Wednesday, September 27, 2006


I don't think my last post adequately explained what I was trying to say, which is this: Republicans don't want to solve problems, they want to exacerbate and/or create problems that they can then complain about and pretend to try to do something about in order to fool the public into supporting them.

Thomas Frank spoke about this very thing in "What's The Matter With Kansas." He pointed out that Republicans are always complaining about the "culture" and abortion and what not. Yet they never outlaw abortion, media continue to get more sleazy, and so forth. And that situation works in their favor--it gives them issues to run on. If there were no abortion and no sleazy movies, the only thing they'd have to run on is making the rich richer, which is always their ultimate goal, and not one
that the majority of Americans would knowingly sign on to.

It's the same way with terrorism--if the Republicans ever did actually put an end to terrorism, it would be great, but then they'd have nothing to frighten the public with. The Republicans need problems (of which terrorism is only one of many) like fire needs oxygen.

Conversely, Ralph Nader made a point similar to this about the success of liberalism in the 20th century in his book "The Good Fight." He pointed out that the more liberalism succeeds, the less people appreciate it and the more they take it for granted. Labor concessions are a good example of this phenomenon--as workers have won more and more rights, people have just come to take a living wage and workplace safety for granted and their perceived need for the liberal ideology fades.

So it makes perfect, yet frightening, sense that Republicans would vow to stay in Iraq at least until Bush leaves office despite the now-undisputed fact that the Iraq war is creating more terrorists. Republicans NEED terrorists. They need them to be able to enact their agenda on all fronts--economic, cultural, social, etc.--their policies of helping the rich and increasing corporate power would never sell on their merits. People have to be frightened into supporting people who would enact such policies. And even then, people would not think of themselves as supporting those kinds of policies, they'd think of themselves as supporting leaders who pledge to ensure safety.

Issues like terrorism are not even seen as problems by Republicans--they are seen as money-making opportunities. That's why you'll never see a Republican Congress enact universal health care, despite being told this week, again, that the American people want that. Why would they ever consent to universal health care when the current system does so much to enrich their supporters--pharmaceutical and insurance companies and so forth?

The Republicans have recently refused--again--to raise the minimum wage. Why would they ever raise the minimum wage when its current level ensures that their corporate supporters can keep their labor costs as low as possible? And that the large population of desperate, cash-strapped people the current minimum wage ensures makes those people overly reliant on credit cards, payday loans and such--the issuers of which are also Republican supporters?

The difference between liberals and conservatives is that liberals seek to solve the kind of problems that will basically put them out of business, whereas conservatives want to create and/or exacerbate problems that will keep them in business forever. Or to use an automotive analogy, liberals want to create a vehicle that will never break down so you never have to go to their shop for repairs or buy another one while conservatives want to build a car that will wear out and malfunction in every possible way so that you have no choice but to buy another one or keep bringing it to their mechanics.

So the declassification of the NIE reveals to us once again that Republicans don't fix things, they break them ON PURPOSE so they can maintain or increase their power and wealth. There's really no other reason that they would knowingly mess things up so badly. It breaks down to a simple formula: bad times for you equals high times for Republicans.

And that's what Bush and company want. Remember, they always say the opposite of what they mean. They say they are "fighting terror" and "protecting freedom," when in reality, as the newly declassifed NIE shows, they're encouraging terror so they can clamp down on our freedoms.

We are in at least the beginning stages of a police state (or perhaps way past that), reaffirmed just this past weekend when Republicans surrepitiously added language to the Military Commissions Act of 2006 that would broadly define who could be declared an enemy combatant. The Center for Constitutional Rights explains it thusly:

"The current version of the Military Commissions redefines an "unlawful enemy combatant" (UEC) so broadly that it could include anyone who organizes a march against the war in Iraq. The bill defines a UEC as "a person who has engaged in hostilities or who has purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States" or anyone who "has been determined to be an unlawful enemy combatant by a Combatant Status Review Tribunal or another competent tribunal established under the authority of the President or the Secretary of Defense of the United States." The definition makes no reference to citizenship and therefore could be read to include any number of individuals, including:

* CCR attorneys and other habeas counsel, Federal Public Defenders and military defense counsel for detainees at Guantanamo Bay
* Any person who has given $5 to a charity working with orphans in Afghanistan that turns out to be associated in some fashion with someone who may be a member of the Taliban

The bill also currently includes provisions so sweeping that they strip U.S. courts of jurisdiction over habeas petitions by any non-citizen detained by the government anywhere. Because there is no geographic limitation in the bill's language, it would allow the President to detain any non-citizen without their ever having the chance to challenge their detention in court: "No court... shall have jurisdiction to hear or consider an application for a writ of habeas corpus filed by or on behalf of an alien detained by the United States who has been determined by the United States to have been properly detained as an enemy combatant or is awaiting such determination." Examples of people who could be detained indefinitely with no access to a court include:

* A foreign tourist wearing an anti-Bush t-shirt at the Statue of Liberty
* A protester at an immigration rally who has lived in the U.S. since she was six months old and is a lawful, permanent resident"

Yet Lindsey Graham has been widely quoted as saying in this AP story that this new wording will not affect American citizens. Remember, though, that Republicans always say the opposite of what they mean.

