January 07, 2006

Pleasant surprise

As I rule, I've found it somewhat difficult, even unseemly, to sing my own praises. This actually explains a lot about my middling success at business in a culture where the squeaky wheel always gets the grease - and maybe a guest slot on The Surreal Life. More often than not, my inner George Bailey wins out over the proverbial tooting of any horns.

But I must admit that I was more than a little pleased to discover this flattering review of "The Hue and Cry" at BloggyAward.com today. Not quite a gold medal, but at least an upper part of the podium. A sincere "Thank you" to the Administrator and staff there for their positive and encouraging comments.

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Full steam ahead?

Here's another good read from blogger Star A. Decise at The Enigmatic Paradox, about an economy that our President proudly (and misleadingly) claims will continue "into 2006 with a full head of steam." Money quote:
It's cliched that statistics don't lie but liars use statistics. This chestnut came to mind today as the Bush administration launched a full-court, nationwide campaign to promote its economic record and tax cutting agenda.

The administration does have a glossy numerical patina to crow about in its headline-grabbing talking points. But the underlying economic trends, which show growth largely limited to the rich, are more sobering. It's even fair to say the country is mired in a recession.

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From the blogosphere...

Glenn Greenwald at Hullabaloo offered this unsettling piece Friday, in which he details the escalating, violent threats against the media appearing daily on Right-wing blogs. Nothin' like a few public hangings to define "democracy", I always say.

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And if you're still even slightly tempted to believe that the Bush Administration had a real understanding of the Middle East, or any inkling of the sectarian violence that would be unleashed by an invasion of Iraq, read this important post by the inimitable Juan Cole of Informed Comment. Heckuva job, Georgie!

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Crushed again

You know, it's tough sometimes being a Pisces. We tend to be emotional, heart-on-the-sleeve kinds of people, always bleeding for the world, and hoping for the best, and optimistic for the future. We were the perfect Flower Children, astrologically hardwired to be quick with a hug, a sympathetic ear, a sudden burst of tears, a naive belief that we could convince those around us to make a better world.

Of course, that's what always made the disappointments just that much more devastating.

Still, that down side of our ordained Zodiac sign has never prevented us from coming right back for more, whatever the potential trauma ahead. So it was with a genuine sense of satisfaction that I welcomed early reports regarding the President's Thursday meeting with former Secretaries of State and Defense, a truly bi-partisan group of "wise men" who'd served in some respectable Administrations.

Maybe, I thought, George did spend some time in thoughtful introspection over the Chris-... er, Holi-... oh, f#%k it, winter break in Crawford. Maybe he secretly read Team of Rivals in the wee hours of the morning after Laura had drifted off to sleep. Maybe he channeled some of the deserved criticism of his isolation and plain ol' pig-headedness, and resolved on New Year's Eve to make a change for the good of the nation...

Damn. Crushed again.

The revelation that these 13 experienced, knowledgeable individuals were actually given a total of only 10 minutes to ask questions of, and offer personal insight to, Mr. Bush before being shuffled off to a PR photo session - well, it's a real heartbreaker. A betrayal of the American people. A tragic waste of potentially vital advice from some of the best and brightest who've served the nation in equally troubled, complex eras.

And a slap in the face to Pisces everywhere.

What was Georgie thinking? Where did he have to go in such a rush that could have possibly been more important? When are the citizens of this country, both blue and red, going to grow tired of a man who's obviously just playing President?

Regaining some of the incisive wit that's recently been absent from her writing, Maureen Dowd fires this broadside at our Poser in Chief, and takes an educated guess at what these 13 statesmen might have had a chance to say in their allotted 30 seconds apiece. And Patrick Martin of the World Socialist Web Site (what, you got a problem with that?) launches this barrage at the President and the attendees themselves. OK, a little over the top, perhaps, but Mr. Martin makes some excellent and accurate observations nevertheless.

Don't worry. We Pisces are tough, too, in the sense that we've learned how to get over it. It was nice for a moment, a fleeting ray of hope in five long years of Bush Administration darkness. And I'm sure we'll glimpse another one soon, right?

