Wednesday, November 10, 2004

The Motorcycle Diaries

I haven't seen the movie yet, but after a season of lies, crassness and deceit, the notion of idealism and the willingness to put one's life on the line comes as an exhilarating breeze. Read this brief writeup on Che Guevara by Saul Landau.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

The Election

Several views have been advanced for the defeat, and the extent of the devastation. They range all the way from, "We got beaten by a genius" to "Here there be fraud". Here are a few links:

The November Surprise by Niranjan Ramakrishnan
Bush didn't Win, Kerry Lost by Arianna Huffington
Who to blame now? by Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Burning the other cheek

With the Al Qaqaa weapons depot stripped bare of hundreds of tons of high-grade explosives, the Bush administration should lose any credibility with those who still believe its that it has the lock on the security plank. Read The Last Pillar Falls in Counterpunch today.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Hunter S. Thompson endorses, predicts, Kerry

In Rolling Stone this week, gadfly and columnist Hunter S. Thompson, better known as Gonzo, writes a cheery piece backing John Kerry. The feature also has a good perspective on the political scene and presidential elections in general.

Click here to read the article.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Former GOP Senator shreds Bush's Health Care Plan

"As a Republican, with some experience, I sincerely regret having to say the record over the last four years and the prescription for reform the president is proposing give me little confidence that this most challenging of all domestic priorities will be adequately addressed over the next four years."

So says former Senator David Durenberger, a Republican. In an article in the Minneapolis Star Trbune, Durenberger ripped Bush medical plans, and said that Kerry has the better plan. Read Durenberger's full article below, reproduced for wider dissemination only.

But, as Bill Maher points out, how good he looked on that aircraft carrier!

For health care security, Kerry has the better plan
David Durenberger
October 27, 2004

The presidential candidates are debating whether Iraq or the economy is headed in the right direction, but no one can dispute that the health care trend line is going in the wrong direction.
With 5 million more uninsured Americans, bringing the total to 45 million (including a 12 percent increase in uninsured Minnesotans in the last year), family insurance premiums up more than $3,500 (including a 59 percent jump in Minnesota), prescription drug costs up over 70 percent, and businesses struggling to afford health care and stay competitive, there can be no doubt that we need to change our policy course.
Regardless of how voters view the candidates on all other issues, it is clear that the future of health care costs for Minnesotans has already been determined by President Bush's record of accomplishment. As a Republican, with some experience, I sincerely regret having to say the record over the last four years and the prescription for reform the president is proposing give me little confidence that this most challenging of all domestic priorities will be adequately addressed over the next four years.
His Medicare Modernization Act enhances access to prescription drugs for low-income, high-need seniors. It authorizes demonstrations to identify quality of care and chronic care management. But it all comes at a price neither taxpayers nor Medicare beneficiaries will be able to afford.
Drug companies have inflated prices from which "discounts" are derived and the Republican Congress has protected the drug companies from the price competition that Medicare applies to doctors, hospitals, and home health, dialysis and other care providers. President Bush and the GOP Congress have placed the future of Medicare in the hands of America's big health insurance plans and, again, protected them from the reality of competition with a guarantee of up to 123 percent higher payments than traditional Medicare.
The costs of all this will be borne not by those who profit most from health insurance or services, but by seniors and disabled Minnesotans whose Medicare premiums were increased 14 percent this year and will be 17 percent next year. With a budget deficit of more than $400 billion a year, that Medicare premium can only rise faster in the future. Plus, those of us working past age 64 will pay up to 80 percent of the costs to us of a Medicare program we have funded out of family income for the last 38 years.
President Bush's embrace of Health Savings Accounts would make little dent in the uninsured or in overall cost growth, but they would cut benefits and shift costs to workers. His Association Health Plans -- which are designed to pool certain businesses together and permit them to avoid most state consumer protection insurance laws -- would simply attract businesses with younger, healthier workers at the expense of others. His underfunded individual tax credits to be used in the fatally flawed and discriminatory individual market would -- like his other approaches -- undermine and weaken employer-based coverage and make it even more difficult to find insurance coverage for the least healthy among us.
The president constantly refers to Sen. John Kerry's health reform proposals as "big government." Not true. As one deeply involved in developing alternatives to President Bill Clinton's reform proposals, I must say that what Kerry proposes today for coverage expansion is in line with what mainstream Republican senators like Jack Danforth, John Chafee and I, working with Democrats like Bill Bradley, John Breaux and Kent Conrad, tried to accomplish in 1994.
Indeed, the Kerry plan appears designed to be responsive to those most in need -- people forced out of health care coverage by premium cost increases -- without being disruptive.
By providing employers and health plans with financial relief from catastrophic expenses, it should stabilize and make more affordable the employer-based insurance market. It opens up programs like the Congress' own Federal Employee Health Benefit Plan (FEHBP) and the Children's Health Insurance Program, and provides new private health insurance options -- not mandates -- for the uninsured.
By providing extra tax breaks for vulnerable groups like 55-to-64-year-olds, workers in between jobs, and small businesses, it ensures that health care is made even more affordable.
While far from perfect, it both builds on and learns from the past and takes us in a long-overdue new direction.
In this election people are making decisions on the basis of the candidates' stands on many issues. I have access to all of the health care I need through both FEHBP and Medicare. Like many Republicans, though, I believe our national goal is access for all, not just some.
For people who cannot afford the health insurance they need, for people whose access to care is threatened, the issue of which presidential candidate is most likely to come to their aid is their most important national security issue. It is the national security position on which President Bush and Sen. Kerry differ most and the one on which Kerry has the clearer vision for restoring security to all Americans.

Weapons Lost in Iraq - There's more bad news

National security is Bush's strongest argument for being president. That it is an entirely spurious argument is well known, but articles like this remind us again. This is from this morning's Boston Globe, reproduced here for wider dissemination only.

Eyewitness to a failure in Iraq
By Peter W. Galbraith Boston Globe October 27, 2004

IN 2003 I went to tell Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz what I had seen in Baghdad in the days following Saddam Hussein's overthrow. For nearly an hour, I described the catastrophic aftermath of the invasion -- the unchecked looting of every public institution in Baghdad, the devastation of Iraq's cultural heritage, the anger of ordinary Iraqis who couldn't understand why the world's only superpower was letting this happen.

I also described two particularly disturbing incidents -- one I had witnessed and the other I had heard about. On April 16, 2003, a mob attacked and looted the Iraqi equivalent of the Centers for Disease Control, taking live HIV and black fever virus among other potentially lethal materials. US troops were stationed across the street but did not intervene because they didn't know the building was important.

When he found out, the young American lieutenant was devastated. He shook his head and said, "I hope I am not responsible for Armageddon." About the same time, looters entered the warehouses at Iraq's sprawling nuclear facilities at Tuwaitha on Baghdad's outskirts. They took barrels of yellowcake (raw uranium), apparently dumping the uranium and using the barrels to hold water. US troops were at Tuwaitha but did not interfere.

There was nothing secret about the Disease Center or the Tuwaitha warehouses. Inspectors had repeatedly visited the center looking for evidence of a biological weapons program. The Tuwaitha warehouses included materials from Iraq's nuclear program, which had been dismantled after the 1991 Gulf War. The United Nations had sealed the materials, and they remained untouched until the US troops arrived.

The looting that I observed was spontaneous. Quite likely the looters had no idea they were stealing deadly biological agents or radioactive materials or that they were putting themselves in danger. As I pointed out to Wolfowitz, as long as these sites remained unprotected, their deadly materials could end up not with ill-educated slum dwellers but with those who knew exactly what they were doing.

