Thursday, June 30, 2005

June 29, 2005

June 29, 2005

Last night I poured myself a double scotch before watching the President’s speech. As it turned out, I needed it.

As I noted in an earlier column, I’m an old fart. Five more years and I will qualify for both Social Security and Medicare – if they’re still around. The trouble with getting old is almost everyday is another déjà vu experience. It seems the human race suffers from a nearly flat learning curve, because we keep repeating past mistakes with alarming frequency and enthusiasm.

Here’s what I mean. I took Bush’s speech last night and compared it to the speeches of two former presidents, Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon. The speeches were, like last nights', given at times when Americans were increasingly questioning the reasoning and logic behind the war in Vietnam.

The Selfless-Sacrifice Gambit:
Bush (6/28/05): Our mission in Iraq is clear: we're helping Iraqis build a free nation that is an ally in the war on terror. We're advancing freedom in the broader Middle East. We are removing a source of violence and instability and laying the foundation of peace for our children and our grandchildren.

Johnson (1965): We fight (in Vietnam) because we must fight if we are to live in a world where every country can shape its own destiny, and only in such a world will our own freedom be finally secure.

The Threat-to-America Gambit
Bush (6/28/05): The only way our enemies can succeed is if we forget the lessons of September the 11th, if we abandon the Iraqi people to men like Zarqawi and if we yield the future of the Middle East to men like bin Laden. For the sake of our nation's security, this will not happen on my watch. We have more work to do, and there will be tough moments that test America's resolve.

Nixon (1969): Our defeat and humiliation in South Vietnam without question would promote recklessness in the councils of those great powers who have not yet abandoned their goals of world conquest. This would spark violence wherever our commitments help maintain the peace -- in the Middle East, in Berlin, eventually even in the Western Hemisphere.

The I-Listen-To-Military-Experts Gambit
Bush (6/28/05): Some Americans ask me, If completing the mission is so important, why don't you send more troops? If our commanders on the ground say we need more troops, I will send them.

Johnson (1968): On many occasions I have told the American people that we would send to Vietnam those forces that are required to accomplish our mission there. So, with that as our guide, we have previously authorized a force level of approximately 525,000.

The They-Are-Animals Gambit
Bush (6/28/05): The terrorists ,,,, are waging a campaign of murder and destruction. And there is no limit to the innocent lives they are willing to take. We see the nature of the enemy in terrorists who exploded car bombs along a busy shopping street in Baghdad, including one outside a mosque. We see the nature of the enemy in terrorists who sent a suicide bomber to a teaching hospital in Mosul. We see the nature of the enemy in terrorists who behead civilian hostages and broadcast their atrocities for the world to see.

Johnson (1965): And it is a war of unparalleled brutality. Simple farmers are the targets of assassination and kidnapping. Women and children are strangled in the night because their men are loyal to the government. And helpless villagers are ravaged by sneak attacks. Large-scale raids are conducted on towns, and terror strikes in the heart of cities.

The Gift-of-Freedom Gambit
Bush (6/28/05): America's mission in Iraq is to defeat an enemy and give strength to a friend -- a free, representative government that is an ally in the war on terror and a beacon of hope in a part of the world that is desperate for reform.

Johnson (1965): Our objective is the independence of South Viet-Nam, and its freedom from attack. We want nothing for ourselves-only that the people of South Viet-Nam be allowed to guide their own country in their own way.

The Vietnamization/Iraqization Gambit
Bush (6/28/05): Today, Iraq has more than 160,000 security forces trained and equipped for a variety of missions. Iraqi forces have fought bravely, helping to capture terrorists and insurgents…

Johnson (1968): … the Government of South Vietnam started the drafting of 19-year-olds on March 1st. On May 1st, the Government will begin the drafting of 18-year-olds. Last month, 10,000 men volunteered for military service--that was two and a half times the number of volunteers during the same month last year. Since the middle of January, more than 48,000 South Vietnamese have joined the armed forces--and nearly half of them volunteered to do so.

The We-Are-Making-Substantial-Progress Gambit
Bush (6/28/05): …. we have continued our efforts to equip and train Iraqi security forces. We've made gains in both the number and quality of those forces. Today, Iraq has more than 160,000 security forces trained and equipped for a variety of missions. And the best way to complete the mission is to help Iraqis build a free nation that can govern itself, sustain itself and defend itself.

Johnson (1968): Our presence there has always rested on this basic belief: The main burden of preserving their freedom must be carried out by them--by the South Vietnamese themselves. South Vietnam supports armed forces tonight of almost 700,000 men--and I call your attention to the fact that this is the equivalent of more than 10 million in our own population. Its people maintain their firm determination to be free of domination by the North. There has been substantial progress…

Nixon (1969): Or we can persist in our search for a just peace through a negotiated settlement if possible, or through continued implementation of our plan for Vietnamization…-- a plan in which we will withdraw all of our forces from Vietnam …. as the South Vietnamese become strong enough to defend their own freedom.

The Light-At-The-End-Of-The-Tunnel Gambit
Bush: (6/28/05): Our strategy can be summed up this way: As the Iraqis stand up, we will stand down.

Nixon (1969): As South Vietnamese forces become stronger, the rate of American withdrawal can become greater.

The Don’t-Lose-Your-Nerve-Now Gambit
Bush (6/28/05): The work in Iraq is difficult and it is dangerous. Like most Americans, I see the images of violence and bloodshed. Every picture is horrifying, and the suffering is real. Amid all this violence, I know Americans ask the question: Is the sacrifice worth it? It is worth it. And it is vital to the future security of our country.

Johnson (1965): The war is dirty and brutal and difficult. And some 400 young men, born into an America that is bursting with opportunity and promise, have ended their lives on Viet-Nam’s steaming soil.

Nixon (1970): This week I will have to sign 83 letters to mothers, fathers, wives and loved ones of men who have given their lives for America in Vietnam….There is nothing I want more than to see the day come when I do not have to write any of those letters. I want to end the war to save the lives of those brave young men in Vietnam. But I want to end it in a way which will increase the chance that their younger brothers and their sons will not have to fight in some future Vietnam someplace in the world.

The Giant-Mistake Gambit
Bush (6/28/05): I recognize that Americans want our troops to come home as quickly as possible. So do I. Some contend that we should set a deadline for withdrawing U.S. forces. Let me explain why that would be a serious mistake. Setting an artificial timetable would send the wrong message… to the enemy, who would know that all they have to do is to wait us out.

Nixon (1969): An announcement of a fixed timetable for our withdrawal would completely remove any incentive for the enemy to negotiate an agreement. They would simply wait until our forces had withdrawn and then move in.

The We-Must-Win Gambit
Bush (6/28/05): And we fight today because terrorists want to attack our country and kill our citizens, and Iraq is where they are making their stand. So we'll fight them there, we'll fight them across the world, and we will stay in the fight until the fight is won.

Johnson (1965): We will not be defeated. We will not grow tired. We will not withdraw, either openly or under the cloak of a meaningless agreement.

Nixon (1969): It is not the easy way. It is the right way. It is a plan which will end the war and serve the cause of peace -- not just in Vietnam but in the Pacific and in the world.

Here’s the flaw in reasoning all three of these guys failed to see. To prevail in fighting against an indigenous insurgency we must win. The insurgents have a far lower hurdle to clear. All they must do is not lose.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

June 28, 2005

Bush’s Road to Damascus Speech

An anonymous source slipped me a copy of President Bush’s primetime speech tonight. I don’t want to ruin the surprise but I must. Here it is:

Good evening. Tonight I want to talk about a lot things, not just Iraq. And then I have some announcements to make.

First, to Iraq.

You’ve heard me say many times that 911 changed everything. Well I meant it. But it goes deeper. It not only changed America, but it changed me as well. Before the 9/11 attacks my presidency was adrift. I had no idea a person could win the presidency only to be dwarfed by the office. I never looked or felt smaller in my whole life. Everyone was standing around waiting for me to do something and, frankly, I didn’t have a clue.

The 911 attacks changed all that in a flash, transforming me into a wartime president. Suddenly I really was Commander-in-Chief. The entire nation, Red voters, and Blue alike, looked to me to do something. And for the first time since I had taken office, here was something I actually could do. I ordered the military to go after the evildoers in Afghanistan and liberated that country from their grasp.

It was so easy, and so popular. I hadn’t felt more capable or in control since my cocaine snorting days. My old smirk was back, my fake bow legged cowboy stroll returned, I was backslapping and getting backslapped like the good old days.

But then the war in Afghanistan began winding down and I was faced with the prospect of becoming a peacetime president again, something I clearly had not been good at before. Keeping my administration on a wartime footing had not only invigorated my presidency but made it a snap to push through domestic laws that wouldn’t have had a snowball’s chance in hell in peacetime.

Take the Patriot Act, for example. We were able to expand the search and seizure powers of the law enforcers across the board. A lot of that had to with the name – The Patriot Act. What would we have called those changes if we had been at peace, "The Library Book Disclosure Act?" Or “The Holding Suspects Without Cause Act?” It would never have passed. But who during a time of war was going to vote against something called The Patriot Act? It was a slam dunk.

And there were other benefits as well. The war was a real boost to the US economy. Defense contractors opened new production lines and hired workers. Jobs were being created. And what great timing. My tax cuts had failed to stimulate the economy so those defense jobs were good for the economy, good for working families and good for me.

But, as I said, things were winding down in Afghanistan. That’s when Dick and Karl suggested I asked the CIA what Saddam was up to. They figured, since we already had a lot of troops and gear deployed in the region this was a good time to remove that thorn for the world’s side too. It made sense to me.

So I asked the CIA to build a case on Saddam; I didn’t much care what kind of case, just a case. Tie him to 91l, terrorists or weapons of mass destruction. I figured Saddam was such a bad guy there’d be a surplus of reasons to justify knocking him off.

