Arundhati Roy – We (Video)

October 25, 2006 at 10:50 pm
Contributed by:


It’s not easy to get your head around all that’s happening in the world today, but Indian novelist and activist Arundhati Roy does a very effective job of rounding it up without sacrificing the truth. I think she has a fearless, fair, and balanced view of what’s happening in the world, but it might hurt a little. As she says at the outset of this video, she has a critique of nationalism, and it is also indeed a critique of American foreign policy, particularly toward Israel, but it’s not anti-national, or anti-American, while still remaining sympathetic to the Palestinians. She has her detractors, as dutifully listed in her Wiki, but every revolutionary does, and besides, having a ballyhooed economist call your critique of globalization “shallow” is sort of self-reinforcing, isn’t it? I think she’s got a great message with lots of good food for thought.

Her most recent book is An Ordinary Person’s Guide To Empire. Among her many other books are two that she co-authored with our champion of justice, Noam Chomsky!


I found this video in another blog, While the Earth Burns by Jeremy Kirouac, a hip Canadian cat with a blog that feels like one of GRL’s Canadian brethren. Check it out, there’s a lot of interesting video material there. He says:


This is a ‘must see’ 64 minute documentary film.


In 1997 Arundhati Roy won the Booker Prize for her novel The God of Small Things. In 2004 she was awarded the Sydney Peace Prize.


The film examines the widely unregarded worlds of Anthropology and Geopolitics in a very dynamic manner, and is probably stylistically quite unlike any documentary that you have previously seen.


It covers the world politics of power, war, corporations, deception and exploitation. It is particularly hard hitting when it comes to the United States and western powers in general.


Its unconventional style has proven to be very successful in engaging younger viewers – many of whom find more traditional content dealing with these subjects quite dry and uninteresting. It is almost in the style of a music video, featuring contemporary music (lush, curve, love & rockets, boards of canada, nine inch nails, dead can dance, amon tobin, massive attack, totoise, telepop, placebo and faith less) overlaid with the words of Arundhati Roy, and images of humanity and the world we live in today

–CArundhati
Roy – We (Video)




Home page for this video: http://www.weroy.org/index.shtml


About The Film


“We” is a free documentary produced by an anonymous student in New Zealand. He (or She) goes by the name “anon”. It was released for free on the Internet and first appeared at an Australian web site called resist.com.au. ”


“This is an unusual kind of underground production. An anonymous sympathiser has edited a video recording of Roy’s speech over 64 minutes, interspersing an impressive array of archival footage to illustrate themes and specific historical events. Contemporary music overlaid throughout the piece shifts the mood and quickens the pace. The result is a visual essay rather than a traditional documentary, perfectly suited to its creator’s intentions, which is to spread the anti-imperialist, social justice politics of Arundhati Roy everywhere.”

Feeling the Heat

August 28, 2006 at 3:39 pm
Contributed by: Chris

Here’s another rare, good piece of journalism about peak oil, global warming, and redesigning communities. This is an excellent primer for those who are still getting up to speed on those topics. Highly recommended.
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Welcome (back) to the new GetRealList!

August 4, 2006 at 2:21 am
Contributed by: Chris
Howdy folks,
Well it’s been nearly two years since I last blogged regularly, and it’s high time I got back on my high horse for some high times in the blogosphere. GRL is now sporting a new face (thanks to poddesigns for the new header logo!), on a new version of GeekLog, on a new server, under its own domain name (www.getreallist.com). And along with its new face, it’s got a new mission: educating as many people as possible about the coming energy crunch, and what they can do about it. Never mind the politics, we’ve got a lot of urgent work to do.

The world certainly has changed a lot in the last two years. Peak oil has been covered by many of the mainstream media,
documentaries about global warming and energy and alternative vehicles are out, books about energy are being published at a breakneck pace, and there’s even a peak oil caucus in the House (thanks to Rep. Roscoe Bartlett and Rep. Mark Udall). Many regular folks are starting to wake up and pay attention to where their energy is coming from, and what that means for geopolitics and American foreign policy. The drumbeat has begun!

On the other hand, most of the reportage I’ve seen is either wrong or politically twisted or just badly done (did anybody see that horrible abortion of a production called “We Were Warned: The Coming Oil Crisis” that CNN did back in March?), and full of misinformation and unreasonable projections. Meanwhile, the White House and Congress are still without any plan to wean us off of oil and natural gas and start making serious tracks to a renewable energy future. In fact, right now their biggest objective is to do more offshore drilling on the continental shelf and in ANWR, with renewable energy investment still a pittance. Apparently they still haven’t gotten the message that we can’t drill our way out of this mess.

I hope I don’t need to tell you that time’s a-wastin’. The ASPO (Association for the Study of Peak Oil and
Gas
) is projecting that we’ll reach the global production peak of all oil (including the “unconventional oil” category which
includes tar sands, oil shale, polar oil, and ultra-deepwater oil) around 2010-2011, and it looks as though the peak of “conventional oil” (light sweet and heavy sour crude from on-shore, and offshore drilling in shallow to deep water) was last year.
Meanwhile, at the ASPO Conference in Pisa two weeks ago, Robert Hirsch, co-author the now-famous ‘Hirsch Report‘ on mitigation scenarios for the next 50 years, doubts that the world can keep increasing oil flows for much longer. “CERA sees a long plateau ahead,” he said. “But I can’t find a plateau in the data I’m looking at.” The downturn, when it comes,  would take the world by surprise. “Peaking could come with little warning and sharp declines,” he said. His latest projection? We’ll need to spend a trillion dollars a year for the next 20 years, globally, to come up with adequate substitutes and mitigation plans.
Also at the conference, Chris Skrebowski said we have 1500 days to prepare for the peak..er, make that 1486 days, give or take. Hm, that’s not much time to muster the political and popular support for spending a trillion a year, certainly not at our current rate. So there is still plenty of work for me to do, getting the story straight and educating as many
people as possible about energy. 
This is where you come in.
Please invite your friends and associates to join the GRL mailing list and help me rebuild the readership! Your help will
enable me to start producing some revenue from the blog and establish a basis for some much more ambitious public education projects I am contemplating.
I hope you enjoy the new GRL and its new focus on all things energy. I love to hear from you, so don’t be shy, drop me an email or a headsup on anything you think might be relevant!

Stay tuned, much more to come!

Cheers,

–Chris

Living on the Banks of Denial

July 28, 2005 at 8:47 pm
Contributed by: Chris

It’s been a long time since my last, pre-election blog. I made several false starts at resuming it since then, but the words just weren’t coming. But my reading and learning has continued unabated, and now it’s time to share some thoughts.

But before I get into that, I have to let you know that the time has also come to say goodbye to betterworld.com. It’s a sad development for me personally, but the offer and the timing was right. (It will be sold to a fine and altruistic organization called Better World Books.) I will be moving Better World to a new domain. This blog will be located at http://www.getreallist.com. So they will be offline for a while as I make the transition, and this will probably be my last blog at the current site.

GetRealList will also be taking a few turns. First, it will focus almost exclusively on energy, because my conviction has been steeled that energy is all that matters going forward. Politics, at least in the US, is all but a lost endeavor at this point. The corruption of our leadership and media, and the revolving door between politics and big business, has effectively nullified any real hope for working within the system for change and for the welfare of the common man. This era belongs to the captains of industry, and there’s really no time left to turn the ship around, even if populists did manage to gain some control over it again.

Second, it will be less oriented to disseminating information, and more focused on my opinions. I have learned that those who are willing to do their own research can find the information themselves, and those who aren’t, didn’t read the articles I was sending around anyway.

And finally, it will be a lot less concerned with building consensus, and a lot more about cutting straight to the truth, as I see it.
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A Final Plea To Come To Our Senses

November 1, 2004 at 2:00 pm
Contributed by: Chris

Folks,
As you go to vote today, whatever your party affiliation, I’m begging you to realize the importance of this vote, and the crucial neccesity of putting us back on the right track.

We must, MUST, make a change, and now. This country simply cannot afford to continue in the direction we’re going. We can’t afford it financially, we can’t afford it in our civil relations with the rest of the world, we can’t afford it environmentally, and most of all, we can’t afford it morally.

Here are a few facts, for your consideration:
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The Covert Kingdom: Thy Will be Done, On Earth as It is in Texas

October 21, 2004 at 3:15 pm
Contributed by:

Folks,

Here’s an article related to the last, examining the feelings of Bush-supporting churchgoers. This one ought to be required reading for any liberal heathen.

–C


The Covert Kingdom: Thy Will be Done, On Earth as It is in Texas

by Joe Bageant

25 May 2004

Source: Counterpunch


Not long ago I pulled my car up alongside a tiny wooden church in the woods, a stark white frame box my family built in 1840. And as always, an honest-to-god chill went through me, for the ancestral ghosts presumably hovering over the graves there. From
the wide open front door the Pentecostal preacher’s message echoed from within the plain wooden walls: “Thank you Gawd for giving us strawng leaders like President Bush during this crieeesis. Praise you Lord and guide him in this battle with Satan’s Muslim
armies.” If I had chosen to go back down the road a mile or so to the sprawling new Bible Baptist church – complete with school facilities, professional sound system and in-house television production – I could have heard approximately the same exhortation.
Usually offered at the end of a prayer for sons and daughters of members in the congregation serving in Iraq, it can be heard in any of the thousands upon thousands of praise temples across our republic.

After a lifetime of identity conflict, I have come to accept that, blood-wise, if not politically or spiritually, these are my people. And as a leftist it is very clear to me these days why urban liberals not only fail to understand these people, but do
not even know they exist, other than as some general lump of ignorant, intolerant voters called “the religious right,” or the “Christian Right,” or “neocon Christians.” But until progressives come to understand what these people
read, hear, are told and deeply believe, we cannot understand American politics, much less be effective. Given fundamentalist Christianity’s inherent cultural isolation, it is nearly impossible for most enlightened Americans to imagine, in honest human terms,
what fundamentalist Americans believe, let alone understand why we should all care.

For liberals to examine the current fundamentalist phenomenon in America is accept some hard truths. For starters, we libs are even more embattled than most of us choose to believe. Any significant liberal and progressive support is limited to a few urban
pockets on each coast and along the upper edge of the Midwestern tier states. Most of the rest of the nation, the much vaunted heartland, is the dominion of the conservative and charismatic Christian. Turf-wise, it’s pretty much their country, which is to say
it presently belongs to George W. Bush for some valid reasons. Remember: He did not have to steal the entire election, just a little piece of it in Florida. Evangelical born-again Christians of one stripe or another were then, and are now, 40% of the electorate,
and they support Bush 3-1. And as long as their clergy and their worst instincts tell them to, they will keep on voting for him, or someone like him, regardless of what we view as his arrogant folly and sub-intelligence.

Forget about changing their minds. These
Christians do not read the same books we do, they do not get their information from anything remotely resembling reasonably balanced sources, and in fact, consider even CBS and NBC super-liberal networks of porn and the Devil’s lies. Given how fundamentalists
see the modern world, they may as well be living in Iraq or Syria, with whom they share approximately the same Bronze Age religious tenets. They believe in God, Rumsfeld’s Holy War and their absolute duty as God’s chosen nation to kick Muslim ass up one side
and down the other. In other words, just because millions of Christians appear to be dangerously nuts does not mean they are marginal.

