Saturday, January 29, 2005
I was so hoping the pain would be over by now....
The possibility that al-Qaeda or its sympathizers could gain access to a nuclear bomb is the greatest danger facing the United States in the war on terrorism, Attorney General John Ashcroft said Thursday.
It's always seemed to me that that likeliest scenario is a loose nuke or a dirty bomb in a shipping container. After all, if it works for illegal aliens, why not for AQ and its ilk?
And what has Bush done about this? Aside from claiming that port security should be privatized. And treating Homeland Security as a pork barrel program?
Zip. Zilch. Zero. Nada. Feeling safer?
You can follow the link to the pictures as well.
However, I warn you, they're not for the squeamish.
Someone sent me an email about it and wanted to know the ins and outs but I know shit from shinola about this stuff, really, and with dialup my main means of access and all the time on the road I don’t think I could do it, anyway. Some of the other folks who write with me have better access to broadband and a lot more tech savvy.
But is there anybody already doing this locally as an organizing tool? If so, is it working? Any advice I can send to my co-conspirators and cellmates about giving this a try?
As scattered as we are, I think it’ll a hell of a lot more efficient than house parties and meetings, if less fun. And it might even let us organize better house parties and meetings, for that matter. It’d sure beat the shit out of phone trees for local GOTV. Any ideas, friends?
While I was googling to find the chart again, I stumbled across this idiotic post on a winger blog from October of 2003 about how we are "winning" in Iraq. Go read it if you want to get a good laugh.
And, speaking of moronic wingnuts, Insty is apparently up to his old tricks again, taking his cues from the Chimperor himself, he's put together another hilarious comic-book-like screed/indictment of "the left" -- yet again. Why the hell do people still read him? Is he really a law professor -- with "analytical skills" like that?
And, after cheerleading for this damned fool's errand in Iraq, just what sort of a idiot does he look like now? I always knew this war would turn out like this. That's why I was against it from the start.
Anyway, Max has got a great slapdown of Insty in this post.
As Max puts it:
Speaking of American casualties in Iraq, unlike Markos and other critics of the war, Reynolds has hyped every piece of duplicitous, discredited bullshit floating from the Pentagon down the Potomac. Few on the Internet can claim more credit for greasing the skids for this debacle of a war, nor for the attendant deaths of over 1,400 American soldiers.Indeed.
"If you had your way, Saddam would still be in power." Yes, if I had my way, Saddam would probably still be in power. And ten thousand American families would not be suffering. That's an easy call.
UPDATE: Oliver Willis also takes Glenn down.
One other thing: Can you find the historical error in Glenn's post?
UPDATE 2: Kos also takes Insty down a few pegs. (He's also apparently been reading this blog or read my old one, he uses my trademarked phrase "fool's errand" to describe IraqWar Part II.)
Kos closes his post with this:
The faith-based lunatics taking up residence in the White House and the Pentagon have ample ideological company in Tennessee law schools and other hidey holes of the wingnut blogosphere.Heh.
But at the end of the day, whether they'll ever admit it or not -- we were right, they were wrong. Reality isn't being too kind to their side.
Bill Gates, the world's richest person with a net worth of $46.6 billion, is betting against the U.S. dollar.
``I'm short the dollar,'' Gates, chairman of Microsoft Corp., told Charlie Rose in an interview late yesterday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. ``The ol' dollar, it's gonna go down.''
Gates reflected the views of his friend Warren Buffett, the billionaire investor who has bet against the dollar since 2002. Buffett said last week that the U.S. trade gap will probably further weaken the currency.
``Unless we have a major change in trade policies, I don't see how the dollar avoids going down,'' Buffett said in an interview with CNBC Jan. 19.
Gates in December joined the board of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., the investment company that Buffett runs. Forbes magazine's list of billionaires ranks Gates, 49, No. 1. Buffett, 74, is second, with more than $30 billion. Almost all of it is in Berkshire stock.
Gates's $27 billion foundation in September received approval from China's foreign-currency regulator to invest as much as $100 million in the nation's yuan shares and bonds.
So, um, when Bush's Alpo Accounts go through, will it be OK if I put my money in Chinese bonds like Gates and Buffet can?
The oath I will now ask Secretary Rice to repeat dates from that time.
I, Condoleezza Rice, do solemnly swear...
RICE: I, Condoleezza Rice, do solemnly swear...
GINSBERG: ... that I will support and defend...
RICE: ... that I will support and defend...
GINSBERG: ... the Constitution of the United States...
RICE: ... the Constitution of the United States...
(via WaPo transcript)
So, Madam Secretary, is it your view that torture is permitted by law, and rule by decree is permitted by the Constitution, as the nominee for Attorney General, Albert Gonzales, has proposed? (back)
Halliburton Co. will pull out of Iran after its current contracts there are wound down, its chief executive said Friday.
Halliburton said in July that it had received a subpoena seeking information about operations in Iran of its Cayman Islands subsidiary, Halliburton Products & Services Ltd.
The company has argued that using a Cayman Islands subsidiary exempts it from a U.S.-imposed trade embargo against Iran, which is accused of seeking nuclear arms and funding terrorist networks.
Halliburton provided no details on when its current contracts in Iran would be completed or on the value of the work. The company generated about $80 million in revenue in Iran in 2003.
(via LA Times)
Gee, I wonder why Cheney's company is pulling out if Iran now? Could it be they know something we don't?
Partial transcript - Inside Politics - CNN:
(on camera): At the heart of this debate is the question of credibility. Are commentators influenced by being too cozy with politicians or by sizeable paychecks from government agencies?
The Democrats have demanded an investigation and want to outlaw what they call covert propaganda. President Bush realizes that pundit payola looks bad, which is why he's asked his cabinet heads to stop the practices.
Howard Kurtz, CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES." (END VIDEOTAPE)
WOODRUFF: Thank you, Howard.
WOODRUFF: And joining me now with her take on all this, CNN contributor and former Pentagon spokeswoman, Torie Clark. You also, I want to say, worked for the first Bush administration...
TORIE CLARK, FMR. PENTAGON SPOKESWOMAN: I did.
WOODRUFF: ... in several capacity.
CLARK: A long time ago.
WOODRUFF: So you not only know how government works, you know how the press works. You worked for a newspaper here in Washington.
CLARK: A very long time ago, 25 years ago.
A very long time ago in a very far away land...
Oh yeah...I worked here and there, for some newspaper, yada-yada, long time ago...moving along.
A Bright Shining Line:
WOODRUFF: Well, now we're reading this week that the Bush administration has paid public relations firms something like $250 million to help push Bush proposals. They say this is double what the Clinton administration spent.
Now, is this -- is this tax payer money, you know, well spent? I mean, is it appropriate?
CLARK: Again, it's the reflection of the times in which information increasingly plays a very, very important role. There is nothing new about the United States government having outside consultants for a variety of things.
The Department of Defense has paid contractors for years to build planes and ships. This is another tool, if you will, that people in the government use.
But I do think people need to draw some pretty bright lines. The president has. The president has drawn a very bright line about what he thinks is appropriate and what he thinks is inappropriate. I think everyone in the government needs to take stock of that.
WOODRUFF: Were you ever aware when you worked in government, either first Bush administration or this administration, first term, of this kind of practice under way anywhere in the government?
CLARK: Never. Never. We were very aggressive.
I was very aggressive at the Pentagon about bringing people in to talk to groups, whether it was education leaders, labor leaders, religious leaders. Across the board we'd bring people in to talk to them and try to explain our positions and our views on things. But that was the extent of our outreach.
Ooops! Forgot to mention anything about that "first term" earlier. But ya gotta love how Woodruff slides that little reference to "this administration, first term" in there now. Without asking Clarke to explain what exactly it was she did during any of that, so very long ago, "first term". Ya know, back when Torie was aggressively throwing Kool Aide and Cakewalk parties for the giggly wide-eyed wowsers from CNN and, and.... Anyway, this professional bullshit media management PR weasel chitty-chat continues for a while and concludes as follows:
WOODRUFF: Very quickly, I want to clarify, you are a contributor for CNN.