The CIA director presented me with intelligence that was -- I have to admit, pretty iffy. I even said so at the time. But it was everything they had so we had to go with it. I was determined not to waste this rare opportunity.

I want you to understand my thinking at the time. Saddam was demonstrably a bad actor, a dictator, and a tyrant. He was killing Iraqis by the thousands; corrupt Iraqi officials were looting Iraq’s assets and encouraging sectarian conflict between the Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds. And Saddam’s unpredictable behavior was making neighboring countries nervous.

So I went with the iffy Intel to justify the war in Iraq. For a while things went as we expected. We overthrew the Iraqi regime easily. US defense contractors continued to grow providing gear and services to our troops. And my popularity soared.

But almost three years later conditions in Iraq are right back where they were before we attacked. Iraqis are again dying by the thousands at the hands of other Iraqis. Corrupt government officials are again stealing their nation’s wealth, and a goodly hunk or ours as well. Sectarian violence is on the rise and Iraq's growing political instability is again making Iraq’s neighbors nervous.

To be honest, things are actually worse than before we attacked. Foreign terrorists now use Iraq as their own terrorist military academy. And neighboring Turkey has been thrown back onto hair-trigger military alert as Iraqi Kurds steadily carve northern Iraq into own autonomous region, right on Turkey’s border.

Finally there’s the painful matter of US casualties, nearly 1800 so far in Iraq and new ones every day. On top of that American soldiers are still getting killed in Afghanistan as well.

Tonight, my fellow Americans, I want to say I am sorry. My intentions were good but I pursued them in a dishonest and demagogic manner, and it has led to failure. When I say my intentions were good, I mean good for everyone involved, the nation, the world and my presidency.

In purely practical terms I saw attacking Iraq was a positive three-fer; the world would be a safer place with Saddam out of power, the American economy would benefit from increased defense spending, and I would be more popular and effective as wartime president.

But, with the exception of America's prospering defense companies, none of that happened. The number of terrorist attacks worldwide tripled last year. Americans say they do not feel safer. And my approval ratings have gone right into the dumper.

I wish I could reverse course quickly and bring our troops home tomorrow, but of course, I can’t. I’m stuck in Iraq – or more precisely, we are stuck in Iraq – and will be for the foreseeable future. Secretary of State Colin Powell tried to warn me about what he called, “the Pottery House rule,” which is, “You break it, you own it.” Well Colin was right. I should have listened to man who, unlike I, had actually been to war.

What I can and will do is to begin immediately working with both parties in Congress to find an honorable resolution in Iraq. If that means leaving the job of democratizing Iraq half done, so be it. Ultimately it is up the Iraqi people to build their own society in their own ways. History will record we at least tried.

I also want you to understand that I hurt deeply for the families of soldiers killed in Iraq. I have two service-age daughters of my own and I can only imagine the pain those families must feel. I have gotten some criticism for not attending a single funeral for a soldier killed in either of these two wars. I wanted to but was advised against it by Karl Rove who said doing so would only focus public attention on the human cost of the war. He said that it was images of flag-draped coffins that eroded public support for the Vietnam War and therefore I should stay away from military funerals.

That was bad advice. I sent those kids over there where they gave their lives for the country and my policies. The least I could do is be there when they are buried. While I can’t attend every military funeral I will from now on at least attend those at Arlington. Finally, I can forgive the families killed and wounded soldiers if they blame, or even hate, me -- because I am to blame. It is a mind-numbing burden that I will take with me to my grave.

I said at the beginning that I had some announcements.

First, I have accepted the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, today. I requested the he resign because I believe he put US soldiers at risk by underestimating the size of force required to pacify post-war Iraq, and failed to properly equip the troops he sent into harms way. While I understand that these were honest mistakes, there were plenty of knowledgeable voices within the Defense Department that Secretary Rumsfeld should have heeded, but did not. That cost US soldiers their lives.

I have also accepted the resignation of Presidential advisor, Karl Rove. Karl has served me well over the years as a campaign strategist. I surely would not have attained this lofty office without his help and guidance. But as a policy maker Karl’s advice contributed to some of this administration’s biggest blunders -- and not just on Iraq, but domestic policies as well. In particular Karl’s advice on tax policies resulted in a windfall for the wealthy but only chicken feed for working Americans. Instead of invigorating the economy promised, all it did was create backbreaking deficits.

I wish Karl and his family all the best as they return to the private sector.

One final matter. I have asked the Attorney General to appoint Elliot Spitzer as an independent prosecutor to head a full-scale criminal probe into defense contractor fraud in Iraq and Afghanistan. No company or company official will be exempt. If fraud is found I expect it to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law and, if found guilty, the people responsible sentenced to hard time in federal prison.

My fellow Americans I have just three years left in this office. During those three years I will work day and night to regain your trust, if not your respect. I just want you to know that I acknowledge and understand my mistakes. But, as a Christian, I believe in redemption. The first step to redemption is admit your flaws and then change course. I took that first step tonight. Tomorrow I will begin on that new course. I pray this time to be guided by my better angels and wiser counsel.

Thank you, and God Bless America.

Okay, Back to The Real World
Of course Bush will not say anything even close to that tonight. He should, but he won’t. Because the real, unscripted, unplugged, George W. Bush makes former Vice President Dan Quayle sound like a Rhodes scholar. No, tonight Bush will mouth words written for him by Dick Cheney and it will be Karl Rove's hand up his back making things happen for the camera. Because here's how George W. Bush sounds when he wings it.

Things Bush really said:

"They want the government controlling Social Security like it's some kind of federal program."

"Families is where our nation finds hope, where wings take dream."

"We must all hear the universal call to like your neighbor just like you like to be liked yourself."

"This is still a dangerous world. It's a world of madmen and uncertainty and potential mential losses."

"I know how hard it is for you to put food on your family."

"We ought to make the pie higher."

"I understand small business growth. I was one."

"Laura and I really don't realize how bright our children is sometimes until we get an objective analysis."

It's clearly a budget. It's got a lot of numbers in it."

"This has had full analyzation and has been looked at a lot."

"We don't believe in planners and deciders making the decisions on behalf of Americans."

“They have misunderestimated me on foreign policy.”

"I want you to know that farmers are not going to be secondary thoughts to a Bush administration. They will be in the forethought of our thinking."

"I don't know whether I'm going to win or not. I think I am. I do know I'm ready for the job. And, if not, that's just the way it goes."

“Well, I think if you say you're going to do something and don't do it, that's trustworthiness."

"A tax cut is really one of the anecdotes to coming out of an economic illness.

"I mean, there needs to be a wholesale effort against racial profiling, which is illiterate children."

"Drug therapies are replacing a lot of medicines as we used to know it."

"Natural gas is hemispheric. I like to call it hemispheric in nature because it is a product that we can find in our neighborhoods."

"There's no question that the minute I got elected, the storm clouds on the horizon were getting nearly directly overhead."

Yes, God bless America. And God help America.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Keeping It Simple, Stupid

It’s All About Keeping it Simple, Stupid

George W. Bush has turned America into the world’s biggest scold. Ironic isn’t it? This was the guy who, during his first run for President pontificated on how the US needed to become less arrogant and mind it’s own business. We needed to stop telling the rest of the world how it should live and govern themselves.

There was never an ounce of truth in that, and we should have known it. Because there was a single defining fact we knew about George; he’s an evangelical. That fact is, and remains, the only thing Americans need to know to understand George W. Because it dictates all he is, all he thinks and all he does.

To be evangelical is to banish doubt from your life. The term is most commonly used to describe born-again, fundamentalist Christians who believe all truth resides exclusively in the Christian Bible and the teachings of Jesus Christ. To an evangelical nuance is Satan’s nose in the tent of blissful certainty. And, if nuance is the Devil’s nose, any facts that might challenge their narrow views, such as evolution and the real geological age of the earth, are Satan personified.

When facts become a problem for an evangelical they simply dismiss them. If pushed they attack the offending facts, no matter how nonsensical, absurd, provably untrue, juvenile or just plain silly their rebuttal has to be.

For those of the evangelical bent there is always only ONE true way.

This is precisely the mindset we put in the White House when we elected George W. Bush President. The press has misinterpreted it, calling Bush’s behavior as “stubborn.” No that’s not it. He’s not stubborn. Nelson Mandela was stubborn. Winston Churchill, Rev. Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Gen. George Patton, Rosa Parks … they were stubborn.

George W. Bush is not stubborn, he is simply “right.” (And I do mean “simply.”) Maintaining simplicity has been George’s salvation. After years in quite desperation a rich frat-boy, a certifiable putz and a drunk Bush was “saved.” Until that moment life’s plethora of choices, conflicting options, moral and personal issues overwhelmed poor young George. Then someone turned him on to Jesus ... the one-stop, one-track, one-size-fits-all solution. For young George the Bible became his life’s owner’s manual.

Suddenly life’s complications, choices and confusions were culled down to a handful of easy to understand instructions. The main rules could be counted on the figures of two hands. Life’s once intimidating blank canvas was transformed to a paint by numbers set. He now not only knew what the picture was but all he had to do was not mix up his colors to end up with a perfect painting every time.

So here we are, five years after electing Un-curious George to the highest office on earth. He has been true to his evangelical mindset, not just in his adherence to his Christian faith, but in his public policies as well. It is that behavior that has led the press to call him stubborn.

Global warming, stem cell research, war, Terry Schiavo, evolution, each are issues upon which volumes have and will be written. But George W. will not – cannot -- be moved by a single word of it. Being saved taught Bush that the key to keeping his personal demons, of fear and insecurity, at bay is to narrowing the flow of information to a trickle. Establish certainty, the simpler the certainty the better. Keep it simple, stupid. Then don’t just stick to that certainty, but evangelize it. Others must be save too.