This is apparently what happened. According to an International Atomic Energy Agency report issued earlier this month, there was "widespread and apparently systematic dismantlement that has taken place at sites previously relevant to Iraq's nuclear program." This includes nearly 380 tons of high explosives suitable for detonating nuclear weapons or killing American troops. Some of the looting continued for many months -- possibly into 2004. Using heavy machinery, organized gangs took apart, according to the IAEA, "entire buildings that housed high-precision equipment."

This equipment could be anywhere. But one good bet is Iran, which has had allies and agents in Iraq since shortly after the US-led forces arrived.

This was a preventable disaster. Iraq's nuclear weapons-related materials were stored in only a few locations, and these were known before the war began. As even L. Paul Bremer III, the US administrator in Iraq, now admits, the United States had far too few troops to secure the country following the fall of Saddam Hussein. But even with the troops we had, the United States could have protected the known nuclear sites. It appears that troops did not receive relevant intelligence about Iraq's WMD facilities, nor was there any plan to secure them. Even after my briefing, the Pentagon leaders did nothing to safeguard Iraq's nuclear sites.

I supported President Bush's decision to overthrow Saddam Hussein. At Wolfowitz's request, I helped advance the case for war, drawing on my work in previous years in documenting Saddam's atrocities, including the use of chemical weapons on the Kurds. In spite of the chaos that followed the war, I am sure that Iraq is better off without Saddam Hussein.

It is my own country that is worse off -- 1,100 dead soldiers, billions added to the deficit, and the enmity of much of the world. Someone out there has nuclear bomb-making equipment, and they may not be well disposed toward the United States. Much of this could have been avoided with a competent postwar strategy. But without having planned or provided enough troops, we would be a lot safer if we hadn't gone to war.

Peter W. Galbraith, a former US ambassador to Croatia, is a fellow at the Center For Arms Control and Non-Proliferation. In the 1980s, he documented Iraqi atrocities against the Kurds for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Say it ain't so, Pat!

Pat Buchanan has endorsed George W. Bush in an article in the American Cause. Like McCain, he has shown that no matter what happens, Republicans will stick together. See An Open Letter to Pat Buchanan by Niranjan Ramakrishnan in today's Counterpunch.

Not that it matters. Buchanan's noises to the this effect have brought repeated howls of protest from strong conservatives, who feel the best thing for true conservatism is the defeat of this administration.

On a positive note, the New Yorker, for the first time in its history, has endorsed a candidate - John Kerry. Or rather, it has chosen against Bush. See the full editorial, paragraph excerpted below.

September 11, 2001, brought with it one positive gift: a surge of
solidarity, global and national—solidarity with and solidarity within the United
States. This extraordinary outpouring provided Bush with a second opportunity to
create something like a government of national unity. Again, he brushed the
opportunity aside, choosing to use the political capital handed to him by Osama
bin Laden to push through more elements of his unmandated domestic program. A
year after 9/11, in the midterm elections, he increased his majority in the
House and recaptured control of the Senate by portraying selected Democrats as
friends of terrorism. Is it any wonder that the anger felt by many Democrats is
even greater than can be explained by the profound differences in outlook
between the two candidates and their parties?

-- From the New Yorker

Saturday, October 23, 2004

The Political Alchemists

In this article, columnist Michael Kinsley has captured the 1984 scenario in which we find ourselves. Politicians and media combine to make a madhouse. Reproduced in full for wider dissemination.

The Political Alchemists
by Michael Kinsley (LA Times), 10/17/04

The people running the Bush campaign are political alchemists: They can take anything and turn it into dirt.

Still naive, even after Swift boats and everything else, I couldn't believe that Bush's "nuisance" salvo would work. In fact, when I first heard the accusation (on a right-wing radio talk show), I couldn't even understand it. John F. Kerry, quoted in a New York Times Magazine profile a week ago, said he hoped to see the threat of terrorism reduced some day to the level of a minor nuisance. The Bush campaign immediately launched a big offensive on the theme that Kerry thinks terrorism is merely a nuisance.

Huh? Isn't there a difference between hoping that something will happen and thinking that it has happened already? Do you have to be mired in logic to suspect that these two states of mind are pretty much the opposite of each other?

The distinction between how you want things to be and how they really are seems to be a particularly tough one for President Bush himself. But to count on voters to share this confusion is pretty courageous.

The media — with an undiscriminating appetite for issues, and a professional commitment to be fair and balanced to Republicans and Democrats, true and false, good and evil, crunchy or creamy, or any other dichotomy the news confronts them with — were helpless to resist. By Monday, the preposterous and baseless question whether Kerry thinks that terrorism is just a nuisance had become a major campaign issue. Bush brought it up the first time he opened his mouth at Wednesday's presidential debate.

For sophisticates, the Bushies have a grown-up version: Kerry's remark indicates that he is willing to settle for reducing terrorism from an overwhelming threat to a minor nuisance. Deciding what to do next when we've reduced terrorism to a minor nuisance — keep going or visit Disneyland? — would be a nice problem to have. Under Bush's leadership, we do not have it.

By the weekend, other issues — such as Mary Cheney — had been layered on top. Kerry, his stock soaring as polls showed him the big winner in the debates, probably wasn't too badly hurt. Nor was Bush punished for the ridiculous accusation. Now, with the race tightening up, there will be fresh issues emanating from the Bush-Cheney laboratories, all made entirely of artificial ingredients. Pick a sentence — any sentence — and see how it's done.

Bush: "My opponent, you see, wrote — or he helped to write — this document, this so-called Declaration of Independence. And in it, see, he says something about how we hold these truths to be self-evident. Now, self-evident is just a fancy word — or actually it's two words: Of course, I know that! — It's just a fancy way of saying you don't have to say anything because folks already know it.

"In other words, he's saying that you don't have to tell the truth. Well, I just happen to disagree with that. I think the truth is one of the most important things in our great country. The truth is American. And it's good. It's good to tell the truth. But my opponent disagrees with that. He thinks you don't need to tell the truth. And I happen to think that's wrong. It's a difference in philosophy, you see."

Newspaper Headline: "Kerry Opposes Truth, Bush Charges; / Opponent Responds, 'Issue Is Complex' "

Kerry: "First of all, I'd like to thank President Bush for his important remarks about telling the truth. I also think the truth is very important. But so is falsehood. Falsehood is also very important. Truth and falsehood are both very important, and a president has to understand that. And I have a plan to increase both truth and falsehood by 23% over the next seven years by a tax increase on just two people: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates.

"Now, as to this document, this Declaration of Independence, my position is very clear. I did sign it. But I didn't read it. And I opposed it before I signed it. And again after I signed it. I think it's an important document, with important values for our country. But I also think that it is flatly wrong. I signed it because I disagree with it — because only after it is signed and enacted can it be amended."

Newspaper News Analysis: "Is the Truth Self-Evident?" (excerpt): " … Some experts question Mr. Bush's analysis of the Declaration of Independence. They say it should not necessarily be interpreted as intending to criticize the concept of truth as directly as the president seems to be suggesting. 'The president's interpretation is unique,' said a leading constitutional scholar yesterday.

"But other experts believe that the president has a point. The late philosopher of language Jacques Derrida, reached just seconds before he died last week, said, 'The Declaration of Independence is a text, which ultimately swallows itself and spits itself out. The concept of truth in this context has no meaning. Although I am French, I strongly support President Bush for making absurdity a top priority.'

"Sen. Kerry now concedes that the Declaration of Independence 'should have been more carefully worded.' " But a longtime political strategist outside the Kerry camp yesterday said that Kerry should have pointed out that the Declaration of Independence was written in 1776, which makes it highly unlikely that he was involved in writing it. But several other consultants warned against this strategy.

"It's just too risky," one said, "to call the president of the United States a liar."