CLARK: That's right.
WOODRUFF: So you're paid by CNN.
CLARK: That's right.
WOODRUFF: You don't have any affiliation with the Bush administration anymore?
CLARK: None. None whatsoever.
Stop it. I can hear your eyes rolling around out there.
WOODRUFF: Torie Clark making it clear. Thank you very much.
CLARK: Good to see you.
WOODRUFF: It's always good to have you on. We appreciate it.
WOODRUFF: Thank you.
See ya at the soda fountain after the game Torie! You go girl-friend! Anyway, you can read the transcript of the whole lame pathetic disingenuous who do they think they're kidding mess, in its entirety, for yourselves, right here: CNN - Inside Politics Jan 28, 2005.
You go to war with the best public relations huckster you can have:
the White House announced last week that Victoria Clarke, a Washington public relations executive with no experience in military affairs, was the nominee for the post. Clarke was selected to comply with the White House's insistence on women or minorities in high positions. Among her champions was Karen Hughes, President Bush's communications director and the person in charge of picking spokesmen, or spokeswomen, for cabinet agencies. ~ cached text link
Poise, praise and vantage points:
As press secretary for President George H.W. Bush's 1992 re-election campaign, Clarke witnessed history from vantage points like Air Force One and was broadly praised for her poise and professionalism during the campaign’s most difficult days. She was a close advisor to Arizona Senator John McCain from the earliest days of his Congressional career. As Assistant U.S. Trade Representative during the first Bush Administration, Clarke worked extensively with journalists from around the world and ran a comprehensive private sector liaison program. ~ Torie Bio
"a comprehensive private sector liasion program." Ha ha ha.... oh golly. But it's nice of CNN to invite Torie in from the cold and provide her a little desk in the corner where she can resume her praised organizing on behalf of cheery get-togethers and poised personal sector liaisons. And it sure is a good thing she's not hanging round those icky Bush administration flim flam drummers anymore. That would be so inappropriate.
Plus, she's not wearing those weird Babes In Toyland costumes on TV anymore. Remember that? When she was dressing up like she was going on tour with Herman's Hermits - or something. What the hell was that about anyway?
Friday, January 28, 2005
The difference would be... Well, that Howard says things that are true. Just a little bit earlier than most other people, for which he was vilified by the media whores. But isn't a leader supposed to be just a little bit ahead of the pack?
So: I was about to slip and fall, and this young man picked me up. He didn't:
1. Hand me a Bible and tell me to read it.
2. Tell me a tax cut next April would solve all my problems.
3. Tell me that I should have put my money into a Personal Falling Down Account.
He just helped me in a neighborly fashion, even though he didn't know who I was.
I guess he wasn't a Republican.
Bush's Social Security Plan to Settle on Private Accounts
Bush's advisers have settled on a proposal for structuring the personal accounts they hope to create in Social Security, while on Capitol Hill, Senate Democrats were launching an effort to defeat the plan altogether.
Under a plan recommended to Bush, the private accounts would resemble many company-sponsored retirement plans, with just a handful of investment options.
Wow, just a handful, huh? I wonder if they're going to be Republican contributors?
And hey, all the brokers in this handful of plans are going to outperform Social Security, right? As didn't happen in Chile, right? Oh, wait, I thought the government wasn't supposed to pick winners... Must... block... out... cognitive... dissonance...
Under the emerging Bush plan for Social Security, the default investment would be a "life cycle" account. It would begin with investments that have greater potential for both risk and reward and shift to safer bonds as a worker ages, officials in and outside the administration said.
So for this, we pay these guys a commission? Why? But in terms of that all important framing:
"Life cycle," huh? Yep, it's dog food!
What'll it be, Grandma? Cycle Puppy, Cycle Adult, Cycle Lite or Cycle Senior?
And Alpo or Cycle, it's still dog food.
UPDATE Kevin Drum has a nice paranoid bait and switch theory.
UPDATE 2: On topic Corrente backtrack: The Pinochet Plan
Okay, now that was exceptionally tacky.
I do apologize.
Agriculture Secretary and former Governor of Nebraska Mike Johanns to be offered to angry mountain as ritual human sacrifice. Johanns will be stripped naked, bonked on the forehead with a ball-peen hammer, and heaved into the ferment to appease the cow god Bos. An invitation only GOP sponsored luncheon and brief memorial service will follow the forfeiture ceremony. Shadow president Cheney could not be reached for comment but was beleived to be safely decomposing beneath a heap of Bush administration bullshit north of Sabillasville, Maryland.
Massive Manure Fire Burns Into Third Month
MILFORD, Neb.: [...]
Byproducts from the massive operation resulted in a dung pile measuring 100 feet long, 30 feet high and 50 feet wide that began burning about two months ago and continues to smolder despite Herculean attempts to douse it.
The Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality has informed Dickinson that his smoldering dung pile violates clean-air laws and is working with him to find the best solution to extinguish it, said agency spokesman Rich Webster.
No one is sure how the fire started, but a common theory is that heat from the decomposing manure deep inside the pile eventually ignited the manure.
Annals Of The Ownership Society
I like it. I like Edwards anyway, voted for him in the (entirely meaningless) Tennessee primary, hated how he was used in the campaign. Put a populist Southerner on the ticket and then never send him to the South to campaign?? Feh. Not so bright.
But anyway, he's back, and what he's looking to do ties in nicely with what RDF's earlier post was talking about. After all, you can't make a rainbow without Sunshine...
What if the problem the Democrats face cannot be explained by all the careful calculations of the careful political calculators? What if their 2004 loss was not primarily about losing a few Catholics here and a few married women there? What if the Democrats' challenge is about passion, not positioning?
John Edwards is wagering a lot, maybe his whole political future, on that list of what-ifs. The 2004 vice presidential nominee, the guy with the dad in the mill who gave the most remembered stump speech of the Democratic primary campaign, will rejoin the debate with a new speech in New Hampshire on the first weekend in February. From the sounds of an interview at his Georgetown house earlier this week, Edwards intends to pick up where he left off in that "two Americas" discourse of his.
"It needs to be clear to the country what our core beliefs are, and the last thing we need is strategic maneuvering," Edwards says. "What people want to see is leadership and strength and conviction. This is about what's inside us. It's not about how we get to the right place."
[snip] But conviction politics has not been in vogue in progressive circles. This era's two great center-left politicians, Bill Clinton and Tony Blair, have been resolute Third Wayers, tacking carefully between left and right. The Third Way was a tacit admission of conservatism's momentum.
Moral issues matter, Edwards says, but Democrats won't look moral by getting into a bidding war over how often they can invoke the name of God. Instead, Democrats should speak with conviction about an issue that has always animated them: the alleviation of poverty. "I think it is a moral issue; it's something we should be willing to fight about and stand up for," he says.
Edwards, who is planning to set up a center to study ways to alleviate poverty, is enough of a politician to insist that he wants to advocate not only on behalf of the destitute but also for those just finding their footing on mobility's ladder. But he offers the unexpected claim that the very voters who have strayed from the Democrats would respond forcefully to the moral imperative of aiding the poor.
What the Neo-Rainbow Needs A neo-Rainbow electoral strategy needs:
(1) to build an identifiable, accountable organization that operates inside and outside the Democratic Party;
(2) to have people of color in its core leadership, and a base among African-Americans and Latinos (not to the exclusion of others);
(3) to have a united-front approach to growth, encompassing diverse constituencies;
(4) to be pro-equality populist in its politics, embracing the struggles for racial, gender and economic justice as the cornerstones of democracy;
(5) to support a change in US foreign policy toward what can be called a democratic foreign policy;
(6) to root itself among working people and their issues, and develop a ground-up approach, involving ward and precinct organizations and a targeted effort to build political power in key strategic zones.
