Wednesday, June 07, 2006

May 22- June 6, 2006

Protect The Children They Say...
Okay. Let's

I wasn't going to write today. But then I got an earful from our Ignoramus in Chief. Forget the mounting death tolls in both Iraq and Afghanistan, George Bush has more important matters on his mind.

Pay attention damn it! George W. Bush knows a threat to the American way of life when he sees one, and he sees one: Gay marriage.

With the November mid-term elections just five months away it's time to stir up the crazies. And nothing gets them crazier than the idea of two men or two women getting hitched. The death of 2500 American soldiers in Iraq bothers them too. But those concerns can be pushed into the background with just one TV ad showing a couple of interior decorator types taking marriage vows.

Don't assume I find this old rightwing ploy offensive because I have dog in that fight. Not so. Hell, I still haven't seen Brokeback Mountain because the sight of two guys sucking face makes me hack up my popcorn. I'm not saying there's a thing wrong with it, it's just not my thing and prefer not to watch. I'm sure they feel the same way, visa versa.

But that adults have the right to kiss, sleep with or marry another adult – of whatever flavor -- is not a matter worthy of any lawmaker's attention.

But the rightwing blitz is already begun. TV ads are running that condemn gay marriages because such unions “deprive children of a mother or father.”

Well, if that's what they are worried about, then I have a solution.

Democrats, pay attention, damn it. Democrats should propose an amendment to this stupid bill... an amendment that stipulates that if children having both a mother and father is such a concern, then the measure should also outlaw divorce or separation for couples with children under 18.

Nothing deprives more children of a father or mother than divorce. Half of all marriages now end in divorce. Gay marriage is not even in the top dozen reasons for children lacking a mother or father. Divorce is the No. 1 reason. Out of marriage births are No. 2. And both are almost exclusively hetro sexual events.

So, if the rightwing's purpose in trying to outlaw same-sex marriage is, as they claim, to spare kids single-parenthood, then put divorce right up there in the penal code with child abuse and abandonment.

I have long advised Democrats – and they have long ignored me – that the only way to expose the hypocrisy of the right is to force them to vote on precisely the things they claim they want. So, would one you up there on The Hill add an amendment to this measure protecting children from not having “a mother and a father” in the home by outlawing divorce or separation, until the kids are grown. I want to see how the other side juggles that logic with their stated reasons for banning gay marriages.

Then, let the games begin.

June 1, 2006

When Does Personal Responsibility
Get Personal With this Guy?

Last week I was having coffee with a friend and wondered out loud, “What would it be like to just stop paying attention for a while,” I asked. "You know, just blow the news of the day off for a week, or month, or even a whole year. Then, when the time was up, look up and see how things went and where going."

I tried, but I only lasted a week. Then I looked up and saw that during my short sabbatical;

Afghanistan has become another Iraq:
KAUBUL: A deadly traffic accident caused by a U.S. military convoy touched off anti-American rioting Monday that left at least five Afghans dead and scores injured in the capital Kabul - a city that was supposed to be the safest place in the country....The riots revealed a disturbing truth: At a time when the United States has enough trouble in Iraq, Afghanistan is increasingly beginning to resemble that war. (More)

American soldiers in Iraq had gone berserk:
HADITHA: Damaging fresh details have emerged of a massacre of Iraqi civilians by US forces in the western city of Haditha, which is rapidly becoming a domestic scandal in the United States on the scale of the Abu Ghraib prison abuse. (More)

After promising troop reductions, more US troops were being sent to Iraq:
WASHINGTON — U.S. military commanders are moving about 1,500 troops from a reserve force in Kuwait into the volatile Anbar province in western Iraq to help local authorities establish order there. "The United States stands ready to help the Iraqi democracy succeed," President Bush said yesterday...The troop movement, announced earlier by military commanders, comes as Iraqi officials continue to struggle to set up their government, amid new spikes in violence. (More)

Ethnic cleansing had come all the rage in Iraq:
BASRA, IRAQ: The proportion of Sunni Muslims in Basra has declined from 40% to 15%, after three years of forced immigration, said the chairman of a religious authority in Iraq. (More)

BAGHDAD: Anyone in the wrong place at the wrong time has become a target. And that includes Iraqis who belong to the "wrong" ethnic or religious group for the area in which they have lived all their life. Ethnic cleansing is rife, as practiced in the disintegrating Yugoslavia. (More)

Then I made the mistake of switching on CNN, and there was President Bush responding to a reporter's question about the Haditha massacre. “If the investigation shows there was wrong doing those responsible will be punished,” he said, with a shrug.

