Saturday, January 10, 2004

Let's All Pretend We Didn't Know Iraq War Was Planned Pre-9/11 

Former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, who I already mentioned here, has got more to say- and as I predicted, is getting precisely the kind of "what a nutcase!" reaction from the right.

The Bush Administration began making plans for an invasion of Iraq, including the use of American troops, within days of President Bush's inauguration in January of 2001 -- not eight months later after the 9/11 attacks, as has been previously reported.

This radically changes the previous perception that the attack of Iraq was planned a whole five hours after 9/11, which was reported by the same network that just said we used to think it was planned 8 months after 9/11:

"CBS News has learned that barely five hours after American Airlines Flight 77 plowed into the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld was telling his aides to come up with plans for striking Iraq — even though there was no evidence linking Saddam Hussein to the attacks."

Or, for that matter, a letter from the Project for a New American Century written to Bill Clinton in 1998 that advocated the exact plan that Bush later adopted "after 9/11".

But an anonymous senior administration official is quoted (this week) as calling the idea that the invasion was planned before 9/11 "laughable." Those guys sure have a great sense of humor.

On "Relief" of the New American Victimhood 

Remember when "Tax Relief" used to be "Tax Cuts"? The language was changed by Karl Rove and the Conservatives. It puts forward the idea that taxes were something Americans needed "relief" from, so that anyone who was against them is pro-suffering under the burden of taxes. The idea that America is a membership society (my proposed counter-meme) is not at all put forward in the idea of "Tax Relief". Membership Society is the idea that, quite simply, we have to pay dues to have our education funded, our roads working, our firemen, our military, and our policemen. Membership Society also immediately asks: What kind of club is America going to be? It is an open question, a question that inspires hope and idealism. It's a question Rove and Bush won't ask.

I'm going to go on a hunch here and try to propose a theory on why Rove's language is so effective with most Americans. It's because it is the language of victimhood. "Relief" from the victimhood of taxes, from a victimhood perpetuated by Rove/Bush. To constantly use the language of victimhood is to remind us of 9/11. To have Bush offer us any kind of relief, is to have him linked to relief on 9/11. While simultaneously upping the pressure of the current (perceived) world situation through use of color coded threat levels, militarized air travel, secrecy, and constant monitoring and suspicion, we are also told that he is the one who "relieves" us of them.

Bush and Rove gave America something it never had before: Victimhood. (Jean Beaudrillard, in "The Spirit of Terrorism", points out that this isn't something we got with Pearl Harbor, which was a purely military attack.) With 9/11, Americans were targets, Americans were victims, and suddenly, America became entitled. Our collective victimhood made it possible to do anything we pleased, even if it is our own self-destruction of our civil liberties (eroded), our financial strength (going out of business), our military capacity (stretched thin) and our moral standing in the world, in regards to the UN and our unilateral, pre-emptive aggression (a Rove word for, literally, "unprovoked", but reframed to "pre-empt" victimhood). None of these are, in any way, actually connected to the events of 9/11. But framed as retaliation, no matter what we do it is done for the sake of "good." We are entitled to our victimhood, because we are good and we are decent. The attacks on Iraq reinforce this- when we see the tanks going to Baghdad, we are told it is good because we are victims. I don't know about you, but I am sick of acting like we're a nation of victims.

This may be hard to understand, but "Americans" are not the target of terrorism. The target of terrorism is American Power and its image of invulnerability, and it is being fought by people who despise that power. To say that it's an attack by oppressed people is one thing; but that's limiting, too. Not every oppressed person becomes a terrorist. Terrorists do not really care about me and you, Osama Bin Laden does not have a personal rolodex with every American's name on it, crossing them off when he "gets one". What terrorists want is to destroy the idea of American power, they want us to feel weak, vulnerable, and afraid. Interestingly enough, this is precisely what Rove uses to keep Bush in power.

Victimhood relieves us of responsibility. We're not responsible for any of the mess we're in anymore- "Osama Bin Laden is". There's an oil spill in France- were terrorists involved? There's a plane crash in New York- was it Osama? The Space Shuttle, floating above the planet, explodes because of a piece of debris hitting the wing, and the media needs to reassure us that it was not Osama. We ask this question because the first thing we want to know about any disaster is if someone else is responsible. But it's time to stop shifting the blame for our own self-destruction onto Osama Bin Laden. Osama is not responsible for low job growth. Osama is not responsible for our inflated deficit. He's not orchestrating earth quakes or mad cow disease; the new flu variant and SARS are independent of him, even though he was our first question, or the first fear eased by reporters and the media culture. When a man pulls a knife on a subway, we say- is it Osama? "Is he linked to Osama?" John Lee Malvo's sniper attacks, the Anthrax mailer, a white supremacist with cyanide in Texas. A boy flies a plane into a bank and we ask, "Is he linked to Osama?" When the answer is no, we sigh a big breath of relief- and then proceed to ignore the social, environmental, and psychological complexities of the actual event that took place.

