Politics: October 2002 Archives

Oh sure, they're gonna "open their files." Actually, it's simply a continuing coverup of Vatican complicity in the Holocaust, and a transparent propaganda move, to show historians "the great works of charity and assistance" undertaken by Pius XII for prisoners and other victims during World War II.

VATICAN CITY - Some 3.5 million files on World War II prisoners of war will be made public by the Vatican in January as part of a promised release of documents intended to counter criticism of the papacy during the Holocaust.
The Daily News story continues with a cautionary note.
The files are believed to deal exclusively with the treatment of POWs during the conflict and not directly with issues surrounding the Holocaust.

Critics of Pope Pius XII, the wartime Pope, argue that he failed to raise his voice and use his position to head off the extermination of European Jews by the Nazis. Defenders insist he made every effort possible to help Jews and others.

Jewish groups and others have been seeking a complete opening of the Vatican archives.

Boondocks' Huey really says it best, and it makes a great sound bite, should any of us find ourselves under a microphone in the near future:

Just a reminder that the economy is in the toilet, we're on the brink of global war, our government has been hijacked bycorporate crooks, teachers still don't make money, and because you haven't done anything to stop this, you're a pathetic excuse for an American.

Oh what joy! To be able just once to say to the Bushies, "Take a Hike!" and know that they heard, and that so did everybody else.

WASHINGTON - The sons of the late Minnesota Sen. Paul Wellstone said Vice President Cheney wouldn't be welcome at their father's memorial service last night, sources confirmed.

"The family thought it wouldn't be appropriate. They were concerned about the difference in principles between the two men — and believe me it's principles here, not politics," a top Democratic operative told the Daily News.

At a certain point, we have to admit it and we have to say it, "those people are evil!"

How far has The Left gotten by being nice, playing it like it was all only a game or a cocktail party?

The Right doesn't play.

[Yesterday a Middle East intellectual] suggested that there was a double standard in the extraordinary reaction against Mr. Hussein today compared with the world's inaction when he turned chemical weapons against Iran and even against Iraqi civilians.

"If chemical weapons are bad, why when they were used against [Iranian] or Iraqi citizens wasn't Iraq condemned and pressured?" he asked.

The man who posed the question, responding to reporters' questions while on a visit to Spain, was President Mohammad Khatami of Iran, representative of the "Axis of Evil."
Mr. Khatami, a midlevel cleric who studied philosophy, is the first Iranian leader to make an official visit to Spain since Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi in 1965. He is using the occasion to press his campaign for the "dialogue among civilizations" that he introduced at the United Nations four years ago.

At Complutense University in Madrid, he delivered a speech on Cervantes and his relevance in today's world. In the course of the speech, he cited Proust, Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, Orwell, Kafka and Mann, and criticized modern-day Don Quixotes who lack his "kindhearted, merciful and humanitarian" nature and "ruthlessly assassinate and annihilate people with their huge war machines."

Although Khatami's question about chemical weapons went unanswered in Madrid, we should know the answer. In the past, the weapons were only directed toward brown people, and now they are about to be turned on white ones, or so we are told.

The whole answer is too complex for Americans, and for that reason, as well as for what it tells about our greed and hypocrisy, it won't be put forward by Washington.

More from this notorious evil-doer.

In a sharp criticism of the United States, President Mohammad Khatami of Iran said today that his country opposed a war against neighboring Iraq and charged that Washington's misguided campaign against terrorism had strengthened support for Osama bin Laden in the Muslim world.

"Have the erroneous policies of the United States made bin Laden more popular or more hated than before in various sectors of the Islamic world?" Mr. Khatami asked in a joint news conference with the Spanish prime minister, José María Aznar, during a three-day official visit to Spain. "Have the erroneous policies of the United States weakened Islamic trends that favor wisdom and democracy? The United States with its hegemony has strengthened bin Laden, so we ought to condemn it in some way for supporting terrorism."

And finally.
Mr. Khatami even likened the logic of Mr. bin Laden to that of President Bush.

"I hear a discourse from two poles," Mr. Khatami said in his native Persian. "One is the voice raised from Afghanistan by bin Laden that says, `Whoever is not with us must be destroyed.' The other is the voice from the United States that says, `Whoever is not with us is against us."' He added, "That is a logic which on one side leads to the most atrocious forms of terror and, on the other side, on the pretext of confronting terrorism, creates the worst type of atmosphere for waging war."

Fanatics madly spin the world and reason is made whoozy.

Gore Vidal is not afraid to offend, bless him.

America's most controversial writer Gore Vidal has launched the most scathing attack to date on George W Bush's Presidency, calling for an investigation into the events of 9/11 to discover whether the Bush administration deliberately chose not to act on warnings of Al-Qaeda's plans.

Vidal's highly controversial 7000 word polemic titled 'The Enemy Within' - published in the print edition of The Observer today [JAW--I actually bought the Sunday Observer today, since the full text is not avalable online] - argues that what he calls a 'Bush junta' used the terrorist attacks as a pretext to enact a pre-existing agenda to invade Afghanistan and crack down on civil liberties at home.

Vidal writes: 'We still don't know by whom we were struck that infamous Tuesday, or for what true purpose. But it is fairly plain to many civil libertarians that 9/11 put paid not only to much of our fragile Bill of Rights but also to our once-envied system of government which had taken a mortal blow the previous year when the Supreme Court did a little dance in 5/4 time and replaced a popularly elected President with the oil and gas Bush-Cheney junta.'

