Tuesday, November 27, 2007

November 26, 2007

November 26, 2007

Inquiring Minds


Want to Know

Wednesday night Republican candidates for President will hold their own YouTube debate. Since those in the mainstream media we depend upon to ask the really important questions more often than not don't, we can only hope they let the YouTubers do it for us.

We can each make our own list of what we consider "important questions" the candidates are not being asked by reporters. But for me it's no contest. We've now experienced 7 years of God-talks-to-me, faith-based, Jesus-is-my-favorite-philosopher, science- smyence,  governance of George W. Bush. And look where it's gotten us. Which is why I really want to start getting some specific questions posed to any candidate, Republican or Democrat, who wears his/her faith like an American flag lapel pin and/or tosses around references to their "faith" as though it's some kind of UL certification of righteousness.

This Wednesday night, during the CNN Republican YouTube debate, Americans will get a rare opportunity to ask the candidates the kinds of questions reporters shy away from. At the top of that list are questions that plumb the depths of what candidates themselves claim they hold sacred -- their religious beliefs.

Bush keeps telling us we have to take terrorists at their word, and act accordingly.Fine. Then let's also take the candidates at their word too. Let's listen to what they say the believe in and then connect that to the job they are applying for, President of the United States of America.

Overtly religious candidates, particularly Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney, have been allowed by the media to flash their religious "gang signs" to like-minded voters without challenge, without digging, without context or exploration of the consequences that might flow should that candidate become our next leader.

Which is why I submitted a YouTube question for Mike Huckabee. I doubt it will be selected but I sure hope there are plenty more submitted by others. (See also: Mike Huckabee is Not a Sane Man)

I figured I'd have, at best, one shot at a YouTube question so it was hard to pick between Huckabee and Romney, the two candidates I think have gotten the away with the most god-pimping. Both men belong to Christian sects with core beliefs so out of the political, social, scientific and intellectual mainstream that it's breathtaking. But even more breathtaking is the media's refusal to confront them with pointed questions about those beliefs and how they would shape their presidency should the win.

Since Huckabee, a minister himself,  adheres to the most fundamental of Christian fundamentalist sects, can we assume he would favor teaching the creationist's anti-evolution pseudo-science in our public schools? We don't know because no reporter has yet forced him on to explain his beliefs about creation on the record. 

That lack of journalistic curiosity and courage is even harder to excuse in the case of self-described devote Mormon Mitt Romney. Mormonism (Church of Latter Day Saints, LDS) is, like Scientology, a belief system created by a modern-day "prophet," Joseph Smith. Unlike Scientology's founder, L. Ron Hubbard who invented an entirely new school of superstition,  Joseph Smith borrowed liberally from the old and new Testaments as well as mis-translated Egyptian papyrus fragments.

When those sources of inspiration failed to distinguish his sect from the dozens of Christian spinoffs, Smith simply made up entire civilizations complete with competing tribes living in city-states here and abroad, civilizations that archeologists say never existed.

Smith, a half-educated, failed treasure hunter, claimed he could translate ancient languages because he possessed a "seer stone." This mystic stone not only allowed him to decipher Egyptian hieroglyphics decades before scientists were able to do so, but showed him where to find treasures his made up civilizations had buried during times of turmoil. Among those alleged treasures were the gold tablets off which he claims to have transcribed the Book of Mormon.

It's all pretty weird stuff if you can stick to it and read the whole BoM. (Mark Twain tried, describing the Book of Mormon as "Chloroform in print.") But, since Romney states he's proud of his faith then he should have no problem having his beliefs probed. 

For example, does he really believe, as the BoM states, that that American Indians ("Lamanites" as described in the BoM,) were one of the lost tribes of Israel, and were direct descendants of pre-Columbian Judeo-Israelite colonists who fled to the American continent around 400 AD? Does he believe this central tenet of the Mormon faith? And if so, how can he believe it since DNA testing has proven beyond doubt that America Indians actually descended, not from Semitic lines ,but rather Asian and Eurasian linage? I want to hear him reason that one through.


Why is that important? Because it tells us a lot about a person's critical thinking and reasoning. And since the American presidency is an office that is often faced with reasoning through some of mankind's most potentially deadly matters, wouldn't you like to know how Mitt's mind works? Wouldn't you like to know how he navigates the world or real things with the spirit world he inhabits as a devote Mormon. I sure would like to know.

At the very least I would not want a fellow as president who actually believes that the ancestors of American Indians were, at any time in their history, a  part of a worldwide Jewish Diaspora. I sure as hell don't want someone that gullible and -- let's not mince words --- stupid, mucking around in Middle East politics. And I sure don't think we want someone who defend or otherwise rationalizes the absurd and entirely fictional version of human history making decisions about how we educate our children. (So, call me picky.)

Maybe Romney would like to elaborate on the Mormon belief that when Christ returns to earth he will build a new Jerusalem. Where? Not on the West Bank, not even in the Middle East, but in Jackson County, Missouri! This new homeland will then serve as the seat of Christ's 1,000-year reign on Earth. Jerusalem in Missouri, imagine that! And then try to imagine a president of the United State who believes that. (I guess Jackson County Missouri can expect some big-ass earmarks during a Romney administration.)

During Bill Clinton's first run for President a student asked him,"boxers or briefs." It was viewed a humorous though frivolously question to ask a candidate for president since it had nothing to do with how he would preform in office. He said boxers, and now we can only wish he'd kept them on for his whole term in office.

Nevertheless, the same similar question for Romney would be more justifiable. It would go like this:

Mr. Romney, inquiring minds want to know, boxers, briefs or holy underwear?

If Romney wears these so called "temple garments" he believes they protect him from evil, and possibly even physical harm. Wouldn't you like to know? What if, just for comparison, a candidate believed that wearing garlic around his neck protected him from vampires? Would that be something you'd like to know about a would-be president of the United States? Well holy underwear is no less silly -- and no less telling.

So, who's going screw up the courage and ask Romney? He claims he doesn't mind talking about his religion, so let's talk.

Yet reporters seem hindered by the notion that it's rude, or "intolerant" to ask critically probing questions about a candidates' stated religious beliefs. Well, that's just plain wrong. Sure it's rude to run around cross examining your generic church-going Joe or Jane Blow about their beliefs just because you disagree with them. But it's not rude or out of bounds when when candidates for high office volunteer such information implying that we should consider their religious beliefs a reason they deserve our vote. If so then we deserve to know exactly what those beliefs are and how they might shape a candidate's social and world view during his/her presidency.

But reporters have failed us badly in this regard. With the exception of one silly "hold up your hand if you don't believe in evolution" question in the first GOP debate we've gotten nothing out of the bible thumpers running for the GOP spot on the ballot. Allowing candidates to get away with their wink-wink, nod-nod, code-word assurances to religiously-like-minded voters without following up with probing questions, is nothing short of dereliction.

After all, that's how we got stuck with alleged born-again, George W. Bush. We got war against Muslim nations, we got perverted science, global warming denial and a condescending, Father Knows Best disdain for our basic freedoms. This time around I'd like us all to know exactly what we're getting when we vote.

But god forbid we should ask any "rude" questions to find out.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

November 14,2007

Life Imitates Art

"The cheaper the crook, the gaudier the patter."

