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March 13, 2005

still not paranoid, just mad as hell

Is the MSM a victim of cost-cutting measures and lack of resources or are networks (broadcast and cable) complicit in passing government propaganda as news? In an elaborate game of production and distribution, federal agencies are creating video vignettes that mimic news reports which are then showing up on numerous local broadcasts as hard news. In the New York Times this article while describing the process and interviewing some of the players involved comes to no real conclusion or in other words, places no blame – just like journalists are supposed to do. It reports the facts. So, which is it - a predatory government with or without a complicit press? The only thing that seems certain is a predatory government.

I am not pointing my finger at the Bush Administration alone, but at all governments past and present, here and abroad, that choose to manipulate public opinion to further their policy ends rather than enter into an open discourse with their citizens. Of course, I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t point out that in recent US history this Bush administration is the most active in rigging public opinion and the reporting of it in the news. Besides paid punditry, canned PR news reports and stacked Town Hall meetings, this administration had its own “news agency” and tame reporter in the White House Press Room, in the forms of Talon News and Jeff Gannon/James Guckert. If, as this administration says, they want to remove the media filter from their message, why do they go to such great lengths to manipulate that filter? Why not address us directly and openly with regular government sponsored broadcasts that say up front this is the administration’s POV? Could it be that without the filter the majority of the population would disagree?

It is a natural desire for those in power to want to remain in power. Using the tools of their power to reward those who helped them to achieve it is also a perfectly natural outcome. Hence, the bankruptcy bill, tort reform, the Medicare prescription bill, Social Security reform, tax cuts and restrictions on a woman’s right to choose are all efforts by our elected officials to repay the campaign contributions of the moneyed interests that supported their campaigns. They are not the actions of people beholden to their constituents but to their pocketbooks. Manipulation of the media (and through it our citizenry) is simply one more tool wielded in their effort to consolidate and expand their base of power.

These are the sad realities that make the blogosphere and the Internet so very important to the future of democracy and the protections and freedoms that true democracy affords. Whether the MSM is criminally complicit or simply overwhelmed or just plain lazy, it is incumbent upon every citizen to seek and speak their own truth in their daily duty to exercise the privileges and responsibilities of freedom.

Government is an institution that derives its legitimate power from the consent of the governed. Do not grant that consent without first ensuring that the interests of our population are served first and served well.

February 20, 2005

Christianity, GOP-style

Imagine how the rest of the world, especially the non-Christian world, must think the most important Christian values are in the United States:

I mean, say you'd never read the bible and you were trying to figure out what it's all about based solely on how it's represented in public politics. You'd have to assume that Jesus was this, like, insanely angry dude who had a lot of ideas about how the Romans ought to run their government and totally fucking hated gays more than anything. In fact, you would fairly guess that Jesus talked about his theories on sexuality, birthing, and science like 99% of the time, but maybe had, like, a passing hobby where he gave soup cans to lepers on thanksgiving or whatever.

(From Big Picnic via The Poor Man. )

January 29, 2005

Blog from Iraq

Dahr Jamail is doing the type of reporting that most of the rest of the media won't or can't. As sad and scary as these blog entries are I think everyone should take a look and get a rude wake up to the reality of what this "war for democracy" is doing to civilian Iraqis.

I am so appalled that this is being done in the name of this country and in the name of freedom. The stories about Fallujah are especially troubling.

And for anyone that thinks that we are going anywhere after the elections I would just like to remind them of the 14 "enduring" US military bases that are currently under construction.

Regardless of the success or failure of the Iraqi election, we should all be ready for US troops to be in Iraq for a very long time.

January 23, 2005

The Committee of World Security

I didn't think Donald Rumsfeld could be any scarier but after reading this article in the Washington Post (reprinted in the Seattle Times) I'm ready for The Rapture. Apparently, our military doesn't have enough reliable intelligence and Porter Goss in charge of the CIA hasn't convinced Rummy that the situation is about to change.

"The previously undisclosed organization, called the Strategic Support Branch, arose from Rumsfeld's written order to end his "near total dependence on CIA" for what is known as human intelligence. Designed to operate without detection and under the defense secretary's direct control, the Strategic Support Branch deploys small teams of case officers, linguists, interrogators and technical specialists alongside newly empowered special operations forces."

Of course the real benefit to Rummy and the Bush administration is the "less stringent congressional oversight" said to be applied to the intelligence missions carried out by the Defense Dept. Because that's what all Americans want - more places where Rummy is unsupervised carrying out the neocon agenda. After all, it's going so well in Iraq.

