February 04, 2006

Stay informed

Important, entertaining, insightful, timely - a few unheralded gems from around the web:
GreyHair at Bending the Third Rail adds one more comment on the shocking transcript of George Bush and Tony Blair conspiring to start a war with Iraq. Also check out additional links courtesy of Informed Dissent.

A typically excellent essay from The Enigmatic Paradox's Star A. Decise, concerning Alan Greenspan's questionable legacy.

Andrea exposes this disturbing story concerning the wrongful death of a Haitian minister seeking political asylum in the U.S. while in the custody of the Department of Homeland Security, posted at A Small Group of Thoughtful, Committed Citizens.

Blogger N.J. at Snips of Reality bemoans America's loss of reason, and our collective inability to grasp shades of gray in the ongoing national debate.

And Update America/604's Anthony Ioven fills us in on a research lab that's going to be placed in Boston's crowded South End - and will handle some of the world's deadliest viruses. Heckuva job, NIH!

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Who are these people?

It seems like virtually every televised news report, internet editorial, press release, and newspaper article I come across these days makes some reference to poll numbers. Zogby. Washington Post/ABC. Gallup. CNN/USA Today. And by and large, on matters related to the incredible calumny and ineptitude of the Ruling Party, those numbers tell an encouraging tale to tired and hungry Liberal ears.

We on the Rational Left tend to embrace these "survey results" as an indication that the pendulum is finally beginning to swing the other way, that a majority of the populace is belatedly awakening to the lies and crimes and dangers we've all been subjected to by the corrupt corporation known as Bush & Co.

So, for the most part, I couldn't be happier.

I mean, just look at these recent observations from various outposts on the information superhighway:
In the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll, for instance, 53 percent of Americans said they do not consider him honest and trustworthy. A recent New York Times/CBS News poll found 52 percent of Americans believe the Bush administration intentionally misled the public in making its case for war in Iraq. --WaPo

By a margin of 52% to 43%, Americans want Congress to consider impeaching President Bush if he wiretapped American citizens without a judge's approval... --Democrats.com

A new Gallup Poll, conducted in late January, reveals that just 39% of Americans approve of the way President Bush is handling Iraq, with 58% disapproving. --Editor & Publisher

58 percent consider his second term a failure so far, according to a poll released Thursday. --CNN
But as Adrian Monk would say, here's the thing. As truly hope-inspiring as the President's poll numbers have been lately, I'm nevertheless disturbed, baffled, mystified by what are still large percentages of our fellow citizens who think this bunch in Washington is doin' a dang fine job. Do they not have access to TV? Are there no major newspapers that deliver to their zip codes? Is there an epidemic of short-term memory loss permeating the nation?

Who are these people?

How, in the face of widely verified, documented evidence that the Bush Administration withheld information from Congress and "fixed the facts" to justify its assault on Iraq, can even 39 percent of our neighbors cling to a belief that their President did not mislead this nation to war? How, in an era of countless, videotaped examples of Mr. Bush's deceit, dishonesty, and duplicity can 4 out of every 10 Americans vouch for his credibility?

How does the man retain any support whatsoever?!

These questions keep me awake nights, because without a shift in attitude by a good number of those blindly obedient White House loyalists, real and lasting progress cannot happen in our society. A simple change in the party affiliation of the person in the Oval Office (or in the members controlling Congress) without that number will not, by itself, herald the demise of this peculiar inability of almost half our population to draw a rational conclusion from indisputable truths.

It would do nothing more than paint a new face on the same, divisive culture war we have now. And that won't move us any closer to a truly united U.S. of A.

I seriously wonder what more it will take to get through to that 39 percent, to convince them to objectively examine the overwhelming evidence, to just use some good old Red, White & Blue common sense. What is it that makes those four in ten so stubbornly and willfully refuse to lift their heads from the sand and acknowledge proven facts?

If you're a Conservative who can pen a comment other than the usual "You're aiding the terrorists you Red diaper doper baby, and Clinton shagged goats under his desk you f#%king Satanist!" nonsense, PLEASE explain this inexplicable loyalty to me. I'd really love to understand how you can condone behavior by Mr. Bush and his friends that you know would at the very least get you fired from your job - if not tried, convicted, and summarily tossed in jail.

