Sunday, April 30, 2006

A rogue president

A rogue president: Bush has claimed authority to disobey over 750 laws since taking office
Posted on Sunday, April 30, 2006.
President cites powers of his office

Charlie Savage, The Boston Globe

WASHINGTON -- President Bush has quietly claimed the authority to disobey more than 750 laws enacted since he took office, asserting that he has the power to set aside any statute passed by Congress when it conflicts with his interpretation of the Constitution.

Among the laws Bush said he can ignore are military rules and regulations, affirmative-action provisions, requirements that Congress be told about immigration services problems, "whistle-blower" protections for nuclear regulatory officials, and safeguards against political interference in federally funded research.

Legal scholars say the scope and aggression of Bush's assertions that he can bypass laws represent a concerted effort to expand his power at the expense of Congress, upsetting the balance between the branches of government. The Constitution is clear in assigning to Congress the power to write the laws and to the president a duty "to take care that the laws be faithfully executed." Bush, however, has repeatedly declared that he does not need to "execute" a law he believes is unconstitutional.

Former administration officials contend that just because Bush reserves the right to disobey a law does not mean he is not enforcing it: In many cases, he is simply asserting his belief that a certain requirement encroaches on presidential power.

But with the disclosure of Bush's domestic spying program, in which he ignored a law requiring warrants to tap the phones of Americans, many legal specialists say Bush is hardly reluctant to bypass laws he believes he has the constitutional authority to override....

Saturday, April 29, 2006

What to Do With an Unreachable President?

Justin Frank

What to Do With an Unreachable President?

There is no point in being a psychoanalyst when you have a patient who is unreachable. There is no point in being a Senator when you have a president who is unreachable. So, how do we reach President Bush? How can we stop him? Who can stop him? Protests are all well and good, but have no effect on this man.
We need to do something new and different, like blocking his access to MONEY. Setting limits is the name of the game.

"It is true that we have no assurance that the president would follow any statute that we enact," Senator Specter said to the press on Thursday, April 27. What are the implications of such a statement? To me it means that Specter understands that Bush has no respect for the law or lawmakers, and no understanding of the Senate. It is clear that he was never disciplined as a child, that he got away with everything, from wetting his bed until he was 11 to setting fires until he was 14 (two things told to me in private after the book came out and that I never before mentioned in public), to shooting at his siblings with a bee bee gun, to drinking himself into oblivion, to being arrested for DWI, and on and on. He was always rescued by his father, by friends of his father, by his money, by his personal charm (when sober). Now he expects the next president to rescue him from Iraq.

We have a drunk as president, a drunk with a history of being able to do whatever he wants to -- with the possible exception of privatizing Social Security (though he is poised to bankrupt it in stead by draining the Treasury). The only way to stop him is with an intervention, just as it is done with alcoholics.

Bush kids around like a fraternity boy with the press corps about Tony Snow while he is simultaneously destroying the future of our nation. The Senate, a deliberative body, has done more drooling than deliberating of late. And it's time to stop. Congressman Conyers is taking action, as he knows full well that our nation that is at stake -- the lives of our fighting men and women, our civil liberties, and our children's future.

The most important lesson I learned in my psychiatric training was that there is no substitute for "setting limits" -- limits on delinquent patients are the pre-requisite for any kind of contact or communication. Without limits, destructive and anti-social behavior thrives. The time is well past for such limits on Bush, and terrible damage has already been done. But with more than two years left to continue on his destructive course, there is still SOME time. People like Senator Byrd now are talking about impeachment. But Bush is too fast for us -- he will nuke Iran before any hearings on his high crimes and misdemeanors can take place.

The April march, as it were, is all good and well. But protests don't mean what they did in the 1960s. They just don't. It is past time for action, and the action that is necessary IS to take away Bush's Senate credit card. Specter is right. You can get Bush to say anything, but you can never get him to do what he is supposed to do if he doesn't want to. It's really that simple. He needs his access to money taken away. Only then will any discourse with this White House be even remotely possible. The House and Senate, even the media, must push through the shock and awe visited upon them by this delinquent and destructive president.

We are in a new world, as no President has ever so willingly and willfully disregarded the Constitution. Never has anybody taken such advantage of God-fearing Christians in order to prosecute a war. Never before has anybody unilaterally disregarded so many treaties -- first global warming and now the Salt Treaty. Bush is cooking up a nuclear test on June 2 in Nevada and nobody in the House or Senate is saying anything. The Democrats are fighting about windmills in Cape Cod while the "down-winders" in Nevada are bracing for new bouts of cancer.

George W. Bush's Nicknames

Nicknames Given By President Bush to Friends and Foes
Karl Rove, deputy chief of staff: "Boy Genius" and "Turd Blossom"
Condoleezza Rice, secretary of state: "Guru"
Karen Hughes, adviser: "Lima Green Bean" and "High Prophet"
Dick Cheney, vice president: "Big Time"
Andrew Card, chief of staff: "Tangent Man"
Vladimir Putin: "Pootie-Poot" and "Ostrich Legs"
Tony Blair, British prime minister: "Landslide"
Jean Chrétien, ex-Canadian prime minister: "Dino" (short for “Dinosaur”)
Former President Bush: "41"
Barbara Bush: "No. 1"
First Lady Laura Bush: "Bushie" and "First"
Donald Rumsfeld, defense secretary: "Rummy"
Colin Powell, ex-secretary of state: "Baloonfoot"
Michael Brown, ex-FEMA director: "Brownie"
Paul O’Neill, ex-Treasury secretary: "Big O"
George Tenet, ex-CIA director: "Brother George"
Mitch Daniels, ex-budget director: "The Blade"
Lawrence Lindsey, ex-economic adviser: "Thunderbolt"
Michael Gerson, ex-speechwriter: "The Scribe"
Rob Portman, budget director: "Robby Bobby"
Rep. Dennis Hastert, speaker of the House (R-IL): "Speak"
Sen. Bill Frist (R-TN): "Fristy"
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ): "Hogan"
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA): "Ali"
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA): "Frazier"
Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX): "Corndog"
Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME): "The Big O"
Rep. Peter King (R-NY): "Pedro"
Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA): "Saber Tooth"
Maureen Dowd, New York Times columnist: "The Cobra"
George Will, Newsweek columnist: "The Commissioner"
Candy Crowley, CNN correspondent: "Dolce" (Spanish for Candy)
Dick Keil, Bloomberg News reporter: "Stretch"
Bill Sammon, Washington Times reporter: "Superstretch"

The psychology of Bush's nicknames

The psychology of Bush's nicknames
Posted on Saturday, April 29 @ 09:15:06 EDT
This article has been read 184 times.
Ronald Pies MD, eTalkinghead

What are we to make of an American president who refers to his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, as "Pootie-Poot"? How are we to understand President Bush's christening of advisor Karl Rove as both "Boy Genius" and "Turd Blossom"?

The President's penchant for nicknaming both friends and foes recently grabbed headlines in his now infamous remark made to then FEMA Director, Michael Brown, during Hurricane Katrina: "Brownie, you're doin' a heck of a job!" But what lies behind the president's habit of bestowing such monikers as "Stretch" (Dick Keil, Bloomberg News), "Frazier" (Sen. Diane Feinstein), and "Hogan" (Sen. John McCain)?

