Archive for August, 2006

Bush plays politics with terrorism, resorts to McCarthyism and old lies

August 31, 2006

Bush’s new PR offensive is a recycled old lie and thinly disguised McCarthyism. Bush will try to convince the American people that Iraq is a part of the war on terror and, opposing the war is un-American. Never mind that Bush’s war on terror is not only phony, it makes real terrorism worse and endangers American lives. What will happen when we get a real terrorist threat? Merely asking makes you a “Nazi appeaser”. Bush and Rumsfeld breathe new life in odious McCarthyism. This cynical exploitation of fear does not makes us safer. It endangers us all.

Secondly, even Bush admitted �after having lied it about it for years �that Saddam had nothing to do with 911. So which is it? It’s unclear how Bush intends to convince people that Iraq now has anything to do with terrorism when only a few days ago he told the truth at last by denying it. So �when Bush now says that Iraq is a part of the war on terrorism, Americans should ask themselves: was Bush lying then or is he lying now?

Clearly �the oft called “insurgents” had nothing to insurge against before the US invasion. Is this what Bush hopes you will believe are terrorists? If so, then Bush’s failed US policy has caused it. It will simply dissipate when Bush admits that he has committed capital crimes and removes US troops from the war of aggression that he ordered in violation of Geneva, the UN resolution, Nuremberg Principles and US Codes, Title 18 � 2441. War crimes. Read Title 18. It’s a capital crime.

And Bush has already lied about his new “PR offensive”. He claims that it is not politically motivated. But surely it is a response to the fact that the latest British terror alert did nothing to restore American confidence in Bush’s utterly failed administration. Americans seem immune now to color codes, MSM hyperbole about improbable “binary bombs”, and empty rhetoric about terrorism.

Bush now finds it impossible to tell the truth without confessing to a multitude of previous falsehoods. None of his various pretexts for war were true; all of them have been proven false during a long and miserably failed American occupation of a country that had nothing to do with 911, a sovereign nation that never attacked, never posed a threat to the people of the United States in any way.

MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann, meanwhile, is among a growing chorus that sees the “war on terrorism” for what it is: a boogeyman exploited by a cynical, extremist administration that now dares to slap the label “Nazi appeaser” on legitimate dissent and criticism.

Olbermann has said what millions have already known: Bush is “playing politics” with terrorism”, exploiting terrorism for political purposes and endangering American lives by doing so. Olbermann, at last, openly questions and documents the curious and statistically questionable timing of a series of phony terror alerts:

SLC Mayor: Bush Is The Worst President In History

(KUTV)

Video: Mayor Anderson blasts President Bush

Sky2 Video: Protesters march thru the streets of SLC

Slideshow: Pres. Bush’s Visit To SLC

During a large-scale protest in downtown Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Mayor Rocky Anderson unleashed perhaps his harshest criticisms yet of President George W. Bush — just hours before the president was scheduled to arrive in Utah.

“Iraq had nothing to do with the terrorist attacks on the United States… and there was no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq,” Anderson said from the steps of the Salt Lake City & County building.

Mayor Anderson also said that President Bush will go down in history as the worst president in U.S. history and called Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld “incompetent.” …

Study calls Iran ‘biggest beneficiary’ of US war on terror

Another analysis blames weak US approach to Iran on poor intelligence.

Two new reports criticize the US’s handling of Iran, just as the West gauges Iran’s response to a proposal meant to rein in Tehran’s nuclear ambitions. One report says the US war on terror has strengthened Tehran, the other slams America’s poor intelligence on Iran.

The first report, released Wednesday by the non-government Royal Institute of International Affairs (also known as Chatham House) in Britain, says that Iran, despite being a part of US President Bush’s “axis of evil,” has been the “chief beneficiary of the war on terror in the Middle East.”

The United States, with Coalition support, has eliminated two of Iran’s regional rival governments � the Taliban in Afghanistan in November 2001 and Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq in April 2003 � but has failed to replace either with coherent and stable political structures. The outbreak of conflict on two fronts in June �July 2006 between Israel and the Palestinians in Gaza, and Israel and Hizbullah in Lebanon has added to the regional dimensions of this instability.

Consequently, Iran has moved to fill the regional void with an apparent ease that has disturbed both regional players and the United States and its European allies. Iran is one of the most significant and powerful states in the region and its influence spreads well beyond its critical location at the nexus of the Middle East, Turkey, the Caucasus, Central Asia and South Asia.







<!— ‘Toons by Dante Lee; use only with permission–> The Existentialist Cowboy

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Catastrophic and Reckless: How Bush brought America to the brink of economic ruin!

August 29, 2006

Just a year ago Bush played guitar while New Orleans drowned. Nothing has been learned. Nothing has changed. New Orleans is morbidly fascinating because Americans, intuitively, have seen in that disaster our nation’s future. But Bush, like a fiddling Nero, stays a failed course amid warnings that our nation is falling apart at the seams heading for third world status and catastrophe.

The warnings come amid the valid assessment that Bush’s tax cut for the rich failed to make good on two empty promises: it did not trickle down or prime the economic pump and it did not pay for itself as Bush himself had promised it would. In fact, the poor have gotten poorer, the rich exceedingly rich. The nation is bankrupt to boot. The dollar is allowed to slide and we are dependent upon China, Japan, and the EU to keep the anemic dollar propped up. Were it not for that we would have no purchasing power at all.

Ronald Reagan made the same promises in 1982 �but, according to the US Census Bureau, only the upper quintile prospered. Every other income group lost ground even as Reagan’s deficit grew exponentially. Unfortunately, Bush is still being assessed. But just one year after Congress bowed to Bush and passed the tax cut of 2001, the Brookings Institution would write:

The official federal budget outlook has deteriorated dramatically since early 2001, due to last year’s tax cut, the economic slowdown, and the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. In addition to the pressures from the long-anticipated increase in entitlement spending as the nation ages, the government now also faces growing spending needs for defense and homeland security. These trends imply that future taxes must rise, future spending outside of defense and the elderly must decline, or obligations to the elderly and to defense be reduced.

�Alan Auerbach, William G. Gale, and Peter R. Orszag
June 2002, The Budget Outlook: Options for Restoring Fiscal Discipline, Brooking Institution

But GOP supply side, trickle down economics also promises more opportunity, a growing economy, more jobs.

Some in Washington say we had to choose between cutting taxes and cutting the deficit�.Today�s numbers show it to be a false choice. The economic growth fueled by tax relief has helped send our tax revenues soaring. That�s what has happened.

�George W. Bush

But that’s not what happened. Wealth has never trickled down and there is no “higher pie”. A Treasury Department analysis refuted Bush directly, confirming in its analysis what many experts and Bush critics had been saying all along: tax cuts do not come remotely close to paying for themselves. [PDF] . In other words, the two promises of “trickle down” theory are dead wrong: wealth does not trickle down and tax revenues do not increase to make up the short fall.

As Dizzy Dean said: it’s deja vu all over again! Why does the GOP insist upon repeating failed strategies. Reaganites promised that the stimulated economy would outgrow the deficit and the budget would be balanced “…within three years, maybe even two.” It didn’t! Reagan tripled the deficit and, on the way, he doubled the size of the federal bureaucracy. Reagan’s tax cuts were followed promptly by the longest and worst recession since Herbert Hoover’s Great Depression. As Robert Freeman correctly points out: “…Jimmy Carter’s last budget deficit was $77 billion. Reagan’s first deficit was $128 billion. His second deficit exploded to $208 billion. By the time the “Reagan Revolution” was over, George H.W. Bush was running an annual deficit of $290 billion per year.”

How will Bush compare to Reagan? By the year 2002, Citizens for Tax Justice were already writing:

Over the ten-year period, the richest Americans�the best-off one percent�are slated togwb0602a.gif - 10559 Bytes receive tax cuts totaling almost half a trillion dollars. The $477 billion in tax breaks the Bush administration has targeted to this elite group will average $342,000 each over the decade.