"The Strategic Support Branch was created to provide Rumsfeld with independent tools for the "full spectrum of humint operations," according to an internal account of its origin and mission. Human intelligence operations, a term used in counterpoint to technical means such as satellite photography, range from interrogation of prisoners and scouting of targets in wartime to the peacetime recruitment of foreign spies. A recent Pentagon memo states that recruited agents may include "notorious figures" whose links to the U.S. government would be embarrassing if disclosed."

Like Pinochet, Noriega, the Contras, Hussein and Bin Laden were all notriously aided by US intelligence and military agencies in their immediate goals of either overthrowing socialist governments or fighting US enemies in a proxy war. It is obvious that these people are still willing to fight "the war on terrorism" with the same tactics employed in the Cold War. And we've seen how well that turned out. Yeah, sure, the wall came down and the USSR is no more but the downside of these tactics and policies have had many more and further-reaching negative impacts than I believe anyone thought at the time.

Let's just take Bin Laden as an example of this. We aided OBL in Afghanistan when his crew was taking on the Soviets. They were ultimately successful with covert US help. We taught OBL how to recruit, discipline and train a militia to combat an identified enemy. Didn't anyone foresee that we may one day become that enemy? Isn't anyone afraid of the next friend-turned-foe that our government is cultivating in our "national interest?"

I could argue other unintended consequences like the loss of control over Soviet nuclear warheads and the continuing deterioration of African nation-states but the worst outcome for the US (and I think you all understand this) is with the absence of the Soviet Union as a superpower we became the only game in town. The vaccuum created by the fall of the USSR has allowed anyone with complaints, grudges and prejudices to focus on us as their primary, and maybe only adversary.

I know it's an ugly world with harsh realities and many believe that we have to employ these tactics on an ongoing basis or be caught unaware of the next threat. I am not arguing that we were better off during the Cold War - MAD was a stupid policy. However, when will our government make positive policy decisions to undermine the tenets of terrorist organizations and the nation-states that are pursuing nuclear arms rather than exacerbate the situation by relying solely upon tactics that reinforce the worst beliefs of US critics and enemies (and empower those future, unknown threats.)

I don't know, but I believe removing Bush and his neocon handlers from power would be a powerful first step. At the very least get rid of Rummy.

January 07, 2005

IOKIYAR

I have to agree with Robert at LGM when he calls this column, titled "Worse than fiction," Krugman's best. Excerpting:

I've been thinking of writing a political novel. It will be a bad novel because there won't be any nuance: the villains won't just espouse an ideology I disagree with - they'll be hypocrites, cranks and scoundrels.

In my bad novel, a famous moralist who demanded national outrage over an affair and writes best-selling books about virtue will turn out to be hiding an expensive gambling habit. A talk radio host who advocates harsh penalties for drug violators will turn out to be hiding his own drug addiction.

In my bad novel, crusaders for moral values will be driven by strange obsessions. One senator's diatribe against gay marriage will link it to "man on dog" sex. Another will rant about the dangers of lesbians in high school bathrooms.

In my bad novel, the president will choose as head of homeland security a "good man" who turns out to have been the subject of an arrest warrant, who turned an apartment set aside for rescue workers into his personal love nest and who stalked at least one of his ex-lovers.

In my bad novel, a TV personality who claims to stand up for regular Americans against the elite will pay a large settlement in a sexual harassment case, in which he used his position of power to - on second thought, that story is too embarrassing even for a bad novel.

In my bad novel, apologists for the administration will charge foreign policy critics with anti-Semitism. But they will be silent when a prominent conservative declares that "Hollywood is controlled by secular Jews who hate Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular."

In my bad novel the administration will use the slogan "support the troops" to suppress criticism of its war policy. But it will ignore repeated complaints that the troops lack armor.

The secretary of defense - another "good man," according to the president - won't even bother signing letters to the families of soldiers killed in action.

Last but not least, in my bad novel the president, who portrays himself as the defender of good against evil, will preside over the widespread use of torture.

How did we find ourselves living in a bad novel? It was not ever thus. Hypocrites, cranks and scoundrels have always been with us, on both sides of the aisle. But 9/11 created an environment some liberals summarize with the acronym Iokiyar: it's O.K. if you're a Republican.