We see his evangelical proclivities most clearly in George W.’s proselytizing on the glories of democracy to what he sees as heathen regimes around the world. Undemocratic governments are, to George, the governing equivalent of unrepentant sinners. They shall be saved. (Resistance is futile. They will be assimilated.)

Here we clearly see the “damn the facts” behavior of the evangelical mind. First, when George says another country should become “democratic,” he means it the same way he does when he suggests non-believers should become Christians. He doesn’t mean they should become Mormons or that they should join the Greek Orthodox Church. He means they should become a Bible thumping, praising the Lord, born-again, like him. Ditto with democracy. George is not interested in hearing about either other forms of Christianity, or democracy. There are only one right form of both – His and his.

Inconvenient Fact: Iran had its version of a democratic election last week. Voters had two choices, “the bad candidate” and “the worse candidate.” They overwhelmingly chose “worse.” Iran’s new fundamentalist president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, told reporters this weekend, “We didn’t fight a revolution to have a democracy.” (And no, he’s not related to Katherine Harris.)

Even as that exercise in Middle Eastern democracy was unfolding in Iran, Bush apostle, Condi Rice, was in Cairo preaching to the Egyptians. The crux of her sermon was that Egyptians needed to get some democratic salvation, and fast.

Inconvenient Fact: She didn’t betray even a hint of irony that Egypt is a country where our CIA routinely sends terror suspects to be tortured. Italian police last week issued arrest warrants for 13 CIA agents accused of snatching a terror suspect off the streets in Milan and sending him to Egypt to be “interrogated. When the Egyptians were done with him he was released. The first thing he did was call his family in Italy to tell them the Egyptians had damn near killed him. The call was intercepted by the CIA, which had the Egyptians re-arrest the guy to shut him up. Democracy for Egypt? Really now.

Inconvenient Fact: Also while in preaching in Egypt Condi avoided meeting with members of Egypt’s most popular political party, the Muslim Brotherhood. These guys are decidedly not an Islamic version of the Knights of Columbus. They are radical Muslims and on the State Department’s list of terrorist organizations. Nevertheless, if there were free elections in Egypt tomorrow, the anti-American, anti-Israel, Islamic fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood would win, hands down -- a replay of what just happened in Iran. But if Condi had met with MB it would have cluttered Bush’s democratic crusade with pesky facts and contradictions, and that could lead to devilish uncertainties.

Bush gets particularly excited when he talks about Lebanon, which he sees as a born-again democracy candidate. But he also sees Satan at work there in the form undemocratic Syria. Bush is demanding Syria stop meddling in Lebanon’s internal affairs.

Inconvenient Fact: Even as George Bush lectures Syria on interfering in Lebanon, he commands 200,000 heavily armed US troops in Afghanistan and Iraq where they are actively trying to remake both in his democratic vision. Somehow George sees no contradiction there, that Syria’s behavior constitutes interference while US behavior does not. That nuance, he surely believes, is just one of Satan’s many nuance-traps.

Virtually all George W. Bush’s behavior in office can be explained by that single event in his life – being saved. Complexity had drove George to drink. In simplicity he found peace, self-confidence and salvation.

''I know what I believe. I will continue to articulate what I believe and what I believe—I believe what I believe is right."— George W. Bush, Rome, July 22, 2001

So, as the world becomes an increasingly complicated place, expect George W. Bush to keep keeping it simple and “regard-less” of facts.

It’s enough to drive even an un-saved sinner like me to say, God help us.

Monday, June 27, 2005

June 27, 2005

Only If The Shoe Fits…

If you want to drive a Neocon into a frothing rage make any comparison between Vietnam, circa 1964-1975 or Germany, circa 1936-1945. They go ballistic.

To which I say, the Neocons protesteth too much. Suspiciously too much, doth thou not think?

Maybe it’s the steady drumbeat of news like this from today’s paper that’s making them so jumpy.

WASHINGTON, June 23 - Military doctors at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have aided interrogators in conducting and refining coercive interrogations of detainees, including providing advice on how to increase stress levels and exploit fears, according to new, detailed accounts given by former interrogators. … Several ethics experts outside the military said there were serious questions involving the conduct of the doctors, especially those in units known as Behavioral Science Consultation Teams, BSCT, colloquially referred to as "biscuit" teams, which advise interrogators. "Their purpose was to help us break them," one former interrogator told The Times.... (Full Story)

Silly me. I thought a physician’s job was to fix, not break, patients. Yes, I just checked and that’s correct. They are supposed to be solely and exclusively in the fixing business.

And that’s not just US law. The World Medical Association Declaration of Tokyo in 1975 prohibits all forms of medical complicity in torture.

And then there’s that quaint oath doctors take when they are ordained, the Hippocratic Oath, which declares, "I will use treatment to help the sick according to my ability and judgment, but never with a view to injury and wrongdoing."

Dr. Robert Jay Lifton is an expert in such matters, having spent much of his professional life researching and writing about such matters, including the definitive book on misbehaving German doctors during World War II. He is alarmed by what he sees.

“There is increasing evidence that U.S. doctors, nurses, and medics have been complicit in torture and other illegal procedures in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo Bay. Such medical complicity suggests still another disturbing dimension of this broadening scandal." (More)

It will be difficult for Karl Rove to diss Dr, Lifton. He is Professor of Psychiatry and Psychology, City University of New York, as well as at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and the Graduate School and University Center, and the Mount Sinai Medical Center. Director of the Center on Violence and Human Survival at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

“American doctors at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere have undoubtedly been aware of their medical responsibility to document injuries and raise questions about their possible source in abuse, Dr. Lifton said. “But those doctors and other medical personnel were part of a command structure that permitted, encouraged, and sometimes orchestrated torture to a degree that it became the norm — with which they were expected to comply — in the immediate prison environment.

“The doctors thus brought a medical component to what I call an "atrocity-producing situation" — one so structured, psychologically and militarily, that ordinary people can readily engage in atrocities. Even without directly participating in the abuse, doctors may have become socialized to an environment of torture and by virtue of their medical authority helped sustain it. In studying various forms of medical abuse, I have found that the participation of doctors can confer an aura of legitimacy and can even create an illusion of therapy and healing.”

It’s the proverbial “slippery slope,” for both physicians and America.

Not a Quagmire!
Then there are the “Q” and “V” words.

“It is not, not, not, NOT a quagmire, damn it!”

And, “comparisons to Vietnam are specious! Iraq is NOT Vietnam.”

That’s the Neocon party line, and they are sticking to it – like Captain Ahab to Moby Dick’s back.

"We will succeed in Iraq, just like we did in Afghanistan. We will defeat that insurgency, and, in fact, it will be an enormous success story." (VP Dick Cheney yesterday)

Tell it to the Marines, Dick.

CNN – Baghdad, Friday, June 24, 2005 -- A suicide bomber in a vehicle killed two U.S. Marines and left four troops unaccounted for when it exploded near their convoy in Falluja, the volatile city west of Baghdad, a U.S. military official said Friday. Five of those involved were reported to be women U.S. Marines. (Full Story)

Tell it to the Iraqis, Dick.

"So many problems are happening in the city," said Mohammed Sarhan, 50, a grocer in the southern Baghdad neighborhood of Dora. "Where do I start -- water, electricity, security, unemployment or health? "This is not a life," Sarhan added. "This is hell." (Full Story)

Yo, Dick, try to tell it to your own commander in Iraq, General John Abizaid, who offered an assessment of the Iraqi insurgency that sharply contrasted with your rosey scenario.

(Abizaid) said that the resistance remains about as strong as it was six months ago and acknowledged the possibility that enemy fighters still have sufficient reserves to mount "a military surprise" such as a surge in coordinated attacks. His remarks appeared at odds with a claim last week by Vice President Cheney -- reaffirmed yesterday in an interview with CNN -- that the insurgency is in its "last throes." Pressed on the seeming difference, Abizaid said, "I'm sure you'll forgive me" for not criticizing the vice president.” (Full Story)

But, listen up out there - it’s not a quagmire, damn it. Maybe a “rough patch,” or the “last throes,” – you know how violent last throes can be, right? But a quagmire?
No way, dudes.
Ahhh…dudes… WAY!
Earlier this week White House Rasputin, Karl Rove, declared that after 9/11 liberals wanted to offer counseling or therapy to our attackers. I don’t know any liberal who said that’s what they wanted back then. But I can tell you this; there are plenty of us out here who would like to offer therapy and counseling George, Dick and Donald. When denial and delusion reach the levels displayed by these guys it crossed the line and becomes a recognized mental disorder. (More)

Quote of the Day
“Don’t pee on my leg tell me it’s raining.” (Judge Judy)

Hands Up: Your House or Your Life
Yesterday the Supreme Court sucker punched both liberals and conservatives.

WASHINGTON, June 23 - The Supreme Court ruled on Thursday, in one of its most closely watched property rights cases in years, that fostering economic development is an appropriate use of the government's power of eminent domain. (Full Story)

Strangely this issue had traditionally been a cause fought by ultra-conservatives who saw such government “takings” as a gross violation of private property rights. Yet it was a fairly conservative Supreme Court that not only upheld government’s takings rights, but also broadened them.

For the most part condemnation of private properties by local governments had been strictly limited to public projects, such as making room for highways, sewers and utility lines. But yesterday the court said that a city had the right to condemn private homes to make room for new private developments.

Holy land grab Batman! What this means is that now governments, in cahoots with well-heeled – and you can bet, campaign contributing -- contractors can kick you out of your home, farm or business location just because the developer wants to build something on there. What’s the public need being served in such cases? Money… taxes. City and county governments will be able to collect more taxes off the new development.

Maybe US authorities are taking their cue from Zimbabwe's land-grabbing leader, Robert "The Realtor" Mugabe.

