Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Honor the Fallen, not the war. James Carroll., Globe.

Honor the fallen, not the war

By James Carroll | May 29, 2006

TODAY'S observance has its origins in the laudable impulse to memorialize those who died in the nation's wars. Because that impulse is tied to grief, however, the remembering is narrow. Its object is ``honor" and so the past is glorified, as the graves of the fallen are decorated on Decoration Day. Because it is natural to regard those who died in war as heroes, it can seem necessary to affirm the wars themselves as heroic, too. The decoration extends to martial rhetoric. This is a human response, dating at least to Homer, but such remembering results, ironically, in a kind of amnesia. The true condition of war -- what continually leaves battle-scarred survivors opposed to war -- is readily forgotten.

In the 20th century, two occurrences initiated a broad change in consciousness. Industrialized war so devastated the populations of the battle zones that they found it impossible to resume the ancient habit of glorification. The past would be remembered differently.

Germany and Japan, in particular, emerged as pacifist nations -- an extraordinary turn. But, secondly, when nuclear weapons entered the story, the future was transformed, too. Traditional notions of proportionality and civilian immunity were obliterated. For the first time, large numbers of humans began to insist that a world without war was not only possible but mandatory. The most respectful way to memorialize the war dead was to deny that they had to be succeeded.

But during the Cold War this discussion became framed as debate between tough-minded ``realists" and soft-headed idealists. Across a generation, the realists seemed to have the better of the argument, but when that era of jeopardy ended non violently, it was the idealists (the democracy movements in the East, the peace movements in the West) who turned out to have perceived what was truly real. The national security establishments on both sides of the Iron Curtain, presiding jointly over the manufacture of more than 100,000 nukes -- to cite only their most egregious mistake -- had fatally undermined the very notion of security. That the world survived that
mad competition had nothing to do with what realists perceived or proposed.

Lately, in Washington, they have been at it again, insisting that new threats (if not communists, terrorists; if not dominoes, oil) justify going to war. But once more, the true face of war has efficiently shown itself. The true meaning of national security is apparent, too. Confronted with challenges from malevolent antagonists, the realists had wildly exaggerated what such enemies were capable of. Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden posed real dangers, but not remotely what realists warned of, and not what they then went after. The realists, that is, missed what was real. With their war in Iraq, in the context of their global war on terrorism, they created new
conditions of national insecurity that surpass any damage of which Saddam or bin Laden were capable. An Arab world enflamed against America. Muslims seeing in us a mortal enemy. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict escalated.

Other nations (not only Iran and North Korea, but perhaps Russia and China) girding for battle against us. On the ground in Iraq, the full meaning of such consequences is blood red -- Iraqi blood, American blood. As always, the first penalty for the failures of such realism is paid by the dead.

This Memorial Day, especially, we yearn to honor the more than 2,700 US soldiers who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan. What is the proper way to remember them? Even in condemning what made it necessary, can we not acknowledge the selflessness of their sacrifice? At Troy, soldiers were roused to battle by the promise that their exploits would be sung of far into the future. Is it a betrayal of our soldiers that we no longer want to sing? Does it mean they died "in vain' if we insist that no one else should die?

Perhaps on Memorial Day we can also remember alternative hopes. Not soft-headedness, but tough-minded measures required to build a different world.

What if we invested as much in preventing war as in the fighting of it?
(What, say, would the Middle East be if the billions spent in Iraq had funded instead a new Palestinian economy?)

Changes in the way we memorialize the past make possible changes in the way we envision the future. But here, too, it is the sacrifice of soldiers that makes possible such change. Indeed, it begins with them. The fallen heroes remind us with their lives that war must stop.

James Carroll's column appears regularly in the Globe.
© Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Bush: absence of moral leadership makes world more dangerous for terrorism. Amnesty International.

Amnesty Compares Bush to Pinochet
The Associated Press

Wednesday 24 May 2006

Amnesty International says President George Bush's tactics in his fight against terrorists have made the United States comparable to Augusto Pinochet's Chile and Hafez Assad's Syria in its acceptance of torture and disregard of legal restraints.

The Bush administration rejected the charge and said the human rights advocate could use its expertise better by helping Iraqi judges build their case against Saddam Hussein.

When speaking of Amnesty International, US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack today said: "We see they're pretty good at press releases."

Among Amnesty's major condemnations of the US was the use of civilian contractors - Amnesty estimated 25,000 in Iraq alone.

"Outsourcing" unsavory jobs to largely untrained contractors, without contractual restrictions or legal restraints under military/civilian laws" has helped create virtually a rule-free zones sanctioned with the American flag and fire power", said Larry Cox, executive director of Amnesty International USA.

In its annual report of human rights conditions around the world, Amnesty included the US alongside China, Russia, Columbia, Uzbekistan and others as states that claim anti-terrorism to justify gross violations.

Amnesty officials, speaking in a news conferences about release of the report in London and Washington, had particularly harsh words for the Bush administration.

"It's difficult to believe that the United States government, which was once considered an exemplar of human rights, has sacrificed its most fundamental principles by abusing prisoners as a matter of policy, by disappearing detainees into a network of prisons and by abducting and sending people for interrogation to countries that practice torture," Cox said.

"Governments around the world are using doublespeak and double standards to take advantage of this vacuum of moral leadership," he said.

In London, Amnesty's secretary-general, Irene Khan, blamed Bush's campaign against terrorists, which he began in reaction to the September 11, 2001, attacks on the US. "There is no doubt that it has given a new lease on life to old-fashioned repression," Khan said.

By its extensive use of unaccountable contractors in Iraq, she told AP Television News, that the United States "has basically mortgaged its moral authority on the streets of Fallujah and Baghdad".

McCormack found occasion three times during his daily State Department briefing to criticise Amnesty International for not helping in the trial of Saddam, who was facing various charges over more than 140 deaths, in the first of his trials for misrule.

"In the years of Saddam Hussein's rule, Amnesty International was at the forefront of bringing to light human rights abuses that were perpetrated by that regime - terrible, terrible things. They did great work in that regard," he said.

"But when it came time to put Saddam Hussein on trial, which is happening right now, they're absent. They've done zero, zip, nothing, to assist in those efforts."

Asked later what he felt Amnesty could do to help the trial, McCormack noted that Amnesty amassed a huge database about Saddam's regime.

He said the court trying Saddam is not only doing that, "but in a larger sense, they're trying to come to closure with their past. And we would think that ... Amnesty International would have an interest in assisting the Iraqi people - the now-free Iraqi people - in that regard".

Amnesty also slammed European countries, described in the report as "partners in crime" with the US by eroding civil liberties and allowing terror suspects to be taken to countries where they might risk torture, a practice known as rendition.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Religion in America.. .by Ron Beasley, on MEJ

Sunday, May 21, 2006
Religion in America

Caryle Murphy and Alan Cooperman write in the Washington Post that Religious Liberals Gain New Visibility. The title is correct but the article seems to paint this as some kind of new revival, it's not, they have always been there. The change is in the media. The unholy alliance between the corporatists of the Republican Party and the Mullahs of the religious right is coming to an end. As a result it is now politically OK to recognize the existence of the liberal Christians.

The latest issue for the mullahs is gay marriage and that issue is going no where as Frank Rich points out in his column today.

Though President Bush endorsed the federal marriage amendment then, there's a reason he hasn't pushed it since. Not Gonna Happen, however many times it is dragged onto the Senate floor. The number of Americans who "strongly oppose" same-sex marriage keeps dropping - from 42 percent two years ago to 28 percent today, according to the Pew Research Center - and there will never be the votes to "write discrimination into the Constitution," as Mary Cheney puts it.

The real Republican establishment - including Laura Bush, who has repeatedly refused to disown the many gay families at this year's White House Easter Egg Roll" senses the drift of the culture. "Will & Grace" may have retired to reruns last week, but it's been supplanted by a gay "Sopranos" tough guy who out-brokebacks Jack and Ennis.

I have a new quote in the header above; "No prejudice is ever debated that isn't already dying". This is from an interview with Rt. Rev. John Shelby Spong, formerly the bishop of Newark, N.J, in the Oregonian.
Bishop says gay rights secure

The next volley about gay rights in the Episcopal Church may come next month, but one retired bishop says the battle has already been won.

The Rt. Rev. John Shelby Spong, formerly the bishop of Newark, N.J., and a spokesman for progressive Christians, visits Oregon next week for two free public lectures. The author of more than a dozen books, including "The Sins of Scripture: Exposing the Bible's Texts of Hate to Reveal the God of Love," he is an outspoken critic of conservative Christians.

Spong's visit comes less than a month before delegates of the U.S. Episcopal Church will gather to discuss their response to the Windsor Report. Issued by the Lambeth Commission on Communion in 2004, the report criticized the U.S. church for the selection of an openly gay bishop the year before. Ten Episcopalians representing the Western Oregon diocese and Bishop Johncy Itty will attend the 75th General Convention on June 13-21 in Columbus, Ohio.