Sunday, October 17, 2004

New York Times picks John Kerry

A comprehensive case for Kerry over Bush is made in today's endorsement by the New York Times, reproduced below for wider dissemination only:

Senator John Kerry goes toward the election with a base that is built more on opposition to George W. Bush than loyalty to his own candidacy. But over the last year we have come to know Mr. Kerry as more than just an alternative to the status quo. We like what we've seen. He has qualities that could be the basis for a great chief executive, not just a modest improvement on the incumbent.

We have been impressed with Mr. Kerry's wide knowledge and clear thinking - something that became more apparent once he was reined in by that two-minute debate light. He is blessedly willing to re-evaluate decisions when conditions change. And while Mr. Kerry's service in Vietnam was first over-promoted and then over-pilloried, his entire life has been devoted to public service, from the war to a series of elected offices. He strikes us, above all, as a man with a strong moral core.

There is no denying that this race is mainly about Mr. Bush's disastrous tenure. Nearly four years ago, after the Supreme Court awarded him the presidency, Mr. Bush came into office amid popular expectation that he would acknowledge his lack of a mandate by sticking close to the center. Instead, he turned the government over to the radical right.

Mr. Bush installed John Ashcroft, a favorite of the far right with a history of insensitivity to civil liberties, as attorney general. He sent the Senate one ideological, activist judicial nominee after another. He moved quickly to implement a far-reaching anti-choice agenda including censorship of government Web sites and a clampdown on embryonic stem cell research. He threw the government's weight against efforts by the University of Michigan to give minority students an edge in admission, as it did for students from rural areas or the offspring of alumni.

When the nation fell into recession, the president remained fixated not on generating jobs but rather on fighting the right wing's war against taxing the wealthy. As a result, money that could have been used to strengthen Social Security evaporated, as did the chance to provide adequate funding for programs the president himself had backed. No Child Left Behind, his signature domestic program, imposed higher standards on local school systems without providing enough money to meet them.

If Mr. Bush had wanted to make a mark on an issue on which Republicans and Democrats have long made common cause, he could have picked the environment. Christie Whitman, the former New Jersey governor chosen to run the environmental Protection Agency, came from that bipartisan tradition. Yet she left after three years of futile struggle against the ideologues and industry lobbyists Mr. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney had installed in every other important environmental post. The result has been a systematic weakening of regulatory safeguards across the entire spectrum of environmental issues, from clean air to wilderness protection.

The president who lost the popular vote got a real mandate on Sept. 11, 2001. With the grieving country united behind him, Mr. Bush had an unparalleled opportunity to ask for almost any shared sacrifice. The only limit was his imagination.

He asked for another tax cut and the war against Iraq.

The president's refusal to drop his tax-cutting agenda when the nation was gearing up for war is perhaps the most shocking example of his inability to change his priorities in the face of drastically altered circumstances. Mr. Bush did not just starve the government of the money it needed for his own education initiative or the Medicare drug bill. He also made tax cuts a higher priority than doing what was needed for America's security; 90 percent of the cargo unloaded every day in the nation's ports still goes uninspected.

Along with the invasion of Afghanistan, which had near unanimous international and domestic support, Mr. Bush and his attorney general put in place a strategy for a domestic antiterror war that had all the hallmarks of the administration's normal method of doing business: a Nixonian obsession with secrecy, disrespect for civil liberties and inept management.

American citizens were detained for long periods without access to lawyers or family members. Immigrants were rounded up and forced to languish in what the Justice Department's own inspector general found were often "unduly harsh" conditions. Men captured in the Afghan war were held incommunicado with no right to challenge their confinement. The Justice Department became a cheerleader for skirting decades-old international laws and treaties forbidding the brutal treatment of prisoners taken during wartime.

Mr. Ashcroft appeared on TV time and again to announce sensational arrests of people who turned out to be either innocent, harmless braggarts or extremely low-level sympathizers of Osama bin Laden who, while perhaps wishing to do something terrible, lacked the means. The Justice Department cannot claim one major successful terrorism prosecution, and has squandered much of the trust and patience the American people freely gave in 2001. Other nations, perceiving that the vast bulk of the prisoners held for so long at Guantánamo Bay came from the same line of ineffectual incompetents or unlucky innocents, and seeing the awful photographs from the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad, were shocked that the nation that was supposed to be setting the world standard for human rights could behave that way.

Like the tax cuts, Mr. Bush's obsession with Saddam Hussein seemed closer to zealotry than mere policy. He sold the war to the American people, and to Congress, as an antiterrorist campaign even though Iraq had no known working relationship with Al Qaeda. His most frightening allegation was that Saddam Hussein was close to getting nuclear weapons. It was based on two pieces of evidence. One was a story about attempts to purchase critical materials from Niger, and it was the product of rumor and forgery. The other evidence, the purchase of aluminum tubes that the administration said were meant for a nuclear centrifuge, was concocted by one low-level analyst and had been thoroughly debunked by administration investigators and international vetting. Top members of the administration knew this, but the selling went on anyway. None of the president's chief advisers have ever been held accountable for their misrepresentations to the American people or for their mismanagement of the war that followed.

The international outrage over the American invasion is now joined by a sense of disdain for the incompetence of the effort. Moderate Arab leaders who have attempted to introduce a modicum of democracy are tainted by their connection to an administration that is now radioactive in the Muslim world. Heads of rogue states, including Iran and North Korea, have been taught decisively that the best protection against a pre-emptive American strike is to acquire nuclear weapons themselves.

We have specific fears about what would happen in a second Bush term, particularly regarding the Supreme Court. The record so far gives us plenty of cause for worry. Thanks to Mr. Bush, Jay Bybee, the author of an infamous Justice Department memo justifying the use of torture as an interrogation technique, is now a federal appeals court judge. Another Bush selection, J. Leon Holmes, a federal judge in Arkansas, has written that wives must be subordinate to their husbands and compared abortion rights activists to Nazis.

Mr. Bush remains enamored of tax cuts but he has never stopped Republican lawmakers from passing massive spending, even for projects he dislikes, like increased farm aid. If he wins re-election, domestic and foreign financial markets will know the fiscal recklessness will continue. Along with record trade imbalances, that increases the chances of a financial crisis, like an uncontrolled decline of the dollar, and higher long-term interest rates. The Bush White House has always given us the worst aspects of the American right without any of the advantages. We get the radical goals but not the efficient management. The Department of Education's handling of the No Child Left Behind Act has been heavily politicized and inept. The Department of Homeland Security is famous for its useless alerts and its inability to distribute antiterrorism aid according to actual threats. Without providing enough troops to properly secure Iraq, the administration has managed to so strain the resources of our armed forces that the nation is unprepared to respond to a crisis anywhere else in the world.

Mr. Kerry has the capacity to do far, far better. He has a willingness - sorely missing in Washington these days - to reach across the aisle. We are relieved that he is a strong defender of civil rights, that he would remove unnecessary restrictions on stem cell research and that he understands the concept of separation of church and state. We appreciate his sensible plan to provide health coverage for most of the people who currently do without.

Mr. Kerry has an aggressive and in some cases innovative package of ideas about energy, aimed at addressing global warming and oil dependency. He is a longtime advocate of deficit reduction. In the Senate, he worked with John McCain in restoring relations between the United States and Vietnam, and led investigations of the way the international financial system has been gamed to permit the laundering of drug and terror money. He has always understood that America's appropriate role in world affairs is as leader of a willing community of nations, not in my-way-or-the-highway domination.

We look back on the past four years with hearts nearly breaking, both for the lives unnecessarily lost and for the opportunities so casually wasted. Time and again, history invited George W. Bush to play a heroic role, and time and again he chose the wrong course. We believe that with John Kerry as president, the nation will do better.

