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Thursday, August 31, 2006

Springsteen Sings Big Easy Pain

by digby

How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live?

Well, the doctor comes 'round here with his face all bright
And he says "in a little while you'll be alright"
All he gives is a humbug pill, a dose of dope and a great big bill
Tell me, how can a poor man stand such times and live?

He says "me and my old school pals had some mighty high times down here
And what happened to you poor black folks, well it just ain't fair"
He took a look around gave a little pep talk, said "I'm with you" then he took a little walk
Tell me, how can a poor man stand such times and live?

There's bodies floatin' on Canal and the levees gone to Hell
Martha, get me my sixteen gauge and some dry shells
Them who's got got out of town
And them who ain't got left to drown
Tell me, how can a poor man stand such times and live?

I got family scattered from Texas all the way to Baltimore
And I ain't got no home in this world no more
Gonna be a judgment that's a fact, a righteous train rollin' down this track
Tell me, how can a poor man stand such times and live?


by digby

If Dan Bartlett is any indication, the administration is going completely over the bend and are going to try to convince the American people that "Islamic fascism" is literally equivalent to WWII.

Here's what he just said on Hardball:

Nora O'Donnell: Dan do you agree that making an analogy to Hitler can be disproportionate with the current battles --- while it's extremely important, the war on terror --- comparing it to WWII is overstepping

Dan Bartlett: Absolutely not. The fascist movement from that era is very similar to the totalitarian ideology that al-Qaeda and other extremists, those who are wanting to pervert a very rich tradition of peaceful religion - Islam - to accomplish a certain set of objectives.

They have taken 3,000 American lives on one single morning, they've attacked country after country after country throughout the world with a very determined idoelogy, they're trying to overturn governments. They took control of Afghanistan, they're trying to take control of Iraq, they're trying to take control of Lebanon and they're doing it for a very specific reason --- they have territorial ambition, they want the resources, they want the nuclear weapons, they want to destroy the west.

Very similar in proportion I would argue, and many other people would argue as well. So it is a very important historical lesson for to understand today because the fight we're in today is as consequential as the fight we fought in the last century.

Let's think for a moment about what he's saying. If it is true that they have suddenly discovered that this threat is equal to the threat posed by the axis powers in WWII, then they have clearly failed miserably to meet such an existential threat. These monsters are allegedly attacking "country after country after country" trying to seize territory so they can take the resources and get nuclear weapons and we are sending national guard troops over to Iraq for their fourth or fifth tours instead of mobilizing the entire nation? The only sacrifice Bush has asked of the Amrican people is to pay their taxes and spend money.

But there's more to the story. Nora then commented on Bush's insistence yesterday that this wasn't "political" and admonishing others not to politicize it. Bartlett was having none of it.

He continued:

Dan Bartlett: It's important that certain aspects or certain reflection points in this war that the president of the United States speak directly to the public about the conduct of this war, developments in this war and the consequences of this war. He is not partisan in the sense that he's going out and attacking individual members of the other party or the like...

Nora O'Donnell: No, because you are going to leave this for Rumsfeld to do.

Dan Bartlett: Rumsfeld talked about [inaudible]who as you have pointed out are many times on this program go off and say the president lied and people died, that the president, the administration is incompetent, the administration is this, the administration is that, and it's important that the administration clearly articulate and set the recod straight on many of these outrageous comments that people are making.

And some of the outrageous comments are coming from people who want to take control of the congress. Now there are consequences for the rhetoric they are employing at this time and at this juncture in the war on terror and it is incumbent upon officials in this administration to clearly explain to the American people what those consequences are, so...

It's a two way street Nora and as long as our critics are out there, saying what they're saying, often times not based on fact, it's important for the administration to very very aggressively articulate what the facts are and why we believe it. There are two sides to this debate.

Well now. That certainly clears up what the real motivation for this PR offensive is, doesn't it? Bartlett lost his shit and pretty much admitted that this is a simple political ploy --- a gambit to draw attention away from Bush's failures. (Shrum just called it a "Katrina foreign policy.")

But if this takes hold and people really begin to accept this WWII analogy, the logical extension of the argument is that the US needs to do everything it possibly can to defeat this existential threat and that can only mean we must be willing to use nuclear weapons. They keep using the word "consequences" and I'm getting a rather ugly picture in my head of just what they might be.

Update: Glenn Greenwald notes the similarities between Bush's Iraq speech in Cincinnatti and his speech yesterday. I don't know if they've decided on war with Iran and/or Syria, but they most certainly are preparing the ground.

Greenwald advises the Democrats to go on the offensive and hit Bush hard. I agree, of course. I was a little bit depressed to hear Nora O'Donnell tell Jack Reed today that they've tried to get a Democrat to come on for days to rebut the Republican attack and couldn't get any calls returned. I guess people are on vacation... All Reed could say is "I'm here now."

Update II:

And a Freeper has an aneurysm:

To: governsleastgovernsbest

I wonder if oberman has children;or nephews/nieces etc. All of these idiots that refuse to allow the front loading of a looming confrontation will be directly responsible for the fact that in all likelihood OUR children will absolutely be involved in a life or death struggle to preserve OUR nation. The very same elitist , do nothing but babble , morons that decry every use of force , every vengeful indiscretion, every PERCIEVED slight, of a murdering Islamofacists rights, will be the very same people that squall like stuck pigs , when all of our children are fighting and dying because of the aformentioned idiocy.

I just hope the marksmanship I taught my children can keep them alive when it becomes the difference between those that make out alive and those that don't .

The really terrifying aspect of all this is the open borders issue and how it darn near grandee's that 5th columnist are or will be in place to harm us in a much more personal way than Hitler ever did. 56 posted on 08/30/2006 8:16:31 PM PDT by ping jockey (radical islam; the great evil of all times.)

Stateless Fascists

by digby

I find it fascinating that the administration has taken on the shibboleth of the nuttiest far right wingnuts and is calling Islamic radicals, fascists. Clearly, they are just throwing it around as some sort of boogeyman word because Islamic extremists are like fascists only to the extent that they are dangerous creeps. But then you could say that about a lot of people, couldn't you?

They are all blathering stuff like this to explain it:

Charles Black, a longtime GOP consultant with close ties to both the first Bush administration and the current White House, said branding Islamic extremists as fascists is apt.

"It helps dramatize what we're up against. They are not just some ragtag terrorists. They are people with a plan to take over the world and eliminate everybody except them," Black said.

Run for your lives!!!

I know I don't have to spell out all he ways in which Islamic radicalism is unlike fascism. But it is worth taking a look at the writings of the guy who pretty much invented fascism, good old Benito Mussolini. He wrote a little treatise back in 1932 that spelled it all out. It's true that fascism considered itself an enemy of democracy (and Marxism) and it fetishized war and violence. And yes, one of its primary tenets was imperialism.

We can argue about whether any or all of those components are part of the "Islamo-fascist ideology," but for the sake of argument, let's agree that on some level they are. But there are a few defining characteristic of fascism --- as defined by the man who made fascism a household name --- that surely make Islamic radicalism something else entirely.

For instance:

...The Fascist accepts life and loves it, knowing nothing of and despising suicide: he rather conceives of life as duty and struggle and conquest, but above all for others -- those who are at hand and those who are far distant, contemporaries, and those who will come after...


The foundation of Fascism is the conception of the State, its character, its duty, and its aim. Fascism conceives of the State as an absolute, in comparison with which all individuals or groups are relative, only to be conceived of in their relation to the State. The conception of the Liberal State is not that of a directing force, guiding the play and development, both material and spiritual, of a collective body, but merely a force limited to the function of recording results: on the other hand, the Fascist State is itself conscious and has itself a will and a personality -- thus it may be called the "ethic" State.......The Fascist State organizes the nation, but leaves a sufficient margin of liberty to the individual; the latter is deprived of all useless and possibly harmful freedom, but retains what is essential; the deciding power in this question cannot be the individual, but the State alone....

