October 4, 2007

Are There No Prisons? Catching up on a few things from the last few days, what can you say about Bush vetoing the bill to provide health insurance to children in low-income families? (BBC) Every day he gets up and does the unspeakable, and surely he has done that in this case, in smacking down a measure of kindness to poor children. And yet we must speak of it. We can't continue to be forced to look away from all the hideousness, because it must be dealt with, even if only to acknowledge that it is happening. Bush has pushed "defense spending" over $600 billion a year. Oh, but he believes in fiscal conservatism, he tells us over and over. Can't fund a bill to provide health insurance for children, even though it will save the government money in the long run, but throwing billions away for a stupidly conceived and executed war is fine. He really is President Death. He is the corporate president. He represents the health insurance companies versus the American people. In a Washington Post/ABC News poll more than seven in 10 Americans supported the $35 billion increase proposed in the bill. Bush insisted it be no more than $5 billion. Halliburton leaves that much federal funding in the parking lot every morning by coffee break time.
  • Peak Oil and End of the World as We Know It -- Jeremy Lettett in The Guardian, writes, "A premature topping point in global oil production would wipe out most if not all economic and policy plans on offer at the party conferences. This is because the plans universally assume growing supplies of generally affordable oil. But as Goldsmith's quality of life report recently described, a surprised world could instead soon be facing rapidly falling supplies of increasingly unaffordable oil."
  • Chevron and Burma -- If Georgy Porgy was one bit serious about his criticisms of the authoritarian regime in Myanmar, he could just talk to his friends at Chevron. According to Amy Goodman writing at TruthDig, "Chevron’s Pipeline Is the Burmese Regime’s Lifeline". According to Goodman: "Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, at the meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, said, 'The United States is determined to keep an international focus on the travesty that is taking place.' Keeping an international focus is essential, but should not distract from one of the most powerful supporters of the junta, one that is much closer to home. Rice knows it well: Chevron. Fueling the military junta that has ruled for decades are Burma’s natural gas reserves, controlled by the Burmese regime in partnership with the U.S. multinational oil giant Chevron, the French oil company Total and a Thai oil firm. Offshore natural gas facilities deliver their extracted gas to Thailand through Burma’s Yadana pipeline. The pipeline was built with slave labor, forced into servitude by the Burmese military. The original pipeline partner, Unocal, was sued by EarthRights International for the use of slave labor. As soon as the suit was settled out of court, Chevron bought Unocal. "
  • The Right's Next Move -- Eric Alterman writing in The Nation explains that the right wing fools who created the catastrophe in Iraq are now preparing to blame it's failure on those who opposed it.
  • Judge on Film -- Some good video of John Judge at YouTube: Conversations with John Judge Part 1 and Conversations with John Judge Part 2.

    October 5, 2007

    Matthews Disrobed -- Still the best thing on TV, Jon Stewart had Chris Matthews on The Daily Show (see it here), which gave Matthews a chance to promote his book Life is a Campaign, which uses political campaigning as a sort of model theater of life. It's one of the most inane, impertinent and useless ideas for a book that I can remember ever hearing of. It's really the reductio ad absurdem of Matthews' life choices of totally selling out his intellectual and moral integrity for celebrity and wealth.

    Matthews was once a real journalist who wrote newspaper articles. He covered Washington, D.C. for the San Francisco Examiner during the period of 1987 to 2000. He was still writing editorials in 2003 at the time of the lead-up to the attack on Iraq, and he wrote a reasonably eloquent and impassioned plea against Bush's war. That seems to have been the last gasp of his efforts to follow the career path toward real journalism, something that could make a difference, help people distinguish the truth from lies and propaganda. That was his last column, or close to it.

    After that his integrity seems to have thrown in the towel. He took the celebrity that was handed him, with all its wealth and glamour, and just gave up seriously challenging the bullshit. He's become a pretty face on TV that represents nothing at all but a face that stands up there for the corporations to make their money and run their games. That same celebrity provides him the opportunity to put that name and face on a book and sell it, almost regardless of the content. So what does he come up with? A sort of light, business self-help celebrity signature volume. No one takes him seriously as a self-help expert, it's a personality book. It's Chris Matthews' Book, like George W. Bush' book.