Vidal has always seemed to annoy even those who would be expected to agree with his arguments, but I have always thought it is basically because he comes off as an aristocrat (he is) and because he comes off as a faggot (he is), and not enough Americans are comfortable with either.

Actually, I think we should be very grateful for the product of both of his outsider identities.

He represents much of the best of both of these eccentric elements of American society (one waning quietly while the other waxes loudly), and that, after sufficiently crediting his intelligence (and who said real intelligence is valued in America?), his solid position within those unpopular orders explains much of the power of his social and political criticism.

The novels are still a guilty pleasure, but the essays really do it for me.

Bad news for "the business of America": Business is bad, and America finally knows it.

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Worries about jobs and a possible U.S. attack on Iraq pummeled consumer confidence to its lowest level in nine years in October, a report said on Tuesday, boosting chances the Federal Reserve will cut interest rates next week.

Financial markets were rattled by the dramatic drop in The Conference Board's October Consumer Confidence Index to 79.4, a low not seen since November 1993, and far below the trough of 84.9 carved after last year's Sept. 11 attacks on the U.S.

Gosh, maybe this is only a coincidence, but wouldn't counting nine years back set us down right in the remnants of the last Bush administration?

Regardless of where the blame really rests, we can at least hope that a gloomy report of gloom like this does not bode well for the current regime's partisan election hopes for next tuesday. Could voters possibly ask for more of the same after all they've already gotten?

I love The Onion, so I hope they will excuse me when I say that sometimes it's enough just to read through the cheeky headlines. Well, at least when you're in a big hurry. A small sample from the last two weeks:








Well, you get the idea. If you don't, you probably aren't reading this weblog.

The Washington Post redeemed itself this time. The later edition of their article on the D.C. anti-war demonstration is a pretty fair report. No, it's a damn good one!

Luigi Procopio, 45, a social worker from the district, wore a pink triangle with "$ FOR AIDS NOT WAR" written on it. He said even though he normally focuses his activism on issues in the gay community, he and at least a dozen friends came to protest the war in Iraq.

"It's time, man. . . .it feels imminent," he said. "Congress has just rolled over."

It's a salon Premium article, so the regular Salon site includes only a precis, but it's all that's really needed to begin to put the story into perspective.]

The media is fixating on John Allen Muhammad's Muslim beliefs. But the most relevant fact about him could be his record of terrorizing his family members -- and how that didn't stop him from getting his hands on guns. [Jaw--even while he was under a restraining order]

Perhaps equally casual about distinguishing between those who "are either with us or against us," Bush's "new friend" has "weapons of mass destruction," and he doesn't seem to hestitate in using them even "against his own people."

MOSCOW, Russia (CNN) -- A raid by Russian troops to free hostages held by Chechen rebels in a Moscow theatre is coming under scrutiny amid fears a nerve agent used may have contributed to the deaths of 118 hostages. [JAW--the number, it is now believed, may exceed 200]

By the way, in another parallel to Iraq, Chechnyans are regarded by Moscow as "their [Moscow's] own people," since that is the official basis for Russian opposition to the nation's secession, and Russia is alleged to have used chemical weapons there during the ten years of the current war.

Are we going to invade Russia now?

Clinton and his administration were no great shakes when it came to their domestic policy programs or their real successes, but Bush and his own people make their predecessors look like progressives and political geniuses if we look at not even a full two years of the current regime's reactionary policy articulations and our concomitant economic and social disasters.

Hardly an argument there, but what about foreign policy? During the Clinton era the U.S. was basically at peace and seemed to be able to look forward to a continuation of peace. We were admired by a good part of the world, or so we were led to believe, and much if not most of the planet had or was about to adopt our own well-advertised recipes for both political and economic success, especially economic success (even if the economic prescription presented perilous consequences for many, here as well as outside the country). Today U.S. influence in the world has been disastrously compromised, and what remains is in great peril. The Bush administration has totally squandered the immense good will and support which had accrued to us after the disaster of September, 2001, but its policies independent of those events had already and continue to increasingly alienate the entire planet.

Brilliant in his judgment and the economy of words, Daniel Shore delivered a scathing assessment of the White House's disastrous foreign policy failures around the globe on NPR this morning.

BUSH FOREIGN POLICY -- NPR Senior News Analyst Daniel Schorr assesses President Bush's commitment, expressed during the 2000 campaign, to a foreign policy based on humility.
[Sorry, but I'm only able to link to an audio record, not a printed text.]

The Washington Post is certainly not repeating its brave record of the Viet Nam war era. The paper has been diligent in pushing a very conservative foreign policy agenda and dramatically demonstrating its support for the war fever of the White House junta, but the coverage it gives to today's massive anti-war demonstration in the Capital, its home town, is unspeakable.

It is now after 7:30 in the evening, and the protest began this morning, but at this late hour the continuously-updated Post website reports, "Demonstrators by the hundreds [my italics] gathered near the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Saturday . . . "

Other sources, even other commercial news media, have already reported that easily tens of thousands or even over one hundred thousand people participated.

