Sunday, December 18, 2005

My main objection to Bush's speech

Now, I realize that many of the liberal bloggers will talk about the problems with Bush's speech tonight, and I will no doubt agree with many assessments. They will talk about how Bush was sticking to the "we must stay until victory" stuff despite the overwhelming evidence that his rosy vision of the country is just another example of his selective viewing of the facts. They'll also show many news reports that deny Bush's claims. One thing I suspect they do and will miss is one glaring part of the speech that jumped out of the TV screen at me. The following portion is from the full text of the speech available at ThinkProgress.

"The terrorists do not merely object to American actions in Iraq and elsewhere – they object to our deepest values and our way of life. And if we were not fighting them in Iraq … in Afghanistan … in Southeast Asia … and in other places, the terrorists would not be peaceful citizens – they would be on the offense, and headed our way.
September 11th, 2001 required us to take every emerging threat to our country seriously, and it shattered the illusion that terrorists attack us only after we provoke them. On that day, we were not in Iraq … we were not in Afghanistan … but the terrorists attacked us anyway – and killed nearly 3,000 men, women, and children in our own country. My conviction comes down to this: We do not create terrorism by fighting the terrorists. We invite terrorism by ignoring them. And we will defeat the terrorists by capturing and killing them abroad … removing their safe havens … and strengthening new allies like Iraq and Afghanistan in the fight we share."

Do you see that? Do you see how brazen of a baseline claim he made there? It's not just his claims about Iraq that are erroneous and misleading. His very claim about September 11th is the starting point for this entire mess. He says that "the terrorists" attacked the US on 9/11/01 without provocation. They just attacked us because they're so evil and they hate that we're so good. If we stopped all our military actions, they would still attack us because they're just evil...that's how they roll.

This view right here forgets all history that predates 9/11/01. It misses the obvious fact that 1) we WERE in Iraq before 9/11 and in fact did have a military presence flying over Iraq daily to enforce our arbitrary "no-fly zones" and 2) the US has done many things prior to 9/11 to make people angry enough to design, plan, and execute a highly coordinated activity such as the 9/11 attacks. I shouldn't need to list them, but here's a sample: Iraq (the first time around as well as our support for Saddam Hussein's brutality in the 80's while he was committing his worst crimes), our support for Israel and their violence against Muslims, our military presence in Saudi Arabia, our traning and monetary support for Osama bin Laden and the Mujahideen in Afghanistan (a group that Reagan referred to as "freedom fighters"), and the list goes on.

The attacks on 9/11 were horrible and completely unjustified, but they were NOT unprovoked. The "they started it" defense is not only factually incorrect, it paints us as the innocent superpower that is justified in ANY response it takes to violence. 9/11 wasn't justifiable, and neither was the US invasion of Iraq. Before we will ever hope to see the end of the so-called "war on terror," we must be willing to look in the mirror and see the fault of our previous actions. We must begin to make amends for what we've done and get our house in order. Only then can we begin to talk about (much less undertake) the task of stopping the spread of terrorism around the globe. Only a good faith effort on our part will begin to change the perception that people from other countries have of us.

That and unequivocably stopping anything that could even possibly resemble torture. Repeating the lie "we do not torture" is obviously not working for us. By the way, I'm not advocating that we stop torturing just because it hurts America's image around the world. I think that we should not torture simply because it's wrong. End of story. We should need NO other reason to stop it. The fact that we even have to ask whether our government engages in torture tells me that we've gone too far.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Meet the new COINTELPRO, same as the old COINTELPRO

MSNBC's website headline today was pretty funny .

Seriously though, Bush's defense of his decision to allow the NSA to spy on Americans whenever they want without having to obtain a court order reminded me of the pivotal scene in A Few Good Men where Tom Cruise is examining Jack Nicholson. Nicholson's response is very similar to Bush's defense today: yeah, I did it and I'd do it know you want me to keep doing it. It's the defense of a person so blinded by his/her view of the world the s/he can't see the damage that view has. I have the dialogue from the movie below...I couldn't help but feel some real similarities with the radio address today.