    In lieu of a memoir, he has given us a sort of signature self-help manual, taking what he has apparently learned from his exercise as celebrity former journalist. How do you get ahead in life? Well, it's kind of like running for president, you have to sell yourself. Of all the great issues he has witnessed from the front row seat of a Newsman, with the power to ask questions and confront the big power players themselves. What has he gleaned from the experience? The belief that succeeding in life is much like succeeding in a campaign if you're a politician. Then comes the deal with the devil, in the person of Jon Stewart.

    Stewart is far more respected as a political thinker and voice than any of Matthews' corporate talking head brethren. Any politician or author selling a book can boost the sales just from the exposure, even if there is nothing positive in the broadcast to recommend the book. If Matthews can manage to end up the discussion with some yuks and a couple of points scored in repartee, he could see a great surge in book sales. So he has to take the chance even though he knows Stewart could possibly rip him to shreds. Matthews submitted himself, Stewart gave him what he deserves for being a man who should know better than what he does, who certainly knows to what level he has dropped as a serious journalist. Stewart skewered him, Matthews took it like someone who is way too smart to pretend Stewart is not right, the book is a joke.

    Matthews made himself a fool by his career choices. He's a professional fool, and Stewart undressed him in front of everyone. This is a contest that must be seen: Click Here. Also check out Greg Mitchell's article about it in Editor & Publisher.

    October 6, 2007

    Rudy Scummary -- Jerry Mazza writes in Online Journal, "How low does Rudy go? Let's start with Rudy Giuliani having eight years to correct the non-working radios of firemen and not getting it right by 9/11. So, 131 firemen died in the World Trade Center's north tower alone because their radios did not work. Others couldn't communicate with the police or helicopters because the Emergency Command Center at the WTC proved useless when it was needed most. The ECC was housed on the 23rd floor of Building 7, right where Rudy demanded it should be against experts' advice. But then, Larry Silverstein, owner of Tower 7, who called for his building to be pulled at 3:30 that day, watched it sail down into its footprint two hours later. So did the Rudy bird know what was happening? He was on the street the morning of 9/11. At 9:15 a.m. he told ABC's Peter Jennings, 'We were operating out of there (Tower 7) when were told that the World Trade Center was gonna collapse.' When recently a young black woman asked him face to face why didn't he warn the people in the other towers, and call the media, and asked if he had foreknowledge, Rudy did a 180, a big smile on his face, and denied he ever said that."
  • The Fall of McCain -- Rolling Stone's excellent Matt Taibbi writes about "McCain's Last Stand" and says, "When it comes to Iraq, the Arizona senator remains a prisoner of Vietnam, bravely taking a bullet for a commander in chief who betrayed him." In this case, "betrayed", the big evil word that earned MoveOn.org a formal Senatorial denunciation, seems moderate. Bush didn't betray McCain, who had just soundly defeated him in the New Hampshire primary, he slandered him, smeared him, destroyed him using a considerable chunk of the vast resources at his disposal as the chosen front man of the military industrial complex to do it. Taibbi is insightful and one of the most vivid, entertaining and honest political writers out there. He describes a "a televised repartee about the torture issue" in which "one by one, McCain's GOP opponents had lunged toward the cameras pledging, by means of innuendo both thinly veiled and not veiled at all, boundless enthusiasm for the abuse and torture of America's terror-war detainees. Rudy Giuliani, baldly seeking to overcome his rep as a two-faced Yankee liberal who kills the unborn and dresses in women's clothes, grinned into the cameras and said he would tell his people to 'use every method they could think of' to get information." It was a pathetic display, the destruction of the front-running candidate by the lowest, most outrageously dishonest methods imaginable, a telephone blanketing of the state, spreading vicious rumors about McCain under the pretense of taking a poll. But it was McCain's own fault he then sold his soul to Bush and swung his support and influence to Bush as well as to the war in Iraq. He made his own bed. His current collapse can't elicit much sympathy. It would have been a different story if he'd stood for something worthwhile other than power for the sake of power. According to Taibbi, "In the absurd black comedy of the American electoral process, our presidential candidates are mostly two-dimensional monsters, grotesque approximations of human beings born by some obscene asexual reproductive method in the demeaning celluloid muck of the campaign trail."