If you believe that, kids, then spark up, join hands, and repeat after me: "I'd like to teach the world to sing..."

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(NOTE: For those of you who are not yet subscribers to the NYT's "Times Select", Ms. Dowd's article is reprinted in the comments section below. Click "add your opinion" to access the full editorial.

Click here for details on purchasing "Times Select", and obtaining a 14-day free trial.)

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January 06, 2006

A familiar pattern

As many of you know, I've been quite agitated for some time over events concerning Iran's desire to develop nuclear power facilities (see "on Iran" in the sidebar below), critical at first of the overly belligerent, bullying stance taken by the U.S. toward Tehran, and, more recently, of the inexplicably aggressive behavior exhibited by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Sadly, things are heating up again on both sides, in an all too familiar pattern of push and shove that has potentially terrible implications.

To begin with, I'm continually shocked by the lunacy of Ahmadinejad, which, even if carefully calculated for domestic political gain, demonstrates his immaturity and unreliability as a national leader. The Iranian President seems oblivious to the negative effect his repeated hard-line outbursts are having on IAEA head Mohamed ElBaradei and countries that were previously his supporters in the nuclear debate. In addition, Ahmadinejad's inflammatory rhetoric is only serving to justify the position of Western opponents eager for U.N. sanctions or military intervention.

This is all the more baffling when just a few months ago, circumstances had essentially succeeded in quieting the saber-rattling of the U.S., and workable plans put forth by Russia and the EU3 had gained begrudging American support. That Ahmadinejad would so willingly sabotage his nation's global reputation with a series of increasingly deplorable public statements, thereby playing right into the hands of his opponents, is beyond comprehension.

Even I am tempted to side with the Administration upon hearing statements from the Iranian President such as:
"The Butcher of Sabra and Shatila [Ariel Sharon] has joined his ancestors and others will soon follow suit."

"We must prepare ourselves to rule the world and the only way to do that is to put forth views on the basis of the Expectation of the Return." (referring to the return of the Shiite Messiah, the Mahdi.)

"We must believe in the fact that Islam is not confined to geographical borders, ethnic groups and nations. It's a universal ideology that... is ready to rule the world."
Nevertheless, I continue to believe that now, more than ever, the Iranian situation demands firm but patient diplomacy, and I'm nervous that the Administration will use Ahmadinejad's rhetoric as an excuse for escalating and accelerating a policy of unnecessary belligerence toward Iran. After all, America has its share of visible and influential madmen as well, and inflammatory rhetoric about the assassination of foreign leaders and the destruction of Islam has been known to foul the air before - but we'd never accept the premise that homegrown hyperbole alone could be used by a foreign power to justify an attack on our shores.

Condi Rice's comments yesterday seemed very similar to statements made about another "uncooperative" Middle Eastern nation not so long ago. And the return of "time is running out" claims should be extremely troubling to all of us, especially when there is general agreement among objective observers that Iran is years away from nuclear weapons capabilities. Secretary Rice stated on Thursday:
"We are moving into a period of time with Iran where I think we're going to have to, the world is going to have to make some decisions."
While I hope that those "decisions" are diplomatic in nature, I can't help but compare this scenario with the hasty dismissal of diplomacy three years ago, and the eagerness for military action already demonstrated by Ms. Rice and her bosses after overstating the "imminent threat" of Iraq's regime in 2002. Ginning up the danger posed by Tehran paves the way for truly frightening opinions like this one, written today by Move America Forward chairperson Melanie Morgan:
"[D]o we have the will to strike first to save our allies and ourselves?

