31 May 2008

shocked, shocked! to find out that there's gambling going on with our national interest...

a lot is being said about the whole scott mcclellan thing... here is an interesting take on it. from the mcclatchy news blog nuke and spooks, this article written by warren p. strobel and jonathan s. landay.

May 29, 2008

Memo to Scott McClellan: Here's what happened

Until now, we've resisted the temptation to post on former White House press secretary Scott McClellan's new book, which accuses the Bush White House of launching a propaganda campaign to sell the war in Iraq.

Why? It's not news. At least not to some of us who've covered the story from the start.

(Click here, here and here to get just a taste of what we mean).

Second, we find it a wee bit preposterous -- and we are being diplomatic here -- that a man who slavishly - no, robotically! -- defended President Bush's policies in Iraq and elsewhere is trying to "set the record straight" (and sell a few books) five years and more after the invasion, with U.S. troops still bravely fighting and dying to stabilize that country.

But the responses to McClellan from the Bush administration and media bigwigs, history-bending as they are, compel us to jump in. As we like to say around here, it's truth to power time, not just for the politicians but also for some folks in our own business.

Bush loyalists have responded in three ways:

1) Scott, how could you? This conveniently ignores the issue of what Bush did or didn't know and do about intelligence on Iraq, converting the story line into that of wounded leader and treasonous former aide. (That canard was the sole focus of a CBS news radio report Wednesday night).

2) Invading Iraq was the right thing to do. Okay. When do Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, et al *not* say that? Dog bites man.

3) It was an intelligence failure. The CIA gave us bad dope on WMD and, well, they're the experts. More on this in a second.

The news media have been, if anything, even more craven than the administration has been in defending its failure to investigate Bush's case for war in Iraq before the war.

Here's ABC News' Charles Gibson: "I think the questions were asked. It was just a drumbeat of support from the administration. It is not our job to debate them. It is our job to ask the questions.” And “I’m not sure we would have asked anything differently."


Or this from NBC's Brian Williams: “Sadly, we saw fellow Americans — in some cases floating past facedown (after Katrina). We knew what had just happened. We weren’t allowed that kind of proximity with the weapons inspectors [in Iraq]. I was in Kuwait for the buildup to the war, and, yes, we heard from the Pentagon, on my cell phone, the minute they heard us report something that they didn’t like. The tone of that time was quite extraordinary.” And this: "“It’s tough to go back, to put ourselves in the mind-set. It was post-9/11 America."

So the Pentagon tells the media what kind of reporting is in- and out-of-bounds?

Hogwash. Hogwash! HOGWASH.

We confess that here at McClatchy, which purchased Knight Ridder two years ago, we do have a dog in this fight. Our team - Joe Galloway, Clark Hoyt, Jon Landay, Renee Schoof, Warren Strobel, John Walcott, Tish Wells and many others - was, with a few exceptions, the only major news media organization that before the war consistently and aggressively challenged the White House's case for war, and its lack of planning for post-war Iraq.

Here are Bill Moyers and Michael Massing on the media's pre-war performance.

Enough self-aggrandizing trumpet-blowing. OK, Scott, What Happened?

Here's what happened, based entirely on our own reporting and publicly available documents:

* The Bush administration was gunning for Iraq within days of the 9/11 attacks, dispatching a former CIA director, on a flight authorized by Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, to find evidence for a bizarre theory that Saddam Hussein was responsible for the first World Trade Center attack in 1993. (Note: See also Richard Clarke and former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill on this point).

* Bush decided by February 2002, at the latest, that he was going to remove Saddam by hook or by crook. (Yes, we reported that at the time).

* White House officials, led by Dick Cheney, began making the case for war in August 2002, in speeches and reports that not only were wrong, but also went well beyond what the available intelligence said at that time, and contained outright fantasies and falsehoods. Indeed, some of that material was never vetted with the intelligence agencies before it was peddled to the public.

Dissenters, or even those who voiced worry about where the policy was going, were ignored, excluded or punished. (Note: See Gen. Eric Shinseki, Paul O'Neill, Joseph Wilson and all of the State Department 's Arab specialists and much of its intelligence bureau).

* The Bush administration didn't even want to produce the National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs that's justly received so much criticism since. The White House thought it was unneeded. It actually was demanded by Congress and slapped together in a matter of weeks before the congressional votes to authorize war on Iraq.

* The October 2002 NIE was flawed, no doubt. But it contained dissents questioning the extent of Saddam's WMD programs, dissents that were buried in the report. Doubts and dissents were then stripped from the publicly released, unclassified version of the NIE.

* The core of the administration's case for war was not just that Saddam was developing WMDs, but also that, unchecked, he might give them to terrorists to attack the United States. Remember smoking guns and mushroom clouds? Inconveniently, the CIA had determined just the opposite: Saddam would attack the United States only if he concluded a U.S. attack on him was unavoidable. He'd give WMD to Islamist terrorists only "as a last chance to exact revenge."

* The Bush administration relied heavily on an Iraqi exile, Ahmed Chalabi, who had been found to be untrustworthy by the State Department and the CIA. Chalabi and his Iraqi National Congress were given millions, and produced "defectors" whose tales of WMD sites and terrorist training were false, fanciful and bogus. But the information was fed directly to senior officials and included in official White House documents.

* The same INC-supplied "intelligence" used in the White House propaganda effort (you got that bit right, Scott) also was fed to dozens of U.S. and foreign news organizations.

* It all culminated in a speech by Secretary of State Colin Powell to the U.N. Security Council in February 2003 making the case against Saddam. Virtually every major allegation Powell made turned out later to be wrong. It would have been even worse had not Powell and his team thrown out even more shaky "intelligence" that Cheney's office repeatedly tried to stuff into the speech.

* The Bush administration tried to link Saddam to al Qaida and, by implication, to the 9/11 attacks. Officials repeatedly pushed the CIA for information on such links, and a separate intel shop was set up under Defense Under Secretary Douglas Feith to find "proof" of such ties. Neither the CIA nor anyone else ever found anything resembling an operational relationship between Saddam and al Qaida.