My second favorite flick, right behind Casablanca, is The Maltese Falcon. (Okay, I admit it, I have a Bogart fantasy.) I only mention this because that Maltese Falcon roosted right on my frontal lobes when I read this last night:

Justice Department Reopens Probe Into Warrantless Domestic Spying

The Bush administration has reversed course and will now allow a Justice Department inquiry to move forward regarding whether former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and other government attorneys acted properly in authorizing and overseeing the administration's domestic warrantless wiretapping program, the Department informed Congress today. President Bush had previously shut down the investigation by taking the extraordinary step of denying investigators security clearances necessary for them to move forward. Bush had intervened to sideline the Justice Department probe despite severe objections of career Justice Department officials..." (Full story)

'Oh my gawd...." I thought to myself, "Bush and Cheney setting Gonzales up as the fall guy for crimes they fear may otherwise end up landing on their doorsteps."

Despite their best efforts to destroy emails and deny congress documents on their warrantless wiretapping sprees, enough has leaked out to provide more than enough reasonable cause for an investigation.

But by throwing Alberto Gonzales to the wolves they might be able to satisfy the Democrats' hunger for a Bush administration trophy while also creating the appearance that the administration really does respect the rule of law. Hanging Gonzales out to dry would let them claim it as proof that "no one is above the law," while leaving Bush and Cheney precisely there.

That's when the closing scenes of The Maltese Falcon popped into my head. If you don't clearly recall the scene, there they were, all the major players, assembled in Sam Spade's livingroom. Wilma- the Fat Man's toady little gofer (played by Alberto "Fredo" Gonzales in my imaginary version below,) is about to be thrown to the wolves as their scheme unravels.

With my apologies to the original screenwriter -- but only the names and few references have been changed.  Here's how that scene played out in my ming after reading the story above:

(Location:The Oval Office) 

(Characters:  Vice President Dick Cheney, President George W. Bush and outgoing Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.)

(Scene setup:) Gonzales has "resigned" at the request of Cheny and Bush and been replaced by Michael Mukasey. The three are now discussing how best to shield themselves from continuing demands for a full investigation into the administration's domestic wiretapping program.

Cheney: One more thing. We've got to have a fall guy. Congress needs somebody they can pin those illegal wiretaps on.


Bush: Come now Dick, you can't expect us to believe at this late date that you're afraid of Congress or the FBI or that you're not quite able to handle...


Cheney: I'm in this up to my neck. I've got to find somebody, a victim when the time comes. If I don't, I'll be it. Let's give them Fredo (pointing across the room where Gonzales was sprawled on the Oval Office couch.) He actually did approve the wiretaps and he wrote the torture guideline memos, didn't he? Anyway, he's made to order for the part. Look at him! Let's give him to them.


Bush: By gad, sir, you are a character. That you are! There's never any telling what you'll say or do next.....but it's bound to be astonishing.

Cheney: It's our best bet. With him in their hands...

Bush: But, my dear man, can't you see that if I even for a moment... the thought of doing such a thing... That's ridiculous. I feel towards Fredo here just exactly as if he were my own son. Really, I do...... But if I even for a moment thought of doing what you propose....what in the world would keep Fredo from telling every last detail?

Cheney: Let him talk his head off. I'll guarantee you nobody'll do anything about it.

Bush: (Turning to outgoing AG Alberto "Fredo" Gonzales,) Well, what do you think of this, Fredo? Mighty funny, eh?

Gonzales: (Glaring at Cheney) Yeah, mighty funny.

Bush: (turning back to Cheney) Of course, if you're really serious, the least we can do.... in common politeness.... is to hear you out. Now, tell us, how would you be able to fix it so that Fredo couldn't do us any harm?

Cheney: I can show our new Attorney General, Mukasey, that if he goes around...tryin' to collect everybody he'll have a tangled case. But, if he sticks to Fredo here, he can get a conviction standing on his head.

Bush: (turning his back on Gonzales Bush winks at Cheney)  Your plan is, not at all satisfactory, sir. Let's not say anything more about it.

Makes one almost feel sorry for Gonzales. Almost. Of course, he should have known that honor among theives simply does not exist. Not even in the movies. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

November 13, 2007

Let's Talk Turkey

With Thanksgiving so near I figured this would be a good time to talk turkey about Turkey.

What's this all about?

Turk gunships strike inside Iraq

    * Turkish helicopter gunships attack abandoned villages in Iraqi territory

    * First major action against Kurdish rebels since Turkish PM met U.S. Pres. Bush

    * Turkey threatens to launch major counter-terrorism incursion into northern Iraq

    * Nearly 50 people in Turkey killed by hit-and-run PKK raids since September

SULAIMANIYAH, Iraq (AP) -- Turkish helicopter gunships attacked villages inside Iraq on Tuesday, Iraqi officials said, the first such air strike since border tensions have escalated in recent months...It also was the first major Turkish action against Kurdish rebels since Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan met President Bush in Washington earlier this month. (Full Story)

Add this mounting mess on the Turkish/Iraq border to the "Oh what a tangled mess.." file. If you've been watching this mounting crisis you might have asked yourself something like this:

"If the Kurds in Iraq are "on our side," and we are in virtual control of things in Iraq, why don't US troops lay the law down with the Kurds as in ,  "Put your PKK dogs back on their leashes." And if they refuse, why don't US troops just obliterate PKK camps and hideouts as we do when we find al Qaeda hideouts? After all, Washington has already declared the PKK a terrorist group."

Forget about it. Here's what's really going on.

US planners know that (surge successes aside,) the days for a unified Iraq are numbered. Sooner or later -- likely sooner -- that pretend nation will fracture along tribal lines just as the former Yugoslavia did. When that happens the only friends the US is likely to have left in those parts would be the newly independent Kurds of the then former Iraq. Visions of permanent military bases and CIA listening posts along the Iranian border dance in the minds of Pentagon planners.

The only thing that could throw a monkey wrench into that vision is US troops  attacking PKK fighters to assuage neighboring Turkey. PKK rebels enjoy deep support and admiration among rank and file Kurds and any active US military action against them would almost certainly turn rank and file Kurds against the US.

Even if Iraq does not break apart Pentagon planners now understand that a long-term US presence in Iraq is unlikely to be allowed by the Iranian-backed government in Baghdad. The only place left in Iraq where US troops might still be welcomed five or ten years from now is the within the semi-autonomous Kurdish region.

Which is why, when asked recently at a news conferencewhat US troops were doing about PKK rebels the general in charge of that region responded bluntly, "Nothing. Not a thing."

The administration's strategy towards this festering sore can best be described as "benign neglect" -- tell the Turks what they want to hear, ask the Kurds to restrain the PKK and then do nothing that might offend either side. Because the administration's choices -- all the choices -- carry their own risks. While the Kurds may be of future use to Pentagon planners, cooperation right now from Turkey is critical US military operations through out Iraq. If we piss off Turkey by openly supporting the Kurds, the Turks could retaliate by denying the US military use of Turkey's giant Incirlik Air Base. If that happened US forces in Iraq would be up Shit Creek ...no paddle, no boat.

So, how has Bush benign neglect strategy worked so far?

Well Turkey has now massed over 100,000 combat troops along it's boarder with Iraq/Kurdistan. PKK rebels have continued to make trouble by killing and kidnapping Turkish soldiers. And now the Turks are beginning to strike back, albeit in a restrained manner -- so far.