If we un-spool the last of our political options and Iran's nuclear program continues, then we have no choice but to take pre-emptive military action to blow Iran's bomb-making facilities back into the Stone Age."
The most reasoned analysis I've seen about Iran's nuclear ambitions, realistic capabilities, and political rhetoric, appears in today's New York Times, in an interview with Joseph Cirincione, director of the Nonproliferation Project at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mr. Cirincione states:
"It isn't in their interest to have a program under way that, if discovered, could provide the basis for either sanctions or military actions. Their strategy, I believe, is more cunning than that. They're following more of a Japan model, of acquiring the technology peacefully for the production of nuclear fuel. If successful, that would put them in a position sometime in the next decade of going over to production of nuclear weapons material if they then decided it was necessary."
This assessment, to me, does not imply any imminent threat from Iran that would necessitate anything other than continued diplomacy with that nation's leading statesmen. Because an increase in official U.S. aggressiveness will only exacerbate the defiant posture of Ahmadinejad, now is certainly not the time to hurry. And in reference to that defiant posture, Mr. Cirincione offers this conclusion about the rhetoric of the Iranian President:
"The government is not popular, the economy is miserable, the new president has failed to deliver on any of his economic reform promises made during the campaign. Under such a circumstance, it's always useful for a leader to 'wag the dog,' to help create an image of themselves as being the resolute warrior who will defend Iran from threats real and imagined."
Now that sounds unsettlingly similar to another hard-line President with whom we're much more familiar. Unfortunately, we know from experience that in his case, "wagging the dog" was the prelude to an unprovoked military attack.

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January 05, 2006

Pocket guide

For anyone still unconvinced of the less-than-honest nature of the rationale being peddled by the Bush Administration for its domestic surveillance activities, Arianna Huffington offers this "handy pocket guide" to the sorry affair. And to those of you who still insist on calling opponents of this illegal policy "defeatists" or "traitors" or "America haters", let me try to make a few things clear:
1. Yes, of course we want intelligence gathered on potential terrorist activity within the U.S. To believe otherwise would be, in a word, idiotic.

2. That's precisely why we support the existence of FISA, its special court, and the easily-followed procedures already established for just such vital surveillance.

3. Since said legal procedure does in fact exist, there is no justifiable reason for the President to circumvent it. None. Zip. Nada.

4. The fact that Mr. Bush has repeatedly skirted this legal process can only be attributed to arrogance, laziness, or an ulterior motive not yet revealed. Maybe a combination of all three.

5. And no matter how you try to spin it, the President's actions have knowingly violated the law. Game. Set. Match.
What is it that Bush apologists find so hard to understand about this?

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While the cat's away...

Check out this post, courtesy of firedoglake, about Mr. Bush's version of "throwing a party while your parents are out of town." Seems that George the Younger has been quite busy, making seventeen questionable recess appointments while Congress enjoys its overly long vacation. That total includes three to the FEC that have never even had nomination hearings, a situation first noticed by The Enigmatic Paradox this past Sunday.

Today's Washington Post also details several of the more controversial selections made by the President, who deftly avoided anticipated Senate opposition to a number of seemingly unqualified individuals.

While definitely not illegal in any way, it seems to me that recess appointments are used too often as a way of unethically circumventing legitimate Congressional debate over the bona fides of candidates for important government positions (see Bolton, John). It's an easily abused means of perpetuating cronyism - one of the Bush Administration's few verifiable talents - behind the backs of our elected representatives in Washington. And I'd be willing to bet that that's not what the Founders originally had in mind.

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An interesting solution

An interesting op-ed in today's New York Times raises the idea of repealing the 22nd Amendment as a means of ensuring performance and accountability in second-term Administrations. The authors note:
[W]hether or not a president has a diminished second term, the amendment barring a third term presents the broader and more serious question of his accountability to the people.

While political commentators analyze every twist in White House politics, while citizens follow dramatic stories of leaks, investigations and indictments, the one person who does not have to care is George W. Bush. In a sense, he has transcended the risks and rewards of American politics. He will not run again for office. The voters will not be able to thank him - or dump him.

And yet accountability to the people is at the heart of a democratic system.
Certainly, the shocking hubris displayed by Mr. Bush as of late would seem to confirm this analysis. His defiant attitude, toward both Congress and the American people, is clearly indicative of a person "who does not have to care" whether or not his actions meet with widespread approval. And with a GOP-controlled House and Senate that are unlikely to pursue impeachment, and the absence of any Constitutional procedure for an Executive recall election, the current Administration is accountable to no one but itself.