HARARE, Zimbabwe - The African Union on Friday sidestepped international demands to act against a so-called urban renewal campaign in Zimbabwe that has left as many as 1.5 million people homeless, while President Robert Mugabe defiantly congratulated police on the operation.... Mugabe ignored the criticism.
"The government is fully behind the cleanup and applauded the police for ensuring the success of the operation," Mugabe said Friday.(Full Story)

The Court's decision will hit states like California particularly hard. Back in the late 1970s so many retired folks were being driven out of their homes by skyrocketing property taxes voters passed Proposition 13. The measure limited tax increases to 1% a year on the value of the property as it was in 1976. As long as you stayed put your taxes could not go up more than 1% a year.

That rule has been a thorn in the side of country treasurers ever since. They lay awake nights trying to figure out how to tack special taxes onto properties to get around Prop. 13, but most of the time taxpayers grab their pitchforks and they back off.

Now they have a real hammer. They can condemn you property to make room for a new development, one that puts more money in country coffers.

And who is going to get slapped with these new “redevelopment condemnations?” The Kennedy’s beachfront Hyanisport mansion to make room for ocean-view condos? The Bush’s Kennebunkport vacation home for a new Radisson Hotel? Jeb Bush’s Florida compound to expand a Disney World attraction? How about the Cheney’s Jackson Hole, Colorado hideaway to be replaced by a luxury resort?

Forgetaboutit. It will be the poor and middleclass who will be herded out of their traditional neighborhoods and homes to make room for “a better element.” And energy companies must be licking their chops now that they can get entire neighbors leveled to make room for refineries or grab pristine privately owned wilderness lands for mining or drilling. All for the public good, of course.

That rustling sound you hear is the sound of developers unrolling aerial maps, marking pens - and political contribution ledgers - in hand. We will not have seen a claim-jumping riot like this since the government opened Oklahoma to settlers.

Your home is no longer a castle. The mote has been filled in. All that now stands between you and losing your home is the right pitch from a well-connected developer to the right politicians.

What an amazing decision – a giant step towards blending corporate and civil governance. An unholy symbiosis of needs; developers need profits and governments need taxes. The incentives are clear. Predictable behavior will follow.

Mark my words. This decision will be abused and, sooner or later, Congress will have to revisit this matter with a law that returns takings to their original purpose – purely public projects.

Have a nice weekend.

Friday, June 24, 2005

June 23, 2005

Trading Places

No one ever listens to me. I have been bellyaching about the US trade deficit for two years.

INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE – June 20, 2005 -- News of a record $195.1 billion trade deficit for the United States in the first quarter has re-ignited worries that the economy cannot sustain the growing level of global debt and prompted renewed debate over the cause of the problem. … "Clearly the current account deficit can't go on like this forever," said Daniel Griswold, director of the Cato Institute's center for trade policy studies, a conservative research group… (Full Story)
At this pace the United States' current account deficit could reach $780 billion this year, a sharp increase from last year's record of $617 billion.

No, it can’t go on forever. Sooner or later the country on the receiving end of all this trade, China, is going to be so awash in US dollars that it will either have to start dumping them, resulting in a dollar collapse, or start buying stuff with them.

But, selling dollars is risky business. The minute China starts selling dollars the bottom will fall out of the dollar leaving China holding billions of devalued bucks. They’re no fools, so the Chinese have opted for Plan B – buy America.

SHANGHAI, Thursday, June 23 - One of China's largest state-controlled oil companies made a $18.5 billion unsolicited bid Thursday for Unocal, signaling the first big takeover battle by a Chinese company for an American corporation…. The bold bid, by the China National Offshore Oil Corporation, may be a watershed in Chinese corporate behavior, and it demonstrates the increasing influence on Asia of Wall Street's bare-knuckled takeover tactics. (Full Story)

On Tuesday, a consortium led by top Chinese appliance maker Haier Group placed a $1.28 billion bid for struggling, Iowa-based Maytag Corp. And just last month, Lenovo Group Ltd., China's largest computer maker, completed its $1.25 billion purchase of International Business Machine Corp.'s (IBM) personal computer business.

The last two administrations, Clinton first, then Bush II, got us into this mess by pushing trade deals they claimed would create a level playing field for world trade. That’s what they said. What they actually negotiated, if I can use the word in this matter, is an trade environment in which industries in developed countries were left with a Dobson’s choice; ditch a century’s worth of progressive labor and environmental rules to compete with third world nations, or move their operations offshore.

Some domestic companies just went belly up. Others fired their US workers and moved to cheaper and environmentally lenient countries, like India and China. The same goods US workers once produced here got made by cheap labor and shipped back here where eager US consumers snapped them up. “I don’t know how they can sell this so cheap,” shoppers squealed as they filled their carts at Target and Wal-Mart.

And a good thing the stuff is cheap, since those shoppers had to get new jobs after their old ones making that stuff were shipped over seas. Now they make an average of $10,000 less than they used to. So those cheap, quality Chinese goods were a godsend, right?

Apparently. We keep buying them. And so the trade deficit with “Communist” China balloons. And now the rush is on to buy American. Well sorta. The US has become China’s Wal-Mart – tons of quality assets at dirt-cheap prices.

Here’s something to think about. China only has a handful of nuclear weapons and has had no interest in engaging in a ruinous arms race with the US. Ever wonder why? Because, there’s no need to defend against a country that will eventually just become a wholly owned subsidiary.

Lenin predicted all this:
“When we hang the capitalists, they will sell us the rope.”
Sleaze Is As Sleaze Does
I had Jack Abramoff pegged for a mega-sleazebag almost four years ago. I stumbled across him while research I was doing at the time on Enron. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay’s name popped up the first day I sorted through Enron’s smoking debris. There they were, the gruesome-twosome, Jack Abramoff and Tom DeLay, like two horse flies circling a pile of manure. (My full 2002 report is online here.)

Anyway, yesterday the Senate held hearings to determine if Abramoff was the latest white man to screw American Indians. It seems Jack opened his own lucrative trading post on the Indian reservations. What was he selling? Not smallpox-infested blankets, the Indians are onto that old trick. Abramoff’s stock-in-trade was influence, specifically his influence with the powerful House Majority Leader, Tom DeLay.

The Indians wanted Jack to smooth the way for Indian gambling operations, (which Indians ironically refer to as the White Buffalo, for all the white folk who now leave their pelts at reservation casinos.)

But it turns out Abramoff was pocketing most of the Indians wampum for himself and laundering the rest through a shell company to pay for overseas junkets for his pal Tom.

Just how sleazy is Abramoff? Try this on for size:

Exhibit 31 read into the record at yesterday’s hearing was an e-mail from Abramoff to his rabbi:

"I hate to ask you for your help with something so silly but I've been nominated for membership in the Cosmos Club, which is a very distinguished club in Washington, DC, comprised of Nobel Prize winners, etc.," Abramoff wrote. "Problem for me is that most prospective members have received awards and I have received none. I was wondering if you thought it possible that I could put that I have received an award from Toward Tradition with a sufficiently academic title, perhaps something like Scholar of Talmudic Studies? … Indeed, it would be even better if it were possible that I received these in years past, if you know what I mean." (Full Story)

How needy is that? How sleazy is that?

It looks like Casino Jack may be heading for a cell at Camp Beefcake. The same goes for his Texas buddy, former bug killer, Tom DeLay. DeLay is currently under criminal investigation in Texas for violated that state’s laws against taking campaign money from corporations.

Memo to Red State Voters:
So, how do you like your values-loving candidates so far?
Bush Sees Glowing Promise in Nuclear Power
I am not a purest on nuclear energy. I don’t see it as either a panacea or an exercise in collective suicide. Having said that, do I want a nuclear power plant downwind from my tomato garden? No way Jose.

But George Bush does. He sees a new generation of nuclear power plants as an easy way to supply energy-hungry Americans with their juice.

“The president visited Calvert Cliffs to tout nuclear energy as a replacement for fossil fuels. Calvert Cliffs, which produces enough megawatts per hour to meet about one-third of Maryland's energy needs, is a possible site for the first new nuclear energy reactor to be built in the United States in 30 years. "There is a growing consensus that more nuclear power will lead to a cleaner, safer nation," Bush said. "It is time for this country to start building nuclear power plants again." (Full Story)

I am not going to get into the various pros and cons of nuclear power. Here’s all I want to say about this matter.

Until the nation figure out what to do with the waste these things produce, existing waste and future waste, not another nuclear plant should be approved. Period. You don’t build new homes until the slot have a sewer hookups. That’s the least we can demand for new nuclear power plants. No permanent and safe waste disposal, no nukes.
A Burning Issue ?
Wouldn’t it be nice if our elected representatives jumped on real issues, like affordable heath care or the federal deficit, like they jumped yesterday to pass a law against burning an American flag?

“A constitutional amendment that would allow Congress to ban flag burning passed the House yesterday, and congressional leaders said it has a strong chance to clear the Senate for the first time, sending it to the states for ratification.” (Full Story)

What nonsense. Any one who voted for this meaningless piece of legislation should be tarred and feathered and run out of town on a rail. And if we could still do such things -- (those were the days!) -- there would Democrats on that rail this time. 77 Democrats voted for it. Yeah, seventy-friggin-seven Democrats!

Amazing. As though they don’t have real things to do. What’s next, a law against farting in public? It would make about as much sense.

Speaking of Quisling Democrats
The Senate yesterday rejected a measure calling for mandatory limits on emissions linked to global warming, siding with the Bush administration's position that the restrictions would cost jobs, drive industry overseas and run up consumers' energy bills…. Eleven Democrats joined Republicans in opposing the measure…” (Full Story)

How about we get together and warm those 11 Democrat’s little worlds?

Thursday, June 23, 2005

June 2. 2005

June 22, 2005

The wrong person apologized yesterday.