By 2010, when (and if) the Bush tax reductions are fully in place, an astonishing 52 percent of the total tax cuts will go to the richest one percent�whose average 2010 income will be $1.5 million. Their tax-cut windfall in that year alone will average $85,000 each. Put another way, of the estimated $234 billion in tax cuts scheduled for the year 2010, $121 billion will go just 1.4 million taxpayers.

Although the rich have already received a hefty down payment on their Bush tax cuts�averaging just under $12,000 each this year�80 percent of their windfall is scheduled to come from tax changes that won�t take effect until after this year, mostly from items that phase in after 2005.

1968 was the year in which measured postwar income was at its most equal for families. The Gini index for households indicates that there has been growing income inequality over the past quarter-century. Inequality grew slowly in the 1970’s and rapidly during the early 1980’s. …

Generally, the long-term trend has been toward increasing income inequality. Since 1969, the share of aggregate household income controlled by the lowest income quintile has decreased from 4.1 percent to 3.6 percent in 1997, while the share to the highest quintile increased from 43.0 percent to 49.4 percent. Most noticeably, the share of income controlled by the top 5 percent of households has increased from 16.6 percent to 21.7 percent. Over the same time period, the Gini index rose 17.4 percent to its 1997 level of .459.

Income Inequality, Census Bureau

The trend began then has continued: October 2003 figures from the U.S. Census Bureau make stark reading:

Median household incomes are falling The number of Americans without health insurance rose by 5.7 percent to 43.6 million individuals.

The number of people living below the poverty line ($18,392 for a family of four) climbed to 12.1 percent � 34.6 million people.

Wages make up the majority of income for most American families. As “Downward Mobility,” NOW’s report on workers and wages illustrates, many American workers are facing corporate efforts to cut pay and benefits, which could lead to more American families struggling to stay out of poverty.

The results in black and white:

  • Twenty percent of the population owns 84% of our private assets, leaving the other 80 percent of the population with 15.6 percent of the assets.
  • In 1960, the wealth gap between the top 20 percent and the bottom 20 percent of Americans was thirty fold. Four decades later it�s more than seventy-five-fold.
  • Either way — wealth or income � America is more unequal, economists generally agree, than at any time since the start of the Great Depression�
  • And more unequal than any other developed nation today.

Inequality.org

Why are failed strategies repeated? The GOP prescription seems to be: just take another dose of whatever it is that’s making you sick.

Unfortunately, there is an entire caste of people who leech off the labors of others. They dare to call it “free enterprise”. GOP policies have built our economy around our chief export: death and destruction. It is served up by our biggest industry, the biggest single slice in our budget pie chart �the military! Tax cuts, meanwhile, favored a tiny elite even as purchasing power of the ever poorer American working class depends upon the good graces of China. One is tempted to believe that what normal people perceive as Bush incompetence is, in fact, a deliberate and cynical GOP policy. Bush may have given the game away when he addressed a meeting of the “upper one percent” of the population �the primary beneficiaries of his tax cut. Predictably, he smirked and called them his “base”.

Some updates with the very latest Census Bureau info:

Data show one in eight Americans in poverty

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – In the world’s biggest economy, one in eight Americans and almost one in four blacks lived in poverty last year, the U.S.
Census Bureau said on Tuesday, both ratios virtually unchanged from 2004.

The survey also showed 15.9 percent of the population, or 46.6 million, had no health insurance, up from 15.6 percent in 2004 and an increase for a fifth consecutive year, even as the economy grew at a 3.2 percent clip. …

The last time poverty declined was in 2000, the final year of Bill Clinton‘s presidency, when it fell to 11.3 percent.

The stagnant poverty picture drew attention from Democrats and others who said not enough is being done to help the nation’s poor.

“Far too many American families who work hard and play by the rules still wind up living in poverty,” said Rep. George Miller (news, bio, voting record) of California, the top Democrat on the House Education and Workforce Committee.

Around a quarter of blacks and 21.8 percent of Hispanics were living in poverty. Among whites, the rate edged down to
8.3 percent from 8.7 percent in 2004.

“Among African Americans the problem correlates primarily to the inner-city and single mothers,” said Michael Tanner of CATO Institute, a free-market think tank in Washington. He noted that blacks also suffer disproportionately from poor
education and lower quality jobs.

Black median income, at $30,858, was only 61 percent of the median for whites.

The Bush Record: More Poverty, More Uninsured

Bush says �the foundation of our economy is solid, and it�s strong.� That�s true, for some: corporate profits have now climbed to their highest share of GDP since the 1960�s.

But new Census Bureau data show the real state of the current economy. The Bush record on combating poverty and insuring more Americans is an undisputed failure.

Poverty, All Races (Millions)

Number of Uninsured (Millions)

More on the new census data HERE.

A great update courtesy Mark:

Devaluing Labor

By Harold Meyerson
Wednesday, August 30, 2006; Page A19

That America is as dead as the dodo. Ours is the age of the Great Upward Redistribution. The median hourly wage for Americans has declined by 2 percent since 2003, though productivity has been rising handsomely. Last year, according to figures released just yesterday by the Census Bureau, wages for men declined by 1.8 percent and for women by 1.3 percent.

As a remarkable story by Steven Greenhouse and David Leonhardt in Monday’s New York Times makes abundantly clear, wages and salaries now make up the lowest share of gross domestic product since 1947, when the government began measuring such things. Corporate profits, by contrast, have risen to their highest share of the GDP since the mid-’60s — a gain that has come chiefly at the expense of American workers.

Don’t take my word for it. According to a report by Goldman Sachs economists, “the most important contributor to higher profit margins over the past five years has been a decline in labor’s share of national income.”

As the Times story notes, the share of GDP going to profits is also at near-record highs in Western Europe and Japan.

Clearly, globalization has weakened the power of workers and begun to erode the egalitarian policies of the New Deal and social democracy that characterized the advanced industrial world in the second half of the 20th century.

For those who profit from this redistribution, there’s something comforting in being able to attribute this shift to the vast, impersonal forces of globalization. The stagnant incomes of most Americans can be depicted as the inevitable outcome of events over which we have no control, like the shifting of tectonic plates.

Problem is, the declining power of the American workforce antedates the integration of China and India into the global labor pool by several decades. Since 1973 productivity gains have outpaced median family income by 3 to 1. Clearly, the war of American employers on unions, which began around that time, is also substantially responsible for the decoupling of increased corporate revenue from employees’ paychecks.

Washington Post

Here’s a breaking story somewhat off topic, but timely, indeed:

Bashir: CIA used ‘micro nuclear’ bomb in Bali

Indonesian Muslim cleric Abu Bakar Bashir claims America’s top spy agency was involved in the devastating 2002 Bali bombings.

Bashir, who was convicted and imprisoned for having prior knowledge of the attacks which killed 202 people, including 88 Australians, is also appealing for the lives of three convicted bombers to be spared.

Bashir, the spiritual leader of Jemaah Islamiah (JI), was released from prison in June after serving nearly two years.

Amrozi, Ali Ghufron – also known as Mukhlas – and Imam Samudra are awaiting execution for their part in the plot.

In an interview tonight on ABC television’s Foreign Correspondent, Bashir claims the device that killed most people in the Bali attack was a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) “micro-nuclear” bomb. …








<!— ‘Toons by Dante Lee; use only with permission–> The Existentialist Cowboy

Americans are paying for Bush’s war of aggression at the bank, the store, the pump, and the graveside!

August 26, 2006

Bush would give you the impression that the Iraq war is free or cheap. But that’s a hoax! The war is paid for with hidden taxes, higher prices, and American lives; the cost of the Iraq war has more than tripled since Bush declared “…major combat operations in Iraq have ended!”

