Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Bush gets away with lies after lies after lies...

ush Gets Away With Lies, Lies and More Lies in History-Illiterate America
By Larry Beinhart

Monday 27 August 2007

George Bush and other Iraq War supporters have argued that if we withdraw from Iraq the result will be like the killing fields of Cambodia - an odd comparison considering that the US has direct responsibility for that holocaust.

George Bush - and other Iraq War supporters - have argued that if we withdraw from Iraq the result will be like the slaughters - the killing fields - in Cambodia.

Here are the facts:

  • The killing fields were real. The genocide against their own people was committed by the Khmer Rouge.
  • The Vietnamese - the Communist Vietnamese - were the people who went in and put a stop to it.
  • The United States then supported the Khmer Rouge.

Here's how that came to happen.

The United States got involved in the war in Vietnam in an attempt to keep South Vietnam from going communist. Which it would have if nationwide elections had been held as promised.

Cambodia is next to Vietnam. It was ruled by Prince Sihanouk. He attempted to be neutral. Both sides abused that neutrality.

The North Vietnamese send arms, support and men through Cambodia on the "Ho Chi Minh Trail" to go around South Vietnamese and American forces. They also used Cambodian ports.

The United States, which was not at war with Cambodia, officially or unofficially, secretly sent armed forces into Cambodia to interrupt North Vietnamese use of that route. In 1969, Nixon began a campaign of carpet bombing sections of Cambodia. Ultimately about 750,000 Cambodians were killed by the bombings (though the numbers are hard to verify.)

In 1970, while Sihanouk was out of the country, visiting Europe, the USSR and China, Lon Nol took over the country in a right wing coup.

There are two stories about American involvement. The first is that we supported the coup, the second (in Tom Weiner's Legacy of Ashes, The History of the CIA) is that it took the CIA and the United States by surprise. Recently declassified documents support Weiner's view.

In either case, once Lon Nol took power, the US supported him. In return, Lon Nol ended the neutrality, closed the ports to the communists and demanded that the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese leave the country, and let US forces openly, though secretly, operate in Cambodia.

There was resistance to Lon Nol. Some of it was certainly a spontaneous matter of national sentiment. Some of it was certainly fomented by various communist interests.

Sihanouk, in China, then allied himself with the Khmer Rouge, Cambodia communists, which conferred new legitimacy on them.

Civil War broke out. Lon Nol was both corrupt and inept. In spite of American financial and military support, he lost.

America left Vietnam in 1973.

The Khmer Rouge took the capital of Cambodia in 1975. They were one of the most horrendous regimes in history. They practiced a kind of class genocide, "re-educating" and murdering anyone who educated or Westernized, as well as minority groups.

In 1978, Vietnam, by then fully Communist, invaded Cambodia to put a stop to the Khmer Rouge and drive them out. They installed a more moderate and sane regime.

The United States, the UK, and China then supported the remnants of the Khmer Rouge. With their help the conflict continued for another ten years.

When George Bush, or anyone else, uses the Cambodian holocaust as a warning of what might happen if America withdraws from Iraq, remember the facts.

1. Part of the holocaust in Cambodia is directly attributable to American bombing. The 750,000 dead. (Comparable to the number of Iraqis killed by American forces in this war.)

2. The civil war that led to the victory of the Khmer Rouge came about, at least in part, because of America's support of Lon Nol.

3. The "enemy," the Vietnamese Communists, were the ones who put a stop to the Khmer Rouge.

4. The United States supported the Khmer Rouge - after their murders, after the genocide. That support helped a civil war continue for another decade. More death, more destruction.


Larry Beinhart is the author of Fog Facts: Searching for Truth in the Land of Spin. His novels include Wag the Do

Monday, August 27, 2007

Outsourcing intelligence

To My friends who elected Geoge W. Bush.

No one has disgraced public service as has this man, from the top down,

in a number of ways, which are now becoming increasingly clear.

It is not merely incompetent cronyism, but cynical manipulation of voters, perfecly wiling to push any agenda that will get votes.

Carroll is one of the few columnists who have consistently written about these abuses. This is his latest.

Boston Globe, August 26

THE WAYS in which the Bush war has degraded the structures and culture of Iraq are obvious. Less so are its insidious effects on the United States, but President Bush is similarly destroying something essential to our own democracy. A signal of that was sounded last week when The Washington Post reported that the Defense Intelligence Agency is transferring "core intelligence tasks of analysis and collection" to private contractors -- up to a billion dollars worth. This raises the prospect that hired guns, instead of sworn officials, will be conducting covert operations, spying missions, interrogations, "renditions," surveillance -- the whole dangerous complex of shadow activity that began as the government's most sensitive responsibility.

Given the often shocking record of what US intelligence officials have done over the years, why does it matter if such activities are carried out by contractors? The answer patently goes to the question of accountability. Public servants who are bound by oaths to the Constitution and the law understand what the measure of behavior must be, even if they fall short of it. Activities involving the surreptitious, especially, have properly been reserved to public institutions subject to political oversight. Private parties, bound by contract, operate at remove from such limit and accountability, which may be why borderline activities like interrogation or rendition are increasingly farmed out to them.

But there is a deeper problem. I know the dark history well, yet I also know that the American intelligence services were founded, then staffed across two generations, by patriots -- people who acted primarily out of loyalty to this country. If at times they acted wrongly, they mainly did so with a sense of higher purpose. Among the most gifted and well educated people in government, intelligence officials could always have done better in the private sector, but personal gain was never the point. The ethos of service informed their commitment. That was broadly true of the military, which is why "service" is its synonym. But that word, as in "secret service," defined the essence of the government's most dangerous work -- dangers both physical and moral.