It's another Bush administration military crap shoot disguised as a strategy. If they pull it off, meaning: the Turks never launch a full-scale attack and the Kurdish baby-nation survives the split up of Iraq and become a US-friendly ally in the region -- the neo-cons will point to the whole thing as proof they were right all along. (Never mind that a balkanized Iraq would be just the opposite of their originally stated goal.)

If, on the other hand, things go terribly wrong -- as they seem to do with alarming predictability with this administration -- the world will truly have a mess on its hands:

    *  The Turks get hit by the PKK one time too many and the Turkish army launches a massive ground incursion into northern Iraq,

    *  The large Kurdish minority in eastern Turkey sides with their brothers and sisters in Iraq and an all out insurgency breaks out inside Turkey itself,

    *  Kurdish authorities in northern Iraq have already pledged they will defend their sovereignty by unleashing the fierce mountain fighters, the Peshmarga, against the invading Turks,

    *  Turkey, a long-standing member of NATO and a nation on the verge of acceptance into the EU will find itself embroiled in both an internal civil war and an all-out war in northern Iraq,

    *  Not wanting to kill either Turks or Kurds, US troops will have no choice but to simply get the hell out of the way,

    *  Meanwhile the Shiites now in charge in Baghdad would view the chaos just north of them as an opportunity to recover the rich oil fields the Kurds had laid claim to around Kirkuk,

    *  Then there's Iran.  Like the Turks, Iran shares a troublesome border with the Kurds of northern Iraq. And, like the Turks, the Iranians have their own, often rebellious Kurds.  As supporters of the Shiite leaders in Baghdad, the Iranians would see a Kurdish/Turkish conflict as nothing short of a gift from Allah. Iranians would benefit in many ways. They could further ingratiate themselves to their Shiite cousins in Iraq by launching cross-border attacks thus squeezing the Kurds from two sides. While so occupied fighting Turks to their west and Iranian Revolutionary Guard troops on their eastern border, US-trained and equipped Iraqi troops would move up from the south and reclaim their oil-rich northern territory. The Iranians would also take this opportunity to teach the Kurds a lesson they hope they will not soon forget.

If such a scenario plays out it would create an entirely new pecking order in the region, one not at all to the liking of the US. Bush's unseating of Saddam has already raised Iran's influence in the region. After a Turkish, Iranian, Iraq joint war against the Kurds an entirely new set of alliances would form.  The Turks, Iranians and Shiite rulers in Baghdad would have found common purpose in subjugating separatist Kurds by killing as many Kurdish nationalists as possible -- on both sides of their joint borders -- hopefully driving a stake once and for all through the heart of Kurdish nationalist ambitions.

But the biggest winner would be Iran, which would point to the outcome as proof positive that Iran is key player in the region, not the US -- a fact that will be all too obvious since the US would have not lifted a finger to save the out number Kurds  -- once again.

At that point we will have nothing left to do but look toward Washington and shout out a hearty, "Heck of a job, Georgie."



November 8, 2007

"We are experiencing among our clients an awakening that the United States is in big trouble," said Erik Nielsen, chief Europe economist at Goldman Sachs.


What triggers the the ups and downs of a nation's economy? Are the "up" periods a sign that government, industry and bankers are doing a good job, putting sound policies in place and being good stewards of the nation's finances?

Well, those in charge during the good times sure don't miss an opportunity to claim just that kind of credit.

Then what about "down" times, like the ones we are just now heading into? When the nation's economy slips into recession, or worse, the same folks who during the good times couldn't take enough credit for it, have a different message: "Well, you know, s---t happens."

I used to work for a guy like that. When things were going well he was all about "what a great job we're doing." When things went terribly wrong though he wasn't interested in finding out why. Then the message was, "Now, now Steve, it's not about blame."

I never bought it. (And, BTW, the company can now be viewed in the files of the federal bankruptcy court, for which no one was to blame, of course.) Personally I always figured that credit and blame are opposite sides of the same coin. That you can't have one and while being immune from the other.

So, in the coming months you are going to be hearing a lot of "well s--t happens" excuses out the current administration as the economy slumps toward -- who knows what. But understand, shit does not just happen when it comes to economic policies and their repercussions. In the current case anyone with half a brain could have seen it coming.

How do I know? Because someone with half a brain did see it coming -- me. Let me be clear, I am not the sharpest pencil in the box -- never have been. And that's not false modesty either. And I have the old report cards to prove it. (I have one enduring memory of my high school algebra teacher, Father Andre, staying after class to try to help me understand algebra 101. Twenty minutes later he was lightly thumping his forehead against the blackboard muttering, "Leave, just leave, please, go, now....")

I digress. Despite being saddled which such a cognative handicap, way back in December 2002 even I could see where Bush's Reaganomics redux was heading, and I can prove that too. I wrote the following in an article for the Sunday San Francisco Chronicle:

"The jury is still out on the Bush tax cuts, but signs are not good. As with Reagan's tax cuts, less money is flowing into the federal treasury, new revenues have not materialized and defense spending has soared. In less than two years, the $5.6 trillion tax surplus forecast by the Congressional Budget Office in 2000 has vanished. The national Platinum Card is back in use. ....On the deregulatory front, those 1994 Contract With America chickens came home to roost with a vengeance beginning in December 2001 with Enron's collapse. Enron was followed in short order by dozens of other marquee U.S. companies....Once again, loosened federal oversight -- rather than sparking innovation, investment and growth -- enabled an orgy of self-dealing, insider abuse and other skullduggery.

One might think such a dismal batting average would sober up even the most rabid fiscal jihadist. On the contrary -- even though a recent New York Times/CBS News poll shows that two-thirds of the country thinks the money from the now-vanished federal surplus should have been used to help save Medicare and Social Security, not subsidize a trillion-dollar tax cut -- conservatives see their historic mid-term victory last month as a mandate to finish the job.

What about the expensive failures of the past? Conservatives say the only reason things went badly was that liberals gummed up the works, first by snookering George H.W. Bush into breaking his no-new-taxes pledge (he raised them in 1990), and then by aiding and abetting Clinton during his eight-year reign.

Diehard conservatives don't give up. This time, they say, they'll get it right. (Full 2002 Article)

And so it came to pass. George W. Bush and his neo-con co-conspirators put Reaganomics on steroids. Their tax cuts, totally nearly $2 trillion, reversed the flow of capital. Instead of "trickling down," to water the once richly productive fields of America's middle class, enormous sump pumps sucked capital away to top off the reservoirs of the wealthy, healthy and well-connected.

Ah, but wait, there's more. Then, like medieval monarchs of 12th century Christendom, they reached into the national treasury for hundreds of billions more to fund bloody wars against Islamic nations far, far from home. And when that money ran out they mortgaged their kingdom's future to fight on.

Had they simply stuck with the whole crony capitalism thing the economy would have eventually weakened from blood loss and toxic levels of corruption. And it would have slipped into recession. But to throw a war of choice in on top of that, well, that's a lot of "shit happening," even for the US of A. Now we are heading for something worse than just recession and inflation (stagflation.) Just where we're headed is anyone's guess. Only the direction is known, and it's down.

If the US economy were a patient here is how their chart would read between appointments.