Protestor numbers are always a difficult and very political call, but It looks like the truth lies somewhere between the two hundred thousand claimed by some organizers and the twenty thousand reported by a number of press sources. [The huge range I describe reflects how bad I personally am with numbers, and the fact that I wasn't able to be there today to see for myself.] "By the hundreds" is a disgustingly transparent political call by what should be an important print and web-based news source.

"For the Bush administration is an extremely elitist clique trying to maintain a populist facade." Paul Krugman deconstructs the short-term strategy of the Bush administration and then, inexplicably, he says that he is confused.

What remains puzzling is the long-term strategy. Despite Mr. Bush's control of the bully pulpit, he has had little success in changing the public's fundamental views. Before Sept. 11 the nation was growing increasingly dismayed over the administration's hard right turn. Terrorism brought Mr. Bush immense personal popularity, as the public rallied around the flag; but the helium has been steadily leaking out of that balloon.

Right now the administration is playing the war card, inventing facts as necessary, and trying to use the remnants of Mr. Bush's post-Sept. 11 popularity to gain control of all three branches of government. But then what? There is, after all, no indication that Mr. Bush ever intends to move to the center.

So the administration's inner circle must think that full control of the government can be used to lock in a permanent political advantage, even though the more the public learns about their policies, the less it likes them. The big question is whether the press, which is beginning to find its voice, will lose it again in the face of one-party government.

So the media is our only remaining hope? I don't feel so good.

What does the world look like today, compared to what it looked like just two years ago?

No, the dwarf in the White House can't be blamed for everything, but he certainly can't be credited with anything.

Admittedly he has done great things for his donors, precisely the people who don't pay serious taxes, only serious gratuities. Wow, have they gotten good service!

But why on earth are we being told how extraordinarily "popular" he is? I'm afraid to think too much about an answer to that question.

Oh, and has anyone seen a non-war issue lying about lately? I guess, since there's still a full week and a half before the election, there's still plenty of time. That is, unless sometime in the next days we see our national sniper standing behind the presidential seal to make a very serious announcement.

We're probably already doomed, and the world with us, unfortunately.

Washington chickenhawks don't like what all of the top intellegence agencies are telling them, so they've erected a creature, responsible only to them, to give them the answer they want.

Some officials say the creation of the team reflects frustration on the part of Mr. Rumsfeld, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz and other senior officials that they are not receiving undiluted information on the capacities of President Saddam Hussein of Iraq and his suspected ties to terrorist organizations.

But officials who disagree say the top civilian policy makers are intent on politicizing intelligence to fit their hawkish views on Iraq.

In particular, many in the intelligence agencies disagree that Mr. Hussein can be directly linked to Osama bin Laden and his network, Al Qaeda, or that the two are likely to make common cause against the United States. In addition, the view among even some senior intelligence analysts at the Central Intelligence Agency is that Mr. Hussein is contained and is unlikely to unleash weapons of mass destruction unless he is attacked.

(Deputy Defense Secretary) Wolfowitz almost certainly doesn't understand the irony in his argument for the new Pentagon "intelligence" unit.
He described "a phenomenon in intelligence work, that people who are pursuing a certain hypothesis will see certain facts that others won't, and not see other facts that others will."

President Bush said on Wednesday he was praying for a quick end to the killing spree [our home-grown and our very latest] and offered full government resources to help catch the "ruthless" killer.
Thank God.

Also thank God Dubya is safe in the State of Maine (or wherever), campaigning for the frat brothers.


Surely this leak is at least partly intended to help our allies feel good about the competence of their supreme American warlord.

Weapons inspectors left Iraq in 1998 without U.N. approval in a predawn evacuation on the orders of their chief, Richard Butler, hours before American and British attacks on Iraq. Butler had been advised by Washington of a possible U.S.-led bombing attack, but the official explanation given for the withdrawal was that Iraq was not cooperating with the inspectors.

Since 1998, the media, which had originally reported the facts basically as described above, has totally revised the story into one which features Iraq throwing inspectors out of the country.

Does anyone need further proof of the media's collusion with the White House junta?

I have been talking about this for months, and lately I have heard this quite Big Lie repeated even by sources usually critical of Washington propaganda, like The Nation and WNYC's Brian Lehr.

If the sources of our information are so corrupted, and if even the sceptical are so easily hoodwinked (or become so vulnerable because of just plain laziness), how can we possibly survive as a democracy?

Want more on the story of the "weapons inspectors?"

[from the NYTimes in a 1999 story] WASHINGTON, Jan. 6 -- United States officials said today that American spies had worked undercover on teams of United Nations arms inspectors ferreting out secret Iraqi weapons programs.

Iraq has long condemned the inspectors as tools of American intelligence. In October it issued a statement saying it would never cooperate with United Nations teams riddled with ''American spies and agents.''

I'm borrowing a direct quote from ZNet email message, because it's so succinct:

The U.S. propels a war on terorism in
order to pursue its entirely different agendas of redistribution at home
and solidifying empire internationally -- not least solidifying control
over Iraqi oil -- and of course the predictable horrific increase in
terrorism is then used to fuel additional terror war policies and

But of course all Palestinians are terrorists, and G-d says this is our land. How could anyone have a problem with that?

It sure looks like Barry may have had more than a little to do with it. The Daily News now has a story on the deceit of the White House's North Korea secret.

Tom Tomorrow is just observing. This is not political satire. Our much balleyhooed two-party system ceased to exist a while back.

--is even worse than the smell of secrecy.