Michael Moore's Oscar speech said that we lived in fictitious times, with a fictional war led by a fictional president for fictional reasons. I think the reason Bush works for America now- or, I should say, appeals to our basest emotional responses- is because we want to go back to a kind of false reality. In the 90's we had our entertainment, and politics were an extension of that entertainment. Sex scandal soap operas, fictional and irrelevant real estate scandals, the ambitious wife and the successful husband who cheats on her. Those were our politics: the politics of oral sex. When we were hit in the face with 9/11- probably the only death-affirming event to occur on American Soil since the Civil War- we woke up to the world for what it is, we saw something real and we had no idea what to do with it. So Bush gives us a series of new fictions, re-written to look like they are connected to the real image of September 11th. He used it for three years to justify everything imaginable and we went along with it because we wanted to believe in a safe, numb emptiness again, instead of the painful dialogue of death, destruction and responsibility that 9/11 should have launched. Instead, we were handed a reward- told to shop to save America, and we were handed the mythology of a "New American Victimhood."

Inside The White House 

In an excerpt of the book released by CBS, O'Neill said that a lack of real dialogue characterized the Cabinet meetings he attended during the first two years of the administration and gave O'Neill the feeling that Bush "was like a blind man in a roomful of deaf people." O'Neill was also quoted in the book as saying that the administration's decision-making process was so flawed that often top officials had no real sense of what the president wanted them to do, forcing them to act on "little more than hunches about what the president might think." -AP, 01/10/04

Paul O'Neill, so you know, was The Spectacle's Treasury Secretary until he was kicked out for speaking out against Bush's tax cuts. Yes, he's a Republican, and yes, he went to Africa to investigate AIDS with U2's Bono. So, you can expect Republicans to call him a loony liberal. But one thing to keep in mind, is he argued against the tax "relief", and, as we learned today, the number of jobs linked to "the president's 2003 tax cut fell 1.615 million jobs short of its prediction for the year." -Jobwatch

The "War on Terror"  

I was really pleasantly surprised by this article.

It points out that Rove et al decided on the phrase "War on Terror" in order to keep the nation in perpetual war. "Howard Dean begs to differ. In his big foreign policy address a few weeks ago, Dean called for a "global alliance to defeat terror"; he spoke of the "struggle," the "effort," and our "defense" against terror. He urged us to muster courage for the "fight" ahead." Good.

Good because it is an attempt to dissect the language of the right- phrases which have popped out of nowhere, but have been greeted as if we always used them, include the phrase "War On Terror" (which allows us to say, about almost anything, that America works differently during "war time").

Wesley Clark also spoke out pretty strongly today:

"Democratic presidential candidate Wesley Clark said "the two greatest lies" of the last three years were that the Sept. 11 attacks could not have been prevented and that a future attack is inevitable. "If I'm president of the United States, I'm going to take care of the American people," Clark told the Concord Monitor for a story published Friday. "We are not going to have one of these incidents." -AP, 1/09/04

Friday, January 09, 2004

Not That Anyone Cares... 

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell conceded Thursday that despite his assertions to the United Nations last year, he had no "smoking gun" proof of a link between the government of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and terrorists of Al Qaeda. "I have not seen smoking-gun, concrete evidence about the connection," Mr. Powell said, in response to a question at a news conference. - New York Times

"Iraq today harbors a deadly terrorist network, headed by Abu Musaab al-Zarqawi, an associate and collaborator of Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda lieutenants." - February 5th, 2003, to the UN.

It's all in the above article.

New Jersey Joins The Civil Union 

New Jersey is the fifth state to allow Civil Unions "with certain survivor rights, hospital visitation and control of each other's medical decisions." I'm sure Pat Robertson will be letting us know what God thinks.

That makes the sum total: Vermont, Hawaii, Massachusetts, California and New Jersey. We're all waiting, Texas!

Thursday, January 08, 2004

Issue Fog Found On Mars 

Straight from the AP (emphasis mine):

President Bush will announce plans next week to send Americans to Mars and establish a permanent human presence on the moon, senior administration officials said Thursday night. Bush won't propose sending Americans to Mars anytime soon; rather, he envisions preparing for the mission more than a decade from now, one official said.

Just like Bush's immigration reform will go nowhere except for polls, Bush/Rove unveil a new fog that has no actual implications for a Bush term: A space program that doesn't even start until six years after Bush is out of office (if re-elected).

This brings our tally of campaign promises to three:

1. The "Going Out Of Business Sale" Tax Cut (We're closing down and everything must go- we pass the savings on to you!!!)

2. Cheap Mexican Labor as a Voluntary and Literal Secondary Class (Since Americans don't want to clean the toilets at Wal Mart, how about a never-stopping flux of Mexican Immigrants with no guarantee of permanent resident status?)

3. Space Ships- Eventually Space Ships!

I'm Pretty Sure It's Ridiculous 

I swear to God I just got an email from Madonna telling me to support Wesley Clark.