But no regurgitated talking points, no links between 9/11 and Saddam, no fish stories about Abramoff bribing Democrats too, no claims that FISA courts are too restrictive, no wild fairy tales about Iraqi reconstruction... Let's just stick to the facts, OK?

'Cause if you look at a banana and simply insist that it's purple - and that anyone who doesn't think so is a "defeatist" - it doesn't prove that purple is right. It's just plain dumb.

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February 03, 2006

Your tax dollars at work

This is a beaut! From the AP:
A former U.S. occupation official in Iraq pleaded guilty Thursday to conspiring to steal more than $2 million and rigging bids on $8.6 million in reconstruction contracts.
It occurs to me that perhaps the time has come for concerted tax revolt in this nation. Given the obvious financial irresponsibility and incompetence of our current Administration, GOP-controlled Congress, and their minions in the field, I for one don't feel like entrusting them with another cent of my hard-earned money.

I mean, how smart is it to continue sending cash to a banker you know is misplacing, stealing, and otherwise pissing away those funds?

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For Christ's sake!

Don't these people have anything better to do? According to Reuters, the extremely thin-skinned American Family Association has once again rallied to the defense of a purportedly beleaguered Jesus Christ, calling for boycotts and commercial-sponsor abandonment of NBC's popular Will and Grace, in a typically hysterical over-reaction to an upcoming episode.

Within the past month, the AFA was also responsible for bullying NBC into pulling the plug on its new, limited series The Book of Daniel, helping to shield us all from... well, from something that I guess Christianity is just too fragile to withstand these days. The ironic thing to me is that, while unevenly written, The Book of Daniel was a portrayal of the positive power of faith in confronting real-world issues, and could have been the springboard to wider discussion of religious importance in our 21st Century society.

What a shame that the NBC acronym has come to stand for "No Balls, Currently." And what an outrage that a small coalition of religious fundamentalists fancies itself as the sole arbiter of America's "acceptable" television content. I for one refuse to allow any radical group, either Right or Left, to dictate what I can and cannot watch, hear, or read. And I'm especially tired of the vocal zealots of the Christian Right attempting to impose their will on the "land of the free."

News flash: It's called a "remote," folks. I'm sure that even AFA members can figure out how to use one.

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Picking up the tab

I'm not sure how to respond to the news that President Bush - you know, the "good ol' boy" Conservatives keep insisting is "on the side of the people" - announced his plan...
...to call for permanent tax breaks for industries that invest in research and development...
Now, don't misunderstand me. I'm all in favor of research and development by all of our industries. I mean, how else will we continue to grow, to innovate, to find cures and alternatives and solutions?

But I've always been under the impression that "forward motion" has to be factored into the expected costs of doing business, and that there are taxation rules and codes and deductions already in place that address a vast majority of those costs. Whatever it is that we do for a living, we're automatically supposed to invest in pertinent research and development to make our "product" better, and keep our competitive edge.

That's just a normal part of the expenses we have to cover before assessing our bottom line and tallying the year's profits, whether we're a medium sized soda company, a mom and pop store, a homemaker running a household of four, or a billion dollar corporation. Hell, as a "single person vendor" I was expected to invest in the improvement and innovative value of my business last year, even though I toil in an industry which (contrary to popular reports of a "booming" economy) had its projected growth revised downward not once, but twice during calendar 2005.

It's only logical, then, that we should expect our largest corporate behemoths to factor in a financial "show of commitment" to their chosen area of expertise before awarding their top executives obscene multi-million dollar salaries and exorbitant stock options, and prior to announcing multi-billion dollar profits for their governing shareholders. And it should be easy - especially considering the profits some industries seem to be making. I mean, we're all in this together, right?

Why, then, does big business deserve so much help from Uncles Sam and George, while you and I have to make do with the level of government "help" that we've been stuck with seemingly forever?

Oh, I know this government handout is in support of the terrifically titled "American Competitiveness Initiative" - and I'm just being a curmudgeon and spouting socialist vitriol. After all, what patriotic American could possibly object to such a noble sounding cause. But let's look at what all this unnecessary federal largesse means in dollars and cents.