It was at that moment that the following question popped into my mind:

Just when do any of these messes become the personal responsibility of this Command in Chief?

For example, when will he accept personal responsibility for putting those young soldiers into that nerve-fraying, crazy-making, heads-they-win, tails-we-lose war in the first place? When does this Commander in Chief take responsibility for thrusting those still maturing American kids, armed to the teeth, into that madhouse of nation? A made up nation where, even in the best of times, people born there kill one another over centuries old religious slights. When does their Commander in Chief acknowlede that was a mistake? A deadly mistake.

And when will this Commander in Chief accept responsibility for his arrogant refusal to listen to those who warned him that what has happened would happen if he sent Western troops to occupy a nation in the very heart of the Muslim empire? Was this Commander completely unfamiliar with Harold Lamb's work chronicling what happened during the second half of the 12th century -- the last time some pulled this kind of stunt? ( "The Crusades: The Flame of Islam?") Might he have at least considered curling up with this instructive account before sending other parent's kids to fight, be maimed for life or die in such a demonstrably fool's errand?

When does this Commander in Chief fess up to the error he made when he refused to give a moment's consideration to warnings that Iraq could become another Vietnam? And instead sent young soldiers off to -- once again -- fight an enemy able to dissolve into the local scenery, dressed like civilians? And where some of those civilians literally blow up in their faces, at the most inconspicuous times and in the most innocent of places?

When does it become this Commander in Chief's fault when one of those young soldiers snaps? Is it when a National Guard unit, made up of clerks, accountants and carpetners, is on it's second deployment to Iraq? Or it's third? Or it's forth? Is it when a 19-year Marine, fresh out of ITR Camp Pendleton, sees his buddy's brains dripping off their Humvee's dashboard? Or is it when that young Marine turns to defend himself and all he can see the line of fire are dozens of cheering, stone throwing Iraqi civilians? Is that when it becomes the Commander in Chief's responsibility? Or will he walk away from his responsibility here as he has so often before? After all, the Commander in Chief promised his troops they'd recieve hero's welcome. He promised him roses. Instead their buddies lie in pieces in front of them while the folks they were sent to “liberate” appear grotesquely pleased about that.

Then there's the little matter of Afghanistan... the only military invasion the Commander in Chief was given clear and unambiguous authority to wage in the wake of 9/11. When will he take personal responsibility for losing that war by performing the military equivalent of coitus interruptus? Allowing Osama and his minions time to escape, and regroup and to fight another day -- another year, another decade?

There's lots more personal responsibly still awaiting recognition of ownership by this Commander in Chief; Abu Ghraib, New Orleans, the fact that the number of Americans that can't afford basic health insurance has swollen to one in six, (50 million,) during his watch, that the wealthy have gotten obscenely more so while the working poor work more for less and less. He has accepted ownership of none of that. The buck, it would seem, never stops on this President's, this Commander in Chief's, desk.

Well wait. That's not entirely ture. I noticed that, during Tony Blair's visit, President Bush did admit making a couple of mistakes. No, it wasn't for creating conditions that led to the torturing war prisoners, or for violating one of America's core founding principals by holding prisoners without charges for years, or for attacking another country without provocation, or spying on Americans without a warrant, or for being proven dead wrong on global warming, or that his energy policies have left us hostage to Middle Eastern oil.... .. or any of that.

Instead, begudgingly, like a little kid forced to apologize to the class, he mubbled he was sorry -- sorry he had allowed some barroom swagger to slip out in public. For taunting Islamic militants in Iraq to “bring it on,” -- which they did, and continue to. And for declaring he bin Laden, “wanted dead or alive.” Four years later Osama is still "wanted" and still quite alive.

Nevertheless, President George W. Bush, Commander in Chief, wanted us to know he's really sorry for shooting his mouth off like that.