"I've never done this before. But life is about taking risks is it not? I know that people seem to pay attention to everything I do. Big or Small. Ridiculous or Sublime. So I am hoping they pay attention to this: I am supporting General Wesley Clark for President."


"Liberal Elitism" 

The Right-leaning group "Club for Growth" put out an ad recently that goes a little something like this:

An elderly couple is asked what they think of Howard Dean's tax plan and the man responds: "What do I think? Well, I think Howard Dean should take his tax-hiking, government-expanding, latte-drinking, sushi-eating, Volvo-driving, New York Times-reading ...," and the woman continues, "... body-piercing, Hollywood-loving, left-wing freak show back to Vermont where it belongs."

The president of the group says about the ad, "The ad describes a group of "cultural elites" across America who are the ones behind Dean," he said. "But middle-class families with middle-America values, as in Iowa, are going to be very turned off by Dean's economic program." Yes, the ad offers a lot of damning criticism on Dean's "economic program", as you can tell from reading the above transcript.

So eating Sushi and drinking coffee, reading one of the most popular newspapers in the country, watching movies made in Hollywood and having earrings means you're not a folksy American but rather, part of that demonic "cultural elite." But, uh, isn't there far more "conservative elitism" these days than "liberal elitism"?

When religious conservatives say that God is on their side, that morality is on their side, and that those who disagree with them in favor of less dogmatic religious values (or none at all) are incapable of virtue, sinners against God and Christ and therefore, America. Doesn't that carry just a touch of "conservative elitism?"

Pro-business conservatives say that they're on the side of the free market and the ideals of capitalism, while those who are against it ("regulators") are clearly serving a socialist agenda and downright unamerican (while they then go ship jobs overseas and create tax shelters on foreign soil). Isn't that "conservative elitism?"

Or what about the warhawk conservatives, who say that anyone who states the reasons we went to war were false or fabricated are clearly on the side of terrorists, rape rooms, and gassing Kurds- and that "real Americans" support the war? Isn't that "conservative elitism"?

Also, if people (like the NRO) are aware of the fact that right wing columnists AND left wing activists are making the same comparisons of their opponents to Hitler, how can that be evidence of "liberal elitism" if it is not simultaneously "conservative elitism"? Both sides are doing the exact same thing, so how is one evidence of "liberal elitism" and the other not?

But Hell, You Got A DVD Player 

From the New York Times:

"With its rising budget deficit and ballooning trade imbalance, the United States is running up a foreign debt of such record-breaking proportions that it threatens the financial stability of the global economy, according to a report released Wednesday by the International Monetary Fund."

Nevermind that! Tax Cuts! Think of the DVD Player, America! Multidisc, Super Audio CDs...

"...underfunding for Social Security and Medicare will lead to shortages as high as $47 trillion over the next 70 years or nearly 500 percent of the current gross domestic product in the coming decades."

A surround sound system! Dolby Digital!

"...Robert E. Rubin, the former secretary of the Treasury, said that the federal budget was "on an unsustainable path" and that the "scale of the nation's projected budgetary imbalance is now so large that the risk of severe adverse consequences must be taken very seriously, although it is impossible to predict when such consequences may occur."

Close your eyes America, and visualize a flat panel TV in your kitchen...

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Case Closed 

The Washington Post has a five page article which seals the deal: There's no Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, there is no evidence of a credible construction effort, there was no Al-Qaeda link, and most of the evidence cited pre-war is either completely incorrect or completely fabricated.

If that isn't much of a shock to you, then you won't be shocked that America still doesn't care. If catching a bad guy means an inversion of every principle this country was based on, you can be sure to rally the Americans around it by saying he's a threat to every principle this country was based on.

Issue Fog! Bush on Immigration 

Bush would be in favor of less restrictive immigration policies for illegal aliens, provided they had jobs or had notice from an employer saying that they would be hired, and Lou Dobb's head exploded on live TV. It's important to note something in all the brouhaha over Bush's supposedly "liberal" turn.

"Rep. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., House Democratic Caucus chairman and the highest-ranking Hispanic in Congress, said few immigrants would want to participate in the program because they know they will be deported after their term is up. Bush's principles say that "he wants their sweat and labor, but he ultimately doesn't want them," Menendez said. (From the AP) This has something to do with the fact that while the guest stay is for three years, approval for a Green Card usually takes six to ten years:

"Administration officials acknowledge that the wait for a green card could take up to six years or longer, meaning that some guest workers who apply for green cards but do not receive them before their guest worker status expires would face the prospect of being forced to leave the United States. In that case, critics of the proposal said Tuesday night, workers would be better off remaining illegal and staying indefinitely in the United States, rather than revealing themselves to immigration officials when they sign up for a program that may, these critics assert, lead to their deportation." - New York Times

This is not a law. This is a rough outline of the type of laws that Bush would support if drafted. In other words, Bush didn't actually do anything, he's just talking about it, and the law itself is being left for lawmakers to decide on. Republicans- who control the Senate and the House- hate the entire concept of amnesty:

"I'm not for allowing illegals to stay in this country. I think they should have to go back to their home countries." - Rep. Virgil Goode, R-Va.