To me, there's something inherently feudal about the fact that of the $136 billion pledged by the President over the next ten years to "improve the teaching of mathematics and science, train workers, aid universities and increase federal support for research and development", $86 billion will be chewed up on permanent tax breaks for profitable corporations. Does that mean what I think it does? That only a remainder of $50 billion over 10 years will actually be used for the "research" Mr. Bush is so "boldly" proposing?

I'm no rocket scientist, but that apparently indicates that $5 billion per year will be enough to accomplish the President's goals. So if he didn't give his corporate buddies what amounts to an $8.6 billion gift each of those ten years - an amount they can certainly absorb collectively from what we're seeing now - the "Competitiveness Initiative" would be paid for without adding a cent to our unfathomable national debt.

And Uncle Sam would have an extra $3.6 billion per annum to boot.

Either that, or it really will require the full $136 billion to achieve Bush's target in a decade - and who do you think will be paying that bill in its entirety?

A permanent tax cut for something that major industries should already do of their own volition is nothing more than another slap in the face to the American working class. It's not the first we've received from this crowd in Washington, and sadly, it won't be the last, unless we the people speak out and say, "Enough, already!"

The corporate giants that control this nation (yes, that's what I said) have a responsibility to the populace that faithfully fills their coffers, an inherent duty to investigate, educate, and innovate for the good of the nation. It shouldn't take an $86 billion bribe to get them to live up to that responsibility - especially when we're the ones who'll be picking up the tab.

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February 02, 2006

Past is prologue

You simply must visit this link, which connects to ten selected editorial cartoons, created by WaPo's famous Herb Block during the early 1970's. Scroll attentively down the page, and then answer me this - are those little hairs on the back of your neck standing up, too?

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Groundhog Day

This morning at Gobbler's Knob, in the tiny hamlet of Punxsutawney, PA, "the world's most famous weatherman" emerged reluctantly from hiding, caught a clear glimpse of his shadow, and promptly predicted three more years of Administration and Congressional corruption, duplicity, and ineptitude.

Sorry, folks, but the long winter of our discontent shows no signs of abating any time soon.

Case in point: According to today's New York Times, the White House is still refusing to release legal memorandums that supposedly outlined the rationale for Mr. Bush's illegal warrantless spying program, evidence repeatedly requested by the Senate Judiciary Committee in preparation for hearings next week.

It seems that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has already decided in advance that these crucial documents "would add little to the public debate because the administration has already laid out its legal defense at length in several public settings."

Wow. Thanks for clearing that up for us, Alberto. I guess that falls under the provisions of the little-known "'Cause I Said So" defense, first used by President Richard Nixon when he declared in 1973, "I am not a crook," and parsed to perfection by Bubba's strictly constructionist, "I did not have sexual relations with that woman" 25 years later.

The Times also points out that Bush and Company continue to stonewall Congress, "refusing to release internal documents on Hurricane Katrina as well as material related to the lobbyist Jack Abramoff." Somehow, that refusal appears to conflict with the President's pledge, just two nights before, during his SOTU address:
To confront the great issues before us, we must act in a spirit of good will and respect for one another -- and I will do my part.
Sure you will - as long as "doing your part" doesn't require the least bit of honest disclosure to the American people.

On a related note, Media Matters pointed out yesterday that the usual gaggle of Bush apologists in the media are already giving the Obfuscator in Chief a free pass on his illegal activity, choosing instead to praise Bush's misleading defense of his crimes as "strong," "vigorous," and "fierce." MM reports:
But they failed to note the numerous inaccuracies Bush employed in justifying the program, whose legality has been challenged not just by Democrats but by Republicans and some prominent conservative legal scholars as well.
I hate to sound pessimistic, but the nagging cynic in me foresees the Administration escaping unscathed from what should be a "slam dunk" case against it. I hope I'm wrong, but the public already seems to be losing interest in what is a clear-cut example of illegal behavior by the Bush White House, much as they're compliantly turning a deaf ear to overwhelming evidence of specifically Republican involvement in the current lobbying scandal.

So move over, Punxsutawney Phil. Looks like a lot of us are going to need a safe, warm place to hide 'til this terrible season in America has run its course.

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February 01, 2006

Trio

Having already exhausted my outrage on the State of the Union Pageant earlier today, I refer readers to these three important posts from other rational satellites in our electronic galaxy:
Bending the Third Rail's GreyHair clues us in to the fact that the obsessive (and excessive) media attention being given to injured ABC News anchor Bob Woodruff isn't sitting so well with our troops in Iraq. You know - those unsung, dutiful soldiers who are dealing with IEDs 15 times a day without wall-to-wall headlines on the evening news...