Those two things, it seems to me, make any comparison between fascism and a loose confederation (if that) of suicidal religious fanatics spread all over the world, ridiculous. They might just as well have appropriated the phrase Mongol Hordes for all the sense it made. (Actually, Osama bin Laden has made that comparison --- with the US.) Not that it will stop the wingnuts from pimping it like it's the latest teen-age fad --- making sense has never been a hallmark of these people.

The funny thing is that if you look at Mussolini's definition it does fit some modern western political factions much better than Islamic radicalism. I leave it to you to figure out who they might be.


by digby

Hawlati: Couple were killed in Arbil for 6 minute sex video

8/3/2006 KurdishMedia.com

London (KurdishMedia.com) 03 August 2006: In Arbil, southern Kurdistan’s capital, a couple were killed after their pornographic video CD was distributed in the city’s market, according to news published in the Kurdish weekly Hawlati on Thursday.

The couple were killed within one week. The woman’s body was found on Tuesday. The video is only 6 minutes and 10 seconds and it is taken on a mobile telephone, Hawlati stated.

The event has been the topic of discussion all over Arbil and the religious community in the mosques issued decrees for clamping down on the couple, Hawlati added.

They have good reason to nip this in the bud. Just ask this mullah:

As the 21st century progresses, it seems that every day brings new extremes of sexual debauchery and degradation. Simply put, our society has become obsessed by perversity. The term "pornography" itself no longer carries much of a stigma culturally, because what was once taboo is now the norm. Obscene material that was confined to seedy bookstores on the wrong side of town is now aired on network or cable television during the "family hour."


At the outset, let me be perfectly clear — especially to those who may shrug off or slyly wink at the cultural acceptance of pornography. Much like a mistress, the philosophical acceptance of this salacious material in everyday life is a wickedly insidious thing that, over time, will devastate individuals and families. We must assume a zero tolerance policy toward obscenity ... With every new assault made on God’s sacred and holy gift of sex, the appetite for lascivious images grows more insatiable.

As far as he's concerned, Iraqi society has the kind of morality we should aspire to. One wonders if he agrees with the sanctions. Let's say I'm more than a little bit curious about what he means by "zero tolerance."

One Year Ago Today

by digby

Even though the media doesn't seem to be buying it on the merits, I have to give the administration credit for their smooth pivot from their Katrina failure to defeating Hitler. It was savvy, you have to admit, to go down to New Orleans and give a couple of plodding, desultory speeches while Rummy delivered a half-mad stemwinder about appeasement in the 1930's. Then, the minute the Katrina "anniversary" was over, Bush hightailed it out of town and immediately evoked the spectre of the Nazis, commies and martians coming to kill us all in our beds. I'm not seeing much about New Orleans anymore.

But I think it's important to remember, nonetheless, that while Bush drones on and on about terror and fear and struggle and pain and sacrifice this morning, one year ago today Katrina was far from over. Indeed, the story of his incompetence was just beginning.

Today was the day he did this:

After he returned to Washington he held that bizarre, stiff press conference as we watched people begging to be rescued from the top of their houses.

The New York Times described it the next day:

George W. Bush gave one of the worst speeches of his life yesterday, especially given the level of national distress and the need for words of consolation and wisdom. In what seems to be a ritual in this administration, the president appeared a day later than he was needed. He then read an address of a quality more appropriate for an Arbor Day celebration: a long laundry list of pounds of ice, generators and blankets delivered to the stricken Gulf Coast. He advised the public that anybody who wanted to help should send cash, grinned, and promised that everything would work out in the end.

He can assume a strong, manly pose today and catterwaul about "the decisive ideological struggle of the 21st century," and fearmonger about "a single movement, a worldwide network of radicals that use terror to kill those who stand in the way of their totalitarian ideology" from the comfort of a hand picked audience. But when the chips were down a year ago, he proved he couldn't lead his way out of a FEMA trailer.

One year ago today, I think we were all just beginning to wrap out minds around the scope of what was happening. I went back and looked at my posts and I think I was watching television most of the time because I only wrote a few. The pace picked up significantly over the following week as we all watched, appalled, at what was happening in an American city.

But it was clear that things were horrible even this early. That morning I wrote:

The pictures coming out of New Orleans are all horrible. But the income disparities among the citizens are brought into stark relief by this tragedy. Everyone is affected of course, but those who had little to begin with are truly left with less than nothing now. A whole lot of people who were hanging by a thread already just dropped into total despair. That dimension of the tragedy really makes my heart ache

As we know, it only got worse.

Think Progress has a very thorough timeline of events, here.


The Other Media Ain't Buyin' It Either

by poputonian

Boston Globe: Loose lips sink history
The latest effort -- transparent as it is inaccurate -- tries to draw parallels between Iraq and World War II.

LA Times: Pipe Down, Rummy
Rumsfeld's cranky outburst mangles a historical analogy, bad-mouths legitimate critics.

Seattle PI: Iraq War: The false specter
The defense secretary now deals with questioning of the mismanaged campaign by raising the false specter of World War II style appeasement.

Yahoo News: What Keeps Don Rumsfeld Up at Night?
Hint: It's Not the Body Count in Iraq.

How do you eat an elephant?

One bite at a time.

UPDATE: Sara at The Next Hurrah on Murrow and Olbermann

UPDATE 2: From the Salt Lake Tribune

A crowd of thousands cheered Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson for calling President Bush a "dishonest, war-mongering, human-rights violating president" whose time in office would "rank as the worst presidency our nation has ever had to endure."

The group - including children and elderly and some hailing from throughout Utah - then marched to the federal building Wednesday to deliver a copy of a symbolic indictment against the president and Congress for abuse of power and failure to uphold the U.S. Constitution.

With their signs labeling Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld the "axis of evil," calling the Iraq war a "mission of lies" or comparing the invasion of Iraq after Sept. 11, 2001, to invading Mexico after Pearl Harbor, the estimated 1,500 to 4,000 protesters hoped their demonstration at the Salt Lake City-County Building sent a message about the reddest state in the country.

"If they [the Bush administration] lack support in Utah, my God they're in trouble," the Rev. Tom Goldsmith of the First Unitarian Church told the lively gathering between protest songs and banner waving.

via: Dependable Renegade

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

See It Now

by digby

The full transcript is at Crooks and Liars.

Springtime For Felix

by digby

I find it quite interesting that every few years another picture turns up of some powerful Republican Senator with the grand Kliegels of the Council of Conservative Citizens? George Felix Allen is just the latest.

Many of you will remember this picture from a few years back. (h/t Atrios)

Lott was criticized heavily for his association with the CCC back in the 90's. Stanley Crouch wrote when the whole "Strom" thing blew up in 2002:

The "he," of course, is Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.). In late 1998 and early 1999, when I was writing column after column about him and calling for his resignation because of his connection to the Council of Conservative Citizens, there was no response from the media at large, with the noble exceptions of Frank Rich and Bob Herbert, both of The New York Times.

That proved to me that all the talk about a liberal media bias was bunk - at least when it comes to race.

What better target could there have been? Here was a man from Mississippi, a heaven for rednecks. Here was the council, an organization that described itself as "pro-white," that published articles in its organ, the Citizens Informer, that advocated separation of the races and discouraged interracial marriage.

Lott had published a column in the Citizens Informer and had his picture on the cover of an issue in 1992. The photograph showed Lott giving a speech to the council at "the exclusive" (guess what that means) Green Country Club in Greenwood, Miss. The accompanying article quoted Lott as saying: "The people in this room stand for the right principles and the right philosophy. Let's take it in the right direction, and our children will be the beneficiaries."

Peggy Noonan breathlessly agreed:

In the Lott scandal our indignation reached critical mass. A lot of conservatives, many of them 50 and under, decided enough is enough, let's end this, let a new party be born. And by the way, in the particular case of Trent Lott, it didn't start yesterday. Stanley Crouch just surprised me by sending me a column he wrote almost four years ago for the New York Daily News. It was about a Lott appearance before the Council of Conservative Citizens, a white-supremacist group. I said it was springtime and it's time to throw out the garbage, and Mr. Lott should go.