Voting for president is a leap of faith. A candidate can explain his positions in minute detail and wind up governing with a hostile Congress that refuses to let him deliver. A disaster can upend the best-laid plans. All citizens can do is mix guesswork and hope, examining what the candidates have done in the past, their apparent priorities and their general character. It's on those three grounds that we enthusiastically endorse John Kerry for president.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

The Third Debate

Watching the debate, I thought Bush was tentative in the beginning, but much more confident as the debate progressed. The turning point came when he was asked about homosexuality, etc., and got an opportunity to speak about religion and faith, matters obviously close to his heart.

Kerry did well, although I felt there were many points at which he could delivered a knockout blow, and he passed up. I think there is some kink which causes him to mention John McCain at every turn, as though this is going to fetch him some benediction from Republicans. It does not at all serve him well. One would think his unseemly overtures to McCain for the VP slot, and the latter's deliberate, public, snubbing should have taught Kerry something. Bush neatly turned his McCain chant into a plus by saying briefly that McCain had endorsed and was working for him.

Clearly, Bush was quite wobbly on most matters, and reverted to his mantras of 'liberal', 'Ted Kennedy', 'Senate Record', etc. I think the public is now on to this coverup.

In conclusion, the debates have been great, even if they have not served to answer (or have answered) the basic question of an Iraq solution. Kerry also passed up a great opportunity during the debate to nail the administration's negligence in allowing 9-11 to happen. Bush has been shown up for a president with lots of strong opinions (beliefs?) but with a rather tenuous grip on facts. A lifetime of short-cuts and disdain for learning were clearly manifest in his answers. The delightful Dick CHeney momen t of this debate ("I don't recall saying I wasn't concerned about Osama Bin Laden", similar to "I never said Saddam Husain had anything to do with Al Qaeda or 9-11") came early in the debate. Perhaps they are so used to thinking the media will let everything pass. Or to the months of handpicked audiences who will cheer everything they say.

Kerry may not be the best candidate in the world, but there is no doubt he is better suited to be president than Bush. A long list, that.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

2nd Debate Perspectives

Two articles in Counterpunch on the second debate -- a brilliant piece yesterday by Paul Craig Roberts, called To Escape from Blunder, First Admit Reality, and a view of the debate from a broader perspective, "Act blurs with Audience".

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Letter from Baghdad

Here's an excerpt from an email fromFarnaz Fassihi, the Wall Street Journal's man in Baghdad. The full message can be found at

...Forget about the reasons that lured me to this job: a chance to see the world, explore the exotic, meet new people in far away lands, discover their ways and tell stories that could make a difference.

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

Insurgents now attack Americans 87 times a day.

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

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

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

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Faith Based Economics

Whether Bush wins or Kerry, American problems remain. Here's a persuasive article by a prominent economist, focusing on American jobs. The article is taken from (Oct 9/10, 2004), and reprinted here for wider dissemination.

September Jobs Report
Faith-Based Economics


The US economy has ceased to create jobs in tradable goods and services. The disastrous September payroll jobs data are a repeat of the monthly trend that has held for the nearly four years of the Bush administration.

Of September's 96,000 new jobs, 73% are accounted for by two categories: government jobs and temporary help! There were only 59,000 private sector jobs created in September, and 33,000 of those--56%--are temps! Manufacturing lost another 18,000 jobs. More Americans are employed in accommodations and food services than as production workers.

It is easy to blame the Bush administration, but the real blame lies with outsourcing and offshore production. By locating production for US markets offshore, US firms can substitute much cheaper foreign labor for US labor to make the goods and services sold to Americans. The high speed Internet makes it possible for US firms to hire foreigners residing abroad, where living costs are low, to do knowledge-based jobs formerly performed by US university graduates. The US is losing the ability to manufacture a range of advanced technology products and is now dependent on imports of advanced technology goods from China and Japan. Entire high tech occupations are beginning to disappear in America, with computer engineering enrollments in topflight schools such as M.I.T., Georgia Tech, and UC, Berkeley shrinking by 45%. Last week economist Joseph Stiglitz reported that median US income has fallen by over $1,500 in real terms over the past three and one-half years.

Despite all evidence to the contrary, "free market," "free-trade" economists continue to give assurances that Americans are prospering from outsourcing. This delusion is equivalent to the Bush administration's delusion that the US is winning in Iraq.

US multinational firms, whose top executives and shareholders benefit from outsourcing, hire think-tanks to produce "studies" that conclude Americans benefit from the loss of jobs and careers to foreigners. All the while the American labor force is being redirected into domestic nontradable services, an influx that depresses wages in domestic services. At the same time, illegal aliens are flooding into US construction jobs. Local governments and hospitals, claiming "shortages," import foreign teachers and nurses who will work for less. It is not clear
how many of the jobs created in September went to Americans.

Faced with hard facts, economists take refuge in deceitful nonsense equivalent to the Bush administration's claims that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and was involved in the September 11 terrorist attacks.

As high-tech US jobs move offshore, economists chant a lemming-like chorus: the answer is more high-tech education. Bill Gates responds to shrinking job opportunities for American engineers by beating the drums for more engineering majors. Other economists claim that we need more tax cuts to help US firms acquire more capital with which to make US workers more productive and, thus, more competitive. This is a pointless exercise when the capital (and technology) is being used to employ foreigners in place of Americans. Other economists claim that outsourcing can only be a small problem, because 90% of US output produced offshore is sold in foreign markets. This claim overlooks the inherited foreign investment America
built up during its half century dominance of world trade and manufacturing. These foreign investments by US firms were made in order to sell in foreign markets, not as offshore platforms to serve domestic US markets.

Outsourcing and offshore production are new phenomena. They have not been around long enough to comprise a large share of US production abroad. But they have been around long enough to erode American employment and wages in tradable goods and services. When a US multinational ceases to produce in Ohio for its domestic markets, and moves the production abroad, the Ohio jobs disappear. Wages fall or stagnate in similar lines of work that still remain the the US.

When Intel, Microsoft and all the rest hire Asian software engineers, the US engineers are out of work. US careers are sent abroad and given to foreigners, and with them go the incomes that comprise America's ladders of upward mobility. American students are becoming aware of the facts, but economists hold firmly to their fantasy that other new and even better jobs are taking the place of those that have been outsourced. There is no evidence whatsoever in behalf of this claim. Economics has ceased to be an empirical science and has become a religious

Paul Craig Roberts is John M. Olin Fellow at the Institute for Political Economy and Research fellow at the Independent Institute. He is a former associate editor of the Wall Street Journal and a former assistant secretary of the U.S. Treasury. He is the co-author of The Tyranny of Good Intentions.

Friday, October 08, 2004

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Imperialists

A brilliant article by James Pinkerton in the America Conservative..

Imperialism needs a different mindset and appetite. The article makes this point with beautiful examples from imperialist history, and ends on a dismal note. Even full-throttle imperialism eventually leads to reverse colonization (my words). Part-time imperialism has even more disastrous consequences.

A must read!

Thursday, October 07, 2004

The new October Surprise?

A friend writes,

"While everyone is looking for BinLadin to be trotted out, a subtle choice for Oct surprise is...


...given that he has been singled him out consistently as THE bad guy in most of the recent attacks, beheadings, videos ( I mean every little thing in Iraq happeninig is
acscribed to him)

.....and in most of these he is supposedly there (either a voice or seen behind a mask) is easy to think that they already have him now and want to make the biggest legend of him before
triumphantly announcing his capture this month."

Monday, October 04, 2004

Friday, October 01, 2004

When Bush debated himself -- and lost!

Before the first presidential debate of 2004, President Bush told a rally that Kerry could just as soon debate himself for 90 minutes. As it turned out, it was Bush who debated himself -- and lost.