Meanwhile, James Raven of The Psychotic Patriot ruefully notes, "if this post is one of a half-dozen linking to this story, I'd be... surprised." Seems that several female soldiers "ha[ve] died of dehydration because they refused to drink liquids late in the day. They were afraid of being assaulted or even raped by male soldiers if they had to use the women's latrine after dark." A chilling report about this and other actions by some of our troops that are, in a word, dishonorable...

And, on a different note altogether, kudos to The American Peoples Congress' Jeff Richardson for highlighting these inspiring remarks from California Representatives Lynn Woolsey and Barbara Lee about the true state of the union - and what Progressive steps need to be taken to "move America forward."

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Free (?) speech

Be sure to read this post from blogger ReddHedd at firedoglake, concerning the meaning of "free speech" under our current Administration. Excerpt:
At last night's State of the Union, there were two instances of free speech being shut down. Not because either person involved was being loud, or obnoxious, or even saying anything out loud. But simply because both women wore shirts with printing on them which stated how they felt at the moment -- and both were ejected from the State of the Union because their messages -- from opposite ends of the political divide -- would not look good on television for the Preznit's night in the spotlight.
Is it just me, or is it growing increasingly difficult to tell exactly what country this is?

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Rooted in truth

Here's a bit of bittersweet humor from The Onion, concerning "a new cabinet-level position to coordinate all current and future scandals facing [the Republican] party." The news item notes:
"Tonight, by executive order, I am creating a permanent department with a vital mission: to ensure that the political scandals, underhanded dealings, and outright criminal activities of this administration are handled in a professional and orderly fashion," Bush said.

The centerpiece of Bush's plan is the Department Of Corruption, Bribery, And Incompetence, which will centralize duties now dispersed throughout the entire D.C.-area political establishment.
If only this joke weren't so firmly rooted in truth...

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SOTU, take two

OK, OK. I admit that my response to the SOTU last night was flippant, juvenile, sophomoric. From the hours upon hours of fevered television analysis that followed the speech and continue this morning, the hundreds upon hundreds of newspaper pages devoted to detailed evaluation of the President's game-plan, and the untold thousands of words already generated across the blogosphere, I suppose I should infer that something special, monumental, noteworthy happened Tuesday evening, something deserving of serious consideration.

But try as I might, I just don't see it.

First of all, it was terribly difficult, as I'm sure it was for all Liberals, simply to digest the sight of those smiling, self-congratulatory faces of our ideological opponents, all swarming together in the same room. The gilded procession of the disingenuous. The march of the proudly incompetent. Cheney. Condi. Rummy. Alberto. Dr. Bill. Denny. Mikey C. The Pentagon brass. The newest Supreme Court justice. And last, and certainly least, George the Younger himself, grinning and glad-handing and cheek-kissing and bouncing down the aisle.

These are the individuals responsible for a fabricated "war" that has led to the intensifying of Islamic fundamentalism throughout the Middle East. Responsible for human rights violations and super secret torture facilities. Responsible for the deaths of over 2,200 men and women in uniform, and perhaps as many as 100,000 Afghanis, Iraqis, and Pakistanis in the name of "spreadin' democracy and freedom."

Responsible for the bankrupting of our national coffers, the rape of our environment, the exacerbation of class warfare in our society. Responsible for an exponential increase in financial scandal, in government secrecy and obfuscation, in corporate authorship of our domestic policies and laws. Responsible for the steady dismantling of our fundamental civil liberties and women's reproductive rights. Responsible for tacitly endorsing an atmosphere of homophobia, censorship, and religious zealotry that seems to pervade the land.

If anything, given that report card, their mood should have been somber and more than a little apologetic. It would have seemed far more proper for them to be greeted with, at the most, polite applause, instead of the pep-rally "Huzzah"s and standing ovations and drunken adulation heaped upon them by a giddy Majority Party willfully ignorant of the real state this nation is in. It was a literally insulting spectacle by a monolithic faction awash in its own arrogance, prostrating itself before a petty emperor who stood defiant, insulated from the terrible reality he's created at home and abroad, symbolically framed by the twin rotundas of the Vice President and Speaker of the House.