I wonder if any Republicans will be willing to publicly decare their desire to throw old Felix out with the garbage? I tend to doubt it. Racism is the new black this election season. But even if they do, it's quite clear there are many more where he came from. There always are.

Nothing To See Here

by digby

The Hotline blogometer says:

So What?

In sum, that's Ramesh Ponnuru response to lefty criticism of Club for Growth's targeting of Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) at the possible expense of a GOP majority in the Sen. For months now, progressive bloggers have been decrying the lack of media attention RI SEN has received compared to their efforts to unseat Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT). There are many things that distinguish the two races (Chafee was never a GOP VP candidate, for starters) but the more important difference is mentioned by Ponnuru: the Club for Growth does not exist to help the GOP control Congress.

On the other hand, pure partisanship is the stated goal of DailyKos' founder Markos Moulitsas in his book Crashing the Gates. This is part of what made the targeting of Lieberman such a story. Perhaps it is a function of who is in power, and who is not, but the lefty blogosphere is much more concerned with tactics and strategy than ideological purity. If the Dems have a Sweet November, then maybe we'll see if Lieberman-like purges become the norm, instead of the exception.

Uhm. Ok. But if the lefty blogosphere, under the iron rule of our Exalted Overlord Markos, only cared about "pure partisanship" then why would we target a Democratic senator in a safe seat? Kicks? Anyway, I thought we were a bunch of fanatical hippies trying to inflict our marginal 60% Iraq position upon the Democratic party against its will in order to re-run the 1972 election. Which is it?

And, yes, it's true that the Club For growth doesn't "exist to help the GOP control Congress," but then the GOP already controls congress, doesn't it? It doesn't make them any less partisan. Here's what the Club For Growth itself has to say about its intentions:

The Club for Growth exists to encourage, and make possible, the enactment of pro-growth economic policies by the federal government. The primary tactic of the Club for Growth PAC has been to provide financial support from Club members to viable pro-growth candidates to Congress, particularly in Republican primaries.


One lesson we've learned from the Left, is that if you really want to advance your agenda, take on an incumbent who opposes you. Let the people know the truth about how they vote in Washington. This terrorizes all the rest. In fact, it's amazing how fast cowardly politicians see things our way when they believe that their political careers are in danger.

Ed Crane of the Cato Institute has praised the Club for Growth as "the conscience of the Republican Party."

Yikes. Maybe they ought to change some of that "terrorize" rhetoric. Lord knows if we 'angry leftists" said it there would be rending of garments from one end of the radio dial to the other. And I don't know when the Club "learned" this from the left because the last I heard we blogofascists had just started this thing in Connecticut. When has this technique ever been used by lefty groups? Our special interests won't even withhold their support from Republicans when they stab them in the back over and over again?

The Club For Growth admits that it exists for the sole purpose of hammering Republicans who don't toe their line and puts big, big money into play in Republican primaries to mau-mau the incumbent or turn the seat over to someone they prefer. They brag about it all over their site. Yet we lonely bloggers sitting in our homes around the country, mostly as a hobby, are Stalinists who are purging the Democratic Party of anyone who deviates from our party line, which is ... pure partisanship.

The Club For Growth wrote the book on purging the Republican Party of politicians whom they deem to be insufficiently conservative on issues they care about. Why it should be considered a national story when "the angry left" challenges a senator they believe is out of touch with their values and not a story when "the angry right" does the same thing makes no sense.

Certainly, it's puzzling, to say the least, that nobody deems it a problem that a very close senate election looms --- and "the angry, suicidal left" was pragmatic enough to choose a safe Democratic seat to make their point, while the Republican Club For Growth (don't bullshit me) may just cost the Republicans the Senate.

No story there, nosiree.

I want to say thank you to the Club for Growth, one of the nation's most conservative organizations! They've always taken on tough races in order to help conservative candidates win in Republican primaries. The Club for Growth added a significant punch - just when we needed it most.

—After winning the GOP primary run-off in North Carolina's 10th district, Patrick McHenry,2004

Closing Out Of Town

by digby

It looks like Bush has finished his walk-on performance in the Katrina pageant and is moving directly into his next project, "They're Comin' Tah Gitya! Part VXIII"

So far the critics aren't impressed. From CNN:

QUESTION: So do you think your new series of speeches are going to have an impact on midterm elections?

BUSH: My series of speeches are -- they're not political speeches. They're speeches about the future of this country, and they are speeches to make it clear that if we retreat before the job is done, this nation will become even more in jeopardy. These are important times.

And I would seriously hope people wouldn't politicize the issues that I'm going to talk about. We have a duty in this country to defeat terrorists. That's why we'll stay on the offense to bring them to justice before they hurt us, and that's why I work to spread liberty in order to keep the peace. Anyway, thank you all.

PHILLIPS: That was the president in Little Rock. He's now on his way to Nashville, Tennessee. That's where our White House correspondent Ed Henry is.

Ed, he has got these series of speeches talking about the war on terror, capabilities of al Qaeda, and what the administration has done to protect the nation but he's saying these are not political speeches.

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, very interesting. The White House confirming today that the president will have a new series of speeches, as you're noting. He will start it tomorrow at the American Legion, and will go right through September 19th when he speaks to the United Nations General Assembly.

Does this sound familiar, a series of speeches from the president? It should. He's done at least three of these series. And I think this is a tacit acknowledgement by the White House that it really has not sold so far, and that's why he's taking yet another crack at it.

As far as the president's claiming he does not want this to get political, that's hard to believe at this point, obviously, given the fact that Democrats today are very upset with the comments yesterday from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, basically suggesting that critics of the White House war strategy are similar to those who were calling for appeasement that sparked Naziism back in the 1930s and '40s. That's gotten Democrats pretty hot today.

And it's interesting given that last week the president said that he's not questioning anyone's patriotism when they criticize his war strategy. Then you hear that from Secretary Rumsfeld.

What we're hearing from the White House is that the president is going to focus on broader themes about the struggle between freedom and tyranny. It certainly sounds like a two-prong strategy. The president putting out these larger, more flowery themes whereas some of his key officials like Secretary Rumsfeld really employing that hardball strategy, Kyra.

The previews don't look so good. The press is all over Rumsfeld's statements. Ken Mehlman on Hardball just about had a full-on meltdown under the withering questioning of Norah O'Donnell, of all people, who kept referring to Rumsfeld's speech as calling the Democrats "Nazi-era appeasers." (Evan Thomas even looked up from his snuff box, rearranged his lace cravat and intoned "it does have a whiff of desperation about it, what, what?") Victoria Clark on The Situation Room twice raised her voice above a whisper and appeared to have a pulse under a grilling by the robot named John King.

Maybe it's time for a rewrite. Or better yet, just close this turkey out of town.

Berube Writes A Dangerously Great Book

by tristero

I'm on vacation, and net access is bad around here but I got an email from Professor Michael Berube, DP* and he informs me that his new book What's Liberal About the Liberal Arts? is now available through Amazon. I've read it and it's flat-out wonderful.

Like all of Berube's writing, the book is crystal-clear, often very funny, and eloquent. His ostensible subject is the modern liberal arts education as seen from inside the belly of the beast, the English Department, ground zero of the extreme right assault on American academia. But as interesting as that is, and it's very interesting, that's just the maguffin (google it). It's like saying Gravity's Rainbow's about WW II rocketry. Well, yeah, but...

To be brief about it, if you have any interest in what liberalism really is, what it can accomplish in the US today, and why it is crucial to vehemently resist the far right's relentless obsession to eliminate it, you should read this book.

Full disclosure: Yes, Michael's a friend of mine. If you read the book, you'll understand why. He asked me to read What's Liberal About the Liberal Arts? in galleys and, if I liked it, to blurb it. I did so, happily. In fact, I'm quite honored he asked me, of all the people he could have asked.