  • Bush Defends Torture -- According to The Chicago Tribune Bush has been subjected to renewed questioning about torture because of the emergence of a report that the Justice Department secretly authorized "some of the CIA's harshest techniques for interrogation at secret prisons overseas... includ[ing] head-slapping and exposure to cold and simulated drownings, including using them in combination." As the Tribune says, "Congress has forbidden torture, and the Justice Department, declaring torture 'abhorrent both to American law and values and to international norms,' spelled out in a December 2004 memorandum the tactics that would impermissibly inflict 'severe physical or mental pain and suffering.'" But Bush says it's okay because the White House already briefed Congress about it.
  • Give It Up -- The very confused Senator Craig, the "nasty, bad, naughty boy" of Utah, just can't let go of that fine, lucrative Senate seat, even though he previously said he would resign September 30. After all, just because the staunchly anti-gay rights senator was caught soliciting sex from other men in an airport restroom, why shouldn't he be able to represent the people of Utah in the U.S. Senate? "I have seen that it is possible for me to work here effectively," Craig said in a statement Thursday. Some other Republicans, however, are really wishing he would just go away, according to CNN. "It's embarrassing for the Senate. It's embarrassing for our party," said Sen. John Ensign of Nevada. "I think it's best for the U.S. Senate, it's best for certainly his party, that he just keeps his word. He gave us his word he would do something, and he's backing out on us, and I don't think that's the right thing to do." This Craig -- what a sick creature he is! No shame at all. He can lie and twist logic to absurdity and never be embarrassed that everyone knows he is lying. According to the New York Times, he now says he "reversed his previously announced decision to leave the Senate if he could not get the plea thrown out." He pleaded guilty to a charge that resulted from his getting caught trying to solicit sex in the bathroom. A month after the incident, when it became public, he said he had just pleaded guilty to "make it go away", which it did for a while. But when it wouldn't stay away he declared that he was going to withdraw his guilty plea and prove his innocence. "I am not gay!" he declared. Damn the torpedoes! Then when it turned out the court won't let him change his plea, he says, okay, well then I won't resign. He used the ploy of changing his plea as the justification for his staying on, then when it turned out he couldn't do that he used that as a justification for staying too. Heads I win, tails you lose. But, he says, he's not going to run again at the end of his term, and that, he says, should provide "the certainty Idaho needs and deserves." Huh? Now the Repugs take off the gloves. According to Congressional Quarterly Politics, "Republicans indicated Thursday that they plan to make life in the Senate uncomfortable for Larry E. Craig. After the Idaho senator announced his determination to remain in office, fellow Republicans raised the possibility of ejecting him from committees and holding public ethics hearings. 'This gets real now,' a Republican aide said." Ah, these glorious politicians and their dances with words. Arlen Spector, the inventor of the Magic Bullet Theory and one of the great Artful Dodgers of reality, defended Craig, saying "Disorderly conduct is not moral turpitude, and it’s not a basis for leaving the Senate." Another glorious logical dance of deception. "Disorderly Conduct" was the reduced charge that the prosecutor offered Craig so he could reduce the embarrassment. But everyone knows that Craig's conduct was soliciting sex in a public restroom. The video and audio tapes have been aired publicly. But in his legal fantasy logic, Spector assumes you can reduce the act to a non descript legal term and thereby make it go away, leaving the result of the equasion that soliciting sex in a public restroom for a U.S. senator is not "moral turpitude." while the world races for their dictionaries, Spector is out of sight. "Turpitude" is defined as "a vile, shameful or depraved act." Or maybe a "nasty, bad, naughty" act.

