burned his aristocratic family's chateau in Hungary (from whence his family emigrated to France) in 1944. And, in a major campaign speech just days before the election, Sarkozy surprisingly devoted 20 minutes of his discourse to a violent denunciation of the May 1968 student-worker revolt (Sarko was only 14 at the time of that rebellion.). The heritage of May ';68, Sarko thundered, must be "liquidated." He blamed it for a generalized attitude of "laxisme," for France's having become a country "in which work has no value, in which people think they can do anything they feel like doing, in which people are lazy," and on and on. May '68 was, of course, the fountain of social ferment that led to the sexual revolution, to women's liberation and the legalization of abortion, the gay liberation movement and the eventual repeal of laws criminalizing homosexuality, the relaxation of censorship laws, and a whole series of other cultural changes that opened up a stuffy, paternalistic, arteriosclerotic French society. But May '68 was also a general strike by 11 million French workers that gained union recognition in many factories, higher wages, and that won a reinforcement of the social safety net in an agreement (negotiated on behalf of then-President Georges Pompidou by a young Jacques Chirac) that became known as "les accords de la rue de Grenelle" (the agreement of Grenelle Street). What was unstated in Sarko's anti-May '68 speech was that all that sort of thing, too, must be "liquidated." Dark days are ahead for those who love liberty, equality, and fraternity in France. (For more, see my earlier article, "Why Sarkozy Is Dangerous.")
FOR MORE BACKGROUND INFORMATION on today's post, see my earlier reports on France's presidential election:
March 10, "Can Bayrou Beat Segolene Royal?"
February 22, "Segolene Royal in Free-Fall"
February 9, "France: Bad News for the Left";
February 1, "Jose Bove Complicates the Contest"
December 14, 2005 -- "The Rapid Rise of Segolene Royal"
Myth, Religion, and Politics: Bush As Religious Icon: Background, Jerry Barrett
In A SHORT HISTORY OF MYTH, Karen Armstrong has taken a number of her most cogent ideas developed in books of greater length and compressed them into a provocative overview. She sees myth as stories we tell ourselves in order to both deal with the world we find ourselves in and cope with questions we have about other possible forms of existence. As such, these stories are not factual (logos), but they are "true" (mythos), in that they serve a theraputic purpose. Armstrong believes that in order for a myth to do this, it is repeated as ritual and provides the participant with an ethical discipline. The "truth" is in the positive experience of the ritual participant, not in the original event, in and of itself. As an example, Armstrong writes, "the death and 'rising up' of Jesus was a myth: it happened once to Jesus, and was now happening all the time."
One source of a myth is the socio-cultural upheaval that occures when a civilization changes and an old myth is no longer applicable to the changed civilization. As an example, Armstrong points to the fall of Rome, "source of rationality, law and order in the West, brought low by the barbarian tribes." At that point in history, Bishop Augustine of Hippo (354-430) in North Africa "reinterpreted the myth of Adam and Eve and developed the myth of Original Sin...[a] vision of reason dragged down by chaos of sensations and lawless passion." She notes that the "Greek Orthodox of Byzantium, where Rome did not fall, have never fully endorsed this doctrine....and have asserted that God would have become human even if Adam had not sinned."
With time and the willingness of world leaders such as Bush to re-write history to suit their needs, some of what the average world citizen accepts as fact is actually myth, be it political or religious. Armstrong notes that this was not as great a problem prior to the Fifth Century age of rational thought (logos) in Greece. Prior to that, she suggests, believers and followers of myth generally knew that myth resided outside the realm of history, that it was not fact. However, "logos tries to establish truth by means of carefull inquiry in a way that appeals only to critical intelligence." In such a light, Plato would have observed, "using reason to discuss the sacred was about as pointless as trying to eat soup with a fork."
But try they did. "When Plato and Aristotle were translated into Arabic during the eighth and ninth centuries," Armstrong writes, "some Muslims tried to make the religion of the Koran a religion of logos. They evolved "proofs" for the existence of Allah, modelled on Aristotle's demonsration of the First Cause. These Faylasufs, as they were called, wanted to purge Islam of what they regarded as primitive, mythical elements...Significantly, the Greek Orthodox Christians despised this rational project....In their view, the study of theology could not be a rational exercise." Both Muslims and Jews, who tried their own theoolgical experiments with logic, eventually agreed. (to be continued)
Sellouts: "Timid" Prez Candidates Hillary and Edwards Supported Bush War Of "Death and Carnage", Maureen Dowd
If Colin Powell and George Tenet had walked out of the administration in February 2003 instead of working together on that tainted U.N. speech making the bogus case for war, they might have turned everything around. They might have saved the lives and limbs of all those brave U.S. kids and innocent Iraqis, not to mention our world standing and national security....General Powell was furious at Slam[-Dunk]. But they both share blame: they knew better. They put their loyalty to a runaway White House ahead of their loyalty to a fearful public...
It would certainly have been harder for timid Democrats, like Hillary Clinton, John Kerry and John Edwards, to back up the administration if two members of the Bush inner circle had broken away to tell an increasingly apparent truth: that Dick Cheney, Rummy and the neocons were feverishly pushing a naïve president into invading Iraq with junk facts....