* An exhaustive review of Saddam Hussein's regime's own documents, released in March 2008, found no operational relationship between Saddam and al Qaida.

* The Bush administration failed to plan for the rebuilding of postwar Iraq, as we were perhaps the first to report. The White House ignored stacks of intelligence reports, some now available in partially unclassified form, warning before the war about the possibilities for insurgency, ethnic warfare, social chaos and the like.

We could go on, but the rest, as they say, is history.

That's what happened.


26 May 2008

happy memorial day...

right off the bat, here's an oldie- but- a- goodie regarding our nation's finest.

in other news, this is from the new york times' editorial page today. enjoy.

May 26, 2008

Mr. Bush and the G.I. Bill

President Bush opposes a new G.I. Bill of Rights. He worries that if the traditional path to college for service members since World War II is improved and expanded for the post-9/11 generation, too many people will take it.

He is wrong, but at least he is consistent. Having saddled the military with a botched, unwinnable war, having squandered soldiers’ lives and failed them in so many ways, the commander in chief now resists giving the troops a chance at better futures out of uniform. He does this on the ground that the bill is too generous and may discourage re-enlistment, further weakening the military he has done so much to break.

So lavish with other people’s sacrifices, so reckless in pouring the national treasure into the sandy pit of Iraq, Mr. Bush remains as cheap as ever when it comes to helping people at home.

Thankfully, the new G.I. Bill has strong bipartisan support in Congress. The House passed it by a veto-proof margin this month, and last week the Senate followed suit, approving it as part of a military financing bill for Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Senate version was drafted by two Vietnam veterans, Jim Webb, Democrat of Virginia, and Chuck Hagel, Republican of Nebraska. They argue that benefits paid under the existing G.I. Bill have fallen far behind the rising costs of college.

Their bill would pay full tuition and other expenses at a four-year public university for veterans who served in the military for at least three years since 9/11.

At that level, the new G.I. Bill would be as generous as the one enacted for the veterans of World War II, which soon became known as one of the most successful benefits programs — one of the soundest investments in human potential — in the nation’s history.

Mr. Bush — and, to his great discredit, Senator John McCain — have argued against a better G.I. Bill, for the worst reasons. They would prefer that college benefits for service members remain just mediocre enough that people in uniform are more likely to stay put.

They have seized on a prediction by the Congressional Budget Office that new, better benefits would decrease re-enlistments by 16 percent, which sounds ominous if you are trying — as Mr. Bush and Mr. McCain are — to defend a never-ending war at a time when extended tours of duty have sapped morale and strained recruiting to the breaking point.

Their reasoning is flawed since the C.B.O. has also predicted that the bill would offset the re-enlistment decline by increasing new recruits — by 16 percent. The chance of a real shot at a college education turns out to be as strong a lure as ever. This is good news for our punishingly overburdened volunteer army, which needs all the smart, ambitious strivers it can get.

This page strongly supports a larger, sturdier military. It opposes throwing ever more money at the Pentagon for defense programs that are wasteful and poorly conceived. But as a long-term investment in human capital, in education and job training, there is no good argument against an expanded, generous G.I. Bill.

By threatening to veto it, Mr. Bush is showing great consistency of misjudgment. Congress should forcefully show how wrong he is by overriding his opposition and spending the money — an estimated $52 billion over 10 years, a tiniest fraction of the ongoing cost of Mr. Bush’s Iraq misadventure.

As partial repayment for the sacrifice of soldiers in a time of war, a new, improved G.I. Bill is as wise now as it was in 1944.


22 May 2008

more about prop 98...

[from an email i got earlier today...]

Vote NO on 98—Protect Renters, Homeowners and the Environment
June 3rd: Say NO to Prop. 98

On June 3, voters in California will go to the polls in an election where record low turnout is predicted.

Wealthy landlords are counting on low turnout to help pass a deceptive measure—Prop. 98. Prop. 98 erodes environmental laws and regulations including air and water quality and natural resource protections, eliminates renter protections and rent control and destroys land-use planning laws.

While promoted deceptively as a "pro-homeowner" initiative, Prop. 98 is actually part of the right-wing agenda to make it hard to enforce environmental laws that most homeowners in California support.

We can defeat Prop. 98 by telling our friends, family and neighbors to vote NO on June 3. By voting NO, you will protect our environment, help stop global warming pollution, protect endangered species and water quality across California.

Exercise your fundamental right to vote on June 3rd and say NO to Prop. 98. For more information on No on 98, click here.

Thank you for working to build a better world.

Will Easton, Activism Manager
CREDO Action from Working Assets


20 May 2008

oh! the hypocrisy...

[from salon.com...]

Psycho Christians and the media

Why the press gives McCain a pass for consorting with batshit holy men, but condemns Obama to talk-show hell for the same sin.

By Gary Kamiya

May. 20, 2008 | John McCain has some seriously screwed-up holy men surrounding him. First, there's the Rev. John Hagee, a hate-monger and certifiable loon who believes that Hurricane Katrina was God's judgment on New Orleans for planning a gay parade, calls Catholicism a "false cult system" that conspired with Hitler to exterminate the Jews, and believes that America's divine duty is to destroy Iran. Then there's the Rev. Rod Parsley, who garnishes his bigoted theology by calling Islam "the greatest religious enemy of our civilization and the world" and saying that Muhammad was "a mouthpiece of a conspiracy of spiritual evil."

These psycho Christians make Robert Mitchum's sociopathic traveling preacher in "The Night of the Hunter" (the guy with "love" tattooed on one hand and "hate" on the other) look like St. Francis of Assisi. They are undiluted bigots who espouse beliefs just as twisted as those promulgated by the Rev. Louis Farrakhan -- and far more toxic and extreme than those held by Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

Yet, as many media critics have noted, no major-network interviewer is demanding that McCain denounce Hagee or Parsley, as Tim Russert infamously demanded again and again that Obama do of Farrakhan during a prime-time debate. No cable channel is ranting 24/7 about McCain's failure to disavow these extremist bigots, and speculating that his ties to Hagee and Parsley could cost him the election. Considering that McCain desperately needs Hagee and Parsley to deliver votes in key states like Ohio, this is no small matter.