Kerry seemed fresh and relaxed, whereas Bush seemed flurried, agitated and piqued. Even assuming you had not seen or heard Kerry at all. Just listening to Bush alone, you would conclude this was some fledgling politician lost in boots too large for him.

Add to that Kerry's performance, at all times confident, composed, and steely. You didn't have to agree with him to feel that if Bush could be president, this guy surely could!

As one looked at Bush, one wondered if this was a man who had actually held the job for four years. He seemed to be having new epiphanies even during the course of the debate. In a moment reminiscent of Richard Nixon's "I am not a Crook", Bush declared, "I know Osama bin Laden attacked us. I know that".

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Let Srini do it
The Price of Outsourcing

Paul Craig Roberts, respected economist and former Asst. Secy. of the Treasury, has written a lucid article in today's Counterpunch, which I reproduce below:

War, Outsourcing and Debt
Delusion Rules

The US might be a superpower, but it is not a country that controls its own fate. Delusion does.

Much of the US public is deluded about the invasion and occupation of Iraq and its consequences and about the state of the US economy.

Just as Americans are deceived into believing that Iraq was involved in the September 11 terrorist attack on the US and threatened America with weapons of mass destruction, Americans are deceived into believing that they benefit economically from outsourcing, offshore production, and an unprecedented trade deficit.

The deceivers emphasize the lower prices, not the lost incomes and destroyed careers, that result when American workers are replaced by cheaper foreign labor. The deceivers allege that the trade deficit means that we get to consume more of the world's goods than we produce, with the added benefit that foreigners pay for our excess consumption by investing in America.

The truth of the matter is that "foreign investment" in the US today consists of Asian central banks, mainly Japan and China, using surplus earnings from massive trade surpluses to prop up the US dollar by purchasing US government bonds.

By propping up the dollar, Asians keep their goods and services cheap, thus worsening the US trade deficit. Washington goes along because Asian countries use their export surpluses to finance the US budget deficit.

Propping up the dollar undermines investment in factories or businesses that produce jobs for Americans. Stephen Roach, chief economist for Morgan Stanley, reports that in 2003 net investment in the US business sector was 60% below the level in 2000.

The US has become the world's largest debtor, in hock to foreigners for one-fourth of our Gross Domestic Product. The ratio of US external debt (what we owe to foreigners) and US exports is approaching the crisis ratios of banana republics.

It is inevitable: America's mounting debts will produce a crisis. The dollar's value will plummet, and US living standards will drop. Everything will become more expensive for Americans.

The perilous condition of the dollar is one of the reasons Bush invaded Iraq. What keeps the overvalued dollar up is the fact that it is the currency in which the Middle East bills its oil. Every country has to purchase dollars in order to pay for its oil, and these purchases keep the dollar afloat.

Just prior to the US invasion, sanctions on Iraqi oil had run their course and were about to be removed. Saddam Hussein intended to bill Iraqi oil in Euros, which could have started the abandonment of the dollar by the oil producing countries. Instead of fixing our economic problems, we started a war. In the meantime, America continues to lose high-paying jobs and entire occupations to foreigners, because US corporations outsource jobs and produce offshore. University of California professor Norm Matloff warns that outsourcing and H1-B visas, which bring foreign workers into US firms, are destroying the US software engineering profession. (Matloff's writings are available online and are worth more attention than this column provides.)

The shrinking computer science enrollments in American universities have finally caught the attention of the academic establishment. Computer science departments, which should have been speaking out long ago, have been muzzled, because they are heavily dependent on research and faculty funds from the very firms whose outsourcing practices are destroying the occupation in America.

Falling enrollments mean fewer faculty positions and graduate students. Despite their funding being threatened by fewer enrollments, most computer science professors are unwilling to contradict their corporate benefactors' false claim that "outsourcing is good for America." Another year of biting the tongue, another grant received.

Instead, the professors acknowledge that programming is a lost occupation for Americans and claim that there is still a future for American students in designing computer systems--"computer software systems architecture." Nonsense, says Matloff, a computer science professor himself. He notes that it is impossible to design computer systems without having years of programming experience. If you lose programming, you lose the base for the occupation, and all the rest goes offshore as well.

Some economists claim that lost occupations will return to the US once wages rise in India and China. Matloff's answer: "Did manufacturing work return to the US over time as wages rose in developing countries? Of course not." Only America is stupid enough to give away its manufacturing and high tech occupations.

Other economists allege that new high tech professions will rise to take the place of the lost computer engineering profession. Matloff punctures that delusion: Venture capitalists routinely demand that the new companies they finance outsource to the hilt.

US universities have educated enough Indians and Chinese to fill every high tech job American firms have to offer. The false claim that only drudgery jobs are outsourced is laughable.

If you believe that lie, you believe Saddam Hussein was in cahoots with Osama bin Laden and had weapons of mass destruction.

Paul Craig Roberts is John M. Olin Fellow at the Institute for Political Economy and Research Fellow at the Independent Institute. He is a former associate editor of the Wall Street Journal and a former assistant secretary of the U.S. Treasury. He is the co-author of The Tyranny of Good Intentions.

Al Gore on the Debates

Fine article by Al Gore in the NYT today, ending thus:

"The biggest single difference between the debates this year and four years ago is that President Bush cannot simply make promises. He has a record. And I hope that voters will recall the last time Mr. Bush stood on stage for a presidential debate. If elected, he said, he would support allowing Americans to buy prescription drugs from Canada. He promised that his tax cuts would create millions of new jobs. He vowed to end partisan bickering in Washington. Above
all, he pledged that if he put American troops into combat: 'The force must be strong enough so that the mission can be accomplished. And the exit strategy needs to be well defined.'

Comparing these grandiose promises to his failed record, it's enough to make anyone want to, well, sigh.

See the full article (Registration required).

Friday, September 24, 2004

The Rape of the West

"PARACHUTE, Colo. -- The last sanctuary of the West Douglas wild horse herd is a desolate, forbidding place, which is just how the horses like it. As many as 60 skittish sorrels and bays make their home on the steeper slopes and stony ridges north of here, abandoning the valleys to growing throngs of oil and gas men looking for places to drill.
Now, even this refuge may soon be lost. The U.S. Interior Department, which has leased 93 percent of the horses' preserve to
energy companies, recently unveiled plans for evicting the entire herd. Under the proposal, the animals will be rounded up using nets and tranquilizer darts and then hauled away for adoption. The reason cited: Wild horses are incompatible with the region's intensive gas production.

So begins an article in the Washington Post, entitled, Land-Use Decisions Largely Favor Energy Industry about the Bush record on the environment. Another evidence of the manifold tragedy, the unredeemed greed this administration represents.

Logical Limbo(augh?)

Dan Rather's crime is that he aired a segment using unauthenticated documents. What about a whole war based on unauthenticated documents (Powell's evidence, Rumsfeld's exactitudeds, Bush's Yellowcake?). Here's an article on the logical folly involved.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

American Reality - How Time Flies

"Yet this is staring us in the face. Iraq: could the world have conceived, in 1947, that US troops could not hold Hamburg, Frankfurt and Munich? That American leaders could only sneak into Germany on furtive, unscheduled peek-a-boo missions? That the American occupation officials, hardly daring to emerge from their fortified ghetto, could not control most of Berlin? Afghanistan: could anyone have imagined an America as feckless in its response to Pearl Harbor as to the even greater humiliation is suffered on September 11th? The very country that was supposed to feel the full weight of American wrath now houses a puppet semi-government which cannot even control its own capital, and a scattering of American troops bring no results other than their own occasional deaths. The United States has fallen far. The inability to see the significance of the change is almost as spectacular as the change itself."

From "Three Years and Counting? How Time Flies" by Michael Neumann

Much has been written about the decline of America, the perils of imperial pursuits and the unsustainability of empire. But this article by Michael Neumann puts what many people have tried to say in sharper and clearer focus than any others I've seen. An outstanding review. Scintillating!