They go on to discuss each of these strategies in detail. The whole thing’s at Visualizing a Neo-Rainbow
It seems to me that Dr. Dean was and is doing most of these things except #2 and maybe #3. Could that have been the problem? I know that #6 is where it starts.
CLEVELAND -- Joining the animated fray, the United Church of Christ today (Jan. 24) said that Jesus' message of extravagant welcome extends to all, including SpongeBob Squarepants - the cartoon character that has come under fire for allegedly holding hands with a starfish.Indeed.
"Absolutely, the UCC extends an unequivocal welcome to SpongeBob," the Rev. John H. Thomas, the UCC's general minister and president, said, only partly in jest. "Jesus didn't turn people away. Neither do we."
For that matter, Thomas explained, the 1.3-million-member church, if given the opportunity, would warmly receive Barney, Big Bird, Tinky-Winky, Clifford the Big Red Dog or, for that matter, any who have experienced the Christian message as a harsh word of judgment rather than Jesus' offering of grace.
The UCC's welcome comes in the wake of laughable accusations by James C. Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, that the popular SpongeBob and other well-known cartoon characters are crossing "a moral line" by stressing tolerance in a national We Are Family Foundation-sponsored video that will be distributed to U.S. schools on March 11, 2005.
Later, an assistant to Dobson called SpongeBob's participation in the video "insidious."
Thomas said, on the contrary, it is Dobson who is crossing the moral line for sending the mistaken message that Christians do not value tolerance and diversity as important religious values.
"While Dobson's silly accusation makes headlines, it's also one more concrete example of how religion is misused over and over to promote intolerance over inclusion," Thomas said. "This is why we believe it is so important that the UCC speak the Gospel in an accent not often heard in our culture, because far too many experience the cross only as judgment, never as embrace."
Dobson, despite his often-outrageous viewpoints, is arguably one of the most oft-heard religious voices in popular culture today. Through his Focus on the Family media empire, Dobson produces daily commentaries that appear widely on television and radio stations across the United States, often times as "public service announcements."
Meanwhile, the UCC's recently released 30-second paid television commercial - produced to underscore the denomination's belief that Jesus didn't turn anyone away - has been rejected by two major television networks for being "too controversial."
"Resistance to our message is formidable," Thomas says, "because we're cutting against the prevailing grain of a society that is afraid of the stranger, suspicious of difference and easily seduced by narrowly defined theological boundaries."
(via United Church of Christ)
(And a hearty) Heh.
Thursday, January 27, 2005
Female interrogators tried to break Muslim detainees at the U.S. prison camp in Guantanamo Bay by sexual touching, wearing a miniskirt and thong underwear and in one case smearing a Saudi man's face with fake menstrual blood, according to an insider's written account.
And did the interrogators enjoy their work?
Were they, um, Christians? It's hard to tell:
The female interrogator wanted to "break him," Saar adds, describing how she removed her uniform top to expose a tight-fitting T-shirt and began taunting the detainee, touching her breasts, rubbing them against the prisoner's back and commenting on his apparent erection.
The detainee looked up and spat in her face, the manuscript recounts.
The interrogator left the room to ask a Muslim linguist how she could break the prisoner's reliance on God.
Well, I know that sounds pretty bad, at least from a PR standpoint. But let's be reasonable. After all, how could a Muslim be relying on God? Not possible. We have the word on that from Rummy's deputy, General William Boykin:
“Well, you know what I knew—that my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God, and his was an idol.”
So, that's cleared up. Phew. My faith was shaken for a moment. But now I'm all right.
"Alp Accounts", anyone? That was the Chilean experiene with privatization.
I knew when Bush started duck speaking about "doing the math" on Social Security that we'd be in trouble. Of course, if He were any good at math he wouldn't have had to keep getting bailed out of failing businesses by his, um, owners....
Salon has confirmed that Michael McManus, a marriage advocate whose syndicated column, "Ethics & Religion," appears in 50 newspapers, was hired as a subcontractor by the Department of Health and Human Services to foster a Bush-approved marriage initiative. McManus championed the plan in his columns without disclosing to readers he was being paid to help it succeed.
Why should we be surprised that the same people whose idea of religion is persecuting others and spreading hate, also think that ethics means misrepresenting oneself in print while secretly ripping off the taxpayer? Is there any virtue they haven't prostituted by now?
The White House announces a press conference in the morning. After the announcement comes the news that 31 Americans died in a chopper crash in Iraq (6 others died today in seperate incidents). The president takes the podium fresh with the knowledge of that tragedy--and radiates a cheerful disposition bantering with the press about senior citizens and their faulty memories. ... Imagine if Bill Clinton had been chirpy and chipper having just received the news of 31 soldiers dying in the theater of combat--Rush Limbaugh would have devoted three hours to it, and Fox News would have dragged Dick Morris out of the all-you-can-eat buffet for his "expert analysis."
When Bush did address the soldiers' deaths, he said that we "weep and mourn" when Americans die, but as he was saying it his hand was flatly smacking downwards for emphasis, as if he were pounding the table during the business meeting, refusing to pay a lot for a muffler. The steady beat of his hand was at odds with the sentiments he was expressing--he didn't look or sound the least bit mournful or sombre. And why should he? Death doesn't seem to be a bringdown for him.
(James Wolcott has noticed, and Kosackia noticed him noticing)
For those of you following along at home (and for alert Corrente readers), Wollcott has noticed one of Bush's troubling symptoms—Shallow affect; Callousness and lack of empathy—symptoms which, taken in the aggregate, add up to the DSM's criteria for a sociopath (back).
Of course, torturing small animals in childhood is another sign of lack of empathy, so it isn't surprising that Bush, a deeply troubled individual, blew up frogs with firecrackers (back) when he was boy. Nor should it be surprising, today, that Bush is sponsoring policies that authorize torture. It's all part of the same package.
… The history of the present King… is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny... To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
Gun control. Universal health care. Help me out here, readers.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
DeLay forcing the Texas Dems to flee to New Mexico?
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
I think this one is still in the pipeline except for rule by decree.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
Again, in the works, except for the “exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within” part.
I skipped over a few here…
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
Military-industrial complex. Halliburton.
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us: For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States.
That one’s more for the Iraqis. Skipped a few more…
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury: For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences.
Guantanamo. Torture. War on Drugs. Skipped a few more…
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments.
Congressional rule changes in ethics and procedures. More skipping…
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
You’re either with us or against us. Then a couple more for the Iraqis:
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
Skipped the bit about “merciless Indian savages.” Could insert “terrorists”? Then:
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people….
And so, if we were to meet and draft a declaration that ended as above, what would our list of grievances be in 2005? I suspect it would be longer that theirs in 1776. Readers? Grievances? I can take all of the grievances and put them in a new post, a la the Declaration... I'm sure it's been done, but what the hell?
The US Department of Homeland Security has decided to trial RFID tags in an effort to make sure only the right sort of people get across US borders.
The controversial US-VISIT scheme for those visiting the US from abroad already fingerprints holidaymakers on their way into the country and is now adding RFID to the mix in order to improve border management, the department said.
The trials will start at a "simulated port" in the spring and will then be extended to Nogales East and Nogales West in Arizona; Alexandria Bay in New York; and Pacific Highway and Peace Arch in Washington by the end of July.
The testing phase will continue until the spring of next year. The exact way RFID will be used with the travellers is not yet known.
RFID chips will be used to track both pedestrians and vehicles entering the US to automatically record when the visitors arrive and leave in the country.
(From silicon.com via Kossackia )
But don't worry! I'm sure this technology will never be used domestically! Say, for internal passports. Or something.