A Comparison of Currencies and Commodities
from the beginning of the Bush administration with values as of 11/7/07

If you don't already understand, all those numbers tell the same story. Oil is not reaching for $100 a barrel because oil is worth anything close to that. It's because the US dollar is falling in value and oil producers, while slippery little bastards, are not stupid. They aren't about to let the US buy their oil with cheaper and cheaper dollars. So they are demanding more bucks for a barrel. Eventually they will do as China is about to do, detach the value of their products and currencies from the value of the US dollar. When that process is complete the US dollar will find itself

The other currencies are a reflection of the same thing.

Gold is more complicated. Gold prices are a measure of two things at once: the value of the dollar and fear. When gold goes up so fast and so far it's because some of the smartest financial minds in the world see a storm coming. The higher gold goes the lower their financial barometer must be reading.

If the numbers in the table above reflected instead the 7th year of a Democratic administration, what do you think those big-talking, arrogant, father-knows-best GOP types would be saying right now? Do you think they'd be just shrugging it off with a, "well, you know, stuff happens?"

I don't think so. Stuff did happen though, and lots of it. And we don't need DNA analysis to know whose stuff it is that's about to hit the fan.

Duck and cover my friends.

November 1, 2007

Don't Ask. Don't Tell

There seem to be folks on the right who remain unclear on the concept -- not the least among them, Attorney General nominee, Michael Mukasey.

The concept they can't seem to get a firm fix on is whether or not the interrogation technique known as "water-boarding," -- making a person think he or she is being drowned -- is or is not "torture."

I don't know about you, but it sure as hell sounds like torture to me. But there are still those in this administration and Congress who support the technique and claim it is not torture.

I have a solution.

But first let's see how humanity has chosen to describe something that does qualify as torture:

Websters: Torture is any action taken against another person that causes, "anguish of body or mind agony: something that causes agony or pain. Anguish: "extreme pain, distress, or anxiety."

The International Red Cross: Torture: existence of a specific purpose plus intentional infliction of severe suffering or pain;

MedTerms medical dictionary: Torture: An act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person, for a purpose such as obtaining information or a confession, punishment, intimidation or coercion..."

When asked during his confirmation hearings if water-boarding was torture, Mukasey said he couldn't really say, since he was not familiar with the details of the technique. Which is a kinda hard to swallow since the technique has been described in excruciating detail in the popular press since it first burst into the national consciousness a couple of years ago -- thanks to Vlad the Hoser at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

But all the publicity surrounding water-boarding seems to have left at least some public officials on the right unclear on whether it's torture or not torture. Some seem to feel that water-boarding is no more cruel than forcing a cat to take a bath.

Which is why I've concluded the only solution is to stop telling and start showing. And what better way to get a handle on the concept than for those who support the technique to step up to the plate and declare, "I say water-boarding is not a form of torture, as described by national and international law. And. to prove it I am submitting myself to the process."

Let the learning begin!

And what better place to hold water-boarding demonstrations than a well -- the well of House and the well of the US Senate.

Proponents who claim water-boarding is not torture because it "causes no physical injuries, leaves no marks and causes no permanent harm," should therefore have no problem, right? Climb on the water-board and take a spin.

But, there's more than just a quick demo. For this demonstration to be useful it must be a genuine interrogation in every way possible. That means not only using the same equipment used at Gitmo and other secret interrogation centers, but the same assumptions. Those the CIA water-board are assumed to know something useful or to possess secrets.

So the members of Congress and administration who agree to be water-boarded must also be assumed to hold a secret. Otherwise it's not an interrogation. Since it has to be an incriminating secret let's make it so.

"Have you ever cheated on your spouse?"

Maybe none of them ever cheated on their spouse, just as some of the people the CIA have water-boarded were not terrorists after all. But hey, guilty people always deny guilt when first asked, so one must ask repeatedly, water-board them repeatedly until they cough up the assumption(s) -- true or otherwise.

Here's how I imagine these demonstration sessions would go:

Senator Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell, is strapped to a water-board in the well of the Senate. Interrogators lay a terry cloth towel over his face, lean the board back and begin pouring copious amounts of water over the towel. As the towel becomes soaked Senator McConnell finds it impossible to breathe. He coughs, then starts choking. He tries to turn his head to each side but blocks prevent it. He struggles but his hands and legs are strapped to the board. He suddenly realizes he's on for the full ride.

Just as the Senator appears ready to black out, the two interrogators remove the towel and raise the board. A doctor checks the Senators' pulse and blood pressure. In a couple of seconds McConnell is coughing, spitting and breathing again.

The senator opens his eyes showing real panic as they dart from side to side.

Interrogator: "Have you ever cheated on your wife?."

Sen. McConnell: "No, no, really, I never did. Never did. So, fine. I see how it works. Now please untie me."

Interrogator: "Ah, not in the mood to talk yet. Okay, have it your way, Senator. Jack, lower the board again."

Sen. McConnell: "Whoa fellas! Not again. No. Wait. Please wait. Okay. Fine. Yes, yes, sure I cheated. Yep I did. Now untie me."

Interrogator: "Not so fast, partner. All you've told us so far is that -- as we suspected -- you cheated on your wife. Now we need to know how many times and with whom."

Sen. McConnell: "Okay guys, this has gone far enough. I get the point. It's torture. People will say anything to get you to stop. Okay. I get it. Whatya want me to say and I'll say it. Now let me off this damn board."

Interrogator: Oh, I wish it was that easy, Senator. But when we water-board suspected terrorists we are told we must connect the dots. You remember connecting the dots, don't you? If we let everyone off for giving us a nugget or two, well, that wouldn't do at all, now would it? We have to finish our interrogation. Now, one more time Senator, how many times did you cheat and we want names."

Senator McConnell: "Never and with nobody. This is stupid!. I just said that so you'd untie me."

Interrogator: "Okay Jack, lower the board."

Senator McConnell: No, no, NO! Wait. Okay. Many times. More than I can count. You wanna know with who? Okay, I did Madeline Albright, Helen Keller, Mother Teresa, (twice, missionary position, of course,) -- Ophra, Jackie Kennedy.... ah, all the DC Madams' hookers and, one night -- while Larry Craig and I were out drinking -- a strangely attractive ewe. Now, let me go!

The Senator is released.

"None of what I said was true," McConnell shouts when free. "None of that would stand up in a court of law."

The interrogator slaps his assistant on the back and laughs.

"A trial? Ha. We don't need no stinkin' trials in our line of work, Senator. Okay, who's up next?"

Of course, I could be wrong. Maybe McConnell, Mukasey and others who doubt that water-boarding is torture might take repeating dousings without spelling any beans, true or otherwise. And, when their interrogators finally give up, they'll hop off the table and declare their faces have never felt more fresh and clean. Some might even cut back in line for a second ride.

If that happens I'll happily admit I was wrong -- water-boarding isn't torture after all.

But before I can come to that conclusion I need those who say it ain't so to put their own nervous systems where their mouths are.

I'm still waiting -- though I won't hold my breath. (Pun intended)

Thursday, November 01, 2007

October 24-October 31, 2007

Octomber 29, 2007

Pursue Them
Pursue Them to The Grave

Those us of a certain age have been here and done this before. And many of us wonder how we could possibly allowed ourselves to be sucked into it again. And then it dawned on me this weekend -- the one critical thing we did not learn from our disastrous Vietnam experience. It's not what we did, but what we failed to do. And that one thing is the reason for nearly everything that's gone so terribly wrong in Iraq and our so-called "war on terror."