Repeal of the 22nd Amendment could be an interesting solution to consider for preventing just such an attitude of impunity in future Administrations. And maybe, while we're at it, the time has come to add a Presidential recall option as well.

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January 04, 2006

Reckless guesswork

You know, this just infuriates me.

The Washington Post reported this afternoon that Vice President Cheney, speaking today to the Heritage Foundation, presented "a staunch defense of a secret government eavesdropping program, saying it might have been able to thwart the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks if it had been in place at the time." Naturally, it will only be a matter of time before this statement is repeated throughout the MSM as simple fact (it's already running on FOX News), even though such a claim is nothing more than spurious guesswork by a man whose hypotheses haven't exactly proved reliable in the past.

In short, it's reckless, self-serving, and reprehensible.

Let's not forget that this is the same individual who claimed there was "no doubt" that Saddam possessed WMD's in 2002. Who echoed the lie that American troops would be greeted as "liberators" by the Iraqi people. Who told us a year ago that the Sunni insurgency was in "its last throes."

To make such an unsupportable statement is an egregious abuse of the emotional wound still borne by the American people over the shock of 9/11, manipulating our collective heartache for transparently political purposes in an attempt to shore up support for illegal Administration activity. It's a callous bait-and-switch based on nothing more than wishful thinking - and a desire to cover the Administration's exposed derriere. That the media will willingly disseminate such a ridiculous contention without editorial comment is, in a word, irresponsible.

As I wrote earlier today, there is no reason whatsoever to think that the existence of the President's illegal spying program would have enabled this bunch to prevent a damn thing. After all, the information at the Administration's disposal in August 2001 wasn't exactly cryptic in nature. It's just that, by all reports, the attention of the White House was elsewhere at the time.

For the Vice President of the United States to make such a misleading public claim is no real surprise. What is distressing, however, is the chatter one can already imagine around water coolers tomorrow, fueled by "fair and balanced" repetition of Mr. Cheney's prognostication, in support of something that he states with unjustifiable certainty might have prevented the horror of that terrible Tuesday more than four years ago.

What will be lost on a gullible public will be the plethora of equally plausible fantasies that could have stopped the 9/11 attacks. Maybe if Al Gore had been President they wouldn't have occurred. Or if it had been raining and foggy that day instead of crisp and clear. Or if the air traffic controllers who saw the planes veer off course had acted sooner. Or if the World Trade Center had never been constructed in 1973.

Maybe if the Bush Administration had paid closer attention to the warnings of the outgoing Clinton White House, specifically former National Security Adviser Richard Clarke, the surprise assaults of al Qaeda might have been averted. It's hard to say, given that these are merely guesses after the fact. None of these hypotheses are any more demonstrably false than the Vice President's wild supposition today.

But that sure as hell doesn't make them true either.

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(UPDATE: Since its initial publication at 4:15 PM, the linked WaPo story has been revised to contain language more critical of the Vice President's claim, and details that more accurately reflect the concerns of my original post. --BP)

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Three wise men

Be sure to take a moment and read Paul Rogat Loeb's important essay, courtesy of CommonDreams.org, on Supreme Court candidate Samuel Alito, in which Mr. Loeb decries Republican threats to employ the "nuclear option" against a potential filibuster of the nominee. Money quote:
In threatening to end the Senate's ability to filibuster judges, Republican leaders talk much about high principle, the right of Presidents to have their nominees accepted or rejected without parliamentary obstructions. But the sole principle behind this proposed change is that of the power grab. [T]he love of power has now become the political right's prime gospel, making the slightest notion of checks or balances heretical treason. Republican leaders work to end the filibuster not because they believe it violates some deep constitutional mandate, but because they believe they can get away with it.
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"The Bush administration is increasingly attempting to recast the president as a latter day Harry Truman." So begins an insightful post at TPM Cafe by Princeton University professor G. John Ikenberry, who highlights nine ways in which "Bush is the perfect anti-Truman." Mr. Ikenberry notes:
What is most amazing about the Bush administration's new found desire to wrap itself in Truman-era ideas and heroic imagery is its sheer chutzpah... Perhaps we can find Bush's historical likeness in a different administration. Ron Brownstein of the LA Times suggests Polk.
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And The Nation's John Nichols urges Congressional Democrats to vigorously pursue all of those tainted by the Abramoff scandal - even if that pursuit leads to a handful of fellow Party members in addition to the overwhelming percentage of corrupt Republicans in Abramoff's circle of friends. Mr. Nichols writes:
If a desire to protect Reid and other Democratic recipients of the lobbyist's largesse causes the opposition party to pull its punches, Democrats will gain no more ground as a result of this scandal than it did from the Enron imbroglio... Only by being genuine in their commitment to clean up Congress will Democrats turn the Abramoff scandal fully to their advantage. And, as everyone in Washington knows, it has been a long time since Democrats were that genuine -- or that smart politically.