The other thing, though... How does this work, exactly? How do they make sure our guests and their RFIDs stay together? Do they put the RFID on an ankle bracelet? Make the guests wear special beanies with the RFIDs in the propellor? Inject the RFIDs under the skin?
(via North County CA Times)
Cable news pioneer Ted Turner used an appearance before a group of television executives to criticize the Fox network as a "propaganda voice" of the Bush administration and to compare Fox News Channel's popularity to Adolf Hitler's rise to power in Germany before World War II.Fox, of course, had a response, which was of the level of civility and rational discourse for which we love them so much:
Turner, 66, in a speech Tuesday before about 1,000 people at the National Association of Television Programming Executives targeted "gigantic companies whose agenda goes beyond broadcasting" for timidity in challenging the Bush White House.
"There's one network, Fox, that's a propaganda voice for them," Turner said. "It's certainly legal. But it does pose problems for our democracy when the news is 'dumbed-down."'
Turner stepped down as vice chairman of AOL Time Warner in May 2003.
During a wide-ranging hour-long question-and-answer session moderated by former CNN anchorman Bernard Shaw, Turner called it "not necessarily a bad thing" that Fox ratings top CNN and other cable news networks.
"Adolf Hitler was more popular in Germany in the early 30s than ... people that were running against him," Turner said in remarks videotaped by conference administrators. "So, just because you're bigger doesn't mean you're right."
Fox News in New York issued a statement Tuesday saying, "Ted is understandably bitter having lost his ratings, his network and now his mind -- we wish him well."When you can't dispute a man's points, or his accuracy, or his truthfullness, there's always comebacks suitable for a grade-school playground to fall back on. Whenever I picture a Fox News executive board meeting it's with Rupert Murdoch surrounded by Nelson Muntz, Stan Cartman and [fill in name of your favorite ignorant, bigoted cartoon bully here.]
But Ted's right, you know. I can see why Fox doesn't want to argue him on the merits of his case.
They’re in absolute denial that invading iWaq was a criminal mistake, while they make plans for the next illegal invasion.
They’re guilty of international war crimes and a long list of domestic crimes.
They approve of torture.
They’ve hijacked the language in a way that would make Orwell shiver.
The list goes on and on.
Now, we’re back to protecting what’s left of the wilderness (again):
Citing a need for domestic energy, the government plans to open for exploratory drilling thousands of acres on Alaska's North Slope that have been protected for decades because of migratory birds and caribou.
The Bureau of Land Management has concluded that oil and gas exploration in the northeastern corner of the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska can be conducted with "minimal impact" on the area's wildlife. via The Associated Press
They’re supposed to sign off on it this week. Don’t know if they have or not. If it’s not already too late, it might be time to drop a line to Gale Norton: Gale_Norton@ios.doi.gov
The birds and caribou and Native people will thank you.
"The story of the camps remind us that evil is real and must be called by its name and must be confronted," Cheney said at a forum in Krakow, where he spoke before attending an anniversary program at the concentration camps here. "We are reminded that anti-Semitism may begin with words but rarely stops with words and the message of intolerance and hatred must be opposed before it turns into acts of horror."
(via Houston Chronicle)
Of course, Cheney, Bush, and the POTL will muzzle the "message of intolerance and hatred" that comes every day from the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage, and the rest of the Republican Noise Machine when hell freezes over—the kulturkampf is too useful to the Republicans politically.
Still, I agree with Cheney that evil is real. How could anyhow read the history of the Holocaust—in fact, human history—and not be aware of the human capacity for evil?
But let's ask ourselves the question: What do the Foundders who wrote our Constitution think about evil and how to confront it? And does what the Republicans are doing to the Constiution make for more evil in the world, or less?
James Madison writes in Federalist #51:
Different interests necessarily exist in different classes of citizens. If a majority be united by a common interest, the rights of the minority will be insecure. There are but two methods of providing against this evil: the one by creating a will in the community independent of the majority that is, of the society itself; the other, by comprehending in the society so many separate descriptions of citizens as will render an unjust combination of a majority of the whole very improbable, if not impracticable. The first method prevails in all governments possessing an hereditary or self-appointed authority. This, at best, is but a precarious security; because a power independent of the society may as well espouse the unjust views of the major, as the rightful interests of the minor party, and may possibly be turned against both parties. The second method will be exemplified in the federal republic of the United States. Whilst all authority in it will be derived from and dependent on the society, the society itself will be broken into so many parts, interests, and classes of citizens, that the rights of individuals, or of the minority, will be in little danger from interested combinations of the majority. In a free government the security for civil rights must be the same as that for religious rights. It consists in the one case in the multiplicity of interests, and in the other in the multiplicity of sects. The degree of security in both cases will depend on the number of interests and sects; and this may be presumed to depend on the extent of country and number of people comprehended under the same government.
(via Federalist Papers)
For Madison, evil was to be minimized through the separation of powers: Powers in conflict, doing small evils, are to be preferred to powers united, capable of doing great evil.
I wonder what Madison would think of today's One Partei State?
I wonder what Madison would think of Gonzales's theory of Rule by Decree?
I wonder what Madison would say about the theocracy proposed by the VRWC?
UPDATE Alert reader Shystee comments:
This James Madison guy seems to believe diversity ensures freedom and good government. What is he, some bleeding heart Politically Correct librul pandering to minority special interests?
What's next after "
1. Mad Money Accounts? (E. Saunders)
2. What-Happens-in-Vegas-Stays-in-Vegas Accounts?
3. Welfare for Brokers Accounts?
4. Alpo Accounts? (RDF)
UPDATE I've been going with "Alpo Accounts" (short, sweet, alliterative, tells the story) but alert reader J. Hill has come up with a breathtakingly cynical pre-emptive strike:
... Because freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose.
5. Faith-based accounts (alert reader sashax)
6. Douchebag account"—Not Guaranteed to clean you out, but that's the intent.... (granny insanity)
And alert reader ck has a comment on strategic semantics:
I have to say Ix-Nay on "Freedom Accounts" -- not that it isn't clever and witty; but because Freedom is Dear Leader's favorite word, and since our usage of it is snarky and ironic -- Dear Leader is liable to adopt it as his own.
Seriously -- just as SCLM needs to be replaced with LRWM, all of our counter-attacks need to be direct and flame-thrower-in-the-face, rather than ironic and indirect.
Alpo Accounts still has my vote.
WASHINGTON, Jan. 21 - The Environmental Protection Agency said on Friday that it would shield operators of large livestock operations from prosecution from air pollution violations if they participated in a new program to collect emissions data from their farms.Got that? The US government is going to reward operators of industrialized livestock farms who have failed to operate within current environmental standards with a guarantee they will not be prosecuted for those violations, in exchange for cooperating in a two year program that will measure just how badly they are fouling the environment.
The information gathered from the participants would be used to determine which of the thousands of factory farms, known as animal feeding operations or A.F.O.'s, violate the Clean Air Act or other environmental laws.
The voluntary program is a stark departure from the current strategy of focused prosecutions. As an inducement to join it, the agency assures operators that they will not be sued for current violations during the program's two years of monitoring.
"This is one of the most important compliance agreements we will do this year," the agency's acting administrator for enforcement and compliance, Thomas V. Skinner, said. "It will allow us to reach the largest number of A.F.O.'s in the shortest period of time and ensure that they comply with applicable clean air standards." (read the rest HERE)
There is no reason on God's green earth, other than the greediest of profit motives, for the existence of these large-scale livestock operations, whether cattle feedlots, or pork factories, or pountry concentrations camps. The animals live a terrible, utterly inhumane existence while alive, the antibiotic-drenched meat they invariably produce, because you can't keep animals in those kind of dispicable circumstances without over-medicating them against disease, is not healthy for humans, and the foul effect on the air, the earth, and all water that comes anywhere near these industrial cesspools is almost impossible to describe to anyone who hasn't experienced it. Nor are these factory farms even efficient; the reasons the meat produced costs less in your local supermarket has more to do with systems of distribution stacked against smaller producers than with any cost-effectiveness of such large-scale, industrialized animal husbandry. Perhaps saddests of all, the only local support for such facilities usually comes from potential employees who are desperate for the rotten, often dangerous, invariably non-union jobs that come with the meat packing facilities often located nearby.