Got your pen? Because we can't afford to ever for this again. Okay, here it is:

Accountability -- personal, civil, criminal and international accountability.

We forced just that on Nazi government, officials, military and collaborators after WW II. And we insisted on it for the Khmer Rouge butchers of Cambodia. We even imposed it on the leaders we deposed in Iraq who are, one by one, being tried and hung for the crimes they committed against Shiites in Iraq.

But nothing even close to that happened to the men who trumped up and executed the war in Vietnam. The only accountability they've faced has been easily dismissed rhetorical scoldings. Instead of facing their accusers in a court of law they were allowed to go on with their lives as if the blood of thousands wasn't virtually dripping from their hands.

Henry Kissinger, Robert McNamara and other's in the Johnson and Nixon administrations actually went on to advise other presidents and continue to live the good life unmolested -- un-prosecuted.

It's a fact of history that undoubtedly gave considerable aid and comfort to officials of the current administration. Great comfort must have been provided by the sight of Henry Kissinger popping in and out of the Bush White House and McNamara appearing on panels with academic and other former government officials. Those two men alone are responsible for the deaths of more civilians than Saddam Hussein's entire bloody career. Yet nearly 40 after their crime spree, they walk free, respected, included, wealthy.

Which is, I believe, precisely why the current bunch in power didn't give a second thought to creating their own Gulf of Tonkin lies to justify attacking Iraq -- (remember those non-existent stockpiles of WMD?) And it's the reason why they've lost no sleep over violating the legal rights of detainees, kidnapping people around the world and even embracing torture.

After all, it had all been done during the Vietnam War -- no one got busted -- so what's the sweat?

I would suggest -- and strongly so -- that the core reason our soldiers are now bogged down in Iraq, 35-years years after the last US soldier died for our "mistake" in Vietnam, is because no one was ever held legally accountable for the crimes committed during that illegal and immoral war.

Henry Kissinger, the key architect of Nixon's Vietnam strategy, has never been forced to raise his hand and swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth -- then forced to do so. He and others involved have instead been allowed to go their merry ways. They've been allowed to hide behind "national security," and incriminating documents that, to this day, remain "classified." (See also Chris Hitchens: "The Trial of Henry Kissinger")

None of that would have gotten past the panel of judges in Nuremberg 60-years ago. Nazi government officials and their collaborators in the business community had accountability forced on them. They had to confront and try to justify their own words, their own orders, their own crimes.

Which may well be why we've not seen a repeat of that kind of behavior by European governments since. The last thing politicians or military leaders want is to risk is forced accountability... something that could lead to prison, poverty or even a stretched neck. (Though I am forced to admit that some ex-officials of the former Yugoslavia required -- and are getting -- a refresher course now at the Hague. But even that makes my point because, there at least, forced accountability is what's being served up to those who so richly deserve it.)

Finally the end of our latest war of choice, the one in Iraq, is slowly limping into sight. It will end, and when it does, let's see if we can get the post-war part of this sorry saga right this time. By which I mean that the men and women who created and carried out this murderous mess must pay personally.

We must, insure that this never happens again. And the only way to insure that is to let the next generation of leaders -- and all that follow -- know for certain they are not above the law -- not above the law of this land, not above the Geneva Conventions and not above the reach of their victims.

If you want your grandkids dying in the next Vietnam or Iraq then do nothing and they will. Let Bush administration officials leave office on January 21, 2009 to pursue normal lives and we will assure another Vietnam, and another Iraq, and another, and another...

The only way to make sure that is not the future we hand to our kids and grandkids is for you and I and the international community to dedicate ourselves to the notion that January 21, 2009 is not the end of anything, but just the beginning. To pledge we will pursue civil and criminal justice against the men and women directly and personally responsible for the crimes committed in Iraq -- and right here at home.

And if that means pursuing them to their graves, as the citizens of Chile have done to General Pinochet, well -- bring it on.

This just in from France
Home of "Freedom Fries."

Rumsfeld Flees France Fearing Arrest

Former US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld fled France today fearing arrest over charges of “ordering and authorizing” torture of detainees at both the American-run Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and the US military’s detainment facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, unconfirmed reports coming from Paris suggest.

US embassy officials whisked Rumsfeld away yesterday from a breakfast meeting in Paris organized by the Foreign Policy magazine after human rights groups filed a criminal complaint against the man who spearheaded President George W. Bush’s “war on terror” for six years.

Under international law, authorities in France are obliged to open an investigation when a complaint is made while the alleged torturer is on French soil.

According to activists in France, who greeted Rumsfeld shouting “murderer” and “war criminal” at the breakfast meeting venue, US embassy officials remained tight-lipped about the former defense secretary’s whereabouts citing “security reasons”.

Anti-torture protesters in France believe that the defense secretary fled over the open border to Germany, where a war crimes case against Rumsfeld was dismissed by a federal court. But activist point out that under the Schengen agreement that ended border checkpoints across a large part of the European Union, French law enforcement agents are allowed to cross the border into Germany in pursuit of a fleeing fugitive.

“Rumsfeld must be feeling how Saddam Hussein felt when US forces were hunting him down,” activist Tanguy Richard said. “He may never end up being hanged like his old friend, but he must learn that in the civilized world, war crime doesn’t pay.”

International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) along with the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), and the French League for Human Rights (LDH) filed the complaint on Thursday after learning that Rumsfeld was scheduled to visit Paris.

NOW! That's what I'm talkin' about!

October 24, 2007

America desperately needs a skunkworks

Skunkworks Definition: A skunkworks is a group of people who, in order to achieve unusual results, work on a project in a way that is outside the usual rules. A skunkworks is often a small team that assumes or is given responsibility for developing something in a short time with minimal management constraints. Typically, a skunkworks has a small number of members in order to reduce communications overhead. A skunkworks is sometimes used to spearhead a product design that thereafter will be developed according to the usual process. A skunkworks project may be secret. (Source)

Size, of course, is relative to the size of the organization that discovers it needs people thinking outside the box. The Manhattan Project, for example, was a skunkworks.

At the same time the Manhattan Project Skunkworks was formed Lockheed created its own skunkworks (circa 1943) when the US discovered it was no longer the leading force in fighter aircraft design. The Germans, they learned, were well along developing the first jet fighter. The Lockheed skunkworks came up with America's first jet fighter, the P-80, just 143 days after the skunkworks was formed.

The magic of a skunkworks is that it breaks great minds free from calcified, rule-bound, special interest -afflected, group-think crippled organizations. And if ever there was an organization that fits that description today, it's the USA itself.

Democrats, Republicans, Independents of various stripes have proven themselves either impotent, corrupt or just plain stupid when it comes to dealing with the very real dangers facing the US, the world and the very planet we live on. Viewed from a safe distance Congress and Executive Branch appear to be about as relevant or useful as the United Nations – lots of talk, lots of posturing, lots of bullshit, very little real solutions. The entire governing mechanism seems to have become stuck in what a computer programmer would recognize as an endless loop. It just keeps repeating itself, day in, day out, year in year out, party in, party out. And hitting "reset" every two or four years only seems to boot us all right back into that loop again.

Meanwhile the problems we hired politicians to fix just keep getting worse. Unless someone comes up with new solutions to these old problems one of these days one of those problems --- loose nukes, global warming, dwindling fresh water supplies, etc, etc, -- is going to get us all killed.