*DP = "Dangerous Professor." Dr. Berube has been designated by David Horowitz one of the most Dangerous Professors in America and I am so totally jealousl I could spit.

by digby

There's plenty of commentary this morning about this Brian Williams interview with the president yesterday. But can I just point out that neither Williams nor Bush make any damned sense? Take this exchange:

WILLIAMS: When you take a tour of the world, a lot of Americans e-mail me with their fears that, some days they just wake up and it just feels like the end of the world is near. And you go from North Korea to Iran, to Iraq, to Afghanistan, and you look at how things have changed, how Americans are viewed overseas, if that is important to you. Do you have any moments of doubt that we fought a wrong war? Or that there's something wrong with the perception of America overseas?

BUSH: Well those are two different questions, did we fight the wrong war, and absolutely -- I have no doubt -- the war came to our shores, remember that. We had a foreign policy that basically said, let's hope calm works. And we were attacked.

WILLIAMS: But those weren't Iraqis.

BUSH : They weren’t, no, I agree, they weren't Iraqis, nor did I ever say Iraq ordered that attack, but they're a part of, Iraq is part of the struggle against the terrorists. Now in terms of image, of course I worry about American image. We are great at TV, and yet we are getting crushed on the PR front. I personally do not believe that Saddam Hussein picked up the phone and said, “al-Qaida, attack America.”

Talk about dumb and dumber. I know the president is intellectually handicapped and I don't expect much from Williams either. But couldn't someone have written down the questions for him beforehand so he doesn't ramble incoherently when he's interviewing the president?

And why oh why can't somebody pin the codpiece down when he says in one breath that the war came to our shores and that's why we're fighting in Iraq? Couldn't Williams have followed up with, "but if Iraq wasn't involved in the attacks, in what way was it part of the struggle against terrorism? Until we invaded, Iraq didn't have any terrorists." Bush would blather on about weapons of mass destruction and our oceans not protecting us, but at least it would be out there. That would be too much to ask, I guess.

The thing about how we are "great on TV but getting crushed on the PR front" is just bizarre. I have no idea what he meant by it other than it's something someone said about about himself and he applied it to the country. I can't figure out any other explanation.

This next part makes me feel sad for Bush the first. Junior is a terrible son, condescending and rude. Shakespeare is needed to explain it properly:

WILLIAMS: Is there a palpable tension when you get together with the former president, who happens to be your father? A lot of the guys who worked for him are not happy with the direction of things.

BUSH: Oh no. My relationship is adoring son.

WILLIAMS: You talk shop?

BUSH: Sometimes, yeah, of course we do. But it's a really interesting question, it's kind of conspiracy theory at its most rampant. My dad means the world to me, as a loving dad. He gave me the greatest gift a father can give a child, which is unconditional love. And yeah, we go out and can float around there trying to catch some fish, and chat and talk, but he understands what it means to be president. He understands that often times I have information that he doesn't have. And he understands how difficult the world is today. And I explain my strategy to him, I explain exactly what I just explained to you back there how I view the current tensions, and he takes it on board, and leaves me with this thought, “I love you son.”

He speaks as if his father is some simple working class bloke who loves his highly successful son and keeps him grounded with homespun wisdom. Bush doesn't listen to him about important things. But that's ok, because his simpleminded old Dad "understands that often times I[Junior] have information that he doesn't have." Sad, sad, sad.

Williams actually asks one interesting question:

WILLIAMS: The folks who say you should have asked for some sort of sacrifice from all of us after 9/11, do they have a case looking back on it?

BUSH: Americans are sacrificing. I mean, we are. You know, we pay a lot of taxes. America sacrificed when they, you know, when the economy went into the tank. Americans sacrificed when, you know, air travel was disrupted. American taxpayers have paid a lot to help this nation recover. I think Americans have sacrificed.

Dear God. He brags endlessly about lowering taxes and then calls it a sacrifice for the war effort. It's true that having air travel disrupted for a week was truly a lot to ask of us but we rose to the occasion. The economy he's been pumping as being great for years is now seen to have "tanked" and caused Americans great suffering. I won't even mention the war we didn't need to fight that's costing huindreds of billions of dollars --- which he promised would be paid for with Iraqi oil revenues and which will instead cost every American child more than can even be calculated.

The truth is that we have been asked to make a lot of very important sacrifices. As the blogger Phila at Boufonia writes:

It's often claimed that George W. Bush has asked for no sacrifices in this time of war. On the contrary, he's asked us to sacrifice our humanity and our compassion. He's asked us to sacrifice our privacy and freedom, and our respect for our fellow citizens. He's asked us to sacrifice every irreducible ideal - and there were few enough of them, God knows - on which this country was founded, and whatever fragile steps we've taken towards implementing them under the law. He's asked us to sacrifice any religious truth that would interfere with the dreary, mechanical pursuit of redundant wealth and false security. He's asked us to sacrifice our souls and our conscience, in exchange for his snake-oil promise that we'll never have to suffer the consequences of our own inhumanity. He's asked us to sacrifice our present for his future, and our future for his present.

And we have to take off our shoes at airports too.

Update: I just saw an extended version of the interview and Williams did follow-up with Bush about al Qaeda in Iraq and as predicted, Bush blathered on about all the usual crap about "suiciders" and state sponsors of terrorism and the world being safer without Saddam. But the question was, at least, asked.


Bush Ahmadinejad Debate Update

Meet Them In St. Louis - From Raw Story
(H/T to Commenter Ed Drone)


Liberated But Not Free

by poputonian

In a city with few real refuges from sectarian violence - not government offices, not military bases, not even mosques - one place always emerged as a safe haven: hospitals.

So Mounthir Abbas Saud, whose right arm and jaw were ripped off when a car bomb exploded six months ago, must have thought the worst was over when he arrived at Ibn al-Nafis Hospital, a major medical center in Baghdad.

Instead, it had just begun. A few days into his recovery at the facility, armed Shiite Muslim militiamen dragged the 43-year-old Sunni mason down the hallway floor, snapping intravenous needles and a breathing tubes out of his body, and later riddled his body with bullets, said family members.

In his book appropriately titled Liberty and Freedom author and historian extraordinaire David Hackett Fischer says, "In early uses, both words implied a power of choice, an ability to exercise one's will, and a condition that was distinct from slavery. In all of those ways, liberty and freedom meant the same thing."

But Fischer goes on to describe other ways in which their original meanings were different.

Our English word liberty comes from the Latin libertas and its adjective liber, which meant unbounded, unrestricted, and released from restraint. A synonymn was solutus, from the verb solvos, to loosen a set of bonds. These words were similar to the Greek eleutheria and eleutheros, which also meant the condition of being independent, separate, and distinct. The Greeks used these terms to describe autonomous cities, independent tribes, and individuals who were not ruled by another's will. That ancient meaning survives in the modern era, where eleutheros has spawned scientific terms such as eleutheropetalous or eleutherodactylic, for separate petals or fingers or toes. Eleutheria, like the Roman libertas, always impled some degree of separation and independence.

Freedom has another origin. It derives from a large family of ancient languages in northern Europe. The English word for free is related to the Norse frie, the German frei, the Dutch vrij, the Flemish vrig, the Celtic rheidd, and the Welsh rhydd. These words share an unexpected root. They descend from the Indo-European priya of friya or riya, which meant dear or beloved. The English words freedom and free have the same root as friend, as do their German cousins frei and Freund. Free meant someone who was joined to a tribe of free people by ties of kinship and rights of belonging.

A very similar meaning also appeared in the Sumerian ama-ar-gi, the oldest know word for anything like liberty or freedom, which appeared on clay tablets in Lagash before 2300 B.C. Ama-ar-gi came from the verb ama-gi, which meant literally going home to mother. It described the condition of servants no longer in bondage who returned to their free families.

In that respect, the original meanings of freedom and liberty were not merely different but opposed. Liberty meant separation. Freedom implied connection. A person with libertas in Rome or eleutheria in ancient Greece had been granted some degree of autonomy, unlike a slave. A person who had Freiheit in northern Europe or ama-ar-gi in southern Mesopotamia was united in kinship or affection to a tribe or family of free people, unlike a slave.

The question has been asked many times whether people in Iraq were better off under Saddam Hussein's dictatorship. Is that possible? I'm not necessarily asking is that so, but more is it possible for someone to enjoy a higher degree of freedom while existing beneath a dictator's umbrella?