The prescription with which Neumann ends his article (dump Israel) is too specific for the large questions he raises, but does point to America's marked lack of any instinct of self-preservation.

A must read. I thought Pat Buchanan had best articulated this viewpoint so far, but Neumann has delivered a short tour de force.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

High Plains Grifter, Rather Lynching, Florida goes National

In six brilliant sketches, Jeffrey St. Clair, co-editor of Counterpunch and environmental activist, has drawn a picture of the life and crimes of George W. Bush. Each is riveting, nauseating and horrifying. The only thing missing is a proper index, which I'm sure a book of these pieces (I'm sure that's the idea) will contain. In the meantime, this is must reading for anyone who plans to vote this fall.

High Plains Grifter
Part 1: The Ties that Bind
Part 2: Mark his Words
Part 3: More Pricks than Kicks
Part 4: Jesus Told Him Where to Bomb
Part 5: Bush's Mark of Anarchy
Coda: The House Rules

Rather Lynching
Greg Palast, the author of "The Best Democracy Money Can Buy" has written an article on the Dan Rather story called "Rather Lynching". He quotes Rather's rather prophetic statement (to a British audience), a couple of years ago, that any journalist daring to ask tough questions in America would be given the equivalent of the the South African "rubber tire" treatment (putting a burning rubber tire around one's neck).

Fraudida 2000 Goes National in 2004
The disenfranchisement of black voters in the 2000 elections in Florida is now being repeated on a wider scale. The story, Millions blocked from voting in US Elections, was on the front page of Yahoo a few minutes ago, and then completely disappeared, buried deep inside. Here's a quote from the story:

"There are individuals and officials who are actively trying to stop people from voting who they think will vote against their party and that nearly always means stopping black people from voting Democratic," said Mary Frances Berry, head of the U.S. Commission on Human Rights.

"In elections in Baltimore in 2002 and in Georgia last year, black voters were sent fliers saying anyone who hadn't paid utility bills or had outstanding parking tickets or were behind on their rent would be arrested at polling stations. It happens in every election cycle," she (Vicky Beasley of the People for the American Way) said.

Every politician needs to speak about it, every newspaper needs to make a stink about it. And all of us need to raise hell.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Speaking of phony documents...

A great article by Paul Craig Roberts on how we have missed the real issues amidst the CBS/Dan Rather imbroglio. One more example of the contemporary American penchant for the trivial over the significant. To the Bushites, who are supposedly so devoted to the Bible as to begin even staff meetings with a Biblical invocation, here is a relevant quote in this context, "You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor's i eye" (Matthew 7.5).

Sunday, September 19, 2004

One Day in the Life of Joe Republican

A friend forwarded this piece to me. I am reproducing it verbatim (author unknown).


Joe gets up at 6 a.m. and fills his coffeepot with water to prepare his morning coffee. The water is clean and good because some tree- hugging liberal fought for minimum water-quality standards. With his first swallow of coffee, he takes his daily medication. His medications are safe to take because some stupid commie liberal fought to insure their safety and that they work as advertised. All but $10 of his medications are paid for by his employer's medical plan because some liberal union workers fought their employers for paid medical insurance - now Joe gets it too.

He prepares his morning breakfast, bacon and eggs. Joe's bacon is safe to eat because some girlie-man liberal fought for laws to regulate the meat packing industry.

In the morning shower, Joe reaches for his shampoo. His bottle is properly labeled with each ingredient and its amount in the total contents because some crybaby liberal fought for his right to know what he was putting on his body and how much it contained.

Joe dresses, walks outside and takes a deep breath. The air he breathes is clean because some environmentalist wacko liberal fought for laws to stop industries from polluting our air.

He walks to the subway station for his government-subsidized ride to work. It saves him considerable money in parking and transportation fees because some fancy-pants liberal fought for affordable public transportation, which gives everyone the opportunity to be a contributor. Joe begins his work day .He has a good job with excellent pay, medical benefits, retirement, paid holidays and vacation because some lazy liberal union members fought and died for these working standards.

Joe's employer pays the same standards because Joe's employer doesn't want his employees to call the union. If Joe is hurt on the job or becomes unemployed, he'll get a worker compensation or unemployment check because some stupid liberal didn't think he should lose his home because of his temporary misfortune.

Its noontime and Joe needs to make a bank deposit so he can pay some bills. Joe's deposit is federally insured by the FSLIC because some godless liberal wanted to protect Joe's money from unscrupulous bankers who ruined the banking system before the Great Depression.

Joe has to pay his Fannie Mae-underwritten mortgage and his below- market federal student loan because some elitist liberal decided that Joe and the government would be better off if he was educated and earned more money over his lifetime.

Joe is home from work. He plans to visit his father this evening at his farm home in the country. He gets in his car for the drive. His car is among the safest in the world because some America-hating liberal fought for car safety standards. He arrives at his boyhood home. His was the third generation to live in the house financed by Farmers' Home Administration because bankers didn't want to make rural loans. The house didn't have electricity until some big- government liberal stuck his nose where it didn't belong and demanded rural electrification.

He is happy to see his father, who is now retired. His father lives on Social Security and a union pension because some wine- drinking,cheese-eating liberal made sure he could take care of himself so Joe wouldn't have to.

Joe gets back in his car for the ride home, and turns on a radio talk show. The radio host keeps saying that liberals are bad and conservatives are good. He doesn't mention that the beloved Republicans have fought against every protection and benefit Joe enjoys through out his day. Joe agrees: "We don't need those big-government liberals ruining our lives! After all, I'm a self-made man who believes everyone should take care of themselves, just like I have."

Friday, September 17, 2004

Jay Leno speaks his mind

We see Jay Leno every weeknight as a comedian. But I have always felt he was more than just a comedian -- well informed, interested, and intelligent. This is clear from an interview he did with LA Weekly recently. Makes interesting reading.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

WMD's found in Iraq!

Yes, but not what you think: this is not some clever wordplay (Weapons of Mass Distraction, Delusion, etc.). These are real, and lethal. And used by America in Iraq.

The item referred to is depleted Uranium (DU) and its impact is discussed in a frightening article on the English website of Al Jazeera (see full article).

Some highlights:

  • the half-life period of depleted uranium is 4.5 billion years.
  • an undue number of deformed births have been reported in Iraq
  • cases of cancer have skyrocketed
  • a number of US service personnel have also been affected, and a huge number from the first Gulf War (remember the Gulf War Syndrome?)
  • among the victims is Major Doug Rokke, director of the US army's DU project in 1994-95.

Finally, Kofi Annan has worked up the gumption to get his tongue around the word, 'illegal', to describe a war started in contempt of the UN (in the name of safeguarding UN resolutions, but not seeking a resolution for the War itself).

Will he investigate this atrocity (for if true, that is precisely what it is)?

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Early Promise -- A Hypocrite even then

Whether the CBS memos are real or fake, the real fake has already spent 4 years in the White House. Read this:

"I used to chat up a number of students when we were walking back to class," Tsurumi said. "Here was Bush, wearing a Texas Guard bomber jacket, and the draft was the No. 1 topic in those days. And I said, 'George, what did you do with the draft?' He said, 'Well, I got into the Texas Air National Guard.' And I said, 'Lucky you. I understand there is a long waiting list for it. How'd you get in?' When he told me, he didn't seem ashamed or embarrassed. He thought he was entitled to all kinds of privileges and special deals. He was not the only one trying to twist all their connections to avoid Vietnam. But then, he was fanatically for the war."

That's how Prof. Yoshi Tsurumi, George W. Bush's economics professor at Harvard Business School in 1973, described his impressions of his student (SEe full article in Salon (Free Day Pass Available)).