It's true that neither Hagee nor Parsley was McCain's pastor and personal spiritual advisor, as Wright was for Obama. Obama's personal relationship with Wright raised more legitimate questions than were raised by McCain's actively seeking Hagee's endorsement. But especially during the second, more serious outburst of Wright-hysteria, after Wright went off the reservation at the National Press Club, it was obvious that the story had really shifted to Wright, not Obama. The brouhaha was a media ritual, in which Obama was required to sacrifice an unseemly political ally as a kind of campaign station of the cross. Obama had already given his now-famous speech about race in Philadelphia, and no one seriously believed that he shared Wright's views. In any case, even if Hagee and Parsley had been McCain's pastors, it's hard to imagine that the media would have attacked him as relentlessly as it has attacked Obama over Wright and Farrakhan.

The media's double standard is all about deference to perceived mainstream norms, and tiptoeing around the Christian right. Despite their cartoonish views, the media treats Hagee and Parsley as quasi-mainstream figures, which makes McCain's relationship with them non-newsworthy. The dirty little secret of mainstream American journalism is that it operates within invisible constraints that conform to some imagined Middle American consensus. The issue isn't that journalists share Hagee and Parsley's views so much as that they know that they are widely held, which makes them reluctant to acknowledge how truly outrageous they are. After years of nodding at the whacked-out likes of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, the media has, to borrow Daniel Patrick Moynihan's famous phrase, defined right-wing religious deviancy down. More or less "orthodox" Christian-right insanity, of the sort espoused by Hagee and Parsley, is familiar and normal, whereas black-church radicalism, with its ties to left-wing liberation theology, is not. In 2000, 45 percent of the population told Gallup they were either born-again or evangelical Christians.

The question of "newsworthiness" is one of the blind spots of conventional journalism. Since right-wing religious leaders have been endorsing conservative Republican candidates for decades (Moral Majority founder Jerry Falwell endorsed Ronald Reagan; Pat Robertson endorsed Rudy Giuliani; a small church in North Carolina kicked out members who voted for John Kerry), when another one does it, it's a dog-bites-man story. Mainstream editors and reporters pose as hard-bitten realists, but they are in fact reluctant to deviate from pack thinking. For the media to suddenly go after McCain on Hagee as hard as it has gone after Obama on Farrakhan and Wright would represent, in their eyes, a "controversial" rejection of the way things have always been done.

This echo-chamber effect, in which a story is a story because it has been a story before, highlights the critical importance of precedent. From the beginning, the media didn't go hard after extreme figures on the religious right because those extreme figures have major constituencies. The taboo against criticizing Christianity also plays a crucial role: Extreme, even demented beliefs are seen as untouchable so long as they are part of what is seen as mainstream evangelical Christianity. Of course this taboo does not extend to criticizing left-wing Christianity, à la Wright. If some public figure said that the earthquake in China was caused by the wrath of Zeus, who was offended because women's rights had reduced the number of compliant virgins available for him to deflower, any politician who consorted with him would be forced to repudiate him. But Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, John Hagee and other such figures have said essentially the same thing and gotten a pass. Afraid of coming across as arrogant elitists who don't understand or respect the faith of "real" Americans, the media has pulled its punches on the Christian right for years.

Patriotism and Islamophobia also contribute to the blank check handed to the religious right. Hagee and Parsley may be barking mad, but they wave the flag and denounce Islam. In the age of George W. Bush, that qualifies them as solidly in the American mainstream.

In fact, the media's failure to subject Hagee and Parsley to the same scrutiny that they have given to Wright and Farrakhan is closely related to its colossal failures in covering Bush's "war on terror." The media failed in the run-up to the war in Iraq in large part because, under the patriotic pressure of 9/11, it followed the wartime norm of swallowing the administration line. Its shortcomings with Hagee and Parsley reflect the same internalized self-censorship.

One could argue that neither McCain nor Obama should be subjected to this "gotcha" game in which the media demands that a candidate prove his character and values by publicly excommunicating a problematic political ally. But the fact is that political news coverage today is driven by sensationalism, and candidates are subjected to simplistic tests, and that's not going to change. So if Obama is forced to answer for Wright's off-the-wall black nationalist Christianity, it's only fair that McCain should be forced to answer for Hagee's even more off-the-wall Christian right looniness as well.

Yet the coverage has been anything but fair -- not just because of the media's fear of going after nutty Christians, but because everything about Obama is unprecedented and therefore "sensational." He's not only the first-ever black presidential front-runner, but the first to confront a loose-cannon black pastor who said, "God damn America." It bleeds! It leads! Tear up the front page! Call in the pundits to opine! By contrast, McCain's mealy-mouthed half-criticisms of Hagee's outrageous statements, and Hagee's transparently disingenuous apology for attacking Catholics, are so familiar as to be sleep-inducing. There's practically nothing that McCain can say or do that can make news the way that Obama does just by walking down the street.

By incessantly attacking Obama as strange and scary, which is certain to be his strategy, McCain will be tapping into this already existing media bias toward sensationalism. His and Bush's outrageous charges that Obama is an "appeaser" are intended to play into this, and much worse is sure to be coming (get ready for a revival of "he's a Muslim" smears from proxies who can be disavowed). Whether the press will be able to find the backbone to reveal the cynical emptiness of those charges, and bring aggressive scrutiny even to the old, familiar, patriotic, war-supporting, flag-waving ethos represented by McCain, may go a long way toward determining who our next president is.


18 May 2008

no on prop 98...

[from stephen elliott in the huffington post...]

Posted May 13, 2008 |

U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) has failed to come out against Proposition 98, the landlord scheme to end rent control in California. The proposition, which would take away municipalities' ability to make their own housing policies based on their own specific needs, is hidden behind the fake title of eminent domain reform. But you only have to look at the list of people who initiated the bill to know that eminent domain reform has nothing to do with it. These are big landlords who could care less about eminent domain. They're very rich people like Sam Zell looking for an easy way to get richer. They have enough money to get anything they want on the ballot.

