Politics: July 2003 Archives

Anything smaller than an SUV is just plain un-American, says the Senate.

Washington - The Senate yesterday easily rejected an amendment to require the nation's car makers to boost the gasoline efficiency of their vehicles.
And Trent Lott (who certainly knows something about trying to overcompensate for a man's feelings of inadequacy) says, about DaimlerChrysler's tiny Smart car, one of the most brilliant automotive designs of our time, "Don't make the American people drive that little runt of a car."

In fact, contrary to the commercially-cultivated prejudices of the American consumer who will never feel, or in fact be, safe even in a Bradley tank, the Smart is one of the safest cars ever designed. DaimlerChrysler's site in the UK describes the design [click onto "safety"] here.

In fact I'm just crazy about the car, and my affection has little to do with its ability to withstand impacts - other than the impact of its own delicious appeal. If it sounds like I'm marketing this beautiful little car and its entire way of life, I am. The more people in the U.S. know about its virtues the sooner I may be able to drive one here.

Well, I can dream.

infectious image from the Brazilian site, Carsale

In today's The New York Times Magazine "The Ethicist" delivers the last word on behalf of New Yorkers who have just about had it with the assault of those infernal machines - and specificallly, the continuing outrage of on-street parking.

Two of my neighbors are in cahoots. When one pulls his car out of a spot, the other is always parked directly in front or behind and moves his car just enough to take up two spaces, so no other car can squeeze in. When the first car returns, the other moves back, restoring parking spots for both. Is it ethical for them to save spaces for each other, instead of leaving one for another parking-deprived New Yorker? Joseph A. Moskal, New York

If either of them were ethical, they wouldn't use private cars in Manhattan, a city with excellent public transportation. Why should the non-car-owning majority allow the car-owning minority to store their private property, i.e. cars, on public property at no charge? Why should my every walk to the store be akin to a stroll through a parking lot? Why should that majority be subject to the many costs and risks to health and safety attendant on the private car? I'm sorry: could you repeat the question?

AP image via dKos

Am I bad? When I saw this image, it didn't occur to me that the story was about desecration. I thought only of the outrageous presumption; it's his, so he can write whatever he wants on it, no?

Need a lift, Lefty cynics? Look at Mark Morford's upbeat column today. I've been feeling it in my bones myself for a while, thinking at first it was the humidity. Things are happening. Although Morford warns it's not yet time for delicious plates of schadenfreude, we and the administration now know "Shrub's numbers are down."

This is what happens when it's all a house of cards.

This is what happens when you build your entire presidency on an intricate network of aww-shucks glibness and bad hair and cronyism and corporate fellatio and warmongering and sham enemies and economy-gutting policies and endless blank-eyed smirks that tell the world, every single day, whelp, sure 'nuff, the U.S. is full of it.

An elected lawmaker was shot dead today during a City Hall Council meeting in one of the most tightly guarded buildings in the most tightly guarded city in the most tightly guarded nation of the world.

We are told that New York has tough gun control laws, yet much of the rest of the country does not. There is no wall around New York.

We believe that New York is open to and loved by people from around the world, yet much of the rest of the country fears and hates those unlike themselves. Because of its importance as a symbol, New York has been and continues to risk being the primary target of a world angry with our disastrous foreign political and economic policy.

Today's deaths were not the work of a terrorist, but the circumstances which made them possible would work for anyone determined to wreak even the same or much greater havoc in another location tomorrow.

We could spend trillions (although we never will), but we still wouldn’t have security in our streets, our places of work, even our great monuments and institutions. The world can’t offer perfect security, but we would do far better, and at far less psychological, social and monetary cost, if we prevent easy access to firearms and if we begin to relate to the rest of the world with intelligence and justice.

We cannot continue to shoot each other to make us safe from guns, just as we cannot continue to bomb people to avoid the bombs of others.

And from Barry just now: "We don't believe in prevention, only punishment."

"Who's Unpatriotic Now?" asks Paul Krugman today. He's writing about the White House's appalling manipulation of the media, which means the manipulation of all of us of course, also the intelligence services, and, yes, the military, including every last young man or woman still at home or in danger abroad. "Support our boys," indeed!