    October 7, 2007

    War Industry Pawns -- The great Helen Thomas on "The Democrats Who Enable Bush": "President Bush has no better friends than the spineless Democratic congressional leadership and the party's leading presidential candidates when it comes to his failing Iraq policy. Those Democrats seem to have forgotten that the American people want U.S. troops out of Iraq, especially since Bush still cannot give a credible reason for attacking Iraq after nearly five years of war. Last week at a debate in Hanover, N.H., the leading Democratic presidential candidates sang from the same songbook: Sens. Hillary Clinton of New York, and Barack Obama of Illinois and former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards refused to promise to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq by 2013, at the end of the first term of their hypothetical presidencies. Can you believe it?"
  • The Torture President -- New York Time editorial On Torture and American Values: "Once upon a time, it was the United States that urged all nations to obey the letter and the spirit of international treaties and protect human rights and liberties. American leaders denounced secret prisons where people were held without charges, tortured and killed. And the people in much of the world, if not their governments, respected the United States for its values. The Bush administration has dishonored that history and squandered that respect. As an article on this newspaper’s front page last week laid out in disturbing detail, President Bush and his aides have not only condoned torture and abuse at secret prisons, but they have conducted a systematic campaign to mislead Congress, the American people and the world about those policies."

    October 11, 2007

    On October 9, John Lennon's birthday, the U.S. State Department issued a Worldwide Caution, a vast, nonspecific warning against attacks on Americans and American interests anywhere at any time. It warned of "continued threat of terrorist attacks, demonstrations and other violent actions against U.S. citizens and interests overseas" planned by "al-Qaida and affiliated organizations ... against U.S. interests in multiple regions, including Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East." The attacks, the department warns, "may employ a wide variety of tactics including assassinations, kidnappings, hijackings and bombings." The warning says that "Ongoing events in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East have resulted in demonstrations and associated violence in several countries. Americans are reminded that demonstrations and rioting can occur with little or no warning." How could the government more clearly state the abject failure of U.S. foreign policy under the Bush administration?
  • The Day Before the Oxford Research Group, a British think tank, released a report saying similar things from a different point of view. The think tank's conclusion: the comically named "War on Terror" is a failure and the war in Iraq is making the world less safe, the diametric opposite of the Bush claims. . According to a Reuters report, "Six years after the September 11 attacks in the United States, the 'war on terror' is failing and instead fueling an increase in support for extremist Islamist movements, a British think-tank said on Monday. A report by the Oxford Research Group (ORG) said a 'fundamental re-think is required' if the global terrorist network is to be rendered ineffective. 'If the al Qaeda movement is to be countered, then the roots of its support must be understood and systematically undercut, said Paul Rogers, the report's author and professor of global peace studies at Bradford University in northern England. 'Combined with conventional policing and security measures, al Qaeda can be contained and minimized but this will require a change in policy at every level.' He described the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq as a 'disastrous mistake' which had helped establish a 'most valued jihadist combat training zone' for al Qaeda supporters." Thanks George.
  • Black is Black -- Whatever you call it, whatever verbal acrobatics you perform, or slick euphemistic nuspeak definitions you employ, torture is torture. Jimmy Carter introduced a little reality into the public debate on torture, saying that Bush's declaration that "This government does not torture people" is "not an accurate statement if you use the international norms of torture as has always been honored -- certainly in the last 60 years since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was promulgated. But you can make your own definition of human rights and say we don't violate them, and you can make your own definition of torture and say we don't violate them." The nuspeak experts at the White House responded saying, "Our position is clear. We don't torture. It's just sad to hear a former president speak like that." (CNN)