I believe that the explanation goes deeper than the "frat boy" attitude sometimes attributed to George W. Bush. (An article in Wikipedia opines that Bush may have picked up this habit during his days in "Skull & Bones", the secret society at Yale that gives every member a nickname). I believe, rather, that to understand the President's nicknames, we need to dig a bit into the nature of naming and re-naming, as an enduring pattern in human history.

Such naming rituals go back at least as far as the Hebrew Bible or Tanach, usually called The Old Testament. A change in name, in this ancient biblical context, usually signifies a change in spiritual status or moral character. In the Book of Genesis, we find that after Jacob wrestles with an "angel" or divine messenger, his name is changed to Israel--variously translated as "one who struggles with God" or "turns the head of God." Notably, it is God who changes Jacob's name, as is the case with Abram (re-named Abraham) and Sarai (re-named Sarah). There is a message in this: changing someone's name is a sign of dominion over that individual. Our children do not name us (though they may use unkind nicknames behind our backs)--we name them. The knight does not "dub" the King, Sir So-and-So--it is the king's dominion that allows him to christen the knight.

The rabbis of the Talmudic era were aware that, when mortals misuse such powers, the results can often be destructive. These sages were especially disturbed by the use of derogatory nicknames. The Talmud tells us, "All who descend to Gehenna [Hell] will come [back] up, except who sleeps with a married woman; one who shames his friend in public; and one who calls his friend by a cruel nickname." [Bava Mezia 58b]. Any child who has come home from school in tears, having been taunted with a nickname like "Fatso" or "Butthead", understands the destructive power of such nicknames.

But, we may protest: aren't many of the President's nicknames merely affectionate short-hand labels, bestowed in the spirit of good-natured joshing?

And haven't nicknames always been a part of American political culture and campaign rhetoric, at least since the time of "Honest Abe" Lincoln? To be sure, such nicknames have always been a part of American politics. Recently, some have surfaced in the form of so-called portmanteau titles: "Billary", for Bill and Hillary Clinton; or "Scalito" as a fusion of Scalia and Alito. And yes, such names may start out as humorous or even affectionate monikers--but there is almost always a hint of derision concealed within them. Writing in the New York Times, Damien Cave notes that, "...most political portmanteaus...are intended to insult..." the named person or persons. Cave points out that whereas initially, Bill and Hillary Clinton rather liked the name "Billary"--the implication being, we were getting two fine politicians rolled into one--they eventually came to resent it as derogatory. So, too, with seemingly affectionate nicknames like "Stretch", "Superstretch", "Corndog", and other monikers the President has bestowed on members of the press or Congress. (A comprehensive list prepared by writer Daniel Kurtzman may be found at Political Humor). And we may rightly ask: did the President first seek the permission of these named individuals to be so christened? Or was it, well--an act of dominion? Imagine the stir at a presidential press conference if a reporter objected, "Mr. President, I really wish you wouldn't refer to me as 'Stretch'". Not all recipients of Mr. Bush's nominal largesse have suffered in silence, of course: witness Maureen Dowd--christened "The Cobra" by President Bush--and her acerbic columns for the New York Times.

How then, should we understand Mr. Bush's proclivity for nicknaming? I believe the key lies in a scene from the 1962 movie, "Hatari", directed by Howard Hawks. Basically, the film revolves around John Wayne (Sean Mercer) and his entourage, who trap wild animals in Africa and sell them to zoos. After one of the characters introduces himself with a preposterously long and pompous French name, Wayne looks at him with a mixture of irony and contempt, and says, "'Chips' will do." Substitute "W" for the Duke in the role of Sean Mercer, and you will get the picture.

Nicknames serve an important function of "dominion" for all of us, of course: they define and delimit another's powers and status. Nicknames put people in their place. In the case of Mr. Bush's Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice, this is apparently an exalted place--she has earned the nickname, "Guru." Others, such as Maureen Dowd, are not so fortunate. Naming of any sort serves an important ritualized function in human culture: it is the first step in gaining control over a potentially dangerous or malevolent entity. A frightening category 4 hurricane is nicknamed, "Katrina". Osama bin Laden is christened, "The Evil One" by the President of the United States. In a world filled with complex and terrifying forces, it should not surprise us that an anxious American president would look for ways to reduce potential adversaries to manageable sound bites. The danger lies in imagining that this actually reduces the danger--and in supposing that nicknames do no harm.

The writer is a psychiatrist in the Boston area, and the author of "The Ethics of the Sages", an interfaith commentary on part of the Talmud.

Copyright (c) 2006 eTalkinghead

Neighbor-to-Neighbor organizing day

Neighbor-to-Neighbor organizing day. One conversation happening in a thousand or more neighborhoods, in all 50 states and the U.S. territories. It's a grand vision, of conversations between neighbors all over the country, the beginning of bridge building, of talking about the issues that matter to all of us, of putting a friendly, neighborly face to the Democratic Party.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Chernobyl Twenty Years Later: How Empires Fall

Rick Jacobs

Chernobyl Twenty Years Later: How Empires Fall
Huffington Post

The Evil Empire ended twenty years ago today with the Chernobyl nuclear plant disaster, which killed and injured hundreds and left a legacy of waste in Ukraine and Belarus. Yes, it reminded the world of the need for extraordinary care in the use of nuclear power, a theme highly relevant in today's energy and international security framework.

But, the real significance of Chernobyl was that for the first time in the history of the USSR the leadership was forced to admit publicly to such a disaster. There had of course been massive losses of life in purges, wars and internal nuclear disasters before Chernobyl. But this time, CNN covered the story that first came from Swedish scientists who reported an enormous spike in atomic particulate. UPI reported, erroneously, hundreds of thousands of deaths. NPR and BBC picked up the story and, in the face of the typical Soviet news black out, reported lower estimated casualties, but continued to instill panic.

The newly installed General Secretary of the USSR, Mikhail Gorbachev, was forced to go on television a few days after Chernobyl to explain that an explosion had occurred, but that the situation was far less dire than many media outlets had suggested. In short, the existence of global media cracked the Communist grip on shaping of the news. This was really the end of the USSR.

I worked for Armand Hammer in those days and remember exactly where I was when we received a call about Chernobyl. The US government offered aid, but the Russians declined. We offered to send in some medical experts and equipment; the Soviets said yes. They trusted Dr. Hammer, because he always talked to the Soviets, in good times and bad. We went to Moscow, Kiev and the environs of Chernobyl in early May, 1986. Gorbachev told Hammer he was livid at the Western press coverage, incredulous that we could not control our media.

In time, Gorbachev and his colleagues understood that information cannot be contained, or not forever, but the time for keeping the Communists in power had passed.

Why should we care today? In the fervor to use the disaster of September 11, 2001 to impose an ideology on the globe through blunt force, the Bush Administration is all too slowly learning the lesson that destroyed the USSR. You can manipulate information for a while, but in today's Internet world, the truth shall out. Bush tries to scare us into believing that if we do not continue to use force in Iraq, Iran or wherever he next chooses, the U.S. will topple. The truth is quite the opposite. As we learn of the motivations, the shoddy planning and the nauseating corruption in Iraq, we see that Bush's global ambitions have weakened America, perhaps inexorably.