Someone should finally ask "Why are they doing this?" any day now, but those who never bought the sales pitch and the lies in the first place already know perfectly well why. The wars were created in order to distract us all from the administration's domestic schemes, both their cynical successes and their miserable failures, and to finally secure the entire world for the same narrow purposes. These are wars for security indeed, the security of corporate America.

To illustrate dramatically the lengths to which Bush and his people will go to protect their inventions, Krugman ends his Op-Ed essay with the news, shockingly not reported anywhere else in the NYTimes today, but easily found elsewhere, that administration officials have disclosed the identity of a C.I.A. operative, Joseph Wilson's wife.

Mr. Wilson is the former ambassador who was sent to Niger by the C.I.A. to investigate reports of attempted Iraqi uranium purchases and who recently went public with his findings. Since then administration allies have sought to discredit him — it's unpleasant stuff. But here's the kicker: both the columnist Robert Novak and Time magazine say that administration officials told them that they believed that Mr. Wilson had been chosen through the influence of his wife, whom they identified as a C.I.A. operative.

Think about that: if their characterization of Mr. Wilson's wife is true (he refuses to confirm or deny it), Bush administration officials have exposed the identity of a covert operative. That happens to be a criminal act; it's also definitely unpatriotic.

So why would they do such a thing? Partly, perhaps, to punish Mr. Wilson, but also to send a message.

And that should alarm us. We've just seen how politicized, cooked intelligence can damage our national interest. Yet the Wilson affair suggests that the administration intends to continue pressuring analysts to tell it what it wants to hear.

The article in Newsday today reminds us that in uncovering her name, including her maiden name, and her security position, the administration officials responsible may have endangered the career of Wilson's wife, Valerie Palme, "and possibly the lives of her contacts in foreign countries."

. . . .

"If what the two senior administration officials said is true," Wilson said [He has quite properly refused to confirm his wife's employment.], "they will have compromised an entire career of networks, relationships and operations." What's more, it would mean that "this White House has taken an asset out of the" weapons of mass destruction fight, "not to mention putting at risk any contacts she might have had where the services are hostile."

Sure sounds like the Constitutional definiton of treason, especially as understood by the gung-ho Radical Right: "treason n the offense of attempting to overthrow the government of one's country or of assisting its enemies in war"

Ajax drags Cassandra from the Palladium before the eyes of Priam (Roman wall painting, Pompeii, House of Menander)

He's back. I posted something from Sheldon S. Wolin just two months ago, but since he just may be our Cassandra I thought another hearing was in order.

If the administration hasn't changed in the interim, perhaps the country has. In May Wolin's words were found in the lefty [by U.S. standards] Nation. This month they appear in a mass-circulation daily, Newsday. Excerpts:

No administration before George W. Bush's ever claimed such sweeping powers for an enterprise as vaguely defined as the "war against terrorism" and the "axis of evil." Nor has one begun to consume such an enormous amount of the nation's resources for a mission whose end would be difficult to recognize even if achieved.

Like previous forms of totalitarianism, the Bush administration boasts a reckless unilateralism that believes the United States can demand unquestioning support, on terms it dictates; ignores treaties and violates international law at will; invades other countries without provocation; and incarcerates persons indefinitely without charging them with a crime or allowing access to counsel.

. . . .

In institutionalizing the "war on terrorism" the Bush administration acquired a rationale for expanding its powers and furthering its domestic agenda. While the nation's resources are directed toward endless war, the White House promoted tax cuts in the midst of recession, leaving scant resources available for domestic programs. The effect is to render the citizenry more dependent on government, and to empty the cash-box in case a reformist administration comes to power.

Americans are now facing a grim situation with no easy solution. Perhaps the just-passed anniversary of the Declaration of Independence might remind us that "whenever any form of Government becomes destructive ..." it must be challenged.

[image from VRoma]

And then there was one, or two.

We love Al Sharpton and Denis Kucinich both, but it's Al who goes straight to the point.
The question was gay marriage. Everyone else avoided logic and the plain issue of fairness and human or civil rights, and not least the nature of the secular state.