January 03, 2005

Josh Marshall on W's big con

Josh at Talking Points Memo has a great post this morning that outlines why the "Social Security Crisis!" is really just the flipside of our huge national debt addiction--and how privatization is really a way of leaving the middle class and working poor with the bill for 25 years of tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.

The United States has a bit over $7 trillion in accumulated national debt. You can say that's been built up over the history of the country. But overwhelmingly it was borrowed over what happens to be the span of my lifetime -- the last thirty-five years -- and especially over the last twenty-five years.

After 1980 we started borrowing money big-time to finance our deficits -- in large part because of tax cuts on high-income earners. However you want to slice it, we started spending substantially more than we were taking in in tax revenue.

So where'd we borrow the money?

This is from memory, so I may have the numbers a bit off. But I believe about $4 trillion of that debt was borrowed on the open market -- individual Americans have them in their investment portfolios, or pension funds hold them, or the Chinese, Japanese and the Saudis and others have them in bonds.

But about $3 trillion of those dollars we needed to fund the 1980s and 1990s deficits we managed to borrow closer to home. We borrowed it from the Social Security (and a few other government) trust fund(s).

Almost the entirety of President Bush's Social Security phase-out plan comes down to a simple proposition: finding out how not to pay it back.

Now, admittedly, this is an approach that the president is rather familiar with from his own business career at various failed energy companies. But it is, in so many words, a straight up con -- one of vast scale, and one which virtually no one in the media ever frames in just these terms.

Before discussing that aspect of the question, consider a hypothetical. Let's say there'd not been a Social Security -- President Bush's dreamworld. We'd still have had the same deficits. The difference would be that we'd have had to borrow from private borrowers in the US and abroad.

Think we'd just be able to decide not to pay them back? Not likely. The Joneses and the Smiths with their 401ks probably wouldn't like that. And the Japanese and Saudis probably wouldn't like it much either. Of course, defaulting on our entire national debt would also certainly trigger a seismic international financial crisis. So you can probably figure that no one would be a huge fan of it.

So why does the president figure he can get away without making good on the debt to the folks who pay Social Security taxes, who are overwhelmingly low and middle-income wage earners (since no one pays Social Security tax on investment income or wage and salary income over about $85,000 a year)?

Isn't it obvious? Because he thinks they're an easy mark.

December 17, 2004

Spellin'--it's hard. Hard work.

From Atrios, an image that really makes one confident that the Preznit is gonna overcome the "challanges" our economy faces.

r892719563.jpg

Grow the pie higher, idiots.

November 13, 2004

November 10, 2004

the king is dead, long live the fool

Jerry Falwell is at it again.

Why, oh why must we take people like this seriously? Isn't there some sort of legal challenge that can be brought against this type of activity? Isn't it illegal to enforce a religious test upon public officials? Yes, I know, it is illegal for the government to do it. How do we get this guy to go away?

I want my country back.

November 09, 2004

Good news! Everything's fine!

Apparently not a member of the "reality-based community" John Ashcroft announced that he is resigning as Attorney General because "The objective of securing the safety of Americans from crime and terror has been achieved."

I am breathing such a sigh of relief. I'm putting away the bat signal, since there's nothing to worry about. Think of all the money we no longer have to spend on police, 911, Homeland Security. Everything will now balance out even WITH all those tax cuts for the rich.

November 03, 2004

how "morality" is crippling our democracy

I found myself at 1:00 am pondering the bizarre result that "morality" was one of the most important drivers for voters at the polls. Equally disturbing is that an overwhelming majority of those waving this particular flag voted for Bush. In this particular election cycle, "morality" became the pollster/network shorthand for divisive social issues; abortion, gay marriage, stem cell research, equal pay... "Morality" in the United States has become intolerant, hateful and politically handy. (continued)

According to merriamwebster.com the definition of moral is: “of or relating to principles of right and wrong in behavior; ethical.” Morality is “a doctrine or system of moral conduct.”

I think it is important to start with “right” and “wrong.” In the “morality” debate when someone is “wrong” they become sinful, shameful and well, not human, somehow. Because a person is in support of making a medical procedure legally available and safe or funding groundbreaking medical research, in the “morality” debate, they are murderers and therefore disenfranchised. Because a person is in favor of extending equal protection of law to individuals regardless of sex or sexual orientation, in the “morality” debate, they are perverted, mentally abnormal, and therefore disenfranchised.