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) yesterday offered a tearful apology on the Senate floor for comparing the alleged abuse of prisoners by American troops to techniques used by the Nazis, the Soviets and the Khmer Rouge, as he sought to quell a frenzy of Republican-led criticism…Durbin, the Democratic whip, acknowledged that "more than most people, a senator lives by his words" but that "occasionally words will fail us and occasionally we will fail words." Choking up, he said: "Some may believe that my remarks crossed the line. To them, I extend my heartfelt apologies." (Full Story)

Durbin was not wrong. Not wrong in what he said. Not wrong in saying it. And the only person who has crossed the line, is George W. Bush - and we've heard no apologies from him.

Let’s review.

Durbin, quoting from an FBI memo, described how some detainees at Gitmo were chained naked, hand and foot to a concrete floor and left that way for up to 18 hours a day where they inevitably urinated and defecated on themselves.

Durbin observed, correctly, that if someone read that account not knowing anything more, they would assume the people doing this to prisoners were Nazis or one of the other despicable regimes of history.

Durbin was immediately flamed by the White House and Republicans in Congress. How dare he compare the behavior of US soldiers to that of Nazis?

Okay, let’s give the devil his due. The US does not systematically execute prisoners; at least not as a matter of course. We don’t perform medical experiments on them. We don’t rape them. That’s the kind of stuff the Nazi’s, Soviets and Pol Pot did. We don’t do that stuff – yet.

But let me tell you why Durbin was right to make the comparison. And to make my point I am going to use the same argument conservatives use to justify their war on drugs.

If Marijuana is a gateway drug, I ask conservatives, what’s chaining a person naked to a cement floor and letting them sit in their own waste all day? A taste of torture? A snort of the abuse? Where do you go from there? A few lines of water-boardering? From there it’s a short step to electric shock (after all, they’re already wet.)

It's the perverbial slippery slope. And we're on it.

Summary of FBI interview of
detainee at Guantanamo Bay 08/23/02
Notes: "When NAME REDACTED was turned over to US authorities, he was beaten by the US military forces. He was taken by helicopter to an unknown location where he was beaten. While his eyes were covered, he was kicked in the stomach and back by several individuals. He noted American English accents. After being moved to an unknown facility in Bagram, his head was placed against the cement floor and his head was kicked. As a result of other beatings… REDACTED received a broken shoulder. During one evening REDACTED was left outside of the facility where he was being held. The ground was wet and it was snowing. He was wearing only pants and a ragged shirt. As a result of being out in the cold, he became unconscious. . . . . When he was moved to Kandahar, he was not beaten as frequently and severely… the soldiers wore tan and brown camouflage uniforms, with US flags on their arms." (More FBI Memos)

If you think about all this for a moment with the partisan side of your brain turned off, you can see that all Durbin was trying to do was what any responsible parent of a teen would do after finding meth in their daughter’s purse. He was trying to warn that we are playing with fire.

But, instead of listening up, his colleagues got all defensive, ganged up and beat the crap out of him. They kept it up until he agreed to say, “it ain’t so.”

Well it is so, and Durbin should not have caved. But clearly these patients remain in deep denial and not quite ready to admit they’re becoming hooked on the stuff -- far from it. Nightly now we hear Neocons and their supporters on talk shows actually justifying the rough treatment of POWs, treatment that just a generation ago would have had American civilians reaching for the air sickness bag.

But suddenly brutal humiliation of POWs in our care has become “necessary.”

I don’t quite understand why. Torture wasn’t necessary 60 years ago when literally all-western civilization was threatened by German fascism. Torture wasn’t necessary during the Cold War, when the former Soviet Union had both the weapons and inclination to fricassee everyone west of Poland.

But today, when a few thousand certifiably crazy radical Muslims go on a murderous rampage, the fate of the nation suddenly hinges on be able to “rough up” – (AKA, torture)– prisoners. I don’t get it. (Could it be that torture has replaced good intelligence gathering?)

When Durbin made his original remarks he was, in effect, launching an intervention. Anyone who has ever been involved with a drug or alcohol-dependent person knows the signs, and they are all here, here.

First they lie. “I don’t do it.”

Confronted with the evidence the response becomes, “Okay, but I only tried it a couple of times.” Then, when caught again, “What’s the big deal? Everyone does it.”

Then, when it gets personal they try to separate what they do from what they are. “It’s just a thing I do. It does not define who I am,” and “Just because I do it does not make me a bad person.”

Finally, this – “Okay, okay. I do it. But I can stop anytime I want.”

Maybe what Durbin should have suggested is a Twelve Step Program for the administration’s Neocons, to slowly wean them off this self-destructive behavior. The trouble is, from the reaction he got to his remarks, it’s clear they are ready for the cure – they just have not hit bottom yet.

The trouble is if we wait until they do hit bottom, they take the rest of us down with them.

What will it take before someone like Durbin can try again? Will it take an indictment form the World Court, seeking extradition of US officials to join the likes of Serbian butcher Molosevic in The Hague? What will it take before we say, basta! Enough! Will it take more pictures like this:

It’s not like the administration doesn’t know what it’s doing is wrong, and have since the beginning. Trying to hide evidence of a crime is the strongest evidence that a perp knows the difference between right and wrong.
Washington, July 2004 -- The federal government's secrecy watchdog has asked the Pentagon to explain why parts of a memo about the interrogation of terror detainees were classified, even though they discussed the political fall-out if the use of certain techniques became public. The memo, declassified and released last month, is the report of a working group on interrogation techniques established in January 2003 by the Defense Department's general counsel. The relevant passage -- marked "secret" … is part of a discussion of the consequences for criminal and military prosecutions of detainees and others if the public became aware of the use of so-called "coercive interrogation techniques."

It reads: "Consideration must be given to the public's reaction to methods of interrogation that may affect the military commission process. The more coercive the method, the greater the likelihood that the method will be met with significant domestic and international resistance." (Full Story)

Maybe the answer can be found in the parents of the men and women now serving in the armed forces. A little parental guidance might be needed to balance the gung-ho propaganda they get from their commanders.

Maybe parents might want to read some of the FBI memos that document how some US troops are treating prisoners in Iraq, Afghanistan and Gitmo. Then, let them visualize their lovely son or daughter chaining another human, naked, to a cold cement floor for a day. Imagine their darling daughter watching, even laughing, as the prisoner soils himself, then sits in it. Visualize their child, the fruit of their loins, the A-student, the Homecoming King or Queen, holding a thrashing prisoner’s head underwater, repeatedly; their son, the freckle-faced former neighborhood paperboy, mocking and humiliating a terrified naked prisoner.

Then maybe if those moms and dads wrote to their kids and said;
Dearest Son (Daughter,)
We hear and see many disturbing things on the news about how some US troops are mistreating the prisoners in their care. Please assure us you are not among the soldiers guilty of such un-American, unholy behavior. Because, it would surely break our hearts if you were.

Mom, Dad (& Sparky!)

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

June 21, 2005

une 21, 2005
Curiouser and Curiouser

Does it get any stranger than this? I hope not because 7 a.m. is just too early for an acid trip. But that’s how I felt this morning as my still groggy mind collided with headlines like these:

Bush Says Vietnam Must Respect Human Rights

WASHINGTON -- In a meeting that marks a decade of normalized relations, Vietnamese Prime Minister Phan Van Khai is asking President Bush to help his nation join the World Trade Organization while Bush is raising concerns about human rights abuses. (Full Story)

So, let me try to get my brain around that one. Here’s the guy who runs a country ten thousands miles away, where just 35 years ago the government he was visiting yesterday was defoliating jungles, napalming civilians and even engineered the assassination of its president, having to sit there a listen to lectures on human rights from a the latest president of that country who is now running off-shore torture camps, killing civilians in another country thousands of miles away while restricting freedoms at home.

I got it. Makes perfect sense, is suppose, if you’re on the right drugs.


Congressman Accuses Democrats of Anti-Christian Crusade

WASHINGTON -- Business on the floor of the House was halted for 45 minutes yesterday after Rep. John N. Hostettler (R-Ind.) accused Democrats of "denigrating and demonizing Christians," prompting a furious protest from across the aisle….The House was debating a Democratic amendment to the annual defense appropriations bill that would have required the Air Force Academy to develop a plan for preventing "coercive and abusive religious proselytizing." (Full Story)

If you doubt that reading the Bible too much can result in what I call a “non-surgical, Biblical-lobotomy,” look no further than John Hosteller. If stupid were music this guy would the Marine Marching Band. Example: He got busted last year for trying to sneak a loaded Glock 9mm semiautomatic onto a flight to Washington. No, he wasn't testing airport security. It was his gun. Apparently Jesus wants his disciples packing.

Anyway, after Hostettler's remarks set off a firestorm of protest from Democrats he stood and, the story continues,

“ a sentence that had been written out for him in large block letters by a young Republican floor aide: "Mr. Chairman, I ask unanimous consent to withdraw the last sentence I spoke."”

Block letters. Now you know why born-agains don't believe in evolution.

Public Broadcasting Monitor Worked at Center Founded by Conservatives

WASHINGTON, June 20 - A researcher retained secretly by the chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, to monitor the "Now" program with Bill Moyers for political objectivity last year, worked for 20 years at a journalism center founded by the American Conservative Union and a conservative columnist, an official at the journalism center said on Monday. (Full Story)

Now that conservatives have effectively de-nutted the commercial media, the last remaining fly in the propaganda ointment is public broadcasting. So, like those mothers who drowned or smother their own kids, the administration plans deny PBS of federal money.

Someone sent me a proposal the other day suggesting that the best thing that could happen to PBS would be for some liberal, like George Soros and progressive non-profits to simply take over PBS and turn it into an instant, nationwide progressive network. It's an idea with merit. After all, the entire infrastructure is there and ready to go. And, now that this administration has loosened ownership rules to the point where they are meaningless, it would even be legal.