Having been born into a Southern Pentecostal/Baptist family of many generations, and living in this fundamentalist social landscape means that I gaze into the maw of neocon Christianity daily. Hell, sometimes hourly. My brother is a fundamentalist preacher,
as are a couple of my nephews, as were many of my ancestors going back to god-knows-when. My entire family is born-again; their lives are completely focused inside their own religious community, and on the time when Jesus returns to earth – Armageddon and The
Rapture.

Only another liberal born into a fundamentalist clan can understand what a strange, sometimes downright hellish family circumstance it is – how such a family can love you deeply, yet despise everything you believe in, see you as a humanist instrument of
Satan, and still be right there for you when your back goes out or a divorce shatters your life. As a socialist and a half-assed lefty activist, obviously I do not find much conversational fat to chew around the Thanksgiving table. Politically and spiritually,
we may be said to be dire enemies. Love and loathing coexist side by side. There is talk, but no communication. In fact, there are times when it all has science fiction overtonestimes when it seems we are speaking to one another through an unearthly veil, wherein
each party knows it is speaking to an alien. There is a sort of high eerie mental whine in the air. This is the sound of mutually incomprehensible worlds hurtling toward destiny, passing with great psychological friction, obvious to all, yet acknowledged by
none.

Between such times, I wait rather anxiously and strive for change, for relief from what feels like an increased stifling of personal liberty, beauty, art, and self-realization in America. They wait in spooky calmness for Jesus. They believe that, until
Jesus does arrive, our “satanic humanist state and federal legal systems” should be replaced with pure “Biblical Law.” This belief is called Christian Reconstructionism. Though it has always been around in some form, it began expanding rapidly
about 1973, with the publication of R. J. Rushdoony’s, Institutes of Biblical Law (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 1982).

Time out please In a nod toward fairness and tolerance – begging the question of whether liberals are required to tolerate the intolerant – I will say this: Fundamentalists are “good people.” In daily life, they are warm-hearted and generous to
a fault. They live with feet on the ground (albeit with eyes cast heavenward) and with genuine love and concern for their neighbors. After spending 30 years in progressive western cities such as Boulder, Colorado and Eugene, Oregon, I would have to say that
conservative Christians actually do what liberals usually only talk about. They visit the sick and the elderly, give generously of their time and money to help those in need, and put unimaginable amounts of love and energy into their families, even as Pat Robertson
and Rush Limbaugh blare in the background. Their good works extend internationally – were it not for American Christians, there would be little health care on the African continent and other similar places. OK, that’s the best I can do in showing due respect
for the extreme Christian Right. Now to get back to the Christian Reconstructionists…
Establishing a Savage Eden
Christian Reconstruction is blunt stuff, hard and unforgiving as a gravestone.

Capital punishment, central to the Reconstructionist ideal, calls for the death penalty in a wide range of crimes, including abandonment of the faith, blasphemy, heresy, witchcraft, astrology, adultery, sodomy, homosexuality, striking a parent, and ”unchastity
before marriage” (but for women only.) Biblically correct methods of execution include stoning, the sword, hanging, and burning. Stoning is preferred, according to Gary North, the self-styled Reconstructionist economist, because stones are plentiful and cheap.

Biblical Law would also eliminate labor unions, civil rights laws, and public schools. Leading Reconstruction theologian David Chilton declares, “The Christian goal for the world is the universal development of Biblical theocratic republics” Incidentally,
said Republic of Jesus would not only be a legal hell, but an ecological one as well – Reconstructionist doctrine calls for the scrapping of environmental protection of all kinds, because there will be no need for this planet earth once The Rapture occurs.
You may not have heard of Rushdoony or Chilton or North, but taken either separately or together, they have directly and indirectly influenced far more contemporary American minds than Noam Chomsky, Gore Vidal and Howard Zinn combined.

A moreover covert movement, although slightly more public of late, Christian Reconstructionism and Dominionism have for decades exerted one hell of an influence through its scores of books, publications and classes taught in colleges and universities. Over
the past 30 years their doctrine has permeated not only the religious right, but mainstream churches as well, via the charismatic movement. The radical Christian right’s impact on politics and religion in this nation has been massive, with many mainstream churches
pushed rightward by its pervasiveness without even knowing it. Clearly the Methodist church down the street from my house does not understand what it has become. Other mainstream churches with more progressive leadership, simply flinch and bow to the radicals
at every turn. They have to, if they want to retain members these days. Further complicating matters is that leading Recoconstruction thinkers, along with their fellow travelers, the Dominionists, are all but invisible to non-fundamentalist America.

(I will
spare you the agony of the endless doctrinal hair-splitting that comes with making fundamentalist distinctions of any sort – I would not do that to a dog. But if you are disposed toward self-punishment, you can take it upon yourself to learn the differences
between Dominionism, Pretribulationism, Midtribulationism, and Posttribulationism, Premillennialism, Millennialism I recommend the writings of the British author and scholar George Monbiot, who has put the entire maddening scheme of it all together – corporate
implications, governmental and psychological meaning – in a couple of excellent books.)

Fundamentalists such as my family have no idea how thoroughly they have been orchestrated by agenda-driven Christian media and other innovations of the past few decades. They probably would not care now, even if they knew. Like most of their tribe (dare
we say class, in a nation that so vehemently denies it has a class system?) they want to embrace some simple foundational truth that will rationalize all the conflict and confusion of a postmodern world. Some handbook that will neatly explain everything, make
all their difficult decisions for them. And among these classic American citizens, prone toward religious zealotry since the Great Awakening of the 18th Century, what rock could appear more dependable upon which to cling than the infallible Holy Bible? From
there it was a short step for Christian Dominionist leaders to conclude that such magnificent infallibility should be enforced upon all other people, in the same spirit as the Catholic Spanish Conquistadors or the Arab Muslim Moors before them. It’s an old,
old story, a brutal one mankind cannot seem to shake.

Christian Reconstruction and Dominionist strategists make clear in their writings that homeschooling and Christian academies have been and continue to create the Rightist Christian cadres of the future, enabling them to place ever-increasing numbers of believers
in positions of governmental influence. The training of Christian cadres is far more sophisticated than the average liberal realizes. There now stretches a network of dozens of campuses across the nation, each with its strange cultish atmosphere of smiling
Christian pod people, most of them clones of Jerry Fallwell’s Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. But how many outsiders know the depth and specificity of political indoctrination in these schools? For example, Patrick Henry College in Purcellville,
Virginia, a college exclusively for Christian homeschoolers, offers programs in strategic government intelligence, legal training and foreign policy, all with a strict, Bible-based “Christian worldview.” Patrick Henry is so heavily funded by the Christian
right it can offer classes below cost.

In the Bush administration, seven percent of all internships are handed out to Patrick Henry students, along with many others distributed among similar religious rightist colleges. The Bush administration also recruits
from the faculties of these schools, i.e. the appointments of right-wing Christian activist Kay Coles James, former dean of the Pat Robertson School of government, as director of the U.S. office of personnel. What better position than the personnel office from
which to recruit more fundamentalists? Scratch any of these supposed academics and you will find a Christian zealot. I know because I have made the mistake of inviting a few of these folks to cocktail parties. One university department head told me he is moving
to rural Mississippi where he can better recreate the lifestyle of the antebellum South, and its “Confederate Christian values.” It gets real strange real quick.

Lest the these Christians be underestimated, remember that it was their strategists whose “stealth ideology” managed the takeover of the Republican Party in the early 1990s. That takeover now looks mild in light of today’s neocon Christian implantations
in the White House, the Pentagon and the Supreme Court and other federal entities. As much as liberals screech in protest, few understand the depth and breadth of the Rightist Christian takeover underway. They catch the scent but never behold the beast itself.

Yesterday I heard a liberal Washington-based political pundit on NPR say the Radical Christian right’s local and regional political action peak was a past fixture of the Reagan era. I laughed out loud (it was a bitter laugh) and wondered if he had ever driven
20 miles eastward on U.S. Route 50 into the suburbs of Maryland, Virginia or West Virginia. The fellow on NPR was a perfect example of the need for liberal pundits to get their heads out of their asses, get outside the city, quit cruising the Internet and meet
some Americans who do not mirror their own humanist educations and backgrounds.

If they did, they would grasp the importance The Rapture has taken on in American national and international politics. Despite the media’s shallow interpretation of The Rapture’s significance, it is a hell of a lot more than just a couple hundred million
Left Behind books sold. The most significant thing about the Left Behind series is that, although they are classified as “fiction,” most fundamentalist readers I know accept the series as an absolute reality soon coming to a godless
planet near you. It helps to understand that everything is literal in the Fundamentalist voter universe.
I’ll Fly Away, Oh Lordy (But you won’t.)
Yes, when The Rapture comes Christians with the right credentials will fly away. But you and I, dear reader, will probably be among those who suffer a thousand-year plague of boils. So stock up on antibiotics, because according to the “Rapture Index”
it is damned near here. See for yourself at
http://www.raptureready.com. Part gimmick, part fanatical obsession, the index is a compilation of such things as floods, interest rates, oil prices, global turmoil As I write this the index stands at 144, just one
point below critical mass, when people like us will be smitten under a sky filled with deliriously happy naked flying Christians.

But to blow The Rapture off as amusing-if-scary fantasy is not being honest on my part. Cheap glibness has always been my vice, so I must say this: Personally, I’ve lived with The Rapture as the psychologically imprinted backdrop of my entire life. In fact,
my own father believed in it until the day he died, and the last time I saw him alive we talked about The Rapture. And when he asked me, “Will you be saved?” Will you be there with me on Canaan’s shore after The Rapture?” I was forced to feign
belief in it to give a dying man inner solace. But that was the spiritual stuff of families, and living and dying, religion in its rightful place, the way it is supposed to be, personal and intimate – not political. Thus, until the advent of the of the new
radical Christian influence, I’d certainly never heard The Rapture spoken about in the context of a Texan being selected by God to prepare its way.

Now however, this apocalyptic belief, yearning really, drives an American Christian polity in the service of a grave and unnerving agenda. The psuedo-scriptural has become an apocalyptic game plan for earthly political action: To wit, the messiah can only
return to earth after an apocalypse in Israel called Armageddon, which the fundamentalists are promoting with all their power so that The Rapture can take place. The first requirement was establishment of the state of Israel. Done. The next is Israel’s occupation
of the Middle East as a return of its “Biblical lands,” which in the radical Christian scheme of things, means more wars. These Christian conservatives believe peace cannot ever lead to The Rapture, and indeed impedes the 1,000 year Reign of Christ.
So anyone promoting peace is an enemy, a tool of Satan, hence the fundamentalist support for any and all wars Middle Eastern, in which their own kids die a death often viewed by Christian parents as a holy martyrdom of its own kind. “He (or she) died protecting
this country’s Christian values.” One hears it over and over from parents of those killed.

The final scenario of the Rapture has the “saved” Christians settling onto a cloud after the long float upward, from whence they watch a Rambo Jesus wipe out the remnants of the human race. Then in a mop-up operation by God, the Jews are also
annihilated, excepting a few who convert to Christianity. The Messiah returns to earth. End of story. Incidentally, the Muslim version, I was surprised to learn recently, is almost exactly the same, but with Muslims doing the cloud-sitting.

