Wednesday, February 23, 2005


Justin Raimondo, love him or hate him, is a brilliant political writer who knows what he believes and why and has a very finely tuned bullshit detector. One paragraph from his column today just leapt out at me:

The imperial era has a different way of looking at these things: truth emanates not from reality, but from power – which is the only reality. The Empire is so powerful that it creates its own reality, and this crazed belief permeates Imperial America, especially among the elites.

That first sentence just captures the whole tenor of not only the Bush administration, but the neocon agenda in general. Thank God for!

Truth Is Not The Secret Of A Few

If I could hype myself for a hot minute, my book of poetry "Truth Is Not The Secret Of A Few," came in today from Cafe Press. Let me say, the quality of the printing is beyond my expectations. They printed it exactly as I gave it to them (typos and all!), the covers are glossy and retail-ready, the paper is smooth and creamy (I expected rough, pulpy paper), and the printing looks fantastic. I would highly recommend using them if you want to have a book printed, and of course if you want to have T-shirts, hats or stickers made.

Here is a sample of one of the poems in the book--please don't get the idea that it's a book of political poetry from this example. Out of 154 poems, about 5 of them are unquestionably political, and then maybe 5 more are sort of political. Anyway, here's one about Iraq:

Tigris & Euphrates, Euphrates & Tigris
does that mean anything anymore?

Can the so-called “war against civilization”
really come from civilization’s birthplace?

They gave the world writing—
we gave it nuclear weapons
which is more civilized?

History will not be ignored
even if you’d like to forget it
it has a way of creating the future

The oil wars are coming to an end soon
the reserves will be gone
before you know it

We’re preoccupied with occupation
no wonder there’s retaliation
and Mesopotamia belongs to them

The poems in the book were written between 1985 and last year. Again, Cafe Press does a high quality job with the book printing! My book looks like I got it from Barnes and Noble!

Tuesday, February 22, 2005


You betcha--via the redistribution of wealth from the bottom to the top. Labor spent centuries wresting control of the country away from capital only to have it yanked back full force (not entirely--yet) upon the illicit coronation of the current president. This article at gives us some idea of the upward wealth distribution that is being foisted on the American people (in two paragraphs, the whole scheme is revealed):

Bush has used enormous tax cuts, primarily directed toward the wealthy, an expanded federal bureaucracy, largely devoted to corporate welfare, and the costs of post-9-11 militarism, primarily benefiting Halliburton, Lockheed Martin, and other military contractors, to drive up the federal deficit. He is then trying to alleviate that deficit by reducing programs that don't primarily benefit the wealthy: education, health care, housing, environmental protection...

...Follow the money. This is not fiscal prudence; it is a massive wealth transfer scheme, an effort to use the power of federal spending to benefit the economic elites who are George W. Bush's core constituency. This is the thank-you for the hundreds of millions poured into Bush's re-election campaign.
And Repukes like Norquist and Limbaugh have convinced enough otherwise perfectly lovable people that this is how it should be--Jesus himself has approved. You know, the weak are weak because they're just simply not strong and there's absolutely nothing you can or should do about it. They just have to work harder for less money--it's the only way they'll ever learn anything about life. It's the Christian--and therefore, the American--way, so they say.

Plot to kill Bush? Or plot to incite fear?

Right now it kinda looks like the latter. Note that the suspect, Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, has been held "without charges" in Saudi Arabia since June 2003 even though he's an American citizen. He's also been tortured while in captivity and "federal prosecutors have been fighting attempts to get the government to disclose why he was being held in Saudi Arabia." That language comes from this story in The Guardian. Supposedly he had contacts with al Qaeda--if this were true, why wouldn't federal prosecutors be holding a press conference instead of trying to keep the reason he was in Saudi Arabia quiet?

As we know, none of the 5,000 or so detainees caught in the post-9/11 sweep have been convicted of anything. Maybe they'll get it right on the 5,001 try? Or maybe not...

Monday, February 21, 2005


The book "One Nation, Underprivileged" by Mark Robert Rank continues to provide really great insight into not only why poverty exists in America, but also how to help establish a new paradigm for thinking about poverty. The book challenges the received wisdom that one hears--well, I'm trying to think of a specific place or places one hears this "wisdom"--one just hears it in the air. It's everywhere, this idea that "there is opportunity for all" and anyone in America can go "from rags to riches," and so forth. Of course, such thinking is predominantly heard from the right side of the political spectrum. But here's a good excerpt that challenges such assumptions:

Poverty exists primarily because there is a shortage of viable economic opportunities and social supports for the entire population. Given this shortage, a certain percentage of the population is ensured of experiencing poverty [p. 179].