Prof. Tsurumi found Bush to be ill-mannered, unashamed of showing off his high connections. He used to come late to class, sit in the back, chew tobacco and spit into a cup. He was in the bottom 10% of the class.

If you want an insight into the character of this weak and mean youth who grew up to sit in the Oval Office and order young men and women to their doom for a false cause, this article deserves your attention.

Monday, September 13, 2004

You're Fired! Assault Weapons Legal Once More

The Bush Administration has deliberately let the 10 year old law banning assault weapons die for want of renewal. To paraphrase Kerry's Senate testimony after returning from Vietnam, how do you ask a victim to be the last to die for a selfish, vote-centered decision? Bush and the Congress bear full responsibility for people who die in drive-by shootings, stray fire, and perhaps terrorist action enabled by easier availability of AK 47's and Uzi's.

(See article: Guns N' Poses).

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory

Alexander Cockburn has a fine article in Counterpunch (Swatting at Flies, Sep 11-12, 2004) on why Kerry is losing to Bush. Could be called a chronicle of the collected idiocies of the Kerry campaign.

A Newsweek poll says the race has tightened, and so has Kerry's message. He finally spoke out against Black disenfranchisement, but only at a meeting of the Congressional Black Caucus (guided no doubt, by an appropriate focus group). Where is Edwards, by the way? We don't see him on the news at all.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

It's that time again -- Republicans fuss over debates to lower expectations

James A Baker III, lawyer for George Bush and the Saudi Royal family, and a prominent figure in the infamous Carlyle Group (in which the Bin Ladens have, or had, a sizable holding), is Bush's representative in a needless wrangle over presidential debate formats.

And oh yes, wasn't he the guy who would appear frequently on TV and say things like, "the votes have been counted over and over again...", knowing full well that they had not been counted even once, during the Florida 2000 fraud election?

He is. Anyhow, this is a regular republican ploy as long as I can remember. They fuss about the debates, forcing everyone to say their guy is so abysmally devoid of debating skills that he's ducking it. Then they appear, and a full sentence evokes an 'Egad, that's pretty good' from the watching public.

Don't let's fall for this. Bush can debate as well as any one. What he has to say is another matter. My worries in this debate lie entirely with Kerry.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Losing America

See today's Counterpunch, Byrd's Eye View for a review of Senator Robert Byrd's new book, Losing America. He anticipated what we see today -- the terrible trifecta of a thousand American deaths, a President without a conscience and the loss of control over the entire Sunni Triangle to exactly the religious extremists we were going to fight (on the last point, Shariat law is in full force in Falluja, and has been for some time).

With all his crimes, Saddam was not a religious bigot. Bush may have eased the path for Iran -- and Al Qaeda -- to play a bigger role in the region.

Byrd railed against all this from a simple standpoint -- a war is not for the president to declare. A constitutional purist, he reasoned that it was too serious a matter to be left to one man. All we had to do was follow the rules. But I forget. If we had, we wouldn't have had this presidency... Duh!

And now from the Globe

Along the same lines as Nicholas Kristoff's piece (see the posting, 'W' is for Waffler, below), today's Boston Globe also has a front-page story on how Bush did not honor his National Guard Commitments, and what's more -- suffered no penalty, indicating his high connections as being the reason for his being let off.

I hope he regrets his Willie Horton -- the coyness with which he permitted his surrogates to slime Kerry (not forgetting the sly, "I honor Sen. Kerry's service..."). His National Guard service is the last thing he needs to be a topic in this campaign.

The chickens, it would seem, are coming home to roost.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

The 1000th American

The mark was crossed today.

Today the 1000th American life was lost in the Iraq war. A far greater number of Iraqis have died as well, all to serve Bush and his cohorts' shifting fancies of remaking the world.

It is time to see this megalomania for what it is. It is exactly this sentiment which drives the Hitlers and Stalins of the world, or the Osama Bin Ladens. Lives are mere tokens in a Great Game.

Tomorrow's NY Times also has a headline, "U.S. Conceding Rebels Control Regions of Iraq ".

In a fair world, Bush, Cheney, Powell, Rumsfeld, Rice and the rest would be tried as war criminals, and so-called honorable men such as Guiliani and McCain, Schwarzenegger and Pataki, who cynically offered them cover, arraigned as accessories.

'W' is for Waffler

In tomorrow's NY Times, Nicholas Kristoff has an article which includes these words,

"I've steered clear until now of how Mr. Bush evaded service in Vietnam because I thought other issues were more important. But if Bush supporters attack John Kerry for his conduct after he volunteered for dangerous duty in Vietnam, it's only fair to scrutinize Mr. Bush's behavior."

Kristoff goes on to give evidence from various individuals at the Air National Guard in Alabama during the period Bush says he was there, but hasn't been able to locate anyone who can place him there.

It takes enormous chutzpah to accuse the other guy of wimpiness, especially when he volunteered for a war you not only ducked, but ducked the sinecure you got for ducking the war.

There was a joke about a guy who, unlike others, would always give his age as 35, no matter how many years apart he was asked. When questioned, he said he wanted to be steadfast. If Kerry fought in Vietnam, and came home transformed in mindset, that is certainly more acceptable than someone who sticks to the same lie, now finally wearing thin.

Kerry should embrace his criticism of the war, and add to it the criticism of the Iraq war, where the 1000th US soldier died today.

Kerry finds a slogan - W is for 'Wrong'

Finally, Kerry has alighted upon a simple slogan. Yesterday he hammered the war in Iraq, and reminded his audience that the 200 billion dollars spent there was 200 billion taken out of our schools, health care, and other projects. He called Iraq the 'W'rong war at the 'W'rong time.

Today, he expanded on that theme, linking the deficit projected today by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to Bush, saying, according to the Washington Post, "Only George W. Bush could celebrate over a record budget deficit of $422 billion, a loss of 1.6 million jobs and Medicare premiums that are up by a record 17 percent...W stands for wrong -- the wrong direction for America."

Good work, Senator. After months of scoring self-goals, you've finally found Carville and Begala. It's working. Keep it up.

Monday, September 06, 2004

Bob Graham exposes Bush Lie

Any pretense that the Iraq war was a reluctant one, that it was only after every avenue was tried, etc. is a total lie. If anyone had doubts about this, Bob Graham's statement on Meet the Press yesterday, and in his book, should put it to rest.

Graham, in his new book, Intelligence Matters, said that a year prior to the Iraq War, Gen. Tommy Franks, heading the army in Afghanistan, had told him he was distressed by orders to pull troops out of Afghanistan to prepare to deploy in Iraq.

Kerry has asked for an investigation of this charge. Let us see whether the Democrats have the tenacity to keep at it.

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Nader Speaks

"When I talked to Kerry, I cautioned him that if he did not order a stop to the dirty tricks of his Democratic underlings and allies, he may face a mini-Watergate type of scandal. For Democrats and Republicans who care about civil liberties, free speech and an equal right to run for elective office, this festering situation should invite their very focused demands to cease and desist."

So goes an article by Ralph Nader in the Washington Post (dt. 9/5/2004, registration required). He was writing about the dirty tricks Democrats were waging, including threatening an elderly lady who was collecting ballot signatures on his behalf in Oregon.

If this is true, Kerry needs to call off the dogs, and apologize publicly. In any case, he should address Nader's charge. No use crying foul over Bush's dirty tricks (admittedly on a much grander scale than anything the Democrats have probably thought up) when engaged in similar behavior yourself. But perhaps I am being overly optimistic. Kerry's call to be optimists, not opponents, urging a positive campaign, is probably limited to his encounters with Bush, in his mind.

Nader continues:

"Watching their bullying maneuvers and harassing lawsuits around the country, I marvel at the absence of condemnation by Sen. John F. Kerry or Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic National Committee chairman."