If we are lucky as a nation, this period in American history will be remembered as just another very dark time we managed to get through. Otherwise, one shudders to think of the logical outcome. No wonder the left is depressed. Meanwhile, our best thinkers
on the left ask us to consider our perpetual U.S. imperial war as a fascist, military/corporate war, and indeed it is that too. But tens of millions of hardworking, earnest American Christians see it as far more than that. They see a war against all that is
un-Biblical, the goal of which is complete world conquest, or put in Christian terminology, “dominion.” They will have no less than the “inevitable victory God has promised his new chosen people,” according to the Recon masters of the covert
kingdom. Screw the Jews, they blew their chance. If perpetual war is what it will take, then let it be perpetual. After all, perpetual war is exactly what the Bible promised. Like it or not, this is the reality (or prevailing unreality) with which we are faced.
The 2004 elections, regardless of outcome, will not change that. Nor will it necessarily bring ever-tolerant liberals to openly acknowledge what is truly happening in this country, the thing that has been building for a long, long time – a holy war, a covert
Christian jihad for control of America and the entire world. Millions of Americans are under the spell of an extraordinarily dangerous mass psychosis.

Pardon me, but religious tolerance be damned. Somebody had to say it.

Joe Bageant is a senior editor at the Primedia History Group and writes from Winchester, Virginia. He may be contacted at
bageantjb@netscape.net.

Bush’s Faith-Based Presidency

October 21, 2004 at 5:08 am
Contributed by: Chris

Folks,

This recent article from the New York Times Magazine is one of the most revealing I’ve read about the Bush presidency in a long time. It explains a lot, I think, about why it is so much more secretive than any presidency in recent memory; why the press is so cowed into meek submission in its coverage of the presidency; why Bush seems impervious to facts and intolerant of dissension; and why so many Christian Americans seem to support him unequivocally and unthinkingly. He seems to truly believe that his actions are indistinguishable from God’s will. His is a faith-based presidency, unapologetically out of touch with reality, and firmly resolved to stay that way. This is very sobering stuff. Highly recommended reading.

–C

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Will We Need a New \’All the President\’s Men\’?

October 19, 2004 at 10:56 pm
Contributed by:

Folks,

In this excellent essay on the state of the media, NYT columnist Frank Rich wonders what exactly it will take to break through the wall of near-silence around the Bush administration to bring America the truth it needs, and who among the media, in the face of intimidation and character assassination, would have the guts to do for America what Bob Woodward et. al. did for her during the ultra-secretive Nixon administration…which looks eerily similar to the Bush administration in its regard for, and manipulation of, the truth.

–C


Will We Need a New ‘All the President’s Men’?

Frank Rich

October 17, 2004

The New York Times
Such is the power of movies that the first image “Watergate” brings to mind three decades later is not Richard Nixon so much as the golden duo of Redford and Hoffman riding to the nation’s rescue in “All the President’s Men.” But if our current presidency is now showing symptoms of a precancerous Watergate syndrome – as it is, daily – we have not yet reached that denouement immortalized by Hollywood, in which our scrappy heroes finally bring Nixon to heel in his second term. No, we’re back instead in the earlier reels of his first term, before the criminality of the Watergate break-in, when no one had heard of Woodward and Bernstein. Back then an arrogant and secretive White House, furious at the bad press fueled by an unpopular and mismanaged war, was still flying high as it kneecapped with impunity any reporter or news organization that challenged its tightly enforced message of victory at hand.

It was then that the vice president, Spiro Agnew, scripted by the speechwriter Pat Buchanan, tried to discredit the press as an elite – or, as he spelled it out, “a tiny, enclosed fraternity of privileged men.” It was then that the attorney general, John Mitchell, under the pretext of national security, countenanced wiretaps of Hedrick Smith of The Times and Marvin Kalb of CBS News, as well as a full F.B.I. investigation of CBS’s Daniel Schorr. Today it’s John Ashcroft’s Justice Department, also invoking “national security,” that hopes to seize the phone records of Judith Miller and Philip Shenon of The Times, claiming that what amounts to a virtual wiretap is warranted by articles about Islamic charities and terrorism published nearly three years ago.

“The fundamental right of Americans, through our free press, to penetrate and criticize the workings of our government is under attack as never before,” wrote William Safire last month. When an alumnus of the Nixon White House says our free press is being attacked as “never before,” you listen. What alarms him now are the efforts of Patrick Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor in the Valerie Plame-Robert Novak affair, to threaten reporters at The Times and Time magazine with jail if they don’t reveal their sources. Given that the Times reporter in question (Judith Miller again) didn’t even write an article on the subject under investigation, Mr. Fitzgerald overreaches so far that he’s created a sci-fi plot twist out of Steven Spielberg’s “Minority Report.”

It’s all the scarier for being only one piece in a pattern of media intimidation that’s been building for months now. Once Woodward and Bernstein did start investigating Watergate, Nixon plotted to take economic revenge by siccing the Federal Communications Commission on TV stations owned by The Washington Post’s parent company. The current White House has been practicing pre-emptive media intimidation to match its policy of pre-emptive war. Its F.C.C. chairman, using Janet Jackson’s breast and Howard Stern’s mouth as pretexts, has sufficiently rattled Viacom, which broadcast both of these entertainers’ infractions against “decency,” that its chairman, the self-described “liberal Democrat” Sumner Redstone, abruptly announced his support for the re-election of George W. Bush last month. “I vote for what’s good for Viacom,” he explained, and he meant it. He took this loyalty oath just days after the “60 Minutes” fiasco prompted a full-fledged political witch hunt on Viacom’s CBS News, another Republican target since the Nixon years. Representative Joe Barton, Republican of Texas, has threatened to seek Congressional “safeguards” regulating TV news content and, depending what happens Nov. 2, he may well have the political means to do it.

Viacom is hardly the only media giant cowed by the prospect that this White House might threaten its corporate interests if it gets out of line. Disney’s refusal to release Michael Moore’s partisan “Fahrenheit 9/11” in an election year would smell less if the company applied the same principle to its ABC radio stations, where the equally partisan polemics of Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity are heard every day. Even a low-profile film project in conflict with Bush dogma has spooked the world’s largest media company, Time Warner, proprietor of CNN. Its Warner Brothers, about to release a special DVD of “Three Kings,” David O. Russell’s 1999 movie criticizing the first gulf war, suddenly canceled a planned extra feature, a new Russell documentary criticizing the current war. Whether any of these increasingly craven media combines will stand up to the Bush administration in a constitutional pinch, as Katharine Graham and her Post Company bravely did to the Nixon administration during Watergate, is a proposition that hasn’t been remotely tested yet.

To understand what kind of journalism the Bush administration expects from these companies, you need only look at those that are already its collaborators. Fox News speaks loudly for itself, to the point of posting on its Web site an article by its chief political correspondent containing fictional John Kerry quotes. (After an outcry, it was retracted as “written in jest.”) But Fox is just the tip of the Rupert Murdoch empire. When The New York Post covered the release of the report by the C.I.A.’s chief weapons inspector, Charles Duelfer, it played the story on page 8 and didn’t get to the clause “while no stockpiles of W.M.D. were found in Iraq” until the 16th paragraph. This would be an Onion parody were it not deadly serious.

It’s hard to imagine an operation more insidious than Mr. Murdoch’s, but the Sinclair Broadcast Group may be it. The owner or operator of 62 TV stations nationwide, including affiliates of all four major broadcast networks, this company gets little press scrutiny because it is invisible in New York City, Washington and Los Angeles, where it has no stations. But Sinclair, whose top executives have maxed out as Bush contributors, was first smoked out of the shadows last spring when John McCain called it “unpatriotic” for ordering its eight ABC stations not to broadcast the “Nightline” in which Ted Koppel read the names of the then 721 American casualties in Iraq. This was the day after Paul Wolfowitz had also downsized American casualties by testifying before Congress that they numbered only about 500.

Thanks to Elizabeth Jensen of The Los Angeles Times, who first broke the story last weekend, we now know that Sinclair has grander ambitions for the election. It has ordered all its stations, whose most powerful reach is in swing states like Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania, to broadcast a “news” special featuring a film, “Stolen Honor,” that trashes Mr. Kerry along the lines of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ads. The film’s creator is a man who spent nearly eight years in the employ of Tom Ridge. Sinclair has ordered that it be run in prime time during a specific four nights in late October, when it is likely to be sandwiched in with network hits like “CSI,” “The Apprentice” and “Desperate Housewives.” Democrats are screaming, but don’t expect the Bush apparatchiks at federal agencies to pursue their complaints as if they were as serious as a “wardrobe malfunction.” A more likely outcome is that Sinclair, which already reaches 24 percent of American viewers, will reap the regulatory favors it is seeking to expand that audience in a second Bush term.

Like the Nixon administration before it, the Bush administration arrived at the White House already obsessed with news management and secrecy. Nixon gave fewer press conferences than any president since Hoover; Mr. Bush has given fewer than any in history. Early in the Nixon years, a special National Press Club study concluded that the president had instituted “an unprecedented, government-wide effort to control, restrict and conceal information.” Sound familiar? The current president has seen to it that even future historians won’t get access to papers he wants to hide; he quietly gutted the Presidential Records Act of 1978, the very reform enacted by Congress as a post-Watergate antidote to pathological Nixonian secrecy.

The path of the Bush White House as it has moved from Agnew-style press baiting to outright assault has also followed its antecedent. The Nixon administration’s first legal attack on the press, a year before the Watergate break-in, was its attempt to stop The Times and The Washington Post from publishing the Pentagon Papers, the leaked internal Defense Department history of our failure in Vietnam. Though 9/11 prompted Ari Fleischer’s first effort to warn the media to “watch what they say,” it’s failure in Iraq that has pushed the Bush administration over the edge. It was when Operation Iraqi Freedom was bogged down early on that it spun the fictional saga of Jessica Lynch. It’s when the percentage of Americans who felt it was worth going to war in Iraq fell to 50 percent in the Sept. 2003 Gallup poll, down from 73 that April, that identically worded letters “signed” by different soldiers mysteriously materialized in 11 American newspapers, testifying that security for Iraq’s citizens had been “largely restored.” (As David Greenberg writes in his invaluable “Nixon’s Shadow,” phony letters to news outlets were also a favorite Nixon tactic.) The legal harassment of the press, like the Republican party’s Web-driven efforts to discredit specific journalists even at non-CBS networks, has escalated in direct ratio to the war’s decline in support.

“What you’re seeing on your TV screens,” the president said when minimizing the Iraq insurgency in May, are “the desperate tactics of a hateful few.” Maybe that’s the sunny news that can be found on a Sinclair station. Now, with our election less than three weeks away, the bad news coming out of Iraq everywhere else is a torrent. Reporters at virtually every news organization describe a downward spiral so dangerous that they can’t venture anywhere in Iraq without risking their lives. Last weekend marines spoke openly and by name to Steve Fainaru of The Washington Post about the quagmire they’re witnessing firsthand and its irrelevance to battling Al Qaeda, whose 9/11 attack motivated many of them to enlist in the first place. “Every day you read the articles in the States where it’s like, ‘Oh, it’s getting better and better,” said Lance Cpl. Jonathan Snyder of Gettysburg, Pa. “But when you’re here, you know it’s worse every day.” Another marine, Lance Cpl. Alexander Jones of Ball Ground, Ga., told Mr. Fainaru: “We’re basically proving out that the government is wrong. We’re catching them in a lie.” Asked if he was concerned that he and his buddies might be punished for speaking out, Cpl. Brandon Autin of New Iberia, La., responded: “What are they going to do – send us to Iraq?”