He explains that the American labor market is like a game of musical chairs in which there are perpetually ten players (jobseekers) but only eight chairs (jobs). In other words, our so-called "free market economy" with all its globalization, privatization, and outsourcing, is designed to produce losers. Therefore, when a person can't find a job (by this we of course mean a job capable of supporting the person and the person's family, regardless of size), that does not necessarily mean that that person therefore has brought poverty on himself. Remember, our great system is designed to produce losers.

Survival of the fittest

Most rightwingers will point out that hey, that's life--some people win, some people lose. Are you suggesting that the government should make everybody equal? But when the layers of rhetoric and ideology are pulled back, one can see clearly that what some call survival of "the fittest"--i.e., the ability of those who manage to acquire lots of wealth (which rightwingers would say is due to their keen business sense, their discipline and love of Christ) is actually the result of government policies that favor the haves over the have-nots. For example, Rank points out that, according to a 2003 IRS document, "the 400 wealthiest taxpayers earned over 1 percent of all income in 2000, doubling their share since 1992, while at the same time paying a smaller percentage of their income in taxes [p. 160]." (For those who would like to verify, go here to the publication Rank refers to and look at column 56 "average tax rate" and then go here to look at p. 14 and compare percentages).

Rank also points out that "the average income of a top CEO in this country has gone from 39 times the average worker's salary in 1970 to more than 1,000 times what the average worker earns [in the present] [p. 161]." Oh but the average worker salary has also gone up--from $32, 522 in 1970 to $35, 864 in the present. And there are other signs that the well-off receive more favors than their less fortunate fellow citizens--as Rank puts it, "Exorbitant stock options and bailouts appear almost routine within the upper echelons of American business [p. 161]."


I haven't yet read over Rank's proposed solutions. To be sure, he does offer them. But I'm still amazed at his accurate description of the problems. Or, more precisely, I'm amazed that even though any adult in the job market has experienced or knows someone who has experienced the problems Rank is pointing out, a majority and then some cling to the pleasing myths of fair opportunity for all in America--you know, America, where any bum can strike it rich. As Rank says:

"Ultimately, the old paradigm reflects and reinforces the myths and ideals of American society--that there economic opportunities for all, that individualism and self-reliance are paramount, and that hard work is rewarded. Although poverty may be regrettable, it would be a mistake to call it unfair. It should not be surprising that the dominant paradigm of poverty is a reflection of the overall dominant ideology of America [p. 175]."

Rank then goes on to state the obvious about a step toward developing a new paradigm which will allow real, substantive changes in approaches to eradicating poverty. He says:

"A new paradigm must be built not upon the myths of America but upon its realities. It should reflect a fuller appreciation of the meaning of poverty, rather than the one-dimensional view to which we are too often exposed [i.e., in the rightwing rantings of Limbaugh and O'Reilly]. It must ultimately stimulate a fundamental shift in how we conceptualize and act toward the problem of poverty [p.176]."

Reality, Morality, and Morass

Indeed, Rank's words apply to more situations than just the attempt to cure poverty. From foreign policy to Social Security to everything in between, America's great debate has been seized and perverted and cheapened by the right wing talk radio commandos. On The Majority Report tonight, I heard at least 3 or 4 people call in to say that they were changing their party affiliation from Republican to Democrat. One caller from Colorado attributed at least part of the change in his thinking to the fact that until Air America came along, there was only right wing ideas available on the airwaves where he lived. So in less than a year, Air America has been able to open some people's minds and begin to correct and counter some of the vicious untruths and half-truths the right has been pumping out with no let up since the abolition of the Fairness Doctrine in 1987.

So the tide is slowly, ever so slowly turning left...and that is a good thing for America.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

HISTORY, POVERTY, ETC. has a great piece on the general public's ignorance of history. And not facts from 200 years ago, like who the first president was, but more recent stuff, like which side did the U.S. support in the Vietnam War and why?