Jessep: You want answers?
Kaffee (Tom Cruise): I think I'm entitled to them.
Jessep: You want answers?
Kaffee: I want the truth!
Jessep: You can't handle the truth! Son, we live in a world that has walls. And those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who's gonna do it? You? You, Lt. Weinberg? I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago and you curse the Marines. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know: that Santiago's death, while tragic, probably saved lives. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives...You don't want the truth. Because deep down, in places you don't talk about at parties, you want me on that wall. You need me on that wall.We use words like honor, code, loyalty...we use these words as the backbone to a life spent defending something. You use 'em as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom I provide, then questions the manner in which I provide it! I'd rather you just said thank you and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon and stand a post. Either way, I don't give a damn what you think you're entitled to!
Kaffee: Did you order the code red?
Jessep: (quietly) I did the job you sent me to do.
Kaffee: Did you order the code red?
Jessep: You're goddamn right I did!!

Saturday, December 10, 2005

I miss Paul Wellstone

Over the past coupla days, I was working on a paper on Paul Wellstone's ads in his 1990 Senate campaign. After reading parts from Wellstone's book and his ad guy's book, I really miss Wellstone. It's a shame that there aren't more people like him in government.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

More on Rove

This evening, Bush will finally have a distraction from the media whirlwind surrounding Karl Rove's improper (and possibly illegal) actions when he announces his nominee for the Supreme Court. All eyes will be on this, so it may take some attention away from Rove. Let's hope not, though. I'm sure that for Bush, the more contentious the nominee, the more attention it takes away from Rove. It's time to see if the media has the ability to focus on two things at the same time. If they don't, the good news is that (as Kos has said) the special prosecutor will not let the Supreme Court nominee distract him from his business.

One thing I wanted to mention about Bush's slight of hand with regards to whether someone will be fired in his Administration. In case you've been living under a rock the past couple days, Bush said, "if someone committed a crime, they will no longer work in my administration." Now many have seen this for what it obviously is, a shameless ploy to wiggle out of Bush's previous statements that anyone involved (in any way) would be fired. I totally agree, he's changing the standard for what it'll take to fire somebody so he doesn't lose Rove. What's interesting, though, is that I just read the cover story of Time's most recent issue (not what Cooper wrote, the other story). It seemed to suggest, based on information from an anonymous source involved with the investigation, that the special prosecutor isn't just focusing on the Intelligence Identities Protection Act. The special prosecutor might also be looking into other crimes, such as perjury or obstruction of justice. This fact might cause Bush's sneaky remarks to come right back and bite him in the ass. If Rove is indicted or convicted of perjury, that's a crime. Bush didn't say how serious the crime has to be, just that if someone committed a crime they would be fired. I would love to see the Bushies try to wiggle themselves out of this one! Either Bush would have to lose Rove, or this becomes the most blatent lie that he has directly told the American people.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