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Distracting the public

An editorial in this morning's New York Times echoes a concern I wrote about last week - the Justice Department's decision to investigate the "leaks" of information regarding domestic surveillance and secret CIA "black sites", rather than the illegal programs themselves. The Times states:
When the government does not want the public to know what it is doing, it often cites national security as the reason for secrecy. The nation's safety is obviously a most serious issue, but that very fact has caused this administration and many others to use it as a catchall for any matter it wants to keep secret, even if the underlying reason for the secrecy is to prevent embarrassment to the White House. The White House has yet to show that national security was harmed by the report on electronic spying, which did not reveal the existence of such surveillance - only how it was being done in a way that seems outside the law.

Leak investigations are often designed to distract the public from the real issues by blaming the messenger. Take the third leak inquiry, into a Washington Post report on secret overseas C.I.A. camps where prisoners are tortured or shipped to other countries for torture. The administration said the reporting had damaged America's image. Actually, the secret detentions and torture did that.
Couldn't have said it better myself.

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Playing politics

It's come to a point where I no longer know what to say in response to the divisive, disingenuous, and dangerous rhetoric of Mr. Bush and his minions. Words simply escape me, as I sit slack-jawed in amazement at an Administration out of control, an Executive Branch that no longer even tries to hide its complete disdain for the checks and balances at the core of American democracy.

The Bush White House makes it clearer each day that it believes the "war" this same Administration fabricated from whole cloth somehow grants the President the authority to do whatever he damn well pleases, regardless of law, in defiance of Congress (which should be ashamed for allowing the Administration to go this far), and shielded from oversight because of trumped up "national security" and "Executive privilege" concerns.

Why? 'Cause George says so.

And when a cry of righteous indignation is raised against Mr. Bush's ever more blatant abuses of power, a cry which is motivated by justifiable bi-partisan concern for civil liberties and respect for the rule of law, the only thing our Despot in Training can do in his defense is reach deep into that well worn GOP bag-o-tricks, and pull out an old accusation that's served him well in the recent past:

The Democrats are playing politics.

Am I just overreacting, or are we really at the mercy of a madman so divorced from reality that he genuinely feels the rules just don't apply to him any more? Does he actually believe that, like a spoiled child, he can get his way through calculated misdirection, and misrepresentation of known facts as if they simply don't exist? The Washington Post reports today:
President Bush accused Democrats yesterday of blocking a full reauthorization of the USA Patriot Act for political reasons, as the White House stepped up an aggressive campaign to defend the president's terrorism-fighting authority.

"For partisan reasons, in my mind, people have not stepped up," Bush told reporters, with 19 federal prosecutors by his side. "The enemy has not gone away; they're still there, and I expect Congress to understand that we're still at war and they've got to give us the tools necessary to win this war."
True to form, Scott McClellan prefaced the President's dog and pony show with one of the most evasive and farcical White House press briefings to date. He then upped the ante, pejoratively claiming:
Senate Democrats are simply doing the bidding of liberal special interest groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union... Democrats are trying to "appease" the ACLU "because they want to weaken and undermine the Patriot Act."
Scotty even managed to conflate the so-called "war", 9/11, the Patriot Act, illegal domestic surveillance, and liberal obstructionism in one neatly-tied (and completely hypocritical) package:
I think people are concerned about America being attacked again by a deadly and dangerous enemy. We saw what happened on September 11th, and this President is going to do everything within his power to help us connect the dots and disrupt plots and break up terrorist cells. The Patriot Act has helped us in a number of instances break up terrorist cells...