War is a racket fought by the masses for privileged elites. Bush’s war on Iraq is not merely fought for the benefit of no-bid contractors like Halliburton, it is financed by America’s working poor and middle classes who pay for the war �with their lives abroad and with their jobs, their retirement prospects, and their access to health care at home. Bush’s base �the nation’s elite, his corporate sponsors, and the so-called defense industry �have paid nothing, risked nothing! Rather �they feed at the trough. The upper one percent of the population has gotten several tax cuts while the big oil companies report record profits rising concurrently with higher prices at the pump.

Just two days after 9/11, I learned from Congressional staffers that Republicans on Capitol Hill were already exploiting the atrocity, trying to use it to push through tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy. … We now know that from the very beginning, the Bush administration and its allies in Congress saw the terrorist threat not as a problem to be solved, but as a political opportunity to be exploited. The story of the latest terror plot makes the administration�s fecklessness and cynicism on terrorism clearer than ever.


Hoping for Fear, by Paul Krugman, Using Fear Commentary, NY Times

One of the more insidious falsehoods about Iraq has turned out to have been Bushco estimates of its cost. In 2002, George W. Bush himself predicted the war would cost between $100 billion and $200 billion �tops! To be expected �Bush was dead wrong. A report by the Democratic staff of the House Budget Committee now estimates that Bush’s war of aggression in Iraq could cost the US $646 billion by 2015 �depending on the scope and duration of operations. Nobel prize winning economist, Joseph Stiglitz, Columbia University, estimates the cost of the war from one trillion to two trillion dollars!

Ongoing operations in Iraq were estimated at $5.6 billion per month in 2005. And costs have surely risen since then as the intensity of fighing increases accompanied by significant losses of materiel and maintenance.

The Bill So Far: Congress has already approved four spending bills for Iraq with funds totaling $204.4 billion and is in the process of approving a �bridge fund� for $45.3 billion to cover operations until another supplemental spending package can be passed, most likely slated for Spring 2006. Broken down per person in the United States, the cost so far is $727, making the Iraq War the most expensive military effort in the last 60 years.

Long-term Impact on U.S. Economy: In August 2005, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the cost of continuing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan at current levels would nearly double the projected federal budget deficit over the next ten years. According to current estimates, during that time the cost of the Iraq War could exceed $700 billion.

Economic Impact on Military Families: Since the beginning of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, more than 210,000 of the National Guard�s 330,000 soldiers have been called up, with an average mobilization of 460 days. Government studies show that about half of all reservists and Guard members report a loss of income when they go on active duty�typically more than $4,000 a year. About 30,000 small business owners alone have been called to service and are especially likely to fall victim to the adverse economic effects of military deployment.

The Iraq Quagmire: The Mounting Costs of War and the Case for Bringing Home the Troops, Institute for Policy Studies

The Bush administration has been able to keep the precise cost of the war a matter of guess work and estimates. But however much is wasted killing civilians in Iraq that is money that is not being spent educating Americans, providing for health care, fixing Social Security, rebuilding a deteriorating infrastructure, or addressing real threats to our environment. However much has blown up in Iraq, it is lost forever to the victims of Bush’s incompetence in the face of Katrina just one short year ago. It is lost forever to those millions losing retirements to corporate mismanagement and greed. It is lost forever to those unable to pay the high costs of education, transportation, housing, and getting enough to eat each day.

U.S. Budget and Social Programs: The Administration�s FY 2006 budget, which does not include any funding for the Iraq War, takes a hard line with domestic spending� slashing or eliminating more than 150 federal programs. The $204.4 billion appropriated thus far for the war in Iraq could have purchased any of the following desperately needed services in our country: 46,458,805 uninsured people receiving health care or 3,545,016 elementary school teachers or 27,093,473 Head Start places for children or 1,841,833 affordable housing units or 24,072 new elementary schools or 39,665,748 scholarships for university students or 3,204,265 port container inspectors.

Social Costs to the Military/Troop Morale: As of May 2005, stop-loss orders are affecting 14,082 soldiers�almost 10 percent of the entire forces serving in Iraq with no end date set for the use of these orders. Long deployments and high levels of soldier�s stress extend to family life. In 2004, 3,325 Army officer�s marriages ended in divorce�up 78 percent from 2003, the year of the Iraq invasion and more than 3.5 times the number in 2000.

Costs to Veteran Health Care: The Veterans Affairs department projected that 23,553 veterans would return from Iraq and Afghanistan in 2005 and seek medical care. But in June 2005, the VA Secretary, Jim Nicholson, revised this number to 103,000. The miscalculation has led to a shortfall of $273 million in the VA budget for 2005 and may result in a loss of $2.6 billion in 2006.

Mental Health Costs: In July 2005 the Army�s surgeon general reported that 30 percent of U.S. troops have developed stress-related mental health problems three to four months after coming home from the Iraq War. Because about 1 million American troops have served so far in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan some experts predict that the number eventually requiring mental health treatment could exceed 100,000.

The Iraq Quagmire: The Mounting Costs of War and the Case for Bringing Home the Troops, Institute for Policy Studies

Many delusions were promoted in order to commit this nation to aggressive war. In the short months after 9/11, Bush erected a strawman upon which to direct American frustration, anger, and vengeance: an �axis of evil� consisting of Iraq, Iran, and North Korea. His intentions were made clear at the time: this “Axis of Evil” was responsible for world terrorism in general and our nation would wage war against it. Bush’s speech was most notable, however, for what he did not say. Bush did not tell the American people that he had no intention of paying for the war. He would leave the deficit to future administrations and generations. Rather than expect his privileged base to pony up, he would reward their loyalty with several tax cuts. Nor are sons of daughters of that base required to serve their nation militarily. Bush’s base gets a free ride as the rest of the nation bears the cost of war �in both lives and dollars.

If wars are not paid for upfront, they are paid for in the form of higher interest rates, prices, and lives. Wealth does not trickle down; but the effects of a falling dollar is felt by everyone. The exponential rise of wage and income inequality began with a vengeance in the Reagan 80’s, most closely associated with the Reagan tax cut of 1982. Only the top 20 percent of the population benefited. Wage/income disparities have increased since then with only a short respite in the Clinton years. The current trend began before a great wave of technical change and a computer revolution �none of which has benefited working Americans. Indeed, if you work for a living you have paid and continue to pay for Bush’s war of aggression while Bush’s base gets preferential treatment!

It is no coincidence that as prices increase, so, too, the national deficit. American credit abroad is dodgy. As the dollar continues to slide on world exchanges, not only gasoline prices increase but also prices of imported goods. Bush had said that he favors a strong dollar but, in fact, his administration has let the dollar slide, a cynical ploy designed to finance the Iraq folly upon the backs of working Americans. That it provides a moderate relief to US exporters is a bad trade off. What, after all, do we export these days? How many new jobs are created when, in fact, Ford is only one of many American corporations in big trouble.

Like Bush’s mythical “Axis of Evil” the idea that a nation can wage a free war is an evil GOP fairy tale. Wars are always paid for, if not now, later, and in ways you won’t like.

By way of Mark, this update from the Washington Post:

Securing Future Fiscal Health

By Bob Kerrey and Warren Rudman

The economic and moral case for long-term reform of fiscal policy is clear. Yet politicians refuse to act. If this stalemate persists, it could end in catastrophe.

Over the next 30 years, spending on federal programs is on track to go up by 50 percent as a share of the economy. If revenue remain at their historical level, the resulting deficits will approach 20 percent of gross domestic product by 2036 — almost 10 times the current size. The debt will surge to 200 percent of GDP — twice what it was at the end of World War II.

Political realities explain why nothing has been done about this. Changing course would require substantial spending cuts from projected levels or equivalent tax increases. Neither party wants to be the first to propose these tough choices out of fear that the other side would attack it. Similarly, neither side wants to discuss possible compromises of its own priorities, out of fear that the other side will take the concessions and run. Unfortunately, these fears are justified.