Fischer again:

Roman libertas gave rise to a complex vocabulary of stratification and mobility that still echoes in modern English speech. The Latin adjective liberaliter meant knowing how to behave gracefully and generously, in the manner of a highborn person who is secure in the possession of many liberties. It is the root of our word liberality. The noun libertinus meant an emancipated slave who had been granted liberties that he had not been prepared to use. Our modern word libertine preserves this ancient meaning.

Within this social frame, ancient philosophers developed libertas and eleutheria as ethical ideas of high complexity. The leaders were the Stoics, who wrote at greater length about liberty than others in the ancient world, especially the slave Epictetus (A.D. 55-135) and the emperor Marcus Aurelius (A.D. 121-180). Both argued that to be truly free is to cultivate a spirit of independence from things that are not in one's control: bondage, tyranny, illness, pain, and death.

This Stoic condition of liberty could be achieved even in a despotism. It is striking that the leading stoic philosophers of liberty in ancient Rome were an emperor and a slave.

The article linked to above continues:

Authorities say it was not an isolated incident. In Baghdad these days, not even the hospitals are safe. In growing numbers, sick and wounded Sunnis have been abducted from public hospitals operated by Iraq's Shiite-run Health Ministry and later killed, according to patients, families of victims, doctors and government officials.

As a result, more and more Iraqis are avoiding hospitals, making it even harder to preserve life in a city where death is seemingly everywhere. Gunshot victims are now being treated by nurses in makeshift emergency rooms set up in homes. Women giving birth are smuggled out of Baghdad and into clinics in safer provinces.

In most cases, family members and hospital workers said, the motive for the abductions appeared to be nothing more than religious affiliation. Because public hospitals here are controlled by Shiites, the killings have raised questions about whether hospital staff have allowed Shiite death squads into their facilities to slaughter Sunni Arabs.

I guess in some cases it really sucks to be free.

Perhaps the great young inde-rocker Conner Oberst (with Emmylou Harris) said it best in his song Landlocked Blues:

We made love on the living room floor
With the noise in the background of a televised war
And in the deafening pleasure I thought I heard someone say
"If we walk away, they'll walk away"

But greed is a bottomless pit
And our freedom's a joke
We're just taking a piss
And the whole world must watch
The sad comic display
If you're still free start running away
Cause we're coming for you!

UPDATE: Here is a very nice set of photographs set to this Bright Eyes song (via You Tube) -- stay with it long enough to hear the bugle (is it a bugle?) that follows the words above, and of course, to hear the beautiful voice of Emmylou Harris. For those not familiar with Conner Oberst, the Bright Eyes front man, Rolling Stone Magazine tagged him as this generation's Bob Dylan.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Big Picture

by digby

What changed in the US with Hurricane Katrina was a feeling that we had entered a period of consequence --- Al Gore

I assume that a great many of you have seen An Inconvenient Truth by now. If you haven't, make a point to do it as soon as you can. One year ago today, that picture was on all our television screens and it is one scary image.

It's quite clear to all sentient beings (which excludes the faith based GOP and its corporate masters) that global warming is real, it's very serious and it's vastly important that we do something about it as soon as possible.


Carbon dioxide and other gases warm the surface of the planet naturally by trapping solar heat in the atmosphere. This is a good thing because it keeps our planet habitable. However, by burning fossil fuels such as coal, gas and oil and clearing forests we have dramatically increased the amount of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere and temperatures are rising.

The vast majority of scientists agree that global warming is real, it’s already happening and that it is the result of our activities and not a natural occurrence. The evidence is overwhelming and undeniable.

We’re already seeing changes. Glaciers are melting, plants and animals are being forced from their habitat, and the number of severe storms and droughts is increasing.

The number of Category 4 and 5 hurricanes has almost doubled in the last 30 years.

Malaria has spread to higher altitudes in places like the Colombian Andes, 7,000 feet above sea level.

The flow of ice from glaciers in Greenland has more than doubled over the past decade.

At least 279 species of plants and animals are already responding to global warming, moving closer to the poles.

If the warming continues, we can expect catastrophic consequences.

Deaths from global warming will double in just 25 years -- to 300,000 people a year.

Global sea levels could rise by more than 20 feet with the loss of shelf ice in Greenland and Antarctica, devastating coastal areas worldwide.

Heat waves will be more frequent and more intense.

Droughts and wildfires will occur more often.

The Arctic Ocean could be ice free in summer by 2050.

More than a million species worldwide could be driven to extinction by 2050.

There is no doubt we can solve this problem. In fact, we have a moral obligation to do so. Small changes to your daily routine can add up to big differences in helping to stop global warming. The time to come together to solve this problem is now – TAKE ACTION

"I Need To Wake Up" By Melissa Etheridge

Keep Your Nerve

by digby

Matt Yglesias has it exactly right. Regarding Rumsfeld's wild-eyed crazy act at the American Legion he writes:

This, I think we can assume, is the fall campaign. The idea is to psyche the Democrats out. To make them think they can't win an argument about foreign policy. To make them act like they can't win an argument about foreign policy. And to thereby demonstrate to the American people that even the Democrats themselves lack confidence in their own ability to handle these issues.

This is terribly important for everyone to understand. This is not a real critique. It's a psych-out designed purely to make the Democrats go wobbly and to get the media to portray them that way. It's about optics, heuristics and image. If the Democratic Party falls for it, it will be a crime. There is no substance to what they are saying and there is no reason for Dems to even flinch from such empty intimidation. Indeed, they should snarl right back in their faces.

Don't fall for it Dems.

Kewl Kid Krush

by digby

A bunch of people have commented on this kewl kidz exchange as they tried to explain their crushes on Flyboy McCain. Their halting explanations are all perfect illustrations of typical vapid, courtier sensitibilities. But I'd like to address just one comment from Howard Fineman, who seems to have gotten over his Dubya infatuation at long last and gone back to his first love:

MATTHEWS: -- after listening to the four of you. Why does the media like McCain? What's going on here? Does he seem to be more authentic than other politicians?

O'DONNELL: Well --

FINEMAN: Well, I think part of it on this --

O'DONNELL: Well --

FINEMAN: -- part of it on this specific thing, he knows what he's talking about. He clearly has a lot of experience, militarily, from the inside out on the Armed Services Committee.


FINEMAN: He knows his stuff on that -- on this particular question.

Feinman was referring to military issues apparently, but I think it's fair to extrapolate from that that he thinks McCain would make a good Commander in Chief. This leads me to mention Senator Straight Talk's recent unbelievable quote once again:

"One of the things I would do if I were President would be to sit the Shiites and the Sunnis down and say, 'Stop the bullshit,'"

There's a man who knows what he's talking about, alright.

Now, McCain does know a lot about certain military matters from his perch on the Armed Services Committee --- weapons procurement. He finds the odd system to rail against to keep his reputation as a "reformer" but he's neck deep in the military industrial complex. For instance:

I believe the American people can and must be protected from the possibility of a missile attack on our soil. Recent reports of successful tests of a missile defense system demonstrate that such a system can work. I supported legislation stating that it should be the policy of the United States to build a national missile defense system as soon as technologically possible. As President, I would make the deployment of a national missile defense system, as well as defense systems for our Armed Forces deployed overseas, one of my highest priorities."
salon.com | Jan. 10, 2000

Six years later:

FORT GREELY, Alaska, Aug. 27 — Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld said here Sunday that while the fledgling United States ballistic missile defense system was becoming more capable, he wanted to see a successful full-scale test before declaring it able to shoot down a ballistic missile.

“I have a lot of confidence in these folks, and I have a lot of confidence in the work that’s been done,” Mr. Rumsfeld said after touring one of the system’s two interceptor sites. But he added that he wanted to see a test “where we actually put all the pieces together; that just hasn’t happened.”

Mr. Rumsfeld’s assessment was more cautious than that of the Missile Defense Agency director, Lt. Gen. Henry A. Obering III of the Air Force. General Obering said recently that he was confident the system could have shot down a ballistic missile test-fired July 4 by North Korea, if it had been a live attack aimed at the United States.