How sweet that would be. Eat your heart out Limbaugh. Imagine the value of such a progressive, independent network the size of CNN as the 2008 general election approaches. (And yes, Big Bird, Bert and Ernie, your jobs are safe. And under progressive ownership you might even get a livable wage out of the deal.)

Anyway, now that the Bushites have their own shill in charge of CPB/PBS it’s going to be downhill for PBS anyway.

Bill Moyers, you’re fired. Get your pinko, bleeding heart ass out of our studios. Call Armstrong Williams. Tell him we have a new job for him. Is that documentary, "From Crawford to Legend," ready to roll?


Reporters Learn Today If They Are Going to Jail

NEW YORK Journalists Matthew Cooper and Judith Miller may find out as soon as this week whether the U.S. Supreme Court will hear their appeal of a contempt ruling for refusing to disclose who leaked the identity of a CIA agent to them -- a decision that could send them to jail before the end of the month. (Full Story)

You might have forgotten the details of this little mess, so let me refresh. Neither Miller nor Cooper wrote stories blowing CIA agent Valerie Plame’s cover. But Conservative columnist Robert Novak did. His source, he said, was a highly placed government official.

Since blowing the cover of a CIA agent is illegal, a grand jury was empanelled and Miller and Cooper were called. The prosecutor wanted them to reveal source(s) they quoted in their follow up stories on the flap Novak started. They refused to squeal and now face prison for contempt of court.

Which begs the question --- why the hell isn’t Novak facing prison too? There can only be one explanation – he did spill the beans.

Which begs another question – why would serious news people, like CNN and the Chicago Sun Times would continue having anything to do with a quisling journalist the likes of Novak?

Miller and Cooper go to jail while Novak continues to hold court on CNN talk shows. Disgraceful CNN.


Anyway, even as O.J. Simpson continues his search for the “real killer,” your government does the same in the Plame case.

Iraq Strategy Will Work, Bush Tells Europeans

“WASHINGTON, June 20 - President Bush, opening a two-week effort to defend his Iraq policy, told visiting European leaders on Monday that his strategy for ending the insurgency and stabilizing the country "is going to work."”

I turn 60 this August and with age comes the burden of memory. I’ve been here before. I didn’t like it the last time and I don’t like it now. The last time I was here was nearly 40 years ago. The times were different but the words the same.

“We are making steady progress… we are dealing the enemy serious blows.. they can’t hold out forever… the Vietnamese army are making real progress and will soon be able to take over form US troops.. we can’t just cut and run.”

It was a lie then and it’s a lie now. All Bush is doing is what Johnson and Nixon did before him -- buying time with US and Iraqi blood, in the hope something -- anything -- good will develop that will get him out of this fix.

George, I have some reading for you. Not to worry. It’s short. You can read it on the toilet. Here’s what the last guy who ran a war like this had to say once he got a clue:
“One reason the Kennedy and Johnson administrations failed to take an orderly, rational approach to the basic questions underlying Vietnam was the staggering variety and complexity of other issues we faced. Simply put, we faced a blizzard of problems, there were only twenty-four hours in a day, and we often did not have time to think straight.”
Robert S. McNamara, In Retrospect, 1995

Sound familiar, Gomer -- like another day in the Oval Office? So far you have gotten 1700 American kids killed over there. Will it take another 58,300 before you figure out it’s not worth it? Never was. Never will be.

Here's some more reading. If only Lyndon Johnson had followed his own rhetoric when he said this while running for President in 1964:

“We are not about to send American boys nine or ten thousand miles away from home to do what Asian boys ought to be doing for themselves.”

But he didn’t follow that advice, which is why the Vietnam Memorial Wall takes up so much real estate on the Mall. Had he taken that advice it would be a lot smaller and there'd be more room for your monument, George, the Iraq Memorial Wall Monument --- where a new generation of children who never met their father or mother can leave Teddy Bears, photos and tears.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

June 20, 2005

Just Answer the Damn Question – OR ELSE

I know. It’s become a cliché for bloggers to rag on the mainstream media (MSM.) Like all such broad-brush criticisms the rap MSM is taking from those of us in the Peanut Gallery is partly fair, partly unfair and part cheap shots.

But the press, like any other profession, benefits from criticism. As a former member of the MSM I can tell you, good reporters and editors know when criticism is deserved, and they hate themselves when it happens.

The Washington press corps has been a special target of critical bloggers, this one included. And it’s been well-deserved criticism too. We have not missed the irony that reporters who are writing now how the CIA botched intelligence on WMD, are some of the same reporters who were like little kittens before the war, lapping up any bowl of warm milk the administration put out for them supporting those bogus WMD claims.

They even rolled over when President Bush unilaterally declared that he would no longer answer follow up questions at his news conferences. Imagine that. Reporters allowing the President of the United States, at a time of war, to answer the most important questions of our time with pre-cooked, pre-chewed, pre-focus-grouped, pabulum. Shocking, bordering on criminal, a dark moment in the history of a free press.

I suggested at the time that reporters in the White House Press Corps make a pact. If they were not allowed follow ups then the next journalist would agree to pick up right where the previous one left off -- re-ask the question, and keep doing so until the little bastard answers it in his own words – or stalks off the stage like the clueless, spoiled little would-be despot a growing number of voters is coming to understand he is.

The day I wrote that I got an email from the brother of ABC’s White House correspondent, Terry Moran, suggesting I might want to watch ABC news because Terry was cut of better clothe. Good advice and I pass it on to you, because he was right.

Last Friday at his daily briefing, White House press spokesman, Scott McClellan’s job was to try to spin new poll numbers. Bush is now at the lowest approval rating since his father was on his way out. The war in Iraq is wearing thin on voters. McClellan told White House reporters that the President was going to “bring sharper focus” to the war.

That was going to be it… a “sharper focus.” This from a man who has shown so little interest in the mess he unleashed that he has not attended a single one of the 1700 funerals for US soldiers killed in Iraq. Not one. Zip. Nada.

But now, his spokesman wanted to assure reporters, the Commander-in-Chief was ready to “sharply focus” on the war – and he thought he was going to get away with it, because he had so often before.

His statement raised more questions than it answered. Can we then assume then that, until now his focus on the war he started has been “fuzzy.”? What a comfort for the parents of those killed in Iraq to know their child died because their Commander-in-Chief had been unfocused. That he started a war, sent their kid over there and then focused on other things, like tax cuts for the rich, letting tobacco companies off the hook for killing millions, gutting Social Security, that kind of thing.

But I digress. Back to the White House press room. This particular day one reporter, ABC’s Terry Moran, wasn’t buying. He wanted a real answer to his question; “Are we defeating the insurgency in Iraq, as VP Cheney claimed last week, or not?”

Here’s the exchange:

Moran: Scott, is the insurgency in Iraq in its 'last throes'?

McCLELLAN: Terry, you have a desperate group of terrorists in Iraq that are doing everything they can to try to derail the transition to democracy. The Iraqi people have made it clear that they want a free and democratic and peaceful future. And that's why we're doing everything we can, along with other countries, to support the Iraqi people as they move forward….

Moran: But the insurgency is in its last throes?

McCLELLAN: The Vice President talked about that the other day -- you have a desperate group of terrorists who recognize how high the stakes are in Iraq. A free Iraq will be a significant blow to their ambitions.

Moran: But they're killing more Americans, they're killing more Iraqis. That's the last throes?

McCLELLAN: Innocent -- I say innocent civilians. And it doesn't take a lot of people to cause mass damage when you're willing to strap a bomb onto yourself, get in a car and go and attack innocent civilians. That's the kind of people that we're dealing with. That's what I say when we're talking about a determined enemy.

Moran: Right. What is the evidence that the insurgency is in its last throes?

McCLELLAN: I think I just explained to you the desperation of terrorists and their tactics.

Moran: What's the evidence on the ground that it's being extinguished?

McCLELLAN: Terry, we're making great progress to defeat the terrorist and regime elements. You're seeing Iraqis now playing more of a role in addressing the security threats that they face. They're working side by side with our coalition forces. They're working on their own. There are a lot of Special Forces in Iraq that are taking the battle to the enemy in Iraq. And so this is a period when they are in a desperate mode.

Moran: Well, I'm just wondering what the metric is for measuring the defeat of the insurgency.

McCLELLAN: Well, you can go back and look at the Vice President's remarks. I think he talked about it.

Q Yes. Is there any idea how long a 'last throe' lasts for?

McCLELLAN: Go ahead, Steve....(Pointing to a different reporter)

I reproduce this transcript because this is what I want to see every time this administration tries to use a press briefing or a news conference as a propaganda tool. It’s what they press is there to do.

Let’s let bygones be bygones. The press may be excused for trusting these guys early in their run. But how many times do you have allow yourself to be used to pass along lies to Americans before you start insisting on more information? I mean there is not a real reporter left in Washington who does not now know for a fact that this administration lies like rug. They lie, lie, obfuscate, lie, obfuscate, dissemble, lie, distort, lie, dither, lie, confuse, lie, lie and, when all else fails, lie again.

A big part of the reason the media allowed this to happen is because the right has been so successful in painting the media liberal shills. So, they have bent over backwards to prove otherwise. Eventually though they bent so far over backwards they ended up with their heads up their asses. While at the same moment FOX “News” became the best-funded rightwing propaganda tool in history. It was another win for the word-twisting right. Like tagging Democrats as “tax and spend liberals,” while Republicans got away with becoming borrow and spend conservatives.

I don’t care if the answers the press extracts from government officials supports left of right wing positions. I just want goddamn answer out of them -- a real answer. Is that too much to ask in democracy? And, since the rest of us can’t do it, we rely on the reporters do it for us. Otherwise, they should get better paying jobs writing press releases.

So, a big hooray to Terry Moran. Now let’s see the same kind of gumption during a Presidential news conference. Make that little chimp tap dance. I want to see him earn his living. I want to see that condescending smirk disappear and beads of sweat rolling down his forehead five minutes into the next news conference.