What about all the other stuff that's gone wrong on his watch? Well, he assures us his people are looking into all of it. And, if they discover any wrong doing, those responsible will be punished.

Meanwhile, millions of people not responsible for any of this have, and will continue, paying a horrific price for this man's decisions. So many dead. So many wounded. So many living in fear. So much misery for so little gain.

I have to believe that at some point in time, there will be a day of reconking. There must be. We owe it to those who have been lost and to our children and their children. Such things cannot be allowed to happen in America's name and go unpunished -- or else such things will surely happen again.

May 25, 2006

Bring in the Clowns

"We've turned into this nation of overfed clowns, riding around in clown cars, eating clown food, watching clown shows. We've become a nation of cringing, craven fuckups."
James Howard Kunstler,
Author, The Long Emergency.

When I saw this Kunstler quote a couple of weeks ago I thought it a bit harsh. Then I picked up my morning yesterday – and all at once, I got it.

There, in 120 point bold headline type, above the fold, the lead story of the day, was the "news" that:

In less than 24 hours, singer Taylor Hicks would battle singer Katharine McPhee for the title of American Idol!

Clowns. We have indeed become a nation of frivolous, self-indulgent, over-weight, under-educated, un-serious, clowns. When an event of such monumental unimportance wins precious front page status, what other conclusion can be reached?

Art has stopped imitating life and simply become a substitute for it. I flashed back to the 1967 cult TV series “The Prisoner,” starring Patrick McGoohan -- a British spy kidnapped and imprisoned on an island with an Orwellian-like society. Each morning radios, newspapers and speakers announced it was “another wonderful day on the island.” Everyday, was another wonderful day. There never was a bad day - never mind that everyone on the island was a prisoner.

And so it has come to pass on our island, where the papers, radios and TV's no longer differentiate between news and entertainment. Where American Idol finals get Page 1 treatment and genocide in Darfur is pushed deep inside the paper in the shadow of a ½ page Best Buys ad trumpeting a sale on iPod accessories.

“Oh lighten up Pizzo ! People need entertainment as much as they need to know about all the bad news out there.”

Yeah, fine. But let's keep the entertainment news in the entertainment section of the paper where it belongs. Can we do that? Oh, and keep the sports news on the sports page as well. The only time I want to see the name “Barry Bonds,” in the news section of the paper is if major league baseball ever kicks his cheating ass out of the game. Or if he robs a bank. Or if George Bush appoints Barry head of the FDA. Otherwise keep him and all other baseball-relating “news” where it belongs.. in the frigging sports section.

And, unless the losing singer on American Idol pulls a gun and opens fire after hearing the verdict, everything else about that show belongs in the entertainment section and NOT on my goddamn front page.

The same rules apply to everyone and anyone whose only claim to fame is that they sing, dance, submerge themself in a plexi-glass globe, eat the most hot dogs in the shortest time or own a cute dog that fetches beer on command.

None of that is news. Not one word, factoid or photo-op of it is news.

It's not as if there was not real news the day American Idol found it's way onto my front page. During that same news cycle almost anything that happened in Iraq was more important, as were the doings that day on Capitol Hill, at the White House, the Pentagon, the State Department or in nut-basket (and soon to be nuclear armed nut-basket) Iran. On the day my paper put American Idol above the fold on the front page the editors could have thrown a dart at that list of the above news makers and found a story more worthy of the front page.

Who wins or loses on American Idol may send a few thousand teenage girls squealing off in tears, but that's about the extent of the damage. On the other hand we live in extraordinarily dangerous times. A convergence of economic, geopolitical and environmental challenges confront the human race... any one of which could tomorrow trigger a series of events that would turn all our lives inside out. Any one of which deserved the front page space given to American Idol.

So, news editors everywhere, let's get back to treating the front page as the sacred trust it is – the place reserved for the most important news we need to know that day in order to exercise our responsibilities as citizens and members of the human race.

The mainstream media has become complicit in the “clowninization” of the American public. As more and more newspapers and broadcast entities are gobbled up by a handful of giant media conglomerates the news business has become a circulation/ratings game. News people now cover entertainers as though they are news makers. And, as if that's not bad enough, news people themselves now become entertainers – appear on Larry King Live and then interview one another. News men become show men -- the news biz, show biz.