And the boondoggle expands:

HUNTSVILLE, Ala., Aug. 15 -- The Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency, concerned about a potential threat from Iran, plans to recommend in the coming months a European site for ground-based interceptor missiles, the head of the agency said Tuesday.

Poland, the Czech Republic and Britain have been named by the agency as possible candidates to help bolster a fledgling U.S. missile defense shield against missiles launched from the Middle East.

Despite all the happy talk by people "who know what they are talking about," missile defense continues to fail spectacularly. But it sure pays well.

This is what McCain knows so much about. He knows how to feed the MIC beast. He's still stands solidly for this money pit and will stand solidly behind many more defense department money pits. He'll point to his lists of "defense pork," counting on the gullible kewl kids to take him at his word that they amount to anything --- or that he will lift one finger to stop any of them. But at the end of the day, the greatest insight he gained as a member of the armed services committee has been to deliver for defense contractors. The main lesson he's learned about national security generally is to enthusiastically endorse every single war that is proposed --- and then modify his position as necessary as the war proceeds. He does this for purely political reasons --- voting for war means never having to say you're sorry. He wisely calculates that he can con the kewl kidz into covering for his bad judgment because they think he "knows what he's talking about" even though he's often wrong and constantly criticizes the execution of wars he "supports" when it becomes politically expedient to do so.

It's possible that the calculation has changed with the obvious failure of Iraq, but I doubt it. Certainly, among the gullible kewl kids all you have to do is strut manfully and they will fall in love every time.


Faith-based Positing

by The Presbyterian Church

Religious Book Points 9/11 Finger At Bush

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has tumbled into a new dispute over the Sept. 11 attacks of five years ago.

Its Presbyterian Publishing Corp. has issued "Christian Faith and the Truth Behind 9/11" (Westminster John Knox), containing perhaps the most incendiary accusations leveled by a writer for a mainline Protestant book house.

Author David Ray Griffin tells of concluding that "the Bush-Cheney administration had orchestrated 9/11 in order to promote this (American) empire under the pretext of the so-called war on terror."

"No other interpretation is possible," he asserts

Presbyterian Publishing's unapologetic responses to the critics insist that Griffin's "carefully researched" work and "intellectually rigorous arguments" merit "careful consideration by serious-minded Christians and Americans concerned with truth and the meaning of their faith."

The publisher's publicity contends that Griffin "applies Jesus' teachings to the current political administration" and puts forth "an abundance of evidence and disturbing questions that implicate the Bush administration."

Presbyterian News Service explains that the publishing house, though one of the denomination's six national agencies, receives no church money and "operates with complete editorial autonomy." It is governed by a board elected at the Presbyterian assembly.

Griffin's ultimate goal? He wants Christians to try to supplant America's "demonic" regime with a system of "global government."

I'll be darned.


Ahmadinejad Challenges Bush To TV Debate

by poputonian

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad voiced defiance on Tuesday as a deadline neared for Iran to halt work the West fears is a step toward building nuclear bombs, and challenged US President George W. Bush to televised debate.In a news conference, Ahmadinejad condemned the US and British role in the world since World War II but made no direct mention of the international nuclear confrontation.

“I suggest holding a live TV debate with Mr. George W. Bush to talk about world affairs and the ways to solve those issues,” he said.

Maybe Bush could define tribal sovereignty for him.

Monday, August 28, 2006

The Buck Stops Over There

by digby

Poor little Brownie is telling the truth:

Former Director Michael Brown told ABC News' "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" Sunday he stood by comments in a Playboy interview, and President Bush wanted him to take the heat for the bungling.


The former FEMA chief cited what he called an e-mail "from a very high source in the White House that says the president at a Cabinet meeting said, 'Thank goodness Brown's taking all the heat because it's better that he takes the heat than I do.'"

How do I know he's telling the truth? Well, I can't prove it, but I doubt very seriously that poor little Brownie read the Washington Monthly in 2002 and remembered this little tid-bit:

During a trip to West Point on June 1, Bush pulled White aside for a private talk. "As long as they're hitting you on Enron, they're not hitting me," said Bush, according to this Army official. "That's your job. You're the lightning rod for this administration."

That is why he shall ever be known as the Empty Codpiece.

Man Of Principle

by digby

Here's the man all the kewl kidz just love:

MCCAIN: I believe that the “Christian Right” has a major role to play in the Republican Party. One reason is because they’re so active and their followers are. And I believe they have a right to be a part of our party. I don’t have to agree with everything they stand for, nor do I have to agree with everything that’s on the liberal side of the Republican Party. If we have to agree on every issue, we’re not a Republican Party. I believe in open and honest debate. Was I unhappy in the year 2000 that I lost the primary and there were some attacks on me that I thought was unfair? Of course. Should I get over it? Should I serve — can I serve the people of Arizona best by looking back in anger or moving forward?

RUSSERT: Do you believe that Jerry Falwell is still an agent of intolerance?

MCCAIN: No, I don’t. I think that Jerry Falwell can explain how his views on this program when you have him on.

Here are some of those views that John McCain now believes have a major role to play in the Republican Party:

FALWELL: I expect the Lord to return in the 21st century to Rapture at his church. Now, I can't prove that. I cannot prove that the Lord is gonna come in this century. No one knows the day or the hour, but in my heart I believe it because there are no more predicted events that need to happen before our Lord can return.


I expect a global economy in the 21st century, which first will manifest itself as a cashless society. I believe that plastic will take the place of cash, and that while this will only be fulfilled during the tribulation period at the Rapture, I believe that God is setting the stage for, and laying the infrastructure for, a cashless society right now. Most people, many pay their bills online already. And the day will come, I believe, when there will be no cash, and the only way you can get cash and trade and to do business is to [points to his forehead] have the mark of the beast.

And then I expect the nations of the world in the 21st century to move rapidly towards a one-world government. We already have the U.N. -- it's a useless bunch. But we've already got the U.N., and they will not be the one-world government, but they are the infrastructure, the stage on which the Antichrist will build his one-world government.

And they have the brass cojones to call the netroots unhinged.

Update: And he's ready to go to Bob Jones U, too!

Pimping the Victims

by digby

Remember this woman?

Bronwynne Bassier was desperate. Roaming the streets of her Biloxi, Miss., neighborhood four days after Katrina, scavenging for food and clothes for her 2-year-old son, Bassier stumbled upon the one man who presumably could help: President George W. Bush. Rushing toward him, the 22-year-old single mother pleaded and sobbed. "My son needs clothes," she cried. "I've lost everything." Momentarily stunned, Bush appeared on the verge of tears himself as he listened. Bush tried to direct her and her younger sister, Kim, toward a Salvation Army shelter down the road, but ultimately comforted them the only way he knew how: he hugged them. "Hang in there," he told Bassier, kissing her forehead. "We're going to take care of you." Press cameras captured the moment and beamed the image of compassion around the globe.

A year later, Bassier's life remains like that of countless other Katrina victims: she lives in a FEMA trailer with her son and new husband. Her story offers a window into the workaday reality of life post-Katrina. "Meeting [Bush] didn't really change anything for me," Bassier tells NEWSWEEK. "I've been just like everybody else, trying to move forward with my life one day at a time." In a new NEWSWEEK Poll, 51 percent of Americans say they don't think Bush has followed through on his promises to rebuild New Orleans and the Gulf Coast.

To complicate matters, Bassier—a native of South Africa—has had a hard time getting a work visa. She'd applied for one after graduating from a local college last summer, but in the chaos of Katrina, the Department of Homeland Security lost the paperwork. More than a year later, her application is still pending. In May, Bassier sent a letter to the man who'd been there for her last year. But as of last Thursday, the president still hadn't responded. A White House spokeswoman confirmed last week that the administration received it, but said it had been forwarded to DHS. "We don't intervene in individual cases," says Deputy Press Secretary Dana Perino.