Here are some suggested questions for that news conference.

- After first discovering there really were no WMD in Iraq, and now the Downing St. memos, why shouldn’t the American people believe you lied to them and led them into war on false pretenses?

- If it is ever proven beyond a doubt that a president knowingly lied to take this country to war, would you consider that an impeachable offense?

- Don’t you think that supporting our troops during war includes their Commander-in-Chief showing concern and respect for those who made the ultimate sacrifice by attending the occasional funeral?

- Women now serve in frontline military positions. Several have died doing so in Iraq. Can you tell Americans what your two service-age daughters doing these days, besides modeling ball gowns for Vogue?

- You have said that the war on terror will be a long one, and that Americans must be prepared to make sacrifices if we are going to win it. Can you tell us specifically what sacrifices the Bush and Cheney families have made for the war effort?

- A follow up sir: Can you tell me what sacrifices the top 1% of American income families have made for the war effort. How much in the billions of tax cuts they received have they contributed to young working families that lost a mother or father over there?

- Dozens of cases of fraud involving US contractors, like Halliburton, working in Iraq have been confirmed. Can you explain why not a single official from one of those companies has been criminally prosecuted for these frauds. Is government contract fraud no longer a prosecutable crime?

- A follow up please. How does letting cheating private sector officials and their companies off with just civil fines fit with your oft-stated position on personal responsibility? Individuals engineered those frauds but they go un-prosecuted. Do you think this sends the right message to America’s young – America’s next generation of corporate executives?

- You have made an issue of your strongly held Christian beliefs. So, can you explain how you believe Jesus would have responded to 9/11? Would He have counseled restraint, turned the other cheek, or bombed someone?

- A follow up please. Do you think Jesus would agree with your economic policies, that providing more money to the rich while cutting government services to the poor is the way to lift mankind out of misery?

And if he doesn’t answer a question the first time, keep asking. If he refuses a follow up the reporter that asked the question should state, “I’m sorry Mr. President, but if you are just going to answer my questions with pre-prepared statements there’s no reason for me to be here.” He/she should then stand up and walk out. The same for the next reporter, and next, and next, until the President either answers reporter’s questions in his own words, or is left blowing Karl Rove’s prepared PR smoke into an empty room.

Now, that’s a real news conference.

Monday, June 20, 2005

June 17-19, 2005

Yes Virginia,
He's Screwed Up More Than Just Iraq

Occasionally when someone yells, “fire!” in crowded theater, it’s because there really is a fire. So...........

The US economy is on fire. No, I’m not talking about a new bull market in stocks or real estate. I mean the damn thing is on f-i-r-e. You might not have noticed because it’s smoldering just under the surface, like a peat fire. But it’s heading for a stand of tinder-dry woodlands, and when it hits it’ll be too late to get out.

Those woodlands are the sprawling forest of US homes now financed by risky new adjustable rate and interest-only mortgages. The frenzy to loan money to spendthrift and borrow Americans has become so lucrative for lenders that they have shucked their stiff old green eyeshades and banker’s sobriety and become the lender-equivalents of used car dealers. You’ve seen the Ditech and e-Loan ads. Some would make a local yokel used car dealer blush.

“Are we CaaaaaaaaaRAZY? Go ahead, call us CRAZY. But come in today and buy your new home with a loan from Grabit and Dash Mortgage. NO. NO. NO, I SAID NO MONEY DOWN. But wait! There’s more. NO PRINCIPAL PAYMENTS FOR FIVE.. FIVE.. YES! I SAID FIVE, FIVE, FIVE years.”

And of course, it’s worked. Millions of Americans, many who never would have qualified for a home loan have. The trouble is a lot of these folks would have been politely, but firmly, escorted to the sidewalk a bank security guard just a few short years ago – for their own good, and the bank’s.

I'm a bloodied veteran taxpayer of the savings and loan scandal. So I get a little twitchy when I see institutions, whose chits I might have to cover someday, get loosey-goosey with their lending practices. I remember back in the mid-1980s when another cowboy, Ronald Reagan, was in the White House and supply-siders were pumping nitrous oxide through the national ventilation system. Asset values, they assured us, would go up. So, stop clinging to old-banker bromides, especially those girlie-boy “loan-to-value”rules. If a lender lends 110% of a property’s current value, what’s the problem? In a month or two and the loan will be more than covered by natural property value inflation. And, if problems do develop, the nation will “grow” its way out of it, they said. How? Well by exploiting new “synergies” created by the dynamics of a deregulated banking sector, they assured

Of course it didn’t work quite that way and cost US taxpayers $164 billion to cover those bad loans. (Tip: When you hear someone proposing a loosening of laws regulating the use of other people’s money on the grounds that the changes will create new “synergies,” -- just call the police.)

But memory fades. Today another cowboy is in the saddle and the game is once again afoot. Another prairie fire is about to be set. And here’s the match.

Over the next two years the contractual 5-year “adjustment” on those loans will be triggered. For the first five years borrowers were allowed to make artificially low monthly payments, allowing a lot of people who did not earn enough to afford a $400,000 home to qualify for a loan to buy one. Neither those borrowers or their lenders worried about what was going to happen in five years when their monthly payment jumped from $1500 a month to $2,500 a month. Maybe they would get a $250-a-week raise at work by then. Or, maybe they would sell the house for more. And, if they default, well, the house may be worth more by then to more than cover the lender. Lots of maybe's there that in the past would have had no place in the underwriting process -- and still shouldn't.

But there’s no maybe about this. This is a hard fact. In 2007 lenders will trigger ARM adjustments on more than $1 trillion of the nation's mortgage debt - or about 12 percent of outstanding mortgage debt. That will add over $40 billion in additional monthly payments for those homeowner/borrowers. Yes, $40 billion more. Call me CRAZY, but that sure smells like smoke to me.

Nevertheless, this problem continues to grow. This year lenders report that 40% of the mortgage and refi loans they made were ARMs. As rates begin to go up this year and next, expect that percentage to jump. That’s because the loan-'em-all-they-want feeding frenzy of the past five years has created a glut of lenders. As rates go up it will force consolidation and fierce competition. Expect all kinds of TV teaser rate mortgage ads touting, “low-down, no-down, low-fee, no-fee, low-documentation, no-documentation, approval-on-line, you-don’t-even-need-to-prove-you’re-alive,” loan offers.

All this is particularly disturbing when you recall that the only thing that’s been holding this hollow economy together for the past four years has been the housing market. Automakers, airlines, textile manufacturers, manufacturers in general, are all just trying make it to the next fiscal year without filing for bankruptcy protection. If housing goes into the shitter, everything else follows.

But don’t expect an early warning call from Alan Greenspan, or anyone from Washington, Wall Street or the US Chamber of Commerce. Because those guys hate it when someone yells “fire,” in their theater. It can result in a rush to the exit, and that could leave “stake holders” holding the bag -- and that’s no fun.

Instead they like to engineer what they call “a soft landing.” Sounds nice.. ummm-a soft landing. Of course what they really mean that is they like to beat the rush, to have time to slip quietly from the theater while the rest of us are still absorbed in the movie -- and before we notice the smoke.

So expect Alan and his friends to continue making soothing remarks like, “While there is some froth in the real estate markets in isolated regions, we expect no large scale decline in real estate values nationwide,” and “While long term rates continue low, for reasons we cannot explain, and there appears to be continuing weakness in the manufacturing sector, the economy on a whole remains on firm footing.”

But here’s a tip from a guy who got caught in the last theater-fire: Keep one eye peeled for guys in suits leaving their seats.You might not notice them because they will just stroll up the darkened aisle as though going to the lobby for a popcorn refill.

Follow those guys.

Friday, June 17, 2005

June 16, 2005

Spring Time for Neocons

Jeezzee I hate to do this, but what else can I do when it finally becomes this obvious.

This week we saw something truly remarkable, and thoroughly terrifying. I don’t know how to begin this so that I don’t lose half of you from the start.

Let’s begin with this:

Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) responding to the ongoing tales of serious abuse at Guantanamo Bay:

“Now, how do we treat these people? I sent down yesterday for the menu from Guantanamo, so that the average American could understand how we’re brutalizing people in Guantanamo, and I’ve got it right here. For Sunday they’re going to be having – let me see – orange-glazed chicken, fresh fruit groupe, steamed peas and mushrooms, rice pilaf, another form of torture for the hijackers. We treat them very well. (And, all in a resort-like Caribbean setting to boot!)

Guard, Allah willing, would you pass the lemon-fish. I always enjoy it, but it’s particularly good today – praise Allah and complements to the chef.

That gastronomic news conference was, for me, the death rattle for this administration’s war on terror. It is the kind of thing despots resort to when caught red handed being despots. By this time they have fooled their own people successfully, so many times, with so many lame lies and obfuscations they figure they can handle this one the same way.

Hello folks, we have been down this road before. History, what a bitch!

Check this one out:

“The English, the French, and the Americans have their Devil's Islands and penal colonies. They are located in deadly climates of brutal heat or ice cold, and poisonous insects. They all have such hells where they sentence lawbreakers for long years or even for life. Most end up dying before they have been there very long….Germany does not have such tropical Devil's Islands or deadly ice camps. And even if Germany had such places, no one would be locked away there. In German camps, criminals and misfits live in clean and orderly accommodations, receive sufficient nourishment and have enough time for both work and play.

That little gem is straigth from the original 1940 German propaganda booklet entitled, “Wie Sie Lugen, (How They Lie.) The booklet was produced and distributed to prepare the German public for allied reports of Nazis atrocities. (Full Pamphlet)

In 1941 word had gotten out of the Nazis mistreatment of Jews in Poland. The Germans responded with a film entitled, Der Führer gibt den Juden eine Stadt. (The Fuhrer Gives the Jews a City)

The city was The Ghetto of Terezin (Theresienstadt) the Nazi’s set up as a "model ghetto." The film showed families playing together, well dressed, well housed and well dressed. The Nazis used the film to impress the international community as well as deceive the Jews about what really lay in their future. Once the film was completed and distributed the Nazis opened a crematorium in their model ghetto in November 1942.