The Democrats, you ask? As expected, a pathetic, compliant performance. If they contend to represent the feelings, interests, opinions of their Liberal constituents, then where was the outrage? Where was the open skepticism? Where was any visible sign of unity? Why was there any applause at all for the President's "been there, done that" laundry list of half truths, hypocrisy, misdirection, and lies. Yeah, yeah, I know - proper decorum, and all that. Mustn't appear too indignant. Must convey an air of bi-partisan cooperation and willingness to compromise. Mustn't offend the King and his Court, chip chip, cheerio, eh what.

Bullshit! The time for decorum has passed. This administration hasn't earned that level of deference - and offering it so freely is indicative of the very lack of representation we common Liberals have in the chummy, inner circles of Washington.

I guess in that sense, the SOTU circus is of some importance, in that it gives us an accurate glimpse of the society we currently have - which is not necessarily the one we want. In microcosm, it is America. The insular hubris of the Ruling Party. The practical impotence of the disenfranchised Left. The mindless repetition of demonstrable untruths as "fact." The Chamberlain-like politeness of those who know in their hearts that they're about to be sucker-punched. The virtual guarantee that if we leave things to the incumbents in power, nothing much will change, and we'll continue our steady march deeper into the abyss, like lemmings to the sea.

Oh, right. The speech itself? With apologies to Bill Shakespeare, "It is a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing."

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January 31, 2006

SOTU

Good Lord - what a wasted hour. Here's what I heard tonight:
"Coretta Scott King same old same old same old same old same old same old freedom same old same old same old 9/11 same old same old same old same old lie same old same old same old surveillance program same old same old same old same old misdirection same old same old same old same old 9/11 same old same old same old same old same old lie same old same old same old Osama bin Laden same old same old same old same old honored guest same old same old same old we're winning same old same old same old permanent tax cuts same old same old same old fairy tale same old same old same old same old bin Laden same old same old same old same old Katrina same old same old same old same old lie same old same old same old (yawn) same old same old same old same old God bless the United States of America."
Think Progress has a more thorough dismantling of this dog and pony show, for those less bored and disgusted than I.

Can we turn on The Daily Show now?

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Profound malaise

Here's an excellent piece by Newsweek's always-incisive Anna Quindlen on what she describes as a national feeling "of profound malaise." Excerpt:
There's a critical disconnect between the people in Washington and the people elsewhere. It is occasioned by the knee-jerk schisms along party lines, the bloviating speechifying that is so set to music (or TV time) it seems computer-generated, the public political dance of the sort that just took place between the Senate Judiciary Committee and Supreme Court nominee, as scripted, surreal and empty as a bad experimental play.
Read on.

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Taxation without representation

For those of you looking for something positive today, digby at Hullabaloo seeks and finds a silver lining in the Senate vote yesterday that killed the Democratic filibuster of Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito. He writes:
I know it hurts to lose this one. I won't say that I'm not disappointed. But it was a very long shot from the outset and we managed to make some noise and get ourselves heard. The idea that it is somehow a sign of weakness because we only got 25 members of the Senate, including the entire leadership, to vote to filibuster a Supreme Court nominee is funny to me. Two years ago I would have thought somebody was on crack if they even suggested it was possible.
He also pays homage to a post yesterday evening from firedoglake's Jane Hamsher, praising the amazing energy shown by the Liberal blogging community, which was galvanized by the Alito issue. It is well worth a look - and Ms. Hamsher eloquently expresses for all of us the thanks deserved by the many friends of this site who advocated so vigorously for continuing the debate.

Perhaps digby is right, and generally I would weigh in on the side of optimism. After all, as a Pisces poster-boy, I tend to look for the good in people and situations, and believe in hope as something more than an abstract concept. So if that's where your feelings about the cloture vote are falling today, read no further.

'Cause this time, I'm tired, disappointed - and pissed off!

To me, no matter how you spin it, it is indisputably, frighteningly, depressingly obvious that Liberals have no real voice, no influence, no representation in America any longer. The failure of so many Democrats to stand on principle (I especially love those who pledged to vote "No" on Alito today, but nevertheless sided with the GOP on cloture Monday) is actually a bigger betrayal to the progressive populace than it would normally have seemed specifically because of that groundswell of popular opinion Ms. Hamsher so rightly applauds.