But now intelligence activities, like security functions in Iraq, are increasingly carried out for the sake of large paychecks. True belief has its problems, but so does the no-belief of greed. The Post reported that "outsourced" intelligence operatives cost, on average, twice what comparable government employees are paid. This has resulted in something new -- the resignations of trained and trusted officials who take jobs with contractors to perform the same operations, but with far higher pay. Whether their activities are different or not, they themselves are. Such ex-officials are dismantling politically accountable structures, and undercutting an ideal of selflessness that formerly made the custodians of state power its most important check.

Readers of this column may know that the Defense Intelligence Agency was founded by my father in 1961. Not long before, he had declined an offer from the Ford Motor Company to take a big job in Detroit, a chance at true affluence. My parents were typical products of immigrant culture, people who so loved America for its welcome that the highest privilege they could imagine was to spend their lives in its service. In this, newcomers were like the "best and brightest" of the establishment -- the patriots who first stamped the culture of American intelligence. I know for certain that, in setting out the ethos of the DIA, my father assumed love of country, and sacrifice for it, as foundational. He would not have entrusted the difficult and, perhaps, dirty work for which he found himself responsible to people who thought differently. Profit-driven contractors for core functions of the agency? My father would not have understood what you were talking about.

As the Post suggests, the Bush administration has replaced officials with contractors throughout government, outsourcing run amok. But Bush did not begin this. Since Ronald Reagan, conservatives have preached the doctrine that the nation's basic needs can best be met by private enterprise. The profit motive trumps any public ideal. Consequently, government has been in slow motion collapse, with the ineptitudes of Iraq as final proof of its untrustworthiness.

But what the antigovernment movement missed is that attacks on the public sector equal assaults on the public. When the high calling of public service yields to the highest bid, the corruption is total: the heart of government -- the military -- becomes mercenary; the mind of the military -- intelligence -- becomes privatized. Citizenship itself is universally gutted, yet another source of our malaise.

James Carroll's column appears regularly in the Globe.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Bush stiff arming the childrens health...op ed, NY Times


Stiff-Arming Children’s Health

The Bush administration has imposed new requirements on a valuable children’s health insurance program that look so draconian as to be unattainable. Late on a recent Friday while Congress was in recess, a time fit for hiding dark deeds, the administration sent a letter to state health officials spelling out new hurdles they would have to clear before they could insure children from middle-income families unable to find affordable health coverage. Some 19 states may be forced to pull back programs they have started or proposed.

There is a legitimate argument to be had over how far up the income scale the federal-state partnership known as the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, or S-chip, should climb. When it was created, the program focused on children whose family incomes were no higher than twice the poverty level, or about $41,000 today for a family of four. The goal was to cover the near-poor, who earned too much to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to afford private health insurance.

Over the years, the Clinton administration and especially the Bush administration allowed states to extend coverage to higher income levels. Today, New Jersey caps it at 350 percent of the poverty level and New York proposes to go to 400 percent. In reaching out this way, virtually all states have scooped up lots of children who were actually poor enough to qualify for Medicaid but had never been enrolled. The combined result has been a heartwarming drop in the number of uninsured children.

Yet the Bush administration wants to return to a darker age. Its letter to state officials seems intent on virtually eliminating such coverage for middle-income children, or at least drastically reducing it.

Take a new requirement that states must show they have enrolled at least 95 percent of the children with family incomes below 200 percent of the poverty level before they can extend the limit to 250 percent. It is surely appropriate that states do a good job of reaching the poorest children before they embark on anything beyond that. Yet the 95 percent goal seems virtually unattainable in an income group that is notoriously hard to reach, as the administration should know from its abysmal results in trying to enroll the low-income elderly in its Medicare drug benefit. No state has reached 95 percent, so all may ultimately be disqualified.

Another difficult hurdle calls for states that want to insure children from higher-income families to show that, over the past five years, there has been no more than a 2 percent decline in employer coverage of such children. The ostensible goal is to make sure that S-chip does not substitute for coverage provided by employers. But employers have been reducing health benefits for some time, mostly for reasons having little to do with S-chip. Depending on how the murky calculation is made, New York could be rejected on that ground alone.

Other requirements, though attainable, seem just plain wrong-headed. In families with incomes above 250 percent of the poverty level, children must be uninsured for a full year before they can be enrolled in S-chip. There can be no exceptions, even if a parent dies and the child loses coverage under an employer’s group policy. New York proposes a far more reasonable six-month wait, long enough to deter people from abandoning their employer’s coverage, and would waive that for people who lose their jobs or coverage involuntarily. One year is just too long to leave children uninsured.

The heated political debate over S-chip sometimes leaves the impression that it is a free handout to middle-income Americans. But it is not free: states typically charge premiums that rise as income rises, and there can be deductibles and co-payments beyond that. New York calculates that its proposed premium of $60 per month per child for the higher-income families is essentially comparable to what it costs to insure a child under employer-provided policies in the state.

Families with incomes of $70,000 or more can be hard-pressed to pay for private insurance in high-cost areas. It takes a $70,000 income in Manhattan to buy the same goods and services that $30,000 can buy in Omaha. If you visualize a man earning $70,000 to $80,000 a year at an establishment with good health benefits, you might well question why he needs S-chip for his children. But if you visualize a struggling family stitching together two or three low-wage jobs to reach that income in a high-cost area, the picture changes.

The new requirements not only reverse the administration’s original approach to S-chip, they stick a thumb in the eye of Congress. The Senate has passed a bill that would raise eligibility to 300 percent of the poverty level, and the House has gone to 400 percent. President Bush has threatened a veto. If the main goal is to reduce the number of uninsured children, as it should be, the administration is headed in the opposite direction.

copyright, NY Times.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

What goes around, comes around....be patient and have faith....