You want a values issue that can unite red-blooded red state voters with us blue-veined liberal elites? There is one here. Go talk to an old-fashioned hog farmer in North Carolina about the impact on the life of his family, on the life of his community, ask him what happened to his own land, to the air he breathes, to the rivers and lakes that used to grace his life; no, don't talk about environmentalism, talk about large-scale factory farming, talk about the impact of corporations on family farms, and talk about why you, who may live in a city, care; you'll find out how many more values you share with that hog farmer, and I think there's a real good chance he and his family will find out how many more values they share with you than with George W. Bush, whose playtime ranch, devoted entirely, apparently, to the raising of sagebrush, will never be in danger of having a feedlot located nearby.
In a related development, also reported in the NYTimes:
Meat Packing Industry Criticized on Human Rights Grounds
By STEVEN GREENHOUSE
Published: January 25, 2005
or the first time, Human Rights Watch has issued a report that harshly criticizes a single industry in the United States, concluding that the nation's meat packing industry has such bad working conditions that it violates basic human and worker rights.
In a report issued today, Human Rights Watch, often echoing Upton Sinclair's "The Jungle," found that jobs in many beef, pork and poultry plants were so dangerous that the industry violated international agreements promising a safe workplace.
Noting that the industry's injury rate was three times that of private industry over all, the report describes plants where exhausted employees slice into carcasses at a frenzied pace hour after hour, often suffering injuries from a slip of the knife or from repeating the same motion more than 10,000 times a day. The report describes workers being asphyxiated by fumes and having their legs cut off and hands crushed.
"Meat packing is the most dangerous factory job in America," said Lance Compa, the report's author. "Dangerous conditions are cheaper for companies - and the government does next to nothing."
The report also concluded that packing companies violated human and labor rights by suppressing their employees' efforts to organize by, for example, often firing employees who support a union. The report asserted that slaughterhouse and packing plants also flouted international rules by taking advantage of workers' immigration status - in some plants two-thirds of the workers are illegal immigrants - to subject them to inferior treatment.
"Every country has its horrors, and this industry is one of the horrors in the United States," said Jamie Fellner, director of United States programs for Human Rights Watch. "One of the goals of Human Rights Watch is to promote the understanding that workers rights are human rights. The right to organize and the right to have a safe place to work are human rights no less than the right not to be tortured."
Industry officials denied that they violated workers' rights, saying that the number of injuries was declining and that packing companies did their utmost to make their plants safe. The industry also asserted that packing companies did not violate laws allowing workers to unionize and did not treat workers more harshly because of their immigration status.
J. Patrick Boyle, president of the American Meat Institute, said the report was "replete with falsehoods and baseless claims."
"In fact, there are so many refutable claims and irresponsible accusations contained in this 175-page report that it would take another 175 pages to correct the errors," Mr. Boyle said.The report, "Blood, Sweat and Fear: Workers' Rights in U.S. Meat and Poultry Plants," focuses on Omaha for beef, Tarheel, N.C, for pork and Northwest Arkansas for poultry.
In his research, Mr. Compa, who is a professor of industrial and labor relations at Cornell University, focused on three companies: Tyson Foods, Smithfield Foods and Nebraska Beef. He spent more than a year preparing the report and based it on interviews with workers, company responses, regulatory reports, judicial rulings and court testimony.
"Nearly every worker interviewed for this report bore physical signs of a serious injury suffered from working in a meat or poultry plant," the report said. "Meat and poultry industry employers set up the workplaces and practices that create these dangers, but they treat the resulting mayhem as a normal, natural part of the production process, not as what it is - repeated violations of international human rights standards."
The report said that many companies pressured injured workers not to file worker compensation when they are injured as a way to save the companies money on medical bills and worker compensation payments.
Gary Mickelson, a spokesman for Tyson Foods said: "We're disappointed by the report's misleading conclusions, but not surprised given the author's extensive ties to organized labor. Ensuring our team members are treated fairly is an integral part of the way we do business."
Dennis Treacy, Smithfield's vice president for environmental community and government affairs, faulted the report for focusing on labor violations from nearly a decade ago.
"They make no mention of the current situation of our plants or anybody else's," he said. "We're proud of our plants."
He said worker safety was one of Smithfield's highest priorities and that the company was appealing a National Labor Relations Board decision finding dozens of labor law violations against workers trying to unionize its Tar Heel pork-processing plant in 1997.
The Human Rights Watch report describes Smithfield's violations during that 1997 unionization drive, including firing pro-union workers, stationing police officers at plant gates to intimidate workers and orchestrating an assault on union supporters.
Human Rights Watch called on federal safety officials to increase enforcement and to slow the line speed in packing plants to reduce the number of repetitive stress injuries. The group urged state officials to enforce worker compensation laws more vigorously, and it urged companies not to fire and intimidate workers seeking to unionize.
Officials from Nebraska Beef did not respond to inquiries about the report (LINK).
To be fair, when Bill Clinton was Governor of Arkansas, Tyson Foods was a welcome employer. But it is also true, in a state with one of the constitutionally weakest state governments, Governor Clinton got the first environmental legislation ever in the state's history passed. And as President, Clinton's appointees to the NLRB were pro-union. Paul Bremer, President Bush's personal choice for the Presidential Medal of Freedom made sure that Saddam's anti-union decrees stayed on the books in Iraq, even while he was passing new laws, though neither he nor a single person on the interim governing council had been elected by even a single Iraqi, that would give free reign to international corporations to privitize Iraq's state industries. We will not pretend that
There was a very specific reason for that odd formulation in thie president's inaugural last Thursday:
We will encourage reform in other governments by making clear that success in our relations will require the decent treatment of their own people. America's belief in human dignity will guide our policies, yet rights must be more than the grudging concessions of dictators; they are secured by free dissent and the participation of the governed. In the long run, there is no justice without freedom, and there can be no human rights without human liberty.Stay tuned and I'll explain it to you.
1 ~ Dubya's Dubious Second Inaugural:
posted by Leah A - 5:16 PM
2 ~ Forgive me, W, for I have sinned:
posted by Lambert - 10:21 PM
3 ~ Alpo Accounts: Bush to push "issue" in the SOTU:
posted by Lambert - 10:35 PM
4 ~ Unquenchable fire from Heaven:
posted by Lambert - 10:55 PM
5 ~ Just another day at the office:
posted by Tom - 11:35 PM
Forget Armor. All You Need Is Love
JAN. 30 is here at last, and the light is at the end of the tunnel, again. By my estimate, Iraq's election day is the fifth time that American troops have been almost on their way home from an about-to-be pacified Iraq. The four other incipient V-I days were the liberation of Baghdad (April 9, 2003), President Bush's declaration that "major combat operations have ended" (May 1, 2003), the arrest of Saddam Hussein (Dec. 14, 2003) and the handover of sovereignty to our puppet of choice, Ayad Allawi (June 28, 2004). And this isn't even counting the two "decisive" battles for our nouveau Tet, Falluja. Iraq is Vietnam on speed - the false endings of that tragic decade re-enacted and compressed in jump cuts, a quagmire retooled for the MTV attention span.
But in at least one way we are not back in Vietnam. Iraq hawks, like Vietnam hawks before them, often take the line that to criticize America's mission in Iraq is to attack the troops. That paradigm just doesn't hold. Americans, including those opposed to the war, love the troops (Lynndie England always excepted). Not even the most unhinged Bush hater is calling our all-volunteer army "baby killers." This time, paradoxically enough, it is often those who claim to love the troops the most - and who have the political power to help alleviate their sacrifice - who turn out to be the troops' false friends.