Let's hope that twenty years on, when Chernobyl is as far away in time as the launching of Sputnik is now, that historians are not writing that the United States ended on 20 March, 2003, the day the secretive George Bush ordered an invasion of Iraq.

Frederick Douglass

"Those who profess to favor freedom, yet deprecate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightening. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will."

--Frederick Douglass, African-American abolitionist

Is There a Double Standard on Leak Probes?

Is There a Double Standard on Leak Probes?
By Murray Waas
The National Journal

Tuesday 25 April 2006

When the CIA announced on Friday that it had fired an employee who the agency claims "knowingly and willfully shared classified intelligence" with a newspaper reporter, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, immediately praised the agency's action, saying that "unauthorized disclosures of classified information can significantly harm our ability to protect the American people."

Roberts, one of the staunchest defenders of the Bush administration's effort to stop the flow of sensitive information to the press, said in a statement that "[t]hose who leak classified information not only risk the disclosure of intelligence sources and methods, but also expose the brave men and women of the intelligence community to greater danger. Clearly, those guilty of improperly disclosing classified information should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."

But three years ago on the eve of the invasion of Iraq, Roberts himself was involved in disclosing sensitive intelligence information that, according to four former senior intelligence officers, impaired efforts to capture Saddam Hussein and potentially threatened the lives of Iraqis who were spying for the United States.

On March 20, 2003, at the onset of military hostilities between U.S. and Iraqi forces, Roberts said in a speech to the National Newspaper Association that he had "been in touch with our intelligence community" and that the CIA had informed President Bush and the National Security Council "of intelligence information from what we call human intelligence that indicated the location of Saddam Hussein and his leadership in a bunker in the suburbs of Baghdad."

The former intelligence officials said in interviews that Roberts was never held accountable for his comments, which bore directly on the issue of intelligence-gathering sources and methods, and revealed that Iraqis close to Hussein were probably talking to the United States. These former officials contrasted the Roberts case with last week's firing of CIA officer Mary O. McCarthy, as examples of how rank and file intelligence professionals now have much to fear from legitimate and even inadvertent contacts with journalists, while senior executive branch officials and members of Congress are almost never held accountable when they seriously breach national security through leaks of information....

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

LA Times Editorial: Cheney Should Go…

Bush's third term
April 23, 2006

IF PRESIDENT BUSH HOPES the "shake-up" of his administration initiated last week will re-energize his listless presidency, he's bound to be disappointed. A far more audacious makeover is needed — one that sends Vice President Dick Cheney into early retirement.

Second terms are notoriously difficult for presidents. For President Bush, it has been disastrous. His swaggering November 2004 news conference — at which he bragged "I earned capital in the campaign, political capital, and now I intend to spend it" — seems from another era. Whatever political capital existed he has squandered with the Iraq war, the Valerie Plame leak inquiry and his ill-advised plan to partly privatize Social Security. His one victory — getting two reliable conservative jurists on the U.S. Supreme Court — is no doubt an enduring one. But there's nothing else.

Hence the yearning for a fresh start, the illusion of a third term. Ronald Reagan, another president hobbled by a second-term scandal, did manage to jump-start his presidency in its last years by bringing new players into his inner circle and engaging in ambitious arms-reduction talks with the Soviets.

Alas, Bush doesn't seem inclined to be that bold. The president has named a new chief of staff and budget director, but this is a merely a case of old loyalists getting new titles. The White House also sent much-pummeled press secretary Scott McClellan packing and, in what seems more like truth in packaging than a real change, relieved arch-political operator Karl Rove of his responsibilities for domestic policy.

It's expected that other heads will soon roll from the Cabinet Room — but not that of seemingly fireproof Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. The ax is rumored to fall on Treasury Secretary John W. Snow, considered a lackluster evangelist for the president's economic policies....

Time for radical reform of government

Time for radical reform of government
April 24, 2006 07:06 AM / The Rant .

Capitol Hill Blue
Let's brainstorm for a bit about how we can really reform the American political system.

Forget, for the time being, the partisan notion that replacing the political party in control of Congress or the White House with another will magically fix the nation's ills and concentrate instead on the process itself and the ability of elected officials to turn what our forefathers saw as public service into a lifelong career where greed, corruption and lust for power rules.

I've been around politics for some four decades - three of them in journalism and one inside the political machine - and that's long enough to form some ideas on what might or might not work when it comes to serious reform.

To kickstart the discussion, we propose to open a debate on radical reform of our government and the political system that sustains it. Radical reform means more than the band-aid approach too often applied to the problem. Real reform requires real change.

So here's the beginning of what will be a series of proposals for ways to radically reform and fix a flawed system:

ABSOLUTE TERM LIMITS: Eight years. Period. Combined. We limit the President to eight years in office. Let's do the same in Congress. Reduce Senate terms from six years to four and limit Senators to two four-year terms; House members to four two-year terms.

Do we allow someone to serve eight years in the House, followed by eight years in the Senate and then eight years as President? No. That's 24 years. The limit is eight years: Combined. This is supposed to be public service, not a career.

TERM LIMIT STAFF AS WELL: Washington is full of career political appointees. In too many cases, these career political prostitutes run Congressional offices and agencies. The limit for political service, appointed or elected, is eight years. After that they have to join the elected officials and go out into the world and get a real job.

SHORTEN THE ELECTION SEASON TO 60 DAYS: The political election season is now 24/7. Too long. Way too long. All primaries within the first 30 days and the general election campaign runs no more than one month.

ELIMINATE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINATING CONVENTIONS: After the 30-day primary season, if a candidate has won enough to win the nomination outright, he or she gets the nod. If not, delegates meet for one day and cast ballots. No convention. No hoopla.

GIVE VOTERS THE OPTION TO REALLY SAY "NO:" Put "None of the above" on the federal ballot and make it binding. Don't like any of the candidates? Give voters the options to say they want new choices. If "None of the above" gets more votes than any candidate then nobody is elected and you have to have a new election within 60 days with new candidates.

ELIMINATE THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE: This is supposed to a system where the majority rules. That's not always the case. We've had Presidential elections where a majority of voters in the country picked one President and the electoral college picked another. Let's eliminate a system where campaigns concentrate on "key states" and the rest of the country is left out in the cold. Let the majority rule.

LIMIT CONGRESSIONAL SESSIONS TO 60 DAYS: Our forefathers didn't foresee Congress as a full-time operation. They were right. Congress meets for 60 days to consider the legislation to keep the country running. No more. No long recesses, no four-day workweeks. They put in 40-hour workweeks just like most working stiffs and then they go home because nobody's life, liberty or property is safe while Congress is in session.

MAKE CONGRESSIONAL PAY TRULY REPRESENTATIVE: Pay House members the median income for the district they represent. Senators get the median income for their state. This is public service, not a chance to live large at taxpayer expense. They say they represent average Americans. Let them live like it.

This is the start of what will be a series of columns focused on real reform of the process that governs our lives, a process I believe has gotten out of control and can be fixed only through drastic change.

It's a start but it won't be the end. On May 1, we will be launching a grassroots effort to reform the process, a non-partisan educational organization that will focus on fixing the system.