His essay is of a piece with the works of Chomsky in that he doesn't take the side of the West just because he's a Westerner. He takes the side of what's right. And that's the problem with most neocons--they're cheerleaders for their team rather than cheerleaders for what's right. For example, Alberto Gonzales called the Geneva Conventions "quaint" and implied if not said outright that torture is permissible in certain circumstances. Neocons (Dems and Repukes) fell all over themselves praising him and couldn't wait to confirm him. Because Gonzales was who Bush wanted, and Bush is the leader (at least the figurehead) of their team, and therefore since it's their team they'll do it even if torture is always wrong and we've tried to mature to that way of thinking in the several centuries since the Enlightenment.

Anyway, here's some highlights of the Pilger essay:

Do they not read history? Or is the history they know, or choose to know, subject to such amnesia and omission that it produces a world view as seen only through a one-way moral mirror? There is no suggestion of conspiracy. This one-way mirror ensures that most of humanity is regarded in terms of its usefulness to "us," its desirability or expendability, its worthiness or unworthiness: for example, the notion of "good" Kurds in Iraq and "bad" Kurds in Turkey. The unerring assumption is that "we" in the dominant West have moral standards superior to "them." One of "their" dictators (often a former client of ours, like Saddam Hussein) kills thousands of people and he is declared a monster, a second Hitler. When one of our leaders does the same, he is viewed, at worst like Blair, in Shakespearean terms. Those who kill people with car bombs are "terrorists"; those who kill far more people with cluster bombs are the noble occupants of a "quagmire."

Pretty damn perceptive if you ask me. Again, a rightwing radical/neocon type would scream "moral relativism" and strenuously point out all the good we've done in the world. And conveniently leaving out the bad, which is far more memorable to the victims than to the perpetrators.

Then Pilger discusses a pat, inaccurate and overly broad history of the Vietnam War and concludes finally:

"Phew, loads for you to learn here..." say the authors of the revision guide, "so get it learned right now." Phew, the British empire did not happen; there is nothing about the atrocious colonial wars that were models for the successor power, America, in Indonesia, Vietnam, Chile, El Salvador, Nicaragua, to name but a few along modern history's imperial trail of blood, of which Iraq is the latest.

And now Iran? The drumbeat has already begun. How many more innocent people have to die before those who filter the past and the present wake up to their moral responsibility to protect our memory and the lives of human beings?

And about the last bit--Iran. Bush said yesterday that he's "heard the rumors" and the scuttlebutt about how we're getting ready to take down Iran. But rest assured, says he, we're going to use diplomacy. That must be why we already have troops in the country ostensibly doing reconnaissace when in fact they're there to provoke an attack against us so Bush can say that we tried diplomacy but these evil Muslims attacked us so what were we to do...

One Nation, Underprivileged

The more I read of "One Nation, Underprivileged: Why American Poverty Affects Us All" byt Mark Robert Rank, the more astonished I am. You know how Bill O'Reilly and his ilk are always complaining that liberals want "redistribution of wealth" and mean it to imply that our side just wants to burn the rich at the stake and start a class war? Why don't those guys ever acknowledge the massive redistribution of wealth that has taken place in the opposite direction in the last thirty years? The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer:

In particular, the very top of society has been reaping temendous material rewards over the past thirty years, while the middle has remained stagnant and the poor have fallen further behind. the levels of income and wealth concentration have reached or surpassed those of the Gilded Age of the 1920s. For example, the top 10 percent of the U.S. population earned 41 percent of total income in 1998, up from 33 percent in 1980...Between 1983 and 1998, the top 20 percent of the population experienced 91 percent of the total gain that occurred in net worth. For example, the wealthiest 1 percent of American households saw their total net worth go from $7,175,000 in 1983 to $10,204,000 in 1998 (in 1998 dollars). On the other hand, the bottom 40 percent of households saw their net worth drop from $4,700 in 1983 to $1,100 in 1998. [p. 160]

So Bill O'Reilly will complain bitterly about wealth redistribution, even though he's got plenty of wealth and so do those in his same financial stratum. But the facts are clear--wealth has been redistributed, all right, from the bottom and middle to the top. And not just the top, but the very top. And that's how O'Reilly and Limbaugh and their kind want it. And that's how the flashy TV Christians think it should be.