Since the regular legislative process seems incapable of dealing with the impending crisis, some alternative has to be found. President Bush has suggested a commission. Having served on many commissions, we understand their potential value. We also understand how they can go wrong. In our view, a new commission could be very useful, but only if it recognizes fiscal and political realities. It needs five elements to succeed. …

Securing Future Fiscal Health, Washington Post

From Fred Kaplan writing in Slate, this update:

What a Moronic Presidential Press Conference!

It’s clear Bush doesn’t understand Iraq, or Lebanon, or Gaza, or �

An excerpt:

Asked if it might be time for a new strategy in Iraq, given the unceasing rise in casualties and chaos, Bush replied, “The strategy is to help the Iraqi people achieve their objectives and dreams, which is a democratic society. That’s the strategy. � Either you say, ‘It’s important we stay there and get it done,’ or we leave. We’re not leaving, so long as I’m the president.”

The reporter followed up, “Sir, that’s not really the question. The strategy�”

Bush interrupted, “Sounded like the question to me.”

First, it’s not clear that the Iraqi people want a “democratic society” in the Western sense. Second, and more to the point, “helping Iraqis achieve a democratic society” may be a strategic objective, but it’s not a strategy�any more than “ending poverty” or “going to the moon” is a strategy.

Strategy involves how to achieve one’s objectives�or, as the great British strategist B.H. Liddell Hart put it, “the art of distributing and applying military means to fulfill the ends of policy.” These are the issues that Bush refuses to address publicly�what means and resources are to be applied, in what way, at what risk, and to what end, in pursuing his policy. Instead, he reduces everything to two options: “Cut and run” or, “Stay the course.” It’s as if there’s nothing in between, no alternative way of applying military means. Could it be that he doesn’t grasp the distinction between an “objective” and a “strategy,” and so doesn’t see that there might be alternatives? Might our situation be that grim?

It’s all just words to Bush and that’s just as well. He doesn’t know the meaning of any of them anyway. The war on Iraq is a war of aggression, i.e. a war crime. Whenever a crime is committed, one must ask: Qui bono?

Cheney’s remaining US investment

Firestarter5 asked a question in a previous post about who of the neo-cons has stock in Halliburton. Well, we certainly know that Cheney does. In 2005, his 433,333 stock options soared by 3,281%. Now, Cheney says he has “pledged” the proceeds to charity. Yeah, and did you also know that the insurgency in Iraq is “in the last throes”? I hope this so-called “charity” isn’t counting on Cheney’s word on this. Unless, of course, it is a charity run in the mold of Tom DeLay’s “charitable organisations.”Halliburton’s government contracting has increased by 600% under the Bush/Cheney administration and was the fastest growing contractor between 2000 and 2005. The stock did drop, although lately it has recovered and leveled out, as this five year plot shows (vertical scale is compressed compared to the Cheney stock options value graph.

No doubt this is due to the fact that Halliburton has raked in about [all] it is going to from US government contracts in Iraq, unless Bush keeps all those troops over there for as long as he can — and he certainly intends on doing that. KBR will then keep pulling in some change.

As far as other of Cheney’s neo-con cohorts, well, not much is readily apparent. I’m certain that any investment in Halliburton by these others is probably well-veiled. …

An update:

Experts warn U.S. is coming apart at the seams; becoming third world

By Chuck McCutcheon
Newhouse News Service

A pipeline shuts down in Alaska. Equipment failures disrupt air travel in Los Angeles. Electricity runs short at a spy agency in Maryland.

None of these recent events resulted from a natural disaster or terrorist attack, but they may as well have, some homeland security experts say. They worry that too little attention is paid to how fast the country’s basic operating systems are deteriorating.

“When I see events like these, I become concerned that we’ve lost focus on the core operational functionality of the nation’s infrastructure and are becoming a fragile nation, which is just as bad � if not worse � as being an insecure nation,” said Christian Beckner, a Washington analyst who runs the respected Web site Homeland Security Watch (www.christianbeckner.com).

The American Society of Civil Engineers last year graded the nation “D” for its overall infrastructure conditions, estimating that it would take $1.6 trillion over five years to fix the problem.

“I thought [Hurricane] Katrina was a hell of a wake-up call, but people are missing the alarm,” said Casey Dinges, the society’s managing director of external affairs.

British oil company BP announced this month that severe corrosion would close its Alaska pipelines for extensive repairs. Analysts say this may sideline some 200,000 barrels a day of production for several months.

Then an instrument landing system that guides arriving planes onto a runway at Los Angeles International Airport failed for the second time in a week, delaying flights.

Those incidents followed reports that the National Security Agency (NSA), the intelligence world’s electronic eavesdropping arm, is consuming so much electricity at its headquarters outside Washington that it is in danger of exceeding its power supply.

“If a terrorist group were able to knock the NSA offline, or disrupt one of the nation’s busiest airports, or shut down the most important oil pipeline in the nation, the impact would be perceived as devastating,” Beckner said. “And yet we’ve essentially let these things happen � or almost happen � to ourselves.”

The Commission on Public Infrastructure at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank, said in a recent report that facilities are deteriorating “at an alarming rate.” …

Some additional resources:







<!— ‘Toons by Dante Lee; use only with permission–> The Existentialist Cowboy

Another Loser of Lebanon II: America

August 25, 2006

Will a weaker US hand in the Middle East force Bush to reconsider the building of permanent bases in Iraq? Has the sun set on US influence in the Middle East, and, indeed, worldwide?

In the wake of Lebanon II and perhaps a casualty of it, US influence throughout the Middle East is on the wane. Nevertheless, there are indications that the Bush administration is going ahead with plans to build permanent US bases in Iraq. How much sense does this make at a time when the US has lost its ability to set or shape a Middle East agenda?

American leverage, prestige and power has never been lower as the Bush administration is all but left out of a shaky cease-fire in southern Lebanon. Even before the Israel/Hezbollah war �called Lebanon II by some observers � America was perceived as having eschewed its role as “honest broker” �thus losing to Iran and radical Islam a position of great leverage in the Middle East. Compounding the difficulty of our predicament is the very real possibility that it was all deliberate. The Bush administration may have willingly relinquished a legitimate role in order to pursue its special oil interests in Iraq.

It was a bad and incompetent trade-off. By pursuing illegitimate and dangerous policies, Bush undermined our ability to positively influence legitimate issues. No Democratic goals are realized in Iraq where a puppet regime and an increasingly unpopular American occupation is caught up between three concurrent civil wars: the war between a guerilla resistance vs the US occupation; another involving Kurds vs other northern Iraqi communities; and a third between Sunni Arabs and Shi’ites.

Juan Cole recently quoted US Ambassador to Iraq �Zalmay Khalilzad �as having claimed that he had given assurances to sectarian opposition to the US: “We don’t want to stay in Iraq.” But there’s never been any such assurance from either Bush or Rumsfeld. Quite the contrary. Kevin Drum, writing in Washington Monthly, stated that the Bush administration is, in fact, “allocating resources” to build permanent military bases in Iraq. I ask what is the purpose of such permanent bases if not to subjugate the people and control the production of oil?

Well, if you’re going to war, obviously troops are going to a theater and to a country and in the immediate aftermath of such a conflict, there would have to be a need for some presence until such time as you can put in place a better system. I mean, the United States has done this many times in the course of the last 50 or 60 years and we always try to get out as quickly as we can once we have reestablished peace, put in place a stable system, it is never our intention to go and stay in a place and to impose our will by the presence of our military forces.

�Secretary of State Colin Powell, interviewed on NPR’s “All Things Considered,” October 11, 2002.

But, oddly, Powell would later discount a New York Times report of April 20, 2003 that cited sources that had said that the U.S. would build “…four permanent bases in Iraq”. Powell called the report inaccurate! Not a denial. Secondly, the story was called “unfortunate”. But Bushies can call “unfortunate” anything true that is said about them �especially if what is said about them is true. “Fortunate” is a relative term. What is truly unfortunate is a plethora of various and asundry indications that Bushco has no intention of leaving Iraq whatever its tragic costs, however long:

It’s going to depend on events over the next couple of years. It’s to be determined. �

General Richard Myers, December 16, 2003

The United States is committed to stay as long as is necessary in Iraq, but not one day more.