And let us not forget that the Nazi’s provided something for their prisoners we have not yet provided; high culture. While German civilians might not have been able to attend a symphony during the war, Jews could. And where? Auschwitz Concentration Camp, of all places! Yes, the Nazi’s wanted the world to know that, while they may not like Jews, and locked them up, they treated them well in captivity.

Just as Rep.Hunter and Sen. Session’s trotted out those steaming plates of scrumptious Gitmo food for the cameras, the Nazi’s provided pictures of concentration camp orchestras. It's one of the oldest s despotic ricks in the book. It’s all the same lying, cynical, crapola in a different wrapper.

I hope I have not lost any of you yet, cause I ain’t done.

When the public starts getting queasy, despots first try to scare them back into line. The administration and its Neocon supporters in congress are about this business now. They warn that all this loose talk about Gitmo and other US misconduct is putting our boys and girls in uniform at risk. Loose lips kill our kids, so shut the f—k up out there!

Well, the world's been there and done this dumb trick before too.

(From “False Consideration,” A Nazi propaganda pamphlet, describing a German soldier home on leave in 1939) (Full version)

“He visited a family of acquaintances. They spoke of this and that. The conversation turned to an old woman. One preferred to avoid Frau So-and-So. She was a nice enough woman, to be sure, but she said the oddest things. Recently, she said it was stupid that our soldiers had to undergo such dangers, and similar things. She caused a lot of bother and annoyance, and probably is not quite right in the head. One really cannot take her seriously. One didn't report her to the police, our reader asked? No, one could not do that. One could hardly send her to prison or even the gallows. She was such a nice woman!…This is the core of the problem that we have to speak openly about, German to German….Our enemy is giving us a clear enough picture of what he would do to us so that only a small percentage of criminals and racial trash in Germany opposes our victory. Their number is so small as to pose no danger to us. However, they could have an impact not only at home, but far worse on the soldiers at the front.”

Sound familiar?

Some Americans are beginning to argue we should close Gitmo, that the place has become worse than an embarrassment, it’s become a recruiting tool for terrorists. If that’s true, and only a fool would think otherwise, then it’s Gitmo, not loose lips at home, that’s really endangering our kids in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But the Neocons rallied in support of Gitmo this week. They say we have to keep it open because, damn it, the people there are really bad. They’d slit our babies' throats and drink their blood if let out. Only bleeding heart liberals and those who wish the US ill could possibly argue that what is going on at Gitmo is not wrong and not crucial to protect the American people.

Yeah, well, that justification jumped straight out of the same Nazi propagandist handbook quoted above:

“To whom was this slanderous distortion useful? Only the warmongers who wanted to starve and annihilate the entire German people…. Each of us knows what a crude and baseless lie this is. Every decent person in the world should have known this. And yet: "Some of it will always be believed, the stupid and gullible will never see through it all" — so hope the political liars and slanderers…..Certainly we do not relish the thought of losing our freedom, to be locked up, away from friends and family. But a country that wants to work to support itself in peace and tranquility must isolate the troublemakers to make them harmless. It has always been that way, and it will always be that way….We will not be confused by the lies of the foreign countries! We know what we are fighting for!”

This week's full court press by Bushite Neocons pulled out all the old propagandist tricks in the book. To me it has the sound of a death rattle to it. But death of what? That's what remains to be decided. We can hope it’s the sound of Neocon policies falling apart under the cold, disgusted glare of American voters.

But then it could also be the sound of America sliding down the slippery slope of – (and sorry, but there is simply no other word that applies) – fascism.

Don't wait until you hear the knock on the door in the middle of night to start worrying about it though. American fascism will not arrive in the familiar crude and obvious garb of Nazi fascism.

It will be better. There will be good food, and music.

Just don’t ask for seconds on the lemon-chicken if you know what's good for you.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

June 15, 2005

Obstruction Gets A Bum Rap

If we’ve learned anything about this administration over the last five years it’s that they are geniuses at redefining the terms of debate. Words are like PlayDough to these people, to be shaped into weapons.

One would think we've now seen enough of this Orwellian behavior, and it's results, to be on guard, even immune. But, so far anyay, we still fall for it every time. Americans continue to allow these people to reprogram our internal dictionaries at will.

* Crippling deficits became “investments in America’s future,”
* The invasion and occupation of countries thousands of miles away becomes “liberation and democratization” operations.
* The erosion of the constitutional separation of church and state becomes, “faith-based community action.”
* Laws restricting constitutional rights here became, “The Patriot Act” and "Homeland Security.”

Goebbels, eat your heart out dude. These guys are really good at being really bad. Then again, maybe we’re just stupid. Both could be true, and probably are.

Anyway, that’s all so yesterday. A new word is on the doctor’s operating table today. Boys and girls, can you say, “obstruction?” Let’s see a show of hands. How many of you think obstruction is a bad thing? Because, I just want you kids to understand, Principal Bush thinks it’s a very, very bad thing.

WASHINGTON, June 14 - President Bush spent Tuesday replenishing his party's coffers and, in the face of resistance to his Social Security plan and much of the rest of his second-term agenda, struck an aggressive new tone by accusing Democrats of standing for nothing but obstructionism… The Democratic leadership, he said, embodies "the philosophy of the stop sign, the agenda of the roadblock." (Full Story)

The plastic word-surgeons in the Bush administration are, as we speak, doing a Michael Jackson-level nose job on the word obstructionist. And, if the past is indeed prolog, by the time they are done it will be unrecognizable – and, they hope, just as ugly.

So, before it’s too late let’s nail down what the word really means:

Webster’s defines “obstruct” as:
To block or fill (a passage) with obstacles or an obstacle.
To impede, retard, or interfere with; hinder.
To get in the way of so as to hide from sight.

The first two definitions are the ones the Bush folk want to weoponize. If they can get the public to react to the term “obstructionist” the same way they react to “pedophile,” “terrorist,” or “Hillary,” they believe they can completely neuter opposition.

But using obstruction before fixing the term poses a danger. It’s that third definition. It will have to be dealt with, disappeared, left on the operating room floor.

“To get in the way of so as to hide.”

Yikes! That’s the entire Bush administration game plan described in a single, incomplete sentence! They built their entire evil empire upon it. Someone might notice.

After all, this is the administration that successfully obstructed public access to who advised Dick Cheney’s energy task force and what advice they gave, obstructed access of 9/11 Commission investigators to White House pre-war intelligence, and continue to obstruct access to important documents required for the John Bolton nomination as UN ambassador.

"As long as the White House is not allowing the information to come forward, there's going to be no change in the (Bolton) vote," Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said yesterday. (Full Story)

Obstruction is this administration’s middle name. (Read today’s stories about the growing flood of Downing Street memos." If that’s not definition No. 3, I have no idea what is.)

But who knows, they may well succeed, as they have in the past, fixing that little definitional problem with “obstruction.” That would leave them with definitions No. 1 and No. 2. These are, at first glance, the very kind of blunt objects Republicans have successfully used in the past to beat Democrats silly. But is being an obstructionist, as defined in 1 and 2, always a negative? Bush wants to make it so, but IS it?

Well, not always. How nicer the world would have been if the German parliament of the 1930s had had some gutsy and effective obstructionists, ey? And how many more Russians would be alive and kicking today if the Soviet Politburo had obstructed Stalin’s purges – his version of homeland security? How many fewer people would have died if someone in 1930's Japan had organized enough obstructionists to cripple Japan’s ill-fated imperialist aspirations.

And no need to look backwards to find obstrutionist opportunities. I bet the Bushites would love to see some obstructionist pop up within the North Korean and Iranian governments right now. (Of course they would not call them obstructionists. They would call them “patriots,” and “friends of democracy.”)

History is chuck-full of such missed opportunities, moments when obstructionists might have saved hundreds of millions of people from misery, poverty, oppression and death. There are probably times when obstructionists did just that, but we never hear about them. When something doesn’t happen it becomes the proverbial tree falling in the forest no one hears. Therefore, nowhere will you find an Obstructionist Hall of Fame, museum or monument. We celebrate no Obstructionist Day. There are no obstructionist medals awarded at White House ceremonies.

So the Bushites want to use the ambiguity around this word as a weapon against their opponents. They will paint Democrats as “obstructionists.” And make sure you understand that's behavior that with no social upside.

But, as this new word-warping campaign get underway the press needs to make sure it's coverage of obstrutionism is, dare I say, "fair and balanced." Because clearly there are lots of potential upsides to obstruction, as pointed out above.

It might be an interesting exercise to look back and see what obstructionist opportunities Democrats missed already that might have yielded far better results than the Bush administrations they failed to stop.

Would America be better or worse off today had Democrats successfully obstructed Bush’s rush to war with Iraq?

Would America be better or worse off today had these same Democrats obstructed Bush’s $1.6 trillion in tax cuts for the rich and instead forced a payroll tax cut of less than half that amount for working Americans?

Would America be better or worse off if Democrats had obstructed Bush’s so-called Medicare Drug Benefit program that prohibits Medicare negotiating lower drug prices, and instead insisted that government use its purchasing power to lower drug costs?

Would America be better off tomorrow if Democrats obstruct Bush’s energy program, block drilling in the Artic Refuge and refuse to budge until the administration commits agrees to increase higher gas miliage standards on automaters and to fund a 10-year Manhattan Project-level renewable energy research and development program?

Well, what ya think? Is obstruction always a bad thing? Come on Bush voters. I want to hear what you guys have to say. Is it? Answer the damn questions.

Then get out there and obstruct something bad -- for the common good.

Patriotic obstructionists of America, unite!