What “they” can do is try to intimidate, harass, discredit and prosecute news organizations that report stories like this. If history is any guide, and the hubris of re-election is tossed into the mix, that harrowing drama can go on for a long time before we get to the feel-good final act of “All the President’s Men.”

© Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

Pronoia

October 19, 2004 at 10:30 pm
Contributed by:

Folks,

“And now for something completely different.” This little poem and screed from astrologer Rob Brezsny seemed somehow strangely appropriate to our current struggle in American politics. I had to share it.

Although I’m not a follower of astrology, as a fellow Cancer, I have found Brezsny’s insights useful and thought-provoking for a long time now. His column, column Free Will Astrology, is always entertaining. He’s also a different breed of astrologer: For example, on his web site under the “Beauty and Truth Lab” section is an essay entitled “America As Empire: Global Leader or Rogue Power?” He’s also a musician with a San Francisco-based band called World Entertainment War, and has written a book called Televisionary Oracle, of which Tom Robbins said “I’VE SEEN THE FUTURE OF AMERICAN LITERATURE AND ITS NAME IS ROB BREZSNY.” If you like his style, I recommend signing up for his free weekly horoscope/newsletter.

–C

THIS IS A PERFECT MOMENT

by Rob Brezsny

THIS IS A PERFECT MOMENT

by Rob Brezsny

This is a perfect moment.

It’s a perfect moment for many reasons, but especially because you and I

are waking up from our sleepwalking thumbsucking dumbclucking

collusion with the masters of illusion and destruction.

Thanks to them, from whom the painful blessings flow, we are waking up.

Their wars and tortures,

their crimes against nature,

extinctions of species

and brand new diseases.

Their spying and lying

in the name of the father,

sterilizing seeds and

trademarking water.

Molestations of god,

celebrations of shame,

stealing our dreams and

changing our names.

Their ingenious commercials

and bloodsucking hustles,

their endless rehearsals

for the end of the world.

Thanks to them, from whom the painful blessings flow, we are waking up.

*

Their painful blessings are cracking open more and more gashes in the
shrunken and crippled mass hallucination that is mistakenly called
“reality.” And through the fractures, ripe eternity is flooding in; news of
the soul’s true home is pouring in; our allies from the other side of the veil
are swarming in: inspiring us to become smarter and wilder and kinder and
trickier.

We are waking up.

As heaven and earth come together, as the dreamtime and daytime
merge, we register the shockingly exhilarating fact that we are in charge–
you and I are in charge–of creating a brand new world. Not in some
distant time or faraway place, but right here and right now.

*

As we stand on this brink, as we dance on this verge, we can’t let the
ruling fools of the dying world sustain their curses. We have to rise up and
fight their insane logic; defy, resist, and prevent their tragic magic;
unleash our sacred rage and supercharge it.

But overthrowing the living dead is not enough. Protesting the well-
dressed monsters is not enough. We can’t afford to be consumed with
our anger; can’t be obsessed and possessed with their danger. Our sweet
animal bodies need love and fertility. Our imaginations crave tastes of
infinity.

In the New World that we are creating, we’ve got to be steeped in lusty
compassion and ecstatic duty, ingenious love and insurrectionary beauty.
We need radical curiosity and reverent pranks, voracious listening and
ferocious thanks.

*

So I’m curious, my fellow creators. Since you and I are in charge of making
a brand New World, where do we begin? What wild truths do we want at
the heart of our transformations? What fresh codes and stories will be our
oracles? What crafty questions and uplifting desires will be our
inspirations?

Here’s where I want to begin: with pronoia. Pronoia is the opposite of
paranoia–the *antidote* for paranoia.

Pronoia is the true theory that all of creation is conspiring to shower you
with blessings.

Pronoia is the guarantee that life always gives you exactly what you need,
exactly when you need it.

Pronoia says that everything alive is working very hard to liberate you
from ignorance and transform you into the gift of love you were born to
be.

*

I am allergic to dogma. I thrive on questions, and don’t trust any idea that
tempts me to believe in it absolutely. There are very few perceptions or
theories about which I am totally certain.

But I am absolutely certain that pronoia describes the way the world
actually is. Pronoia is wetter than water, truer than the facts, and
stronger than death. It smells like cedar smoke in early spring rain, and if
you close your eyes right now, you can feel it shimmering like the aurora
borealis in your soft, warm animal body.

Some Buddhists say the inherent nature of existence is suffering; they
long to escape into Nirvana. Many Catholics say the inherent nature of life
is sinful; they long for the purified peace of heaven. But pronoia assure
us that the inherent nature of life is to liberate us.

Being born on the earth is the highest honor and greatest privilege. To be
alive as human beings gives us the chance to pull off exquisite and
Herculean feats of magic that are not possible in nirvana or heaven or any
other so-called paradise, higher dimension, or better place.

I’m not exaggerating or indulging in poetic metaphor when I say this.
Visualize it if you dare.

The sweet stuff that quenches all of our longing is not far away in some
other time and place. It’s right here and right now.

As Elizabeth Barrett Browning knew, “Earth is crammed with heaven.”

“This Is a Perfect Moment” is an excerpt from:

*PRONOIA Is the Antidote for Paranoia:
How the Whole World Is Conspiring to Shower You with Blessings*
by Rob Brezsny

to be published in early 2005

Didn\’t Know I Was UnAmerican

October 18, 2004 at 10:54 pm
Contributed by:

Folks,

I thought this song and video presentation was worth forwarding, more than most of the stuff that goes around, because it was quietly moving, hopeful, and personal. Check it out.

–C


Didn’t Know I Was UnAmerican

By Ian Rhett

Jon Stewart vs. the Right

October 18, 2004 at 10:45 am
Contributed by:

Folks,

For a long time now, I have called The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, on Comedy Central, “the best political commentary on television.” The “fake news” that that show has brought to the airwaves is often more real than the “real” news, and Stewart’s guests are never more relaxed and candid than in his interviews.

Apparently Stewart’s reputation is growing, and the show has become a formidable force for common sense and getting real in the realm of news and political punditry.

Stewart made the news several times lately. First, for his appearance on The O’Reilly Factor, where O’Reilly repeatedly referred to The Daily Show’s audience as “stoned slackers.” Comedy Central, a bit miffed by this characterization, had Nielson do a little research, and found that viewers of Jon Stewart’s show are more likely to have completed four years of college than people who watch “The O’Reilly Factor.”

(Even better, in a recent CNN-sponsored 6-question quiz about politics, The Daily Show viewers performed better than viewers of both Letterman and Leno. Representin’ Daily Show viewers, I went 6 for 6.)

Then O’Reilly, perhaps in an act of contrition, appeared on The Daily Show. He was as docile as a lamb with Stewart, but given the opportunity, declined to apologize for his slur.

Now Stewart has taken on Tucker Carlson on CNN’s Crossfire. It was an eye-opener of an appearance, where with his trademark disarming humor, Stewart spoke plainly and from the heart, entreating Carlson and his ilk to “stop hurting America.” His choice quote, by popular vote, is “You know what’s interesting, though? You’re as big a dick on your show as you are on any show.” Carlson was speechless.

You can check out some of these clips at the links below. Great stuff. Go, Jon! Go and do what the rest of the “real” news still seems to lack the guts to do: to speak for the rest of us.

–C
Jon Stewart on Crossfire


Jon Stewart on The O’Reilly Factor


Bill O’Reilly on The Daily Show

If you find more downloadable video or transcripts than are listed here, please email me the URLS!

Empire-Building: Domestic and International Consequences

October 17, 2004 at 10:26 pm
Contributed by:

Folks,

Last night I happened to catch a broadcast from an MIT series called
The American Empire Project,
of their MIT Technology and Culture Forum.
It was truly excellent, featuring four of the top minds in America talking
about our pursuit of American Empire, among them Noam Chomsky and Michael Klare, who should be familiar names to GRL readers. The forum covered politics, the war in Iraq, Peak Oil,
the Patriot Act, and many other topics. So I looked it up to share it with you all,
and here you go.

It’s an hour and a half long, so make some coffee or something first.
I know that’s a long time to sit and listen to something online, but it’s WELL worth
your time. Do check it out, and forward to your friends! Click “listen to the webcast” below.

Go to original


Empire-Building: Domestic and International Consequences

Friday, October 8, 2004

An author panel featuring:

Speakers
Noam Chomsky – Institute Professor; Professor of Linguistics: Linguistic Theory, Syntax, Semantics, Philosophy of Language
James Carroll – columnist, Boston Globe; recipient
of the National Book Award for “An American Requiem”
Michael Klare – Professor of Peace and World Security Studies, Hampshire College

Moderator
Amy Goodman- host of “Democracy Now!” and author of The Exception to the Rulers

7:00pm at Trinity Church, Copley Square

Listen to the webcast Requires RealPlayer 8 or later
Download RealPlayer
from Real.com – check the fine print for the Free version.

Co-sponsored with Metropolitan Books

Related reading: the “shortened and slightly adapted” afterword to
Chomsky’s new book, Hegemony
or Survival, America’s Quest for Global
Dominance

–C

Grandma Bubbie

October 17, 2004 at 10:00 pm
Contributed by:

Folks,

Thought you’d appreciate a little political humor break. This animation was forwarded by an alert reader, and I thought it was hilarious.

Grandma Bubbie

Source: National Jewish Democratic Council

–C

News From The Front Lines: WSJ Reporter\’s Email About Iraq

October 12, 2004 at 11:17 pm
Contributed by:

Folks,

These emails from a Wall Street Journal reporter tell a much different story about conditions in Iraq than you may have gathered from the media. “The situation” there is very dangerous, and the prospects for peace and democracy are bleak indeed. There are some startling quotes in here. Check it out.

–C

WSJ reporter Fassihi’s e-mail to friends

Source:PoynterOnline

9/29/2004 2:58:10 PM

From: [Wall Street Journal reporter] Farnaz Fassihi
Subject: From Baghdad

Being a foreign correspondent in Baghdad these days is like being under
virtual house arrest. Forget about the reasons that lured me to this job: a chance to see the world, explore the exotic, meet new people in far away lands, discover their ways and tell stories that could make a difference.

Little by little, day-by-day, being based in Iraq has defied all those reasons. I am house bound. I leave when I have a very good reason to  and a scheduled interview. I avoid going to people’s homes and never  walk in the streets. I can’t go grocery shopping any more, can’t eat in restaurants, can’t strike a conversation with strangers, can’t look for stories, can’t drive in any thing but a full armored car, can’t go to scenes of breaking news stories, can’t be stuck in traffic, can’t speak English outside, can’t take a road trip, can’t say I’m an American, can’t linger at checkpoints, can’t be curious about what people are saying, doing, feeling. And can’t and can’t. There has been one too many close calls, including a car bomb so near our house that it blew out all the windows. So now my most pressing concern every day is not to write a kick-ass story but to stay alive and make sure our Iraqi employees stay alive. In Baghdad I am a security personnel first, a reporter second.

It’s hard to pinpoint when the ‘turning point’ exactly began. Was it  April
when the Fallujah fell out of the grasp of the Americans? Was it when Moqtada and Jish Mahdi declared war on the U.S. military? Was it when
Sadr City, home to ten percent of Iraq’s population, became a nightly battlefield for the Americans? Or was it when the insurgency began
spreading from isolated pockets in the Sunni triangle to include most of Iraq? Despite President Bush’s rosy assessments, Iraq remains a disaster. If under Saddam it was a ‘potential’ threat, under the Americans it has been transformed to ‘imminent and active threat,’ a
foreign policy failure bound to haunt the United States for decades to come.