So, why not a national skunkworks? Here's my suggestion.

Take, California, Oregon and Washington state and cut them loose for 25-years. I am not suggesting secession from the Union – just a time out. Give those 3 states a 25-year leave of absence from the Union. During that time the feds would get out of the way and while this Skunkworks comes up with fresh solutions to the most serious, potentially deadly and intractable problems facing the nation and the world today:
  • How can a nation provide adequate healthcare to all its citizens, blending the strengths of the private sector with the stability and democratic mechanism of government, and do so without bankrupting both.
  • How can we fuel a 21st century economy and modern lifestyle without relying on 19th and 20th century, non-renewable and planet-threatening fossil fuels?
  • How can we quickly reduce human-produced greenhouse gas emissions while maintaining a sustainable modern standard of living and without bankrupting private sector enterprise?
  • How do we balance the imperatives of mass population shifts (immigration) with the immutable realities of finite resources, private and governmental services, agriculture, jobs and living space?
  • How can we develop fair, sustainable trade with other nations without encouraging environmental devastation in developing nations and exploiting their workers while devastating job opportunities here at home?
  • Explore way we can either revitalize or replace the current two-party political establishment. which now functions only to sustain itself, increasingly at the expense of the nation itself.
  • Explore how a nation can reasonable secure itself and protect it's citizen, and while enhancing and expanding individual freedom rather than persistently rolling those freedoms back.
I'm sure you could add to that "to-do"list, but those I listed will be tough enough. That's why I set the time at 25-years. It's going to take a lot of tinkering with the innards of government, industry, education, medicine and transportation. And each one of those areas are jealously guarded by "Revolutionary Guards of The Status Quo" who are as crazy, devious and stubborn as any Ayatollahs you'll ever meet.

I understand that cutting three western states loose for a quarter century is more than “outside the box.” It's more like “outta your mind!?” But think about it. There's something in this idea for everyone.

For example, conservatives get all misty-eyed when they discuss “choice” in education. They've argue, often persuasively, that the public school system needs a healthy dose of competition from private and charter schools. And they argue that taxpayer money should be used to create that competition by giving parents vouchers to pay for it.

Why? Because, conservatives explain, the entire national education system is held captive by special interests; teacher unions, schoolbook publishers, school district administrators and outmoded teaching methods. And, that the only way to change that is to let parents use federal money to pay for outside that box charter and private schools – schools that would be freed of the entrenched educational bureaucracy, allowed to make their own rules, try new teaching techniques. In other words, Skunkworks schools.

Look, whether you are a conservative or a liberal, you and I both know that our government has ceased to function. Worse than that, it has ceased to function for so long now that its forgotten how to. When it tries to function it either makes things worse or the solutions they impose to fix one problem creates an even bigger mess somewhere else.

So, if we need “choice” in education, why not in government too? Why not a national skunkworks made up of an entire region -- the West coast?

When things are run by an entrenched, self-sustaining bureaucracy there really is only one way to break free, and that's to break free. After all, how can people think outside the box when they are not allowed outside that box?

Even old-line communists understand that. When the leaders of Communist China saw the writing on the all for communism they created enterprise zones – economic and social skunkworks. Those pioneering regions smoothed a transition that could have otherwise turned very ugly, easing China's transition from commie to capitalist. And it worked pretty good. Today they're kicking our capitalist asses.

By turning loose the three western states, California, Oregon and Washington, we would create a 21st century Manhattan Project on a massive scale. Within the borders of these states are all the resources -- financial, agricultural, industrial, political, industrial and intellectual -- required to survive and thrive on their own.

Since this is my idea I claim naming rights. I hereby christen this national skunkworks, “Pacifica.”

While the devil in such things is always in the details, I think we can agree on a few fundamental skunkwork rules:

  • With very few exceptions the federal government would have no say whatsoever about what happens in Pacifica.
  • No federal taxes would be paid by Pacifica residents,
  • No federal money would flow from Washington to finance Pacifica's operations or infrastructure.
  • Residents of the three states would continue paying their usual state taxes but the federal tax would be replaced by a tax to fund Pacifica's skunk works activities. (The only money Pacifica would send to the IRS would be payment for direct services negotiated and contracted by Pacifica with the feds.)
  • Pacifica would pay Washington an annual fee to cover Pacifica's share of national defense.
How would Pacifica be governed? What role governors and state legislatures play? Would the Pacifica skunkworks need an over all “board of directors” comprised of representatives from industry, banking, government, healthcare and citizen-members representing the interests of environmental, youth, the aged and workers, etc? How would such board members be selected/elected? How would we keep the corrupting influence of big money from perverting the whole process? All good questions that would each require the right answer.

I would argue that it was a dynamic form of skunkworks that created the late, great US of A in the first place. Of course, they didn't call it a skunkworks. It was called “the Wild West.” But it functioned exactly in the way a skunkworks is intended to function. The entrenched federal forces exercised only the most tenuous control over what settlers west of the Mississippi were up to. Instead settlers experimented with what I call “wild cat innovation.” They made plenty of mistakes but, since their lives often depended on finding sustainable solutions, they eventually did, and those "proofs of concept" working solutions were later institutionalized.

Once the Union was complete and railroads and telegraph installed, the Wild West Skunkworks was shut down. One could argue that it was at that moment the seeds of stagnation began to germinate.

I only propose such a radical (and unlikely) proposition because I am at loss to come up with anything short of that. I've exhausted my last gram of faith or hope that the current two-party farce will -- or even can any longer -- function for the common good.

October 12, 2007

Ich bin ein Berliner
(That goes for you too.)

As nightfall does not come at once, neither does oppression. In both instances, there is a twilight when everything remains seemingly unchanged. And it is in such twilight that we all must be most aware of change in the air - however slight - lest we become unwitting victims of the darkness.
-- Justice William O. Douglas

I was born the very day World War II ended. My fellow postwar “Baby Boomers” grew up on old black and white documentaries of that war and the events leading up to it. But those films never really answered the most important question, a question that has nagged me, and I suspect most of my generation

How did Germany and the German people become the Mrs. O'Leary's cow of an entire continent? How could a culture, re-formed during the Renaissance, create a horror like Auschwitz?

How does something that extraordinary happen? It's a question that has not only burdened American Baby Boomers, but three generations of postwar Germans as well. But for them it's much more than just a historical curiosity. For postwar Germans it's also been a nagging sense of collective guilt – guilt about events they had nothing to do with, but guilt nonetheless. It's a guilt built on the realization that their parents and grand parents either participated in, supported and/or enabled what happened over half a century ago -- or, at the very least, did nothing to prevent or stop it.

Of course the fascist rulers of the Third Reich ruled with a heavy hand. So it's not hard to understand why so many Germans simply laid low rather than oppose the regime.

“Nazi terror from above and the demise of the rule of law started just a few days after Hitler's assumption of power in January 1933. The penalties of opposition became higher and higher. In the first nine months alone, at least 100,000 people, most of them leftist Germans, were thrown into hastily erected concentration camps. Others ended up in ordinary prisons and many died. Countless more were roughed up by rampaging brownshirts in broad daylight or taken into police custody on trumped-up political charges. By 1936, a brutal police state had penetrated virtually all spheres of life.” ( New York Times books.)