Earlier this month Episcopalians in the Diocese of San Francisco voted not to ordain an openly gay bishop, but the issue will be on the table again at the convention. The American church will focus on its strained relationship with the worldwide Anglican Communion. For his part, Spong said in an interview that a church divided over the issue is better than a unified church that fosters discrimination. His answers have been edited for clarity and brevity.

What makes you think the gay-rights war is done?

No prejudice is ever debated that isn't already dying. The reason we debate a prejudice is because it isn't holding anymore. We saw black people as being less than human. But we began to see them as human beings. It took a while to work that out. We used to define women as dependent, weak, emotionally hysterical, incapable of bearing responsibilities. Women began to challenge that in the 20th century. The same thing is happening with gay people.

And now the church has an openly gay bishop, the Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire.

He is the first honest gay bishop. We've had gay bishops and priests for years.

Do you honestly see this acceptance of gay bishops as an inevitable development in the life of the church?

Yes. I grew up as a racist in a segregated world (in Charlotte, N.C.). Over time, my mother changed -- but not a lot. I changed more because I had more opportunities. I grew up looking forward to having a wife who was a servant, and then I looked in the eyes of my daughters and I didn't want them to be part of that.

It used to be that gay people were (considered) mentally sick or morally depraved, that they needed to be cured or converted. If you couldn't cure them or convert them, it was OK to repress them, even to kill them. And then came Matthew Shepherd, who was killed seven years ago. We still have hate crimes, but we condemn them; we didn't condemn them back in the 1930s in the South. All those people went to church, and they didn't condemn the Klan and they weren't convicted for lynching.

These are examples of the "change of consciousness" that you talk about?

It has to do with the fact that human life is always rolling. We elect a president every four years and, in those four years, people die and we have new voters. There can be a complete turnover in four years. That goes on with prejudices, too.

And it doesn't worry you that this issue could break the American Episcopal Church apart from the larger Anglican Communion?

I've lived too long. We were told when we ordained blacks that it would split the church; when women were ordained, it would split the church; when women became bishops, it would split the church. The issue is what is right and what is wrong. I have never known a church to be helped by what is wrong. Unity is a virtue in the church, but not the supreme one. Truth is higher.

The Religious left has always been there. The only change is that it is now OK for the media to talk about it.

Frank Rich's commentary is behind the wall at the NYT but you can find the entire thing above and it's worth a read.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Fear in Politics: is the road paved with pandering?

Published on Thursday, May 18, 2006 by the Huffington Post
Al Gore Overcomes the Fear Factor, Hillary Succumbs
by Arianna Huffington

Last night, I attended the premiere of An Inconvenient Truth, the powerful new global warming documentary featuring an impassioned and surprisingly humorous Al Gore.

After the screening, as I watched him interact with well-wishers, accepting congratulations and answering questions, he radiated commitment and confidence. Here was a man truly comfortable in his own skin.

And it got me thinking how unlike his old self -- and the vast majority of our would-be leaders -- he has become. I'm talking about the timid, walking-on-eggshells, pusillanimous poltroons that dominate modern politics.

They are Beltway versions of the Cowardly Lion of Oz, driven by the fear of saying the wrong thing (wouldn't want to give the other side ammo for the inevitable attack ad), of offending someone (anyone!), of going out on a limb (the branches of government get a little shaky out there). And, the Wickedest Bitch of them all, the fear of having a giant red "Loser" stamped on their foreheads and their resumes.

Just before I'd left for the screening, I'd read about a new ad campaign timed to coincide with the Gore film, calling into question the message of the film and, by extension, the messenger. The ads were put together by the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a group funded by ExxonMobil, General Motors, and Ford. No discernable corporate agenda there! (I'm well acquainted with the attack dog nature of the CEI; they're the ones who also tried to undermine The Detroit Project).

Gore isn't running for office, and already the negative campaigning has begun. This is what anyone who takes a stand faces these days -- politics as demolition derby -- and why so many politicians operate out of fear. But when I asked Gore about it, he was unfazed.

I couldn't help but flash on the stiff, robotic Gore of the 2000 campaign. You could smell the fear on the Gore of 2000. Just as you could smell it on Kerry in 2004, as he ran a campaign that consistently chose caution over boldness.

And it's the same sickening scent that Hillary Clinton is wearing today: Eau de Don't Let Me Screw Up and Flush My Chances Down the Toilette.

There she was recently -- uptight, tentative, inauthentic -- trying to throw an off-handed bone to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce by implying that young people are lazy and "think work is a four-letter word." And the minute there was some blowback, she turned around and apologized to the youthful voters whose fingers she'd slammed in the Chamber of Commerce door. And even used Chelsea as a crutch to explain her turnaround.

As a result of the soul-sapping tyranny of trying to please and placate everybody, she's become more processed than Velveeta. You can almost see every word that comes out of her mouth first being marched through the different compartments of her brain -- analyzed, evaluated, and vetted by each of them. What will the consultants think of this? How will it poll? Will working women between 25-35 in eastern Ohio think it's okay? How about likely voters in northern Oklahoma?

Her fear has caused a complete disconnect from who she really is and what she really thinks (that is, if she even knows anymore).

Which is a shame -- both for her and for all politicians who are short-changing the smart, strong, determined leaders they could be. Instead, we get a seemingly endless lineup of fear-driven candidates who, with each new election cycle, become a little more wrinkle-free, a little more foible-free, a good bit less interesting -- and considerably more idea free. They are so programmed to avoid the pitfalls of actually standing for something, we might as well have robots running.

Whether Al Gore ends up running in 2008 or not, he is modeling the way our public figures, and especially our would-be presidents, should be operating -- from the heart and true to themselves. Standing for something more important than just winning, and more powerful than the fear of losing.

Candidates -- and especially Democratic ones -- need to stop fooling themselves that the road to victory is paved with pandering.

Someone should shoot a training film for the Democrats, featuring Gore as a D.C. version of Robert Duvall in Apocalypse Now. As the Election Day bombs of 2000, 2002, and 2004 drop all around him, he sucks in the fumes and declares: "I loathe the smell of fear on a candidate. It smells like... defeat."

Arianna Huffington is a nationally syndicated columnist, author of ten books and co-founder and editor of the HuffingtonPost.com. She is also co-host of "Left, Right & Center," public radio's popular political roundtable program. Her weekly commentary is syndicated in newspapers across the country by Tribune Media Services.

© 2006 HuffingtonPost.com

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

AMERICA THE TITANIC, by James Carroll, Boston Globe.

Published on Monday, May 15, 2006 by the Boston Globe
America the Titanic
by James Carroll

The last living American survivor of the Titanic died last week. Lillian Gertrud Asplund was 5 when the luxury liner sank after hitting an iceberg in 1912. Her father and three brothers were lost. She, another brother, and her mother survived.

At death, Asplund was 99. In reading her obituary, one could not escape the feeling that her entire life was shadowed by this tragedy. Is such a thing true more broadly? Does her passing mark the end of the Titanic story? What was that story anyway?

Many ships have been ill-fated. Why did the fate of that particular one so grip the world's imagination? The Hollywood blockbuster of a few years ago brought the story to a new generation, but its pins were already deeply planted in human consciousness. Why? The Titanic, as the unsinkable vessel that sank on its maiden voyage, became an ultimate symbol of hubris, a cautionary tale warning that human inventiveness can always be trumped by nature.

But the Titanic took on mythic significance only because of what soon followed in its wake. It was in hindsight that the catastrophe of The Great War took on the implicit character of the unforeseen obstacle into which Europe crashed.

The unbridled optimism of the Enlightenment, a belief in the :unsinkability" of progress, drove full speed into the abyss of trench warfare. A generation of European males was lost, and for what? Kaiser? King? The Archduke of Sarajevo? A dynamic set by arms merchants?

After the fact, what came to be called World War I could only be understood as an act of civilizational suicide. For year after year, Germany, Britain, France, and other nations sent their very futures "over the top" into the maw of machine guns that refused to falter. It was as if the man at the helm of the Titanic sailed into the thick of icebergs he had been warned were certainly there. The story of the ship became one of pure foreboding.

The entry of the United States into the war was decisive, but it remained marginal to the agonies and the destructiveness, and so inherited the century. In America, it seemed possible to regard the Titanic tragedy as a morality tale meant for Europe, just as one could think of The Great War as the death rattle of the "Old World."

That sense of relatively immune superiority was only confirmed by World War II. Though US losses were greater than before, so was the benefit when the "New World" emerged uniquely whole, soon to become the engine of the global economy. Commanding from the bridge of "the West," American leaders went full speed ahead into a sea of icebergs, but now the true hazards had been created by the geniuses who had built the ship. The icebergs this time were thousands upon thousands of nuclear weapons. The Soviet Union joined the United States in the manufacture of an ever growing danger. The stage for a second act of civilizational suicide was set.