Stay tuned. The fun is about to begin.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Rove's New Mission: Survival

Rove's New Mission: Survival

By E. J. Dionne Jr.
Friday, April 21, 2006; Page A23

Here's the real meaning of the White House shake-up and the redefinition of Karl Rove's role in the Bush presidency: The administration's one and only domestic priority in 2006 is hanging on to control of Congress.

That, in turn, means that all the spin about Rove's power being diminished is simply wrong. Yes, Rove is giving up some policy responsibilities to concentrate on politics, but guess what: The possibility of President Bush's winning enactment of any major new policy initiative this year is zero. Rove is simply moving to where all the action will, of necessity, be.

As one outside adviser to the administration said, the danger of a Democratic takeover of at least one house of Congress looms large and would carry huge penalties for Bush. The administration fears "investigations of everything" by congressional committees, this adviser said, and the "possibility of a forced withdrawal from Iraq" through legislative action.

"I don't think they see much chance of accomplishing anything this year," said this Republican strategist, who preferred not to be quoted by name. "The bulk of their agenda, let's say, has been put on hold."

Rove never stopped being political, even when he had formal responsibility for policy. What's intriguing about the shift in the direction of Rove's energies is that it marks a turn from the high politics of a partisan realignment driven by ideas and policies to the more mundane politics of eking out votes, seat by seat and state by state. Most of Rove's grander dreams have died as the president's poll numbers have come crashing down.....

Sunday, April 23, 2006

The great revulsion

The great revulsion
Paul Krugman
The Argus
'Ihave a vision — maybe just a hope — of a great revulsion: a moment in which the American people look at what is happening, realize how their good will and patriotism have been abused, and put a stop to this drive to destroy much of what is best in our country."
I wrote those words three years ago in the introduction to my column collection, "The Great Unraveling." It seemed a remote prospect at the time: Baghdad had just fallen to U.S. troops, and President Bush had a 70 percent approval rating.
Now the great revulsion has arrived. The latest Fox News poll puts Bush's approval at only 33 percent. According to the polling firm Survey USA, there are only four states in which significantly more people approve of Bush's performance than disapprove: Utah, Idaho, Wyoming and Nebraska. If we define red states as states where the public supports Bush, Red America now has a smaller population than New York City.
The proximate causes of Bush's plunge in the polls are familiar: the heck of a job he did responding to Katrina, the prescription drug debacle and, above all, the quagmire in Iraq.
But focusing too much on these proximate causes makes Bush's political fall from grace seem like an accident, or the result of specific missteps. That gets things backward. In fact, Bush's temporarily sky-high approval ratings were the aberration; the public never supported his real policy agenda.
Remember, in 2000, Bush got within hanging-chad and felon-purge distance of the White House only by pretending to be a moderate. In 2004, he ran on fear and smear, plus the pretense that victory in Iraq was just around the corner. (I have always thought that the turning point of the 2004 campaign was the September 2004 visit of the Iraqi prime minister, Ayad Allawi, a figurehead appointed by the Bush administration who rewarded his sponsors by presenting a falsely optimistic picture of the situation in Iraq.)...

Is U.S. being transformed into a radical republic?

Is U.S. being transformed into a radical republic?
By Lawrence Wilkerson
Originally published April 23, 2006
We Americans came not from a revolution but from an evolution.

That is in large part why our so-called revolution produced success while most throughout history did not. We came as much from the Magna Carta as from our own doings, as much from British common law and parliamentary development as from the Declaration of Independence and Continental Congress.

Unlike the true revolution on the other side of the Atlantic that led to Napoleon's dictatorship and strife and conflict all across Europe, our evolution founded the greatest country the world has ever seen. That was true in every element of power and in the uniqueness that makes us great, our constant striving for "a more perfect union" and, as we do so, our open arms for the other peoples of the world "yearning to be free."

As Alexis de Tocqueville once said: "America is great because she is good. If America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great."

In January 2001, with the inauguration of George W. Bush as president, America set on a path to cease being good; America became a revolutionary nation, a radical republic. If our country continues on this path, it will cease to be great - as happened to all great powers before it, without exception.

From the Kyoto accords to the International Criminal Court, from torture and cruel and unusual treatment of prisoners to rendition of innocent civilians, from illegal domestic surveillance to lies about leaking, from energy ineptitude to denial of global warming, from cherry-picking intelligence to appointing a martinet and a tyrant to run the Defense Department, the Bush administration, in the name of fighting terrorism, has put America on the radical path to ruin.....

Friday, April 21, 2006


Kevin Drum

....What should we do about Iran? I have a suggestion, but first I need to relate a story that's gotten suprisingly little attention from the press. Perhaps they're too bored to pick up on it.

It started on May 6, 2003, shortly after George Bush declared "Mission Accomplished" in Iraq. On that day the Associated Press reported without elaboration that Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman had confirmed that "Iran has exchanged messages with U.S. officials about Iraq through the Swiss Embassy, which represents U.S. interests in Tehran. He declined to give details."

What was that all about? Last January, Flynt Leverett, who worked for Condoleezza Rice on the National Security Council, provided some initial clues:

In the spring of 2003, shortly before I left government, the Iranian Foreign Ministry sent Washington a detailed proposal for comprehensive negotiations to resolve bilateral differences. The document acknowledged that Iran would have to address concerns about its weapons programs and support for anti-Israeli terrorist organizations. It was presented as having support from all major players in Iran's power structure, including the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. A conversation I had shortly after leaving the government with a senior conservative Iranian official strongly suggested that this was the case. Unfortunately, the administration's response was to complain that the Swiss diplomats who passed the document from Tehran to Washington were out of line.


....the administration's ideologues killed an opportunity to ratchet down tensions three years ago, and since then things have only gotten worse: Iran has elected a wingnut president, they've made progress on nuclear enrichment, gained considerable influence in Iraq, and increased their global economic leverage as oil supplies have gotten tighter. So why blow another chance? If the talks fail, then they fail. But what possible reason can there be to refuse to even discuss things with Iran — unless you're trying to leave no alternative to war?

That may well be the Bush administration's strategy, but ordinary horse sense suggests it shouldn't be anyone else's.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

The insurance industry prepares for climate change

The insurance industry prepares for climate change

Interview with Evan Mills.
With the hurricane season about to start and Americans growing more exasperated with the failed recovery in New Orleans, expect a reenactment of last year’s debate over whether global warming is causing a proliferation in the number of large hurricanes like Katrina. More papers are now working their way through peer review to further solidify the link between climate change and large hurricanes, but insurance executives are one group not interested in joining this spat. They grow more and more nervous as the increased frequency in natural disasters cuts into their profits.

Evan Mills
The Association of British Insurers finds that weather-related losses now outpace trends in population growth and inflation. The association’s analyses have identified changes in weather as the driver of a 2–4% annual increase in U.K. property losses.
Economists and business leaders are also taking notice. When the U.S. delegation failed to engage in efforts to curb emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases (GHGs) during climate talks in Montreal last December, a group of 25 economists—including 3 Nobel Prize laureates and 1 former member of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers—urged President Bush to drop his opposition to cuts in carbon emissions.
The rising costs from weather damage and agricultural losses far outweigh the price of curbing emissions, the economists wrote to Bush. Geoffrey Heal, an economist with the Columbia Business School, told the Financial Times, “The cost of implementing the Kyoto Protocol is about 1% of GNP. That is about two quarters of growth.”