�Marc Grossman, under secretary of state for political affairs, February 11, 2003.

Here is one of the more disturbing comments:

A four- or five-year occupation of Iraq by 65,000 regular and 35,000 reserve troops – a realistic possibility – will require a rotation base of 260,000 active troops . . . and 315,000 reserve troops . . . This illustration does not properly capture the full effect of our broader “war on terror” on our reservists. . . If another war begins, President Bush will still be able to mobilize plenty of military power. It is occupations that are the problem. If occupation of Iraq stretches into years and the “war on terrorism” widens even further, Army Reserve and National Guard units will be called to active service again and again – an activation rate far higher than the norm expected by our citizen soldiers, their families and their communities.

These “quotes” are at odds with hints of “hints” of “major drawdowns” of American troops to a figure of less than 100,000 troops in Iraq by the end of 2006. It is simply not realistic to expect that Bush can withdraw some one-quarter of about about 136,000 American troops in the final quarter of this year! The “administration appears confused and contradictory, a symptom of a lost war and its utterly failed support of Israel in Lebanon II.

Nor is there any hope that America will soon regain a position in which it might play a more positive role. Not as long as Bush occupies the Oval Office. If I may paraphrase Antonin Scalia �the man who made possible Bush’s maladministration �the melange of meaningless piffle about Iraq is not a recipe that will instill confidence in the ability of this administration to undo the many harms that it has already done and to right the wrong course upon which this nation is undoubtedly headed.

An update:

EU to provide ‘backbone’ of Lebanon force

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS – A meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels on Friday (25 August) saw member states commit up to 9,000 troops to a UN force to oversee the fragile ceasefire in Lebanon.

>The agreement means that thousands of UN troops will be deployed to the region within as little as a week.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, who also attended the meeting in Brussels, welcomed the EU pledges saying they amounted to over half of the total 15,000 troops envisaged under the UN resolution governing the ceasefire.

“More than half the force has been pledged today. Not only troops on the ground but we also got naval assets as well as air assets and when you put it altogether Europe is providing the backbone to the force,” he said. …






<!— ‘Toons by Dante Lee; use only with permission–> The Existentialist Cowboy

Bush’s Phantom Menace

August 21, 2006

I am sick of sending blood money to the US government. I am sick of financing meaningless death and destruction. I am sick of sending money to a federal “theocracy” who gives a portion of it to “faith based initiatives” to propagate a metaphysics that neither I nor the founding fathers believed in! I am sick of underwriting the robber barons of wall street. I am sick of financing the purchase of lethal toys for Donald Rumsfeld and the torture perverts of the Pentagon. I am sick of George W. Bush’s thin skin and stupid face.

A documentary of 2004 asked the question:

Should we be worried about the threat from organized terrorism or is it simply a phantom menace being used to stop society from falling apart?

�BBC:The Power of Nightmares: Baby It’s Cold Outside; See the documentary at Le Th� Chez Vierotchka

Thanks to GOP exploitation of every negative emotion known to man, society is falling apart anyway. I am inclined to opine that not only are GOP policies a MAJOR cause of terrorism, the relationship is, indeed, a symbiotic one as one writer recently observed. GOP policies cause terrorism. Bush has made us less safe. His war on Iraq has failed. Iraq is in chaos, civil war, and all but abandoned to its fate in any case. Bush insists on staying when, in fact, it’s lost and there is nothing left to do but face an ugly fact and leave �or stay and die ignormiously. And, in the end, we will leave anyway.

Terrorism has replaced the fifties bugaboo: communism. Did that keep us in line �or what? Here’s an excerpt from the BBC story:

A fantasy that politicians then found restored their power and authority in a disillusioned age. Those with the darkest fears became the most powerful.

The rise of the politics of fear begins in 1949 with two men whose radical ideas would inspire the attack of 9/11 and influence the neo-conservative movement that dominates Washington.

Both these men believed that modern liberal freedoms were eroding the bonds that held society together.

The two movements they inspired set out, in their different ways, to rescue their societies from this decay. But in an age of growing disillusion with politics, the neo-conservatives turned to fear in order to pursue their vision.

They would create a hidden network of evil run by the Soviet Union that only they could see.

The Islamists were faced by the refusal of the masses to follow their dream and began to turn to terror to force the people to “see the truth”‘.

�BBC: The Power of Nightmares: Baby It’s Cold Outside

At last, terrorism is a distraction from several unpleasant economic facts, most prominently �our entire economy is utterly dependent upon the billions, the trillions that are spent on “defense” which is to say, fighting terrorism.

Terrorism �or, more properly, the phony defense against it �has become an industry, most certainly America’s biggest. What do you suppose would happen to the US economy if we immediately stopped fighting Bush’s war on terrorism and immediately made the appropriate adjustments to the defense budget? What would happen if we eliminated the Military/Industrial complex which now finds its raison d’etre in terrorism?

Recession? Far worse �the complete and utter collapse of the American economy which is now completely and utterly dependent upon a drug: terrorism! In my youth, I was prepared to get on the bus, report for basic training, and go to Viet Nam. To die? Possibly! After all, I was but a mere slave to the state. What chance was given the sons of poor carpenters and steel workers when America claimed to be defending us against the sons of even poorer farmers in Viet Nam? My country would have expected me to kill them. For God and country!

I wish I could say that I made a big public noise and put my life on the line for my convictions. There was no great moral victory in the mere fact that I did not go to Viet Nam. It was but the luck of the draw, and, in deed, a “draw” for those who opposed not only the war but the draft.

But I have never regretted not going to Nam. I have regretted not having won a point against the forces of fascism. I have regretted not shooting my big mouth off even more so. I have regretted not having been able to make a difference against the machine of state hellbent on grinding us all up in name of national security.

In the meantime, I support the troops by demanding as vociferously as I can that we bring them home! Wars are no longer winnable. The firepower necessary to win the next big one will wipe out mankind. Most governments and all intelligent people know this if Bush does not. Instead, they will grind us up piecemeal, killing the weakest and most vulnerable among us here and there, for symbolic, hollow “victories”, braggadocio and propaganda. I wonder how many more poor kids will be asked and expected to kill farmers and peasants in a foreign land just so some GOP asshole can live in a penthouse apartment!

An update From the Liberal Doomsayer:

Bushco�s Fa�ade Continues To Crack

So the terror-related charge against overall creep and bad actor Jose Padilla has been thrown out.

Wasn�t it only yesterday when he was considered to be such a threat to Truth, Justice and the American Way that it was decided by Bushco that he should be held as an enemy combatant (no…it was last year, actually).

So it turns out that Dubya can�t deny due process to an American citizen after all (this comes on the heels of the Hamdan v. Rumsfeld decision against Bush�s military commissions, which even Antonin Scalia thought was founded on a shaky ruling by The Supremes).

Hmmm…maybe this guy isn�t such a legal genius after all.






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The Enemy Within

August 20, 2006

Carl Jung predicted our present sense of malaise as early as 1957 in his “The Undiscovered Self”, decrying “…apocalyptic images of universal destruction” brought on by WWII and an atomic age ushered in when the United States dropped weapons of mass destruction on two cities in Japan. In its wake, Jung was fearful that 40 percent of the population �called a “mentally stable stratum” �might not be able to keep the lid on mass psychosis; it might be unable to restrain the spread of “dangerous tendencies”, presumably: fascism, fanaticism, militarism, and intolerance. Jung seems to have been less concerned with external threats. The dangerous tendencies he feared were home grown.

The list above is mine �not Jung’s, though I believe Jung would have approved. To that list I would add that most dangerous symbiotic cocktail: fear and hate.