By sheer dumb luck the USS America navigated the Cold War without hitting one of the nuclear icebergs, but the helmsmen credited their own skill while slaphappy passengers celebrated -- again -- a claim to unsinkability. We had ''won" the Cold War, and now we were the "indispensable nation." Not even awareness of the dangers posed by unmoored nuclear weapons -- "loose nukes" -- made America's geniuses see the hazard as applying to them. That alone is why, against reason and law, Washington can maintain its fleet of nuclear icebergs even now. Tragedy, nuclear or otherwise, is a fate awaiting other peoples, not Americans, who remain the last Enlightenment optimists.

Oddly, the blow of 9/11 reinforced this exceptionalism. The anguish of that day was real, but it equaled neither what other nations suffered in the world wars, nor what the earth narrowly survived in the Cold War. Nor does it compare to what lies dead ahead if the captains of our ship hold course -- "Steady as she goes."

Looming obstacles include an Islamic world enflamed by American belligerence, Russians feeling pushed into a new Cold War, China in an arms race, and a demonized Iran acting -- no surprise -- like a demon. All of these threats have their stimulus, if not their origins, in the old hubris of the New World.

What America has done over the last six years makes plain that the lesson of the Titanic, even with its last US survivor gone, has yet to be learned in Washington. It is 1912 again.

James Carroll's column appears regularly in the Globe.

Sunday, May 14, 2006


Frank Rich in 'NYT' Defends Newspapers, Rips 'Traitors' in Washington

By E&P Staff

Published: May 13, 2006 10:45 PM ET

NEW YORK In his Sunday opinion column for The New York Times, Frank Rich, who returned from book leave just last week, shook off the cobwebs to launch a vigorous defense of newspapers -- and an attack on the real "traitors," including top officials.

Rich opens by recalling charges of treasons against the late New York Times editor Abe Rosenthal when he published the Pentagon Papers in 1971. "Today we know who the real traitors were: the officials who squandered American blood and treasure on an ill-considered war and then tried to cover up their lies and mistakes," Rich observes.

Now history is repeat itself, as the Bush administration and tis defenders "are desperate to deflect blame" for the Iraq fiasco, "and, guess what, the traitors once again are The Times and The Post. This time the newspapers committed the crime of exposing warrantless spying on Americans by the National Security Agency (The Times) and the C.I.A.'s secret 'black site' Eastern European prisons (The Post). Aping the Nixon template, the current White House tried to stop both papers from publishing and when that failed impugned their patriotism....

"When reporters at both papers were awarded Pulitzer Prizes last month, administration surrogates, led by bloviator in chief William Bennett, called for them to be charged under the 1917 Espionage Act.

"We can see this charade for what it is: a Hail Mary pass by the leaders who bungled a war and want to change the subject to the journalists who caught them in the act. What really angers the White House and its defenders about both the Post and Times scoops are not the legal questions the stories raise about unregulated gulags and unconstitutional domestic snooping, but the unmasking of yet more administration failures in a war effort riddled with ineptitude. It's the recklessness at the top of our government, not the press's exposure of it, that has truly aided the enemy, put American lives at risk and potentially sabotaged national security. That's where the buck stops, and if there's to be a witch hunt for traitors, that's where it should begin."

Rich also suggests that perhaps the recently exposed NSA database on phone records "may have more to do with monitoring 'traitors' like reporters and leakers than with tracking terrorists. Journalists and whistle-blowers who relay such government blunders are easily defended against the charge of treason. It's often those who make the accusations we should be most worried about. Mr. Goss, a particularly vivid example, should not escape into retirement unexamined. He was so inept that an overzealous witch hunter might mistake him for a Qaeda double agent."

He closes with a denunciation of Gen. Michael Hayden for new CIA chief, based on his leadership at NSA. "If Democrats — and, for that matter, Republicans — let a president with a Nixonesque approval rating install yet another second-rate sycophant at yet another security agency, even one as diminished as the C.I.A.," Rich declares, "someone should charge those senators with treason, too. "

Friday, May 12, 2006

a JUST WAR? HARDLY, by Noam Chomsky

Published on Wednesday, May 10, 2006 by the Khaleej Times (United Arab Emirates)
A Just War? Hardly
by Noam Chomsky

Spurred by these times of invasions and evasions, discussion of "just war" has had a renaissance among scholars and even among policy-makers.

Concepts aside, actions in the real world all too often reinforce the maxim of Thucydides that "the strong do as they can, while the weak suffer what they must" — which is not only indisputably unjust, but at the present stage of human civilization, a literal threat to the survival of the species.

In his highly praised reflections on just war, Michael Walzer describes the invasion of Afghanistan as "a triumph of just war theory," standing alongside Kosovo as a "just war." Unfortunately, in these two cases, as throughout, his arguments rely crucially on premises like "seems to me entirely justified," or "I believe" or "no doubt."

Facts are ignored, even the most obvious ones. Consider Afghanistan. As the bombing began in October 2001, President Bush warned Afghans that it would continue until they handed over people that the US suspected of terrorism.

The word "suspected" is important. Eight months later, FBI head Robert S. Mueller III told editors at The Washington Post that after what must have been the most intense manhunt in history, "We think the masterminds of (the Sept. 11 attacks) were in Afghanistan, high in the al-Qaida leadership. Plotters and others — the principals — came together in Germany and perhaps elsewhere."

What was still unclear in June 2002 could not have been known definitively the preceding October, though few doubted at once that it was true. Nor did I, for what it’s worth, but surmise and evidence are two different things. At least it seems fair to say that the circumstances raise a question about whether bombing Afghans was a transparent example of "just war."

Walzer’s arguments are directed to unnamed targets — for example, campus opponents who are "pacifists." He adds that their "pacifism" is a "bad argument," because he thinks violence is sometimes legitimate. We may well agree that violence is sometimes legitimate (I do), but "I think" is hardly an overwhelming argument in the real-world cases that he discusses.

By "just war," counterterrorism or some other rationale, the US exempts itself from the fundamental principles of world order that it played the primary role in formulating and enacting.

After World War II, a new regime of international law was instituted. Its provisions on laws of war are codified in the UN Charter, the Geneva Conventions and the Nuremberg principles, adopted by the General Assembly. The Charter bars the threat or use of force unless authorized by the Security Council or, under Article 51, in self-defense against armed attack until the Security Council acts.

In 2004, a high level UN panel, including, among others, former National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft, concluded that "Article 51 needs neither extension nor restriction of its long-understood scope ... In a world full of perceived potential threats, the risk to the global order and the norm of nonintervention on which it continues to be based is simply too great for the legality of unilateral preventive action, as distinct from collectively endorsed action, to be accepted. Allowing one to so act is to allow all."

The National Security Strategy of September 2002, just largely reiterated in March, grants the US the right to carry out what it calls "pre-emptive war," which means not pre-emptive, but "preventive war." That’s the right to commit aggression, plain and simple.

In the wording of the Nuremberg Tribunal, aggression is "the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole" — all the evil in the tortured land of Iraq that flowed from the US-UK invasion, for example.

The concept of aggression was defined clearly enough by US Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson, who was chief prosecutor for the United States at Nuremberg. The concept was restated in an authoritative General Assembly resolution. An "aggressor," Jackson proposed to the tribunal, is a state that is the first to commit such actions as "invasion of its armed forces, with or without a declaration of war, of the territory of another State."

That applies to the invasion of Iraq. Also relevant are Justice Jackson’s eloquent words at Nuremberg: "If certain acts of violation of treaties are crimes, they are crimes whether the United States does them or whether Germany does them, and we are not prepared to lay down a rule of criminal conduct against others which we would not be willing to have invoked against us." And elsewhere: "We must never forget that the record on which we judge these defendants is the record on which history will judge us tomorrow. To pass these defendants a poisoned chalice is to put it to our own lips as well."

For the political leadership, the threat of adherence to these principles — and to the rule of law in general — is serious indeed. Or it would be, if anyone dared to defy "the single ruthless superpower whose leadership intends to shape the world according to its own forceful world view," as Reuven Pedatzur wrote in Haaretz last May.

Let me state a couple of simple truths. The first is that actions are evaluated in terms of the range of likely consequences. A second is the principle of universality; we apply to ourselves the same standards we apply to others, if not more stringent ones.

Apart from being the merest truisms, these principles are also the foundation of just war theory, at least any version of it that deserves to be taken seriously.

Noam Chomsky, the eminent intellectual and author, most recently, of "Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy," is a professor of linguistics and philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass.

© 2006 Khaleej Times


Lessons from War we never learned. Who is paying attention?

Published on Friday, May 12, 2006 by the Philadelphia Inquirer
The Lessons of War That Few Have Learned
by John Grant

John Grant is president of the Veterans for Peace chapter in Philadelphia

As I exited the Staten Island Ferry recently for an antiwar demonstration of 300,000 people down Broadway, a young man next to me noticed my Veterans for Peace T-shirt.

"What war?" he asked.


"Thanks for your service," he said.

"The war never should have happened," I told him. "It's not something to thank me for."

"Thanks, anyway," he said as we parted.