Let me put it another way. If nearly half of the precious few Liberal representatives we supposedly have in Washington were unwilling to step forward, even with such a virulent display of public support, how can we believe that they will act in our best interest on less "sexy" issues, or on matters in which little or nothing is visible to the public eye?

The just completed, 58-42 Alito confirmation now places all branches of our government firmly in the grasp of the radical Right - not that they weren't there already. Face it, kids. There simply is no House or Senate subcommittee in which progressive ideas have even a remote chance of being heard, much less acted upon. The White House brazenly moves forward with its power-grab, and is already being given widespread credit by the televised media for having "successfully" diffused criticism of its illegal surveillance program, and for reframing the egregious GOP lobbying scandal as a bi-partisan problem for which the Administration itself is dedicated to finding a solution.

And today's ascension of Alito to the top court promises a roll-back in Constitutional and civil liberties, an attitude of compliance with Executive imperialism, and an almost guaranteed dismissal of Liberal (i.e. socially conscious) concerns across the board.

So while I'd like to be encouraged by digby's silver lining evaluation, I can't help but feel that the Conservative juggernaut and continuing timidity of elected Democrats leaves me today as a man without a country. I see no cause for celebration of a "moral victory" in the fact that a mere handful of progressives had the "courage" to fulfill their job descriptions and actually speak for their constituencies, while almost half of Senate Dems turned their backs on that duty, and "voted for Alito before voting against him."

Mom always called that "grasping at straws" - which is, I'll concede, more than a little understandable, when straws are all we have left.

For American Liberals, this is once again an era of taxation without representation. It would behoove members of the ruling Party to remember what happened the last time those words were in the air in this part of the world, and temper their assault on the founding principles of our nation accordingly. Otherwise, they may end up facing a 21st Century Tea Party of their own.

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Thank you, Mrs. King

Today we mourn the passing of Coretta Scott King, who slipped away overnight, asleep in her bed. She is but the latest advocate for peace and equality lost to us, regrettably, in a time when we need that message, that voice, more than ever. Rest now, Mrs. King, and thank you for a lifetime of activism, dignity, and leadership by example.

Read worldwide reflections on her life and work here, here, here, here, and here.

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January 30, 2006

The state of our (dis)union

Don't miss these two insightful editorials on the true state of our (dis)union, courtesy of Informed Dissent:

1) Important, pointed commentary on the pathetic inability of "half of the American population... to draw a rational conclusion from unambiguous facts" by former U.S. Treasury Assistant Secretary Paul Craig Roberts; and

2) A vital re-examination of whether or not "America [is] actually in a state of war" by the Boston Globe's James Carroll.

Thanks again, ID.

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Irresponsible

I was appalled to read Jackson Diehl's editorial in today's Washington Post, in which he contends that the U.S. has only two options in dealing with the Iranian nuclear question. Diehl's clear implication is that we must either pre-emptively strike soon, or face the unspeakable terror of an atomically armed Tehran hell-bent on starting World War III.

Such a statement is simply irresponsible. It is akin to (and maybe a calculated part of) the type of Administration fearmongering that sent us barreling into Iraq to eliminate a threat that did not exist. It's the kind of propaganda that misleads an already frightened American public into ignoring essential facts and simple common sense. It's the brand of hyperbole that gets real people killed needlessly, and only exacerbates long-lasting hatreds against the U.S.

Backing up his claim that military action is not just inevitable, but desirable, Mr. Diehl quotes John McCain, who said on Sunday,
"There is only one thing worse than the United States exercising a military option. That is a nuclear-armed Iran."
I'm beginning to wonder what ever happened to that seemingly rational John McCain that won the praise of many Liberals just a short time ago. Of course, I, too, wouldn't be thrilled at the idea of Tehran having "The Bomb." In fact, I'm not all that mad about Pakistan, India, Israel, North Korea, China, France, Russia, England, or even the U.S. having one either - but somehow we've managed to avoid mutual annihilation through meetings, treaties, and diplomacy for a total of 60 years in much more dangerous situations.

Sorry, Senator, but I think you have that comparison backwards.