As the Los Angeles Times points out, the fact that the proposition seeks to hide its actual intent is reason enough to vote against it. Many people won't even realize that, whatever their politics, this is a vote for or against rent control. The sponsors of the proposition are too cowardly to point this out and take a stand for what they really believe.

The list of people opposing the landlord scheme is a long one and cuts across party lines. It includes not just the SEIU, Diane Feinstein, and the State Democratic Party, but also Arnold Schwarzenegger and former governor Pete Wilson.

Proposition 98 would have a devastating impact on San Francisco and parts of Los Angeles. 350,000 people in San Francisco, more than half the population, rely on rent control. Without rent control the city would change so drastically most of us wouldn't even recognize it. When Proposition 98 is defeated June 3 (and it will be because we've made a lot of mistakes in this state but we're not that stupid) a lot of us will remember Barbara Boxer failing the people on this issue. We'll know that when called for a position she let us down and we'll vote against her when her time comes due.

Update: The No On 98 Campaign has a signed statement from Barbara Boxer stating she is against Proposition 98. For the record, I called Barbara Boxer's California office and they confirmed to me that she had NOT taken a position on Proposition 98. The original genesis of this editorial is from that phone call. I just called them again, Wednesday, May 14, at 2:20pm, and was told, again, that it falls out of her jurisdiction and she has not taken a position on Proposition 98. I called her office as a constituent, which I am. I then called her press office in Washington to find out her official position on Proposition 98. The press office was unable to tell me and I have not received a call from the communications officer in charge. There's no mention of Proposition 98 on Barbara Boxer's website. I'm glad that there is evidence she is against Proposition 98, but her silence is still very troublesome. The fact that constituents aren't being told she is against the Proposition when they contact her California offices is also extremely troubling. That her position is not posted on her website is problematic. This is a major issue affecting a massive number of Californians, and I still can't get someone in the Barbara Boxer offices to confirm the Senator's position. This is not something for our Senator to be silent about. She's supposed to be leading on this issue but her own staff don't know her position on it. Why the confusion?

Posted May 14, 2008 |

[...] Today I found out the No On 98 Campaign has a signed statement from Barbara Boxer stating she is against Proposition 98. For the record, I called Barbara Boxer's California office and they confirmed to me that she had NOT taken a position on Proposition 98. The original genesis of this editorial is from that phone call. I just called them again, Wednesday, May 14, at 2:20pm, and was told, again, that it falls out of her jurisdiction and she has not taken a position on Proposition 98. I called her office as a constituent, which I am. I then called her press office in Washington to find out her official position on Proposition 98. The press office was unable to tell me and I have not received a call from the communications officer in charge. There's no mention of Proposition 98 on Barbara Boxer's website. I'm glad that there is evidence she is against Proposition 98, but her silence is still very troublesome. The fact that constituents aren't being told she is against the Proposition when they contact her offices is also extremely troubling. That her position is not posted on her website is problematic. This is a major issue affecting a massive number of Californians, and I still can't get someone in the Barbara Boxer offices to confirm the Senator's position. This is not something for our Senator to be silent about. She's supposed to be leading on this issue but her own staff don't know her position on it. Why the confusion?

Update: I got a call from Barbara Boxer's political consulting arm. I was told that her office staff are not supposed to comment on California races. I pointed out that they were commenting and they were giving wrong information, twice. The press office did not return my call and the consultant told me she was returning the call for them, which wasn't exactly accurate as the press office did not contact her and tell her to contact me on Barbara Boxer's behalf.

I still believe a constituent should be able to call a Senator's office and find out if she has or hasn't taken a stand on something. But it's great to know that Barbara Boxer is against Proposition 98, even if she could have shown a little more leadership on the issue and reached out to tenants rights groups on this rather than waiting for them to reach out to her. I'll be voting for Boxer next time around.

If you're a California resident and you want to get your own answer, here's a list of her local offices.



14 May 2008

the american party [know nothings] revisited...

i really thought this was a brilliant piece from a fellow blogger. enjoy.

The Essence of the 2008 Election, Distilled

Today's excellent Washington Post column by Harold Meyerson is required reading for any citizen who wants to halt and hopefully reverse the criminally authoritarian abuses, negligence, and maliciousness of the last several years:

...McCain's first post-primary ad proclaimed him "the American president Americans have been waiting for." Not the "strong" or "experienced" president, though those are contrasts he could seek to draw with Obama. The "American" president - because that's the only contrast through which McCain has even a chance of prevailing.

Now, I mean to take nothing away from McCain's Americanness by noting that it's Obama's story that represents a triumph of specifically American identity over racial and religious identity. It was the lure of America, the shining city on a hill, that brought his black Kenyan father here, where he met Obama's white Kansan mother. It is because America is uniquely the land of immigrants and has moved beyond a racial caste system that Obama exists, has thrived and stands a good chance of being our next president.

That's not the America, though, that the Republicans refer to in proclaiming their own Americanness. For them, "American" is a term to be used as a wedge issue, a way to distinguish their more racially and religiously homogeneous party from the historically more polyglot Democrats.

* * *

There are good reasons Republicans are focusing on identity rather than issues this year: In poll after poll, there's not a single major issue on which the public agrees with them or their presumptive nominee. Not Iraq, certainly. Not the economy. Should the election turn on the question of "What are you going to do for America?" rather than "Are you a real American?" Republicans are doomed.

* * *

What remains for the GOP is a campaign premised more on issues of national identity, aimed largely at that portion of our population for which "American" is synonymous with "white" and "Christian," than any national campaign has been since the American Party (also known as the Know Nothings) based its 1856 campaign chiefly on Protestant bigotry against Irish and German Catholic immigrants.
Truer words never spoken.

Going further, these incisive observations also reveal a growing common ground for people of many seemingly divergent ideological stripes: the long-unfed hunger for a civic identity based not on ethnicity, race, religion or some other arbitrary, tribal criteria, but instead based on our far more enduring, fundamentally meaningful, founding national principles. Liberty. Reason. Open-mindedness. Inclusion. Rule of Law. And most of all, the keen and persistent awareness that no union is ever perfect, but must instead be judged by its willingness to reach for perfection.