As we engage in this war on terrorism, we must also be mindful of protecting people's civil liberties. And that's why the Congress, as they took up discussion of the Patriot Act and went to conference committee, they took into consideration these issues. And they looked at the Patriot Act.

And in that Act, it provides important safeguards and oversight to address these civil liberty issues. And it took steps to improve upon that in the agreement that was reached, and now Democrats are obstructing and holding that up from being approved.
My favorite part here is the "connect the dots" reference, an obvious allusion to the need for unlimited government power to continue that "data mining" so allegedly essential to national security. Of course, this leads me to an interesting thought: Once upon a time, the Bush Administration was presented with a carefully researched document labeled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike In U.S.", which, in addition to its mildly alarming title, notes that "FBI information... indicates patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks."

Furthermore, the 9/11 Commission found that "George J. Tenet and his deputies at the Central Intelligence Agency were presented in August 2001 with a briefing paper labeled 'Islamic Extremist Learns to Fly' about the arrest days earlier of Zacarias Moussaoui", according to a New York Times article published in April 2004. Now, maybe it's just me, but that seems like pretty specific information, far more focused and direct than the disparate reams of data that would be collected through Mr. Bush's no-holds-barred secret domestic spying program, a program he contends is sanctioned by the very Patriot Act the Administration is so desperate to pass without delay - or revision.

So tell me, if this brain trust in Washington couldn't "connect the dots" about 9/11, even with such literal, targeted intelligence, why should we imagine that the Bushies would do any better with unlimited powers of surveillance? Casting aside the obvious illegality of the eavesdropping policy for a moment, and assuming that the American people were willing to acquiesce to the dismantling of 4th Amendment protections, what proof is there that this Administration has gotten any smarter or more effective at interpreting random chatter than it was in August of 2001?

None that I can see.

It's also interesting, in retrospect, to note that in that same 2004 NYT article, Lee Hamilton, the Democratic co-chairman of the commission, stated the following, unaware (as were we all) that the President's illegal surveillance operation was already being conducted in secret:
It's terribly important that, whatever system you have for the collection of domestic intelligence, that it be done by an agency that has respect for the rule of law. And that's one argument, at least, for keeping domestic intelligence in the F.B.I.
The final irony of Mr. Bush's accusations of Democratic partisanship and obstructionism is that it is the White House itself which promises to pursue its interests by employing political gamesmanship. WaPo observes:
Adopting campaign-style tactics, Bush and his aides plan to accuse Democrats of jeopardizing national security to further their political agenda, a tack that worked well for the White House in the 2002 and 2004 elections.
I'm hoping that this familiar pattern of obfuscation and distraction will not deter Congress and the MSM from addressing the serious issues at hand. We must demand that our elected officials ignore Mr. Bush's attempts to bully or taunt them into compliance, and insist that the Patriot Act be either abolished outright, or significantly altered to protect our civil liberties.

We must also remember that whatever delusions the President harbors of granting himself absolute power, and exalting the Executive to a position unbeholden to the Legislative or Judicial branches of government, he is not above the law. Don't forget that Mr. Bush was hired by the people - and his continued demagoguery and disdain for the tenets of American democracy have clearly made it urgent for the people to revoke his contract.

Well, whaddaya know! Looks like I found some words to say after all...

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January 03, 2006

The opiate of the masses

Here's another interesting piece by James Raven at The Psychotic Patriot, concerning the physically addictive - and, therefore, manipulatively effective - nature of television viewing. Mr. Raven notes:
Reading and writing use the left brain. Linear, logical, rational. Watching the tube does the exact opposite; it turns off the left brain and turns on the right brain. Endorphins released during the switch are structurally identical to opium.
I've often felt that watching FOX News is strikingly similar to a bad acid flashback. Now I know why.