There was, for instance, according to the Los Angeles Times, "nary a mention" of the Iraq war or "the prices paid by American soldiers and their families" at the lavish Inauguration bash thrown for the grandees of the Christian right by the Rev. Lou Sheldon of the Traditional Values Coalition at Washington's Ritz-Carlton. This crowd cares about the troops much the way the Fifth Avenue swells in the 1936 Hollywood classic "My Man Godfrey" cared about the "forgotten men" of the Depression - as fashion ornaments and rhetorical conveniences.
In this same vein, television's ceremonial coverage of the Inauguration, much of which resembled the martial pageantry broadcast by state-owned networks in banana republics, made a dutiful show out of the White House's claim that the four-day bacchanal was a salute to the troops. The only commentator to rudely call attention to the disconnect between that fictional pretense and the reality was Judy Bachrach, a writer for Vanity Fair, who dared say on Fox News that the inaugural's military ball and prayer service would not keep troops "safe and warm" in their "flimsy" Humvees in Iraq. She was promptly given the hook. (The riveting three-minute clip, labeled "Fair and Balanced Inauguration," can be found at ifilm.com, where it has seized the "most popular" slot once owned by Jon Stewart's slapdown of Tucker Carlson.)
The poundin' of the drums, the pride and disgrace
You can bury your dead, but don't leave a trace
Hate your next-door neighbor, but don't forget to say grace
~ Barry McGuire, Eve Of Destruction
Network anchors head to Iraq for election
But fewer journalists willing to take on dangerous assignment
The big-name anchors are staging their own Iraq invasion this week, with NBC's Brian Williams, CBS's Dan Rather, Fox News's Shepard Smith and CNN's Anderson Cooper among those planting the network flag in the days before Sunday's tension-filled elections. But the temporary airlift comes at a time when major news organizations are having trouble persuading reporters to take on the high-risk assignment on a longer-term basis.
"The people who have experience there are exhausted," says Marjorie Miller, foreign editor of the Los Angeles Times. "It's terribly dangerous in ways that other wars haven't been. You could always get killed by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Here, just by being a westerner, you're perceived, or fear you're perceived, as a partisan. Reporters don't want to be seen as partisan at a cost of their lives."
Tim McNulty, the Chicago Tribune's assistant managing editor for foreign news, agrees. "The pool of people willing to go has steadily shrunk over the last two years," he says. "The number of people who have spent a good deal of time there have said they've done their time and are not eager to go back. . . . If they say no, I don't ask the reasons."
Draft the Fighting 101st Keyboarders into action. Give em all cute little fanny packs and Power Line blogger action patches to sew onto their Serengeti Safari-shirt sleeves. They can follow Dan Rather around and make sure he isn't doctoring his minibar tab.
Rumsfeld policy adviser to quit this year
WASHINGTON (AP) — Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's top policy adviser said Wednesday he has informed Rumsfeld that he will leave his Pentagon position sometime this summer.
Douglas J. Feith, the undersecretary of defense for policy and a driving force behind the Bush administration's strategy for fighting the global war on terror, said in an interview that he decided it was time he devoted more time to his family. He has four children.
"I informed the secretary that I plan to leave in the summer," he said.
He offered no specific resignation date and stressed that he was leaving on his own terms.
Heh. Someones been digging up this lunatics backyard?
"Feith's Gestapo" - falshback:
 - "Powell thought Cheney had the fever. The vice president and Wolfowitz kept looking for the connection between Saddam and 9/11. It was a separate little government that was out there — Wolfowitz, Libby, Feith and Feith's 'Gestapo office,' as Powell privately put it… Powell thought that Cheney took intelligence and converted uncertainty and ambiguity into fact. It was about the worst charge that Powell could make about the vice president. But there it was." ["Plan of Attack," Bob Woodward] ~ DNC
 - Powell felt Cheney and his allies -- his chief aide, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, deputy defense secretary Paul Wolfowitz and undersecretary of defense for policy Douglas Feith and what Powell called Feith's "Gestapo" office -- had established what amounted to a separate government. ~ Left Coaster
Wednesday, January 26, 2005
Imagine if Bill Clinton had been chirpy and chipper having just received the news of 31 soldiers dying in the theater of combat--Rush Limbaugh would have devoted three hours to it, and Fox News would have dragged Dick Morris out of the all-you-can-eat buffet for his "expert analysis."Yet another appallingly embarrassing moment from the Chimperor.
When Bush did address the soldiers' deaths, he said that we "weep and mourn" when Americans die, but as he was saying it his hand was flatly smacking downwards for emphasis, as if he were pounding the table during the business meeting, refusing to pay a lot for a muffler. The steady beat of his hand was at odds with the sentiments he was expressing--he didn't look or sound the least bit mournful or sombre. And why should he? Death doesn't seem to be a bringdown for him. There isn't the slightest evidence that he experiences the anguish LBJ did as casualties mounted in Vietnam. His record as chief executioner in Texas is of a man for whom the death of another is an administrative detail, a power exercise. As Sister Helen Prejean wrote in The New York Review of Books:
"As governor, Bush certainly did not stand apart in his routine refusal to deny clemency to death row petitioners, but what does set him apart is the sheer number of executions over which he...presided. Callous indifference to human suffering may also set Bush apart. He may be the only government official to mock a condemned person's plea for mercy [Karla Faye Tucker's], then lie about it afterward, claiming humane feelings he never felt. On the contrary, it seems that Bush is comfortable with using violent solutions to solve troublesome social and political realities."
Comfortable, hell, he's downright enthusiastic about it. He's so cocky now that he can't even fake a semblance of sorrow after hearing news that would have made most presidents turn ashen.
MATT ROTHSCHILD: Well, there are a lot. Here is one. Bush talked about the -- this was probably the creepiest section in the whole speech -- the untamed fire of freedom, where Bush was almost rubbing his hands together when he said, “This untamed fire will burn those who fight its progress.” That's pretty lurid, isn't it? Anyway, he talked about the untamed fire of freedom in a passage that included the phrase, "hope kindles hope." And this echoes a couple passages in Jeremiah. “I will kindle an unquenchable fire in the gates of Jerusalem.” Or, “I will kindle a fire in her towns that will consume all who are around her.” This is just all over the place. I mean, Bush talked about the day when the captives are set free. In Ephesians, it says, "He led the captives free.” The closer you look at it, the more you can see these parallels, and they are very disturbing to me.
Remember how whenever we give Bush the benefit of the doubt, we lose? Remember how whatever Bush does, it is always an order of magnitude worse than the most cynical among us could ever have imagined?
So why, when Bush talks about "untamed fires" "in towns," do I think of dirty bombs or loose nukes destroying Blue State cities, as a result of blowback from Iraq? (Reckless indifference to the nightmare scenario, back)
I mean, just because the ungodly, gays, blacks, liberals, Democratic voters, and users of public tranportation and other Socialistic practices live in the cities... Well, that wouldn't be a reason for God, acting through the person of George Bush, to cleanse them, would it?
Of course not. Sorry. I don't know what came over me. I'm going to go back to sleep now.
Bush plans to push the [
privatization privatepersonal accounts] issue in his State of the Union address next week
Yep, just like the YABL's about WMDs in the SOTU before Whack. They cry crisis, crisis, but there is no crisis...
Anyhow, the WMD YABLs just violated the Ninth Commandment: "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor." And let's be reasonable! Who can count up to nine? Especially one of those budget-balancing math-sters-of-their-domain Republicans! And heck, in today's America, everybody lies, at least when there's
But I'm hoping that violating the Fifth Commandment, "Honor thy father and thy mother," will have just a little more resonance at the margin. After all, Throw Mama from the train wasn't a big hit in the Red States, now was it?