As the world’s largest industry, the insurance business faces more financial risk from global warming than any other sector of the economy. To better understand how business leaders are dealing with the dilemma, ES&T spoke with Evan Mills, a staff scientist at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory......

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The decider-in-chief: A drunk with power

The decider-in-chief: A drunk with power
Apr 19, 2006, 03:25
Capitol Hill Blue

...."Of all the Presidents I've served or observed, George W. Bush is the least receptive to the opinion of others," says political scientist George Harleigh, who served in both the Nixon and Reagan administrations. "He has no interest in what others think and he doesn't listen to the advice of experts or professionals."

In 1999, while completing a profile of Harris County, Texas, Judge Robert Eckels, I interviewed a number of Texas political observers. Republican and Democrat alike agreed that then Gov. George W. Bush was stubborn, arrogant and used to having his own way.

"He's an asshole," said Tom Delaney, who worked on Bush's second gubernatorial campaign. "He can smile at you while cutting off your balls."

Dr. Justin Frank, a prominent George Washington University psychiatrist and author of the book, Bush on the Couch: Inside the Mind of the President, says Bush has a cruel, sadistic streak that goes back to his childhood when a young George gleefully bragged about dissecting cats, cutting them open while they were still alive.

The boy who tortured cats, Dr. Frank says, grew up into an alcohol-abusing bully who strikes out at anyone who opposes him.

All one has to do is confront the President and the bully emerges.

"To actually directly confront him in a clear way, to bring him out, so you would really see the bully, and you would also see the fear," he says.

Dr. Frank also believes Bush, an alcoholic who brags that he gave up booze without help from groups like Alcoholics Anonymous, may be drinking again.

"Two questions that the press seems particularly determined to ignore have hung silently in the air since before Bush took office," Dr. Frank says. "Is he still drinking? And if not, is he impaired by all the years he did spend drinking? Both questions need to be addressed in any serious assessment of his psychological state."

As a recovering alcoholic (11 years, 10 months and 13 days sober), I agree with Dr. Frank's assessment. Bush demonstrates many of the traits of a drinker who has relapsed: An inability to focus, moments where he goes "blank" and can't respond, incoherent sentences and flashes of anger when challenged.

"The pattern of blame and denial, which recovering alcoholics work so hard to break, seems to be ingrained in the alcoholic personality. It's rarely limited to his or her drinking," Dr. Frank says. "The habit of placing blame and denying responsibility is so prevalent in George W. Bush's personal history that it is apparently triggered by even the mildest threat."

So it's no surprise that the self-declared "decider-in-chief" is an arrogant hothead who probably sneaks a drink or two during the day. He's a paranoid, fear-mongering bully who openly abuses power and, thanks to the gullible American voting public, he can, and will continue to, abuse that power.

A drunk: That's the title George W. Bush deserves most. He is a drunk even if he doesn't get blasted on booze. He's drunk with power and that's the most dangerous kind of drunk. When a drunk who gets high on power sits in the White House, the rest of us wake up with the hangover.

© Copyright 2006 by Capitol Hill Blue

Monday, April 17, 2006

Descent into anger and despair

Descent into anger and despair
By James Carroll
Boston Globe
April 17, 2006
LAST WEEK, the rattling of sabers filled the air. Various published reports, most notably one from Seymour M. Hersh in The New Yorker, indicated that Washington is removing swords from scabbards and heightening the threat aimed at Iran, which refuses to suspend its nuclear project. It may be that such reports, based on alarming insider accounts of planning and military exercises, are themselves part of Washington's strategy of coercive diplomacy. But who can trust the Bush administration to play games of feint and intimidation without unleashing forces it cannot control, stumbling again into disastrous confrontation?

An Iranian official dismissed the talk of imminent US military action as mere psychological warfare, but then he made a telling observation. Instead of attributing the escalations of threat to strategic impulses, the official labeled them a manifestation of ''Americans' anger and despair."
The phrase leapt out of the news report, demanding to be taken seriously. I hadn't considered it before, but anger and despair so precisely define the broad American mood that those emotions may be the only things that President Bush and his circle have in common with the surrounding legions of his antagonists. We are in anger and despair because every nightmare of which we were warned has come to pass. Bush's team is in anger and despair because their grand and -- to them -- selfless ambitions have been thwarted at every turn. Indeed, anger and despair can seem universally inevitable responses to what America has done and what it faces now.
While the anger and despair of those on the margins of power only increase the experience of marginal powerlessness, the anger and despair of those who continue to shape national policy can be truly dangerous if such policy owes more to these emotions than to reasoned realism.....

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Meet Mr. Republican: Jack Abramoff

Meet Mr. Republican: Jack Abramoff
By Matt Taibbi
Rolling Stone

24 March Issue
The secret history of the most corrupt man in Washington.
....To most Americans, Jack Abramoff is the bloodsucking bogeyman with a wad of bills in his teeth who came through the window in the middle of the night and stole their voice in government. But he was much more than that. Abramoff was as much of a symbol of his generation's Republican Party as Ronald Reagan or Barry Goldwater was of his.

He was an amazingly ubiquitous figure, a sort of Zelig of the political right - you could find him somewhere, in the foreground or the background, in almost every Republican political scandal of the past twenty-five years. He carried water for the racist government of Pretoria during the apartheid days and whispered in the ear of those Republican congressmen who infamously voted against anti-apartheid resolutions. He organized rallies in support of the Grenada invasion, showed up in Ollie North's offices during Iran-Contra, palled around with Mobutu Sese Seko, Jonas Savimbi and the Afghan mujahedin.

All along, Abramoff was buying journalists, creating tax-exempt organizations to fund campaign activities and using charities to fund foreign conflicts. He spent the past twenty years doing business with everyone from James Dobson to the Gambino family, from Ralph Reed to Grover Norquist to Karl Rove to White House procurements chief David Safavian. He is even lurking in the background of the 2004 Ohio voting-irregularities scandal, having worked with the Diebold voting-machine company to defeat requirements for a paper trail in elections.

He is a living museum of corruption, and in a way it is altogether too bad that he is about to disappear from public scrutiny. In a hilariously tardy attempt to attend to his moral self-image, lately he has been repackaging himself as a fallen prophet, a humbled super-Jew who was guilty only of going too far to serve God. He was the "softest touch in town," he has said, a sucker for causes who "incorrectly didn't follow the mitzvah of giving away at most twenty percent." Then he shows up a few weeks before sentencing with his cock wedged in the mouth of an adoring Vanity Fair reporter, claiming with a straight face that his problems came from trying to "save the world."....

Taking Bets on Rummy's Survival?

Taking Bets on Rummy's Survival?

by mcjoan

Fri Apr 14, 2006 at 08:39:14 PM PDT

Bush has expressed his undying support for embattled Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Can Rummy's resignation be far behind? With six retired generals, four Army and two Marines, calling for his ouster, Salon's revelation that Rummy was closely involved in the harsh treatment of a Guantánamo detainee reaching the traditional media, can Bush and Rummy hold out?