Please always remember and never forget that "conservatives" and right-wingers can only ever rule through fear and misanthropy, so the more turmoil they can create in the world, the more power they can try to grab for themselves. And we have and are allowing them to do that. We've got to stop this...

Sunday, September 24, 2006


Watched Bill Maher with Reza Aslan, Sandy Rios, and Bradley Whitford.

Rios, a Fox News Contributor and spokesmen/head of the “Culture Campaign” wanted to play, in her own words, “semantic” games and referred to torture as “coercion.” To justify torture, she cited a story that struck me as completely false or completely misrepresented the moment she finished telling it.

For one thing, I’d never heard it, and for another, it completely justified her argument. And one more thing, there were no telling details in it other than it involved people in Germany. I’ve been trying to Google it and can’t come up with the details of the story she’s talking about.

From everything I’ve heard, there is one overarching, clear message–TORTURE DOESN’T WORK. Please say that to whoever argues that we "have to be tougher" or whatever. Three words--"torture doesn't work."

Still looking for details on Rios story...

Guantanamo Guidebook

Watched about 20 minutes of this British documentary in which a number of volunteers agreed to be “enemy combatants” detained in recreated Guantanamo Bay conditions for 48 hours. The conditions were recreated based on the recollections of released detainees, declassified documents, and former military types. They even had former U.S. military men to play the parts of, well U.S. military men.

And several things struck me as I watched this documentary, aside from the fact that what is being done to these Guantanamo detainees is outrageous, illegal, and immoral.

I want to get these thoughts out rather than construct beautiful prose, so here goes:

1. Either you respect human rights or you don’t. In America, we don’t. We say we do, but we don’t. We say we follow Jesus, but we don’t. We say we provide equal opportunity, but we don’t. Saying something doesn’t make it so.

2. Rumsfeld and company better be damn sure that the people they have in this hellhole are guilty of something. Because Rumsfeld and company are now definitely themselves guilty of inhuman treatement of human beings. But you know, scratch that–that’s playing the game on Rumsfeld’s terms. In enlightened Western tradition, there is no justification for the treatment these detainees are receiving. They should be being given trials and attorney access, not beatings and “stress positions.”

3. Back to the semantic games. Calling something a “stress position” doesn’t change the fact that it’s torture.

4. These people at Guantanamo have been there for years now. Any plot that any of them may have been privy to a few years ago is likely now inoperative. But that’s assuming that all the people (yes, human beings) at Guantanamo are actually connected to anything remotely related to a terror plot (if there really is any such thing). We cannot assume that, because we know from news reports that a lot of the detainees were turned in for a bounty.

5. Human rights are absolute. There is no black and white. Absolute respect for human rights is the moral, healthy position, and disrespect for them is the evil, depraved position.
Bush and his cult of death, i.e., the Republican party have chosen the latter path.

6. It is so utterly important to prove what happened on 9/11. I can’t remember who said it–one of the 9/11 Truth guys–but it is so important to debunk the official story of 9/11 because literally every single thing that Bush (and his enablers) does hinges upon that official story. And that doesn’t just include foreign policy endeavors–domestic, economic, cultural policies and so on all depend on the story that one man in the desert was able to convince 19 guys to fly planes into buildings and kill 3,000 people because they hate America so much.

That’s the most important part of the official story–they did it because they hate us, which means that they hate all things good and right in the world. And that idea has really poisoned the well here in our country. On the Hattiesburg American forum, there was a lot of venom and vitriol directed at Muslims–not at “terrorists,” not at “extremists”–at Muslims. Because Muslims, they say, are dedicated to a fanatical death cult and therefore must be exterminated. That’s what people were saying on this forum (now completely redesigned and ruined)–they considered themselves loyal patriots who sided with the Jews yet didn’t mind suggesting a holocaust for Muslims. They never said it in those words, of course, but neither did Hitler.

Watching the Guantanamo documentary really brought home to me the way in which allowing this type of bullshit to go on really demeans not just our country and our principles, but us, the citizens. It makes us look bad. It makes us look paranoid and fearful. In short, it makes us look WEAK. And we must be weak, if we have to haul people around in hoods, shouting and cursing at them and humiliating them and subjecting them to conditions not even Saddam Hussein has to endure.