a Rove-an rant

I've become quite amused with the Karl Rove story because it's fun to see the media taking this one seriously for once. It used to be that something comes out about the Bush administration's shadiness, they deny it, and the media lets it go after a day or so. The media is actually following up on it for a couple days. I like that the stonewalling is only piquing the media's interest. It's fun to watch the White House press briefings from the past 3 days. The media is getting frustrated, and they're firing back for once. I don't know if they'll have the stamina to keep this up for a few weeks, but I hope they do.
David Corn has some interesting analysis on this whole debacle. One of his best questions is as follows: "Is it better or worse for the Dems to make a big stink? It does keep the story going. But it has given all the right-wing spinners the opportunity to create a new framework for the story: this is just a partisan smear attack." It's true that the Republicans like to lean on this one as their standard response when Democrats go on the attack, no matter what it the attack is about. I think, however, that the Democrats have a couple good responses to this dilemma. First, some Democrats (John Kerry, Howard Dean, etc.) have made sure to point out that this issue rises above partisan bickering. It goes to the very credibility of the White House. Even if Rove didn't technically break any laws, he acted in a way that tarnishes (even further) the office of the President. That alone deserves a regination or a pink slip. Second, as Tim Russert (of all people) noted a couple days ago on the Today Show, "If this was a Democratic White House, we'd have Congressional hearings in a Second." This response is significant because it highlights the fact that the Republicans' unwillingness to do something about Rove is itself playing politics! The Republicans are doing everything to help their people, and it's making them look bad.
The Republicans have released talking points (scroll down the page for a copy of the talking points) to deflect criticism from Rove to Wilson. They're trying to attack Wilson for being partisan because he found out that documents were forged to drum up support for the invasion of Iraq. These attacks are clearly beside the point. They amount to defending Rove's unethical and potentially illegal action. It's sad. First of all, the Republicans are lying (right now Al Franken is debunking the talking points on his radio show) and taking quotations out of context for their attacks. Second, they are defending potentially criminal activity!
I'm curious about George W. Bush's role in this. There needs to be some accountability in the White House. Now, I know that Dubya isn't great on taking responsibility for mistakes and wrongdoings (recall that Dubya himself could not come up with a single mistake he has ever made aside from trading Sammy Sosa and appointing some people), as many of us on the left know very well, but he clearly said he would take action if someone was found out leaking classified info. Check out David Corn's analysis (link above) that shows Rove did leak classified info. George has said that he is a straight shooter whose word is his bond. He needs to fire Rove, and if he doesn't, Bush himself should be removed from office for his unwillingness to take responsibility or hold those reponsible accountable. Also, what did Bush know about this leak, and when did he know it? If Bush knew what Rove was doing when Rove did it, then Bush would be culpable in this matter as well!! This is the type of questioning the media needs to follow up on. It's not like this was a low-level person who did a leak under the nose of the higher ups in the administration. This is Bush's top advisor!! He's known Rove for almost 20 years! He's gotta know what Rove did, and if he isn't willing to do something about it, then Bush himself should go.
Overall, the media from all over should rachet up the pressure on the White House here. This means talk about it w/ everyone and demand that Karl Rove leave. Now, I expect that even if more and more pressure comes to fire Rove, Bush won't do it. He's got too much invested in Rove to let him go. Besides, it's not like incompetence or wrongdoing have been compelling enough to cause Bush to fire anybody. He values loyalty over competence. History proves this to be true. Alberto Gonzales (torture), Donald Rumsfeld (not enough troop support and lying about wmd), and Condi Rice (ignored "bin laden determined to attack US" memo) have screwed things up during the first 4 years, and they have either kept their job or been promoted to another position. Paul Bremer and George Tenet messed up the war and reconstruction in Iraq, and they got medals of freedom. I expect the same kind of response to Karl Rove. He'll be kept on, and it'll only make them look worse. Goodie gumdrops.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

the meaning of "moral values" or, what would Freud say about Republicans?

I'm sure a lot of us have heard about the statistic that a large chunk of voters who voted for Bush last November voted because of "moral values." I also happen to have heard a number of people on the radical right (including a grad school classmate who shall remain nameless) talk about the need to connect morality to the common voter more extensively than is already being done. You hear it mostly from voices of the religious radical right. They say that we need to get back to moral values because the country is in a moral decline (blah blah blah). This is a very clever discursive trick (for which I'm sure Karl Rove is at least partly to blame) played on the American people. "Moral values" as defined by the radical right doesn't really mean adhering to an ethical standard in all one's actions (be they public or private). It is code for a narrowly defined ideology that divides the world into "us" and "them" for the purposes of passing a specific set of policies that increase governmental power over the individual.

For starters, when the radical right-wing in the United States refers to "morality" or "moral values," they are really only talking about one thing: sex. Think about it, what did Republicans spend most of their time demonizing in Clinton? Monica. Of course there were other things, but the main thing that Republicans spent their time on was Clinton's zipper problem. Almost all of what the radical right considers to be moral issues are merely variations on an attempt to control sexual activity, which is (to some extent) a private matter that should not be the business of the government. Obviously, there is some sexual activity that should be regulated (rape, sexual abuse against children, anything that isn't consentual), but consentual sexual activity between adults is no business of the government, despite the radical right's attempts. Let's go issue by issue. First, Republicans want to eradicate homosexuality from the face of the earth, starting with a Constitutional Amendment to prevent gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered persons from enterring into holy matrimony. It should be obvious that this is an attempt to regulate with whom one may have sex. The radical right ardently pushes "abstinence only" sex education in schools (despite studies that now show that they are counterproductive). They do this while demonizing condom use. This is an attempt to regulate where and when one may have sex. The radical right is dead set on cutting welfare and social programs for poor single mothers. This sounds like punishment for what they would consider promiscuous sexuality (because, as the logic goes, if they would only get a man and marry then they wouldn't be in such dire straits to begin with). Then, of course, there's the radical right's staunch opposition to abortion (despite its tension not only with their position on condoms but also their economic policies). This is an attempt to regulate the consequences of one's "deviant" sexual activity. Oh, and don't forget the right's feigned indignation over the brief exposure of Janet Jackson's breast at the Super Bowl in '04. It would appear that, to paraphrase my dad, "their Freudian slip is showing."