Life itself has checks and balances on evil people -- even if our Constitution doesn't.

By W. Christopher Epler (Bill)

It helps to remember that life itself has checks and balances on evil people -- even if our Constitution doesn't.

Life, thank God, is infinitely more complicated than politics. That's why politics is such a joke. That's why this "Democratic Congress" is a sneeze in a hurricane. Larger forces are at work.

The BIGGEST untapped into force isn't a pretty thing to talk about, but it may turn out to be our salvation and this is the force of raw self interest.

Bush Democrats are so far beneath contempt they don't even show up on the moral radar, but they all have an Achilles’ heel and that heel is their predictable, slavering self interest.

The Judas Joe Lieberman's and DLC Hillary Clinton Doll’s (machined by James Carville) would clearly do ANYTHING if they thought they could get away with it, and yet they won't allow themselves to get SO greedy and dishonorable that they call counter productive attention to themselves.

To say it straight out, evil people typically don't publicly kill other people to further their self interest; however, this isn’t because of "conscience", it’s became they know public murder would almost certainly counter their own selfish agendas.

In short, evil people (e.g., Bush Democrats) are not "conscience people", they are "self interest" people and this is a kind of Achilles’ heel, because this is where their true vulnerability and craziness lies. Thus, the strategies we need should have nothing to do with ethics, law, and rationality, because pig people don't even know how to spell such words (listen to Bush talk about science!).

No, the only way to deal with truly evil people is to discover their secret self interests and vulnerabilities, because this is where our leverage is.

For example, what makes Bush lose his cool in public? What makes him depressed, disorientated, or drunk? Said differently, where are Bush, Cheney, Gonzalez, etc. "most crazy"?

Playing political games with such people is EXACTLY WHAT THEY WANT US TO DO, because (a.) they never play by the rules, (b.) they know the deck is stacked, and (c.) they know 95% of the Democratic Congress would sell their grandmother for a secret retirement fund or a coveted committee position (why are we thinking of Nancy Pelosi?). In short when dealing with fascists, its game over before the first card is dealt.

Look, if you have some total scum neighbors, nothing constructive will come from civilized chats with animals. In short, once you "get it" that these people laugh at the law, will rape your children, slash your tires, rob you blind, and even KILL YOU if they think the need arises, you have to realize you are not dealing with conscience/rationality life forms, but the dregs of human existence.

And with the dregs of human existence, you don't play political games. Finding out what makes them tick is the first step, because where they are the most compulsive is where they are the most vulnerable. Their own self interest will be their undoing. Life itself knows how to deal with self interest pigs. Call it bad karma; call it hubris; call it Jesus Justice, but life knows how to deal with self interest pigs.

Keeping the faith is all . . .

One of my jobs as a psychologist is assessing people for particuar positions.

I said from the beginning that W. would have his com-uppance before the end of his stint in the White House. Read the words of Mary's song, called the Magnificat, in Luke, chapter 1, vv 46 ff. He brings down the proud from their thrones. This is the faith I live by.

When the self-seeking louts around W. begin to jump ship, then there will be hell to pay. To discover right now how cynical has been the White House during the last 7 years, read September issue of Atlantic, "The Rovian Presidency." by Joshua Green, long, about 20 pp but incisive analysis of the prevailing mojo.

Chickens are about to come home to roost. And they are chickens, body and soul. American people are about to understand how taken they have been. The 25 loyalists, including several family members, will never admit it. They simply cannot admit it.

Paschal, Aug 25, 07

Friday, August 24, 2007

G.O.P. cynicism and Rove's foolish fantasy

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Paul Krugman: Seeking Willie Horton

So now Mitt Romney is trying to Willie Hortonize Rudy Giuliani. And thereby hangs a tale — the tale, in fact, of American politics past and future, and the ultimate reason Karl Rove’s vision of a permanent Republican majority was a foolish fantasy.

Willie Horton, for those who don’t remember the 1988 election, was a convict from Massachusetts who committed armed robbery and rape after being released from prison on a weekend furlough program. He was made famous by an attack ad, featuring a menacing mugshot, that played into racial fears. Many believe that the ad played an important role in George H.W. Bush’s victory over Michael Dukakis.

Now some Republicans are trying to make similar use of the recent murder of three college students in Newark, a crime in which two of the suspects are Hispanic illegal immigrants. Tom Tancredo flew into Newark to accuse the city’s leaders of inviting the crime by failing to enforce immigration laws, while Newt Gingrich declared that the “war here at home” against illegal immigrants is “even more deadly than the war in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

And Mr. Romney, who pretends to be whatever he thinks the G.O.P. base wants him to be, is running a radio ad denouncing New York as a “sanctuary city” for illegal immigrants, an implicit attack on Mr. Giuliani.

Strangely, nobody seems to be trying to make a national political issue out of other horrifying crimes, like the Connecticut home invasion in which two paroled convicts, both white, are accused of killing a mother and her two daughters. Oh, and by the way: over all, Hispanic immigrants appear to commit relatively few crimes — in fact, their incarceration rate is actually lower than that of native-born non-Hispanic whites.

To appreciate what’s going on here you need to understand the difference between the goals of the modern Republican Party and the strategy it uses to win elections.

The people who run the G.O.P. are concerned, above all, with making America safe for the rich. Their ultimate goal, as Grover Norquist once put it, is to get America back to the way it was “up until Teddy Roosevelt, when the socialists took over,” getting rid of “the income tax, the death tax, regulation, all that.”