Everyone likes to be right, correct, virtuous, if you will. However, you only get to be right if someone else is wrong. It is this most basic of human vanities that the Republican Party and the evangelical community has seized upon and made their most powerful weapon in political discourse. Some would accuse the GOP of “dumbing-down” complex issues. However, it is really a very sophisticated psychological trap that has caught voters in their most private moment of yearning to appear more honorable than they are in their everyday choices.

Introducing religion into what should be a discussion about the civil responsibilities of a government to its people in a country that has an explicit separation of church and state should be a non-starter. But in the “morality” debate this line is not only blurred but erased in the name of “right.” Yes, our founding fathers were church-going, God-fearing Christians who were tremendously grateful for the grace that blessed them with their opportunity to prosper in a new land. However, even they understood that religion and politics don’t mix. The history of religious persecution in France and England, as well as the divine right of kings was not what they wanted for our nation.

The political activism of the evangelical community has not only derailed the Republican Party from its historical track of “champion for personal privacy,” it has created a vitriolic atmosphere for any type of social issue where the rights of the individual are in direct competition with religious dogma. In this argument the individual will always be “wrong” and religious doctrine ensures that they are damned into the bargain. The longer this state of affairs is allowed to continue, the harder it will be for our government to ensure the rights of our social and racial minorities. A ruler who prays for strength or is strengthened by the prayers of others is one thing. A ruler who states his religious conviction as one of the primary reasons he rules as he does is a problem. This is too close to divine right for comfort.

We have started down the slippery slope to a theocracy parading as an oligarchy. The most intriguing part of this is by using “morality” as the switch of political indoctrination the evangelical/Republican alliance has convinced people to vote against their own economic and environmental self-interest. It is as if “virtue” has indeed become the only reward.

As a nation we are becoming as much an international leper for our persecution of individual rights as Islamic nations have been over the rights of minorities in their own societies. For now we still have economic and military might to keep the rest of the world polite while at our table. We will rue the day when, like all the empires that have gone before us, we are eclipsed by the next.

October 07, 2004

From the War is Peace files

So, the top weapons inspector in Iraq says that Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction since 1991, thus, of course, adding more evidence to the mountain of it showing that the administration lied about the reasons for invading the country. Right?

Apparently not. The fact that one of the two main reasons for going to war was a complete fabrication justifies the decision to go to war, according to Cheney.

Ok, so I understand the concept of spin. But I feel like good old Fuck Cheney has put reality into a centrifuge.

October 03, 2004

Simple question

Since everyone keeps mentioning Reagan's "body blow" against Carter in the 1980 debate...

"Are you better off than you were two Bushes ago?"

Two terms of out-of-touch jerks who find democracy pesky and debates demeaning is enough. Even Reagan was better than this. And while we're at it, Senate races are tightening up-- it looks like we might end up down by just two seats. Give some money to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which is focusing on close races. Let's not stop with a Kerry victory--let's get ready to start talking about how long his coattails are. $51 is a great amount-- symbolizing the 51 seats that will turn Frist and the Rethuglican committee chairs out so we can start undoing the damage done to democracy in the past four years.

October 01, 2004

How kerry almost lost my vote last night

I admit, I only watched part of the debate last night. It was painful and irritating, and one of the most offensive moments of the entire campaign came early--and from John Kerry's mouth.

Neither of them said much of substance from what I could tell, but in discussing the fiasco in Iraq, Kerry said at least twice that 90% of the casualties in Iraq were Americans. So, somewhere around 1,000 Americans have been killed, and the estimates from varying sources indicate somewhere between 20,000 and 50,000 Iraqis have been killed. It takes some pretty skillful manipulation of mathematical principals to come up with Americans representing 90% of the deaths.

Then he got the vote back when Bush, upon being asked about the miscalculations in the plan for after the war was over, basically said that the war had ended too quickly and we'd planned to kill a lot more people first, which we didn't get to do.

I wish I liked Kerry better. I really do. But I can't. On the other hand, I couldn't hate Bush more. So Kerry keeps my vote.

And thanks to Dan Savage for teaching me the most useful and relevant new word I've learned in years.

September 30, 2004

Doing my duty to save our language

In this week's Savage Love, Dan mentioned that after a visit to NPR's The Next Big Thing, he was challenged with resurrecting a few words that have fallen into obsolescence. Although they were all perfectly fine words, my personal favorite--and the one that I can see pushing into very relevant usage these days--is kakistocracy (a society governed by its worst citizens).

In fact, I'm going one step further. I bet we would actually find that there will be quite a few posts that would easily fit into the kakistocracy category.