But guess what? Just in time for the Katrina anniversary, when Bush is planning his series of saccharine, phony photo-ops, somebody gets a call:

This chapter of Bassier's story may yet have a happy ending: after NEWSWEEK's inquiries, Bassier received a call Friday from the White House inviting her to meet with President Bush this Monday when he visits Gulfport to mark the first anniversary of Katrina. (A White House aide tells NEWSWEEK that the invitation had long been in the works, but they hadn't been able to locate her until Friday.) She plans to make her case in person for a work visa. And she wants to thank President Bush for coming back. She's not angry, but she's looking for more than a hug.

I'm sure the invitation was in the works for some time. They have been planning their pageant for months. Perhaps if they'd spent as much time working on actually fixing the problems as how to spin them, the Gulf Coast might look a little bit better today.

Let's hope they come across with that work visa and more. Too bad Ms Bassier didn't have an agent. She could have set herself up for life.

Diaspora Lemonade

by digby

Jonathan Alter writes in this week's Newsweek:

A year ago, in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina, NEWSWEEK published a cover story called "Poverty, Race and Katrina: Lessons of a National Shame." The article suggested that the disaster was prompting a fresh look at "The Other America"—the 37 million Americans living below the poverty line. "It takes a hurricane," I wrote. "It takes the sight of the United States with a big black eye—visible around the world—to help the rest of us begin to see again." I ended on a hopeful note: "What kind of president does George W. Bush want to be? ... If he seizes the moment, he could undertake a midcourse correction that might materially change the lives of millions. Katrina gives Bush an only-Nixon-could-go-to-China opportunity, if he wants it."

Some readers told me at the time that this was naive—that the president, if not indifferent to the problems of black people, as the singer Kanye West charged, was not going to do anything significant to help them. At first this seemed too cynical. The week after the article appeared, Bush went to Jackson Square in New Orleans and made televised promises not only for Katrina relief but to address some of the underlying struggles of the poor. He proposed "worker recovery accounts" to help evacuees find work by paying for job training, school and child care; an Urban Homesteading Act that would make empty lots and loans available to the poor to start over, and a Gulf Enterprise Zone to spur business investment in poor areas. Small ideas, perhaps, but good ones.

Well, it turned out that the critics were largely right. Not only has the president done much less than he promised on the financing and logistics of Gulf Coast recovery, he has dropped the ball entirely on using the storm and its aftermath as an opportunity to fight poverty. Worker recovery accounts and urban homesteading never got off the ground, and the new enterprise zone is mostly an opportunity for Southern companies owned by GOP campaign contributors to make some money in New Orleans. The mood in Washington continues to be one of not-so-benign neglect of the problems of the poor.

It's not neglect. It's design. The Republicans took a hit for their incompetence in handling Katrina, but in the long run they stand to benefit greatly from the African American displacement outside the state. The reconstruction delays and "not so blind" neglect serve the goal of a much lower black population in New Orleans. Louisiana is likely to be a deep red state from now on.

Perhaps that sounds too cynical, just as the idea that Bush would do nothing significant to help the poor victims sounded cynical last year. But after Bush vs Gore and the Texas gerrymandering and the California recall and voter disenfranchisement and on and on, I think it's incredibly naive to think they wouldn't make lemonade out of the Katrina lemon. The modern Republican party is deadly serious about electoral politics and nothing is too cynical for them.

The Institute of Southern Studies has sponsored a project called Gulf Coast Reconstruction Watch which has just put out an in depth report on the state of the Gulf and New Orleans and it's fascinating.

The first part deals with the diaspora:

Hurricane Katrina had an enormous impact on Gulf Coast communities from Alabama to Louisiana, with about 1.2 million people under evacuation orders before the storm made landfall. More than 1,500 people died as a result of the hurricane, and at least 135 are still missing. Besides killing hundreds of people, Katrina displaced thousands. According to estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau in June, southern Louisiana today is home to 344,781 fewer people today than before the hurricane. Evacuees were scattered to more than 700 communities throughout the United States, with some landing more than 4,000 miles from home. Life in the diaspora has been difficult for many, with survivors facing problems finding steady jobs and secure housing. Many survivors—both those who left their homes and those who remained behind—are also struggling with serious mental health problems such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

A disproportionate number of those whose lives were devastated by Katrina were poor and African-American people, many of whom faced intensified discrimination in the chaos that followed Katrina. Perhaps nowhere was that more apparent than in what happened on the Mississippi River bridge from New Orleans to Gretna, La. Soon after the storm, largely African-American crowds began to cross the bridge after New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin promised that buses were waiting on the other side. But police from Gretna, the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s office and the Crescent City Connection (a division of the state Department of Transportation and Development), blocked their way, even firing shots over the heads of desperate storm victims. That tragic incident sparked one of the first civil rights protests following the storm, when on Nov. 8 activists from New Orleans and other U.S. communities marched across the bridge following a rally at the Convention Center, where thousands of residents had suffered through inhuman conditions in the days after the storm.

The race and class divides exposed by last year’s hurricanes continue to manifest in the recovery. While many middle-class people and whites were able to summon the resources to return and rebuild, that task has been more difficult for poor people and people of color. That unfortunate reality is illustrated in statistics that have been released since Katrina showing a decline in the percentage of New Orleans’ African-American population as well as an increase in income among those who have returned.

For historically disadvantaged communities throughout the Gulf, Katrina continues to rage a year later.

Demographics Index

Number of persons Hurricane Katrina displaced from Louisiana: 645,000 to over 1.1 million

Number displaced from Mississippi: 66,000 to several hundred thousand

Total number of applicants for FEMA Individual Assistance for Katrina and Rita: 2,560,230

Estimated number of storm-displaced Gulf residents who were ages 65 and older: 88,000

Estimated number of U.S. communities to which storm victims evacuated: 724

Average distance traveled by evacuees from Chalmette, a largely white community in St. Bernard Parish, La.: 193 miles

Average distance traveled by evacuees from the Lower Ninth Ward, a largely African-American community in New Orleans: 349 miles

Estimated percentage of the New Orleans metro area’s pre-storm population of about 460,000 that had returned as of June 30: 37

Percent of the New Orleans area’s pre-storm population that was African-American: 36

Percent of the New Orleans area’s post-storm population that is African-American: 21

Increase since Katrina in the New Orleans area’s prestorm mean household income of $55,000: $9,000

Percent decline since Katrina in single-mother households with children in the New Orleans area: 43

Housing Index

Percent of Louisiana mortgages past due as of July 2006: 20

Percent of Mississippi mortgages past due: 13

National average for percent of past-due mortgages: 4

Average rent for a one-bedroom New Orleans apartment before Katrina: $578

Average rent for a one-bedroom New Orleans apartment as of July 2006: $803

Occupancy rate of livable apartments in New Orleans: 99 percent

Number of mobile homes ordered for the Gulf Coast: 7,737

Number of smaller travel trailers : 105,927

Number of storm-affected households holding Federal Emergency Management Agency hotel vouchers: 39

Number of storm-affected households approved for housing assistance: 946,597

Minimum percent of New Orleans public housing that is still closed: 80

Number of homes the Army Corps of Engineers has demolished in Louisiana since Katrina: 1,105

Minimum number of New Orleans public housing units scheduled for demolition: 5,000

Months after Katrina that federal money for housing reconstruction was approved: 10

Total federal funds dispersed so far to rebuild homes: $0

Interestingly, the Gulf Coast now has a higher African American population than it did before, although I doubt it has the electoral significance that an intact black community in New Orleans had. Still, it will be interesting to see if the whites on the Mississippi Gulf Coast start getting antsy about this state of affairs and if it will affect Mississippi politics.


Blown Circuits: An Autopsy Of The PPs

by poputonian

Jose Chung helpfully keeps the story moving along for us, the evil Left, with his dry and deadpan opposition to every point made. So once again he should be thanked for leaving this inquiry about the liberal world's fascination with literary GIANTS:

How much longer is the Left going to sit at rapt attention at the knees of Norman Mailer and Gore Vidal, two octogenarians ...

Oh those eighty-year-olds. What are they good for?