I mean, the rich are getting what they want--more money, more tax breaks while the rest of us are getting screwed. Then the rich pundits go on the air and complain bitterly about how being taxed a little more is communistic wealth redistribution. Remember, they only say that when they're referring to wealth from them going to the common good and helping out you and me and our families. If it helps the little guy, it's evil communism. If it helps the rich, it's the free market. It's all a semantic game for a scheme thousands of years old--it's called "Fuck The Poor."

Stop the War

Again, stop the war. Bring the troops home NOW. Jeff Gannon sucks. I hope he is the freak that helps bring down GWB and ends this nightmare...

Tuesday, February 15, 2005


For those of us who don't quite get the import of the ongoing Gannon/Guckert story, a good summary of why it has a lot of potential to taint the Repukes is in this Homeland Security FOIA request from Reps. Conyers and Slaughter:

Recent news reports indicate that James D. Guckert, a Republican activist gained access to the White House press briefing room and Presidential press conferences in violation of standard security procedures and was allowed to work under the assumed name, "Jeff Gannon." News reports also indicate that Mr. Guckert would not be considered a bona fide journalist by his peers in the press corps, as most of his claims to legitimacy have already been discredited. Access to the President and his press corps is highly competitive, and many seasoned journalists have not had the honor of attending the events or enjoying the access Mr. Guckert has.

We are concerned that such an individual was allowed within a few feet of the President when the public is routinely disallowed any possible contact with either the President or the White House. We understand that your security policies are developed in conjunction with the White House and want to ascertain your respective roles in this decision as it appears to deviate significantly from heightened security measures you have employed recently. To the extent that White House policies were incorporated into the Secret Service's files and have been read by the Secret Service, we would also like records from the White House.

Plus, Gannon/Guckert was given access to the secret memo regarding the Valerie Plame matter (read the whole thing if you please, but make sure to at least scroll down and read "In Conclusion"). All of this done as a "reporter" for the Talon News "service" that was established a mere 96 hours (that's four days--not even a week) before Gannon/Guckert was given press credentials to sit in on White House press briefings and to ask leading softball questions of McClellan and/or the President.

On the prostitution question, AmericaBlog has the scoop here. I mean, Christ almighty, if this was going on under Clinton--a former (or current) male prostitute with no credentials or experience gets a press pass to sit in on White House briefings for a website that was established four days before he got his first pass--Republicans would say hanging was too good and that the republic was crumbling...


Stars-Set Yourself On Fire (Arts & Crafts): exquisite, detailed pop music with male/female vocal goodness. Reminds me of Beulah's "Yoko." Songs that are good--"Reunion" "Ageless Beauty" "What I'm Trying To Say"

Sweet Apple Pie-Between The Lines (Not Lame): This is actually from 2004, but I didn't hear it til this year. Stereolab-ish retro rock with expert pop touches. More male/female vocal goodness.

Monday, February 14, 2005

GOOD "REFRAME": "Deficit increases" instead of "Tax Cuts"

Refer to "tax cuts" (a favorite Bush/Republican term) as "deficit increases?"

Let the words "tax cut" never pass the lips of a Democrat/progressive in the media when referring to attempts to "starve the beast." Or, when Republicans do "tax cuts," it's "deficit increases." When Democrats do tax cuts to help consumers and not defund important and historic progressive programs, it's "consumer aid" or some such.

I know this all sounds stupid, but the Republicans have been playing a semantic game for years that has actually been quite successful. If they want to dismantle a program or agency, they say they will "reform" it. The estate tax became the "death tax." Even "tax cuts" were determined by Republican pollster Frank Luntz to be better sold as "tax relief." And of course, anyone who disagrees is "anti-American" at best and a "terrorist" at worst.

Just an idea...

Been almost a week since my last entry...gotta get crackin'. Got a fax today from the Mississippi Republican Party which attempts to blast Dean (ahead of his visit to the Magnolia State on March 1). It's headed "Dowdy To Dean: Will You Be Mine?" and notes sarcastically that "Wayne Dowdy, chief of the Mississippi Democratic Party is one of many Democrat's recently struck by Cupid's arrow." Is he saying Dean and Dowdy are gay lovers? Is that what he's trying to imply? Because the new head of the Republican National Committee ain't exactly no man's man, if you catch my meaning.

Jim Herring, head of the MS Republican Party, needs to watch it with the gay jokes, given that gays in or related to people in his party include the following:

Ken Mehlman, RNC Chair
David Dreier, Representative from CA
Mary Cheney, the Vice-President's daughter
Newt Gingrich's sister Candace
Alan Keye's daughter Maya (who was just kicked out of her father's house for being "out")
Jeff Gannon/James Guckert of Talon "News"
and so on...