"It is dangerous to offer additional incentives and rewards for illegal immigration while giving only lip service to border security." - Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo.

"Guest worker' programs and gradual amnesty provide cover for terrorists." - Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas.

Sounds like consensus to me! Here's a theory, if you want it: Bush announces his support for a law that stands no chance of getting passed. It takes an issue away from Democrats, who will likely work against the bill because it means that agricultural and service industries get a steady stream of cheap temp workers (literally, "second class citizens") who are promised absolutely nothing in return. By praising himself for his compassion and attacking Democrats for blocking the proposal on account of "partisanship", Bush has an election spin that steals a Democratic strength for the benefit of moderate votes and makes Dems look bad for fighting it. Then he watches the bill get killed before it ever reaches his desk.

I'm always careful when I hear the word "bipartisan" in an election year. It's not always explicitly linked to issue fog, but it usually means they're getting ready to skewer the other guy. Hark!

"I commend President Bush for this constructive step toward important and, frankly, overdue immigration reform. Congress must work with President Bush in a spirit of bipartisan cooperation to fashion appropriate legislation." - Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

"Bipartisan cooperation" seems to be a Washington Buzzword for "we don't want a debate, so if you try to get one going, we're going to label you as an obstructionist to democracy itself". Orrin Hatch votes yes on school prayer and no on McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform but says "bipartisan" in 10% of his press releases (or at least, in 10% of his google search results.)

Lydon, Krugman, Robbins, Nader, and Dean's Third Party 

Chris Lydon's Three Part Interview with Paul Krugman is available here as a series of MP3's. Chris Lydon asks some great questions about media complacency in regards to the Bush Administration, as well as asking Krugman to take a second look at Ralph Nader's campaign and how the critiques that he was holding up against Washington in 2000 are similar to what is fueling the frustration of the Dean Democrats.

It was an interesting moment, because usually I'm kicking myself for casting a Green Vote in a Red State back in 2000. But I think I, and repentant Greens in general, should have more respect for the ideology that fueled that vote back in 2000. Surely Gore would have been a better President than Bush, and given a world without 9/11 we may have seen Bush's corruption on face value by the time of this election- by which point we would have had a candidate that moved back to the true center of American values, as Howard Dean is.

Howard Dean, it could be said, is the entire reason I voted Green in 2000. Because I was sick of corporate owned candidates with no connection to the American people: I wanted Dean in 2000. Howard Dean couldn't exist today if we slept through a Gore administration, if we settled for Gore and Joe Lieberman. Look at Lieberman today and just think, Democrats in 2000 were supposed to be excited about this guy. When that really sinks in, you might thank me for voting Green; although, I have to say I doubt it. Voting Green changed the face of progressive politics because it made progressive politics exist again. I voted Green to give the wake up call to the Democratic party that Dean has answered.

Tim Robbins, on August 2001, said this on why he voted Green:

"There was a time when I would have said that it is the "evil" Republicans who fear democracy. But the sad realization I have come to after the 2000 election, and after experiencing the reactions to our support for Nader, is that you can count the Democrats in that bunch, too. Not only do they fear democracy but many in the Democratic Party elite fear, if not outright despise, idealism. I have lost a great deal of respect for a party that admonished its progressive wing, that had no tolerance for dissension in its ranks and sought to demonize the most important and influential consumer advocate of the past fifty years. But we shouldn't be surprised. A similar reaction occurred earlier in this century when another leading advocate, Upton Sinclair, was running for governor of California. The power brokers of the Democratic Party did everything they could to isolate him. If they gave any support at all to his candidacy, it was halfhearted, while some even endorsed his Republican opponent, Frank Merriam. And the press? They demonized him, said he was anti-business, said he was an egomaniac. Sound familiar?"

Dean may very well be facing the same critique from the Democratic power structure because Dean is, in fact, a third party "idealism" candidate. He's embraced by some of the old elite either because a) they have realized they must either swim or die or b) he has made idealism into a tangible political asset again. Those who don't, those like Joe Lieberman and John Kerry who reside purely within the corporate-democratic structure, are losing. That's a good thing.

It was a central question during the mid term elections: Can Democrats win seats in the house and senate by playing Bush lite, by not disagreeing with the Republicans but by offering a slight variation on the Republican doctrine? The answer was a resounding no. Dems lost the house and senate that election year; and attempting to run a presidential campaign on the same strategy is not only bad judgment, but it is corrupt to the vast majority of voters who support progressive causes but not Democratic candidates. That is because a lot of Democrats have been afraid to be idealistic. Howard Dean, hopefully, can change that.