The New York Daily News ain't Big Daddy.

Their own newswriters, their wire services and their columnists apparently weren't swift enough to pick up on the lie, but whoever is responsible for the letters to the editor department recognizes a news item when it slips through the paper's mail slot, and he or she also knows something about the placement of a story.

Barry's words pointing out one of the White House's latest, and more cynical, manipulations of the news for its agenda appears today as the lead letter (with a double-sized headline and typeface) on its "Voice of the People" page.


Manhattan: The Bush administration kept news of North Korea's nuclear program to itself for 12 days before letting the public, or even Congress, know. Shouldn't we be asking why they didn't tell Congress until after they voted on the Iraq resolution?

Barry Hoggard

The information had appeared on his weblog a couple of days ago. Three cheers for Bloggy!

Gary Trudeau looks at the Bushie pack in Doonesbury today.

At least it stayed cold.

Is it possible that some day in the distant future (if a future is possible) we will look back on the period of the Cold War as one of peace and prosperity, when compared to the period in which American power had no equal?

For half a century, the real or imagined Russian threat restrained the American and kept this nation relatively circumpect in its ventures around the world. It seems also to have worked to keep the governments of smaller nations out of the worst trouble, by serving them both the benefits and the burdens of the East-West rivalry.

Today U.S. power and greed is unchecked, except by terrorism, against which conventional weapons are virtually useless. Moreover, in the name of a cynical war against terrorism, the U.S. threatens, now or potentially, the security of every nation on the planet, including, in a peculiar reversal, that of the U.S. itself.

We should not be surprised that many nations have decided to pursue an aggressive course in the development of weapons of mass destruction as the only possible protection from what they view as the monstrous power of a rogue U.S.

[Two points may illustrate the argument. First, the U.S. is the only state ever to have employed nuclear weapons in anger, and those employments were against civiians and in a war already won. Second, there is now speculation that the reason the U.S. government has been particularly soft on North Korea is its belief that that nation already has these weapons in place. It looks like some people still think deterrence works, but unfortunately I don't think we can any longer trust our own government to understand either the stakes or the rules.]

It's not going to be a pleasant ride.

The junta itself can't make it's arguments consistent, let alone believable for anyone with a mind, but the media eats it up!

The White House insists it isn't "wagging the dog" to divert attention from domestic issues, an accusation that Fleischer and Vice President Dick Cheney have both pooh-poohed as "reprehensible." But still, much of the mainstream media is chasing the war ball. After all, it's a lot sexier than discussing how 41 million Americans have no health insurance.

The media dog has not only been wagged, it's rolled over at Bush's feet.

Of course Woody Harrelson doesn't have the credentials of a George W or most of the patsies in government and in the commercial media, but he does seem to understand the issues. It ain't that hard, afer all.

It also seems like he may even understand he'll be blackballed for speaking out.

Harrelson is writing in the British Guardian.

This is a racist and imperialist war. The warmongers who stole the White House (you call them "hawks", but I would never disparage such a fine bird) have hijacked a nation's grief and turned it into a perpetual war on any non-white country they choose to describe as terrorist.

To the men in Washington, the world is just a giant Monopoly board. Oddly enough, Americans generally know how the government works. The politicians do everything they can for the people - the people who put them in power. The giant industries that are polluting our planet as well as violating human rights worldwide are the ones nearest and dearest to the hearts of American politicians.

But in wartime people lose their senses. There are flags and yellow ribbons and posters and every media outlet is beating the war drum and even sensible people can hear nothing else. In the US, God forbid you should suggest the war is unjust or that dropping cluster bombs from 30,000ft on a city is a cowardly act. When TV satirist Bill Maher made some dissenting remarks about the bombing of Afghanistan, Disney pulled the plug on him. In a country that lauds its freedom of speech, a word of dissent can cost you your job.

He answers a friend's question about what he himself would do in Bush's shoes.
Easy: I'd honor Kyoto. Join the world court. I'd stop subsidizing earth rapers like Monsanto, Dupont and Exxon. I'd shut down the nuclear power plants. So I already have $200bn saved from corporate welfare. I'd save another $100bn by stopping the war on non-corporate drugs. And I'd cut the defense budget in half so they'd have to get by on a measly $200bn a year. I've already saved half a trillion bucks by saying no to polluters and warmongers.

Then I'd give $300bn back to the taxpayers. I'd take the rest and pay the people teaching our children what they deserve. I'd put $100bn into alternative fuels and renewable energy. I'd revive the Chemurgy movement, which made the farmer the root of the economy, and make paper and fuel from wheat straw, rice straw and hemp. Not only would I attend, I'd sponsor the next Earth Summit. And, of course, I'd give myself a fat raise.

At least someone in Washington is willing to say it.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - CIA Director George Tenet said on Thursday al Qaeda has reorganized and become as serious a threat to the United States as it was in the months before last year's Sept. 11 attacks.

Tenet, in a joint hearing before the congressional intelligence committees, also said the CIA and the FBI could not be flawless all the time in fighting the terror threat.

"The threat environment we find ourselves in today is as bad as it was last summer, the summer before 9/11," Tenet told the committees. "It is serious, they've reconstituted, they are coming after us, they want to execute attacks."