Iraqis like to call this mess ‘the situation.’ When asked ‘how are thing?’ they reply: ‘the situation is very bad.”

What they mean by situation is this: the Iraqi government doesn’t  control most Iraqi cities, there are several car bombs going off each day around the country killing and injuring scores of innocent people, the
country’s roads are becoming impassable and littered by hundreds of
landmines and explosive devices aimed to kill American soldiers, there are assassinations, kidnappings and beheadings. The situation,  basically, means a raging barbaric guerilla war. In four days, 110 people died and over 300 got injured in Baghdad  alone. The numbers are so shocking that the ministry of health — which was attempting an exercise of public transparency by releasing the numbers — has now stopped disclosing them.

Insurgents now attack Americans 87 times a day.

A friend drove thru the Shiite slum of Sadr City yesterday. He said young men were openly placing improvised explosive devices into the ground. They melt a shallow hole into the asphalt, dig the explosive,  cover it with dirt and put an old tire or plastic can over it to signal to the locals this is booby-trapped. He said on the main roads of Sadr City, there
were a dozen landmines per every ten yards. His  car snaked and swirled to avoid driving over them. Behind the walls sits an angry Iraqi ready to detonate them as soon as an American convoy gets near. This is in Shiite land, the population that was supposed to love America for liberating Iraq.

For journalists the significant turning point came with the wave of abduction and kidnappings. Only two weeks ago we felt safe around  Baghdad because foreigners were being abducted on the roads and  highways between towns. Then came a frantic phone call from a journalist female friend at 11 p.m. telling me two Italian women had  been abducted from their homes in broad daylight. Then the two  Americans, who got beheaded this week and the Brit, were abducted from their homes in a residential neighborhood. They were supplying the entire block with round the clock electricity from their generator to win friends. The abductors grabbed one of them at 6 a.m. when he came  out to switch on the generator; his beheaded body was thrown back near the neighborhoods./CONTINUED BELOW


The insurgency, we are told, is rampant with no signs of calming down.  If any thing, it is growing stronger, organized and more sophisticated  every day. The various elements within it-baathists, criminals, nationalists and Al Qaeda-are cooperating and coordinating.

I went to an emergency meeting for foreign correspondents with the  military and embassy to discuss the kidnappings. We were somberly told  our fate would largely depend on where we were in the kidnapping chain once it was determined we were missing. Here is how it goes: criminal gangs grab you and sell you up to Baathists in Fallujah, who will in turn sell you to Al Qaeda. In turn, cash and weapons flow the other  way from Al Qaeda to the Baathisst to the criminals. My friend Georges, the French journalist snatched on the road to Najaf, has been missing for a month with no word on release or whether he is still alive.

America’s last hope for a quick exit? The Iraqi police and National  Guard
units we are spending billions of dollars to train. The cops are being
murdered by the dozens every day-over 700 to date — and the  insurgents are infiltrating their ranks. The problem is so serious that the U.S. military has allocated $6 million dollars to buy out  30,000 cops they just trained to get rid of them quietly.

As for reconstruction: firstly it’s so unsafe for foreigners to operate that
almost all projects have come to a halt. After two years, of the $18
billion Congress appropriated for Iraq reconstruction only about $1 billion or so has been spent and a chuck has now been reallocated for improving security, a sign of just how bad things are going here.

Oil dreams? Insurgents disrupt oil flow routinely as a result of  sabotage
and oil prices have hit record high of $49 a barrel. Who did this war exactly benefit? Was it worth it? Are we safer  because Saddam is holed up and Al Qaeda is running around in Iraq?

Iraqis say that thanks to America they got freedom in exchange for
insecurity. Guess what? They say they’d take security over freedom any day, even if it means having a dictator ruler.

I heard an educated Iraqi say today that if Saddam Hussein were  allowed to run for elections he would get the majority of the vote. This is truly sad.

Then I went to see an Iraqi scholar this week to talk to him about
elections here. He has been trying to educate the public on the  importance of voting. He said, “President Bush wanted to turn Iraq  into a democracy that would be an example for the Middle East. Forget  about democracy, forget about being a model for the region, we have to  salvage Iraq before all is lost.”

One could argue that Iraq is already lost beyond salvation. For those of us on the ground it’s hard to imagine what if any thing could  salvage it from its violent downward spiral. The genie of terrorism, chaos and mayhem has been unleashed onto this country as a result of American mistakes and it can’t be put back into a bottle.

The Iraqi government is talking about having elections in three months
while half of the country remains a ‘no go zone’-out of the hands of  the
government and the Americans and out of reach of journalists. In  the other half, the disenchanted population is too terrified to show  up at polling stations. The Sunnis have already said they’d boycott  elections, leaving the stage open for polarized government of Kurds  and Shiites that will not be deemed as legitimate and will most  certainly lead to civil war.

I asked a 28-year-old engineer if he and his family would participate  in
the Iraqi elections since it was the first time Iraqis could to  some degree
elect a leadership. His response summed it all: “Go and vote and risk being blown into pieces or followed by the insurgents and murdered for cooperating with the Americans? For what? To practice democracy? Are you joking?”

-Farnaz

> Read more about Farnaz Fassihi and her e-mail from Baghdad

> Go to ROMENESKO for more news about the news business

Get Your War On

October 12, 2004 at 5:03 pm
Contributed by:

Folks,

I’d imagine that most of you have, at one time or another, come across the wicked satire of the comic strip called Get Your War On. The publisher recently put up an RSS feed, so blogs can automagically include links to their new content. I’ve added it as a permanent block to the right hand side of GRL’s Humor section. Check it out.

–C

John Eisenhower: \"Why I will vote for John Kerry for President\"

October 11, 2004 at 7:53 pm
Contributed by:

Folks,

True patriots who are disgusted with the lies and misdeeds of the Bush administration, and its betrayal of traditional Republican values, are coming out of the woodwork to support John Kerry. We’ve had a much-circulated essay by conservative columnist Charley Reese (Vote for a Man, Not a Puppet). Then we saw an excellent essay by Ron Reagan, son of President Ronald Reagan, detailing his case against George Bush (The Case Against George W. Bush). And now we have another son of a revered Republican president following suit: the son of President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Just for laughs, I have included today’s Doonesbury comic, which references this essay. Thanks to an alert reader for forwarding it!

–C


John Eisenhower: Why I will vote for John Kerry for President

By JOHN EISENHOWER

Originally published Sept. 9, 2004.

Source: The Union Leader and New Hampshire Sunday News
The Presidential election to be held this coming Nov. 2 will be one of extraordinary importance to the future of our nation. The outcome will determine whether this country will continue on the same path it has followed for the last 3½ years or whether it will return to a set of core domestic and foreign policy values that have been at the heart of what has made this country great.

Now more than ever, we voters will have to make cool judgments, unencumbered by habits of the past. Experts tell us that we tend to vote as our parents did or as we “always have.” We remained loyal to party labels. We cannot afford that luxury in the election of 2004. There are times when we must break with the past, and I believe this is one of them.

As son of a Republican President, Dwight D. Eisenhower, it is automatically expected by many that I am a Republican. For 50 years, through the election of 2000, I was. With the current administration’s decision to invade Iraq unilaterally, however, I changed my voter registration to independent, and barring some utterly unforeseen development, I intend to vote for the Democratic Presidential candidate, Sen. John Kerry.

The fact is that today’s “Republican” Party is one with which I am totally unfamiliar. To me, the word “Republican” has always been synonymous with the word “responsibility,” which has meant limiting our governmental obligations to those we can afford in human and financial terms. Today’s whopping budget deficit of some $440 billion does not meet that criterion.

Responsibility used to be observed in foreign affairs. That has meant respect for others. America, though recognized as the leader of the community of nations, has always acted as a part of it, not as a maverick separate from that community and at times insulting towards it. Leadership involves setting a direction and building consensus, not viewing other countries as practically devoid of significance. Recent developments indicate that the current Republican Party leadership has confused confident leadership with hubris and arrogance.

In the Middle East crisis of 1991, President George H.W. Bush marshaled world opinion through the United Nations before employing military force to free Kuwait from Saddam Hussein. Through negotiation he arranged for the action to be financed by all the industrialized nations, not just the United States. When Kuwait had been freed, President George H. W. Bush stayed within the United Nations mandate, aware of the dangers of occupying an entire nation.

Today many people are rightly concerned about our precious individual freedoms, our privacy, the basis of our democracy. Of course we must fight terrorism, but have we irresponsibly gone overboard in doing so? I wonder. In 1960, President Eisenhower told the Republican convention, “If ever we put any other value above (our) liberty, and above principle, we shall lose both.” I would appreciate hearing such warnings from the Republican Party of today.

The Republican Party I used to know placed heavy emphasis on fiscal responsibility, which included balancing the budget whenever the state of the economy allowed it to do so. The Eisenhower administration accomplished that difficult task three times during its eight years in office. It did not attain that remarkable achievement by cutting taxes for the rich. Republicans disliked taxes, of course, but the party accepted them as a necessary means of keep the nation’s financial structure sound.

The Republicans used to be deeply concerned for the middle class and small business. Today’s Republican leadership, while not solely accountable for the loss of American jobs, encourages it with its tax code and heads us in the direction of a society of very rich and very poor.

Sen. Kerry, in whom I am willing to place my trust, has demonstrated that he is courageous, sober, competent, and concerned with fighting the dangers associated with the widening socio-economic gap in this country. I will vote for him enthusiastically.

I celebrate, along with other Americans, the diversity of opinion in this country. But let it be based on careful thought. I urge everyone, Republicans and Democrats alike, to avoid voting for a ticket merely because it carries the label of the party of one’s parents or of our own ingrained habits.

John Eisenhower, son of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, served on the White House staff between October 1958 and the end of the Eisenhower administration. From 1961 to 1964 he assisted his father in writing “The White House Years,” his Presidential memoirs. He served as American ambassador to Belgium between 1969 and 1971. He is the author of nine books, largely on military subjects.

Top 10 Secrets They Don\’t Want You to Know About the Debates

September 29, 2004 at 2:50 pm
Contributed by:

Folks,

Not only was the election of 2000 a charade; not only is our current election process fatally flawed; not only has the Help America Vote Act actually worsened the prospects of a free and fair election; not only have all sorts of Republican shenanigans come to light over the last few months, such as immigrant voter registration forms pre-checked with Republican party affiliation, voter intimidation, and voter roll manipulations in key states, not to mention gerrymandering in Texas and elsewhere; but now we have so-called “debates” that are little more than carefully controlled news conferences.

I have to echo Michael Moore: “Dude, Where’s My Country?” Read on.

–C

Connie Rice: Top 10 Secrets They Don’t Want You to Know About the Debates

NPR Commentary: Connie Rice

The Tavis Smiley Show, September 29, 2004

The Tavis Smiley Show, September 29, 2004 · After weeks of political wrangling, Sen. John Kerry and President Bush will square off for the first of three key presidential debates. Both camps have agreed to an elaborate, 32-page contract that spells out everything from the size of the dressing rooms to permitted camera angles.

But the controversy over the debates threatens to overshadow the events themselves. Some citizen groups complain that the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) isn’t as non-partisan as it should be, and that Kerry and Bush won’t be pressed on urban issues. Commentator Connie Rice says that’s just the tip of the iceberg, and she’s got another Top 10 list — this time: Top 10 Secrets They Don’t Want You to Know About the Debates.