The Democratic Party has gays, sure, but that is seen as a strength, not a weakness or spiritual failing by members of that party.

Dean was very good in his press conference this weekend at which his chairmanship was confirmed. I was particularly impressed by his response to a reporter who asked him something to the effect of "people say you may not project the right image for the Democratic party" and Dean said "I don't respond to blind quotes." That was hot! Right outta the gate, Dean's letting people know he's not going to play foolish media games.

Iran All Night And Day

I agree wholeheartedly with this Reese piece in which he states the obvious:

But let's assume Iran does develop a nuclear weapon. I don't care. I've lived
most of my life 30 minutes from total destruction by tens of thousands of the Soviet Union's nuclear warheads
. The Bush administration's claim that nuclear deterrence, which worked against a superpower, will not work against a smaller and poorer country is bunk. Israel alone has enough nuclear warheads to
pulverize Iran.

Indeed why should we care what countries have nuclear weapons and which don't? By itself the U.S. can destroy the whole world several times over and any country who would use nuclear arms against us knows that they would pay dearly for such an act:

When Admiral Arleigh Burke, Chief of Naval Operations, stated in 1957 his belief that the equivalent of 720 warheads on invulnerable Polaris submarines would be enough to deter the Soviet Union, the United States already had almost six times as many deployed. When retired Army Chief of Staff General Maxwell Taylor wrote in 1960 that "a few hundred missiles" (presumably armed with a "few hundred" warheads) would satisfy deterrence, the United States already had some 7,000 strategic nuclear weapons. And when Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara argued in 1964, that within a few years the equivalent of 400 megatons would be enough to achieve mutual assured destruction and hence deterrence, the U.S. stockpile had almost 17,000 megatons, 17 billion tons of TNT equivalent. In short, there has always been a tremendous gap between what informed military and civilian leaders thought necessary for deterrence and what was actually deployed, a state of affairs that has not changed with the end of the Cold War.

Besides, the only reason other countries want to have nuclear weapons is because we have them. Countries like Iran and North Korea do not trust us any more than we trust them. And why should they?

Bush Admits "Safety" Is An "Illusion"

So Bush wants the Patriot Act renewed. No surprise there, but what was his stated reason?

``We must not allow the passage of time, or the illusion of safety, to weaken our resolve in this new war,'' Bush said during a ceremony at the Justice Department in Washington.

He's saying that our safety is illusory? All this airport hassle, over 10,000 dead and wounded in Iraq, and yet our safety is still an "illusion?" Well, of course Bush meant this remark in the sense that safety is always an illusion. No person or nation can ever be totally "safe." No amount of weaponry, vigilance or what have you can ever make anything totally safe. It's not possible now, it never has been possible, and it never will be possible.

But supposedly that's why Bush was re-elected--because he'll keep/make us "safe." Then he comes out today and says that the drastic measures we have already taken only provide the "illusion of safety." It's incredible. It's sick. Especially when you consider that the simple idea of not endlessly provoking other people and other countries would go a long way toward insuring safety--insofar as safety is even possible (and that idea comes from uber-con Pat Buchanan. Oh but my my, that doesn't fit the Master Narrative that most red-state types carry around in their heads...

Tuesday, February 08, 2005


Did you see the picture of Abbas and Sharon shaking hands over the table? Was it just me, or did Abbas look like he was having to stretch a little farther, lean in a little more than Sharon? Is it just me or is that symbolic of the problem--the weak Palestinians are expected to make all the concessions while the U.S.-backed Israelis call them "terrorists" at every opportunity?

And before I could sit down this evening to write this post and make any predictions about how this won't last, I hear Bill Crowley report the first cease-fire violation on this, the day of the agreement. Note that the story uses the "Israeli military" as a source--the story doesn't quote any Palestinian sources (and we all know that news stories attributed to a single source are always totally accurate).

Is it just me, or is that likely to be used as an excuse to discredit Abbas (by both Christian Zionists and the Israeli hardliners) in the eyes of the world so that the Israelis can go ahead and clamp down tighter?