    October 14, 2007

    Gore, Climate Change and Peace -- Strange now to do a side-by-side comparison between the man who clearly won the 2000 election, including Florida when the votes were finally counted, and the man whose corrupt cronies on the Supreme Court gave him the White House. Bush ascended to power as he had always received everything in his life, and he "governed" just as he had conducted himself through his career of failed enterprises. The slothful corporate media framed the issues in the most infantile ways: Who would you rather drink a beer with? Gore is a know-it-all, no fun at all. Unfortunately Bush would rather be drinking his beer with the major corporations who are now robbing the country blind than with you or me. And the damage his administration has inflicted on this country morally, financially, in terms of international prestige and diplomatic power is incalculable. Now Gore, who actually believed in some things and worked toward goals, such as environmental protection back when Bush was doing nothing, has won the Nobel Peace Prize. According to Bryan Walsh in Time, "Gore's win was widely expected, but there may still be those who wonder how an environmentalist could be, as the Peace Prize's description goes, the person who has 'done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations.' They shouldn't. Climate change is already a key instigator of conflict in areas like Darfur, where drought likely worsened by global warming helped trigger a civil war that has claimed over 200,000 lives. (Nor are Gore and the IPCC the first greens to win the Peace Prize; that would be the Kenyan Wangari Maathai, a conservationist and political activist who won in 2004.) As the IPCC's own reports this year show, unabated global warming will likely lead to competition for increasingly scarce resources and create waves of climate refugees in the hottest and poorest nations. A warmer world will almost certainly be a more violent one, so it's fitting that those who've done the most on climate change should be celebrated as warriors for peace."
  • Another Bush Ally Going Down -- Australian Prime Minister John Howard, aligned with Bush on Iraq, the "war on terror" and global warming, is facing an election and is 18 points down in the polls. Out! There's a new world waiting. Sydney Morning Herald, AFP
  • Good Americans -- Frank Rich in the NY Times, "'Bush lies' doesn’t cut it anymore. It’s time to confront the darker reality that we are lying to ourselves... By any legal standards except those rubber-stamped by Alberto Gonzales, we are practicing torture, and we have known we are doing so ever since photographic proof emerged from Abu Ghraib more than three years ago. As Andrew Sullivan, once a Bush cheerleader, observed last weekend in The Sunday Times of London, America’s 'enhanced interrogation' techniques have a grotesque provenance: 'Verschärfte Vernehmung, enhanced or intensified interrogation, was the exact term innovated by the Gestapo to describe what became known as the "third degree." It left no marks. It included hypothermia, stress positions and long-time sleep deprivation.' Still, the drill remains the same. The administration gives its alibi (Abu Ghraib was just a few bad apples). A few members of Congress squawk. The debate is labeled 'politics.' We turn the page. ... Our humanity has been compromised by those who use Gestapo tactics in our war. The longer we stand idly by while they do so, the more we resemble those “good Germans” who professed ignorance of their own Gestapo. It’s up to us to wake up our somnambulant Congress to challenge administration policy every day. Let the war’s last supporters filibuster all night if they want to. There is nothing left to lose except whatever remains of our country’s good name."
  • Coulter and the Martians -- According to Thom Hartmann in opednews.com, "The National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) called on media to stop inviting Ann Coulter as a guest commentator and strongly condemned her comments that Jews should be 'perfected' by accepting the New Testament and that America would be better off if Judaism were 'thrown away' and all Americans were Christian. 'While Ann Coulter has freedom of speech, news outlets should exercise their freedom to use better judgment,' said NJDC Executive Director Ira N. Forman. 'Just as media outlets don't invite those who believe that Martians walk the earth to frequently comment on science stories, it's time they stop inviting Ann Coulter to comment on politics.'" Hartmann also reports that "Justice" Antonin Scalia several years "attended an Orthodox synagogue in New York and claimed that the Founders intended for their Christianity to play a part in government. Scalia then went so far as to suggest that the reason Hitler was able to initiate the Holocaust was because of German separation of church and state."
  • 1 Percent Take 21 Percent -- According to the Wall Street Journal, "The wealthiest 1% of Americans earned 21.2% of all income in 2005, according to new data from the Internal Revenue Service. That is up sharply from 19% in 2004, and surpasses the previous high of 20.8% set in 2000, at the peak of the previous bull market in stocks. The bottom 50% earned 12.8% of all income, down from 13.4% in 2004 and a bit less than their 13% share in 2000... The IRS data go back only to 1986, but academic research suggests the rich last had this high a share of total income in the 1920s."
  • No Immunity for Media Snoopers -- According to thinkprogress.org, "This week, the House introduced FISA reform legislation that refused to grant immunity to telecommunications companies for their participation in potentially illegal spying activities. President Bush immediately warned that he would veto the legislation if it did not surrender on the immunity provision. Early reports suggested that the Senate was prepared to back down on the immunity provision. FireDogLake reported that the Senate version of the FISA bill 'does contain immunity/amnesty for the telecom companies.' But this weekend on Bloomberg Television’s 'Political Capital with Al Hunt,' Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) spoke out forcefully against granting unconditional immunity to the telecom companies for potentially illegal acts: 'I’m not for blanket immunity until we understand what the program has been about. The day will come, maybe in my lifetime or later, when we’ll finally figure out what the Bush administration has been up to these years with this secret program. I don’t want the embarrassment of history coming back saying what were they thinking of in Congress to give blanket immunity when they didn’t even know the circumstances.'"
  • Bottom Denominator Politics -- The corporate media's debasement of politics, which just happens to serve the corporate agenda as personified by George W. Bush, has a great deal to do with the disastrous predicament we find ourselves in. As Bob Herbert puts it in the New York Times, in spite of Bush's "obvious vulnerabilities" in 2000, "it was not him but Mr. Gore who was mocked unmercifully by the national media. And the mockery had nothing to do with the former vice president’s positions on important policy issues... Mr. Gore was taken to task for his taste in clothing and for such grievous offenses as sighing or, allegedly, rolling his eyes. It was a given that at a barbecue everyone would rush to be with his opponent. We’ve paid a heavy price. The president who got such high marks as a barbecue companion doesn’t seem to know up from down. He’s hurled the nation into a ruinous war that has cost countless lives and spawned a whole new generation of terrorists. He continues to sit idly by as a historic American city, New Orleans, remains wounded and on its knees. He’s blithely steered the nation into a bottomless pit of debt. I could go on."

    -- David Cogswell

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