"You see it in Bali, you see it in Kuwait," he said, referring to attacks this month on American troops in Kuwait and the bombing in Bali that killed more than 180 people. [JAW--although we have not been shown evidence of Al Qaeda involvement in these crimes], "They plan in multiple theaters of operation, they intend to strike ... again."

The United States launched a war on terrorism last year with a military campaign in Afghanistan to destroy Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network, which it blamed for the hijacked plane strikes that killed 3,000 people on Sept. 11, 2001.

Despite routing al Qaeda forces and making some key arrests around the world, the United States does not know the whereabouts of bin Laden and other network leaders.

Oh, but we really have done a lot. Aside from killing unknown thousands of Afghans, and abrogating most of the U.S. Constitution, our de facto government has managed to alienate that part of the world which didn't already regard us as evil.

The next nut who speaks of the great job the Unelected One is doing with the "war on terror" should be committed.

The blast that killed nearly 200 people on the Indonesian resort island of Bali this weekend is a different type of terrorism from what the Bush administration has campaigned against, and will open a new geographic front in that campaign, Western officials said yesterday.

The target was not an American embassy, military outpost or financial institution that would represent American power, of the sort that terrorists have attacked in the past. Rather, it was a nightclub whose revelers were mostly Europeans and Australians; indeed, Indonesians were often turned away at the door.

Oh yes, another "front!" The NYTimes can describe the significance of the event, but neither it nor any other commercial media source or political hack will tell it like it really is.

Are you better off than you were two years ago? Is the world better off? Of course not, but ain't it wonderful how the little Bush is handling his "war on terror!"

Wait, just what has he accomplished even in that one area of his responsibilities as putative Chief Executive? I don't get it. Did he manage to snatch, and smash the plans, of the nineteen men who hijacked four planes September 11? Did he capture Osama Bin Laden? Did he put Sheik Oman on trial? Is Al Qaeda destroyed? Are Americans safe where they travel and live around the world? Do we all feel safer here at home? In fact, can we, or anyone in the world, ever feel safe again after what this government has done in the last two years, or not done?

Are you better off than you were two years ago?

Calling it a "war on terror" was an excellent move. It's not officially a war with Afghanistan, a war with Osama, a war with Al Qaeda or a war with any people or thing, so there isn't any real objective for which the White House can be held accountable. The truth is, it's not really a war, but a blind for political opportunism and incompetence. The possibly perpetual junta will always be able to claim that it is winning, but that it's not over yet, and won't be for generations, so stay in line, people!

But what does this "war on terror" mean? What does a war on an invisible, stateless foe, war on an idea, war on an anger and a resentment, have to do with closing our borders, our courts and our minds and our hearts?

We're long overdue. There is simply no rational explanation for our continuing to treat health care as a commodity like, oh, say, a new car or a flat-screen tv. Marcia Angell's Op-Ed piece in the NYTimes neatly flattens every argument against a single-payer system.

She insists that even in our market-based society, universal health care belongs in the category of "essential services like education, clean water and air and protection from crime, all of which we already acknowledge are public responsibilities."

But we're marching off to war now, or at least the pretense of war, so nothing will be done. Sane arguments have been blown off the face of the planet.

Look at what happens to the health-care dollar as it wends its way from employers to the doctors and hospitals that provide medical services. Private insurers regularly skim off the top 10 percent to 25 percent of premiums for administrative costs, marketing and profits. The remainder is passed along a gantlet of satellite businesses — insurance brokers, disease-management and utilization-review companies, lawyers, consultants, billing agencies, information management firms and so on. Their function is often to limit services in one way or another. They, too, take a cut, including enough for their own administrative costs, marketing and profits. As much as half the health-care dollar never reaches doctors and hospitals — who themselves face high overhead costs in dealing with multiple insurers.


Many people believe a single-payer system is a good idea, but that we can't afford it. The truth is that we can no longer afford not to have such a system. We now spend more than $5,000 a year on health care for each American — more than twice the average of other advanced countries.


It is sometimes argued that innovative technologies would be scarce in a national single-payer system, so we would have long waiting lists. This misconception is based on the fact that there are indeed waits for elective procedures in some countries with national health systems like Great Britain and Canada. But that's because they spend far less on health care than we do. If they were to put the same amount of money as we do into their systems, there would be no waits.

Two prizes were awarded today. Bush won the booby prize. Carter won the the real one.

If there is an award the opposite of the Nobel Peace Prize it would be that handed to George W. Bush, his entire administration, the Supreme Court, and every member of the two houses of Congress who voted for war in the last twenty-four hours.

If there is an award for stupidity, greed, selfish careerism and evil, both intended and consequent, it was announced by the Nobel Committee today.

A simple statement honoring a man of peace is usually made in Oslo on these occasions. This time there was also a condemnation of those who make work for the peacemakers.

As an American, I hang my head in shame this morning, but the extraordinary timing of this honor for Jimmy Carter gives me some hope for the world as a whole. If we survive as a nation, or even if only the idea of America survives, it will be because of people like the good man from Georgia.

So asks the public interest site, TomPaine.com.

Saddam Hussein is an imminent threat OR he’s just a convenient political distraction wielded by the White House.

Whichever way you see it, you must agree: The attack-Iraq tempest has eclipsed most other issues.

With mid-term elections just weeks away, the lack of substantive debate and coverage of domestic issues poses more of a threat to the nation’s security than Saddam. But anyone who says so has trouble getting a microphone.