Dennis Kucinich's Conceptual Art 

There's no doubt that Dennis Kucinich is sincere in his liberal ideology, and the most liberal candidate of the field. But he's the most liberal in the worst possible sense of the word. But mostly, I simply can't stop imagining him riding into debates on a flying pink unicorn that dies a little bit whenever someone votes for him. So, to save the flying unicorn, Dennis Kucinich has to pull one of these every once in a while.

That's right, he used a pie chart on the radio. The unicorn lives!

"Vote No On Jesus" 

"Today's America should not cater to the bleeding-heart politics of men like Howard Dean and Jesus." -c/o McSweeney's, "A Message From Pat Robertson and the 'Vote No On Jesus' Campaign."

"Worst of all, [Jesus] has gone so far as to challenge the virtue of Operation: Iraqi Freedom. As our brave men and women fight in the trenches for the liberation of the Iraqi people, Jesus has repeatedly denounced our efforts and naively pleaded for a non-violent solution."

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Frothing Right Wing Incoherence Award  

I read this and could not understand a word of what was said.

First off, it starts with the "Dean said Osama isn't guilty" lie. But man, if that's all it did, I wouldn't even mention it. But it then takes Howard Deans assertion that Osama Bin Laden should be tried by a jury- a notion central to the entire concept of American Justice- and uses it to assert that Howard Dean, and the New York Times, would both like to see Osama set free, and that they are somehow also connected to the OJ Simpson trial.

Then, he pulls this gem: Of course, if we had just formed 'civil unions' with the terrorists, maybe a trial would be unnecessary because Osama might not have attacked us in the first place. Good evidence supports this theory: the terrorists did not attack the state of Vermont, the only state allowing civil unions between members of the same sex. Yet Dean would have you believe that given a second term, Bush, the war hawk that he is, might do just that: invade Vermont.

You see, Osama Bin Laden is for gay marriage, and so he spared Vermont from a terrorist attack because of it's culture of inclusion when it comes to homosexuals. But we're getting to my favorite part:

"So what is Dean going to do about the “quagmire” that is his presidential campaign? What is his “exit strategy”? Is his back-up plan to enroll in flight school? After piloting a plane into a building and personally killing thousands of Americans, would Dean, then, have enough evidence to “pronounce” his own guilt?"

Okay, not only is this ridiculous, but it makes no sense even in context. The question is, what will Dean do to get out of his own campaign, and the answer is that he will commit a suicide attack against Americans. Then, after committing suicide he will make a declaration, one way or the other, about his own guilt. Yes, you see, Howard Dean is a terrorist, is the idea of the article. If you missed it, he brings it up again:

But Dean doesn’t have to become a terrorist (although his policies do express a hatred of America that can only be inspired by the Quran); he can convince some of his followers to do it for him. You will get 72 civil unions in heaven.

Did you catch that? I know it was subtle. Dean's policies are based on the Quran, the muslim holy book, and that is why his policies are filled with hate for America. Because the Quran is. Then, keep in mind that the reward that Dean supporters will get when they commit acts of terror against this country is the right to marry thier gay counterparts.

All I can say is, thank god he didn't compare Howard Dean to Hitler, and I am glad that I can count on RNC chairman Ed Gillespie to do something about all this incivility. The article ends with the gem that Dean "feels a special kinship with Osama. Both are leaders of cult followings based on the hatred of America."

Phew! At least he didn't say Dean would win because of the "S" factor. You know, the right really puts the left to shame with its civility.

RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie Wants You To Know Something 

How funny is it when the first thing Ed Gillespie says includes the phrase "political hate speech?" What could have Mr. Gillespie so angry this time?

It would have to be the 7000th inane Hitler = X comparison since 1945. Has there been a single world leader since 1945 who has not had a little moustache painted on his face by some junior agitprop club, left or right?

But in all fairness, it's not like anyone on the right ever compared Clinton to Hitler. Or did it a second time. Or a third time. Or a fourth. Or a fifth time.

The "S" Factor 

I'm linking to The "S" Factor article because it seems to have inspired a frothing mouth across the right side of the blogosphere unparalleled since the day that "some people they have nothing to do with" were allowed the right to marry "other people they don't know" in a state that doesn't hold any of their political viewpoints.

What I love about this article is that it is a meme that would have had no currency if the Right hadn't posted it in their own blogs whilst striking their beloved stance of moral outrage. How dare the news media publish this? How dare the hollywood liberals say something bad about Ronald Reagan! How dare you, America!

I love this because the meme is so compact. The "S" Factor is perhaps the most important poll number in this election. This is perhaps one of the most important pieces of text written so far in this election. It explains why people are able to overlook every piece of information that is readily available to them when it comes to the Rove Passion Play.

Once you read that, you'll understand why it is that things like an unusually high show of support for Dean by college professors is actually a political liability in this country.

Monday, January 05, 2004

Free Speech Zones. Seriously. WTF?  