If Americans were really strong and courageous and moral, we would insist that these detainees be given fair, speedy, jury trials for the whole world to see. If we really believed in the ideas we say we do–openness, fair trials, human rights, democracy–we wouldn’t mind if a detainee were found to be wrongfully imprisoned or if there were insufficient evidence to convict. We would want to know that. We would say “the system works!” That is our system, after all–we use hard evidence to convict, not suspicion, intolerance, fear, and weakness. At least that’s what we tell the kids. But I guess we don’t really mean it...

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


A conservative friend of mine emailed me a link to the Sam Harris ("End Of Faith" author) opinion piece in the LA Times. My friend didn't tell me his thoughts on the matter, but I assume
he agrees with Harris. What follows is my email reply to my friend:

I liked Harris' book right up to the part where he started talking like a neocon.

Here's where I talked about it on my blog.

I think Harris is just plain wrong. He's still spouting the same shit that I mention in the blog entry
in this op-ed piece, to wit:

"In their analyses of U.S. and Israeli foreign policy, liberals can be relied on to overlook the most basic moral distinctions. For instance, they ignore the fact that Muslims intentionally murder noncombatants, while we and the Israelis (as a rule) seek to avoid doing so. Muslims routinely use human shields, and this accounts for much of the collateral damage we and the Israelis cause; the political discourse throughout much of the Muslim world, especially with respect to Jews, is explicitly and unabashedly genocidal.

Given these distinctions, there is no question that the Israelis now hold the moral high ground in their conflict with Hamas and Hezbollah. And yet liberals in the United States and Europe often speak as though the truth were otherwise."

His "basic moral distinctions" are far from being basic or moral. He trots out Muslim "intentions" again, trying to argue that our killing of civilians is superior to their killing of civilians. My point is that dead people are dead people, no matter what were the original "intentions" of their killers, whether those killers be the U.S., Muslim extremists, Jews, or whoever.

Harris is a brave and intelligent guy, no question about it. He likes to make the argument that atheists like himself can be moral, good people without following any established religious tradition. But his confusion about what is truly moral almost makes me want to go back to church.

Another Problem

Another problem in his reasoning is when he says things like this, from his LA Times opinion piece:
"There is, therefore, no future in which aspiring martyrs will make good neighbors for us. Unless liberals realize that there are tens of millions of people in the Muslim world who are far scarier than Dick Cheney, they will be unable to protect civilization from its genuine enemies."

He spouts the neocon/warmongering agenda that there are millions of Muslims who want nothing more than to die as martyrs, simply because they are devout Muslims. He couldn't be more wrong, as demonstrated by the important work of Robert Pape, who studied terrorism and discovered that it is not motivated by religion, it is motivated by political grievances againt democratic states.

It's horrific the way that Harris is attempting to dehumanize and demonize millions of people. It sounds a little to close to something that happened in Germany around the middle of last century, if you catch my meaning. We must at all times remember that he is talking about real live human beings--who piss and shit and suck and fuck and eat and sleep and love and hate and have crazy beliefs and everything else we do--in other words, they're just like us. We cannot expect to be treated like human beings if we do not treat other people(s) as human beings.

What We Ought To Do

Given that political grievances are the cause for what we call "terrorism," it then behooves us to reconsider our foreign policies, and ask "how can we avoid causing grief to other people yet not sacrifice entirely our own self-interest?" One way is obviously to start a Manhattan Project focused on using renewable energy sources to free us from our dependence on foreign oil. Another would be to assist the economies of other countries like Mexico. Rather than taking advantage of their dilapidated economy with its low wages, its lax to nonexistent regulation, and its openness to corruption for financial gain, we should help them build something more positive and beneficial to all its people.

And so forth...

And That's The End of The Email

And that's the end of the email, but after having read Harris' piece, I find myself asking, why did that motherfucker even write this? He doesn't offer any solutions as to what to do about "head-in-the-sand liberals." Unless you count vainly trying to convince us that we should be willing to exterminate millions of people. The only point of his piece was to attack "liberals," but he didn't even attack "liberals" very well--he attacked the idea of tolerance and of peace. He attacked the idea of leaving people well enough alone.

For all his supposed "liberal bona fides," his pointless piece sure helped the neocons and the warmongers and the corporatists. Good going, Sam! For all your generic "liberal bona fides," you might as well have been a conservative plant all along--an elaborate, time-released plant, to be sure. Hmmm...

Friday, September 08, 2006

GOP Senate: No Saddam-Al Qaeda Link

Here's a link to the report done by Republican chairman Pat Roberts' committee(the conclusions about Iraq and al Qaeda start on p. 108 of 151)

I found it curious that the report kept referring to the "postwar" period. So even though Bush reminded us just a day or two ago that we're still "at war," the Senate acknowledges the truth--that we are now in an occupation, not a war.

We won the war. Yay! Now let's quit the occupation. There is no shame or dishonor in the end of an occupation.

Something to think about as we come to the fifth anniversary of 9/11...