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Two evils

From blogger Ken Grandlund at Common Sense, an important history lesson regarding 60 years of counterproductive American foreign policy, based on a doctrine of "the lesser of two evils." Mr. Grandlund writes:
The simple truth is that the lesser of two evils policy is a fallacy. By choosing this method of foreign relations, the U.S. has not endeared itself to the people of the world. Despite the charity of our individual citizens to poor or ravaged countries around the world, the reputation of America is based on the actions of our government. We tout our freedoms and democratic principals everywhere we go, so the people of the world can only assume that we not only approve of what our government does abroad, we dictate that policy ourselves...

The lesser of two evils policy has come to haunt us in others ways too, ways equally as threatening to our way of life as the foreign enemies who are rising against us. So indoctrinated are we in this way of thinking, so convinced that there is always a time and a place to sacrifice our ideals to further our own comfort or success, we have adopted the theory to our own daily lives and politics.
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Facing a "lesser of two evils" choice of his own, lobbyist Jack Abramoff "pleaded guilty today to three felony charges in a deal with federal prosecutors that helps clear the way for his testimony about members of Congress and congressional staffers in a wide-ranging political corruption investigation." Think Progress provides a comprehensive overview of the situation, which could turn out to be the "biggest scandal in Congress in over a century."

(NOTE: For those of you who are not yet subscribers to the NYT's "Times Select", the linked [and archived] "biggest scandal" article is reprinted in the comments section below. Click "add your opinion" to access the full piece, originally published on November 20th.

Click here for details on purchasing "Times Select", and obtaining a 14-day free trial.)

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Unapologetic Scaremongers

In case you missed it last week (as I certainly did), here's a terrific piece by Robert Scheer on the release, without charges after two-and-a-half years of captivity, of "those infamous Iraqi female scientists once routinely referred to in the media as "Dr. Germ" and "Mrs. Anthrax". Mr Scheer rightly castigates the MSM for essentially ignoring this story, especially in light of their initial zeal to present these scientists as proof of Iraq's "threat" to the U.S. He writes:
Unfortunately, the mass media, cowed by post-Sept. 11 jingoism, showed no stomach for fact-checking the White House's war propaganda, instead proving alarmingly pliant in simply passing along a distorted portrait that transformed a run-down and hamstrung autocracy into a world-threatening juggernaut. The media still struggle to make themselves accountable.
Little by little, the house of cards on which Mr. Bush's 2003 invasion was based is being exposed for what it has always been - a collection of misleading and outright false allegations, willingly sold to the American people by a compliant press. It's time for the MSM to be more direct in its self-criticism for that egregious complicity.

And it's time for all American citizens to acknowledge that the Bush Administration has demonstrably betrayed our trust, and forfeited its right to remain in control of the nation.

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"A Life, Wasted"

In this morning's Washington Post, grieving father Paul E. Schroeder writes about the death of his son Augie near Haditha, Iraq, and urges us all to step up our opposition to the President's needless, mismanaged military folly there. Mr. Schroeder states:
Though it hurts, I believe that his death -- and that of the other Americans who have died in Iraq -- was a waste. They were wasted in a belief that democracy would grow simply by removing a dictator -- a careless misunderstanding of what democracy requires. They were wasted by not sending enough troops to do the job needed in the resulting occupation -- a careless disregard for professional military counsel.

But their deaths will not be in vain if Americans stop hiding behind flag-draped hero masks and stop whispering their opposition to this war. Until then, the lives of other sons, daughters, husbands, wives, fathers and mothers may be wasted as well.
Powerful stuff, from someone who knows all too well the terrible consequences of Mr. Bush's unjustifiable misadventure to the East.