As a veteran, you get "Thanks for your service" a lot. It always irritates me. I never quite know how to respond because I'm not proud of my service in Vietnam, and don't feel I should be thanked for it.

I was 18 when I joined. I spent the most influential year of my life in Vietnam. Then I came home and educated myself. If people want to thank me, let them do it for what I learned from the experience, not for going there.

The main thing I learned? U.S. military interventions since World War II have generally been dishonest and in support of quite vicious governments. There's Iran in 1953 and Guatemala the next year. And, of course, Vietnam.

My service was hardly the stuff of national warrior myth. I was a kid, a radio direction finder in the mountains west of Pleiku locating enemy units so they could be destroyed. My job was to spin a silver antenna around and say here's a map coordinate, bomb it silly, and maybe, if I'm right, you'll hurt the enemy. Then again, if I'm wrong, you may level an innocent village.

You know... the fog of war.

I'm not a pacifist, though I have friends who are. I will defend myself with violence to the best of my ability. I feel that way, as well, about the military. But like a pistol, the problem is in whose hands the pistol is held and what he or she does with it. The military we have now is more and more the instrument of imperial assumptions beyond even the electoral process.

I know there are people who will distort what I'm saying, and I understand how they might feel. By implication, I'm commenting on the service of others, suggesting that they might transcend all the patriotic and macho mind-wash and consider what their service in places like Vietnam actually accomplished.

Instead of the superficial "Thank you for your service" approach, what if we honestly examined experiences like Vietnam and used them to learn something? Susan Sontag was crucified for saying this after 9/11: "By all means, let's mourn together, but let's not be stupid together." She was right.

If the men and women of the White House had valued the painful lessons of Vietnam over blind service, we would not be bogged down in another quagmire and we would not be having 300,000 people marching down Broadway led by a growing organization called Iraq Veterans Against the War.

These young men and women also choose to transcend the superficiality of "Thank you for your service." While these veterans honor the courage, and mourn the suffering and loss, of their friends in Iraq, they are acting on what they've learned from their experience, which is that the U.S. occupation is wrong and needs to be ended.

Anyone who feels this is unpatriotic should consider the words of a famous World War II combat bomber pilot: "The highest patriotism is not a blind acceptance of official policy, but a love of one's country deep enough to call her to a higher standard." That bomber pilot was George McGovern.

So next time you consider muttering to a vet, "Thanks for your service," take a moment to consider what that service meant to the people on the wrong end of it and whether it was worth all the pain and misery.

In my case, I'd rather be thanked for my service opposing the invasion and occupation of Iraq. In the winter of 2002, because of what I learned in Vietnam, I joined many others who were aware that the blind runaway train full of frightened and duped Americans racing toward Iraq was headed for disaster. Of course, the train went right over us.

If you need to thank me, thank me for that.

Contact John Grant at grantphoto4@earthlink.net.

© 2006 The Philadelphia Inquirer

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Edward R. Murrow, needed hero for today, from the Existentialist Cowboy website.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006
"Wires and lights in a box"

Edward R. Murrow became famous throughout America during World War II. His rooftop radio broadcasts painted a vivid picture of the Blitz in a pre-television era. Most certainly, his words made a longer lasting impression than even video from Viet Nam.

It is inaccurate to say that Murrow was unbiased. Clearly, Murrow was a champion of America's lost ideals: individual liberties and rights, truth, free speech, citizen participation. No one doubts that Murrow felt those ideas threatened by Adolph Hitler's Third Reich.

Later, Murrow would feel similarly threatened when our own right wing attacked freedom of speech and free inquiry. It was the McCarthy era, an era not unlike our own —seemingly dominated by those who fear dissent, free speech, open debate, the institutions of a Democratic society. Murrow reacted to McCarthy's threats of surreptitious investigations and attacks on free speech as if they were themselves Nazi bombs that he had earlier described so vividly from the flaming rooftops of London.

Ed Murrow is still with us; he still embodies the very finest that might be found in Western democracies. Unlike our present "leaders" who have exploited and debased the term, Murrow made of Democracy an ideal! Murrow did immeasurably more for the cause of "freedom" than all the GOP/right wing hate and fear mongering had ever done or would ever do. One Murrow is worth one thousand Bushes; one Murrow might not undo the harm done by Bush in Iraq —but his memory might awaken a lost American dream of freedom.

It is with that hope that I post Murrow's very words, excerpts from his prophetic speech to a meeting of the Radio and Television News Director's Association Convention in Chicago. It's as true today as it was on October 15, 1958.

Edward R. Murrow's address to the RTNDA Convention in Chicago, October 15, 1958

This just might do nobody any good. At the end of this discourse a few people may accuse this reporter of fouling his own comfortable nest, and your organization may be accused of having given hospitality to heretical and even dangerous thoughts. But the elaborate structure of networks, advertising agencies and sponsors will not be shaken or altered. It is my desire, if not my duty, to try to talk to you journeymen with some candor about what is happening to radio and television.

I have no technical advice or counsel to offer those of you who labor in this vineyard that produces words and pictures. You will forgive me for not telling you that instruments with which you work are miraculous, that your responsibility is unprecedented or that your aspirations are frequently frustrated. It is not necessary to remind you that the fact that your voice is amplified to the degree where it reaches from one end of the country to the other does not confer upon you greater wisdom or understanding than you possessed when your voice reached only from one end of the bar to the other. All of these things you know.

You should also know at the outset that, in the manner of witnesses before congressional committees, I appear here voluntarily-by invitation-that I am an employee of the Columbia Broadcasting System, that I am neither an officer nor a director of that corporation and that these remarks are of a "do-it-yourself" nature. If what I have to say is responsible, then I alone am responsible for the saying of it. Seeking neither approbation from my employers, nor new sponsors, nor acclaim from the critics of radio and television, I cannot well be disappointed. Believing that potentially the commercial system of broadcasting as practiced in this country is the best and freest yet devised, I have decided to express my concern about what I believe to be happening to radio and television. These instruments have been good to me beyond my due. There exists in mind no reasonable grounds for personal complaint. I have no feud, either with my employers, any sponsors, or with the professional critics of radio and television. But I am seized with an abiding fear regarding what these two instruments are doing to our society, our culture and our heritage.

Our history will be what we make it. And if there are any historians about fifty or a hundred years from now, and there should be preserved the kinescopes for one week of all three networks, they will there find recorded in black and white, or color, evidence of decadence, escapism and insulation from the realities of the world in which we live. I invite your attention to the television schedules of all networks between the hours of 8 and 11 p.m., Eastern Time. Here you will find only fleeting and spasmodic reference to the fact that this nation is in mortal danger. There are, it is true, occasional informative programs presented in that intellectual ghetto on Sunday afternoons. But during the daily peak viewing periods, television in the main insulates us from the realities of the world in which we live. If this state of affairs continues, we may alter an advertising slogan to read: LOOK NOW, PAY LATER.

For surely we shall pay for using this most powerful instrument of communication to insulate the citizenry from the hard and demanding realities which must be faced if we are to survive. I mean the word survive literally. If there were to be a competition in indifference, or perhaps in insulation from reality, then Nero and his fiddle, Chamberlain and his umbrella, could not find a place on an early afternoon sustaining show. If Hollywood were to run out of Indians, the program schedules would be mangled beyond all recognition. Then some courageous soul with a small budget might be able to do a documentary telling what, in fact, we have done--and are still doing--to the Indians in this country. ... I have reason to know, as do many of you, that when the evidence on a controversial subject is fairly and calmly presented, the public recognizes it for what it is--an effort to illuminate rather than to agitate....

Our experience was similar with two half-hour programs dealing with cigarette smoking and lung cancer. Both the medical profession and the tobacco industry cooperated in a rather wary fashion. But in the end of the day they were both reasonably content. The subject of radioactive fall-out and the banning of nuclear tests was, and is, highly controversial. But according to what little evidence there is, viewers were prepared to listen to both sides with reason and restraint. This is not said to claim any special or unusual competence in the presentation of controversial subjects, but rather to indicate that timidity in these areas is not warranted by the evidence. ...

Nowhere is this better illustrated than by the fact that the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission publicly prods broadcasters to engage in their legal right to editorialize. Of course, to undertake an editorial policy, overt and clearly labeled, and obviously unsponsored, requires a station or a network to be responsible. Most stations today probably do not have the manpower to assume this responsibility, but the manpower could be recruited. Editorials would not be profitable; if they had a cutting edge, they might even offend. It is much easier, much less troublesome, to use the money-making machine of television and radio merely as a conduit through which to channel anything that is not libelous, obscene or defamatory. In that way one has the illusion of power without responsibility.

... when John Foster Dulles, by personal decree, banned American journalists from going to Communist China, and subsequently offered contradictory explanations, for his fiat the networks entered only a mild protest. Then they apparently forgot the unpleasantness. Can it be that this national industry is content to serve the public interest only with the trickle of news that comes out of Hong Kong, to leave its viewers in ignorance of the cataclysmic changes that are occurring in a nation of six hundred million people? ...