What makes loose talk about attacking Iran even more unnerving are the recent intimations by French President Jacques Chirac and Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz that they would be more than willing to launch pre-emptive, tactical nuclear strikes against any "terrorist" nation they feel threatens their "interests." I'd assume that any American assault on Tehran would be supported by friends like these - and that's a can of worms we most definitely don't want to be responsible for opening.

Naturally, ex-Democrat Joe Lieberman makes an appearance in Diehl's editorial as well, stating,
"[I]f we should have learned one thing from 9/11... it is that when somebody says over and over again, as Osama bin Laden did during the '90s, 'I hate you and give me the chance, I will kill you,' they may mean it and try to do it."
Well, Joe does have a grain of truth in his claim - but then so do most good fables. It's no secret that international criminals like bin Laden and his ragtag followers would be delighted to use a WMD against Western civilian populations, and that is a horrifying possibility we must do everything within our power to prevent. But equating Iran and its hard-line president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, with bin Laden is recklessly disingenuous.

For while Ahmadinejad is confrontational, deplorable, and volatile, he's not a fool. He is the elected leader of a sovereign nation, and as such, unlike bin Laden and his widely scattered band of thugs, the Iranian president knows full well the immediate consequence that would befall his entire nation if he actually did develop a nuclear weapon and was careless enough to use it.

Remember, kids? It's called the nuclear deterrent. Mutually assured destruction. It's the dynamic that exists between all members of the atomic club. It's the chief reason that Russia and the U.S. aren't lying in uninhabitable, smoking ruin. Well, that... and the fact that they've kept talking and negotiating. Something that Messrs. Diehl, McCain, and Lieberman would have us believe is not a viable option with a still-unarmed Iran.

In addition, most intelligent and reliable analysts agree that Ahmadinejad's undisputedly reprehensible rhetoric has been primarily political in nature, designed to shore up hard-line support within his government and not as an actionable threat. Of course, he bears close scrutiny and monitoring by internationally recognized agencies. But even if his ultimate goal is to obtain nuclear weaponry, it is not the most severe and "unsolvable" situation ever faced by the free peoples of the world (gasp!), and the U.S. should certainly be able to resolve this non-crisis without resorting to a military option that will fuel genuine, retaliatory hatred among Iranians for generations to come.

Last week, former senior director for Middle East affairs at the National Security Council Flynt Leverett offered a sane and creative diplomatic solution to the Iranian question that showed a genuine understanding of the complex facts involved in this situation, and opens the door to a possibility for long-range progress with Tehran. And Mr. Bush should be given some credit for backing away from the belligerent bluster that characterized his approach toward Iran late last year, a fact which Diehl also lambasts as "ambiguity."

So, again, I'm appalled. The misleading exaggeration of an Iranian threat and the cries for war from Diehl, McCain, and Lieberman have a familiar stench to them. Quite simply, they're an irresponsible repetition of phrases we've been fooled by before, phrases like "imminent danger" and "a smoking gun in the shape of a mushroom cloud." We must do whatever we can to convince someone in Washington to step up to the plate, and frame this issue as something other than the dangerously incorrect "attack-or-die" construct being sold to us by Administration and Congressional warmongers.

After all, it's only our future that's at stake.

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AMBER ALERT

If you're a visitor who lives in any state between Illinois and Texas, please click the Amber Alert link in the sidebar for details pertaining to a 5-year-old girl abducted late Sunday from Granite City, IL. This alert has been in effect since 11:30 PM yesterday. The sidebar link will take you to the bottom of this page - if the ticker is still yellow, click the scrolling window when the child's name is on screen for full descriptions and contact information.

Thank you. --BP

(UPDATE: Latest reports indicate that the child, Makayla Christy, was found safe on Monday morning, and her abductor is in custody. Good news.)