Media companies feel they have to lure us in by blending news and entertainment into a single tasty, calorie-filled but nutrition-free product. Once hell-raisers they are becomng clown makers.

Aren't you embarrassed? Well damn it, you oughta be !

The Equal Opportunity Wedgie

There's an old saying that goes, “Life is what happens while you're making plans.” The same thing can be said for politics. Both parties burn up most of their waking hours trying to find wedge issues that will separate voters from the opposing party and send them fleeing into their camp.

But while so occupied stuff happens out here in the real world -- real stuff. Then, all of a sudden, right out of the blue, both parties find themselves confronted by angry voters yelling about something else entirely. Worse yet, it turns out to be an issue voters in both parties are mad as hell about and blaming them – all of them – for letting get out of control.

Immigration – more precisely, illegal immigration, is one of those party line blurring popular revolts. And it arrived at the worst possible political moment for the two parties as a critical mid-term election looms in November. Members of both parties don't know whether shit or go blind, so they're all running around up there with one eye closed farting.

Illegal immigration, you see, is an equal opportunity wedgie:

Cloth-coat Republican voters, seeing entry-level jobs for their children disappearing and school class rooms turning from towers of learning to Towers of Babel, want the borders sealed.

Mink-coat Republican pols, beholden to big business, want the flow of serf-workers to continue unimpeded.

Minority-vote mining Democrat consultants warn that Dems must pander to what demographers predict is the ethnic group about to eclipse African-Americans -- Hispanic voters -- and round them up before the Republicans capture them first.

With labor union membership dropping like rock, Big Labor sees Mexican immigration as fresh blood – and dues. But their old rank and file members – many now unemployed due to outsourcing and cheap immigrant labor – want illegal immigration stopped in its tracks.

Republicans, already feeling heat from their fiscally conservative base over exploding deficits, are having a tough time explaining how they are going to pay the estimated half a trillion dollars it will cost the treasury over a decade to cover legalized illegals' Medicare, education and other social services they will become eligible to receive after they are legalized.

"Pressure from the White House to rush an immigration bill isn’t stopping Sen. Jeff Sessions (R.-Ala.) from forcing his colleagues to pay attention to the $50 billion per year economic drain the Senate’s amnesty bill would put on Americans." (Full Story)

Democrats are having a tough time explaining to their unemployed/under-employed working class voters why America needs a fresh flood of cheap, surplus labor.

Republicans are having a tough time explaining why illegals should be treated as felons while the employers that profit from illegal labor are not charged with a crime and instead crowd their list of top political contributors.

English speaking voters in both parties were offended by the Democrat's Senate leader, Harry Reid's description of them as “racists,” just because they want English designated the language of record within the confines of the US club.

Wow! What a mess. Who's right? Who's left? Somewhere in such an enormous pile of horse manure there's gotta be at least one pony we can all ride.

So let's see if we can clear the underbrush and find a simple, logical and just set of bottom line essentials:

* Immigrant rights groups argue that "no human being is illegal.” True as stated, but off the subject entirely. Those who enter the US illegally are, of course, legal humans. Which does nothing to change the fact that they are also illegal immigrants. We are never going to get to a solution in this matter throwing non-sequiturs, like that "illegal human" beaut, into this serious debate.
* No wall, no matter how high or how long, will solve the illegal immigrant problem. Remember the Vietnamese boat people? Remember the Haitian refugees crowded on boats heading for Florida like an armada? Those in Congress itching to build a wall need to spend some time with a map. If they did they would notice that Mexico enjoys Pacific, Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico and Baja Gulf coastlines. Assuming we could hermetically seal our land border all it would do is shift the burden for enforcement from the Border Patrol to the US Coast Guard. (And instead of dying of dehydration in the desert, poor immigrants would drown at sea.)
* Just as America's drug problems are not caused by suppliers but users, the same is true for illegal immigrant labor. Kill the demand for it and you cut the problem of illegal immigration by 90%. So, instead of sending the National Guard to the border, require employers to confirm the worker's status before hiring them.
* The IRS and Social Security Administration maintains lists of employers who have submitted false SSI numbers for employees. One large agricultural company used the same Social Security number over 2500 times last year to identify it's employees. That would be a good place to start rounding up both illegals and the folks hiring them.
* Immigration advocates say immigrants “do jobs Americans won't do,” which again misses the point entirely. The correct way to put it is, “jobs Americans won't do for slave wages.” Raise the US minimum wage to $10 a hour.