"When Bush went to the Pittsburgh area on Labor Day 2002, 65-year-old retired steel worker Bill Neel was there to greet him with a sign proclaiming, "The Bush family must surely love the poor, they made so many of us." The local police, at the Secret Service's behest, set up a "designated free-speech zone" on a baseball field surrounded by a chain-link fence a third of a mile from the location of Bush's speech. The police cleared the path of the motorcade of all critical signs, but folks with pro-Bush signs were permitted to line the president's path. Neel refused to go to the designated area and was arrested for disorderly conduct; the police also confiscated his sign."

I am sooooo grateful to all the Christian Fundamentalists and Republicans and terrified NASCAR dads who think that voting for George W Bush is such a great idea, because I was really sick of that old canard that "freedom of speech" didn't have specific "zones" that I had to be in in order to exercise that particular freedom.

Hey, Lou- are we in a free speech zone right now? Cuz I'd really like to say some nasty things about the president.

Sorry Bob. We're outside the free speech zone. I'll tell you what, why don't you write it down, and when we get to the free speech zone, I'll give it a read?

That's a great idea Lou! But you know what, I already forgot what I was gonna say!

Well just as well, Bob- just be grateful that you live in a country where you can say whatever you want whenever you are in an area specifically designated for the purpose of free expression. Some countries don't have that luxury.

Bush 2005 Budget  

You know it's bad news when the first paragraph says that the Bush Administration's new budget for 2005 "will rein in the growth of domestic spending without alienating politically influential constituencies." Don't we even pretend to have ideals about doing the right thing anymore?

"Even with the improving economic outlook, administration officials said, the federal budget deficit in the current fiscal year is likely to exceed last year's deficit of $374 billion, the largest on record."

Remember when Republicans believed in small government? But, as we all know, no one cares about the deficit anymore, and they probably never did. It's too bad, too, because we're really getting fucked:

"Total federal revenues have declined for three consecutive years, apparently the first time that has happened since the early 1920's. But in those years, from 2000 to 2003, total federal spending has increased slightly more than 20 percent, to $2.16 trillion last year."

But don't worry, it won't affect you, unless you're an American Veteran who has to pay for medicine, because you'll now be paying $10.00 when you would have been spending $3.00. I'm sure Bush will find some other way to support the troops- maybe he'll start another war? Or, if you are unemployed, well, remember that stuff Bush said about getting America back to work? Well, sorry, you're taking a hit for the team this year. They're cutting funding to job training programs and employment agencies. Instead, they have made room to fund abstinence programs for teenagers. Because government interference in personal choice is another big Republican ideal, just like big government is this year.

But don't get too worried, everybody: You'll still get a tax cut! Phew! That makes total fiscal sense!

William F. Buckley Jr is Confused, or, Who Is Howard Dean?  

I usually enjoy William F Buckley Jr, as he's one of the more rational and principled Conservatives on the scene today. Long before Fox News was spouting the spin of any Republican that held office, Buckley was analyzing and coming to his own independent justifications for their behaviors, or else taking them to task with a quiet and insightful criticism on how their positions didn't hold water.

Now, I don't expect Buckley, an editor at large for the NRO, to drop party and run because of Bush, but he's recently written a column called Carnivorous Prophets about the current lack of Democratic civility in the primary. In that article, Buckley delivers what I've come to understand will be the usual litany of Conservative (or Lieberman-democrat) mistruths about Howard Dean.

To share time in national forums with the thaumaturgist from Vermont, who with a bright and engaging smile waves his hand eastward and proclaims an end to the problem there by simply shipping our boys home, does two things to the other contenders. They want to say: Stop! stop! stop! The world doesn't work that way! There are terrible, ridiculous complications! etc. etc.

Fine and good, but Dean isn't the candidate asking for immediate withdrawal from Iraq. That's Dennis Kucinich, who frequently takes Dean to task for this. Dean's position, which he reiterated today at the debate, is that we cannot simply withdraw from Iraq and that we will have involvement there for at least a year or two as we work to get the UN to take over the country during its transition to an Iraqi-led government. It is interesting that Dean and Bush differ on only two things in regards to Iraqi policy, and they are: 1. Dean says we shouldn't have started the fight, and 2. Dean says we should get the UN in during the transition instead of doing it entirely ourselves. This difference- which has been the way we've run wars since the UN was founded- is enough to get Dean labeled as a "radical" on foreign policy.

"Their first defense against baby-talk political solutions was to carry on as they did in a half dozen debates. But their frustration has led them to criticize Dr. Dean straight-out, and to enumerate and express contempt for his weaknesses."

But Dean's solutions are not as easy as Buckley seems to think. Most of them involve a rather complicated process, which most people aren't willing to engage in, and which most rightists are thrilled to reduce to thier basest straw man positions before blowing them down with a condescending sigh. Look at Deans confederate flag comments, which were attacked as racist and condescending, and then a similar speech got the Black Commentator magazine to say: "Howard Dean's December 7 speech is the most important statement on race in American politics by a mainstream white politician in nearly 40 years. Nothing remotely comparable has been said by anyone who might become or who has been President of the United States since Lyndon Johnson's June 4, 1965 affirmative action address to the graduating class at Howard University." Of course, the idea that Dean would seek to reach out to Americans that Republicans had netted using racially divisive issues and tactics is not something I would expect even the principled William F Buckley Jr to admit to.