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January 29, 2006

"An autocracy in democratic clothing"

In another must-read from a writer who deserves much wider exposure, Ken Grandlund of Common Sense holds court on Unitary Executive Theory, and the grave threat President Bush's pursuit of that autocratic power poses to the very foundation of American democracy. Excerpts:
Under an autocracy, the average citizen has no say in the rules of the land, no recourse against injustice, and no chance to change the course of social or political life. Citizens under the thumb of an autocratic ruler are subject to the whims of the head of state, which creates an environment of uncertainty, suspicion, and fear.
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Autocracies are maintained by force of will, force of power, and a blind acceptance of the people that there is no other way available. Democracies are perpetuated by the acceptance of all people, including the elected leaders, that to revert to autocratic rule is harmful to everyone. Above all things, democracy is a state of mind, backed by the rule of law that endures so long as the people remain involved...
- - -
Through an unprecedented use of so-called signing statements where the president interprets the laws of congress any way he sees fit, the rule of law is being subverted by an executive who seeks to consolidate power for himself and his potential successors. What results is an autocracy by default. It is an attempt to recreate an autocratic form of government where the head of state can choose which laws apply to him and which do not.
As Mr. Grandlund concludes, it is up to the citizens of America "to revoke the power that is currently consolidated by a single party." These are pivotal times for the survival of our grand democratic experiment. And the responsibility to ensure that survival is in our hands.

(Be sure to visit Mr. Grandlund's home site for some of the most timely and intelligent commentary on the web today. --BP)

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Gag order

Laura Rozen weighs in at War and Piece on a report that NASA officials have tried to silence respected climate scientist James E. Hansen, repeatedly warning him to stop "publicly discussing what he says are clear-cut dangers from further delay in curbing carbon dioxide." Ms. Rozen concludes:
This is the kind of frankly threatening behavior towards scientists we might expect from the leadership of Russia, or China. Not from an advanced democracy.
Ahhh, if only we actually lived in one...

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Propaganda, redux

I'm shocked, shocked! You mean, the news we're getting from overseas might not be accurate? From Friday's DefenseNews.com:
The Pentagon acknowledged in a newly declassified document released Jan. 26 that the U.S. public is increasingly exposed to propaganda disseminated overseas in psychological operations.
Funny, but this report reminded me of something I posted here on November 30th of last year, when news first broke about the paying of Iraqi newspapers to publish psy ops "articles" favorable to the U.S. To wit:
Additionally worrisome is the real probability that false or disingenuously optimistic "news" appearing in the Iraqi press will be reported as evidence of U.S. "successes" by the media here at home even if those successes are non-existent, in essence propagandizing what the American people are being led to believe is reliably objective information...

This whole episode strikes me as particularly Nixonian, and adds further doubt as to the veracity of any and all "official" information we receive. It should be increasingly apparent to every American that we cannot trust those in power to distribute factual information honestly and openly either here or abroad.

How, then, can we trust them to run our nation?
I hate to say I told you so...

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Imperial spectacle

If you haven't seen it already, don't miss this excellent argument for eliminating the televised imperial spectacle that the annual State of the Union address has become, written in today's Washington Post by professor Lewis Gould. As Mr. Gould notes:
From a Rocky-style entrance of the president through a gantlet of applauding solons to the introduction of mini-celebrities carefully situated in the gallery, the prime-time extravaganza will have all the spontaneity of -- and about as much meaning as -- a televised Hollywood awards ceremony.

More like an acceptance speech at a national convention than a candid review of the nation's situation at the outset of a new year, the State of the Union has evolved into a semi-imperial speech from the throne. In the process, the event has lost most of its reason for taking place.
Mr. Gould's piece echoes a similarly scornful assessment of this "theater of the absurd" from writer Marty Kaplan in Thursday's HuffPo. I can't help but agree that the last thing we need right now is another gilded, rehearsed recitation of the same misinformation we're already being fed by Mr. Bush on a daily basis.

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A far greater threat

Be sure to read this scathing, point by point dissection of the President's "justifications" for his illegal domestic wiretapping program in today's New York Times. Money quote:
A bit over a week ago, President Bush and his men promised to provide the legal, constitutional and moral justifications for the sort of warrantless spying on Americans that has been illegal for nearly 30 years. Instead, we got the familiar mix of political spin, clumsy historical misinformation, contemptuous dismissals of civil liberties concerns, cynical attempts to paint dissents as anti-American and pro-terrorist, and a couple of big, dangerous lies.
Wake up, America. This Administration is a far greater threat to the survival of our democracy than the Saddams and bin Ladens have ever been. Mr. Bush and his cohorts have willfully broken the law - and have openly pledged to continue doing so. It's about damn time he was made to answer for it, and stripped of the presidential title he has never deserved.

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