But right-wing economic ideology has never been a vote-winner. Instead, the party’s electoral strategy has depended largely on exploiting racial fear and animosity.

Ronald Reagan didn’t become governor of California by preaching the wonders of free enterprise; he did it by attacking the state’s fair housing law, denouncing welfare cheats and associating liberals with urban riots. Reagan didn’t begin his 1980 campaign with a speech on supply-side economics, he began it — at the urging of a young Trent Lott — with a speech supporting states’ rights delivered just outside Philadelphia, Miss., where three civil rights workers were murdered in 1964.

And if you look at the political successes of the G.O.P. since it was taken over by movement conservatives, they had very little to do with public opposition to taxes, moral values, perceived strength on national security, or any of the other explanations usually offered. To an almost embarrassing extent, they all come down to just five words: southern whites starting voting Republican.

In fact, I suspect that the underlying importance of race to the Republican base is the reason Rudy Giuliani remains the front-runner for the G.O.P. nomination, despite his serial adultery and his past record as a social liberal. Never mind moral values: what really matters to the base is that Mr. Giuliani comes across as an authoritarian, willing in particular to crack down on you-know-who.

But Republicans have a problem: demographic changes are making their race-based electoral strategy decreasingly effective. Quite simply, America is becoming less white, mainly because of immigration. Hispanic and Asian voters were only 4 percent of the electorate in 1980, but they were 11 percent of voters in 2004 — and that number will keep rising for the foreseeable future.

Those numbers are the reason Karl Rove was so eager to reach out to Hispanic voters. But the whites the G.O.P. has counted on to vote their color, not their economic interests, are having none of it. From their point of view, it’s us versus them — and everyone who looks different is one of them.

So now we have the spectacle of Republicans competing over who can be most convincingly anti-Hispanic. I know, officially they’re not hostile to Hispanics in general, only to illegal immigrants, but that’s a distinction neither the G.O.P. base nor Hispanic voters takes seriously.

Today’s G.O.P., in short, is trapped by its history of cynicism. For decades it has exploited racial animosity to win over white voters — and now, when Republican politicians need to reach out to an increasingly diverse country, the base won’t let them.

Paschal: Sadly, this fits too many of the Republican friends I know, or at least, used to have, until talk radio, via Limbaugh and bullies, convinced them that liberals and progressives were Communists and Socialists in disguise. People vote their prejudices and the GOP has learned to capitalize in prejudice, against gays or against whoever or whatever will get them elected. Krugman is on target. When Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights bill in the 60s, he said "There does the South to teh Republican party!"

Reagan capitalized on racial prejudice and fears. E. G. The Black momma driving a Cadillac popping out babies. GOP Family Values? What B.S. 8/24/07

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Frank Rich on the collapse of Rovian Republicanism.

Forced to pick a single symbolic episode to encapsulate the collapse of Rovian Republicanism, however, I would not choose any of those national watersheds, or even the implosion of the Iraq war, but the George Allen "macaca" moment. Its first anniversary fell, fittingly enough, on the same day last weekend that Mitt Romney bought his victory at the desultory, poorly attended G.O.P. straw poll in Iowa.

A century seems to have passed since Mr. Allen, the Virginia Republican running for re-election to the Senate, was anointed by Washington insiders as the inevitable heir to the Bush-Rove mantle: a former governor whose jus'-folks personality, the Bushian camouflage for hard-edged conservatism, would propel him to the White House. Mr. Allen's senatorial campaign and presidential future melted down overnight after he insulted a Jim Webb campaign worker, the 20-year-old son of Indian immigrants, not just by calling him a monkey but by sarcastically welcoming him "to America" and "the real world of Virginia."

This incident had resonance well beyond Virginia and Mr. Allen for several reasons. First, it crystallized the monochromatic whiteness at the dark heart of Rovian Republicanism. For all the minstrel antics at the 2000 convention, the record speaks for itself: there is not a single black Republican serving in either the House or Senate, and little representation of other minorities, either. Far from looking like America, the G.O.P. caucus, like the party's presidential field, could pass for a Rotary Club, circa 1954. Meanwhile, a new census analysis released this month finds that nonwhites now make up a majority in nearly a third of the nation's most populous counties, with Houston overtaking Los Angeles in black population and metropolitan Chicago surpassing Honolulu in Asian residents. Even small towns and rural America are exploding in Hispanic growth.

Second, the Allen slur was a compact distillation of the brute nastiness of the Bush-Rove years, all that ostentatious "compassion" notwithstanding. Mr. Bush and Mr. Rove are not xenophobes, but the record will show that their White House spoke up too late and said too little when some of its political allies descended into Mexican-bashing during the immigration brawl. Mr. Bush and Mr. Rove winked at anti-immigrant bigotry, much as they did at the homophobia they inflamed with their incessant election-year demagoguery about same-sex marriage.

Finally, the "macaca" incident was a media touchstone. It became a national phenomenon when the video landed on YouTube, the rollicking Web site whose reach now threatens mainstream news outlets. A year later, leading Republicans are still clueless and panicked about this new medium, which is why they, unlike their Democratic counterparts, pulled out of even a tightly controlled CNN-YouTube debate. It took smart young conservative bloggers like a former Republican National Committee operative, Patrick Ruffini, to shame them into reinstating the debate for November, lest the entire G.O.P. field look as pathetically out of touch as it is.

The rise of YouTube certifies the passing of Mr. Rove's era, a cultural changing of the guard in the digital age. Mr. Rove made his name in direct-mail fund-raising and with fierce top-down message management. As the Internet erodes snail mail, so it upends direct mail. As YouTube threatens a politician's ability to rigidly control a message, so it threatens the Rove ethos that led Mr. Bush to campaign at "town hall" meetings attended only by hand-picked supporters.