Senator John Edwards of North Carolina and Senator Bob Graham of Florida didn't bother to show up for a candidates' forum sponsored by the Human Rights Campaign in Washington yesterday. Five of the seven who did come by equivocated. It seems that they variously believed that boy-girl marriage deserves the same respect for its historical, cultural or religious roots as once commanded by slavery, child labor, male overlordship, the divine right of kings, religious crusades, heretic- and witch-burnings, among other pillars of our civilization.

Kucinich and Sharpton are both reported by the NYTimes to have supported gay marriage unambiguously, but yesterday Al captured the moment with his forthrightness.

"That's like asking me, 'Do I support black marriage or white marriage,'" Mr. Sharpton said, to thunderous applause, when the moderator, Sam Donaldson of ABC News, asked if he supported gay marriage.
Sharpton's the only candidate who is a member of the clergy. The directness which has always described him becomes him handsomely here, and it shames his rivals competing for the votes of obsessive religious zealots.

Reza at rest in the back of the motor home in Oklahoma

Reza [new site!] is in Forrest City, Arkansas right now. Dave Hyslop, who's travelling with him by car, says they should reach Memphis by tomorrow evening. He asks if anyone has an Elvis costume for Reza.

From a June 23rd report, now on the website, made while Reza and Dave were still in Oklahoma:

Meet Eddie and his wife, owners of the Elk Run RV Park in Elk City, OK. We spent the night here (41 mile marker) after Reza's first day of running in Oklahoma. I'd gone here to check their rates and scope out the accommodations in advance.

We've found that $25 a night for two people has tended to be on the high side of what we've encountered along the way and $15 a night has been the low end.
As you can see, Reza and I have added a little signage to the side of the motor home...some handy work he and I created at Kinko's and then applied in the parking lot of Home Depot--both in Amarillo, TX.

The poster is always a good ice breaker in conversation. I tell Eddie what it's all about and he says, "Ahh, I'll let you stay for $!2." Very kind of him but his generosity was only getting started! I say, "Thanks." and said I'll return after I pick up Reza.

When I return he fills out a receipt for me and asks if he can get Reza's autograph? "Eddie," I say, "I'll do you one better than that--come on out to the mobile mansion and I'll introduce you."

Reza's got both his knees iced and a third ice pack resting on the right side of his groin area but still makes the effort to stand up and greet the man. "Oh don't get up for me," Eddie said, "you're the one that's been work'n all day."

"Thank you so much." Reza said.

Seeing all this, Eddie says, "Tell you what--I'm gonna let you stay for free. I want to help you guys out."

By this time, Kamran, the 18-wheel over-the-road driver has just arrived to drop us off a load of provisions from the Food Bazaar Market in Los Angeles. This is the third time Kamran has stopped to check up on us. He's drives a route between Wisconsin and Los Angeles so it's enabled him to rendezvous with us at various points along the way. From this point on we won't be seeing him as he always turns north at Oklahoma City. Can't tell you what a friend he's been to Reza and I along the way. He's always stopped for at least 2--3 hours to visit with us. The man's pure heart.

We spot the motor home (hook up the electrical, water, sewer and when available, cable line) and here comes Eddie. "How are you doing for money?" he asks.
"Well..." I say, "we've always been looked after."

"Are you taking donations? he asks."Well, yeah but you've already donated, Eddie!" I said.

"He's from Iran, right?" he asks.

"Yes." I said.

"Well my wife of 35 years died of cancer a year and a half ago and her doctor was from Pakistan. He took care of her for three and half months--sometimes he'd come out twice a day--it didn't matter. You know how much his bill was?" he asks.

I shook my head.

He held his right hand up and formed a circle with the index finger and what remained of an amputated thumb, "Zero." he said.

The hospital, however, wasn't so kind. "I didn't have no insurance; " he said "they took pretty much everything I had. The bill was $100,000. They took my farm, two rental units I had in town, a building I had and gesturing around the RV park he said, "This is all I've got left."

He pulls a ten-spot out of his wallet and goes to hand it to me and Reza says, "No, you can no give, you no business tonight." and sweeps his arm around toward all the empty spots in the RV park. Kindness killing kindness.

So that's the way it's been this whole trip. People like Eddie who don't have it to give--going ahead and giving anyway.

"I came into this world with nothing but skin so if I go out that way I guess that's alright." Eddie said. "I hope you guys make it good."