(10.) They aren’t debates!

“A debate is a head-to-head, spontaneous, structured argument over the merits of an issue,” Rice says. “Under the ridiculous 32-page contract that reads like the rules for the Miss America Pageant, there will be no candidate-to-candidate questions, no rebuttal to your opponent’s points, no cross questions or cross answers, no rebuttals, no follow-up questions — that’s not a debate, that’s a news conference.”

(9.) The debates were hijacked from the truly independent League of Women Voters in 1986.

“The League of Women Voters ran these debates with an iron hand as open, transparent, non-partisan events from 1976 to 1984,” Rice says. “The men running the major campaigns ended their control when the League defiantly included John Anderson and Ross Perot, and used tough moderators and formats the parties didn’t like. The parties snatched the debates from the League and formed the Commission on Presidential Debates — the CPD — in 1986.”

(8.) The “independent and non-partisan” Commission on Presidential Debates is neither independent nor non-partisan.

“CPD should stand for ‘Cloaking-device for Party Deceptions’ — it is not an independent commission on anything. The CPD is under the total control of the Republican and Democratic parties and by definition bipartisan, not non-partisan. Walter Cronkite called CPD-sponsored debates an ‘unconscionable fraud.'”

(7.) The secretly negotiated debate contract bars Kerry and Bush from any and all other debates for the entire campaign.

“Under what I call the Debate Suppression and Monopolization Clause of the contract, it is illegal for the candidates to debate each other anywhere else during the campaign,” Rice says. “We need a new criminal law for reckless endangerment of democracy.”

(6.) The debate contract effectively excludes all other serious presidential candidates from participating in the debates.

“This is what I call the Obstruction of Democratic Debate Rule, which sets an impossibly high threshold for third-party candidates… Where are we, Russia? Isn’t Vladimir Putin wiping out democracy in Russia by excluding all opposing candidates from the airwaves during his re-election campaigns? Most new ideas come from third parties — they should be in the debates.”

(5.) All members of the studio audience must be certified as “soft” supporters of Bush and Kerry, under selection procedures they approve.

“It’s not enough to rig the debate — they have to rig the audience, too? The contract reads: ‘The debate will take place before a live audience of between 100 and 150 persons who… describe themselves as likely voters who are soft Bush supporters or soft Kerry supporters.’ We should crash this charade and jump up in the middle to declare ourselves hard opponents of this Kabuki dance.”

(4.) These “soft” audience members must “observe in silence.”

“Soft and silent… In what I’m calling the Silence of the Lambs Clause of this absurd contract, the audience may not move, speak, gesture, cough or otherwise show that they are alive and thinking.”

(3.) The “extended discussion” portion of the debate cannot exceed 30 seconds.

“Other than the stupidity of the debate contract, what topic do you know that can be extendedly discussed in 30 seconds?”

(2.) Important issues are locked out by the CPD debate rules and party control.

“Really important but sticky or tough issues get axed, because the parties control the questions and topics,” Rice says. “For example, in 2000, Gore and Bush mentioned the following issues zero times: Child poverty, the drug war, homelessness, working-class families, NAFTA, prisons, corporate crime and corporate welfare.”

(1.) Fortune 100 corporations are the main funders of the CPD-sponsored debates, and the CPD’s co-chairs are corporate lobbyists.

The CPD is run by Frank Fahrenkopf, a pharmaceutical industry lobbyist, and Paul Kirk, a top gambling lobbyist,” Rice says. “And the biggest muliti-national corporations write the checks that fund the CPD — Phillip Morris, Anheuser-Busch and dozens more. The audience may have to be silent and motionless, but the corporate sponsors can have banners, beer tents, Budweiser girls handing out pamphlets protesting beer taxes — a corporate-sponsored circus to go along with the Kabuki Debates. Could we get a more fitting description of our democracy?”

Getting Real About Iraq and the War on Terror

September 24, 2004 at 9:03 am
Contributed by: Chris

Folks,

Today I’m featuring a small selection of the many recent articles about the growing chasm between Bush’s claims about our progress in Iraq and the War on Terror, and the reality.

First, ya gotta love it when one of your heroes appropriates your theme! In his new article, “Let’s Get Real,” Krugman takes on Bush for his happy talk. (As Jon Stewart cleverly pointed out last night, perhaps Bush’s appearance with Iraqi Prime Minister Allawi to promote their successes in Iraq was held in the Rose Garden in order to match the color of Bush’s glasses.)

Next, the Guardian’s Sidney Blumenthal pursues the same theme in “The Hollow World of George Bush.”

Then, from the Los Angeles Times, we have “Violence Belies Positive Picture.”

And finally, from the New York Times, “Kerry Attacks Bush’s Handling of Campaign Against Terror” covers John Kerry’s plans on what to do about it when he’s president. Kerry deserves special recognition for his comments, making it clear that he intends to do something about our deadly embrace with the Saudi royal family. Despite their absymal record as a ruling force, allowing none of the democratic freedoms we take for granted, and despite the fact that most of the 9-11 hijackers were Saudi nationals, and despite the fact that much of al Qaeda’s funding comes indirectly from the Saudi royal family, Bush sees no reason to stop being such cozy bedfellows with them (while simultaneously decrying the “dictators” he has chosen to oppose…wouldn’t you love to hear him explain the logic of splitting that hair?). John Kerry intends to wrestle that bear, and more power to him.

Yes, let’s get real, shall we? Can we dispense now with the hollow claims about Iraq’s success as a democracy? Can we admit to our lack of a winning strategy, let alone an exit strategy? Or are we going to deny right up it to breaking point, like we did in Vietnam? Can we put down our savage pride and start grappling with reality here?

[OK, one more: for a good rundown on the differences between claim and reality in Iraq, try this one: Bush at the U.N.: Sugarcoating Failure]

–C

(more…)

Michael Moore: \"Put Away Your Hankies\"

September 21, 2004 at 11:33 pm
Contributed by:

Folks,

In keeping with my current focus on strong statements from the Left, today’s message from Michael Moore is just what the doctor ordered. Buck up, folks. Get out there and DO something.

–C

Put Away Your Hankies…a message from Michael Moore

September 21, 2004

Dear Friends,


Enough of the handwringing! Enough of the doomsaying! Do I have to come there and personally calm you down? Stop with all the defeatism, OK? Bush IS a goner — IF we all just quit our whining and bellyaching and stop shaking like a bunch of nervous ninnies. Geez, this is embarrassing! The Republicans are laughing at us. Do you ever see them cry, “Oh, it’s all over! We are finished! Bush can’t win! Waaaaaa!”


Hell no. It’s never over for them until the last ballot is shredded. They are never finished — they just keeping moving forward like sharks that never sleep, always pushing, pulling, kicking, blocking, lying.


They are relentless and that is why we secretly admire them — they just simply never, ever give up. Only 30% of the country calls itself “Republican,” yet the Republicans own it all — the White House, both houses of Congress, the Supreme Court and the majority of the governorships. How do you think they’ve been able to pull that off considering they are a minority? It’s because they eat you and me and every other liberal for breakfast and then spend the rest of the day wreaking havoc on the planet.


Look at us — what a bunch of crybabies. Bush gets a bounce after his convention and you would have thought the Germans had run through Poland again. The Bushies are coming, the Bushies are coming! Yes, they caught Kerry asleep on the Swift Boat thing. Yes, they found the frequency in Dan Rather and ran with it. Suddenly it’s like, “THE END IS NEAR! THE SKY IS FALLING!”


No, it is not. If I hear one more person tell me how lousy a candidate Kerry is and how he can’t win… Dammit, of COURSE he’s a lousy candidate — he’s a Democrat, for heavens sake! That party is so pathetic, they even lose the elections they win! What were you expecting, Bruce Springsteen heading up the ticket? Bruce would make a helluva president, but guys like him don’t run — and neither do you or I. People like Kerry run.


Yes, OF COURSE any of us would have run a better, smarter, kick-ass campaign. Of course we would have smacked each and every one of those phony swifty boaty bastards down. But WE are not running for president — Kerry is. So quit complaining and work with what we have. Oprah just gave 300 women a… Pontiac! Did you see any of them frowning and moaning and screaming, “Oh God, NOT a friggin’ Pontiac!” Of course not, they were happy. The Pontiacs all had four wheels, an engine and a gas pedal. You want more than that, well, I can’t help you. I had a Pontiac once and it lasted a good year. And it was a VERY good year.


My friends, it is time for a reality check.


1. The polls are wrong. They are all over the map like diarrhea. On Friday, one poll had Bush 13 points ahead — and another poll had them both tied. There are three reasons why the polls are b.s.: One, they are polling “likely voters.” “Likely” means those who have consistently voted in the past few elections. So that cuts out young people who are voting for the first time and a ton of non-voters who are definitely going to vote in THIS election. Second, they are not polling people who use their cell phone as their primary phone. Again, that means they are not talking to young people. Finally, most of the polls are weighted with too many Republicans, as pollster John Zogby revealed last week. You are being snookered if you believe any of these polls.


2. Kerry has brought in the Clinton A-team. Instead of shunning Clinton (as Gore did), Kerry has decided to not make that mistake.


3. Traveling around the country, as I’ve been doing, I gotta tell ya, there is a hell of a lot of unrest out there. Much of it is not being captured by the mainstream press. But it is simmering and it is real. Do not let those well-produced Bush rallies of angry white people scare you. Turn off the TV! (Except Jon Stewart and Bill Moyers — everything else is just a sugar-coated lie).


4. Conventional wisdom says if the election is decided on “9/11” (the fear of terrorism), Bush wins. But if it is decided on the job we are doing in Iraq, then Bush loses. And folks, that “job,” you might have noticed, has descended into the third level of a hell we used to call Vietnam. There is no way out. It is a full-blown mess of a quagmire and the body bags will sadly only mount higher. Regardless of what Kerry meant by his original war vote, he ain’t the one who sent those kids to their deaths — and Mr. and Mrs. Middle America knows it. Had Bush bothered to show up when he was in the “service” he might have somewhat of a clue as to how to recognize an immoral war that cannot be “won.” All he has delivered to Iraq was that plasticized turkey last Thanksgiving. It is this failure of monumental proportions that is going to cook his goose come this November.


So, do not despair. All is not over. Far from it. The Bush people need you to believe that it is over. They need you to slump back into your easy chair and feel that sick pain in your gut as you contemplate another four years of George W. Bush. They need you to wish we had a candidate who didn’t windsurf and who was just as smart as we were when WE knew Bush was lying about WMD and Saddam planning 9/11. It’s like Karl Rove is hypnotizing you — “Kerry voted for the war…Kerry voted for the war…Kerrrrrryyy vooootted fooooor theeee warrrrrrrrrr…”


Yes…Yes…Yesssss…He did! HE DID! No sense in fighting now…what I need is sleep…sleeep…sleeeeeeppppp…


WAKE UP! The majority are with us! More than half of all Americans are pro-choice, want stronger environmental laws, are appalled that assault weapons are back on the street — and 54% now believe the war is wrong. YOU DON’T EVEN HAVE TO CONVINCE THEM OF ANY OF THIS — YOU JUST HAVE TO GIVE THEM A RAY OF HOPE AND A RIDE TO THE POLLS. CAN YOU DO THAT? WILL YOU DO THAT?