It's no coincidence that this new culture is also threatening the Beltway journalistic establishment that celebrated Mr. Rove's invincibility well past its expiration date (much as it did James Carville's before him), extolling what Joshua Green, in his superb new Rove article in The Atlantic, calls the Cult of the Consultant. The YouTube video of Mr. Rove impersonating a rapper at one of those black-tie correspondents' dinners makes the Washington press corps look even more antediluvian than he is.

Last weekend's Iowa straw poll was a more somber but equally anachronistic spectacle. Again, it's a young conservative commentator, Ryan Sager, writing in The New York Sun, who put it best: "The face of the Republican Party in Iowa is the face of a losing party, full of hatred toward immigrants, lust for government subsidies, and the demand that any Republican seeking the office of the presidency acknowledge that he's little more than Jesus Christ's running mate."

That face, at once contemptuous and greedy and self-righteous, is Karl Rove's face. Unless someone in his party rolls out a revolutionary new product, it is indelible enough to serve as the Republican brand for a generation.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

By what criteria is Rove a genius?

Karl Rove, by What Measure Genius?
By Marc Ash
t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Tuesday 14 August 2007

I never thought Karl Rove was a genius. Rove is not brilliant; he's ruthless. There is a difference. What makes Rove dangerous is he will take risks no one else will take. Risks are like straws on a camel's back: one too many and you and the camel are undone.

I was an avid observer of Al Gore's 2000 campaign. I even helped out a bit with web page maintenance during the 2000 Democratic Convention in Los Angeles. Rove and the full weight of corporate America and Jeb Bush and Ralph Nader threw everything they had at Gore. Gore won. He beat them all. I really respected him for that. In the end, after Gore had won in Florida, after the Florida Supreme court ruled the votes had to be recounted, then the five Republican members of the US Supreme Court actually intervened and shut the vote count down, and made Bush president. And everyone thought Rove was a genius.

I remember on September 10, 2001, NEWSWEEK ran a headline that read, "The Secret Vote That Made George W. Bush President." Bush's public approval rating was at 42 percent and falling. I forget what the article was about. The next day Osama bin Laden flew two commercial airliners filled with passengers into the World Trade Towers in Lower Manhattan, another into the Pentagon and a fourth into a field in Pennsylvania. Once the smoke had cleared, Bush cautiously returned to Washington, and suddenly he was a hero. And everyone thought Rove was a genius.

In 2004 the Bush campaign message was, "if you vote for John Kerry and the Democrats you are putting the country in danger ... it will help Osama bin Laden." And four days before the election, bin Laden released a video warning the American people they were not safe. On election day, the African-American voters in Ohio thought they could make a difference. That was before Katrina, before New Orleans and its people were left to die. Bush held possession of the White House. And everyone thought Rove was a genius.

Rove will not speak to Congress. If he cannot lie to Congress, and he cannot tell the truth to Congress, then he must remain silent. Even for a man who achieved all by taking risks, the risk is too great. Congress might ask if Rove directed US attorneys to use the power of the Justice Department to strike back at or simply strike political opponents of the White House. And what would he say? What would a genius say?

The news broke today that Rove is retiring, and all the best publications said he was the Architect of the Republican domination. But they haven't asked the Republicans. The Republicans are scared and they're angry. They think their party is badly damaged. Perhaps they are right. So whom has Karl Rove helped? How long will it be before his friends understand what he has done? What will they do then?

I've always thought the geniuses were the quiet revolutionaries. The ones who changed things, but no one noticed. Did Rove change things, or just exploit what he found? There are better and brighter men and women than Karl Rove close at hand. The genius is hearing them.

You can send comments to Truthout Executive Director Marc Ash at: director@truthout.org.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

No Center, No Centrists

by George Lakoff

“Centrism” is the creation of an inaccurate self-serving metaphor, and it is time to bury it.

There is no left to right linear spectrum in the American political life. There are two systems of values and modes of thought - call them progressive and conservative (or nurturant and strict, as I have). There are total progressives, who use a progressive mode of thought on all issues. And total conservatives. And there are lots of folks who are what I’ve called “biconceptuals”: progressive on certain issue areas and conservative on others. But they don’t form a linear scale. They are all over the place: progressive on domestic policy, conservative on foreign policy; conservative on economic policy, progressive on foreign policy and social issues; conservative on religion, but progressive on social issues and foreign policy; and on and on. No linear scale. No single set of values defining a “center.” Indeed many of such folks are not moderate in their views; they can be quite passionate about both their progressive and conservative views.Barack Obama has it right: Get rid of the very idea of the right and the left and the center. American ideas are fundamentally progressive ideas - the ideas this country was founded on and that carry forth that spirit. Progressives care about people and the earth, and act with responsibility and strength on that care.

The progressive view of government is simple. Progressive government has two aspects: protection and empowerment. Protection is far more than the military, police, and fire departments. It includes consumer protection, worker protection, environmental protection, public health, food and drug safety; social security, and other safety nets. It also includes protection from the government itself, and hence a balance of powers, openness, fundamental rights, and so on.

Empowerment include roads and bridges; public education; government-developed communications like the internet and satellite communications systems; the banking system; the SEC and institutions that make a stock market possible, and the court system, mostly about contracts and corporate law. Progressive government makes business possible. No one makes any money in this country without the progressive empowerment by government. A progressive foreign policy is not based solely, or even mainly, on the state - about the “national interest” defined as our military strength and GDP. Progressive foreign policy focuses on individual people’s interests as well as national interests: on poverty, disease, refugees, education, women’s and children’s issues, public health, and so on.