For these words, some may call me an adherent of the oft-maligned philosophy of American "exceptionalism." But if I am such for remaining staunchly proud of the things about this country most deserving of pride, then I gladly stand guilty of that charge. For my love of this country contains no snarling sense of distrust or superiority over other peoples. It is, instead, the simple love that a painter has for brushes and oils, that a writer has for words, that a researcher has for knowledge. Self-sustaining. Unjealous. Steady.

Contrast that kind of love of country - shared by millions of others - with that of what now passes for the once-proud Republican Party. Pointed resentfulness, masquerading cartoonishly as patriotism. Reactionary. Thin-skinned. Tribal.

Truly, today's right-wing, love-it-or-leave-it nationalist scorn is a close cousin of racism, regionalism, and religious bigotry. These two sides of the same coin make up the often-concealed id of today's typical Republican mentality. These traits are, of course, all based on tribalism and a fear of the unknown, but also a deep-seated insecurity of purpose, fortitude, and identity. For the afflicted, the disorder of acute tribalism has even further metaphorical significance: primal thoughts huddled like cave-dwelling hominids, ever seeking shelter from a harsh, unexplainable world outside. At the same time, I would not be writing this, and you would not be reading it, if not for the many victories throughout time of the human intrepid spirit over the urge to huddle and hive.

We have seen what the predominance of incuriosity, insularity, and a bastardized hybrid of both elitism and anti-intellectualism in our government can do to this country and citizenry. We have seen the damage that frauds dressed in small-government, traditionalist costumes can wreak upon a nation. Now, a new and stark criterion forks the road ahead: more identity ploys, dog-whistles, and hostile tribalism on one side, and a return to genuine thoughtfulness for what might benefit the nation on the other.

Such is literally the choice we face in November, and probably for many elections to come. John McCain may style himself "the American president Americans have been waiting for," but each miniature, rhetorical flag waving furiously from that message now only reminds the electorate of the emptiness and belligerence that has hijacked our national identity for too long.

So let today's Republican Party run on their usual hackneyed, insular themes - and let them be decisively routed in November by the whirlwind unleashed by the implosion of their years of sneering hubris and unaccountability. Then, let the more fundamental American principles of reason, redemption, and re-evolution fill that void once again.

That, when it happens, may be the most American outcome of an American election yet, of which we Americans should be proud.


13 May 2008

and in stark contrast to the fitzgerald quote...

normally i don't like to engage in schadenfreude*, but this one- two punch was just too good to pass up. enjoy.

first off...

sue simmon's response: "We need to acknowledge an unfortunate mistake that I made in one of the teases we bring to you before this program. While we were live just after 10 p.m., I said a word that many people find offensive. I am truly sorry. It was a mistake on my part and I sincerely apologize."

and then [and this is the really good one]...

there was no response from mr. o' reilly that i cared to look for or post. fuck that guy, by the way.

"fuckin' thing sucks!"


*at least publicly. the wife and i enjoy the hell out of some schadenfreude in private, baby.

today's prayer...

just read this quote that totally sums it all up for me-- my approach to things-- more so probably than anything else i've ever read or heard:

"The test... is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function. One should, for example, be able to see that things are hopeless yet be determined to make them otherwise."

-- F. Scott Fitzgerald

i might want that on my tombstone.


11 May 2008

happy mother's day!...

when i was a little boy, we lived in roswell, georgia [in 1989, when i was twelve and my brother was 9, we moved to more cosmopolitan sandy springs]. one of my fondest childhood memories is of my mother and me planting a weeping willow tree in our front yard at 11940 old mountain park road. here are the lyrics to a song i wrote both about that memory and for my mother.

happy mother's day.

weeping willow tree [mc].

you gave everything to me.
running down the hillside...
the sun, it shone down on me.
looking up at you...
my whole world a blue blanket of safety.
a summer day in georgia...
i remember the weeping willow tree.

the weeping willow tree.

this is for you now.
i've taken you for granted.
this is my thanks now...
i'm all that you've planted.

the weeping willow tree.

and when i'm in trouble,
i can hear you say to just let it be.
running down the hillside...
the sun, it shone down on me.
looking up at you...
my whole world a blue blanket of safety.
a summer day in georgia...
i remember the weeping willow tree.

the weeping willow tree.

and now a funny youtube clip of a little girl rapping:


10 May 2008

a quick thought...

[from abc news...]

McCain Poised to Flip on GOP Abortion Platform

In '00 and '07, McCain Called for Exceptions in GOP's Platform on Abortion for Rape, Incest, Mother's Life

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., faces enormous pressure from social conservatives to ignore his repeated commitment to change the GOP's platform on abortion.

"If he were to change the party platform," to account for exceptions such as rape, incest or risk to the mother's life, "I think that would be political suicide," said Tony Perkins, the president of the conservative Family Research Council, to ABC News. "I think he would be aborting his own campaign because that is such a critical issue to so many Republican voters and the Republican brand is already in trouble."

john mccain. "maverick."

Despite McCain's support for changing the platform in 2000 and 2007, Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., the co-chairman of McCain's Justice Advisory Committee, significantly downplays the possibility that McCain would revise the party's call for a nationwide constitutional ban on abortion with no exceptions [boldface mine].

"I don't think that's going to happen. I think you're going to see a platform process that is going to maintain that plank," said Brownback, a leading abortion rights opponent who endorsed McCain after ending his own White House bid.

john mccain. "moderate."


ps. thinking about this a few days later, i really think this, more than anything else, is illustrative of both the john mccain myth and the fact that he's been totally castrated by the republican party.

a true "maverick," and certainly a true "moderate," would buck the insane party line that is against abortion even in the cases of rape, incest, and when the life of the mother is in peril.

for instance, surely everyone is familiar now with the austrian man who locked his daughter up in a cellar for twenty five years and fathered seven children by her. if by chance, tragically, when discovered, that woman-- a victim of imprisonment, torture, incest and rape-- was pregnant with her father's child, if the republican platform were to be followed, would we force that woman to bear that pregnancy? does that not shock the conscience?

the idea that mccain is going to tow that kind of party line both in the face of public statements he's made in the past and-- more importantly-- against all humanity and rationality, and that still he's not thought of as anything more now than just another old, mean, out- of- touch white man, is fucking laughable.

senator mccain, what happened? and how does the kool- aid taste?