Then there are Dean's comments that Saddam Husseins capture hasn't made America any safer. The attacks on him for that comment have been continuous on the news and by other Democrats. But what is not arguable is this: since we have captured Saddam Hussein, we have lost lives in Iraq, the terror alert has been elevated to Orange, international flights have been grounded out of terrorist fears, armed guards now fly on international flights and visitors from overseas are now fingerprinted and photographed as they enter the country. I, for one, do not feel like these measures are the result of an increased level of safety. Lieberman has presented the idea that Dean's statement would be like saying, in WW2, that the defeat of the Nazis did not make us any safer because we still had the Soviet Union to contend with. But I would argue that his metaphor was backwards. In regards to the overall threat to the United States, our war with Iraq was like a surprise attack on Moscow while the Nazi's invaded France. I think it could be said that even that is generous: Saddam Hussein was a cruel dictator, but he did not have nearly the power or the capacity for havok that the former Soviet Union had.

Next up is Deans comments that Osama Bin Laden deserves a fair trial. Why this was controversial, I will never understand. The entire point of the Democratic process, the entire concept of American Justice, is that individuals are innocent until proven guilty. Howard Dean's affirmation of this fact does not mean that he thinks Osama Bin Laden is innocent. It means that he believes that the American Process should not be undermined or else we will lose our position of high ground and Islamofundamentalists across the world will use it as a recruitment tool, holding us up for our hypocrisy. When Dean later affirmed that he believed Osama should recieve the death penalty when found guilty, he was accused of "flip flopping" on the subject. But I do not understand this either. It seems simple to me: Osama should be given a fair trial, and if found guilty, he should be executed. I don't see the complexity of that, nor so I see it as "political baby talk." It is simply holding up the dearest principle of American Justice.

Let us now get into the domestic details, shall we? Take for example Deans statement that "There is no Bush middle class tax cut." Kerry dismissed this in the debate today by calling them "the tax cuts that Howard Dean doesn't seem to know existed". But what Dean means is simple, and I'll quote from an anti-Dean news story from the AP: "that most people are worse off because college tuition, health care premiums, property taxes and other state and local taxes or fees have gone up by more than Americans have saved under the Bush tax cuts." Is that really so hard to understand? The idea is that if you get rid of Bush's tax "relief" you will have more federal support for other organizations and local government, meaning they'll no longer have to pass the costs directly to the typical American tax payer. Myself, I received $0.00 in Tax cuts from George Bush, literally, and I know that other taxes have gone up. Anyone who reads a newspaper should know that local governments are mostly having huge fiscal shortfalls for schools and other programs, so either you are getting slammed on property taxes or sales taxes or else you are losing something that you had under Bill Clinton. Vermont, by the way, is a notable exception to this, since Dean took the care to develop a rainy day fund to support government programs for just this reason.

Lastly, there is the call for unity on behalf of the Democratic candidates for President. Again, how this got turned into a "controversial" statement is beyond me. But Ironically, we come full circle: read William F Buckley's article on democratic civility, and judge for yourself whether Deans comments were "wild" and "irresponsible."

Howard Dean is a rational centrist with progressive social values and a conservative financial philosophy. If that isn't the best we can ask for in a Democratic Candidate for President, I don't know what is.

[Note: edited on 1/06 to clean up some blogger formatting errors]

Sunday, January 04, 2004

Weekly Blog Round Up 

Self Composed has an entry that asks a question- but doesn't answer the questions- about a very serious breakdown in the line between personal responsibility and the overall good of society, manifesting itself, this time around, in a case of a police officer who was fired for reportedly smoking a cigarette at a party. It has been picked up as an outrage by people in both parties and of both political persuasions. In this case: can a company, or the government, hire and fire employees based on their smoking habits; and what does this mean for a universal health care system?

The answer, of course, is that smokers are a liability to any company that pays out health benefits. But so are people who over eat, and so are people with a genetic predisposition to breast or colon cancer. Are those people eligible for full health coverage? Can they be hired or fired as liabilities? If it is because smoking is a "personal decision," then when do you draw the line between personal decisions and their effects on community-wide responsibility?

I believe that the answer is, simply, that anyone has the right to engage in any behavior they like, so long as it doesn't affect their performance on the job or the safety of others (ie, airline pilots can't get drunk before a flight). So, that being said, I would not advocate a society of personal choice without personal responsibility. We cannot enforce morality and we cannot enforce health. In a public health care system, you could- and should- expect to pay some form of premium or higher tax rate for smokers who need cancer treatments, or nutritionally obese people who get heart attacks. Personal responsibility is essential in any society of free people. Firing people for smoking shouldn't be a right wing pet issue. It should be a left wing issue as well, because personal responsibility, as opposed to government interference in personal decisions, is the meme that justifies pro-choice arguments, gay marriage, and freedom from religion.