Readers, can you find it in your hearts to forgive me? If W won't, will you?
And speaking of Reverential Capitals—that's not Reverential Capitols, though given the sheer magnitude of today's Beltway fluffery, it might as well be—Rolling Stone's blog has a nice piece of exegesis on His
Call me crazy, but there's another force to which I've heard people of Bush's ilk ascribe these same exalted powers of salvation. That force usually goes by the name of Jesus.
"Freedom is the permanent hope of mankind," Bush proclaimed, "the hunger in dark places, the longing of the soul."
Freedom, Mr. President? Or Christ?
"We have lit a fire," Bush said, "a fire in the minds of men. It warms those who feel its power, it burns those who fight its progress, and one day this untamed fire of freedom will reach the darkest corners of our world."
Liberty? Or The Word?
According to Bush, freedom is an "ancient hope that is meant to be fulfilled." History, he said, "has a visible direction, set by liberty and the Author of Liberty."
Make no mistake. Those telling Capital Letters are not my editorializing. They're in the White House transcript. If the "Author of Liberty" is God, what did God author if not The Word. And if the word in this case is "liberty," then it would seem "liberty" is just another synonym for "Jesus."
(via Rolling Stone)
Nice little tuneup for the SOTU, eh? FTF...
Nunca mas, as they have had occasion to say in Argentina.
Bush made it easy last Thursday; everything about his second inaugural address, its grandiosity, its simple-minded diction and biblical intimations, the insistent refusal to acknowledge complexity, its wildly overstated and pitifully under-defined ambitions, its ahistorical smugness, struck me as downright preposterous. (I started this post on the day of the inaugual, the on-going illness I have mentioned kept me from finishing it until now, so the post itself has expanded as I've observed other responses to Bush's speech. If you missed the Farmer's brilliantly funny, angry, and more promptly published response last week, please, do yourself a favor and check BACK here.)
I've been amazed at the credulity with which the speech was received; yes, there were some reservations expressed at the practical implications and applicability of such a pure statement of American idealism, but rather less comment willing to point out that the speech's efficacy as a statement of policy could be measured in inverse proportion to its almost demented insistence that ideas exist in some ethereal space untouched by anything as gritty and unpleasant as a fact. Instead, once again we were asked to wonder at the poetic eloquence of Michael Gerson's prose, and if we happened to be liberals, admonished not to get too picky about the fathoms-deep divide between Bush's rhetoric and the reality of his policies, lest we peg ourselves, once again, as outside the great and grand ideas upon which our republic stands. Chris Suellentrop, for instance, writing in Slate, parses the speech to bolster his own praise for it as a wonderful piece of oratory, credits it with announcing a second Bush doctrine, (the first, preemptive war, this second, the peaceful pursuit of democracy everywhere, and nary a hint the two doctrines might contradict one another), then proceeds to question the validity of the speech's central thesis, which strikes Chris as being as simple-minded as the formulation by "some" on the left, that 9/11 was caused by poverty, and then finishes by warning liberals -- well, unlike Mr. Suellentrop, I shall let him speak for himself:
The abolition of tyranny is a worthy goal for an American government, even if it is unattainable. Liberals, who will be inclined to quarrel with Bush's message, should have no objections to the values Bush identified as the guiding principles for his second administration. The issue is whether he really has any intention of promoting democracy in Russia, China, and the Mideast when promoting it comes into conflict with other economic and security interests of the United States. There is much reason for skepticism here, such as Bush's policy in relation to Saudi Arabia, Tibet, and Chechnya during his first term. But rather than criticizing Bush's speech, Democrats should nod vigorously and then hold him to it.Really now, Suellentrop, when has George W. Bush ever been held to account for anything he's said as President; in order for that to happen we'd have to have a whole other kind of journalist than the likes of you.
Similar remarks could be heard on the cable news chat shows from people like Andrea Mitchell and Howard Fineman - Bush's inaugural address was a rhetorical triumph whose only problem was that he'd laid out such an ambitious foreign policy that now he could and would be criticized whenever he might seem not to be backing democrcy anywhere in the world; like Chris Sullentrop, all these commentators appeared to accept the notion that values exist exclusively in the words used to describe and define them.
I think it probable that George W. Bush believes he meant every word that his speechwriters cooked up for him, although I think it just as probable that he also enjoys the malicious pleasure of believing that his ringing claims of idealism are a thumb in the eye of elite liberals. In fact, one of the most unremarked upon aspect of his stint as President is Bush's odd relationship to words. No, not those tiresome Bushisms, although Mark Crispin Miller has shown us brilliantly how revealing they are of Bush's true self. What I refer to is this President's strangely reverent approach to his own language, in which I include rhetoric supplied to him by his speechwriters; once he states a fact or an idea, once he promises this or that policy, it's as if what he has said is now true, by the sheer force of the fact that he's proclaimed it so.
For Bush, language has the power to embody that which it describes, whether or not what he says is true at the time, or will ever actually become true. And language has the power to disembody that which was previously claimed as true, but has now become inconvenient. That belief in the coporeal power of language is sustained by the generalities in which the President's speech writers cast what pass for his ideas.
The internal contradictions of his inaugural address were on view right at its beginning:
On this day, prescribed by law and marked by ceremony, we celebrate the durable wisdom of our Constitution, and recall the deep commitments that unite our country. I am grateful for the honor of this hour, mindful of the consequential times in which we live, and determined to fulfill the oath that I have sworn and you have witnessed.Having invoked "the deep commitments that unite our country," he immediatly goes on to clearly imply that those deep commitments were, in fact, on "sabbitical" during the eight years of the Clinton administration, and quite possibly the four years of his father's. Thus does this President divide, even while he is invoking that which unites us, aided in this feat by the vague definition of what that "that" might be, no matter the strained rhetorical flourish of "America standing watch on distant borders." And thus do Bush's scriptwriters divert our attention away from the inconvenient fact of exactly on whose watch "came" that "day of fire," while attempting, no doubt, to draw an echo from Lincoln's great second inaugural, with its genuinely biblical sweep, and the tragic simplicity of its famous, "...and the war came." Without success; instead of a Lincolnesque moment, we got the typical graceless, ungenerous Dubya stump speech moment in which all blame for mistakes made accrues to everyone but the man who insists that he is in command, and the typical neo-con moment in which history is used to turn history on its head.
At this second gathering, our duties are defined not by the words I use, but by the history we have seen together. For a half century, America defended our own freedom by standing watch on distant borders. After the shipwreck of communism came years of relative quiet, years of repose, years of sabbatical - and then there came a day of fire. (LINK for the text of the address)
No one at the White House appears to have noticed that Lincoln wasn't attempting to obscure responsibility:
On the occasion corresponding to this four years ago all thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending civil war. All dreaded it, all sought to avert it. While the inaugural address was being delivered from this place, devoted altogether to saving the Union without war, urgent agents were in the city seeking to destroy it without war—seeking to dissolve the Union and divide effects by negotiation. Both parties deprecated war, but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive, and the other would accept war rather than let it perish, and the war came.The war came, not out of the blue, not like a tsunami, unexpected, inexplicable, unaccountable; the war came because men willed it to come, including that man among men, Abraham Lincoln.
When I referred to the president's writers cooking up this inaugural address, I meant to suggest something more than flippant disrespect for their concotions; many of the points given to the President were carefully derived to answer specific persistent criticisms of George W's foreign policy, without having to mention any of them. So, in answer to the many critiques of the Bush neo/con policy of waging preventive wars, the president noted on Thursday that the task of spreading freedom around the world will not be primarily the "task of arms," and to preempt the likely and often made charge that the neocon/Bush vision is an imperial one that embraces a Pax Americana to be imposed on the world, ready or not, Mr. Bush asserted, "America will not impose our own style of government on the unwilling. Our goal instead is to help others find their own voice, attain their own freedom, and make their own way." And how will this be accomplished?