Just for me, please? Buck up. The country is almost back in our hands. Not another negative word until Nov. 3rd! Then you can bitch all you want about how you wish Kerry was still that long-haired kid who once had the courage to stand up for something. Personally, I think that kid is still inside him. Instead of the wailing and gnashing of your teeth, why not hold out a hand to him and help the inner soldier/protester come out and defeat the forces of evil we now so desperately face. Do we have any other choice?


Yours,


Michael Moore
www.michaelmoore.com
mmflint@aol.com

Ron Reagan: \"The Case Against George W. Bush\"

September 20, 2004 at 10:00 pm
Contributed by:

Folks,

This essay by Ron Reagan may be the best argument yet about why we cannot afford to give Dubya another term. It’s a month old now, so maybe you’ve seen it already, but I thought it definitely worth recirculating. It’s eloquent, accurate, and balanced enough for any Republican (or son of a Republican president) to see the peril that this administration has gotten us into. Read it. Ask yourself if it’s not true. And especially, forward it to any non-voters you know, for it is likely in their hands that the outcome of the next election rests.

Dubya’s record is long with lies, and we the people must put a stop to it. They have never admitted a single one of them, even when faced with incontrovertible facts. Instead, they have focused all of their energy on tearing apart John Kerry, as if their four years of failed policy could just be forgotten.
John Kerry may not be the perfect candidate that we’d all like to have, but at least he’s honest, and offers a strong set of realistic policies that can help to turn this country around. With one of the longest and strongest records of anyone in Congress on protecting the environment and the rights and basic needs of our citizens, we know that we can can trust him. Dubya has lied to us about so many things, there should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that he cannot be trusted, and cannot be believed.

Enough with the lies. Enough with the spin. It’s time for the presidency to get real, and join the rest of us.

–C


The Case Against George W. Bush

By Ron Reagan

Esquire

September 2004, Volume 142, Issue 3
It may have been the guy in the hood teetering on the stool, electrodes clamped to his genitals. Or smirking Lynndie England and her leash. Maybe it was the smarmy memos tapped out by soft-fingered lawyers itching to justify such barbarism. The grudging, lunatic retreat of the neocons from their long-standing assertion that Saddam was in cahoots with Osama didn’t hurt. Even the Enron audiotapes and their celebration of craven sociopathy likely played a part. As a result of all these displays and countless smaller ones, you could feel, a couple of months back, as summer spread across the country, the ground shifting beneath your feet. Not unlike that scene in The Day After Tomorrow, then in theaters, in which the giant ice shelf splits asunder, this was more a paradigm shift than anything strictly tectonic. No cataclysmic ice age, admittedly, yet something was in the air, and people were inhaling deeply. I began to get calls from friends whose parents had always voted Republican, “but not this time.” There was the staid Zbigniew Brzezinski on the staid NewsHour with Jim Lehrer sneering at the “Orwellian language” flowing out of the Pentagon. Word spread through the usual channels that old hands from the days of Bush the Elder were quietly (but not too quietly) appalled by his son’s misadventure in Iraq. Suddenly, everywhere you went, a surprising number of folks seemed to have had just about enough of what the Bush administration was dishing out. A fresh age appeared on the horizon, accompanied by the sound of scales falling from people’s eyes. It felt something like a demonstration of that highest of American prerogatives and the most deeply cherished American freedom: dissent.


Oddly, even my father’s funeral contributed. Throughout that long, stately, overtelevised week in early June, items would appear in the newspaper discussing the Republicans’ eagerness to capitalize (subtly, tastefully) on the outpouring of affection for my father and turn it to Bush’s advantage for the fall election. The familiar “Heir to Reagan” puffballs were reinflated and loosed over the proceedings like (subtle, tasteful) Mylar balloons. Predictably, this backfired. People were treated to a side-by-side comparison—Ronald W. Reagan versus George W. Bush—and it’s no surprise who suffered for it. Misty-eyed with nostalgia, people set aside old political gripes for a few days and remembered what friend and foe always conceded to Ronald Reagan: He was damned impressive in the role of leader of the free world. A sign in the crowd, spotted during the slow roll to the Capitol rotunda, seemed to sum up the mood—a portrait of my father and the words NOW THERE WAS A PRESIDENT.


The comparison underscored something important. And the guy on the stool, Lynndie, and her grinning cohorts, they brought the word: The Bush administration can’t be trusted. The parade of Bush officials before various commissions and committees—Paul Wolfowitz, who couldn’t quite remember how many young Americans had been sacrificed on the altar of his ideology; John Ashcroft, lip quivering as, for a delicious, fleeting moment, it looked as if Senator Joe Biden might just come over the table at him—these were a continuing reminder. The Enron creeps, too—a reminder of how certain environments and particular habits of mind can erode common decency. People noticed. A tipping point had been reached. The issue of credibility was back on the table. The L-word was in circulation. Not the tired old bromide liberal. That’s so 1988. No, this time something much more potent: liar.


Politicians will stretch the truth. They’ll exaggerate their accomplishments, paper over their gaffes. Spin has long been the lingua franca of the political realm. But George W. Bush and his administration have taken “normal” mendacity to a startling new level far beyond lies of convenience. On top of the usual massaging of public perception, they traffic in big lies, indulge in any number of symptomatic small lies, and, ultimately, have come to embody dishonesty itself. They are a lie. And people, finally, have started catching on.


None of this, needless to say, guarantees Bush a one-term presidency. The far-right wing of the country—nearly one third of us by some estimates—continues to regard all who refuse to drink the Kool-Aid (liberals, rationalists, Europeans, et cetera) as agents of Satan. Bush could show up on video canoodling with Paris Hilton and still bank their vote. Right-wing talking heads continue painting anyone who fails to genuflect deeply enough as a “hater,” and therefore a nut job, probably a crypto-Islamist car bomber. But these protestations have taken on a hysterical, almost comically desperate tone. It’s one thing to get trashed by Michael Moore. But when Nobel laureates, a vast majority of the scientific community, and a host of current and former diplomats, intelligence operatives, and military officials line up against you, it becomes increasingly difficult to characterize the opposition as fringe wackos.


Does anyone really favor an administration that so shamelessly lies? One that so tenaciously clings to secrecy, not to protect the American people, but to protect itself? That so willfully misrepresents its true aims and so knowingly misleads the people from whom it derives its power? I simply cannot think so. And to come to the same conclusion does not make you guilty of swallowing some liberal critique of the Bush presidency, because that’s not what this is. This is the critique of a person who thinks that lying at the top levels of his government is abhorrent. Call it the honest guy’s critique of George W. Bush.




THE MOST EGREGIOUS EXAMPLES OF distortion and misdirection—which the administration even now cannot bring itself to repudiate—involve our putative “War on Terror” and our subsequent foray into Iraq.

During his campaign for the presidency, Mr. Bush pledged a more “humble” foreign policy. “I would take the use of force very seriously,” he said. “I would be guarded in my approach.” Other countries would resent us “if we’re an arrogant nation.” He sniffed at the notion of “nation building.” “Our military is meant to fight and win wars. . . . And when it gets overextended, morale drops.” International cooperation and consensus building would be the cornerstone of a Bush administration’s approach to the larger world. Given candidate Bush’s remarks, it was hard to imagine him, as president, flipping a stiff middle finger at the world and charging off adventuring in the Middle East.


But didn’t 9/11 reshuffle the deck, changing everything? Didn’t Mr. Bush, on September 12, 2001, awaken to the fresh realization that bad guys in charge of Islamic nations constitute an entirely new and grave threat to us and have to be ruthlessly confronted lest they threaten the American homeland again? Wasn’t Saddam Hussein rushed to the front of the line because he was complicit with the hijackers and in some measure responsible for the atrocities in Washington, D. C., and at the tip of Manhattan?


Well, no.


As Bush’s former Treasury secretary, Paul O’Neill, and his onetime “terror czar,” Richard A. Clarke, have made clear, the president, with the enthusiastic encouragement of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz, was contemplating action against Iraq from day one. “From the start, we were building the case against Hussein and looking at how we could take him out,” O’Neill said. All they needed was an excuse. Clarke got the same impression from within the White House. Afghanistan had to be dealt with first; that’s where the actual perpetrators were, after all. But the Taliban was a mere appetizer; Saddam was the entrée. (Or who knows? The soup course?) It was simply a matter of convincing the American public (and our representatives) that war was justified.


The real—but elusive—prime mover behind the 9/11 attacks, Osama bin Laden, was quickly relegated to a back burner (a staff member at Fox News—the cable-TV outlet of the Bush White House—told me a year ago that mere mention of bin Laden’s name was forbidden within the company, lest we be reminded that the actual bad guy remained at large) while Saddam’s Iraq became International Enemy Number One. Just like that, a country whose economy had been reduced to shambles by international sanctions, whose military was less than half the size it had been when the U. S. Army rolled over it during the first Gulf war, that had extensive no-flight zones imposed on it in the north and south as well as constant aerial and satellite surveillance, and whose lethal weapons and capacity to produce such weapons had been destroyed or seriously degraded by UN inspection teams became, in Mr. Bush’s words, “a threat of unique urgency” to the most powerful nation on earth.


Fanciful but terrifying scenarios were introduced: Unmanned aircraft, drones, had been built for missions targeting the U. S., Bush told the nation. “We don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud,” National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice deadpanned to CNN. And, Bush maintained, “Iraq could decide on any given day to provide a biological or chemical weapon to a terrorist group or individual terrorists.” We “know” Iraq possesses such weapons, Rumsfeld and Vice-President Cheney assured us. We even “know” where they are hidden. After several months of this mumbo jumbo, 70 percent of Americans had embraced the fantasy that Saddam destroyed the World Trade Center.




ALL THESE ASSERTIONS have proved to be baseless and, we’ve since discovered, were regarded with skepticism by experts at the time they were made. But contrary opinions were derided, ignored, or covered up in the rush to war. Even as of this writing, Dick Cheney clings to his mad assertion that Saddam was somehow at the nexus of a worldwide terror network.


And then there was Abu Ghraib. Our “war president” may have been justified in his assumption that Americans are a warrior people. He pushed the envelope in thinking we’d be content as an occupying power, but he was sadly mistaken if he thought that ordinary Americans would tolerate an image of themselves as torturers. To be fair, the torture was meant to be secret. So were the memos justifying such treatment that had floated around the White House, Pentagon, and Justice Department for more than a year before the first photos came to light. The neocons no doubt appreciate that few of us have the stones to practice the New Warfare. Could you slip a pair of women’s panties over the head of a naked, cowering stranger while forcing him to masturbate? What would you say while sodomizing him with a toilet plunger? Is keeping someone awake till he hallucinates inhumane treatment or merely “sleep management”?

Most of us know the answers to these questions, so it was incumbent upon the administration to pretend that Abu Ghraib was an aberration, not policy. Investigations, we were assured, were already under way; relevant bureaucracies would offer unstinting cooperation; the handful of miscreants would be sternly disciplined. After all, they didn’t “represent the best of what America’s all about.” As anyone who’d watched the proceedings of the 9/11 Commission could have predicted, what followed was the usual administration strategy of stonewalling, obstruction, and obfuscation. The appointment of investigators was stalled; documents were withheld, including the full report by Major General Antonio Taguba, who headed the Army’s primary investigation into the abuses at Abu Ghraib. A favorite moment for many featured John McCain growing apoplectic as Donald Rumsfeld and an entire tableful of army brass proved unable to answer the simple question Who was in charge at Abu Ghraib?