Clearly �terrorism is a real threat but no more so than the dangerous and deliberate exploitation of it. Clearly �the subversion of Democratic ideals is a clear and present danger but no more so than home grown subversion by demagogues. What difference does it make to me if my “inalienable rights” are denied me by Alberto Gonzales or by the Taliban? Clearly �terrorist attacks upon the soil of any Democratic nation is worrisome but no more so than a home grown policy that nurtures, feeds, and inspires opposition at home and terrorism abroad. Clearly �Jung’s list of “dangerous tendencies” must include our own tilt toward fascism, an unintended result that will have accomplished Bin Laden’s goal without his ever having to leave his mythic cave in Afghanistan.

Clearly �the spectre of terrorism has been of greater benefit to Bush than it has been to those who espouse terrorism �those who, we are told, sow the seeds of fear and hate. Hitler, for example, could only seize dictatorial powers after a “terrorist” attack on the Reichstag building in 1933. Hermann G�ring would later boast of having ordered the torching himself. Marinus van der Lubbe was executed but when a score of usual suspects were acquitted, an enraged Hitler dismissed the court itself. In both Himmler’s Secret War by Martin Allen and The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William Shirer, the Reichstag fire was the work of SS agents who accessed the Reichstag through a tunnel that connected G�ring’s official residence with the Reichstag.

Meanwhile, Hitler would raise the spector of communist terrorism and assume new powers. Later, Hitler would start World War II with a lie: that Polish troops had invaded German territory to blow up a radio tower. The culprits �not surprisingly �were Nazi SS in Polish Army uniforms.

We are now familiar with this tactic. Bush attacked and invaded Iraq though his administration knew there were no WMD to be found. Colin Powell’s presentation to the United Nations was known at the time to have been a fraud �consisting of plagiarized student papers and out-of-date satellite photos. Since that time, Bush has told some five or six rationales for the attack �all of them ex post facto. None of them were cited as reasons for the attack before the attack or at the time of the attack. They were seemingly pulled out of grab bag one by one as the official cover stories were exposed.

When all the various rationales proved hollow, Bush resorted to the Saddam was a bad man tact. But, of course, he was a bad man; but this nation could not possibly wage aggressive war on all bad men. And what difference does that make to the Iraqi in the street for whom Bush is a worse man? Bush’s body count must surely exceed Saddam’s by now and there is no law, no order �only chaos. With every milestone cited by Bush as progress, the situation has only gotten worse.

Very recently, there were two versions of the capture of Israeli soldiers. In my opinion, the more credible report is that the soldiers were captured inside Lebanon �not kidnapped inside Israel as had been claimed. Even conservatives concede that Bush most certainly encouraged Israel to invade Lebanon. In retrospect the over-reach is obvious: crush Hezbollah while weakening Syria and Iran. Like Bush’s own invasion of Iraq, the power of the air attack was over-estimated. When no one else proclaimed an Israeli victory, Bush did. But that was public. Behind the scenes, Bush had changed the rules. He encouraged Israel to accept a cease fire that destroyed forever the myth of Israeli invincibility. As this blog predicted �even as the war raged �Hezbollah emerged stronger and, by proxy, Syria and Iran. On the other side, Israel is weakened, and, by proxy, Bush and his increasingly inept regime.

Is it only a matter of governments deceiving their peoples? Governments lie all the time �especially governments who now more than ever believe that lying to the public is not only permissible but desirable. They have it the wrong way ’round. Assured of their invincibility, they have convinced themselves that they must deceive the public in order to achieve some all important agenda. The arguments they have made to themselves are delusions of psychotic proportions.

This is the very segment of any population that so concerned Jung. This is a sub-stratum that Jung estimated as high as 60 percent of the population. It is these people that Jung feared might not be checked. As Jung feared, we have failed to restrain that sub-stratum of incipient psychotics inside our own country.

After Jung had written of his fears in “The Undiscovered Self”, Ronald Reagan would come along and make it okay to be marginal or outright psychotic! Ronald Reagan showed Bush Jr how best to exploit the symbiotic relationship between fear and hate for GOP advantage. It’s really a psychological “binary” bomb �a bit of fear plus a dash of hate, stir in a tape from Bin Laden and you’ve got yourself a fascist dictatorship. Reagan would make it okay to blame victims of Reagan’s misrule. Reagan left Bush a legacy of absolving the selfish and self absorbed from all guilt. Reagan gave legitimacy to bigotry, making up �full cloth �a story about a Cadillac driving welfare grandmother. Reagan would make right wing nut cases “…feel good about themselves” and Bush would learn all those wrong lessons. Hitler taught them all.






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NSA case exposes blatant GOP hypocrisy

August 19, 2006

The American right wing has said repeatedly, loudly, and belligerently that they favored strict constructionist judges, strict constructionist interpretations of the Constitution. Now that they’ve got a decision that is as strictly drawn upon the Constitution as any decision in recent memory, the right wing responds by trashing the judge �Judge Anna Diggs Taylor! They claim she was once married to a Democrat and she was appointed by Jimmy Carter! The Bush administration attacks on another front, lamely resorting to the 911 argument i.e., he’s a “war President” and, presumably, the Constitution no longer applies. But even before 911, Bush had quipped:

This would be a whole lot easier if this was a dictatorship…heh heh heh just as long as I’m the dictator.

�George W. Bush

The spirit of the decision is summed up in a single quotation from the decision:

There are no hereditary Kings in America and no powers not created by the Constitution.

�Judge Anna Diggs Taylor

This is a strict constructionist interpretation if there ever was one. Right wing commentary that it is a victory for the far left is wrong and wrong headed! It is, rather, a victory for what’s left of American democracy. Simply, the strict interpretation of the Constitution is best summed up in those very words, words worth repeating:

There are no hereditary Kings in America and no powers not created by the Constitution,

The decision continues:

It was never the intent of the Framers to give the President such unfettered control, particularly where his actions blatantly disregard the parameters clearly enumerated in the Bill of Rights. The three separate branches of government were developed as a check and balance for one another. It is within the court’s duty to ensure that power is never “condense[d]…into a single branch of government.” Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, 542 U.S. 507, 536 (2004) (plurality opinion). We must always be mindful that “[w]hen the President takes official action, the Court has the authority to determine whether he has acted within the law.” Clinton v. Jones, 520 U.S. 681, 703 (1997). “It remains one of the most vital functions of this Court to police with care the separation of the governing powers….When structure fails, liberty is always in peril.” Public Citizen v. U.S. Dept. of Justice, 491 U.S. 440, 468 (1989) (Kennedy, J., concurring).

The right wing, in fact, are only part-time strict constructionists. Endemically hypocritical, the right wing can be counted on to oppose the strict interpretation of the Constitution when it applies to those portions of the Constitution about which they are prejudiced and irrationally inconsistent. This is another instance in which the right wing is seen never to live up to its own standards, its own flawed and often incoherent rhetoric. The right, for example, often plays fast and loose with the Constitution if it is seen to be in the interests of corporations or the executive. Clearly �it is liberty, freedom, and the rights of individuals which suffer from this often loose and reckless interpretation of the Constitution. More from the decision:

The wiretapping program here in litigation…has undisputedly been implemented without regard to FISA and…in violation of the Fourth Amendment.

The President of the United States, a creature of the same Constitution which gave us these Amendments, has undisputedly violated the Fourth in failing to procure judicial orders as required by FISA, and accordingly has violated the First Amendment Rights of these Plaintiffs as well….In this case, the President has acted, undisputedly, as FISA forbids. FISA is the expressed statutory policy of our Congress. The presidential power, therefore, was exercised at its lowest ebb and cannot be sustained.

The ACLU and the Center for Constitutional Rights published this statement in a news release issued today:

The President lied about the existence of the NSA Program for four years. Today’s opinion proves that he was also lying when he insisted that the program was legal.”

Other writers have said that this decision may provide the legal basis for the impeachment and removal of George W. Bush who has assumed powers not granted to him by the Constitution. Indeed, the decision confirms that there are “…no powers not created by the Constitution”.