I have no illusions about the difficulties reporting from a dictatorship, but our British and French allies have been better served--in their public interest--with some very useful information from their reporters in Communist China.One of the basic troubles with radio and television news is that both instruments have grown up as an incompatible combination of show business, advertising and news. Each of the three is a rather bizarre and demanding profession. And when you get all three under one roof, the dust never settles. The top management of the networks with a few notable exceptions, has been trained in advertising, research, sales or show business. But by the nature of the corporate structure, they also make the final and crucial decisions having to do with news and public affairs.

Frequently they have neither the time nor the competence to do this. It is not easy for the same small group of men to decide whether to buy a new station for millions of dollars, build a new building, alter the rate card, buy a new Western, sell a soap opera, decide what defensive line to take in connection with the latest Congressional inquiry, how much money to spend on promoting a new program, what additions or deletions should be made in the existing covey or clutch of vice-presidents, and at the same time-- frequently on the same long day--to give mature, thoughtful consideration to the manifold problems that confront those who are charged with the responsibility for news and public affairs.

Sometimes there is a clash between the public interest and the corporate interest. A telephone call or a letter from the proper quarter in Washington is treated rather more seriously than a communication from an irate but not politically potent viewer. It is tempting enough to give away a little air time for frequently irresponsible and unwarranted utterances in an effort to temper the wind of criticism.Upon occasion, economics and editorial judgment are in conflict. And there is no law which says that dollars will be defeated by duty. ...

There is no suggestion here that networks or individual stations should operate as philanthropies. But I can find nothing in the Bill of Rights or the Communications Act which says that they must increase their net profits each year, lest the Republic collapse. I do not suggest that news and information should be subsidized by foundations or private subscriptions. I am aware that the networks have expended, and are expending, very considerable sums of money on public affairs programs from which they cannot hope to receive any financial reward. I have had the privilege at CBS of presiding over a considerable number of such programs. I testify, and am able to stand here and say, that I have never had a program turned down by my superiors because of the money it would cost.But we all know that you cannot reach the potential maximum audience in marginal time with a sustaining program.

This is so because so many stations on the network--any network--will decline to carry it. Every licensee who applies for a grant to operate in the public interest, convenience and necessity makes certain promises as to what he will do in terms of program content. Many recipients of licenses have, in blunt language, welshed on those promises. The money-making machine somehow blunts their memories. The only remedy for this is closer inspection and punitive action by the F.C.C. ...

What, then, is the answer? Do we merely stay in our comfortable nests, concluding that the obligation of these instruments has been discharged when we work at the job of informing the public for a minimum of time? Or do we believe that the preservation of the Republic is a seven-day-a-week job, demanding more awareness, better skills and more perseverance than we have yet contemplated. ...

So the question is this: Are the big corporations who pay the freight for radio and television programs wise to use that time exclusively for the sale of goods and services? Is it in their own interest and that of the stockholders so to do? The sponsor of an hour's television program is not buying merely the six minutes devoted to commercial message. He is determining, within broad limits, the sum total of the impact of the entire hour. If he always, invariably, reaches for the largest possible audience, then this process of insulation, of escape from reality, will continue to be massively financed, and its apologist will continue to make winsome speeches about giving the public what it wants, or "letting the public decide." ...

To a very considerable extent the media of mass communications in a given country reflect the political, economic and social climate in which they flourish. That is the reason ours differ from the British and French, or the Russian and Chinese. We are currently wealthy, fat, comfortable and complacent. We have currently a built-in allergy to unpleasant or disturbing information. Our mass media reflect this. But unless we get up off our fat surpluses and recognize that television in the main is being used to distract, delude, amuse and insulate us, then television and those who finance it, those who look at it and those who work at it, may see a totally different picture too late.I do not advocate that we turn television into a 27-inch wailing wall, where longhairs constantly moan about the state of our culture and our defense. But I would just like to see it reflect occasionally the hard, unyielding realities of the world in which we live. ...

I began by saying that our history will be what we make it. If we go on as we are, then history will take its revenge, and retribution will not limp in catching up with us.We are to a large extent an imitative society. If one or two or three corporations would undertake to devote just a small traction of their advertising appropriation along the lines that I have suggested, the procedure would grow by contagion; the economic burden would be bearable, and there might ensue a most exciting adventure--exposure to ideas and the bringing of reality into the homes of the nation.To those who say people wouldn't look; they wouldn't be interested; they're too complacent, indifferent and insulated, I can only reply: There is, in one reporter's opinion, considerable evidence against that contention. But even if they are right, what have they got to lose? Because if they are right, and this instrument is good for nothing but to entertain, amuse and insulate, then the tube is flickering now and we will soon see that the whole struggle is lost.This instrument can teach, it can illuminate; yes, and it can even inspire. But it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends. Otherwise it is merely wires and lights in a box. There is a great and perhaps decisive battle to be fought against ignorance, intolerance and indifference. This weapon of television could be useful. Stonewall Jackson, who knew something about the use of weapons, is reported to have said, "When war comes, you must draw the sword and throw away the scabbard." The trouble with television is that it is rusting in the scabbard during a battle for survival.

Good night, and good luck!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Shameless Media Cowards = White House Correspondents


Pissed off Widow, Veteran, & Grandmother. I have been more than a little suspicious of this shyster administration since April 2001 when the Secret Service turned up at my door on a Saturday afternoon to question me about my terrorist training, terrorist activity, travel/flying plans & other non-sense. This was done because I had written a letter to a Florida Legislator in defense of several gay students after he told them that they would fry in hell. I told the legislator that an old fashioned firing squad was too good for him. I sent copies to Jeb & George Bush and the SS came knocking & saying that I had threatened the occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Av.
on the prowl
with magginkat
8 May 2006

Hey, Media!
Why the Blackout on Stephen Colbert?

What a bunch of cowardly wimps you are. Someone finally tells the truth about King George and you act as though it never happened. Mr. Colbert should be awarded a Congressional Medal of Valor for his speech.

Why are you such cowards that you totally ignore Stephen Colbert's "truthiness" performance at the White House Correspondents Dinner? We can't help but remember that back in 1996, that goofamous cowboy radio broadcaster, Imus told off-color, nasty personal jokes about our last legally elected President and his wife Hillary Rodham Clinton & your chortles could be heard from coast to coast as you rolled on the floor laughing your ass off.

Last year you thought it was hilarious as King George pretended to look for WMD's
as our soldiers lay dying in a foreign land, fighting a war built on bald faced lies.

For five long years you have ignored the fact that this miserable little man from Connecticut & his side kicks are destroying this country from the inside out. You, the media, have acted as though everything Bush has done is a shining example of family values & community brotherhood as well as the ultimate form of patriotism.

The fact of the matter is that George Bush & president Dick Cheney have defied the laws of this land, have walked all over the constitution, and made an all out attack against the citizens of this country, especially the seniors and the children! Just like his cowardly attacks on two defenseless countries, Chicken George has attacked the defenseless, the ones who have no means of fighting back.

Your talking heads screeched about President Clinton's lie about his personal life 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for what seemed to be an eternity. It was all about the lie, so you said. Now Bush squats in the White House spewing multiple lies every day of the week and the silence from the media is deafening. Not only have you overlooked the lies, you have aided and abetted by repeating those lies as though they were the gospel truth.

You are guilty of the murder of thousands of citizens in Afghanistan & Iraq. You are responsible for the murder, maiming, injury & illness of over 20 thousand U.S. soldiers. You are also responsible for the attack on the Constitution of the United States.

Who would have ever thought that a common, functionally illiterate man could sit in the Oval Office and declare openly that he has spied on Americans without a court order and will continue to do so with barely a peep by the media?

Who would have thought that Bush could declare himself above any law that he does not like & it's mentioned only as another George Bush joke?

Who would have thought that the media would stand by while a man who calls himself president lied us into two illegal wars? Who would have thought that this same media would be singing that man's praise as he plans yet another illegal war when he has no plans and no means to clean up the mess he has already made?

Who would have thought that he could still count on a cowardly, wimpy media to promote his every action, illegal or not after all this mess and all these lies?

So what's the problem with talking about Colbert's performance? Is it because you know better than anyone else, that you have been lapdogs for this shyster administration.... merely an echo of whatever spews from the mouth of the most corrupt gang of crooks to ever get near the White House?

You have thrown Democracy to the wind to flounder about like a helpless child caught in a flooded stream and for what? You know very well that the answer to that question is your own greed and your own attempt to hold on to the power that you have. It is despicable that you have said, "The hell with you" to the country that has given you so much and only asked for the truth in return.

You are a bunch of shameless, lying cowards and that is on your good days. You have long ago forgotten that the job of the media is telling the truth, providing the news, no matter who it may affect. The media is no longer even pretending to keep the U.S. citizens informed & that is worse than the lies that spew from the mouth of the fraudulent one in the White House.

If you had told the truth this lying, cheating, stealing, dry drunk would have never been allowed to run for the office much less be able to steal a second election.