My problem with the radical right's characterization of "moral values" is not just that it betrays a very repressed sexuality that needs serious attention. My main objection is that they focus on sexuality as morality at the expense of other, more pressing moral issues. Many other aspects of our life deal with morality that the religious radical right will not touch. Here I am more than happy to give examples. Poverty is a moral issue (hunger also goes with this). In fact, in comparison to the few verses in the Bible that mention homosexuality (no more than 10 at the most), there are literally thousands of verses in the Bible that talk about the need to fight poverty, both individually and institutionally. Lying is a moral issue, so lying about why American troops need to go to Iraq and die is just as immoral as any of the sexual sins the radical right preaches about ad nauseum. Stealing from people is morally wrong, so CEOs from such companies as Enron and Tyco are wrong. There's even the famous story in the Bible of the tax collector Jesus meets, and that tax collector realizes that he was wrong for stealing from people and gives the money back. Such thievery should be a big deal in our society, but we just shrug and don't get outraged like we would if someone sees two men kissing. Health care is also a moral issue. Did you know that? Jesus says we must care for the "least of these." Not only is that part of the concern for poverty, but it is also for health care. I am convinced that it is of moral concern that we do not have universal health care coverage. I'm sure people can debate about specifics of this coverage until they're blue in the face, but the fact is that it is evidence of our moral failing that we are not concerned about someone else getting sick without the ability to go to a doctor. If we are truly to love one another, shouldn't we agree that we all deserve health care?

The radical right wants to use the power of the government to regulate behavior that is between the individual and God. It is not their place to judge. Jesus also had something to say about this. If we want to talk about morality on a political/social level, fine. It has to include, however, issues that are actually social in nature. How we treat each other is a moral issue. Issues like poverty, hunger, corporate thievery, health care, and others like it are issues of morality. The radical right dismisses these moral issues at their own peril. Many people seem to think that leftist beliefs are inherently in opposition to Christian teachings. Nothing could be further from the truth. I gain my leftist leanings directly from the teachings of Jesus Christ. It's not my fault that Jesus is a liberal.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

buy gas from CITGO

seriously...this is from

Buy Your Gas at Citgo: Join the BUY-cott!
by Jeff Cohen

Looking for an easy way to protest Bush foreign policy week after week? And an easy way to help alleviate global poverty? Buy your gasoline at Citgo stations.
And tell your friends.
Of the top oil producing countries in the world, only one is a democracy with a president who was elected on a platform of using his nation's oil revenue to benefit the poor. The country is Venezuela. The President is Hugo Chavez. Call him "the Anti-Bush."
Citgo is a U.S. refining and marketing firm that is a wholly owned subsidiary of Venezuela's state-owned oil company. Money you pay to Citgo goes primarily to Venezuela -- not Saudi Arabia or the Middle East. There are 14,000 Citgo gas stations in the US. (Click here to find one near you.) By buying your gasoline at Citgo, you are contributing to the billions of dollars that Venezuela's democratic government is using to provide health care, literacy and education, and subsidized food for the majority of Venezuelans.
Instead of using government to help the rich and the corporate, as Bush does, Chavez is using the resources and oil revenue of his government to help the poor in Venezuela. A country with so much oil wealth shouldn't have 60 percent of its people living in poverty, earning less than $2 per day. With a mass movement behind him, Chavez is confronting poverty in Venezuela. That's why large majorities have consistently backed him in democratic elections. And why the Bush administration supported an attempted military coup in 2002 that sought to overthrow Chavez.
So this is the opposite of a boycott. Call it a BUYcott. Spread the word.
Of course, if you can take mass transit or bike or walk to your job, you should do so. And we should all work for political changes that move our country toward a cleaner environment based on renewable energy. The BUYcott is for those of us who don't have a practical alternative to filling up our cars.
So get your gas at Citgo. And help fuel a democratic revolution in Venezuela.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