Rep. Henry Waxman, a California Democrat, is trying. He’s asking a question made famous in 1980 by California Republican Ronald Reagan: "Are you better off than you were four years ago?"

"An analysis of current indicators of the nation’s social and economic well-being shows that many are again declining," Waxman writes. He cites a dozen examples, including rising unemployment, record-high numbers of bankruptcies and mortgage foreclosures, and the return of the federal budget deficit. The number of Americans living in poverty and the number of people without health insurance are both at their highest level in years, and prescription drug costs are soaring.

Look past Iraq and a broad picture of an uneasy nation emerges. A New York Times/ CBS News poll found that 70 percent of people would like to hear candidates talk about the economy rather than the war. Most voters (57 percent) say they will cast their ballots based more on economic issues than on foreign policy.

Yet it still seems like the upcoming elections will be more about Saddam’s fate than the future of Social Security. Preemptive war will get more attention than prescription drug prices. We’ll talk more about high-flying F-16s than crashing 401(k)s.

Americans must be wondering: When did Iraq become more important than America?

This is an excerpt, from an online excerpt, from Chapter 13 of The Iron Heel by Jack London (1908).

The general strike was the one great victory we American socialists won. On 4 December the American minister was withdrawn from the German capital. That night a German fleet made a dash on Honolulu, sinking three American cruisers and a revenue cutter, and bombarding the city. Next day both Germany and the United States declared war, and within an hour the socialists called the general strike in both countries.

For the first time the German war-lord faced the men of his empire who made his empire go. Without them he could not run his empire. The novelty of the situation lay in that their revolt was passive. They did not fight. They did nothing. And by doing nothing they tied their war-lord's hands. He would have asked for nothing better than an opportunity to loose his war-dogs on his rebellious proletariat. But this was denied him. He could not loose his war-dogs. Neither could he mobilize his army to go forth to war, nor could he punish his recalcitrant subjects. Not a wheel moved in his empire. Not a train ran, not a telegraphic message went over the wires, for the telegraphers and railroad men had ceased work along with the rest of the population.

And as it was in Germany, so it was in the United States. At last organized labor had learned its lesson. Beaten decisively on its own chosen field, it had abandoned that field and come over to the political field of the socialists; for the general strike was a political strike. Besides, organized labor had been so badly beaten that it did not care. It joined in the general strike out of sheer desperation. The workers threw down their tools and left their tasks by the millions. Especially notable were the machinists. Their heads were bloody, their organization had apparently been destroyed, yet out they came, along with their allies in the metal-working trades.

Even the common laborers and all unorganized labor ceased work. The strike had tied everything up so that nobody could work. Besides, the women proved to be the strongest promoters of the strike. They set their faces against the war. They did not want their men to go forth to die. Then, also, the idea of the general strike caught the mood of the people. It struck their sense of humor. The idea was infectious. The children struck in all the schools, and such teachers as came, went home again from deserted class rooms. The general strike took the form of a great national picnic. And the idea of the solidarity of labor, so evidenced, appealed to the imagination of all. And, finally, there was no danger to be incurred by the colossal frolic. When everybody was guilty, how was anybody to be punished?

It is, of course, entirely fiction, but there is no reason why the concept of The General Strike must remain fiction.

Besides, if just by raising the spectre of war the White House can so easily distract the entire world from it's real problems, perhaps just by raising the spectre of a massive, even universal work stoppage, we can accomplish a similar wonder.

For the life of me (and for the lives of so many who died needlessly in Southeast Asia on both sides), I'll never understand how the media can describe the Democrats' "lesson of Vietnam" as the resolve to appear forevermore at least as hawkish as the noble Republicans. I see such discussions regularly lately, apparently in the attempt to account for the timidity, easy acquiescence, or even zealous enthusiasm of the official "opposition party" for the Administration's military adventurism in the Middle East.

Among the most important of the Democratic supporters of this nonsense is Senator Evan Bayh, Democrat of Indiana. In an amazing statement published in monday's NYTimes, he claims to be reflecting public opinion on the war:

"The majority of the American people tend to trust the Republican Party more on issues involving national security and defense than they do the Democratic Party," he said. "We need to work to improve our image on that score by taking a more aggressive [the italics are my ironic comment] posture with regard to Iraq, empowering the president."
Democrats as aggressive passivists [sic].

Let me get this straight. The Democrats hope to prove how strong and aggressive they are by passively going along with those sexy macho Republicans who have apparently persuaded the entire country to think that the Democrats lost the Viet Nam war with their wimpy ways and we can never let that happen again. Yikes!

protestors jeer Gephardt

We really really really love Maine!

As U.S. House Democratic Leader Richard Gephardt stepped away from the crowd Sunday in Kennedy Park, the crowd followed.

It was not the crowd that showed up to support Democrat Mike Michaud in his run for the House, it was the crowd unhappy with members of Congress, especially Gephardt.

“Gephardt, Gephardt has no spine! He just follows Bush’s line,” the crowd loudly repeated, holding signs and banging drums, standing a few feet away from the high-ranking Democrat. The age of protesters ranged from college students to middle-aged parents to white-haired seniors.

The protesters were angry that Gephardt and other congressional leaders signed off on a resolution giving Bush the authority to use military action against Iraq. That resolution is expected to be taken up in Congress this week.

Just maybe, this could be the start of something great.