A couple of fans in Oklahoma City go through the scrapbook begun in central Asia

When Barry told me about this story he had found in the foreign press (Reuters Asia), I really thought it was manufactured.

Bush's handlers arranged a photo-op this week on the island of Goree, where Americans and others once confined Africans who were to be transported around the world as slaves. The objective this time was to demonstrate that our president is definitely against slavery, but in order to stage the theatrical scene, every resident of the island was rounded up at dawn and confined to a stadium for the duration of the great man's visit.

N'diaye and other residents of Goree, site of a famous slave trading station, said they had been taken to a football ground on the other side of the quaint island at 6 a.m. and told to wait there until Bush had departed, around midday.

Bush came to Goree to tour the red-brick Slave House, where Africans were kept in shackles before being shipped across a perilous sea to a lifetime of servitude.

He then gave an eloquent speech about the horrors of slavery, standing at a podium under a sizzling sun near a red-stone museum, topped by cannon pointing out to the sea.

Incredible. absolutely incredible, but, as Bloggy himself writes, Americans aren't being told about this - as usual - even though it would be front-page news in any society with a real press.

Can we stop and think about this lead NYTimes story for a minute?

Howard Dean, the former Vermont governor making his first bid for national office, raised substantially more money this quarter than all his more established opponents in the Democratic presidential contest, according to figures released today.

The result forced Dr. Dean's rivals to reconsider how to deal with an opponent they had until now viewed as little more than an irritant.

At the same time, Representative Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri, who had initially been seen as a formidable fund-raiser with strong ties to labor, has apparently come in fifth among Democrats in fund-raising in the second quarter, which ended Monday. It would be the second weak showing in fund-raising by Mr. Gephardt. His aides cautioned today that they were still counting checks.

Dean is now a real candidate because he has money, and the corollary of that is that he will cease to be a real candidate if he should eventually fall behind others in the accumulation of more money.

Is the headline, "Dean's Surge in Fund-Raising Forces Rivals to Reassess Him," and the story itself for that matter, even conceivable in any other mature republic? Elsewhere citizens, even professional politicians, don't appear and disappear as legitimate candidates for office only on the basis of whether or not they are cash cows.

Our government is available to the highest bidder, and nothing else is ever really discussed, except the candidates' numbers in the polls.

Our daring commander-in-chief, who will always be the most protected individual on the planet, courageously flipped the bird at Iraqi militants who might be thinking of threatening our already-beleagured troops in the Middle East.

"There are some who feel like that conditions are such that they can attack us there," Bush told reporters at the White House. "My answer is: Bring them on. We have the force necessary to deal with the situation."
He's daring a people already on the brink of major insurgency to just try to kill and maim Americans. Do "our boys and girls" need this kind of support from an idiot who has already said he placed them in great peril in the first place because his friend god told him to?

Even in the initial story about Bush's remarks, Reuters has to report that they have outraged Washington - well, at least the Democrats.

"I am shaking my head in disbelief. When I served in the army in Europe during World War II, I never heard any military commander -- let alone the commander in chief -- invite enemies to attack U.S. troops," said New Jersey Democratic Sen. Frank Lautenberg.

Rep. Richard Gephardt of Missouri, a Democratic presidential candidate, said: "I have a message for the president: 'Enough of the phony, macho rhetoric. We should be focused on a long-term security plan that reduces the danger to our military personnel.'"

The real reason the nation is going to hell in a hand basket was revealed by Ha’aretz recently but it has never appeared in the mainstream U.S. media, "save a tiny mention in the Post," Eric Alterman wrote yesterday.

Anyway, according to "selected minutes acquired… from one of last week’s cease-fire negotiations between Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas and faction leaders from the Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Popular and Democratic Fronts… Abbas said that at Aqaba, Bush promised to speak with Sharon about the siege on Arafat. He said nobody can speak to or pressure Sharon except the Americans. According to Abbas, immediately thereafter Bush said: 'God told me to strike at al Qaida and I struck them, and then he instructed me to strike at Saddam, which I did, and now I am determined to solve the problem in the Middle East.'"
In the words of that great American pundit and sage, Lily Tomlin, "If you speak to God, it's a prayer, if God speaks to you it's schizophrenia."

[thanks to Jamie and Barry]

This page is an archive of entries in the Politics category from July 2003.

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