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January 02, 2006

More good reads

I guess I'm being less than energetic today, as far as offering personal, original, or even marginal commentary on the events of the new year. It's just that I'm coming across such a vast array of delightful writing on the web that I'd simply rather share for now - instead of supposing I could possibly say things any better. Read on...
A fabulous post by georgia10 at Daily KOS, on important misgivings within the Ashcroft Justice Department about the illegal domestic surveillance program.
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Lest we forget amidst all the claims of "saving lives" just how unsafe Bush Administration policies have left the U.S., AmericaBlog provides this timely reminder.
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Professor Juan Cole's 10 predictions for calendar 2006, courtesy of Informed Comment.
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From the TPM Cafe, blogger Mark Schmitt comments on "four great showdowns over abuse of executive power in modern U.S. history" - including, quite naturally, the current NSA spying issue.
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Here's a great piece by Jane Hamsher at firedoglake, in which she begs the lazy MSM to "Link You Huskies, Link!"
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And Joseph Loconte sounds a cautionary note in the Washington Post, reminding Democrats that mixing Biblical rhetoric with politics is just as unseemly on the Left side of the aisle as it is on the Right.

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Of interest

Just a few items of interest...
The Los Angeles Times weighs in with some suggestions for a "Sane Workplace in 2006".
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Blogger Star A. Decise of The Enigmatic Paradox comments on the President's virtually unnoticed nomination of "four party stalwarts to the Federal Election Commission."
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Speaking of "laying a foundation for peace" (see previous post), check out this story from the reactionary Blogs For Bush. Are you nervous yet?
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And, of course, on Sunday the President once again defended his illegal domestic surveillance program with a jumble of disingenuous statements and that ol' White House favorite, "Trust me - or you'll die." How can anyone buy into this sales pitch, given Mr. Bush's track record of credibility so far?

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Tears of laughter

Well, it didn't take long to find my first good laugh of the new year. From the opening riff of Mr. Bush's Sunday appearance at Brooke Army Medical Center:
"I've been thinking long and hard about 2006. My hopes, of course, are for peace around the world. I'll continue to work as hard as I can to lay that foundation for peace. And also my hope is that this country remains as prosperous as it was in 2005. We had a very strong economy, and we'll work to keep the economy as strong as it possibly can, so anybody that wants to find a job can find one."
Who knew this guy was such a brilliant comedian?

You know, just start with that "foundation for peace" line, and I'll bet you're already beginning to chuckle. Why, with an unprovoked invasion which caused the deaths of thousands of Muslim civilians and American servicemen and women to his credit, Mr. Bush is laying one helluva foundation, all right. Oh, and there's that 3-sided civil war thing that's a probable result of our little "intervention" in Iraq, which has the potential to destabilize the entire Arab world, or provide an excuse for our permanent military presence there. Hoping for "peace" - now that's funny stuff!

And I didn't even get to the layer of this PNAC-inspired foundation that includes prisoner abuse, planted propaganda, torture, and Extraordinary Rendition. As comic hack Kenny Banya used to exclaim, "That's gold Jerry, Gold!"

But our Laughmeister in Chief didn't stop there, even though he was already "killing" (in the vernacular of the comedy circuit, of course). He really brought it home with that whole "strong economy" and "anybody that wants to find a job can find one" bit. Sure it's been a strong economy - for major corporations, powerful lobbyists and their clients, and the upper one percent of the socioeconomic strata. As for the rest of us... Well, let's just say that we're guffawing 'til it hurts.

And that "jobs" punchline? Hysterical! Why, I have 25 years' experience, a shelf full of industry awards, a drawer packed with personal commendations, and a body of work that's helped win millions in new business accounts. Of course, in today's corporate world, that didn't prevent me from being "downsized" almost two years ago - and I still haven't found a steady, salaried position after 22 months of trying. As a middle-aged, middle class, middle management type, I (and untold thousands like me) have as much chance of finding a new permanent job at this advanced stage of our careers as does Osama bin Laden!

And that's especially true when those corporate fans of White House economic policy can easily get someone younger (or offshore!) to do the same work for half the price. This Administration has set the tone for a business model that no longer really values experience, consistency, or quality. Lots of us "want" a job, Georgie, we've just had to sacrifice them for the continued security of your "base", as you once said - which makes this the funniest joke in your routine.

All this knee-slappin' humor has left me breathless now, so if you'll excuse me, I've just got to grab a tissue. I mean, those are tears of laughter running down my face, aren't they?

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January 01, 2006

Welcome, 2006

Happy New Year!

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