Larry Johnson posting at TMPCafe thinks not:

Up to this point, President Bush could offer the lie that he was giving the military everything they asked for and no one challenged him. To quote Edgar Allen Poe, "nevermore". The die is now cast for the Republican controlled Congress. The respective heads of the Armed Services Committees, Senator Warner and Congressman Duncan Hunter, now realize that a critical mass of generals has come forward and that Don Rumsfeld has suffered the parliamentary equivalent of a vote of no confidence....

This is not a simple case of the military trying to usurp or embarrass civilian leaders. The growing chorus of senior military officers recognize that if they do not speak out now that the debacle in Iraq could erode the publics' confidence that military leaders, especially those in the Army and the Marines, and leave the military with a tarnished legacy like the aftermath of Vietnam.

Don Rumsfeld may want to stick it out, but stick a fork in him. His goose is cooked and his reign will soon be over.

And as long as we're taking bets on how long Rummy might be along, why don't we throw into the mix the possibility that Lieberman will take this opportunity to vacate a potentially embarrassing and definitely difficult primary race to take the job. Just some things to ruminate on on a Friday night.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Democrats learn the art of opposition

Not as Lame as You Think
Democrats learn the art of opposition.

By Amy Sullivan

The first week of March should have been a bright spot for Democrats in an otherwise bleak five years. With the president's approval numbers reaching Nixon-esque lows, and Democrats outpolling Republicans by 15 points—the party's largest lead in a midterm election since 1982—it was beginning to look like the long-suffering Democrats had rediscovered their mojo.

But you wouldn't know it if you picked up a newspaper that week. “For Democrats, Many Verses, but No Chorus,” declared the headline on The New York Times' front page on Monday. Reporting that “Democratic candidates for Congress are reading from a stack of different scripts these days,” political writer Adam Nagourney described targeted local campaign strategies as “scattershot messages” that “reflect splits within the party.” The next day, The Washington Post featured a story that declared, “Democrats Struggle to Seize Opportunity,” and questioned whether congressional Democrats could regain power without “the hard-charging, charismatic figurehead that Gingrich represented for the House GOP in 1994.” Picking up that theme on Wednesday, Slate's Jacob Weisberg lambasted Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Harry Reid (D-Nev.), and Howard Dean, calling them “The Three Stooges” and indicting them as “useless and disastrous.” And as if on cue, the Republican National Committee released a web video on Friday titled “Find the Democratic Leader.”

Democrats are lame, feckless, timid, and hopelessly divided, with no ideas, no vision, no message, and no future: You'll never fall flat at a Washington party by repeating this bit of conventional wisdom because everyone “knows” it to be true. Jon Stewart compares congressional Democrats to the fuzzy-but-not-fearsome Ewoks. The Onion gets an easy laugh from a parody headlined “Democrats Vow Not to Give Up Hopelessness.”

Of course, we chuckle because the jokes contain an element of truth. On some of the defining issues of the day, Democrats are indeed conflicted and divided. Most Americans and virtually the entire Democratic base wants universal health care, and yet congressional Democrats compete to offer marginal changes to the system. On a key economic issue like bankruptcy, too many Democrats sell out to lobbying interests, making it hard for the party as a whole to attack Republicans over it. Iraq has dominated the political scene for nearly four years, but Democrats couldn't agree whether to get into it, and now they can't agree on how to get out.....

The not-so-secret foreign energy source

The not-so-secret foreign energy source
Posted on Friday, April 14 @ 10:04:57 EDT
Walter Brasch

President Bush, several years after most Americans, has decided the nation can't be dependent upon foreign energy sources.

For much of his life, when he wasn't stoned or wasted, and especially when he was running what came to be a series of failed corporations, Bush worshipped the power of oil, while denouncing global warming as junk science. But now, as an enlightened president who is prevented by his own incompetence and inability to deal with the insurgency and unable to drill for oil in Iraq, Bush has decided that alternative energy is necessary. He has a plan--ethanol. It's cheap, he says. It's available from American corn crops, he claims. It's primarily provided by Archer Daniels Midland, which has consistently been a large donor to political campaigns, primarily Republican.

But, just in case ethanol isn't as reliable as Bush believes it could be, there's still the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). Our oil-slicked President believes killing animals and disrupting the ecological balance in the ANWR to drill for oil beneath the frozen tundra is also part of the solution to the oil crisis. By 2025, according to government projections, and assuming a ten year development during which no oil is pumped, oil produced in ANWR will represent only about 1 to 2 percent of the Americans' daily needs; if all the oil in ANWR were successfully mined, it would represent less than a one year supply....

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Yes He Would

Yes He Would
By Paul Krugman
The New York Times

Monday 10 April 2006

"But he wouldn't do that." That sentiment is what made it possible for President Bush to stampede America into the Iraq war and to fend off hard questions about the reasons for that war until after the 2004 election. Many people just didn't want to believe that an American president would deliberately mislead the nation on matters of war and peace.

Now people with contacts in the administration and the military warn that Mr. Bush may be planning another war. The most alarming of the warnings come from Seymour Hersh, the veteran investigative journalist who broke the Abu Ghraib scandal. Writing in The New Yorker, Mr. Hersh suggests that administration officials believe that a bombing campaign could lead to desirable regime change in Iran - and that they refuse to rule out the use of tactical nuclear weapons.

"But he wouldn't do that," say people who think they're being sensible. Given what we now know about the origins of the Iraq war, however, discounting the possibility that Mr. Bush will start another ill-conceived and unnecessary war isn't sensible. It's wishful thinking.

As it happens, rumors of a new war coincide with the emergence of evidence that appears to confirm our worst suspicions about the war we're already in.....

Bush prepares for another war, and the nation yawns

Bush prepares for another war, and the nation yawns
Posted on Thursday, April 13 @ 10:12:57 EDT
Randolph T. Holhut

DUMMERSTON, Vt. -These days, when I open up the newspaper or listen to the news on the radio, it feels as if the rest of the world is speaking Urdu.

I try to do a simultaneous Bullshit-to-English translation, and it makes my head hurt. The lies and outrages come flying at me so fast, it's nearly impossible to keep up.

And I do this for a living. As a newspaper editor, I have to care and pay attention.

I try to imagine what it's like for the blissfully ignorant, the folks who don't worry that the world is going straight to hell, but I can't.

I find it hard to believe that so many people don't care, or worse, think things are just fine. Even more unbelievable is the thought that many people who think like this are in the news business.

Seymour Hersh's story in this week's issue of The New Yorker detailing how the Bush administration has "increased clandestine activities inside Iran and intensified planning for a possible major air attack" ought to be big news. For the most part, outside of our corner of the Internet, it's not.

The possibility, reported by Hersh, that tactical "bunker-busting" nuclear weapons might be used in such a campaign should scare the hell out of everyone. But it doesn't seem to.

The White House continues to maintain the facade that it is vigorously pursuing diplomatic options to deal with Iran's suspected nuclear weapons program, and the corporate press pretends that President Bush is being credible.

The Bush administration tries to knock down Hersh's report, which relies heavily on his many inside sources in the military and intelligence communities, and the denials are given credence in the corporate press.