"war as only a tool of statecraft" [my characterization of the accelerating Republican talk of war] Now that sounds like a fine old European tradition, although one modern Europe was happy to abandon a couple of generations ago. For our own mad engineers in the twenty-first century White House it is a brand-new tool, and they are using it against their benighted subjects at home. War as a ruse.

We are being/have been used.

Not to take back anything from my previous posting calling for a last attempt to keep Bush from being invested with legitimacy as American Lord of War, but I believe that the real damage has already been done.

Primary evidence: We are all now talking only of "guns," not of "butter."

Those of you who have been following my remarks lately have seen me arguing that it's not necessarily actual war that the White House wants, but the solid Republican Congress that talk of war will almost certainly ensure. The invention of this war has virtually overnight changed the subject of the 2002 campaign from issues like the economy, the stock market, executive scandals, health care, the environment, schools, racism, or anything else which really threatens the country, to the phony issue of the imagined imminent threat from a small tin dictator on the other side of the world.

Bush's handlers have already succeeded in hijacking the election. The next Congress will be Cheney's rubber stamp (well, yes, something like this one, only even more so). The war? Iraq? Oh, that. Well, it may not be necessary other than as a bugbear.

Paraphrasing part of the argument of David Morris on AlterNet, this week Congress is likely to give the White House the blank check it wants, which means that at any time in the future, should we ever again have to be distracted from debating real issues, the war drums will be heard once again.

I suppose I can even imagine this scheme working without the war powers being released to George at this time, but it would definitely be much smoother with the check in his their pockets.

So write to Congress nevertheless. It just might help us all.

Do something.

Together with tomorrow and just possibly the day after, these may be the most fateful days in modern American history. Some day they will ask, "Where were you?"

Be ready to tell them, if you survive the days ahead.

Congress is about to sign-on to the unelected Bush Administration's free pass for, effectively, by unique precedent, the concept of unilateral pre-emptive war against whatever element, sovereign nation or otherwise, the American regime of the day deems to be an appropriate target for elimination.

Whether of not we think we can make a difference to the outcome, there is still time to register dissent, for our own integrity, and for the ultimate record of mankind.

Please, please, please contact your own congresspeople and anyone else in Congress who might be able to use your encouragement to pursue the right course in these hours. There is talk of a Senate filibuster, led by the estimable Senator Byrd, to prevent the vote now expected to result in the Senate's capitulation to this regime's folly. He and others of good will need your encouragement.

You can go to Common Cause for direction to the people you wish to contact.

The world thanks you, even if it doesn't yet know it should.

If you have any doubts about the power and the will of the enemies of this Republic, look at the media at this moment. Barry and I spent four hours in the East Meadow of Central Park today in the midst of a diverse, very noisy, extraordinarily enthusiastic group of (perhaps twenty thousand?) other people of conscience, in an anti-war rally organized by "Not In Our Name." Up to this moment at least, there appears to be a complete blackout on any information about the event in the commercial media.

We saw absolutely no sign of the presence of any of the American commercial news media. Maybe their Republican patrons forgot to tell them about it.

The lead story on NY1, New York's own all-news television station's website, at this moment (Sunday, 11:30 PM), over six hours after the end of the protest, is the description of a "mock ticker-tape parade [and torch-bearers which the City is preparing to send] through Manhattan streets this week to show the U.S. Olympic Committee what the 2012 Summer Games would look like in New York." Yuck. I see no mention of this, or of any of the other rallys held in 24 cities throughout the nation today, anywhere on the site, or on the sites belonging to any of the major U.S. news organizations.

As far as the print and electronic press are concerned (and therefore the people of the U.S. as well), it just didn't happen.

But it did, and someday people may know--if we live to tell about it.

A great orator, and perhaps the last of his kind.

I don't often see eye-to-eye with the senior Senator from West Virginia, but Democrat Robert C. Byrd did amazing work in the halls of Congress this week.

[the following quotes are excerpted from the complete text printed in the NYTimes]

The Senator begins with a characteristic reference to the Roman historian Livy, who was familiar with republics and dictatorships both.

Titus Livius, one of the greatest of Roman historians, said all things will be clear and distinct to the man who does not hurry. Haste is blind and improvident. Blind and improvident, Mr. President [the remarks are addressed to the president pro tem of the Senate], blind and improvident.
Byrd feels the White House pressure and knows the reason for it.
The newly bellicose mood that permeates this White House is unfortunate, all the more so because it is clearly motivated by campaign politics. Republicans are already running attack ads against Democrats on Iraq. Democrats favor fast approval of a resolution so they can change the subject to domestic economic problems.

Before risking the lives, I say to you the people out there who are watching through those electronic lenses, before risking the lives of your sons and daughters, American fighting men and women, all members of Congress, Democrats and Republicans alike, must overcome the siren song of political polls and focus strictly on the merits, not the politics, of this most grave, this most serious undertaking, this most grave, this most serious issue that is before us.

Mr. President, the resolution S.J. Resolution 46, which will be before this Senate, is not only a product of haste, it is also a product of presidential hubris. This resolution is breathtaking, breathtaking in its scope. It redefines the nature of defense. It reinterprets the Constitution to suit the will of the executive branch. This Constitution, which I hold in my hand, is amended without going through the constitutional process of amending this Constitution.