for those of you with a sense of giving in your heart

One area that we hardly talk about at all with respect to the occupation and control of Iraq is the dire situation that womyn* in Iraq are currently facing. They are especially troubled because not only do they have to worry about the "regular" security issues that you hear about on the news (violence, bombings, raids, etc.) but they also have to worry about other security threats that they face b/c they are womyn (such as kidnappings, rape, pressure to veil, etc.). They played the voices of Iraqi womyn explaining the situation and the way the plight of Iraqi womyn is often buried under what are considered to be more important concerns (setting up an official "figurehead" type of government and then addressing "womyn's" issues later). These issues that fall through the cracks of news coverage and our discussions about the way things are going on in Iraq. I see news coverage on Iraq still leaving out many of the issues that are just as important to the future of Iraq as who runs the country. The fate of over half of the population of the country we destroyed for a few million more barrels of oil will more than likely once again fall through the cracks of the powerful government officials and the major (read corporate) media. I often find myself wondering what we as mere individuals stuck in the throes of the richest country in the world can do to help those who are falling through the cracks as we speak. Sometimes I feel so powerless w/ the way that our political system goes b/c we're told that we should make our voices heard on election day, as if every other day of the year is for us to shut up and deal w/ the crap that those elected (or selected, depending on how you see certain recent election results) by a minority of us dish out. Voter turnout in our elections is usually between 25% and 35%, and a majority of that slim constituancy decides who makes the laws that tell you and me what to do. I feel that we should do more than just go to a voting booth on one day and pick from the handful of people that are set there for us to pick (this isn't to say don't vote, but don't just vote and do nothing else). So, I found a way that you can help the womyn of Iraq without lifting your fanny off your chair in front of your computer (this, of course, depends on if you have to get up to get your wallet/purse). I found the website for the Iraqi Womyn's Rights Coalition, and they have a link so you can donate directly to them online to help them build shelters and provide supplies to help womyn in Iraq forge productive lives for themselves in this uncertain time. I'm sure that however much you would want to donate would be appreciated. Here's the link:

Sorry for sounding preachy. Donate if you want to. Don't if you don't. I just figured that I would provide people the opportunity to help those whose lives our government has destroyed.

*I use "womyn" instead of "woman" or "women" as a discursive attempt to disassociate womyn's identity from that of men. It's a part of Simone De Beauvoir's argument about womyn's identity being seen only in terms of what they aren't (they aren't men, so they're womyn).

no, no to the occupiers

Two full years after the statues toppled in Iraq, tens of thousands of Iraqis took to the streets to protest the continuing occupation of their country by American forces. They want the US out of Iraq, and they want it now...and who can blame them? Bush himself said he wouldn't like being occupied. What's even more interesting than the protests themselves is how the US media is trying to spin them. NBC is basically saying, "keep in mind that they were told to do this by that bad guy, don't really think of this as the will of the Iraqi people. It just means that Al-Sadr is trying to exert his political power to the new government." This excuse is not only wrong (tens of thousands of people taking to the streets to protest the presence of the occupying force is NOT just a shouting cry from the radical cleric--it's the very voice of the Iraqi people!!), but it is dangerously misleading. It's an attempt by the media to prevent an honest discussion of the presence of American soldiers in Iraq two years after they did what they were called to do, beat the crap out of Iraq. They are there longer than they were told they would have to stay. Many of them are still dying, and they're not helping the Iraqi people!! The US's response (of course) is that they aren't leaving until they get the, um...I mean, until it's secure. The problem with this security claim is that the only reason that the insurgents are fighting and making Iraq a dangerous place is because the US is still there!!! Is it that hard to see?!? If the US leaves, then there is no reason for the insurgents to attack people. US and Iraqi lives will continue to be in danger over there until we realize that it's time we left and let them govern on their own. The US government and media are totally unwilling to consider the possibility that we might still be part of the problem in Iraq. Once we consider that possibility, then it'll be much easier to start coming up with real solutions to the violence and crap that's going on over there. I would say the best and easiest solution to the problem is to leave. We need to realize that Iraq is not the US's property, and we have no right to assume that it is or that we can just stick around as long as we are.