07 May 2008

real quick...

i have been running the same ad, looking for other musicians, on craig's list for a little while now. here it is:

bob dylan/ the clash...

Reply to: comm-668650346@craigslist.org
Date: 2008-05-05, 9:54AM PDT

i am a 30 year- old guitar player/ singer/ songwriter who is serious about playing shows and recording an album.

looking for other musicians with similar ambitions. some of my main influences are tom waits, the stones, yo la tengo, r.e.m., sleater- kinney... and of course bob dylan and the clash.

i have my own gear and my own songs, which i characterize as both "aggressive and sensitive."

i know you're out there. get in touch.


i have gotten a couple of responses here and there, but nothing really to speak of. until today:

** Avoid: wiring money, cross-border deals, work-at-home
** Beware: cashier checks, money orders, escrow, shipping
** More Info: http://www.craigslist.org/about/scams.html


next stop, the stars.


pope john paul II: "a crime against peace"...

[from glenn greenwald in salon...]

The right's selective political manipulation of Catholicism

(updated below)

Yesterday, National Review's Kathryn Jean Lopez -- one of the crassest political exploiters of Catholicism in the country -- demanded to know: "what were any Catholic sisters doing voting for either Clinton or Obama?" Andrew Sullivan responded that "being a Catholic does not mean membership in the Republican party" and that "this political co-optation of faith is sickening - and typical." That prompted this from Lopez:

As I say on Vatican Radio and elsewhere when asked to comment, Catholic does not equal Republican or Democrat. Catholic does mean taking seriously the Church's teaching on innocent human life, however. And Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton should therefore both make Catholics pause for grave reasons. And Catholic sisters who are presumably teaching the faith through word and deed should know that.
But it's hard to imagine how a Catholic could disregard "the Church's teaching on innocent human life" more than Lopez -- or John McCain. From Fox News, two weeks prior to the invasion of Iraq:
Pope John Paul II and top Vatican officials are unleashing a barrage of condemnations of a possible U.S. military strike on Iraq, calling it immoral, risky and a "crime against peace."
John McCain's entire worldview on foreign policy, cheered on excitedly by Lopez -- not only with regard to endless war in Iraq but also Iran and beyond -- is nothing but a vehement violation and rejection of "the Church's teaching on innocent human life":
[Then-Cardinal-now-Pope] Ratzinger has said, "A preventive war is not in the Catechism."

Civilta Cattolica points out that an American attack on Iraq would be motivated in large part by political and economic reasons rather than military necessity and rejects the Bush argument that a preventive war should be considered a defensive action. Archbishop Martino said that "a preventive war is a war of aggression."

Here is what Lopez and her candidate, John McCain, have done to "innocent human life" when -- to use Lopez's words from her ugly 2004 political crusade to excommunicate John Kerry -- they "act[ed] out of conformity with the public teaching of the Catholic Church":
A car bomb blew up in the capital's Shiite Muslim neighborhood of Sadr City on Thursday, killing at least four people, as a new survey suggested that the civilian death toll from the war could be more than 1 million. . . .

According to the ORB poll, a survey of 1,461 adults suggested that the total number slain during more than four years of war was more than 1.2 million. . . .

It was the highest estimate given so far of civilian deaths in Iraq. Last year, a study in the medical journal Lancet put the number at 654,965, which Iraq's government has dismissed as "ridiculous."

Of course, the exact numbers are in dispute because of how nonexistent is the concern among her beloved Bush administration for "innocent human life":
Thousands of Iraqi civilians have also died as a result of conflict and its bloody aftermath -- but officially, no one has any idea how many.

Human rights groups say the occupying powers have failed in their duty to catalogue the deaths, giving the impression that ordinary Iraqis' lives are worth less than those of soldiers.

This is what tawdry religious manipulators like Lopez have been doing for years -- selectively accepting slivers of moral dogma and religious institutions purely for political gain, while advocating policies that could not be more opposed to that dogma and those institutions.

That's how many of the right-wing ideologues who are responsible for this, and want much more of it -- such as Lopez -- can continue to parade around as faithful Catholics righteously devoted to the sanctity of "innocent human life," even as they wage war against the Church's explicit teachings and, by doing so, continue to obliterate more "innocent human life" than virtually any other political faction in the world.

In our political discourse, that's how warped the concept of "moral issues" has become. As McCain supporter Gary Bauer (about whom McCain recently said: "I am honored to have Gary Bauer's support, and his advice and counsel will be critical as we continue to bring our Party together for victory in November") once put it: a Vermont court's ruling on same-sex marriages "was in some ways worse than terrorism." Somehow, the policies of ours which result in the greatest obliteration of innocent human life -- or its complete degradation -- are totally drained of any moral component. And the entire playing field of "moral issues" is thus ceded to religious hucksters like Lopez and her political comrades as they openly support the most morally grotesque, and irreligious, policies imaginable.

UPDATE: As Mona notes in comments (and as she wrote about here), long-time right-wing advocate and prominent devout Catholic Doug Kmiec (formerly Dean of Catholic University and a Professor at the University of Notre Dame School of Law) recently endorsed Barack Obama and made several of these points:

As a Catholic looking at candidates, my faith instructs me to look at the whole person respective to the church's social teaching on wages, education, issues of family, culture, responsibility toward the environment, the reduction of mindless or excess consumption. And the Catholic Church was quite explicit about the concept of preemptive war being contrary to the principles of just war. One of the things that happened to Catholics over the last two decades is because of the evil of abortion, we've been somewhat less mindful of the need to serve those around us -- those who are calling upon us for assistance in a tangible way. . . .

When I look at Obama's eloquent speeches, his references to Dorothy Day and Martin Luther King, those are so much a part of modern Catholic education. And the preferential option for the poor or solidarity with the poor, how that is not heard by the Catholic mind has troubled me. So one of the reasons for speaking out at this point, and one of the reasons to peak out on Easter Sunday, is to have my fellow Catholics reexamine this topic and listen with more careful ear.