S.J. Resolution 46 would give the president blanket authority to launch a unilateral, pre-emptive attack on a sovereign nation that is perceived to be a threat to the United States. A unilateral, pre-emptive attack on a sovereign nation that is perceived to be a threat to the United States. This is an unprecedented and unfounded interpretation of the president's authority under the Constitution of the United States, not to mention the fact that it stands the Charter of the United Nations on its head.

He warns of the horrible prototype which the rush to war will establish, both within the U.S. and without. (But why should this Junta care?)
Think for a moment of a precedent that this resolution will set not just for this president — hear me now, you on the other side of the aisle — not just for this president, but for future presidents. From the day forward American presidents will be able to invoke Senate Joint Resolution 46 as justification for launching pre-emptive military strikes against any sovereign nations that they perceive to be a threat.

You'd better pay attention. You're not always going to have a president of your party in the White House. How will you feel about it then? How will it be then?

Other nations will be able to hold up the United States, hold up the U.S.A. as the model to justify their military adventures. Do you not think, Mr. President, that India and Pakistan, China and Taiwan, Russia and Georgia are closely watching the outcome of this debate? Do you not think that future adversaries will look to this moment to rationalize the use of military force to achieve who knows what ends?

War is being invoked as a first resort, and we are not even allowed to ask why.
Mr. President, the Senate is rushing to vote on whether to declare war on Iraq without pausing to ask why. We don't have time to ask why. We don't have time to get the answers to that question why. Why is war being dealt with not as a last resort but as a first resort? Why is Congress being pressured to act now? As of today, I believe 33 days before a general election when a third of the United States Senate and the entire House of Representatives are in the final highly politicized weeks of election campaign
Once again, for Byrd and many others, there is the rhetorical question. Why just now?
It is now October of this year of our Lord 2002. Four years have gone by in which neither this administration nor the previous one felt compelled to invade Iraq to protect against the imminent threat of weapons of mass destruction until today, until now, until 33 days before Election Day. Now we're being asked, now we're being told that we must act immediately. We must put this issue behind us. We must put this question behind us. We must act immediately we are told before adjournment and before the elections. Why the rush? Why the rush?

--not that the media is going to report her statement, even if she is a celebrity (shouldn't that be enough of a temptation?), when it refuses to cover the statements of (legitimate?) politicians who speak out against the Administration's latest divertissement.

In a press conference at the San Sebastian film festival in Spain, where she received a lifetime achievement award, Lange did not mince words.

"Bush stole the elections and since then we have all been suffering the consequences. The Iraq plan is absolutely mad, but what I do not understand is that nobody tries to stop it - neither inside nor outside the United States," the actress added.

"The atmosphere in my country is poisonous, intolerable for those of us who are not right-wing, so thank you for inviting me to this festival and allowing me to get out for a few days," Lange said on receiving the Donostia Prize, presented by Spanish actor Jose Coronado.

Thanks, Jessica, for trying to stir up the waters a bit.

There really is an excellent reason for supporting war with Iraq, or at least for talking about such a war. If one is of the Republican persuasion and one wishes to maintain and even increase the Republican domination of the American polity, talk of war and the imminent danger to America presented by the imagined threat presented by a demonic foe will do the trick. Absolutely.

Any other justification is superfluous. In fact, any other justification may be impossible, even for many Republicans, since, aside from its immediate advantage for the politicos, this war is almost certain to be disastrous for all but oil and armament moguls.

The economic and political health of the country is in very real danger, but we are all being distracted by the Republicans' manufacture and sale of this absurd sideshow adventure.

Almost two years ago, in the months after the 2000 elections, I bored or frightened my friends with my prediction that we would never have another Presidential election, and we would very likely be relieved of the messiness of another congressional election as well. I believed that the Republicans would never give up what had been so ill-gotten in the winter of 2000-2001.

I was certain that some pretext would be invented to distort the electoral process, or even entirely suspend the Constitutional niceties providing for the election of a Congress and a President, in order to protect us from enemies at home or aboad.

Absent any compelling case for Republican involvement in the events of September 11, we still have a case for a Republican conspiracy, one which is subverting the political process at this very moment, and it's working very well indeed. Most of the Democrats have bought into the monstrous idiocy of this regime's war arguments and practices, with disagreement only in the details, at best.

If they get away with it this fall, a Republican executive, a Republican Congress and a Republican judiciary will virtually guarantee their success with a frightened and gung-ho citizenry in 2004. Dictatorship accomplished.

As far as the current situation is concerned, I do not have an opinion about whether their war-thing is merely a political device, that is, a gambit for sabotaging what whould otherwise be almost certain victory for Democrats in November and a long-overdue accounting for the Republican executive, or whether the Administration is really serious about this thing.

I would like to think that it is the first scenario (which represents I suppose the greater cynicism) that we are dealing with here, especially since what is at stake is our own lives, our property (but not our sacred honor, which is already lost and perhaps irretrievable).

At this point I'm expected to ask anyone reading this to communicate with her and his senators and representatives, on the outside chance that they have not already performed the ritual, but I honestly believe that the demons are now beyond recall. It's now summer, 1914, and the mobilization cannot be retracted.

But write anyway.

You'll feel better in the morning, I think, especially if you realize that the next opportunity for nobility may not involve letters or emails.

To locate your member of Congress, use this.

This page is an archive of entries in the Politics category from October 2002.

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