If we had wanted a monarchy, we had one! It didn’t work out! Moreover, the one we had �King George III �was better than the cretinous would be King that arrogates unto himself powers he doesn’t have and doesn’t deserve. King George III was wrong and mad, but George Jr is merely ludicrous and slow witted.

Besides �not even Kings were above the law, as Bush claims to be. The example most relevant to us, being inheritors of the English Common Law, is that of King Charles I whom the British beheaded when he assumed powers that had not been granted him by the people and their Parliament. That is a cautionary tale.

Some important resources:







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How the Military/Industrial complex turned America into Murder, Inc.

August 16, 2006

The Military/Industrial complex makes its “living” killing!

I believe Albert Camus [L’Etranger (1942) ], lately said to have been read by George W. Bush, would have called that absurd.

The business of defense contractors �even those only peripherally connected with the production of weapons themselves �is death! Yet another way of putting it: The Military/Industrial Complex is Murder, Inc.

Bush, of course, will not admit that our country has become Murder, Inc. His party will even deny that we’ve become it’s euphemism: The National Security State. The origins of our Murder, Inc. is the National Security Act of 1947 �a blueprint for fascism . It granted to the Pentagon powers of unlimited defense spending.

It would not have been possible to justify such largesse without a bogeyman to be dragged out whenever the population is roused by truth to suspicion. In 1947, the bogeyman was the specter of communism �a tactic urged upon President Harry Truman by GOP Senator Arthur Vandenburg. The climate of fear is maintained by both parties but with less embarrassment by the GOP. [See: The Decline of the American Empire, Gore Vidal] In what Vidal called “a fit of conscience” never witnessed among modern Republicans, President Eisenhower warned us that such a Military/Industrial complex might establish permanent control over the state itself.

Fascism is not defined by the number of its victims, but by the way it kills them. �Jean-Paul Sartre

Sartre was, of course, correct. Killing someone for revenge, an act of passion, even a petty theft is one thing. But a society is morally lost when mass murder becomes its number one export. In such a society, everyone is guilty. That is Fascism. That IS absurdity. The rationale du jour is terrorism.

Terrorism can only be exploited in an atmosphere of irrational and endemic hatred. Hatred is nurtured by a party that could not possibly exist without the various strawmen upon which it directs the bile and hatred of the American right wing �hatred of science, hatred of the humanities, especially art, literature, and most of all: philosophy. Right wing hatred of philosophy is most certainly based upon its inherent distrust of critical thought itself. The GOP finds the process of critical thinking subversive of its own inflexible, unquestioned dogma. This is dogma that they would, of course, impose upon you in various and subtle ways. It is a brave and rare person who dares think outside the box.

For grins, let’s factor out the GDP, the billions spent and the billions earned on the arts of war and those who enable it. We are third world. And for all that, we can thank the most absurd party of man’s creation: the GOP.

What matters – all that matters, really – is the will to happiness, a kind of enormous, ever-present consciousness. The rest – women, art, success – is nothing but excuses. �Albert Camus

It would appear that America’s raison d’etre has become the mass murder of people from Viet Nam to Iraq. If Camus was right, then the collective will of America is doing precisely what it really wants to do. There are no rationales. There are no excuses. And the world will not be safe until America faces that ugly fact about itself.

Now, if Bush would expect us to believe that he’s actually read anything by an existentialist, let him begin by withdrawing American troops, however belatedly, out of Iraq.

More on the symbiosis theme:

Bush’s Political Survival Depends on Terror Threats

By William Greider, TheNation.com. Posted August 14, 2006.

The president is trying for the third time to make terrorism his big campaign issue — are Americans going to finally snap out of it?

An evil symbiosis does exist between Muslim terrorists and American politicians, but it is not the one Republicans describe. The jihadists need George W. Bush to sustain their cause. His bloody crusade in the Middle East bolsters their accusation that America is out to destroy Islam. The president has unwittingly made himself the lead recruiter of willing young martyrs.

More to the point, it is equally true that Bush desperately needs the terrorists. They are his last frail hope for political survival. They divert public attention, at least momentarily, from his disastrous war in Iraq and his shameful abuses of the Constitution. The “news” of terror — whether real or fantasized — reduces American politics to its most primitive impulses, the realm of fear-and-smear where George Bush is at his best. …







<!— ‘Toons by Dante Lee; use only with permission–> The Existentialist Cowboy

Bush lost his proxy war on Lebanon

August 15, 2006

Olmert is not in trouble back home because he defeated Hezbollah; Olmert is in trouble because he didn’t. And, by proxy, neither did Bush. Secondly, Hezbollah did not start the conflict; The “Israeli Soldiers” were not kidnapped; they were captured inside Lebanon. Even so, Bush urged Olmert to attack Syria, perhaps hoping that Iran could be drawn into a conflict that even the conservative George Will had described as “cascading escalation”. He drew a fearful analogy to the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo in 1914. To his credit, Will was not as transparently gleeful about that prospect as were other conservative commentators. Did Bush hope that it would erupt into WWIII? If so, it is time for Bush to go.

Some 58 percent of the Israeli population most surely does not believe that Hezbollah is defeated. [See:Olmert fights for political survival] An excerpt:

He has faced a backlash over his decision to accept the U.N. resolution and for failing to deliver a fatal blow to Hezbollah. Army officers have said they were held back and right-wing rivals have been calling for new elections. The next national ballot is not due until 2010. �Washington Post

Hezbollah had only to fight to a draw to win. Even a majority of Israelis are not buying into the Bush spin machine:

Israel’s verdict: We lost the war

By Donald Macintyre in Metulla, Israel

Published: 15 August 2006

Ehud Olmert, the Israeli Prime Minister, was obliged to admit “shortcomings” in the 34-day-old conflict in Lebanon yesterday as he launched what may prove a protracted fight for his own political survival.

Mr Olmert’s admission in a stormy Knesset session came in the face of devastating poll figures showing a majority of the Israeli public believes none or only a very small part of the goals of the war had been achieved.

Adding insult to injury, the leader of Hezbollah, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, crowed on television that his guerrillas had achieved a “strategic historic victory” over Israel.

The Prime Minister, who was repeatedly heckled by opposition MPs during his address, insisted the international commitments in Friday night’s UN resolution would “change fundamentally” the balance of forces on the country’s northern border

Critics from right and left were fortified by a Globes Smith poll showing, remarkably given the degree to which the army is embedded in Israeli society, that 52 per cent of electors believed the Israel Defence Forces had been unsuccessful in its Lebanon offensive as opposed to 44 per cent who believed it did well.

But as the artillery batteries fell silent and firing stopped, there was a final single explosion at about 8.05pm, sending a plume of grey smoke upwards before the uneasy calm began…..

Post conflict spin can only lead to one conclusion: the relationship between Republican administrations since 1980 and the so-called “terrorists” is a symbiotic one. The GOP provides “terrorists” with a cause celebre while terrorism provides the Republican party with a Nazi tactic: scare the population to keep them obedient and compliant.

But neither the Israeli right wing �or the American GOP �have learned anything from the ordeal. I almost sensed a feeling of disappointment in Bush’s voice yesterday even as he tried to convince himself and the world that Hezbollah had suffered a terrible defeat. Bush’s sole accomplishment, however, lay in the fact that the Israeli attack took Bush’s murderous Iraq quagmire off the front pages for a few weeks.

The GOP is not political party. It’s a crime syndicate that has lately become a kooky cult of deliberate liars. And �as if to counter that image of Bush �it was made known that Bush is reading The Stranger by the Existentialist author, Albert Camus. But, if Bush knew anything of Camus or Sartre, he would surely know both men would have applied the term mauvaise foi (bad faith) to the likes of Bush, Cheney, and the entire GOP cabal, consisting as it does, of war criminals and torturers!

Fascism is not defined by the number of its victims, but by the way it kills them.