Kmiec was the head of the Office of Legal Counsel in the both the Reagan and Bush 41 administrations.


04 May 2008

frank rich in the new york times...

May 4, 2008
Op-Ed Columnist

The All-White Elephant in the Room

BORED by those endless replays of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright? If so, go directly to YouTube, search for “John Hagee Roman Church Hitler,” and be recharged by a fresh jolt of clerical jive.

What you’ll find is a white televangelist, the Rev. John Hagee, lecturing in front of an enormous diorama. Wielding a pointer, he pokes at the image of a woman with Pamela Anderson-sized breasts, her hand raising a golden chalice. The woman is “the Great Whore,” Mr. Hagee explains, and she is drinking “the blood of the Jewish people.” That’s because the Great Whore represents “the Roman Church,” which, in his view, has thirsted for Jewish blood throughout history, from the Crusades to the Holocaust.

Mr. Hagee is not a fringe kook but the pastor of a Texas megachurch. On Feb. 27, he stood with John McCain and endorsed him over the religious conservatives’ favorite, Mike Huckabee, who was then still in the race.

Are we really to believe that neither Mr. McCain nor his camp knew anything then about Mr. Hagee’s views? This particular YouTube video — far from the only one — was posted on Jan. 1, nearly two months before the Hagee-McCain press conference. Mr. Hagee appears on multiple religious networks, including twice daily on the largest, Trinity Broadcasting, which reaches 75 million homes. Any 12-year-old with a laptop could have vetted this preacher in 30 seconds, tops.

Since then, Mr. McCain has been shocked to learn that his clerical ally has made many other outrageous statements. Mr. Hagee, it’s true, did not blame the American government for concocting AIDS. But he did say that God created Hurricane Katrina to punish New Orleans for its sins, particularly a scheduled “homosexual parade there on the Monday that Katrina came.”

Mr. Hagee didn’t make that claim in obscure circumstances, either. He broadcast it on one of America’s most widely heard radio programs, “Fresh Air” on NPR, back in September 2006. He reaffirmed it in a radio interview less than two weeks ago. Only after a reporter asked Mr. McCain about this Katrina homily on April 24 did the candidate brand it as “nonsense” and the preacher retract it.

Mr. McCain says he does not endorse any of Mr. Hagee’s calumnies, any more than Barack Obama endorses Mr. Wright’s. But those who try to give Mr. McCain a pass for his embrace of a problematic preacher have a thin case. It boils down to this: Mr. McCain was not a parishioner for 20 years at Mr. Hagee’s church.

That defense implies, incorrectly, that Mr. McCain was a passive recipient of this bigot’s endorsement. In fact, by his own account, Mr. McCain sought out Mr. Hagee, who is perhaps best known for trying to drum up a pre-emptiveholy war” with Iran. (This preacher’s rantings may tell us more about Mr. McCain’s policy views than Mr. Wright’s tell us about Mr. Obama’s.) Even after Mr. Hagee’s Catholic bashing bubbled up in the mainstream media, Mr. McCain still did not reject and denounce him, as Mr. Obama did an unsolicited endorser, Louis Farrakhan, at the urging of Tim Russert and Hillary Clinton. Mr. McCain instead told George Stephanopoulos two Sundays ago that while he condemns any “anti-anything” remarks by Mr. Hagee, he is still “glad to have his endorsement.”

I wonder if Mr. McCain would have given the same answer had Mr. Stephanopoulos confronted him with the graphic video of the pastor in full “Great Whore” glory. But Mr. McCain didn’t have to fear so rude a transgression. Mr. Hagee’s videos have never had the same circulation on television as Mr. Wright’s. A sonorous white preacher spouting venom just doesn’t have the telegenic zing of a theatrical black man.

Perhaps that’s why virtually no one has rebroadcast the highly relevant prototype for Mr. Wright’s fiery claim that 9/11 was America’s chickens “coming home to roost.” That would be the Sept. 13, 2001, televised exchange between Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, who blamed the attacks on America’s abortionists, feminists, gays and A.C.L.U. lawyers. (Mr. Wright blamed the attacks on America’s foreign policy.) Had that video re-emerged in the frenzied cable-news rotation, Mr. McCain might have been asked to explain why he no longer calls these preachers “agents of intolerance” and chose to cozy up to Mr. Falwell by speaking at his Liberty University in 2006.

None of this is to say that two wacky white preachers make a Wright right. It is entirely fair for any voter to weigh Mr. Obama’s long relationship with his pastor in assessing his fitness for office. It is also fair to weigh Mr. Obama’s judgment in handling this personal and political crisis as it has repeatedly boiled over. But whatever that verdict, it is disingenuous to pretend that there isn’t a double standard operating here. If we’re to judge black candidates on their most controversial associates — and how quickly, sternly and completely they disown them — we must judge white politicians by the same yardstick.

When Rudy Giuliani, still a viable candidate, successfully courted Pat Robertson for an endorsement last year, few replayed Mr. Robertson’s greatest past insanities. Among them is his best-selling 1991 tome, “The New World Order,” which peddled some of the same old dark conspiracy theories about “European bankers” (who just happened to be named Warburg, Schiff and Rothschild) that Mr. Farrakhan has trafficked in. Nor was Mr. Giuliani ever seriously pressed to explain why his cronies on the payroll at Giuliani Partners included a priest barred from the ministry by his Long Island diocese in 2002 following allegations of sexual abuse. Much as Mr. Wright officiated at the Obamas’ wedding, so this priest officiated at (one of) Mr. Giuliani’s. Did you even hear about it?

There is not just a double standard for black and white politicians at play in too much of the news media and political establishment, but there is also a glaring double standard for our political parties. The Clintons and Mr. Obama are always held accountable for their racial stands, as they should be, but the elephant in the room of our politics is rarely acknowledged: In the 21st century, the so-called party of Lincoln does not have a single African-American among its collective 247 senators and representatives in Washington. Yes, there are appointees like Clarence Thomas and Condi Rice, but, as we learned during the Mark Foley scandal, even gay men may hold more G.O.P. positions of power than blacks.