The mass media in this country just doesn't get it...

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Bush's approval rating down to 45%

Where were these people in November? Why did they wait until the following March to start disapproving?!?

Monday, March 21, 2005

the hypocrisy is so strong it's baffling

So...let me get this straight. The potential death of one person who has been severly brain damaged for fifteen years is cause for uproar and protest by the right wing in this country, but the deaths of HUNDREDS of THOUSANDS of INNOCENT civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan isn't?

Oh, the sad sad sad sad world in which we live...

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

This Whole Ward Churchill Controversy

I've been watching and reading some of the massive controversy that surrounds Ward Churchill's 3-year old essay on 9/11. I happen to be familiar with a good deal of Ward Churchill's work, having researched his writings vis a vis US policy toward Native Americans for the past 5 centuries or so. He makes a stunningly convincing case for calling what we've done to the Native Americans genocide by going through the official definition of the word and pointing out the 5 areas that constitute what really is genocide.

That being said, I have read the essay, called "Some People Push Back" as well as Churchill's response to the recent criticism. Overall, the essay is very angry and pointed. I agree with an analysis I saw elsewhere that said Churchill could have used a good editor. The essay, however, makes great points about the double standards that we apply to other nations without looking at how they must certainly be applied to us. In many ways, his argument is similar to things that Noam Chomsky and Chalmers Johnson (author of the great book Blowback). So why is Churchill targeted with death threats and not others who have said the same thing? Two words: "little Eichmanns." The corporate media has seized upon those two words like my cat Crouton seizes on a twist tie. Much like the media is known for doing, they have refused to listen to any explanation. The only thing they want is for Churchll to apologize for what the media has taken out of context! The "little Eichmanns" comment was NOT calling victims of 9/11 Nazis, nor was he comparing the two in any way. All you need to do is read Churchill's response. The reference was to a specific piece by Hannah Arendt called "The Banality of Evil." The importance of Eichmann is that while he did not directly kill people, his job was to ensure that the Nazi system ran smoothly. This is like those who are upper class businessfolk whose job it is to see that the capitalist military-industrial complex runs smoothly. This is NOT to say that the victims are like Nazis but that, like the system the Nazis built, the American capitalist system is wrong/bad. Those who actively work to ensure its continued growth and success should not be surprised if some people push back.

Churchill was merely applying Americans to the same standard we hold to the rest of the world. I read the transcript where he was on Paula Zahn's show. It was painful to read the transcript...I can only imagine what it was like to watch the actual exchange. Churchill explained his Eichmanns reference, and Zahn was just like "I wanna go back to what you said...that was bad...shouldn't you apologize?" She kept asking him if he was pro-terrorist. I mean, she was asking him tougher questions than were EVER asked of the Dubya Administration vis a vis WMD! Churchill's comments have become a bigger scandal than the fact that Dubya led us to war based on FALSE DOCUMENTS!!! Double-you Teeee Effffffffff?!?!

Read the pieces linked for yourself if you have not already. It just pains me that we have this predicament where using language some people don't like can get you fired but lying about why thousands of people have to die needlessly doesn't.

Monday, January 31, 2005

and so it begins...

I don't expect many people to see/read this, but if you happen to find this and find it interesting/educational, then my job has been done here. I want to use this for some social, political, or economic commentary that I may have on current events. If you like it or hate it, either way, it's my little self-indulgent cyber-soapbox. I will keep doing it. If you want to engage in debate or add your commentary, please do so. All I ask is that you say something intelligent and well-thought out.

Thanks and enjoy yourself.

oh, and speaking of self-indulgence, help me get a free ipod