Okay, enough. I want to add one more voice to this. He's been called a loud-mouth, a racist, the predominant spokesman for American xenophobia by pro-immigration groups. But, I think he has this one right.

Dobbs: Bush, Congress tell working folk to go to hell

By Lou Dobbs

NEW YORK (CNN) -- President Bush says that the installation of the new Iraqi government was a "watershed event," but at the same time warns Americans of the challenges and loss as we continue to prosecute the war against Iraqi insurgents. Sen. Harry Reid declares that legislation that would render English the national language is racist.

Thirty-seven Democrats vote for full amnesty for all illegal aliens in this country, even though nobody really knows whether the number is 11 million, 12 million or 20 million. The Senate Republican leadership demands that a "comprehensive immigration reform" plan must be passed before this Memorial Day weekend. And the president signs into law a tax cut that raises taxes on the educational funds of teenagers saving for college.

Never before in our country's history have both the president and Congress been so out of touch with most Americans. Never before have so few of our elected officials and corporate leaders been less willing to commit to the national interest. And never before has our nation's largest constituent group -- some 200 million middle-class Americans -- been without representation in our nation's capital.

George W. Bush's approval ratings have slumped to the lowest of his presidency. The approval rating for Congress is even lower, and nearly three-quarters of Americans believe the country is headed in the wrong direction.

But what is our government doing about that? The president is staying the course in Iraq and apparently demanding little of his generals to create a new, far more effective strategy for urgent success. Of course, he also wants a guest-worker program and amnesty of millions of illegal aliens. And Congress, faced with midterm elections in just over five months, is intent on giving the president what he wants and telling working men and women and their families, American citizens all, to go to hell.

Illegal aliens are more important to this Congress than securing our borders and our ports, more important than those legal immigrants who have waited in line and who follow the law. The Senate has added to the litany of lunacy that makes up what it calls reform: Illegal aliens would only have to pay back taxes on three of the past five years, they will not be prosecuted for felonies such as identity theft or purchasing or using fraudulent Social Security cards, and unlike millions of visa holders who have to leave the country to have them renewed, they may simply remain in the United States while this Congress and this president give away all the benefits and privileges of American citizenship.

This is an outright assault in the elitist war on the middle class. And working men and women who've already borne the pain of losing good-paying manufacturing jobs and having middle-class jobs outsourced to cheap foreign labor markets are faced with the onslaught of more illegal immigration and cheap labor into the American economy. This president and Congress talk about bringing illegal aliens out of the shadows while they turn out the lights on our middle class.

President Bush and his most trusted advisers tell us how well our economy is doing, how many jobs have been created and how so-called free trade will enrich the lives of the same people whose livelihoods these policies are destroying.

It's hard not to think of the trusted adviser to Catherine the Great who sought to hide from her the embarrassing and shoddy condition of Ukrainian and Crimean villages by having elaborate facades built to divert her attention and to mask an uncomfortable reality. I don't know whether Karl Rove is President Bush's Grigori Potemkin or whether George Bush has created Potemkin villages all by himself. But the facades are cracking, and phony fronts of failed policies are quickly crumbling.

Six thousand unarmed National Guardsmen working as adjunct rear support to our undermanned, under-equipped Border Patrol is not border security. Three million illegal aliens continue to cross our borders and depress wages by hundreds of billions of dollars every year. The millions of manufacturing and middle-class jobs lost over the last five years have been replaced by lower-wage employment.

The president's faith-based commitment to so-called free trade will likely lead to a $1 trillion U.S. current account deficit this year and a trade debt of $4.5 trillion after 30 years of trade deficits. And while the president and Congress point to No Child Left Behind as a solution to our educational crisis, we're failing an entire generation of Americans whose test scores continue to fall and whose high school dropout rates would be embarrassing to a third-world country.

And a third-world country is what we will be if our elected officials don't soon come to their senses.