A near half-century after the civil rights acts of the 1960s, this is quite an achievement. Yet the holier-than-thou politicians and pundits on the right passing shrill moral judgment over every Democratic racial skirmish are almost never asked to confront or even acknowledge the racial dysfunction in their own house. In our mainstream political culture, this de facto apartheid is simply accepted as an intractable given, unworthy of notice, and just too embarrassing to mention aloud in polite Beltway company. Those who dare are instantly accused of “political correctness” or “reverse racism.”

An all-white Congressional delegation doesn’t happen by accident. It’s the legacy of race cards that have been dealt since the birth of the Southern strategy in the Nixon era. No one knows this better than Mr. McCain, whose own adopted daughter of color was the subject of a vicious smear in his party’s South Carolina primary of 2000.

This year Mr. McCain has called for a respectful (i.e., non-race-baiting) campaign and has gone so far as to criticize (ineffectually) North Carolina’s Republican Party for running a Wright-demonizing ad in that state’s current primary. Mr. McCain has been posing (awkwardly) with black people in his tour of “forgotten” America. Speaking of Katrina in New Orleans, he promised that “never again” would a federal recovery effort be botched on so grand a scale.

This is all surely sincere, and a big improvement over Mitt Romney’s dreams of his father marching with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Up to a point. Here, too, there’s a double standard. Mr. McCain is graded on a curve because the G.O.P. bar is set so low. But at a time when the latest Wall Street Journal-NBC News poll shows that President Bush is an even greater drag on his popularity than Mr. Wright is on Mr. Obama’s, Mr. McCain’s New Orleans visit is more about the self-interested politics of distancing himself from Mr. Bush than the recalibration of policy.

Mr. McCain took his party’s stingier line on Katrina aid and twice opposed an independent commission to investigate the failed government response. Asked on his tour what should happen to the Ninth Ward now, he called for “a conversation” about whether anyone should “rebuild it, tear it down, you know, whatever it is.” Whatever, whenever, never mind.

For all this primary season’s obsession with the single (and declining) demographic of white working-class men in Rust Belt states, America is changing rapidly across all racial, generational and ethnic lines. The Census Bureau announced last week that half the country’s population growth since 2000 is due to Hispanics, another group understandably alienated from the G.O.P.

Anyone who does the math knows that America is on track to become a white-minority nation in three to four decades. Yet if there’s any coherent message to be gleaned from the hypocrisy whipped up by Hurricane Jeremiah, it’s that this nation’s perennially promised candid conversation on race has yet to begin.


02 May 2008

today's prayer... flight from benevolence...

my thanks to bob schenck for turning me on to this.

from "the way of chuang tzu" by thomas merton...]

Hsu Yu was met by a friend as he was leaving the capital city, on the main highway leading to the nearest frontier.

"Where are you going?" the friend asked.

"I am leaving King Yao. He is so obsessed with the ideas of benevolence that I am afraid something ridiculous will come of it. In any event, funny or not, this kind of thing eventually ends with people eating each other raw."

"At the moment, there is a great wave of solidarity. The people think they are loved, and they respond with enthusiasm. They are all behind the king because they thin he is making them rich. Praise is cheap, and they are all competing for favor. But soon they will have to accept something they do not like and the whole thing will collapse.

"When justice and benevolence are in the air, a few people are really concerned with the good of others, but the majority are aware that this is a good thing, ripe for exploitation. They take advantage of the situation. For them, benevolence and justice are traps to catch birds. Thus benevolence and justice rapidly come to be associated with fraud and hypocrisy. The everybody doubts. And that is when trouble really begins.

"King Yao knows how dutiful and upright officers benefit the nation, but he does not know harm comes from their uprightness: they are a front behind which crooks operate more securely. But you have to see this situation objectively to realize it.

"There are three classes of people to be taken into account: yes- men, blood- suckers, and operators.

"They yes- men adopt the line of some political leader, and repeat his statements by heart, imagining that they know something, confident that they are getting somewhere, and thoroughly satisfied with the sound of their own voices. They are complete fools. And because they are fools, they submit in this way to another man's line of talk.

"The blood- suckers are like lice on a sow. The rush together where the bristles are this, and this becomes their palace and their park. They delight in crevices, between the sow's toes, around the joints and teats, or under the tail. here they can entrench themselves and imagine they cannot be routed out by any power in the world. But they do not realize that one morning he butcher will come with knife and swinging scythe. He will collect dry straw and set it alight to singe away the bristles and burn out all the lice. Such parasites appear when the sow appears and vanish when the sow is slaughtered.

"Operators are men like Shun.

"Mutton is not attracted to ants, but ants are attracted to mutton, because it is high and rank. So Shun was vigorous and successful operator, and people liked him for it. Three times he moved from city to city and each time his new home became the capital. Eventually he moved out into the wilderness and there were a hundred thousand families that went with him to colonize the place.

"Finally, Yao put forward the idea that Shun ought to go out into the desert to see if he could make something out of that. Though by this time Shun was an old man and his mind was getting feeble, he could not refuse. He could not bring himself to retire. He had forgotten how to stop his wagon. He was an operator-- and nothing else!

"The man of spirit, on the other hand, hates to see people gather around him. He avoids the crowd. For where there are many men, there are also may opinions and little agreement. There is nothing to be gained from the support of a lot of half- wits who are doomed to end up in a fight with each other.

"The man of spirit is neither very intimate with anyone, nor very aloof. He keeps himself interiorly aware, and he maintains his balance so that he is in conflict with nobody. This is your true man! He lets the ants be clever. He lets the mutton reek with activity. For his own part, he imitates the fish that swims unconcerned, surrounded by a friendly element, and minding its own business.

"The true man sees what the eye sees, and does not add to it something that is not there. He hears what the ears hear, and does not detect imaginary undertones or overtones. He understands things in their obvious interpretation and is not busy with hidden meanings and mysteries. His course is therefore a straight line. Yet he can change his direction whenever circumstances suggest it."