There's only one problem with this picture. Given what we now know about the run-up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq - that Bush wanted war from the day he took office and focused his administration's efforts after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on finding justification for an invasion of Iraq - the words about diplomacy regarding Iran ring hollow.

While few dispute Iran's nuclear ambitions, there is considerable disagreement over how soon Iran might develop a nuclear weapon and whether it really wants to.

But Hersh writes that preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear power begins with "regime change." Already, the Bush administration is putting the "another Adolf Hitler" label on Iran's current president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and believes a bombing campaign will convince ordinary Iranians to rise up and overthrow him.

Hersh quotes a former defense consultant as saying that "the president believes he must do what no Democrat or Republican, if elected in the future, would have the courage to do" and that "saving Iran is going to be his legacy."

Of course, if he "saves" Iran the way he saved Iraq, Bush's legacy will be somewhat different.

We know this president and his administration has lied to us about Iraq. Can we trust them to act wisely and prudently in dealing with Iran? Recent history suggests we can not. And that's why we can't allow the corporate press to get away again with enabling the Bush administration to lie its way to another war, a war that promises to be even more disastrous than Iraq.

Here is the moment for the press to redeem itself for failing to inform the public in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. The unbullied and unbribed journalists out there must keep the scheming of the Bush administration on the front burner and command the attention of the American people.

We now know the script the Bush administration is reading from and know the strategy it is following. We know the White House thinks that if it worked once, it will work again. We know there's a election coming and with the Republican Party's approval ratings in the toilet, a war looks like a good idea. It's out there in plain sight.

Our job is to convince all Americans that a unilateral U.S. attack on Iran is an insane idea and that using nuclear weapons is even more insane. At the risk of sounding like a hopeless optimist, it's a job that we must succeed at doing. The cost of failure is too horrible to contemplate.

Randolph T. Holhut has been a journalist in New England for more than 25 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books). He can be reached at

Sunday, April 09, 2006

How history will judge President Bush

Leak scandal: Bush’s steady drip of lies
Trevor Royle on how history will judge President Bush
Sunday Herald (Glasgow)

Politicians tend to laugh off old sayings about morality, but they can’t ignore the one about everything eventually coming out in the wash. When the history of President Bush’s Iraq policy is written, the biggest and worst revelations will concern the horrid little lies and half-truths that propelled the US into an unnecessary war and persuaded Tony Blair to follow suit.

Ever since the so-called fighting phase of the military operations came to an end three years ago, there has been a steady drip-drip-drip of evidence to show that most of the assumptions that took us to war were either wrong or simply did not exist. There were no weapons of mass destruction, no links with al-Qaeda and no immediate threat. That’s not to say that Saddam Hussein should not have been deposed, far from it. But there is a world of difference between going to war on the grounds of regime change and on dodgy evidence about non-existent weapons. The first could be proved to be justified, the second most certainly not.

So far Bush has managed to ride out the accusations that he took his country into an illegal war. But there is an intriguing whiff of cordite surrounding the latest scandal to hit the White House – the allegation that Bush secretly authorised the leaking of classified documents to punish a CIA officer whose husband was a vociferous opponent of the war in Iraq. What makes the charge credible is the involvement of Lewis “Scooter” Libby, a trusted member of Team Bush who acted as chief of staff to vice-president Dick Cheney.

Like many of those closest to Bush in Washington, Libby thought he was one of the “untouchables”, a team player who always acted in the President’s best interests. However, he flew too close to the sun and last year was indicted on charges which included perjury and obstruction of justice. When that happened, his earlier training came into play and from the outset he showed that he was no patsy but was going to fight his corner. He let it be known that not only was he uneasy about leaking intelligence material, but also that he was acting specifically on Bush’s orders. If that is true, then it follows that Bush personally ordered the release of top secret papers that outed Valerie Plame as a CIA agent, an offence that makes him culpable under US law.....

Nir Rosen on American Troops and the Shia-Sunni Wars

Nir Rosen on American Troops and the Shia-Sunni Wars
The Washington Note

...I am highlighting Rosen's report because I've already heard of dozens of cases from U.S. servicemen who had previously served in Iraq that the language and culture gap between American troops and the Iraqis that they are trying to "protect" and "help" forces dependencies on "gatekeepers" -- particularly English-speaking "translators" -- who are very frequently crooks charging exorbitant fees for their services, spies, thugs attached to organized crime rings, extortionists from Iraqis whom they threaten to expose to Americans, or players in the Shia-Sunni conflict who manipulate American troops to perform executions of their enemies.

This situation is terrible. Those who continue to harp on that we "must stay the course" need to think about this. What does "stay the course" mean when many of our troops are not able to conduct themselves independently of thugs who are terrorizing the very people we are trying to help.....

Friday, April 07, 2006

The Hope of the Web

Volume 53, Number 7 · April 27, 2006

The Hope of the Web

By Bill McKibben
The New York Review of Books
Crashing the Gate: Netroots, Grassroots, and the Rise of People-Powered Politics
by Jerome Armstrong and Markos Moulitsas Zúniga, with a foreword by Simon Rosenberg

Chelsea Green, 216 pp., $25.00


When, less than a decade ago, the Internet emerged as a force in most of our lives, one of the questions people often asked was: Would it prove, like TV, to be a medium mainly for distraction and disengagement? Or would its two-way nature allow it to be a potent instrument for rebuilding connections among people and organizations, possibly even renewing a sense of community? The answer is still not clear— more people use the Web to look at unclothed young women and lose money at poker than for any other purposes. But if you were going to make a case for the Web having an invigorating political effect, you could do worse than point your browser to, which was launched in 2002 by Markos Moulitsas Zúniga.

The site, which draws more than half a million visits each day,[1] has emerged as a meeting place for a great many ordinary people (i.e., not only politicians, journalists, academic experts, issue advocates, or big donors) who want to revive the Democratic Party. Obsessed with developing strategies for defeating Republicans, the site was much involved with the campaign of Howard Dean for the presidential nomination and carrying on his forthright opposition to the Iraq war. Its sophisticated technological structure, assembled by Moulitsas, has allowed its viewers to raise money for favored politicians, rethink and debate issue positions, harass lazy or ideologically biased journalists and commentators, and even help break stories that the mainstream press managed to overlook. In doing so, it has explicitly tried to chart a new future for the Democrats—the subject of the book under review—and implicitly suggested new possibilities for the American political system that might help it break free of the grip of big money. It also raises large questions about the future of journalism. In my view, nothing more interesting has happened in American politics for many years.