We will persistently clarify the choice before every ruler and every nation: The moral choice between oppression, which is always wrong, and freedom, which is eternally right. America will not pretend that jailed dissidents prefer their chains, or that women welcome humiliation and servitude, or that any human being aspires to live at the mercy of bullies.Well, that's mighty white of you, Mr. Bush, but really now, when has any American post-WW 2 administration ever made such a pretence. Yes, America has often looked the other way when faced with the depredations of human rights carried on by allies deemed necessary at the time, often wrongly, but pretend the oppressed welcome their oppression? Who does this president think he is? Noam Chomsky? Howard Zinn? The closest I can come to such an attitude actually being expressed was that part of the human rights policy of the Reagan administration defined by Jeanne Kirkpatrick, which posited that traditional authoritarian rulers, like Somoza in Nicaragua, or the Argentine junta, were tolerable in the context of the cold war because such leaders, while not democratic and sometimes despotic, were a bullwark against Marxist insurgents, who would bring a far worse kind of anti-democratic regime than these ancien ones. But now I'm making an observation historical in nature, like the copious warnings about Bin Ladin's desire to strike on American soil were historical in nature, according to our new Secretary of State to be, and we know what this administration does when faced with anything "historical." (The correct answer, "nothing." )
Who could be surprised, then, that this inaugural address, like the President it celebrates, is more comfortable with eternal verities than with historical ones, no matter his prior statement that "our duties are defined not by the words I use, but by the history we have seen together?" Nowhere to be found in the text are specific references to what has happened in the four years of Bush's first term, no mention of Iraq, or invasion, or occupation, or preemption, or Saddam, no talk of the crucial nature of democracy in the Middle East, or the Bush roadmap for peace between Palestinians and Israelis, certainly not of torture, nothing about Al Queda, or the war on terror, or even any mention of terrorists and terrorism itself. Understandably, considering that there are almost no specific successes to be pointed to. So the president and his speechwriters content themselves with a big think, strategic vision; at the heart of the speech is this idea, elucidated through-out the rest of the speech.:
We are led, by events and common sense, to one conclusion: The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world.What liberal, what American today, would disagree? This is hardly a remarkable formulation, having been the commanlity which has linked the foreign policy of the United States under all post-WW 2 administrations stretching back even to FDR, though he didn't quite make it into the post-war era. That is not how it is presented in Bush's inaugural, however. No indeed. Instead, in an ahistoricism that is truly astounding, it is Bush's personal brush with greatness, 9/11, that is referenced as the point of discovery for this idea.
We have seen our vulnerability - and we have seen its deepest source. For as long as whole regions of the world simmer in resentment and tyranny - prone to ideologies that feed hatred and excuse murder - violence will gather, and multiply in destructive power, and cross the most defended borders, and raise a mortal threat. There is only one force of history that can break the reign of hatred and resentment, and expose the pretensions of tyrants, and reward the hopes of the decent and tolerant, and that is the force of human freedom.Not to pick nits, but the Declaration of Independence does not say that the dignity and rights of mankind derive from its image having been made in the image of God, and of his son, Jesus, which is surely the unspoken reference being made here. The Declaration locates the inalienable rights of mankind in mankind's own ability to reason from observation and to thus arrive at the self-evidentiary nature of the truth that mankind was endowed by its "creator," whether that be any particular God, or a long line of DNA, with such rights.
America's vital interests and our deepest beliefs are now one. From the day of our Founding, we have proclaimed that every man and woman on this earth has rights, and dignity, and matchless value, because they bear the image of the Maker of Heaven and earth. Across the generations we have proclaimed the imperative of self-government, because no one is fit to be a master, and no one deserves to be a slave. Advancing these ideals is the mission that created our Nation. It is the honorable achievement of our fathers. Now it is the urgent requirement of our nation's security, and the calling of our time.
We know that even if Bush is unaware of historical precedents, his speechwriters are, when nothing less than Harry Truman's enunciation of what became "the Truman doctrine" in front of a joint session of congress in 1948 is echoed in a line like this one:
So it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.But what post-war President would have the arrogance to pronounce our ultimate goal to be the ending of world tyranny? To have such an expansive goal is to have no goal at all. "Freedom" and "liberty" are everywhere in this inaugural address, but nowhere defined, contextualized, or even tied securely to historical reality. In the United States of Bush, Roosevelt's Four Freedoms, Truman's committment to the United Nations, the Berlin Airlift, the Declaration of Human Rights, the Marshall Plan, the formation of NATO, Kennedy's Peace Corps, his Alliance for Progress, his steps toward a Test Ban Treaty, the interventions in Korea and VietNam, Jimmy Carter's emphasis on human rights, the intervention against the Soviets in Afghanistan, and many other policies, some wise, some which proved to be both hypocritical and deeply unwise, simply don't exist.
Has there ever been an administration so besotted with its own arrogance?
In contrast, here is Truman speaking to that joint session of congress to ask that an emergency appropriation be made in response to a plea for help from the elected government of Greece:
I am fully aware of the broad implications involved if the United States extends assistance to Greece and Turkey, and I shall discuss these implications with you at this time. One of the primary objectives of the foreign policy of the United States is the creation of conditions in which we and other nations will be able to work out a way of life free from coercion. This was a fundamental issue in the war with Germany and Japan. Our victory was won over countries which sought to impose their will, and their way of life, upon other nations.Now I'm aware that our policy in Greece did not, in the end, produce democratic governance. But in order to get a sense of how different is the rhetoric of this President from the rhetoric that has come before him, I would still recommend you read Truman's remarkable speech, along with his 1949 inaugural address, both of which are rooted in the historical struggle then going on, and yet still manage to honor, in the way their own arguments are made, the great democratic principles that both speeches seek to protect. Reading them will explain why President Bush's essentially phony rhetoric is not to be applauded.
To ensure the peaceful development of nations, free from coercion, the United States has taken a leading part in establishing the United Nations, The United Nations is designed to make possible lasting freedom and independence for all its members. We shall not realize our objectives, however, unless we are willing to help free peoples to maintain their free institutions and their national integrity against aggressive movements that seek to impose upon them totalitarian regimes. This is no more than a frank recognition that totalitarian regimes imposed upon free peoples, by direct or indirect aggression, undermine the foundations of international peace, and hence the security of the United States.
The peoples of a number of countries of the world have recently had totalitarian regimes forced upon them against their will. The Government of the United States has made frequent protests against coercion and intimidation in violation of the Yalta agreement in Poland, Rumania, and Bulgaria. I must also state that in a number of other countries there have been similar developments.
At the present moment in world history nearly every nation must choose between alternative ways of life. The choice is too often not a free one. One way of life is based upon the will of the majority, and is distinguished by free institutions, representative government, free elections, guarantees of individual liberty, freedom of speech and religion, and freedom from political oppression. The second way of life is based upon the will of a minority forcibly imposed upon the majority. It relies upon terror and oppression, a controlled press and radio, fixed elections, and the suppression of personal freedoms.
I believe that it must be the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures.
I believe that we must assist free peoples to work out their own destinies in their own way.
I believe that our help should be primarily through economic and financial aid which is essential to economic stability and orderly political processes.
The world is not static, and the status quo is not sacred. But we cannot allow changes in the status quo in violation of the Charter of the United Nations by such methods as coercion, or by such subterfuges as political infiltration. In helping free and independent nations to maintain their freedom, the United States will be giving effect to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.
In Part 2, (I know, I can't believe there's a Part 2 either), I'll be comparing and contrasting how this president uses his own religion, compared with previous presidents, and how liberals might be able to field the current assault on their own values being carried on by the real elites in this country.