The Bush administration no doubt had its real reasons for invading and occupying Iraq. They’ve simply chosen not to share them with the American public. They sought justification for ignoring the Geneva Convention and other statutes prohibiting torture and inhumane treatment of prisoners but were loath to acknowledge as much. They may have ideas worth discussing, but they don’t welcome the rest of us in the conversation. They don’t trust us because they don’t dare expose their true agendas to the light of day. There is a surreal quality to all this: Occupation is liberation; Iraq is sovereign, but we’re in control; Saddam is in Iraqi custody, but we’ve got him; we’ll get out as soon as an elected Iraqi government asks us, but we’ll be there for years to come. Which is what we counted on in the first place, only with rose petals and easy coochie.


This Möbius reality finds its domestic analogue in the perversely cynical “Clear Skies” and “Healthy Forests” sloganeering at Bush’s EPA and in the administration’s irresponsible tax cutting and other fiscal shenanigans. But the Bush administration has always worn strangely tinted shades, and you wonder to what extent Mr. Bush himself lives in a world of his own imagining.


And chances are your America and George W. Bush’s America are not the same place. If you are dead center on the earning scale in real-world twenty-first-century America, you make a bit less than $32,000 a year, and $32,000 is not a sum that Mr. Bush has ever associated with getting by in his world. Bush, who has always managed to fail upwards in his various careers, has never had a job the way you have a job—where not showing up one morning gets you fired, costing you your health benefits. He may find it difficult to relate personally to any of the nearly two million citizens who’ve lost their jobs under his administration, the first administration since Herbert Hoover’s to post a net loss of jobs. Mr. Bush has never had to worry that he couldn’t afford the best available health care for his children. For him, forty-three million people without health insurance may be no more than a politically inconvenient abstraction. When Mr. Bush talks about the economy, he is not talking about your economy. His economy is filled with pals called Kenny-boy who fly around in their own airplanes. In Bush’s economy, his world, friends relocate offshore to avoid paying taxes. Taxes are for chumps like you. You are not a friend. You’re the help. When the party Mr. Bush is hosting in his world ends, you’ll be left picking shrimp toast out of the carpet.




ALL ADMINISTRATIONS WILL DISSEMBLE, distort, or outright lie when their backs are against the wall, when honesty begins to look like political suicide. But this administration seems to lie reflexively, as if it were simply the easiest option for busy folks with a lot on their minds. While the big lies are more damning and of immeasurably greater import to the nation, it is the small, unnecessary prevarications that may be diagnostic. Who lies when they don’t have to? When the simple truth, though perhaps embarrassing in the short run, is nevertheless in one’s long-term self-interest? Why would a president whose calling card is his alleged rock-solid integrity waste his chief asset for penny-ante stakes? Habit, perhaps. Or an inability to admit even small mistakes.


Mr. Bush’s tendency to meander beyond the bounds of truth was evident during the 2000 campaign but was largely ignored by the mainstream media. His untruths simply didn’t fit the agreed-upon narrative. While generally acknowledged to be lacking in experience, depth, and other qualifications typically considered useful in a leader of the free world, Bush was portrayed as a decent fellow nonetheless, one whose straightforwardness was a given. None of that “what the meaning of is is” business for him. And, God knows, no furtive, taxpayer-funded fellatio sessions with the interns. Al Gore, on the other hand, was depicted as a dubious self-reinventor, stained like a certain blue dress by Bill Clinton’s prurient transgressions. He would spend valuable weeks explaining away statements—”I invented the Internet”—that he never made in the first place. All this left the coast pretty clear for Bush.


Scenario typical of the 2000 campaign: While debating Al Gore, Bush tells two obvious—if not exactly earth-shattering—lies and is not challenged. First, he claims to have supported a patient’s bill of rights while governor of Texas. This is untrue. He, in fact, vigorously resisted such a measure, only reluctantly bowing to political reality and allowing it to become law without his signature. Second, he announces that Gore has outspent him during the campaign. The opposite is true: Bush has outspent Gore. These misstatements are briefly acknowledged in major press outlets, which then quickly return to the more germane issues of Gore’s pancake makeup and whether a certain feminist author has counseled him to be more of an “alpha male.”

Having gotten away with such witless falsities, perhaps Mr. Bush and his team felt somehow above day-to-day truth. In any case, once ensconced in the White House, they picked up where they left off.




IN THE IMMEDIATE AFTERMATH and confusion of 9/11, Bush, who on that day was in Sarasota, Florida, conducting an emergency reading of “The Pet Goat,” was whisked off to Nebraska aboard Air Force One. While this may have been entirely sensible under the chaotic circumstances—for all anyone knew at the time, Washington might still have been under attack—the appearance was, shall we say, less than gallant. So a story was concocted: There had been a threat to Air Force One that necessitated the evasive maneuver. Bush’s chief political advisor, Karl Rove, cited “specific” and “credible” evidence to that effect. The story quickly unraveled. In truth, there was no such threat.


Then there was Bush’s now infamous photo-op landing aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln and his subsequent speech in front of a large banner emblazoned MISSION ACCOMPLISHED. The banner, which loomed in the background as Bush addressed the crew, became problematic as it grew clear that the mission in Iraq—whatever that may have been—was far from accomplished. “Major combat operations,” as Bush put it, may have technically ended, but young Americans were still dying almost daily. So the White House dealt with the questionable banner in a manner befitting a president pledged to “responsibility and accountability”: It blamed the sailors. No surprise, a bit of digging by journalists revealed the banner and its premature triumphalism to be the work of the White House communications office.


More serious by an order of magnitude was the administration’s dishonesty concerning pre-9/11 terror warnings. As questions first arose about the country’s lack of preparedness in the face of terrorist assault, Condoleezza Rice was dispatched to the pundit arenas to assure the nation that “no one could have imagined terrorists using aircraft as weapons.” In fact, terrorism experts had warned repeatedly of just such a calamity. In June 2001, CIA director George Tenet sent Rice an intelligence report warning that “it is highly likely that a significant Al Qaeda attack is in the near future, within several weeks.” Two intelligence briefings given to Bush in the summer of 2001 specifically connected Al Qaeda to the imminent danger of hijacked planes being used as weapons. According to The New York Times, after the second of these briefings, titled “Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside United States,” was delivered to the president at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, in August, Bush “broke off from work early and spent most of the day fishing.” This was the briefing Dr. Rice dismissed as “historical” in her testimony before the 9/11 Commission.


What’s odd is that none of these lies were worth the breath expended in the telling. If only for self-serving political reasons, honesty was the way to go. The flight of Air Force One could easily have been explained in terms of security precautions taken in the confusion of momentous events. As for the carrier landing, someone should have fallen on his or her sword at the first hint of trouble: We told the president he needed to do it; he likes that stuff and was gung-ho; we figured, What the hell?; it was a mistake. The banner? We thought the sailors would appreciate it. In retrospect, also a mistake. Yup, we sure feel dumb now. Owning up to the 9/11 warnings would have entailed more than simple embarrassment. But done forthrightly and immediately, an honest reckoning would have earned the Bush team some respect once the dust settled. Instead, by needlessly tap-dancing, Bush’s White House squandered vital credibility, turning even relatively minor gaffes into telling examples of its tendency to distort and evade the truth.

But image is everything in this White House, and the image of George Bush as a noble and infallible warrior in the service of his nation must be fanatically maintained, because behind the image lies . . . nothing? As Jonathan Alter of Newsweek has pointed out, Bush has “never fully inhabited” the presidency. Bush apologists can smilingly excuse his malopropisms and vagueness as the plainspokenness of a man of action, but watching Bush flounder when attempting to communicate extemporaneously, one is left with the impression that he is ineloquent not because he can’t speak but because he doesn’t bother to think.




GEORGE W. BUSH PROMISED to “change the tone in Washington” and ran for office as a moderate, a “compassionate conservative,” in the focus-group-tested sloganeering of his campaign. Yet he has governed from the right wing of his already conservative party, assiduously tending a “base” that includes, along with the expected Fortune 500 fat cats, fiscal evangelicals who talk openly of doing away with Social Security and Medicare, of shrinking government to the size where they can, in tax radical Grover Norquist’s phrase, “drown it in the bathtub.” That base also encompasses a healthy share of anti-choice zealots, homophobic bigots, and assorted purveyors of junk science. Bush has tossed bones to all of them—”partial birth” abortion legislation, the promise of a constitutional amendment banning marriage between homosexuals, federal roadblocks to embryonic-stem-cell research, even comments suggesting presidential doubts about Darwinian evolution. It’s not that Mr. Bush necessarily shares their worldview; indeed, it’s unclear whether he embraces any coherent philosophy. But this president, who vowed to eschew politics in favor of sound policy, panders nonetheless in the interest of political gain. As John DiIulio, Bush’s former head of the Office of Community and Faith-Based Initiatives, once told this magazine, “What you’ve got is everything—and I mean everything—being run by the political arm.”


This was not what the American electorate opted for when, in 2000, by a slim but decisive margin of more than half a million votes, they chose . . . the other guy. Bush has never had a mandate. Surveys indicate broad public dissatisfaction with his domestic priorities. How many people would have voted for Mr. Bush in the first place had they understood his eagerness to pass on crushing debt to our children or seen his true colors regarding global warming and the environment? Even after 9/11, were people really looking to be dragged into an optional war under false pretenses?


If ever there was a time for uniting and not dividing, this is it. Instead, Mr. Bush governs as if by divine right, seeming to actually believe that a wise God wants him in the White House and that by constantly evoking the horrible memory of September 11, 2001, he can keep public anxiety stirred up enough to carry him to another term.




UNDERSTANDABLY, SOME SUPPORTERS of Mr. Bush’s will believe I harbor a personal vendetta against the man, some seething resentment. One conservative commentator, based on earlier remarks I’ve made, has already discerned “jealousy” on my part; after all, Bush, the son of a former president, now occupies that office himself, while I, most assuredly, will not. Truth be told, I have no personal feelings for Bush at all. I hardly know him, having met him only twice, briefly and uneventfully—once during my father’s presidency and once during my father’s funeral. I’ll acknowledge occasional annoyance at the pretense that he’s somehow a clone of my father, but far from threatening, I see this more as silly and pathetic. My father, acting roles excepted, never pretended to be anyone but himself. His Republican party, furthermore, seems a far cry from the current model, with its cringing obeisance to the religious Right and its kill-anything-that-moves attack instincts. Believe it or not, I don’t look in the mirror every morning and see my father looming over my shoulder. I write and speak as nothing more or less than an American citizen, one who is plenty angry about the direction our country is being dragged by the current administration. We have reached a critical juncture in our nation’s history, one ripe with both danger and possibility. We need leadership with the wisdom to prudently confront those dangers and the imagination to boldly grasp the possibilities. Beyond issues of fiscal irresponsibility and ill-advised militarism, there is a question of trust. George W. Bush and his allies don’t trust you and me. Why on earth, then, should we trust them?


Fortunately, we still live in a democratic republic. The Bush team cannot expect a cabal of right-wing justices to once again deliver the White House. Come November 2, we will have a choice: We can embrace a lie, or we can restore a measure of integrity to our government. We can choose, as a bumper sticker I spotted in Seattle put it, SOMEONE ELSE FOR PRESIDENT.


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