These are simply American values. The progressive movement is a patriotic American movement. People who call themselves “centrists” share progressive views on important issue areas, but have conservative views on other major issue areas. The areas vary from person to person. There is no single moral perspective, no single set of agreed upon issues.

The very idea that there is a “center” marginalizes progressives, and sees them as extremists, when they simply share fundamental American values. The term “center” suggests there is a “mainstream” where most people are and that there is a single set of views held by that mainstream. That is false.

The fallacy matters in terms of Democratic electoral strategy. The Democratic base consists of people who are mostly or totally progressive, just as the Republican base consists of people who are mostly or totally conservative. How does the Democratic Party as a whole, and how do Democratic candidates in particular, speak to those who are biconceptual?

I am a cognitive scientist and believe that people’s brains play a significant role in elections. From the perspective of brain science, the answer is a no-brainer. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist!) You speak to biconceptuals the same way you speak to your base: you discuss progressive values, and if you are talking to folks with both progressive and conservative values, you mainly talk about the issues where they share progressive values. What that does is evoke and strengthen the progressive values already there in the minds of biconceptuals.

And of course, you don’t negate or argue against the other on their framing turf - remember Don’t Think of an Elephant!

That was the winning strategy of Sherrod Brown in Ohio. Brown is a thoroughgoing progressive who never moved one inch to the right. He talked about the issues where he agreed with his Ohio audiences - and legitimately spoke for them.

Think about Barack Obama going to Rick Warren’s megachurch and getting a standing ovation from evangelicals because he talked about the places where he agreed with them, he activated his values in them (values they already had), he came across as a man of principle, and he didn’t get in their face about where he disagreed.

The losing strategy is to move to the right, to assume with Republicans that American values are mainly conservative and that the Democratic party has to move away from its base and adopt conservative values. When you do that, you help activate conservative values in people’s brains (thus helping the other side), you offend your base (thus hurting yourself), and you give the impression that you are expressing no consistent set of values, which is true! Why should the American people trust somebody who does not have clear values, and who may be trying to deceive them about the values he and his party’s base hold?

Harold Ford is a perfect example. He just wasn’t believable as a good ole boy Tennesseean when he took conservative positions. He just didn’t seem real. The “not a real Tennesseean” ad pointed up the discomfort that Ford’s overt appeal to the right aroused in Tennessee. It was perceived as sleazy, and the “Call me, Harold” ad pointed to it as well. The ads were racist in part, but they were more than just racist. It would be hard to imagine such ads directed at Barack Obama.

Which brings me to the DLC, which Harold Ford now heads.

My colleague, Glenn W. Smith, has pointed to the DLC strategy of getting as many “swing voters” as possible and the minimum number of base voters needed to win. That is why the DLC and Rahm Emanuel argued against Howard Dean’s 50-state strategy and for a swing-state alone strategy.

The DLC has concentrated on policy wonkishness (see their 100 new policy ideas on their website) rather than values. Their concentration on laundry lists of policies rather than vision, values, and passion has not helped the Democrats electorally.

The reason the DLC has been attacking progressives, Smith argues, is that DLC members have major conservative values and are threatened by the progressive base. Some of those values are financial: Wall Street, the HMO’s and drug companies, agribusiness, developers, the oil companies, and international corporations that benefit from trade agreements, outsourcing, cheap labor abroad, and practices that harm indigenous populations but bring profits. A powerful motivation for the party has been that, if they take such positions, they, like the Republicans, can get big money contributions from Wall Street.

But there is more involved here than money. The DLC seems also to share the foreign policy idea that we should be maximizing our “national interest” - our military strength, economic wealth (measured by GDP), and global political clout (presumably coming from economic and military clout). This is opposed to a foreign policy that maximizes the well-being of people, both at home and abroad.

But worst of all, the DLC has been cowed by the conservatives. They have drunk the conservative Kool-Aid. As Harold Ford intimated in his debate with Markos Moulitsas: To win you have be a hawk on foreign policy, a social conservative on abortion and gay marriage, and not raise taxes. Nonsense.

Even worse, Ford is suggesting that those in the party who don’t hold those views say that they do. There’s a name for someone who goes against his principles to pander for votes. It’s not a nice name.

In all the commentary about that debate, an important aspect has gone without comment. Markos certainly bested Ford. But to do so, he also had to best the moderator, David Gregory, who insisted on using the conservative-tainted word “liberal.” Over and over, Markos resisted Gregory’s frames. Gregory was not using Markos’ frames and Markos insisted on his own.

It is important to stand up to the DLC, and to the idea that there is a unitary mainstream center, that they are it, and that progressives are extremists and deserve to be marginalized.

George Lakoff is the author of Moral Politics, Don’t Think of an Elephant!, Whose Freedom?, and Thinking Points (with the Rockridge Institute staff). He is Richard and Rhoda Goldman Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley, and a founding senior fellow at the Rockridge Institute.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Mythis of World War II

The Myths of World War II

by Sean Gonsalves

Back in April, the Library of Congress Veterans History Project and the Public Broadcasting Service announced a collaborative initiative to collect war stories, which will include Ken Burns’ new film, The War, slated to air on September 23.

Given Burns’ masterful look back on the two best cultural gifts America has ever given the world — jazz and baseball — I’m looking forward to his soon-to-be-released documentary.

But when I checked the Veterans History Project home page, I got a little worried when I read: “Throughout 2007, PBS stations all over the country will be initiating outreach programs designed to raise awareness of World War II and the need for its veterans and civilian workers to tell their stories for the record.”