Who would have ever thought that we would have to go to foreign sources, like the Moscow Times, to learn the truth about this corrupt government?

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

The Best Little Whorehouse in Washington, Ivins

ublished on Tuesday, May 9, 2006 by TruthDig
The Best Little Whorehouse in Washington
by Molly Ivins

Of course I am above sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll. So serious a servant of the public interest am I, I can fogey with the best: On my better days, I make David Broder look like Page Six.

I don’t care what anyone smoked 20 years ago, I approve of those who boogie till they puke, and I don’t care who anyone in politics is screwing in private, as long as they’re not screwing the public.

On other hand, if you expect me to pass up a scandal involving poker, hookers, and the Watergate building with crooked defense contractors and the No. 3 guy at the CIA, named Dusty Foggo (Dusty Foggo?! Be still my heart), you expect too much. Any journalist who claims Hookergate is not a legitimate scandal is dead—has been for some time and needs to be unplugged. In addition to sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll, Hookergate is rife with public-interest questions, misfeasance, malfeasance and non-feasance, and many splendid moral points for the children. Recommended for Sunday school use, grades seven and above.

But for starters, let us consider the unenviable record of Porter Goss at the CIA. From the beginning of his tenure, Goss has been criticized for politicizing the agency. He brought a bunch of political hacks with him for staff, one of whom turns out to be the poker player called “Nine Fingers.” And in the end, he was probably fired for not having politicized the agency sufficiently.

What is the point of politicizing an intelligence agency? So the CIA officials would get a report from some agent in Iraq saying, “Looks bad.” The first thing they’d ask was, “Is this agent a Republican or a Democrat?”

Maybe there really are conservatives who believe everything in Iraq is hunky-dory and there’s a giant media conspiracy to hide the joyous tidings. But as you may recall, the ever-nimble minds at Donny Rumsfeld’s shop have already tried paying public relations people to invent good news about Iraq and then plant it in newspapers there—it didn’t work. In fact, it was so stupid it was humiliating. Fortunately, the Pentagon was once again able to investigate itself and determine it had done nothing illegal.

So now they’re turning the CIA over to a general who not only ran the warrantless wiretap program but still can’t figure out that it’s unconstitutional. Why do I get the feeling this is W. and Karl again flipping the finger at some grown-up they don’t like?

Gen. Michael Hayden had mixed reviews as director of the National Security Agency—he’s evidently not a good manager, which makes him a perfect Bushie. But is he straightforward enough to have admitted that some warrantless spying has been done for political reasons? None of the usual Washington insiders seems to have a bead on this. Hayden would theoretically report to John Negroponte, Bush’s supposed intelligence czar. Negroponte is widely considered worthless. His major achievement so far seems to be organizational charts and buying furniture.

You know me, no conspiracy theories here, but the Bush administration, which doesn’t seem to be able to run much, set out to retool the CIA after 9/11 and the Iraq war. Problem is, everything that worked at the CIA—that it warned about 9/11 and said the Iraq war was a bad idea—was on the hit list. The Bushies wanted to eliminate the people who were right and promote those who were wrong. This is no way to shape up an intelligence agency, not to mention the White House spit fit over Joe Wilson’s wife.

Next, we need to contemplate sincere, old-fashioned, non-ideological greed, theft, and bribery. In the beginning, there was only Duke Cunningham, the high-living, fun-loving super-patriot congressman from San Diego. His yacht was called The Duke-Stir, and he had nice taste in 19th century French commodes. While we all are happy to see our elected representatives enjoying themselves in Washington, that’s real people’s money. Actually, the yacht and commode were paid for by defense contractor Brent Wilkes (keep an eye on that player). It was people’s money that paid for the defense contracts Wilkes allegedly bribed public officials into landing for his clients.

The former inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security, Clark Kent Ervin—that would be the DHS equivalent of a police department’s internal affairs chief—tried to blow the whistle on shady contracts at DHS and instead was thrown overboard himself. Folks, we’ll never get government straightened out again if we don’t keep the IGs strong and independent.

If the Bush administration continues to fall apart at this clip, I think we’ll be grateful for incompetence as an excuse.

Molly Ivins's latest book is “Who Let the Dogs In?”

© 2006 TruthDig.com, LLC


Monday, May 08, 2006

How the Democratic party is also corrupted, by money, power, etc.

May 8, 2006

What Makes Democrats Cry? The Democratic Party Leadership, Of Course.

By Mark E. Smith

I recently wrote an article here saying that I did not believe that if elected, Debra Bowen, the Democratic candidate for California Secretary of State, would decertify the Diebold voting machines that do not comply with California law. This is not to say that Bowen doesn’t understand the problem and doesn’t want to decertify voting machines that are vulnerable to hackers, just that I don’t believe that the Democratic Party leadership will permit this to happen.

Let’s look back at the election of 2000. Democrat Maxine Waters is one of the toughest, fiercest fighters for civil rights this country has. When voters were disenfranchised in Florida, Maxine stood up with the entire Congressional Black Caucus and practically begged Al Gore and the Democratic Senators, who at that time held a majority of seats, to sign their petition not to certify the fraudulent Florida electoral votes. One of the saddest things I’ve ever seen in my life was watching Maxine almost reduced to tears on C-Span, as not even one Democratic Senator stepped forward to support fellow Democrats and prevent Bush from taking office.

Another Democrat was almost reduced to tears years later in retelling the story. California Senator Barbara Boxer wanted desperately to sign that petition. But Al Gore and the Democratic Party leadership would not allow it. And they had the power to keep Democratic Senators from helping fellow Democrats. They’ve rarely used that power to keep Democrats from voting with the Republicans for things that the Democratic Party supposedly does not support, only to keep Democrats from opposing the Republicans.

And then in 2004 a lot more Democrats were crying their hearts out when John Kerry broke his campaign promises. Despite his lackluster showing in the debates and his refusal to come out against the Iraq war, a no-brainer for a former Viet Nam protester, people campaigned for, donated money to, and supported Kerry because he promised not to concede until every vote was counted. I think that he had to concede because he knew that if the votes were counted properly, he would have won, and the fix was in to give Bush another term in office. Once again the Democrat Party leadership made many Democrats cry.

So when I say that I believe that Debra Bowen, if elected, will not decertify Diebold voting machines, I’m not saying that Bowen will be happy about it. Most likely Bowen will be crying right along with all the other Democrats in California who have pinned their hopes on this brave election reform activist. But in accepting the Democratic Party nomination, Bowen has become beholden to the Democratic Party leadership. That leadership thinks that election reform activists like Bowen are wackos and conspiracy theorists. The Democratic Party leadership will never permit Bowen to decertify Diebold because the party leadership wants corporations and big money to continue to control elections. Bowen got the Democratic Party endorsement because most California Democrats support Bowen. But once that endorsement was accepted, Bowen agreed to let the Democratic Party pour money into Bowen’s campaign, and that means that Bowen will owe them big time once elected.

In choosing to vote for the Green Party candidate for California Secretary of State, Forrest Hill, I am not saying that I have anything against Debra Bowen, or that I don’t think Bowen is sincere. I’m just saving myself a lot of tears. I don’t think that Hill will win, but I’m not going to cry about it because I’m expecting it. If I were to vote for Bowen, however, when Bowen takes office and the Democratic Party leadership forces Bowen to keep the Diebold machines in California, I’d be one of the many people angry about it. The Democratic Party has a lot of power, and it would be very nice if someday it decided to use it to oppose the Republicans instead of to make Democrats cry. There’s something heart wrenching about seeing decent, honest, sincere Democratic officeholders, candidates, and voters, stabbed in the back by their own party leadership over and over and over again, year after year, and still keep coming back for more. It’s enough to make a grown man cry.

Editor's note. Send a message to the Senate Dem Leaders who make Democrats cry. Help Throw Joe Lieberman out. Support Ned Lamont in the CT primary.Let the republicrat senators know they won't hold their jobs if they don't DO their jobs and represent the people who elected them.

Authors Website: http://rossini.funpic.de

Authors Bio: Mark is an election reform activist and Green Party member in San Diego.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Mainstream Media M$M, failure: Who was Colbert LAMPOONING? by Bryan Zepp Jamieson

Speaking Truthiness to Power:
Why the mainstream media and the far right treat Colbert with icy silence

In today's Bartcop, he wrote, "Last issue I asked who the Bush administration idiot was that hired Colbert. One reply said, 'Maybe this White House is so stupid, they thought Colbert was a rightie.'"

When I heard Steven Colbert was going to host the correspondents’ dinner, I had the same thought. For the past year, he has been doing a half-hour show on Comedy Central that is a brilliant parody of a Faux News show, complete with the overblown and ever-shifting graphics, and the "I am the repository of truth" approach of the host. Not to put too fine a point on it, but he was lampooning Bill O'Reilly.

Right wingers don't have an evolved sense of humor. They couldn't. If they had the ability to laugh at the absurd, their entire movement would implode.

On the other hand, they get mocked often enough that they should be able to spot that. I decided that maybe they didn't think Colbert was just O'Reilly with good hair. Besides, it's the Correspondents’ Club that does the hiring, not the White House.