"Sen. Kerry told us that he would look into this situation seven weeks ago but we have not heard back from him yet. Around the same time, McAuliffe told me in a phone conversation that he actively approved of these organized efforts, one of which is ironically called the Ballot Project. He urged me to run only in the 31 states considered to be locked up by one of the two candidates.

Finding Osama

One of the officials of the Bush Administration, Cofer Black(?), said in Pakistan yesterday that they were close to finding Osama Bin Laden, and he would not be shocked if the arrests happened shortly.

Well, about time, wouldn't one say? After all, he was cornered in Tora Bora in late 2001, if you recall, and rather than commit US forces, they outsourced the job to Afghan warlords, whom history records as being noticeably partial to the higher purse. Osama was apparently more persuasive, and he and his associates, including Al Zawahiri (who was declared dead by the administration early on) made good their escape.

So, if he gloats about capturing the fugitive now, Bush would only be displaying his incompetence. There is a reason why the "Wanted, dead or alive" of the early days following 9-11 dissipated into the "We don't really care what happened to him" of later.

Let's not forget Mullah Omar either, the leader of the Taliban government. The Clinton Administration had cut off all aid to the Taliban. After coming to office (all in the few months before 9-11!) the Bush Administration gave 43 million dollars to the Taliban Click here to see an article written May 2001, well before 9-11. In fact, the article even asks why the Bush administration wants to give aid to a government which harbors Osama Bin Laden!

Why John Kerry does not raise this 'Faustian Bargain' (in the words of the article) in every speech is past my understanding. Why did the Bush administration in Texas (when he was Governor) invite a Taliban delegation to Texas to do business?

What about the oil connection? The current ambassador to Afghanistan (post-Taliban) is Zalmay Kahlilzad, a Unocal executive. As, evidently, was Hamid Karzai himself. The Bush-Cheney-Taliban-Oil connection bears investigation, and Michael Moore's movie exposes the surface. Why does no mainstream news correspondent follow up?

In any event, like the Zinoviev letter, it is possible (though hopefully, unlikely, given the scandal it would create) that Osama bin Laden will be captured, and the news released at the opportune time. But the Democrats need to articulate the fact that this should have happened in 2001.

Alliance with Nader

Kerry's challenge in the next two weeks is to generate a sense of momentum. Campaigns are all a matter of perceptions, perceptions of perceptions, perceptions of perceptions of get the idea.

To appear to be winning is to win. Not always. The defeats of Aznar and Vajpayee crept up on them. Chavez was written off. But the United States has a patently dormant sense of politics, which is one reason why what-you-see-is-what-you-get (WSYWIG) was invented here.

From that standpoint, it is essential that Kerry patch up with traditional Democratic allies, beginning with Nader. This is a tough call, but one that needs to be made right away, the sooner the better.

The Campaign Teams

There is an AP story about the two campaign teams of Bush and Kerry, one led by the redoubtable Karl Rove, and the other by Mary Beth Cahill. The article lists various other functionaries in either camp (Cahill, Rove lead Presidential Campaigns).

The impression one gets is that the Kerry campaign is in response mode, not in active mode. And as long as Bush can keep them there, he wins. One of my favorite political stories is from Pakistan (recounted in MJ Akbar's India - The Siege Within). That Zulfikar Ali Bhutto (Prime Minister of Pakistan) smoked and drank, was an open secret. But his opponents in the Islamic wing kept nipping at his heels by taunting him at every public appearance. After putting up with this for a while and dodging the question, Bhutto decided he had had enough. Finally, at one public meeting, when they heckled him about his drinking, he took them on directly. "It is true that I drink alcohol", he declared, and added, "But unlike the mullahs, I do not drink the blood of the people". The whole crowd roared, "Peevae, Peevae, Bhutto Peevae. Jeevae, Jeevae, Bhutto Jeevae" (meaning: "Drink, Bhutto, Drink. Live, Bhutto, Live). The mullahs slunk away.

The theme is an old one, dating at least to that classic, High Noon. Kerry needs to turn and take on these miserable cowards.

Bush National Guard Records Still Missing

While heroes like Cheney (5 deferments, said he had better things to do than serve in Vietnam) and Arnold (dodged service in Austrian military and was imprisoned for same) were busy impugning Kerry's war record, a story out today reminds us that Bush's service in the National Guard is still an unanswered question See Records Still Missing. Despite a $10000 reward for anyone who served with Bush in the National Guard in Alabama, not a person has shown up. So, who is the liar? One who definitely served, fought and was wounded, but may have exaggerated some details, or one who first dodged the risk, then dodged even that safe assignment, and has lied about both ever since?

As Col. Welch asked Joe McCarthy, someone should ask the Bush, Cheney and Company, "At long last, have you no shame?"

Bill Clinton's Surgery

President Clinton is in a New York (Upstate?) hospital awaiting quadruple bypass surgery. The NYT reports that some 15000 messages have poured in from all over the country expressing concern and wishing him well, all to his website, Clinton Presidential Center. One of them says, "Cannot believe there is anything big enough to block your large heart", which says it all.

What a contrast between Bill Clinton and the current occupant of the White House. Clinton grew up poor, came up by sheer excellence at every stage. George W. Bush was given entree into every opportunity by either birth or influence (including the very top spot). Clinton was a master of the facts. George can barely muster them. Clinton took a record deficit and turned it into a record surplus. Bush took a record surplus and turned it into a record deficit.

Agree with him or not, Clinton is a brilliant man and an exceptional president. What we have now is a poor excuse, on both counts.

TV is the Key

I am on the mailing list, but haven't received anything in the last few days. No matter how much is posted on the internet and sent over e-mail, the Republicans have a stranglehold on TV. Organizations like MoveOn, and viewers like us, should concentrate on contacting the TV stations (CBS, ABC, NBC, CNN -- and FOX, although it's probably not worth it) asking them why they are not holding the President to any standard of Truth (the Fred Kaplan story below, and Frank Rich's article (How Kerry became a Girlie Man) should give any unbiased reader pause before swallowing Bush's untruths.

Saturday, September 04, 2004

Analysis of Bush's speech

Fine analysis by Fred Kaplan on Slate Lies, Damned Lies and Convention Speeches . Also, Frank Rich in NYT writes about why Kerry is having troubles, arguing he should not run away from his record, rather he should embrace it.
So it's official, now. Yesterday was the Time poll -- today Newsweek has almost the same results. Is the election to be written off by Kerry?

In my view, Kerry has to do immediately, the following:

  1. Criticize the Iraq policy in no uncertain terms.
  2. Apologize for his vote.
  3. Proclaim a quick troop withdrawal.
  4. Talk about the widespread doubt regarding voter intimidation (Florida) and ballot rigging (electronic)
  5. Ask for Bush's impeachment for lying to the country.
  6. Declare a 5-year moratorium on immigration.
  7. Sack James Rubin for saying he would have gone to war even if he had known WMD's were not there.
  8. Hire James Carville and Paul Begala, the last successful Democratic consultants.

The Eleven Point Lead

My boy asks me why Kerry is eleven points behind. What can I tell him? Is it because the people are blind? Is it because the known devil is better than the unknown? Is it because Bush's convention speech was better? Is it because the RNC was after the DNC? If Bush is just enjoying a post-convention bounce, why didn't Kerry get one?

No good answers. With all of Kerry's faults, what does one do when a President who took the country to war on the imminent threat of weapons of mass destruction shamelessly say it did not matter that none were found, and then discovers that the country doesn't think it matters either? What can a politician like Kerry do? Especially if his spokesman (James Rubin) has also said he (Kerry) would have also taken the country to war, even knowing everything he knows now? Pathetic.