Like Iraq Election

The thing is, the handshake is nice and everything, just like the Iraqi ink fingers, but it's only a start. This is not even close to real peace--they're just agreeing not to kill each other right this minute, but as for 5 minutes from now, they can't really make that promise. Just like in Iraq, where the voting was nice but ultimately meaningless if the government fails, this handshake was great but let's see what comes out of actual negotiations where documents are signed and maps are drawn.

Not to be too pessimistic--equitable peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians would be fantastic (by which I mean both "really great" and "the stuff of fantasy"). But let's not break out the champagne just yet.

And Now For My Next Trick...

Paul Krugman's column today about how the radical right wants to dismantle Social Security, not "reform" it is right on the money. If you don't want to click the link, here is a key passage:

Why expose workers to that much risk? Ideology. "Social Security is the soft underbelly of the welfare state," declares Stephen Moore of the Club for Growth and the Cato Institute. "If you can jab your spear through that, you can undermine the whole welfare state."

By the welfare state, Mr. Moore means Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid - social insurance programs whose purpose, above all, is to protect Americans against the extreme economic insecurity that prevailed before the New Deal. The hard right has never forgiven F.D.R. (and later L.B.J.) for his efforts to reduce that insecurity, and now that the right is running Washington, it's trying to turn the clock back to 1932.

Medicaid is also in the cross hairs. And if Mr. Bush can take down Social Security, Medicare will be next.

That's what's going on here. The Republicans aren't trying to help you and me save more money for our future, they're trying to take apart the most successful social programs in American history for the benefit of Wall Street. As Majority Report's Sam Seder said, this Bush plan is really nothing more than "a Wall Street hijack."

My dad won't believe this. He won't believe that the president of the United States would actually call complete dismantling of Social Security a "reform." Millions of red state Americans won't believe that their precious, God-fearing Republicans actually mean to do away with a program that has rescued millions of hard-working people from poverty at retirement. Oh no, that would violate the Master Narrative, which as you know says that above all--"It can't happen here."

Bush uses the example of Chile's retirement privatization program as one to model our own on. But by all accounts, Chile's program is a failure. Rather, it's a success for the corporations, but it's a failure for retirees. Look it up. Write a letter to the editor. Don't let them get away with it.

P.S. Molly Ivins has a great point-by-point explanation of why Bush's Social Security plan is bad for you.

Sunday, February 06, 2005


Netflix is great...I've been wanting to see a lot of the progressive political movies that have been released over the past year or so but couldn't rent them locally and can't afford to buy them all...

Watched 3 this weekend:

1) Unprecedented: The 2000 Election

This documentary was very in-depth and put together very well. Just further proof that Bush didn't really win in 2000--not that it can be reversed or anything.

The most interesting point--do blacks really have the right to vote in the U.S.? This film (and particularly Greg Palast) says no, they don't. The disenfranchisement is done much more subtly now. Who needs a literacy test or a poll tax when you have computerized databases?

2) Bush Family Fortunes
Based on the revealing book "The Best Democracy Money Can Buy," this flick is basically Fahrenheit 9/11 Pt. 2. Palast lays it on a little thick with his gumshoe hat and overcoat, but it has some memorable scenes, especially when he confronts Florida election supervisor Clayton Roberts and shows Ari Fleischer talking about the status of "Operation Iraqi Liberation." He talks about the James R. Bath connection and Arbusto and Harken but doesn't go for the Prescott Bush/Nazi connection .

3) "Distorted Morality"
A talk given by Chomsky at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government in which he points out the hypocrisy of American foreign policy. How's that, you say? Well, check out this article. Especially this part:

If we propose some principle that is to be applied to antagonists, then we must agree -- in fact, strenuously insist -- that the principle apply to us as well. Those who do not rise even to this minimal level of integrity plainly cannot be taken seriously when they speak of right and wrong, good and evil.

That's the basis of the film.

Check these out if you have the time--it'll be worth your while.

Friday, February 04, 2005


That is what several callers with a pronounced drawl wanted to know when they called "Washington Journal" this morning when the topic turned to James Mattis and his apparent love of blowing away Muslims. "He's a warrior," one caller drawled, "what did you expect him to say?"

How about this--he could have said something along these lines: "I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity." And what giant, appeasing, anti-American pussy-boy said that? Dwight D. Eisenhower, of course. A Republican. The Allied mastermind of WWII. Even if he didn't mean a word of it, it's still the best face to put forward to the public. Not some bullshit about how cool it is to shoot people.