Six former C.I.A. officials sent Mr. Tenet a letter via his publisher — no wonder we’re in trouble if spooks can’t figure out the old Head Spook’s home address — berating him for pretending he wrote his self-serving book partly to defend the honor of the agency and demanding that “at least half” of the profits be given to wounded soldiers and the families of dead soldiers (there needs to be a Son of Slam law). One of the signers, Larry Johnson, told CNN that Slam “is profiting from the blood of American soldiers.”
“By your silence you helped build the case for war,” the former C.I.A. officials wrote. “You betrayed the C.I.A. officers who collected the intelligence that made it clear that Saddam did not pose an imminent threat. You betrayed the analysts who tried to withstand the pressure applied by Cheney and Rumsfeld.”
They also said, “Although C.I.A. officers learned in late September 2002 from a high-level member of Saddam Hussein’s inner circle that Iraq had no past or present contact with Osama bin Laden and that the Iraqi leader considered Bin Laden an enemy ... you still went before Congress in February 2003 and testified that Iraq did indeed have links to Al Qaeda. ...
“In the end you allowed suspect sources, like Curveball, to be used based on very limited reporting and evidence.” They concluded that “your tenure as head of the C.I.A. has helped create a world that is more dangerous. ... It is doubly sad that you seem still to lack an adequate appreciation of the enormous amount of death and carnage you have facilitated.”
Liar Bush: Bush Will Lie To Us "About Anything", Bob Herbert, Frank Rich
A government that will lie about the tragic fates of honorable young Americans like Pat Tillman and Jessica Lynch will lie to the public about anything....
Corporal Tillman was killed by an American soldier in a friendly-fire incident. Instead of telling the truth, the military created an account in which Corporal Tillman, exhibiting extreme bravery, was cut down by enemy fire. Pat Tillman’s younger brother, Kevin, appalled at what the government had done, told the committee how the corporal had been publicly praised and posthumously awarded the Silver Star for valor for what the Army described as his heroic confrontation with the “well-armed enemy.” The only problem with the Army’s account, said Kevin Tillman, was that “it was utter fiction.”
What the hearing underscored was the likelihood that the White House also knew very early on what the Army knew and covered up: the football star’s supposed death in battle in Afghanistan, vividly described in a Pentagon press release awarding him a Silver Star, was a complete fabrication, told to the world (and Tillman’s parents) even though top officers already suspected he had died by friendly fire. The White House apparently decided to join the Pentagon in maintaining that lie so that it could be milked for P.R. purposes on two television shows, the correspondents’ dinner on May 1, 2004, and a memorial service for Tillman two days later.
The timeline of events in the week or so leading up to that dinner is startling. Tillman was killed on April 22, 2004. By the next day top officers knew he had not been killed by enemy fire. On April 29, a top special operations commander sent a memo to John Abizaid, among other generals, suggesting that the White House be warned off making specific public claims about how Tillman died. Simultaneously, according to an e-mail that surfaced last week, a White House speechwriter contacted the Pentagon to gather information about Tillman for use at the correspondents’ dinner.
When President Bush spoke at the dinner at week’s end, he followed his jokes with a eulogy about Tillman’s sacrifice. But he kept the circumstances of Tillman’s death vague, no doubt because the White House did indeed get the message that the Pentagon’s press release about Tillman’s losing his life in battle was fiction. Yet it would be four more weeks before Pat Tillman’s own family was let in on the truth.
To see why the administration wanted to keep the myth going, just look at other events happening in the week before that correspondents’ dinner. On April 28, 2004, CBS broadcast the first photographs from Abu Ghraib; on April 29 a poll on The Times’s front page found the president’s approval rating on the war was plummeting; on April 30 Ted Koppel challenged the administration’s efforts to keep the war dead hidden by reading the names of the fallen on “Nightline.” Tillman could be useful to help drown out all this bad news, and to an extent he was. The Washington press corps that applauded the president at the correspondents’ dinner is the same press corps that was slow to recognize the importance of Abu Ghraib that weekend and, as documented by a new study, “When the Press Fails” (University of Chicago Press), even slower to label the crimes as torture....
After last weekend’s correspondents’ dinner, The Times decided to end its participation in such events. But even were the dinner to vanish altogether, it remains but a yearly televised snapshot of the overall syndrome. The current White House, weakened as it is, can still establish story lines as fake as “Mission Accomplished” and get a free pass.
To pick just one overarching example: much of the press still takes it as a given that Iraq has a functioning government that might meet political benchmarks (oil law, de-Baathification reform, etc., etc.) that would facilitate an American withdrawal. In reality, the Maliki “government” can’t meet any benchmarks, even if they were enforced, because that government exists only as a fictional White House talking point. As Gen. Barry McCaffrey said last week, this government doesn’t fully control a single province. Its Parliament, now approaching a scheduled summer recess, has passed no major legislation in months. Iraq’s sole recent democratic achievement is to ban the release of civilian casualty figures, lest they challenge White House happy talk about “progress” in Iraq....
Warlord Bush: Bush Iraq War Accounts For 65% Of Terrorism Deaths This Year, BBC
The number of people killed around the world in terror attacks rose by 40% last year to more than 20,000, the US State Department has said. The increase is mostly due to greater violence in Iraq the State Department's annual report on terrorism says....The number of attacks in Iraq nearly doubled to 6,630, accounting for 45% of the global total. Iraq alone accounts for nearly two-thirds of all terrorism-related deaths last year....
GLOBAL TERROR REPORT 2006
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