In League blogs, check out a couple of others:

Corrente on the "idiot defense" ("I didn't know she was undercover!") of any potential arrests brought out of the Plame Case. They also mention that the Democratic candidates aren't doing a very good job of keeping Plame on the front lines; probably because they're too busy attacking Howard Deans business-as-usual sealing of his governmental records, which is actually a non-issue since a judge is independently determining what records should be opened. Watching the debate today, I have to say, it was one of the best debates yet. Deans end-of-debate performance was remarkable and completely on target (Check out NTodd's post on the subject) But I didn't hear Valerie Plames name come up once.

Steve Gilliard with a related note on the new prosecutor for the Plame case, who has been met with surprise over his tear-the-flesh-from-the-shark-with-his-teeth credentials in spite of not really having them. He's a comfortably independent prosecutor who will do the job within the realm of the law, which is fine by me, as long as the job gets done. He's also got this article, on the new warhawk battle plan for Bush post-04, including the military invasion of Syria and Iran, and "also calls for Saudi Arabia and France to be treated not as allies but as rivals and possibly enemies." I planned on covering that topic eventually, but I haven't, and I don't know why. Maybe because it is precisely the type of topic no one in America cares about simply because it is so overt. Also, ideas are a soft currency for the Bush Administration- they'll throw out something like that, or give subtle signs of a draft reinstatement, and then they'll simply deny it or say "we were just talking about it and made no action in that direction." If Bush starts getting more adverse towards France, it'll be something.

Trish Wilson has a post that only makes the Pirate Wing of the Democratic Party need to rise up once again and fight to bring back the proud seafaring-bandit days of American Commerce. That is to say, she discusses the dusting off of an anti-piracy law against Greenpeace which was otherwise last used in the 1890's, and could lead to a full probationary overview of the organization by a government agent.

Kick the Leftist (fast becoming one of my favorite blogs) has got a scoop on Al Qaida's newest round of boasting, true or not.

Sooner Thought has an even more sarcastic entry than I did on the Robertson announcement that Christ endorsed Bush, and also goes into some detail about how Wes Clark responded.

Echidne has a brief article on the rise of Islamic Sharia Law as an alternative legal system within Canada.

The Religious Right Wants You To Know Something 

The Religious Freedom Coalitions Chairman, William J. Murray, says Howard Dean's absolute mental instability is not funny, but sad. What a compassionate man!

"I was shocked to watch [Dean] at a rally in San Francisco when he growled out loud that he wasn't going to listen to any preachers," Murray recalled in the e-mail. "Then in New Hampshire during an interview on Christmas Day with the Boston Globe, he stated that he would emphasize his Christianity as soon as he began to campaign in the South. What?"

Well, Howard Dean said- and the Bush ad quotes- "I'm not going to listen to the fundamentalist preachers anymore." By fundamentalist preachers you could assume Dean was referring to those who say Liberals and Feminists were to blame for September 11th, or those who advocate against homosexuals and the life of every human being who is not 100% in the tow of the party line for Conservative Religious America. That Murray sees no difference between "preachers" and "fundamentalist preachers" is probably why he sees no difference, later, between "muslims" and "terrorists." It goes on:

At the end of the e-mail, Murray gives a hypothetical scenario where Dean is the Democrat nominee and behind Bush by 15 percent in the polls in October. Then Bush dies running in a marathon and Vice-President Dick Cheney becomes president and decides to run against Dean.

"The Christian right envisions Cheney's lesbian daughter being married to her female lover in the White House, and they just don't vote," Murray envisions. "The Muslims join with the unions, the gays, the socialists and the loony greens to vote Dean in, and we have a madman in the White House in January '05."
(My emphasis added).

Okay, no offense to any God-loving people, but what exactly is wrong with Muslims? I can understand your outright ignorance and well-publicized self-righteousness over homosexuals, and your fear of the socialists stemming from your 20-year-dead cold war against something that only vaguely resembled American socialism, but when you start bashing the religious choice of a group of Americans because of their faith, you are on a whole new level of hating America. Oh, and how great is it that in this scenario, Bush dies while running in a marathon.

Here's some more, including the soon-to-be-famous "But Dean's kids are Jews!" argument:

"The Deans told their children to pick a religion, any religion, and that they would not get involved in their decision one way or the other," Murray lamented. The two children subsequently chose to become Jewish.

The horror, the horror of allowing your children to remain indoctrination free!

Dean himself parted ways with the Episcopal Church in the 1980's "over a dispute about the route of a public bike path through the church property," Murray wrote. "Excuse me? Now, I would leave a church if they ordained female deacons or recruited a homosexual music minister...but a bike path?," exclaimed Murray.

Oh. My. God. "I would leave the church over something as trivial and meaningless as the idea that god only speaks through people of a certain gender, or to protest their sexual choices...but leave a church over the potential environmental impact of the church boards decisions? Wha wha WHAAAA?!?!"

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