Raise awareness of World War II? How could anyone in America who hasn’t been in a coma since Tom Brokaw coined the term “Greatest Generation” not be aware of World War II?

Given the huge success and popularity of WWII movies like Saving Private Ryan and all of the World War II dominated national commemorations (Memorial Day, Veterans Day, Pearl Harbor Day etc.), how much more aware can people be?

Indeed, it’s important for “veterans and civilian workers to tell their stories for the record” - honest stories; not tales that perpetuate a war mythology that has blinded U.S. war planners ever since we won the “Good War.”

One soldier’s story I hope is represented in Burns’ project is the kind offered by WWII vet Edward W. Wood Jr. in a book called Worshipping the Myths of World War II: Reflections on America’s Dedication to War.

It’s not too late to add it to your summer reading list - and not just for history’s sake but for the insight it provides into our present conflaguration.

“The philosophy of the way to fight terrorism or to halt rogue states from possessing the atomic bomb rests squarely on the four Myths of World War II,” Wood writes, sure to raise the hackles of those who consider the prevailing mythology as sacred.

Wood’s four myths: 1) The Good War. 2) The Greatest Generation. 3) We Won World War II Largely on Our Own. And 4), When Evil Lies in Others, War Is the Means to Justice.”

The Good War myth is exposed as such by the historical record, testifying of the mass killing of innocents. What’s good about that? A necessary war, perhaps. But “good?” That’s sick.

The Greatest Generation myth is disproved, Wood argues, in considering that the same generation who defeated Nazi and Japanese imperialism “also helped defeat the hope for peace that swept the world at the end of World War II,” largely through the telling of “heroic” stories while staying relatively silent about war’s dark side, setting up future generations to experience similar horrors.

“The story told in the mainline media explains why it was so easy for America to accept the idea of a ‘war on terror.’ Once again, we would storm the beaches of Normandy…(and) bomb the people of Japan. Our policies of preemption, our war with Iraq are rooted in a war now sixty years past. By believing the Myths of World War II as the truth of war we have but created another monstrosity, resembling our failure in Vietnam, another war that will only cripple those who fight it, harm our armed forces, erode our reputation throughout the world, and, this time, turn much of the world against us.”

The We Won the War Largely on Our Own myth is much easier to lay bare when you consider the huge contributions of money and blood made by Russia and China.

And finally, there’s Wood’s When Evil Lies in Others, War Is the Means to Justice myth. That’s probably the most difficult myth to pierce, Wood acknowledges. Whether his argument questioning the way we think about “enemies” and international cooperation are ultimately convincing is in direct correlation with how familiar (and honest) the reader is with American history and its intimate relationship to “war and atrocities” - the “gray area” beyond we‘re-the-good-guys-and-they‘re-the-bad-guys.

Wouldn’t it be interesting to have an honest discussion about World War II, without all the myths? Come on, Ken. I’m counting on you. But, if we can’t get it from Burns and PBS, there’s always veterans like Wood, not so much interested in the myths but in the God’s-honest-truth.

Syndicated columnist Sean Gonsalves is an assistant news editor with the Cape Cod Times. He can be reached at sgonsalves@capecodonline.com

Sunday, August 12, 2007


Very Scary Things
By Paul Krugman
The New York Times

Friday 10 August 2007

In September 1998, the collapse of Long Term Capital Management, a giant hedge fund, led to a meltdown in the financial markets similar, in some ways, to what's happening now. During the crisis in '98, I attended a closed-door briefing given by a senior Federal Reserve official, who laid out the grim state of the markets. "What can we do about it?" asked one participant. "Pray," replied the Fed official.

Our prayers were answered. The Fed coordinated a rescue for L.T.C.M., while Robert Rubin, the Treasury secretary at the time, and Alan Greenspan, who was the Fed chairman, assured investors that everything would be all right. And the panic subsided.

Yesterday, President Bush, showing off his M.B.A. vocabulary, similarly tried to reassure the markets. But Mr. Bush is, let's say, a bit lacking in credibility. On the other hand, it's not clear that anyone could do the trick: right now we're suffering from a serious shortage of saviors. And that's too bad, because we might need one.

What's been happening in financial markets over the past few days is something that truly scares monetary economists: liquidity has dried up. That is, markets in stuff that is normally traded all the time - in particular, financial instruments backed by home mortgages - have shut down because there are no buyers.

This could turn out to be nothing more than a brief scare. At worst, however, it could cause a chain reaction of debt defaults.

The origins of the current crunch lie in the financial follies of the last few years, which in retrospect were as irrational as the dot-com mania. The housing bubble was only part of it; across the board, people began acting as if risk had disappeared.

Everyone knows now about the explosion in subprime loans, which allowed people without the usual financial qualifications to buy houses, and the eagerness with which investors bought securities backed by these loans. But investors also snapped up high-yield corporate debt, a k a junk bonds, driving the spread between junk bond yields and U.S. Treasuries down to record lows.

Then reality hit - not all at once, but in a series of blows. First, the housing bubble popped. Then subprime melted down. Then there was a surge in investor nervousness about junk bonds: two months ago the yield on corporate bonds rated B was only 2.45 percent higher than that on government bonds; now the spread is well over 4 percent.

Investors were rattled recently when the subprime meltdown caused the collapse of two hedge funds operated by Bear Stearns, the investment bank. Since then, markets have been manic-depressive, with triple-digit gains or losses in the Dow Jones industrial average - the rule rather than the exception for the past two weeks.