While the rules have tightened here since 9/11, we've not experienced anything near that scale. Speaking out is remains a survivable exercise.

Which begs the question; what will be our excuse? How will we explain the things we've allowed this administration to get away with -- the torture, the “renditions,” the secret prisons, the warrant-less wiretapping, the lies we and our media allowed to stand? What are we going to tell our grand children when they ask us what the hell we were thinking, feeling and doing while all that was afoot?

I understand it's against the rules of polite society to recklessly throw the “f” word around by comparing anything that's happening today to the kind of atrocities that occurred under Hitler. It''s even worse to compare any contemporary American political/religious/social leader to Hitler.

So I won't. I won't go that far, because it hasn't gone that far – yet.

What I have been doing though is cracking history books and trying to suss out an answer to that original question – the one that wonders how well-educated, forward-looking modern pre-war Germans could so quickly devolve intp the most evil nation on the planet.

I don't ask you to accept that there are any genuine corollaries between the events that led to Germany's decent into fascism and what's been going on in America over the last few years. I only ask that you consider the events back then and the events we are living through now. I think you will agree that, at the very least there are spooky similarities – and , at the very worst, there are striking similarities.

Either way, there are valuable lessons to be learned, mistakes to be avoided and, maybe, just maybe, warnings worth heeding.

Germany And Then
Here and Now
Use events to restrict legal rights, like Habeas Corpus:
On the night of February 27, 1933 the Reichstag building was set on fire. The unnerved public was told the fire had been a signal meant to initiate a communist revolution. The Nazis found the event to be of immeasurable value in getting rid of potential insurgents. The event was quickly followed by the Reichstag Fire Decree, rescinding habeas corpus and other civil liberties. (1)
Adminstration Questions Habeas Corpus

In one of the most chilling public statements ever made by a U.S. Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales questioned whether the U.S. Constitution grants habeas corpus rights of a fair trial to every American. (2)
Use events to expand executive branch powers new powers:
Just 30 days after fire destroyed the Reichstag, German legislators were convinced to pass the Enabling Act of 1933. It passed with 444 votes, to the 94 of the remaining Social Democrats. The act gave the government (and thus effectively the Nazi Party) legislative powers and also authorized it to deviate from the provisions of the constitution. With these powers, Hitler removed the remaining opposition and turned the Weimar Republic into the "Third Reich". (3)
After 9/11 US passes Patriot Act:
Just 45 days after the September 11 attacks, with virtually no debate, Congress passed the USA PATRIOT Act. There are significant flaws in the Patriot Act, flaws that threaten your fundamental freedoms by giving the government the power to access to your medical records, tax records, information about the books you buy or borrow without probable cause, and the power to break into your home and conduct secret searches without telling you for weeks, months, or indefinitely. (4)
Consolidate federal power:

Further consolidation of power was achieved on 30 January 1934, with the Gesetz über den Neuaufbau des Reichs (Act to rebuild the Reich). The act changed the highly decentralized federal Germany of the Weimar era into a centralized state. It disbanded state parliaments, transferring sovereign rights of the states to the Reich central government and put the state administrations under the control of the Reich administration. (5)

National Security and Homeland Security Presidential Directive
This policy establishes "National Essential Functions," prescribes continuity requirements for all executive departments and agencies, and provides guidance for State, local, territorial, and tribal governments, and private sector organizations in order to ensure a comprehensive and integrated national continuity program that will enhance the credibility of our national security posture and enable a more rapid and effective response to and recovery from a national emergency. (6)
Reduce the influence of the national military by creating an independent force.
The German army had traditionally been separated from the government and somewhat of an entity of its own. The Nazi paramilitary SA expected top positions in the new power structure and wanted the regime to follow through its promise of enacting socialist legislation for Aryan Germans. Wanting to preserve good relations with the army and the major industries who were weary of more political violence erupting from the SA, on the night of 30 June 1934, Hitler initiated the violent Night of the Long Knives, a purge of the leadership ranks of Röhm's SA as well as socialist-leaning Nazis (Strasserists), and other political enemies, carried out by another, more elitist, Nazi organization, the SS. (7)

Privitization of US military operations

Blackwater USA is a private military company. It has alternatively been referred to as a security contractor or a mercenary organization by numerous reports in the international media. Blackwater is based in the U.S. state of North Carolina, where it operates a tactical training facility that it claims is the world's largest. The company trains more than 40,000 people a year, from all the military services and a variety of other agencies. The company markets itself as being "The most comprehensive professional military, law enforcement, security, peacekeeping, and stability operations company in the world." (8)
Replace regional civil law enforcement with a nationalized police force.
The inception of the Gestapo, police acting outside of any civil authority, highlighted the Nazis' intention to use powerful, coercive means to directly control German society. Soon, an army estimated to be of about 100,000 spies and informants operated throughout Germany, reporting to Nazi officials the activities of any critics or dissenters. Most ordinary Germans, happy with the improving economy and better standard of living, remained obedient and quiet, but many political opponents, especially communists and Marxist or international socialists, were reported by omnipresent eavesdropping spies and put in prison camps where many were tortured and killed. It is estimated that tens of thousands of political victims died or disappeared in the first few years of Nazi rule. (9)
Authority of the Secretary of Homeland Security.
"All authorities and functions of the Department of Homeland Security to administer and enforce the immigration laws are vested in the Secretary of Homeland Security. The Secretary of Homeland Security may, in the Secretary's discretion, delegate any such authority or function to any official, officer, or employee of the Department of Homeland Security, including delegation through successive redelegation, or to any employee of the United States to the extent authorized by law. Such delegation may be made by regulation, directive, memorandum, or other means as deemed appropriate by the Secretary in the exercise of the Secretary's discretion. A delegation of authority or function may in the Secretary's discretion be published in the Federal Register, but such publication is not required." (10)
Make militarism pay.
Nazi rationale invested heavily in the militarist belief that great nations grow from military power and maintained order, which in turn grow "naturally" from "rational, civilized cultures". The Nazi Party appealed to German nationalists and national pride. ... Many companies dealt with the Third Reich. Volkswagen was a Nazi project. Opel employed Jewish slave labour to run their industrial plants. Additionally, Daimler-Benz used prisoners of war as slaves to run their industrial plants. Other companies that dealt with the Third Reich—many of which claim not to have known the truth of what the Nazis were doing —were: BMW,[55] Krupp (made gas chambers), Bayer (as a small part of the enormous IG Farben chemistry monopoly), and Hugo Boss (designed the SS uniforms, admitted to this in 1997). (11)
Defense Contractor CEO Pay Up 200 Percent Since 9/11
The ratio between CEO and worker pay across the market climbs to 431 : 1, up from 301 : 1 last year, according to a new CEO pay study from United for a Fair Economy and the Institute for Policy Studies. The report, which surveys 367 leading US corporations, focuses particularly on 34 of the top 100 defense contractors in 2004 with 10 percent or more of their revenues from defense contracts. It finds "a trend towards individual war profiteering by CEOs," with CEO pay at these companies rising 200 percent from 2001 to 2004. Stepping back to look at across-the-board comparisons, the ratio of average total compensation for all 367 CEOs ($11.8 million) to average production worker pay ($27,460) is 431-to-1 in 2004, up from 301-to-1 in 2003. (12)
Prosecute gays and stress "traditional family values."