The birth of the new movement led by Daily Kos came in 2003 with th unexpected emergence of Howard Dean as a presidential candidate. Since tha campaign provided both the technological and spiritual inspiration of much that cam later, it's important to reconsider what Dean's venture was (and was not) about. It ros in the shadows of the Bush ascendancy in the years following September 11, whe very few people—certainly not presidential candidates with an eye to getting elected—were willing to challenge the White House directly. In that situation, Howar Dean's forthrightness, especially his willingness to strongly oppose the war in Iraq united many people worried that Bush had succeeded in stifling dissent

But it's also important to realize that Dean wasn't particularly liberal. In his years as governor of Vermont he'd earned a reputation as a moderate in social and fiscal policy, addressing health care for children, for instance, but frustrating local activists by refusing to take up a more comprehensive medical plan. Bernie Sanders, the former mayor of Burlington who is now the only independent member of the House of Representatives, is a Vermont liberal. Dean is not. What mattered in Dean's case was his open manner and his willingness to risk making clear statements about Iraq. In their book, Armstrong and Moulitsas—who are widely known on the Internet by their shorthand names Jerome and Kos—retell the story of the campaign's early days, especially Dean's speech to the California Democratic Party in March 2003. He followed the well-known candidates, who trimmed and tacked:
The crowd, a few thousand of the party diehards, was getting a close look at the men seeking the Democratic nod, and not liking what it saw.
And then Howard Dean walked on stage.
"What I want to know is what in the world so many Democrats are doing supporting the President's unilateral intervention in Iraq?"
That brought loud cheers from the delegates.
"What I want to know is what in the world so many Democrats are doing supporting tax cuts which have bankrupted this country and given us the largest deficit in the history of the United States?"
Soon the crowd was chanting "Dean, Dean," and that was before he unleashed his signature line: "I want my country back! We want our country back! I'm tired of being divided! I don't want to listen to the fundamentalist preachers anymore! I want America to look like America, where we are all included....We have a dream. We can only reach the dream if we are all together— black and white, gay and straight, man and woman. America! The Democratic Party!"

The crowd, they write, "was on its feet, the convention hall shaking from audience pandemonium, the speech serving as a liberation of sorts." Party activists "weren't alone in the fight. Not anymore. They had a champion and his name was Howard Dean. The call to arms by Dean was ideologically agnostic, purely partisan." And in that partisanship, it launched a movement that outlasted his ill-fated campaign and is still gathering strength.....

Thursday, April 06, 2006

The Most Dangerous Gulf War

Justin Frank
The Most Dangerous Gulf War
Huffington Post

One "F" word that is not used nearly enough these days is fascism. It was first addressed by a psychoanalyst in 1933 at the dawn of Nazi Germany. There is no doubt in my mind that the US is heading down a road similar to that traveled by the German people and their leaders between 1933 and 1938.
One pre-requisite for fascism is the dominance of mental "splitting" in the minds of the people.

Splitting is the dividing of the world into absolute polarities. All children "split" - it is an essential component of mental development. They need to organize their internal world into us/them and good/bad. They need to keep the green parsley bits from touching the mashed potatoes. Splitting eventually gives way to integration, to accepting complexity, and to taking responsibility for one's wrongdoings.

But there are those of us who stay stuck in a split state of mind. It is true that the capacity to "split" stands one well in athletic competition. The UCLA Bruins were the bad guys to the Florida Gators in the NCAA Championship game April 3. But the players of opposing teams shake hands at the end, and some of them become friends.

This is not the case in current American politics. Members of Congress seem unable to reach across the ever-widening chasm between Democrats and Republicans. That division has become a gulf and is the root of the most dangerous gulf war of all - that between large segments of our population. And it is fanned by unanswered expressions of hatred from the right wing. This is also typical in the rise of fascism. Demonizing becomes the norm and somehow is tolerated by fellow Republicans who simply, for example, turn Tom DeLay into a victim as when Rep. Reynolds (R-NY) said "you won't have Tom Delay to kick around anymore". Demonizing persists and is tolerated even by those who are its wrongful victims. And the longer Democrats continue to tolerate the intolerable; they are giving permission for the demonizers to proceed.

What happens is not only that groups get set one against the other, but also the capacity to perceive becomes compromised; people who split can only see in black and white. They are serious when they say "liberals" are evil. They are not hate-mongering alone, a slur against evil Democrats is experienced as fact by the person making it.

I saw two dramatic examples of both unchallenged and socially supported splitting this past Tuesday, April 4. MSNBC has been running ads for the Tucker Carlson show in which a man says, "Tucker, you've heard about the 'Hate America' tours of Venezuela led by Cindy Sheehan?" If that isn't deliberately fanning flames of hatred I don't know what is. As I recall, Ms. Sheehan wanted to ask President Bush about the "noble cause" for which her son sacrificed his life.

The second incident also fits the fascist profile; Tom Delay said yesterday, "Because I care so deeply about this district and the people in it, I refuse to allow liberal Democrats an opportunity to steal this seat with a negative, personal campaign." What is that statement, if not negative and personal? Another hallmark of fascist thinking is that fascists, even when in power, feel themselves to be the victims. The Republicans control all three branches of government yet act like they are an oppressed minority. And again, they believe it to be a fact.

Living in an us/them world for so long, as Tucker Carlson and Tom Delay have, promotes tunnel vision and hatred of anything outside the range of their narrow-angled eyes. The "other" is to be feared and hated; the factors that unite us get totally dismissed.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

The New New Gore

The New New Gore
Five years ago, Al Gore was the much-mocked pol who blew a gimme with his stiff demeanor and know-it-all style. Today? C’mon, admit it: You like him again.

By Ezra Klein
Issue Date: 04.08.06
The American Prospect

The most important speech of Al Gore’s post–non-presidency was neither well-covered nor particularly dramatic. He delivered it against a plain blue curtain, and when he finished, the applause rippled but never roared. None in attendance, however, would have dared call it boring.

The address was the keynote for the We Media conference, held at the Associated Press headquarters in New York last October and attended by an audience that included both old media luminaries and new media innovators. In attendance were Tom Curley, president of the AP, Andrew Heyward, president of CBS News, and New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, all leading lights of a media establishment that, five years earlier, had deputized itself judge, jury, and executioner for Gore’s 2000 presidential campaign, spinning each day’s events to portray the stolid, capable vice president as a wild exaggerator, ideological chameleon, and total, unforgivable bore.

They must have been wondering what changed. Over the next 48 minutes, Gore laced into the state of the media, lamenting the “systematic decay of the public forum,” and echoing Walter Lippmann’s belief that the propaganda emanating from the press corps was rendering America’s “dogma of democracy” void. Journalism, Gore said, had grown “dysfunctional,” and now “fails to inform the people.”

The speech wasn’t just an isolated blast aimed at wresting some headlines or settling some scores. Gore has long been quietly obsessed with excising the media from the politician-public relationship. That’s been the unifying aim of all his seemingly disconnected ventures since returning to the public eye: a determination to evade, and eventually end, the media’s stranglehold on political communication. Yet few seem to have noticed this campaign, with most observers too caught up in Gore’s old storylines to recognize his new efforts.....

Sunday, April 02, 2006

America's Botched 2003 Iran Diplomacy: No Talks with Evil People in the "Axis"

Steve Clemons:
...In corners of the Pentagon, CIA, State Department and National Security Agency -- as well as in the Office of the President and Vice President, employees of our government -- supported by taxpayers -- are considering bombing and other hard shock scenarios to preempt Iran's acquisition of nuclear weapons. The truth is that we should always have back up plans, hard and soft scenarios, diplomacy backed by resolve. . .all of that.

But it's a real travesty when diplomacy is never really attempted -- and when the force that Cheney's wing of the foreign policy establishment wants applied actually wrecks American objectives, undermines our goals and interests, and frequently gives the thugs that we are trying to confront the legitimacy they need to grow stronger.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Saratoga Spirit

Saratoga Spirit