�Jean-Paul Sartre, Existentialist

Bush is no existentialist. Existentialism is all about living an authentic life. Bush is a poser, a fraud.

A man who does not know the truth is just an idiot but a man who knows the truth and calls it a lie is a crook!

�Bertolt Brecht

A man who knew mauvaise foi when he saw it.

Some updates:

Another ‘Mission Accomplished’ Moment?

By Dan Froomkin

Special to washingtonpost.com
Tuesday, August 15, 2006; 1:20 PM

President Bush’s startling assertion yesterday — that at the end of 33 days of warfare between Israel and the Hezbollah militia, Hezbollah had been defeated — once again raises questions about his ability to acknowledge reality when things don’t turn out the way he intended.

Here, from the transcript of his appearance at the State Department, are his exact words: “Hezbollah started the crisis, and Hezbollah suffered a defeat in this crisis. And the reason why is, is that first, there is a new — there’s going to be a new power in the south of Lebanon, and that’s going to be a Lebanese force with a robust international force to help them seize control of the country, that part of the country.” …

Assad assails US `illusion’

Syrian President Bashar Assad said Tuesday plans by the United States for a “new Middle East” have collapsed after Hezbollah’s successes in fighting against Israel.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Syrian President Bashar Assad said Tuesday plans by the United States for a “new Middle East” have collapsed after Hezbollah’s successes in fighting against Israel.

He said the region had indeed changed but “because of the achievements of the resistance.” The Middle East that the United States “aspires to has become an illusion,” he told a journalists’ association conference in Damascus.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said early in the war between Hezbollah and Israel that any settlement should be durable and lead to a “new Middle East” where extremists have no influence.

But after 34 days of fighting, a cease- fire brought a fragile truce, with Hezbollah surviving and Israeli forces unable to score a decisive victory. Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah has already declared “strategic, historic victory” against Israel. …

From The Nation:

Topple the War Profiteers

In 1917, at the height of World War I, Wisconsin Sen. Robert M. La Follette caused quite a stir when he suggested that one of the best ways to support the US troops fighting in Europe was to expose and challenge American corporations that engage in all forms of war profiteering. Even as attention is focused abroad on battles still raging, La Follette said, it is important to remain ever mindful “that there are enemies of democracy in the homeland.”

“These,” the Senator continued, “are the powers of special privilege that take advantage of the opportunity which war affords to more firmly entrench themselves in their control of government and industry. These interests are amassing enormous fortunes out of the world’s misery.”

More than 85 years later, America finds itself embedded in a very different conflict, yet La Follette’s words still ring true. No matter what Americans think about the Bush Administration’s preemptive invasion of Iraq, there should be broad agreement on the need to ensure that corporations do not turn the war and its aftermath into a bonanza for their bottom lines and a boondoggle for US taxpayers. In other words: Now that the statues of Saddam Hussein have been toppled, it is time to topple the war profiteers. But where to begin? …





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How he did it

August 15, 2006

By Susan J. Demas
Jackson Citizen Patriot

Tim Walberg warms up a Jackson crowd like the folksy preacher he is, working the microphone like it’s an extension of himself.

Sporting a William H. Macy hangdog look, he revels in spinning his story. There’s Sue, his wife of 32 years, his blue-collar upbringing on the mean streets near Chicago and the values of his industrious immigrant grandparents.

“From SVEE-den,” he tells a group at Gilbert’s Steak House, with perfect Scandinavian pitch.
It’s all about the personal touch.

Walberg, 55, has pressed enough flesh, dialed enough phones and kissed enough babies throughout the 7th District to deserve an elbow brace after his decisive win Tuesday over U.S. Rep. Joe Schwarz in the GOP primary.

“It’s all been worth it,” the former state lawmaker said this week, a sated smile spread across his face.

He is a consummate campaigner. That helped put him over the top, experts say. “Walberg enjoys campaigning,” said Craig Ruff, senior fellow with Lansing-based Public Sector Consultants. “One never gets the sense that Joe Schwarz does. He enjoys governing.”

Ed Sarpolus, pollster for EPIC/MRA, said Schwarz deserves the blame for not running an effective grassroots campaign, a la Walberg.

“(Schwarz) was not visible in the district. He wasn’t everywhere he should be,” Sarpolus said. “Tim Walberg was.”

Now Walberg’s name is known nationwide. Analysts hail the defeats of Schwarz, R-Battle Creek, and Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., as the death knell for moderates in both parties.
“This was a statement race,” agreed Walberg campaign chief Joe Wicks. “I think it does raise Tim’s profile in Washington.”

In the GOP-stronghold district, the smart money in November is on Walberg against Democrat Sharon Renier, a Munith organic farmer.

Money and morals

Campaigning counts, but other reasons abound for the Tipton pastor’s Republican primary rout. Analysts sum it up in five words:

Money. Abortion. Gays. The base.

Clocking in at more than $3 million, the race smashed campaign spending records for a Michigan congressional primary.

The biggest player was Club for Growth, a Washington-based lobby pushing for a flat sales tax and privatizing Social Security.

The conservative group pumped more than $1 million into Walberg’s victory — its biggest advertising investment this year.

Many of the district’s almost 500,000 voters wouldn’t have known Walberg’s face otherwise.
“This seat was bought and paid for by out-of-state money,” said Matt Marsden, Schwarz’s chief of staff.

“There’s an element to that,” said Rich Robinson, Michigan Campaign Finance Network executive director. “But I have to believe the voters picked who they’re most comfortable with.”

Club for Growth has racked up a 9-2 record this election cycle.

Executive Director David Keating says the nonprofit group is just good at getting the message out, noting Schwarz outspent Walberg 2 to 1.

“It would be nice if we could buy a seat,” Keating said. “But it’s impossible, of course.” What Walberg’s marketing machine did do was whip up the Christian-conservative base.
Since November, he has beaten the drum on hot-button social issues.

“I am 100 percent pro-life,” Walberg has told crowds from Coldwater to Columbia Township. “I believe in traditional marriage: one man, one woman.”

The base responded — and how. Walberg trounced Schwarz 2 to 1 in Hillsdale and Lenawee counties.

That proved insurmountable for the incumbent when only 17 percent of voters turned out. When Schwarz went on TV to concede the race, his voice was drowned out at Walberg’s victory bash at Daryl’s Downtown.

Shouted supporters: “Praise the Lord!”

Political priorities

Walberg has done this before.

Almost a quarter-century ago, the then-31-year-old minister knocked off moderate James Hadden, R-Adrian, in the 1982 state House primary. Walberg went on to serve 16 years in Lansing.

“My opponent was the odds-on favorite with the backing of Gov. (William) Milliken and the party leadership,” Walberg recalled.

Ken Brock went toe-to-toe with Walberg while working on the campaign of his 1988 foe, former state Sen. Jim Berryman, D-Adrian.

“Tim doesn’t pull any punches. He’s willing to fight it out and doesn’t hesitate to go negative,” said Brock, now chief of staff for state Sen. Mark Schauer, D-Battle Creek. “But he seems like a nice guy you wouldn’t mind having a burger with.”

If he heads to Washington, Walberg said he’ll have a laser-like focus on slashing spending and taxes. That’s how he’ll help spur job growth in Michigan and across the country, Wicks said. His boss’ dream job is on the Ways and Means Committee.

Not everyone is convinced Walberg will deliver for the district as a tight-fisted conservative in the mold of former U.S. Rep. Nick Smith, R-Addison.

“I think the people in the district lost,” said former state Rep. Clark Bisbee, R-Jackson, who ran against Schwarz and Walberg in 2004. He backed Schwarz this year.

“You have someone who all they care about is balancing the budget, even if the district goes to hell.”

Walberg demurs when asked how long he’d like to spend in Washington if elected, vowing to “serve as long as there’s fire in my belly.”

But he does plan to take time outside the Beltway, tooling around on a new motorcycle.
So, is that a metaphor for Walberg’s ideology?

He laughs softly: “I guess it is.”