But yesterday's announcement by BNP Paribas, a large French bank, that it was suspending the operations of three of its own funds was, if anything, the most ominous news yet. The suspension was necessary, the bank said, because of "the complete evaporation of liquidity in certain market segments" - that is, there are no buyers.

When liquidity dries up, as I said, it can produce a chain reaction of defaults. Financial institution A can't sell its mortgage-backed securities, so it can't raise enough cash to make the payment it owes to institution B, which then doesn't have the cash to pay institution C - and those who do have cash sit on it, because they don't trust anyone else to repay a loan, which makes things even worse.

And here's the truly scary thing about liquidity crises: it's very hard for policy makers to do anything about them.

The Fed normally responds to economic problems by cutting interest rates - and as of yesterday morning the futures markets put the probability of a rate cut by the Fed before the end of next month at almost 100 percent. It can also lend money to banks that are short of cash: yesterday the European Central Bank, the Fed's trans-Atlantic counterpart, lent banks $130 billion, saying that it would provide unlimited cash if necessary, and the Fed pumped in $24 billion.

But when liquidity dries up, the normal tools of policy lose much of their effectiveness. Reducing the cost of money doesn't do much for borrowers if nobody is willing to make loans. Ensuring that banks have plenty of cash doesn't do much if the cash stays in the banks' vaults.

There are other, more exotic things the Fed and, more important, the executive branch of the U.S. government could do to contain the crisis if the standard policies don't work. But for a variety of reasons, not least the current administration's record of incompetence, we'd really rather not go there.

Let's hope, then, that this crisis blows over as quickly as that of 1998. But I wouldn't count on it.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Bews media is biased...finally the public wakes up.

US public sees news media as biased, inaccurate, uncaring: poll

Thu Aug 9, 6:30 PM ET

More than half of Americans say US news organizations are politically biased, inaccurate, and don't care about the people they report on, a poll published Thursday showed.

And poll respondents who use the Internet as their main source of news -- roughly one quarter of all Americans -- were even harsher with their criticism, the poll conducted by the Pew Research Center said.

More than two-thirds of the Internet users said they felt that news organizations don't care about the people they report on; 59 percent said their reporting was inaccurate; and 64 percent they were politically biased.

More than half -- 53 percent -- of Internet users also faulted the news organizations for "failing to stand up for America".

Among those who get their news from newspapers and television, criticism of the news organizations was up to 20 percentage points lower than among Internet news audiences, who tend to be younger and better educated than the public as a whole, according to Pew.

The poll indicates an across the board fall in the public's opinion on the news media since 1985, when a similar survey was conducted by Times Mirror, Pew Research said.

"Two decades ago, public attitudes about how news organizations do their job were less negative. Most people believed that news organizations stood up for America... a majority believed that news organizations got the facts straight," Pew said in a report.

The Washington-based Pew Research Center describes itself as a nonpartisan "fact tank" that provides information on the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world.

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Monday, August 06, 2007

Selective Prosecution by our Justice Dept

Selective Prosecution
The New York Times | Editorial

Monday 06 August 2007

One part of the Justice Department mess that requires more scrutiny is the growing evidence that the department may have singled out people for criminal prosecution to help Republicans win elections. The House Judiciary Committee has begun investigating several cases that raise serious questions. The panel should determine what role politics played in all of them.

Putting political opponents in jail is the sort of thing that happens in third-world dictatorships. In the United States, prosecutions are supposed to be scrupulously nonpartisan. This principle appears to have broken down in Alberto Gonzales's Justice Department - where lawyers were improperly hired for nonpolitical jobs based on party membership, and United States attorneys were apparently fired for political reasons.

Individual Democrats may be paying a personal price. Don Siegelman, a former Alabama governor, was the state's most prominent Democrat and had a decent chance of retaking the governorship from the Republican incumbent. He was aggressively prosecuted by both the Birmingham and Montgomery United States attorney's offices. Birmingham prosecutors dropped their case after a judge harshly questioned it. When the Montgomery office prosecuted, a jury acquitted Mr. Siegelman of 25 counts, but convicted him of 7, which appear to be disturbingly weak.

The prosecution may have been a political hit. A Republican lawyer, Dana Jill Simpson, has said in a sworn statement that she heard Bill Canary, a Republican operative and a Karl Rove protégé, say that his "girls" - his wife, the United States attorney in Montgomery, and Alice Martin, the United States attorney in Birmingham - would "take care" of Mr. Siegelman. Mr. Canary also said, according to Ms. Simpson, that Mr. Rove was involved.

Georgia Thompson is a Wisconsin state employee wrongly put in jail on corruption charges by the Milwaukee United States attorney. Despite strong evidence that she was innocent, Steven Biskupic prosecuted Ms. Thompson for corruption and got a conviction. The news hit shortly before a bitterly fought governor's race, and opponents of James Doyle, the state's Democratic governor, used the conviction to attack Mr. Doyle as corrupt. An appeals court later freed Ms. Thompson, but only after she had spent months in jail.

The committee has requested documents from the Justice Department about those two cases. It should also look into the investigation of Senator Robert Menendez by Christopher Christie, the United States attorney for New Jersey. Based on the facts that have come out, Mr. Menendez appears to have done nothing wrong. But word of the investigation leaked out in the fall of 2006, damaging Mr. Menendez's reputation just when Republicans were trying to defeat him. It is unclear whose idea it was to conduct an investigation so close to the election of Mr. Menendez's lease of a building he had sold years earlier.

The Bush administration is throwing roadblocks in Congress's way. It missed a deadline for turning over documents, and it has refused to make some of the principal actors available to testify. The Judiciary Committee should not be deterred. If Americans are being put in jail for political reasons, Congress must put a stop to it.