Of course, they had no idea what they were in for, either - and should have. Does the name "Jon Stewart" ring a bell?

Stewart got invited onto "Crossfire" last year, and he proceeded to dismantle the show's hosts, begging them to stop their facile and confrontational approach to the issues of the day on the grounds that "You're hurting America." The show's hosts and the right wing waffled and snorted in outrage, but the upshot was two months later Jon Stewart was still going strong, and Crossfire was history.

Colbert is a protégé of Stewart's, and shares, along with much of the American left, a deepening disdain for the corporate media. You find it all over the web, where corporation news is dismissed as "mainstream media" through the pseudo-acronym, "M$M".

So Colbert did his thing at the Correspondents' Dinner, including his usual shtick of fulsome, if back-handed, praise for Putsch and his administration. He hit the unamused Prez hard with some real zingers, which left his audience, used to a new order of political satire that involves throwing marshmallows at carefully neutral objects, shocked and gasping for breath.

It was for this reason that Lou Dobbs, and a host of other smarmy talk show hosts on radio and TV, accused "the liberal media" of covering up for Colbert. They were right in that the media did bury the story of what Colbert had to say. Some stations didn't even mention him, and outside of the internet, nobody quoted what was indisputably his best zinger of the night: "Over the last five years you people [M$M] were so good - over tax cuts, WMD intelligence, the effect of global warming. We Americans didn't want to know, and you had the courtesy not to try to find out ... Here's how it works: the president makes decisions ... The press secretary announces those decisions, and you people of the press type those decisions down. Make, announce, type. Just put 'em through a spellcheck and go home ... Write that novel you got kicking around in your head. You know, the one about the intrepid Washington reporter with the courage to stand up to the administration. You know - fiction!"

(Paschal: Now that is BRILLIANT, in what it says, what it doesn't say, and in the extraordinary courage of its timeliness, in front of the entire cotton-picking company of hacks that are the Washington Press Corps, and in front of Putsch himself.)

That's what Lou Dobbs was really talking about when he wanked about "the librul media covering up" for Colbert. But then, Lou Dobbs is a fatuous, overpaid idiot, like most of the other fatuous, overpaid idiots in what passes for journalism on TV and radio, and he'll cheerfully lie to you to cover his ass.

The media reaction to this at the dinner was, as you might imagine, strained and thin. You could almost hear the assembled M$M crowd remembering that this was a friend of Jon Stewart, and, like Stewart, unimpressed with "the librul media."

Yes, Colbert gave Putsch a kicking around. Given the disaster the man has been, it isn't one one-hundredth the kicking around that he deserves, and if Colbert's irony was biting, nobody could say that it fell outside the realm of what was expected at a roast-type function like this.

But Colbert's real target was the media, the media which has been bought out and turned into mouthpieces for major corporations, and which reports nothing that would displease their corporate masters. For years, they didn't breathe a word of criticism of Putsch, not when he bungled America into two pointless and futile wars, not when he blew up the federal debt to unimaginable levels, not when he raided the national treasury to give his wealthy benefactors returns of thousands to one on what they donated to get him elected. The press remained mute and neutralized through endless scandal and arrogance and contempt for law and the constitution. They remain largely silent, and they do so because their masters fear that being outspoken might hurt profits, or be bad for business.

Mainstream media is a disgrace, and a sad parody of what once had been America's crowning jewel in her democracy - a free and independent press that demanded accountability from elected leaders and bureaucrats alike.

"Liberal media" covering up for him? Bollocks, Dobbs' Liberal media - AirAmerica, Bartcop, columnists such as Sydney Blumenthal - are praising him to the skies. Various websites captured his speech for streaming video, and in the 48 hours following the dinner, over 800,000 downloads were made, an audience far larger than that which watched the original dinner.

No, the ones who tried to pretend it didn't happen, or who clucked indignantly that Colbert "crossed the line" and was rude to the poor little president break down into two camps: the far right who still have their boats tied to Putsch's administration, and the safe, sorry little twerps who heard the disgust and anger in the voices of people like Stewart and Colbert, and quivered in their little booties. They -did-cover up the Colbert story - not to protect him, and certainly not to protect Putsch - but to protect themselves.

But Colbert merely said what tens of millions already think, and millions more think it every day. America's once-proud free press is a sorry disgrace. "The press secretary announces those decisions, and you people of the press type those decisions down. Make, announce, type. Just put 'em through a spellcheck and go home ..."

That's how America sees you, M$M. It's time to either start doing your jobs, or move out of the way for people who are willing to do the jobs you can't.

But don't worry about feeding your kids. Corporations always need blow-dried grinning ninnies as press flacks.

You might even get back pay for it.

Copyright, Bryan Zepp Jamieson

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Mexico, NAFTA and the GOP, by Ivine, re: Immigration, etc.

Published on Friday, May 5, 2006 by the Boulder Daily Camera (Colorado)
Mexico, NAFTA and the GOP
by Molly Ivins

AUSTIN, Texas — Dec. 16, 2005, is a day that will live in infamy in the Hall of Fame of Unintended Republican Consequences.

A bunch of the guys were just noodling around in the House of Representatives in Washington, see, kind of fooling around with the idea that they might get some traction out of immigration as a hot-button issue. The old hot buttons have kind of cooled off here lately, with people up in arms about Iraq, oil, health insurance and all this other stuff that makes the boys say, "Who me?" Where's a good divisive social issue when you need one? They weren't that far wrong — some variation on the race card usually works.

Trouble is, they played the card, tried to make every illegal worker in the country a felon and woke up the Sleeping Brown Giant, instead.

Who knew? Unions, organizers, community workers, priests and preachers, and Lord knows the Democrats have been trying to wake the Sleeping Giant for years. That it would happen someday was an article of faith when I first started watching Texas politics 40 years ago. Who knew all it would take was one softly played, very ugly, very nasty little piece of racial political pandering. And there was the Giant, out on the streets in the millions. For those who know the Latin emphasis on respect and dignity, maybe it's not such a surprise after all.

The Waking Giant clearly makes a good part of Anglo America uncomfortable — I suppose if the R's really want to push racial division, it will work and we can commit some monumental folly like building a fence on the border. But as a founding member of the Anti-Hypocrisy on Border Issues Party, I'm ready to bet Republican money, which after all hires the illegal workers, has too much at stake to let their party go off on a racist toot. You can let the right-wing radio commentators bloviate all they want, to get the young jackboots all stirred up, but it's still Wal-Mart hiring these people. Believe me, their employers are big Republican donors.

The solution to this problem is so simple: Do the right thing. As that great economist "High" Hightower of Denison, Texas, said, "Everyone does better when everyone does better." We won't need a fence or even a border when Mexico is doing better.

It does not take great economic acumen to realize that Mexico was damaged by NAFTA, that the surge in immigration has been caused by our own selfish and stupid trade policies, which benefit few of us, also. And domestic policies, I might add. The conservatives have been preaching this Me First stuff as though life were a race to the finish and the only object is to pick up as much money as you can. It doesn't work — not even if you wind up with a lot of toys. As another noted economist said, we are becoming a nation of private opulence and public squalor.

Look, we all do better when we all do better. You raise the minimum wage, it works for everyone.

Rabbi Michael Lerner ("The Left Hand of God: Taking Back Our Country from the Religious Right") is urging a 20-year commitment of 5 percent of GDP to end world poverty. The money would not be committed to governments, but to NGOs with solid records. And I say, why the hell not?

Is selfish and stupid working out so well for us? The progressive religious people will be meeting in Washington, D.C., on May 17-20 for a Spiritual Activism Conference. Naturally, being lefties, they pose no threat to separation of church and state. Amazing how easy it is to keep that clear just by thinking it through.

Molly Ivins is the former editor of the liberal monthly The Texas Observer. She is the bestselling author of several books including Who Let the Dogs In?

© 2006 The Daily Camera

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

May Day demonstrations by immigrants: opinion.

Published on Tuesday, May 2, 2006 by the New York Daily News
On Streets of New York, Solidarity Reigns
by Juan Gonzalez

All you had to do was take one look down normally bustling St. Nicholas Ave. in Washington Heights yesterday afternoon to sense an astonishing event was underway.

Around 12:30 p.m., Luis Carillo and Abimael Classen stood in front of their shuttered Chavin Hardware store near the corner of W. 178th St.

"We're closed to support the immigrant protest," Carillo said, his arms folded serenely under a brilliant sun.

Carillo came here from Peru more than 35 years ago, and has long since become a citizen. He realized his American Dream. Now, it was time to take a stand for those less fortunate, he said.

Virtually every store owner along St. Nicholas made the same decision, even if that meant turning away a few almighty dollars for one day.

The Capri Restaurant on the corner. The Los Primos Fruit Store. The big Bravo Supermarket down the street. The Happy Land Chinese Restaurant.

All were closed yesterday, some for a few hours, most for the entire day.

Over on Broadway, it was the same story.