The Nazis opposed women's emancipation and opposed the feminist movement, claiming that it was Jewish-led and was bad for both women and men. The Nazi regime advocated a patriarchial society in which German women would recognize the "world is her husband, her family, her children, and her home." (13) The Nazis believed that male homosexuals were weak, effeminate men who could not fight for the German nation. They saw homosexuals as unlikely to produce children and increase the German birthrate. (15)
Congress passes Defense of Marriage Act/Don't Ask, Don't Tell.
The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) does two things. First, it provides that no State shall be required to give effect to a law of any other
State with respect to a same-sex "marriage." Second, it defines the words "marriage" and "spouse" for purposes of Federal law. (14)
"What I fail to understand is exactly how the military would be expected to house openly-admitted homosexuals, in an environment where we force people to room together, without seriously violating the sexual privacy rights of the heterosexual majority, or causing major problems with morale." (16)

Eliminate labor unions to reduce labor costs

The Nazis abolished trade unions, collective bargaining and the right to strike. An organization called the “Labor Front” replaced the old trade unions, but it was an instrument of the Nazi party and did not represent workers. According to the law that created it, “Its task is to see that every individual should be able… to perform the maximum of work.” Workers would indeed greatly boost their productivity under Nazi rule but they also became exploited. Between 1932 and 1936, workers wages fell, from 20.4 to 19.5 cents an hour for skilled labor, and from 16.1 to 13 cents an hour for unskilled labor. (17)
The New Face of Unionbusting
Last December the Labor Department's top official in California made the most expensive and dangerous call of his life. Richard Sawyer thought he was just enforcing wage and hour laws, and protecting workers' rights. That is, after all, the Labor Department's mandate. Instead, the price for his call was his job.Republican politicians are seeking to ban one of the labor movement's most effective campaign strategies - Justice for Janitors. Sawyer's predicament highlights the evolving nature of unionbusting. What has traditionally been a business dominated by consultants, guards and lawfirms, conducting dirty campaigns to beat unions in strikes and NLRB elections, has taken on a much wider scope. (18)
Increase the money supply, ease credit -- go into deficit -- borrow like crazy
The German government expanded the money supply through massive deficit spending. However at the same time the government imposed a 4.5% interest rate ceiling, creating a massive shortage in borrowable funds. This was resolved by setting up a series of dummy companies that would pay for goods with bonds. While it was promised that these bonds could eventually be exchanged for real money, the repayment was put off until after the collapse of the Reich. These complicated manoeuvres also helped conceal armament expenditures. (19)
Increase the money supply, ease credit, cut taxes, go into deficit -- borrow like crazy.

The U.S. budget deficit is financed by borrowing. China's investment in U.S. government debt (bonds) has more than tripled in the past five years, from $71 billion in 2000 to $242 billion in 2005.
Under pressure to pay for hurricane recovery, the war in Iraq, a costly transportation bill, tax cuts, and a new prescription drug program, Congress and the president have been unwilling to raise taxes or make deep spending cuts. The only alternative is to borrow. (20)
No unions, imported labor, slave labor keep wages low.

While the strict state intervention into the economy, and the massive rearmament policy, led to full employment during the 1930s, real wages in Germany dropped by roughly 25% between 1933 and 1938. In addition, more than ten million people were put into forced (slave) labor, further depressing wages. (21)
Weakened unions, cheap labor from Mexico keep wages low.
With the economy beginning to slow, the current expansion has a chance to become the first sustained period of economic growth since World War II that fails to offer a prolonged increase in real wages for most workers.The median hourly wage for American workers has declined 2 percent since 2003, after factoring in inflation. The drop has been especially notable, economists say, because productivity has risen steadily over the same period. (22)
Share the booty with helpful elite.

What may have looked like utter confusion -- within the German government -- was in fact a cunningly orchestrated program, one that was able to mobilize such groups as Germany's elites, who were not simply delirious with religious hope and hatred. Other more specialized works have shown that the amount of nepotism and cold-blooded corruption under the Third Reich was just incredible.

(V.R. Berghahn is the Seth Low professor of history and the director of the Institute for the Study of Europe at Columbia University.)
Share the booty with helpful companies
The payback from these lobbying efforts can be enormous. Between 1998 and 2004, the 41 defense contractors that paid fees to PMA collectively won $266 billion in contracts from the Pentagon, according to CRP. That amounts to almost 30% of the dollar value of all contracts awarded by the Department of Defense. Moreover, of this amount, $167 billion — nearly two out of three dollars — was received from contracts that were awarded without "full and open" competition. In fact, PMA clients account for 47% of all such non-competitive contracts — contracts in which the government negotiates with a single contractor (23)
Deny atrocities

The first Holocaust deniers were the Nazis themselves. Historians have documented evidence that Heinrich Himmler instructed his camp commandants to destroy records, crematoria and other signs of mass extermination, as Germany's defeat became imminent and the Nazi leaders realized they would most likely be captured and brought to trial. Following the end of World War II, many of the former leaders of the SS left Germany and began using their propaganda skills to defend their actions (or, their critics contended, to rewrite history). Denial materials began to appear shortly after the war.[24)

"This Governement Does Not Torture People."
(George W. Bush)

There is a growing consensus that the harrowing images of Abu Ghraib did great trauma to our national psyche - and was one of the steepest falls from grace in our nation's history. Like everyone else, I had seen the images that came out of Abu Ghraib and was shocked and saddened by them. And like so many others, I wondered how could people, particularly Americans, treat others so inhumanely? I initially set out to do a documentary about why ordinary people commit extraordinary acts of evil. Were the people who committed these acts psychopaths? Or were they the sweet kids next door behaving badly in times of war? (25)

Of course the enemy of all the above is truth. No people can be led willingly into a fascist nightmare if truth prevails. Which is why it was among the first casualties in Germany.

First a definition: The Big Lie:

"The Big Lie is a propaganda technique in which the lie is so complex that the public will either dismiss it as impossible or choose not to believe it out of willful ignorance. It was defined by Adolf Hitler in his 1925 autobiography Mein Kampf as a lie so "colossal" that no one would believe that someone "could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously". (Wikipedia)


“To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just so long as it is needed.” George Orwell on “The Big Lie” method of governance.

But who better to define the Big Lie than one of it's most successful practitioners, Hitler's very own Karl Rove – Joesph Goebbels:

“Never allow the public to cool off; never admit a fault or wrong; never concede that there may be some good in your enemy; never leave room for alternatives; never accept blame; concentrate on one enemy at a time and blame him for everything that goes wrong; people will believe a big lie sooner than a little one; and if you repeat it frequently enough people will sooner or later believe it....The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the (fascist) State."

And so it came to pass -- then and there and here and now. Which is why I say, Ich bin ein Berliner. I – we – have begun down the same road. On September 12, 2001 we stood where the German people did on February 28, 1933, the morning after the Reichstag building was destroyed. They were lied to by their leaders and allowed the fear of enemies – real and imagined -- seen and unseen -- to replace common sense and reason. They allowed those lies to supplant curiousity, suspicion and the search for truth. They allowed false patriotism to mask the genuine motivations. And thus they shared the guilt for the horrors that followed.

I now understand how it happened, though that understanding has not -- and cannot -- led to forgiveness. Some things are simply, and literally, unforgivable.

And I better understand how we got where we are today.

I also understand that history is unlikely to forgive us either.