That's how American soldiers should talk. Not like what Mattis said, which was virulently anti-American, pro-fascist, and anti-humanity. But every cable news program has brought on an apologist for him. It's disgusting.

Distorted Morality, cont.

So this morning I finished watching "Distorted Morality" and started to watch the Q & A session that is included in the special features. The first question was something along the lines of "why do you blame America for the situation in Afghanistan?" And Chomsky had a very good, thought-provoking answer. He said (I'm paraphrasing) "I blame you and I blame myself, not some abstract entity called America for the war in Afghanistan." The "situation" that the question referred to was the fact that our war in Afghanistan was very harmful to the civilian population. But the questioner obviously felt that the dirty people of Afghanistan brought the war on themselves.

Anyway, I thought, what a way to look at it. This war in Iraq is your fault and it's my fault. America is made up of you and me--it's not an entity separate from us--it is us. And we are letting this illegal ends-justify-the-means war happen. I cannot stop it by myself and you cannot stop it by yourself, but you and me and a few million of our friends can do it. But we have to be vocal. Let's not let it go on--let's make the war unpopular.

Master Narrative update

"Iranyanprncess" emailed with an addition to the master narrative list. She proposes "The rich are a lot better then the poor." I like it. It fits--it's like the time on "Hardball" when tax cuts were being discussed (maybe we on the left or the progressive left/right coalition should start referring to Bush's "tax cuts" as "deficit increases") and some jerk-off was defending the fact that the wealthiest people would benefit the most. He said something to the effect that rich people need the most help because they're the ones who give out the jobs. Then he asked smugly and rhetorically "When was the last time a poor person gave you a job?"

So let's add "The rich are better than the poor" to our master narrative identification project. Maybe tweak it just a smidge and substitute "superior" for "better." So here once again is the master narrative, the boundaries of debate, the starting and ending assumptions for the mainstream and/or conservative media (one and the same, really) all of which are either false, a matter of interpretation, or oversimplified:

They’re terrorists, we’re freedom fighters.
The U.S. is the greatest country in the world.
The U.S. is the most generous country in the world.
The U.S. takes better care of its less fortunate than other countries.
Capitalism is the best economic system, ever.
Making corporations and industries follow regulations is bad.
It’s bad because regulations keep them from maximizing profits.
Maximizing profits is the highest calling of an American businessperson.
America is a Christian nation.
Liberals (Democrats) are wusses and pansies that spend too much money.
Liberals (Democrats) hate the military and Jesus.
Liberals prefer abortions to births.
Conservatism is the moral high ground.
Conservatives are fiscally responsible.
Conservatives don’t want big government.
Liberals want to dismantle the military.
Liberals appease dictators.
We take every precaution to protect civilians in a war zone.
American leaders would never intentionally mislead us.
Welfare hurts the poor.
Specialized degrees help people find work easier.
There is no shortage of jobs to be had in this country.
Hard work is always rewarded with financial gain.
No privilege or financial gain ever comes without hard work.
Government only ever hurts the entrepreneur.
Taxes are legalized theft.
Statements issued from the White House place informing the public before seeking political gain.
The rich are superior to the poor.

And of course, the master narrative to end all master narratives:

It can't happen here...

Thursday, February 03, 2005

The Master Narrative

I started compiling statements that I feel make up the master narrative, in a general sense. If you can think of more or think some I've included should be stricken, send me a comment.

The Master Narrative (or, what Karl Rove will get you to believe so that all dangerous Republican plans will be successful):

They’re terrorists, we’re freedom fighters.
The U.S. is the greatest country in the world.
The U.S. is the most generous country in the world.
The U.S. takes better care of its less fortunate than other countries.
Capitalism is the best economic system, ever.
Making corporations and industries follow regulations is bad.
It’s bad because regulations keep them from maximizing profits.
Maximizing profits is the highest calling of an American businessperson.
America is a Christian nation.
Liberals (Democrats) are wusses and pansies that spend too much money.
Liberals (Democrats) hate the military and Jesus.
Liberals prefer abortions to births.
Conservatism is the moral high ground.
Conservatives are fiscally responsible.
Conservatives don’t want big government.
Liberals want to dismantle the military.
Liberals appease dictators.
We take every precaution to protect civilians in a war zone.
American leaders would never intentionally mislead us.
Welfare hurts the poor.
Specialized degrees help people find work easier.
There is no shortage of jobs to be had in this country.
Hard work is always rewarded with financial gain.
No privilege or financial gain ever comes without hard work.
Government only ever hurts the entrepreneur.
Taxes are legalized theft.
Statements issued from the White House place informing the public before seeking political gain.