Yasmin's Fashion Store. Torres Bakery. Casa Linda Upholstery. Columbia Pharmacy. Angel Shoes. Fort Washington Hardware. Aztek Records. Santa Ana Botanica. Quisqueya Grocery. Fernandez Check Cashing.

All closed.

By the end of the day, thousands of immigrant-owned businesses all over America had pulled off perhaps the biggest one-day boycott this country has ever seen.

Even huge corporations like Tyson Foods and Cargill's reluctantly closed their factories so their largely immigrant workers could join - of all things - a national May Day demonstration for the legalization of millions of undocumented workers.

And once again those immigrant workers, both legal and illegal, poured into the streets of downtown Manhattan and scores of other cities and towns, their children and baby carriages in tow - in numbers too breathtaking for anyone to ignore.

"No one knows the pain we feel," said Miguel Baez, who came here illegally from Mexico five years ago and works as a bartender in Manhattan.

"We need these jobs to survive," he said. "But we can't visit our families back home for years for fear we'll get caught coming back."

It is that endless agony of living in the shadows that has driven so many to join these massive protests.

They march even though they risk being fired or being detained and deported by immigration authorities.

They boycotted schools and jobs and shut down stores yesterday even though Catholic Church officials and union leaders and politicians who support their cause urged them to ignore the call for May Day protests.

They took to the streets even though the pundits and the so-called experts in Washington warned of a political backlash from middle-class America.

Some have even tried to pit black Americans against the undocumented. But key African-American leaders like the Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton and Transport Workers Union chief Roger Toussaint all attacked those divisive tactics at yesterday's Union Square rally.

"You can't talk about globalized capital and exporting jobs and not talk about global human and labor rights for immigrant workers," Jackson said. "Immigrants aren't sending good jobs overseas, corporations are."

Time and again this new immigrant movement has taken the politicians, the church and labor leaders by surprise with its discipline and its fury.

The experts, you see, are missing the point.

This movement is already a backlash - against decades of anti-immigrant scapegoating and hysteria in Washington. Congress ignores this cry for recognition at our country's peril.

Juan Gonzalez is a Daily News columnist. Email to: jgonzalez@edit.nydailynews.com

© 2006 Daily News, LP

May 2, 2006


The truth has a way of destoying all illusion but when its wrapped in irony and delivered by a grandmaster ~ its a joy to behold.

By Allen L Roland

It took just 15 minutes but Bush never had a chance. Colbert jabbed, feinted and satirically ridiculed every talking point from the Cheney/Bush myth machine to utter monsense before a room full of shocked Washington, D.C. insiders, powerless press corps and a visibly irritated President ~ it was satire and irony at its glorious best : Allen L Roland

The truth has a way of destoying all illusion but when its wrapped in irony and delivered by a grandmaster ~ its a joy to behold.

Stephen Colbert did just that last Saturday night at the White House Correspondents' Association dinner in Washington, D.C and endeared himself to the millions of Americans, including myself, who have been waiting for this moment for some time.

Michael Scherer, Salon, captures this delicious moment of ridicule as well as its implications.

Allen L Roland


Stephen Colbert's brilliant performance unplugged the Bush myth machine -- and left the clueless D.C. press corps gaping.

By Michael Scherer / SALON

May 1, 2006 | Make no mistake, Stephen Colbert is a dangerous man -- a bomb thrower, an assassin, a terrorist with boring hair and rimless glasses. It's a wonder the Secret Service let him so close to the president of the United States.

But there he was Saturday night, keynoting the year's most fawning celebration of the self-importance of the D.C. press corps, the White House Correspondents' Association dinner. Before he took the podium, the master of ceremonies ominously announced, "Tonight, no one is safe."

Colbert is not just another comedian with barbed punch lines and a racy vocabulary. He is a guerrilla fighter, a master of the old-world art of irony. For Colbert, the punch line is just the addendum. The joke is in the setup.

The meat of his act is not in his barbs but his character -- the dry idiot, "Stephen Colbert," God-fearing pitchman, patriotic American, red-blooded pundit and champion of "truthiness." "I'm a simple man with a simple mind," the deadpan Colbert announced at the dinner. "I hold a simple set of beliefs that I live by. Number one, I believe in America. I believe it exists. My gut tells me I live there."

Then he turned to the president of the United States, who sat tight-lipped just a few feet away. "I stand by this man. I stand by this man because he stands for things. Not only for things, he stands on things. Things like aircraft carriers and rubble and recently flooded city squares. And that sends a strong message, that no matter what happens to America, she will always rebound -- with the most powerfully staged photo ops in the world."

It was Colbert's crowning moment. His imitation of the quintessential GOP talking head -- Bill O'Reilly meets Scott McClellan -- uncovered the inner workings of the ever-cheapening discourse that passes for political debate.

He reversed and flattened the meaning of the words he spoke. It's a tactic that cultural critic Greil Marcus once called the "critical negation that would make it self-evident to everyone that the world is not as it seems."

Colbert's jokes attacked not just Bush's policies, but the whole drama and language of American politics, the phony demonstration of strength, unity and vision.

"The greatest thing about this man is he's steady," Colbert continued, in a nod to George W. Bush. "You know where he stands. He believes the same thing Wednesday that he believed on Monday, no matter what happened Tuesday."

It's not just that Colbert's jokes were hitting their mark. We already know that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, that the generals hate Rumsfeld or that Fox News lists to the right. Those cracks are old and boring.

What Colbert did was expose the whole official, patriotic, right-wing, press-bashing discourse as a sham, as more "truthiness" than truth.

Obviously, Colbert is not the first ironic warrior to train his sights on the powerful. What the insurgent culture jammers at Adbusters did for Madison Avenue, and the Barbie Liberation Organization did for children's toys, and Seinfeld did for the sitcom, and the Onion did for the small-town newspaper, Jon Stewart discovered he could do for television news.

Now Colbert, Stewart's spawn, has taken on the right-wing message machine.

In the late 1960s, the Situationists in France called such ironic mockery "détournement," a word that roughly translates to "abduction" or "embezzlement." It was considered a revolutionary act, helping to channel the frustration of the Paris student riots of 1968.

They co-opted and altered famous paintings, newspapers, books and documentary films, seeking subversive ideas in the found objects of popular culture. "Plagiarism is necessary," wrote Guy Debord, the famed Situationist, referring to his strategy of mockery and semiotic inversion. "Progress demands it.

Staying close to an author's phrasing, plagiarism exploits his expressions, erases false ideas, replaces them with correct ideas."

But nearly half a century later, the ideas of the French, as evidenced by our "freedom fries," have not found a welcome reception in Washington. The city is still not ready for Colbert.

The depth of his attack caused bewilderment on the face of the president and some of the press, who, like myopic fish, are used to ignoring the water that sustains them. Laura Bush did not shake his hand.

Political Washington is accustomed to more direct attacks that follow the rules. We tend to like the bland buffoonery of Jay Leno or insider jokes that drop lots of names and enforce everyone's clubby self-satisfaction. (Did you hear the one about John Boehner at the tanning salon or Duke Cunningham playing poker at the Watergate?)

Similarly, White House spinmeisters are used to frontal assaults on their policies, which can be rebutted with a similar set of talking points.

But there is no easy answer for the ironist. "Irony, entertaining as it is, serves an almost exclusively negative function," wrote David Foster Wallace, in his seminal 1993 essay "E Unibus Pluram." "It's critical and destructive, a ground clearing."

So it's no wonder that those journalists at the dinner seemed so uneasy in their seats. They had put on their tuxes to rub shoulders with the president. They were looking forward to spotting Valerie Plame and "American Idol's" Ace Young at the Bloomberg party.

They invited Colbert to speak for levity, not because they wanted to be criticized. As a tribe, we journalists are all, at heart, creatures of this silly conversation. We trade in talking points and consultant-speak.

We too often depend on empty language for our daily bread, and -- worse -- we sometimes mistake it for reality. Colbert was attacking us as well.

A day after he exploded his bomb at the correspondents dinner, Colbert appeared on CBS's "60 Minutes," this time as himself, an actor, a suburban dad, a man without a red and blue tie.

The real Colbert admitted that he does not let his children watch his Comedy Central show. "Kids can't understand irony or sarcasm, and I don't want them to perceive me as insincere," Colbert explained. "Because one night, I'll be putting them to bed and I'll say ... 'I love you, honey.' And they'll say, 'I get it. Very dry, Dad. That's good stuff.'"

His point was spot-on. Irony is dangerous and must be handled with care.

But America can rest assured that for the moment its powers are in good hands. Stephen Colbert, the current grandmaster of the art, knows exactly what he was doing.

Just don't expect him to be invited back to the correspondents dinner.

Authors Website: www.allenroland.com

Authors Bio: Allen L Roland is a practicing psychotherapist, author and lecturer who also shares a daily political and social commentary on his weblog and website allenroland.com He also guest hosts a monthly national radio show TRUTHTALK on Conscious talk radio www.conscioustalk.net

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