And of course, the master narrative to end all master narratives:

It can't happen here...

And or torture them. So Gonzales was confirmed, ratifying torture as the official policy of the United States. And some crazy general says it's fun to "shoot some people." He actually said it twice--the second time he said it's "a hell of a lot" of fun to shoot people who "ain't got no manhood left anyway."

What the hell kind of message does this send? I mean, it's one thing to talk about the glee one takes in shooting people, but atrocious grammar--that's beyond the pale!

That's a joke, of course. Remember how the Master Narrative required everyone to feel horror because supposedly Palestinians were dancing in the streets when they heard about 9/11? Well, this general's remark is basically the same type of thing. He's speaking for you and for me to the world when he says that, "Hey, I know the President and all his people have to pretend not to like killing Arabs, but I'm here to tell you that in reality, we love it--can't get enough!"

Imagine the right-wing reaction if Mahmoud Abbas or Zarqawi came out and said, "You know, these Americans let their women just run around half-naked all the time which is an insult to both man and God. They have no morals or manhood and so it's a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them." Oh how Rush-O'Reilly-Coulter-Hannity would burn! Such a remark would be ultimate proof of the inhumanity of "the terrorists," they'd say. These animals actually enjoy shooting people--they just come out and admit it, they'd say. That's why we have to take them out, they'd say. Well, what must the Islamic Rush-O'Reilly-Coulter-Hannity types be saying in response to this general?

And Coulter made a fool of herself on Canadian is awesome!

Hypocracy=hypocrisy + democracy

I received my copy of "Distorted Morality," the Chomsky speech at the Harvard School of Government in 2002. He basic argument is that America's "war on terror" (begun under Reagan) is in fact a logical impossibility because America is a terrorist state and one of the so-called "state sponsors" of terrorism. He lays it out so clearly and with a good deal more humor than is his wont.

Now saying that America is a terrorist state will not get you far on "Hardball" or "O'Reilly" or what have you. But that's because that statement violates the Master Narrative, which states that America is always right and everyone else is always wrong (with the possible exception of the British).

But Chomsky's point, and really it's very elementary, is that if an act is wrong for other people to do, then it is wrong for us to do. He points out that someone who doesn't act in accordance with that truism is what you would call a hypocrite. So for example, when George Bush bemoans the fact that "terrorists" killed 3,000 innocent civilians on 9/11, it is perfectly legitimate for Iraqis to bemoan the fact that U.S. "terrorists" have killed as many as 100,000 civilians. Or, if George Bush says that a "state sponsor of terrorism" like Iran should not be allowed to have a nuclear weapon because they support the Palestinians, it's perfectly legitimate for an ayatollah to say that the U.S. is a "state sponsor of terrorism" because of our support of Israel and yet we're allowed to have nuclear weapons. And so on.

Really, no one should be allowed to have nuclear weapons, but we can't uninvent them. The best way to confront them is to dispense with the idea that might makes right (which typical U.S. rhetoric disparages) and instead, negotiate and compromise with other nations.

Speaking of Iran...

Anybody see this story about Halliburton accepting a contract in Iran? I hope Robert Scheer confronts Tony Blankley with this on Left, Right and Center. Blankley suggested that Seymour Hersh is a traitor for his reporting on U.S. troop insertions in Iran. I wonder what Blankley thinks about Dick Cheney's former company contracting for business with an "evil" country. That would be quite in line with Republican morals and mores--remember Prescott Bush and a certain Austrian with a small mustache?

Johnny Cash and Gordon Perkins

I had no idea until this week that Johnny Cash lifted the melody and a good bit of the lyrics to "Folsom Prison Blues" from the Gordon Jenkins' tune "Crescent City Blues." I had never heard that until I checked out "Johnny Cash At Folsom Prison: The Making Of A Masterpiece" from the library. I guess that story doesn't fit the master narrative about rugged country stars...but it does say something that I've never heard "Crescent City Blues" while "Folsom Prison Blues" is available on 341 different collections done by everyone from the Gin Blossoms to Christ On A Crutch...