I twice commented in that thread that one other octogenarian, Kurt Vonnegut, should not be forgotten. Last year, Vonnegut published another best-seller, this one called A Man Without A Country. Vonnegut's humor will make you laugh, but his fatalism will make you cry. In typical Vonnegut fashion, the points he makes throughout the book are woven together with the flair of a creative writer. The two main complaints he emphasizes are unmistakable: the senseless killing being perpetrated by America, and America's addiction to fossil fuel. America is destroying the planet, which leads Vonnegut to reject the country he once fought for.

Overall the book is about politics, government, and philosophy, but on its sweeter side it is about people and family, about community. It might well be his best work ever. At one point in the book, Vonnegut describes how children learn to be creative, or how they came to use their brains to think and imagine; no sounds, no pictures, just thinking and imagining:

We are not born with imagination. It has to be developed by teachers, by parents. There was a time when imagination was very important because it was the major source of entertainment. In 1892, if you were a seven-year-old, you'd read a story--just a very simple one--about a girl whose dog had died. Doesn't that make you want to cry? Don't you know how the little girl feels? And you'd read another story about a rich man slipping on a banana peel. Doesn't that make you want to laugh? And this imagination circuit is being built in your head. If you go to an art gallery, here's just a square with daubs of paint on it that haven't moved in hundreds of years. No sound comes out of it.

The imagination circuit is taught to respond to the most minimal of cues. A book is an arrangement of twenty-six phonetic symbols, ten numerals, and about eight punctuation marks, and people can cast their eyes over these and envision the eruption of Mount Vesuvius or the Battle of Waterloo. But it's no longer necessary for teachers and parents to build these circuits. Now there are professionally produced shows with great actors, very convincing sets, sound, music. Now there's the information highway. We don't need circuits any more than we need to know how to ride horses.

Let's see how this circuit business works. Read carefully, Jose, and try to feel something as Vonnegut describes an experience he had during WWII. Have you ever served in a war? Have you ever been held captive? Vonnegut was an American prisoner of war, held in captivity in Dresden, Germany on February 13, 1945. That was the night the British intentionally massacred 135,000 people. Killed them all dead, in one night.

It was pure nonsense, pointless destruction. The whole city was burned down, and it was a British atrocity, not ours. They sent in night bombers, and they came in and set the whole town on fire with a new kind of incendiary bomb. And so everything organic, except my little POW group, was consumed by fire. It was a military experiment to find out if you could burn down a whole city by scattering incendiaries over it.

Of course, as prisoners of war, we dealt hands-on with dead Germans, digging them out of basements because they had suffocated there, and taking them to a huge funeral pyre. And I heard -- I didn't see it done -- that they gave up this procedure because it was too slow and, of course, the city was starting to smell pretty bad. And they sent in guys with flamethrowers.

Why my fellow prisoners of war and I weren't killed, I don't know.

I was a writer in 1968. I was a hack. I'd write anything to make money, you know. And what the hell, I'd seen this thing, I'd been through it, and so I was going to write a hack book about Dresden. You know, the kind that would be made into a movie where Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra and others would play us. I tried to write, but I couldn't get it right. I kept writing crap.

So I went to a friend's house -- Bernie O'Hare, who'd been my pal. And we were trying to remember funny stuff about our time as prisoners of war in Dresden, tough talk and all that, stuff that would make a nifty war movie. And his wife, Mary O'Hare, blew her stack. She said, "You were nothing but babies then."

And that is true of soldiers. They are in fact babies. They are not movies stars. They are not Duke Wayne. And realizing that was key, I was finally free to tell the truth. We were children and the subtitle of Slaughterhouse Five became The Children's Crusade.

Why had it taken me twenty-three years to write about what I had experienced in Dresden? We all came home with stories, and we all wanted to cash in, one way or another. And what Mary O'Hare was saying, in effect, was, "Why don't you tell the truth for a change?"

Ernest Hemingway wrote a story after the First World War called "A Soldier's Home" about how it was very rude to ask a soldier what he'd seen when he got back home. I think a lot of people, including me, clammed up when a civilian asked about battle, about war. It was fashionable. One of the most impressive ways to tell your war story is to refuse to tell it, you know. Civilians would then have to imagine all kinds of deeds of derring-do.

But I think the Vietnam War freed me and other writers, because it made our leadership and our motives seem so scruffy and essentially stupid. We could finally talk about something bad that we did to the worst people imaginable, the Nazis. And what I saw, what I had to report, made war look so ugly. You know, the truth can be really powerful stuff. You're not expecting it.

Of course, another reason to talk about war is that it's unspeakable.

I can sense the brain circuits of the right-wingers, or the flag conservatives, or the authoritarian followers, as they try to process Vonnegut's words: Just how courageous was he in battle? Prove it. Did he have any serious injuries, or just superficial ones? Did he have the right attitude, that of a soldier dedicated to his country? Does Vonnegut think any war is worth fighting; is the Constitution worth fighting for?

It so happens that idealism enough for anyone is not made of perfumed pink clouds. It is the law! It is the U.S. Constitution.

But I myself feel that our country, for whose Constitution I fought in a just war, might as well have been invaded by Martians and body snatchers. Sometimes I wish it had been. What has happened instead is that it was taken over by means of the sleaziest, low-comedy, Keystone Cops-style coup d'etat imaginable.

I was once asked if I had any ideas for a really scary reality TV show. I have one reality show that would really make your hair stand on end: "C-Students from Yale."

George W. Bush has gathered around him upper-crust C-students who know no history or geography, plus not-so-closeted white supremacists, aka Christians, and plus, most frighteningly, psychopathic personalities, or PPs, the medical term for smart, personable people who have no consciences.

To say somebody is a PP is to make perfectly respectable diagnosis, like saying he or she has appendicitis or athlete's foot. The classic medical text on PPs is The Mask of Sanity by Dr. Hervey Cleckley, a clinical professor of psychiatry at the Medical College of Georgia, published in 1941. Read it!

Some people are born deaf, some are born blind or whatever, and this book is about congenitally defective human beings of a sort that is making this whole country and many other parts of the planet go completely haywire nowadays. These were people born without consciences, and suddenly they are taking charge of everything.

PPs are presentable, they know full well the suffering their actions may cause others, but they do not care. They cannot care because they are nuts. They have a screw loose!

And what syndrome better describes so many executives at Enron and WorldCom and on and on, who have enriched themselves while ruining their employees and investors and country and who still feel as pure as the driven snow, no matter what anybody may say to or about them? And they are waging a war that is making billionaires out of millionaires, and trillionaires out of billionaires, and they own television, and they bankroll George Bush, and not because he's against gay marriage.

So many of these heartless PPs now hold big jobs in our federal government, as though they were leaders instead of sick. They have taken charge. They have taken charge of communications and the schools, so we might as well be Poland under occupation.

They might have felt that taking our country into an endless war was simply something decisive to do. What has allowed so many PPs to rise so high in corporations, and now in government, is they are so decisive. They are going to do something every fuckin' day and they are not afraid. Unlike normal people, they are never filled with any doubts, for the simple reason that they don't give a fuck what happens next. Simply can't. Do this! Do that! Mobilize the reserves! Privatize the public schools! Attack Iraq! Cut health care! Tap everybody's telephone! Cut taxes on the rich! Build a trillion-dollar missile shield! Fuck habeas corpus and the Sierra Club and In these Times, and kiss my ass!

By now the brain circuits of the authoritarians and their followers are breaking down. Ken Lay's did, and he killed himself. Rush Phlegmball's did, so he turned to painkillers. George Bush never had any circuits. The man used to blow up frogs with firecrackers. Now he blows up children with bombs. He can't feel a thing. Who will do the post-mortem on the brains of these psychopaths? Whoever it is, surely they will find broken circuits.

And please, Jose, respect your elders. Literary giants have something to offer that you won't get from Republican politicians or the right-wing echo chamber; something you'll never get out of the President-who-can't-feel-a-thing:

Experience, wisdom, and the truth.

Think about it. Imagine.

A Man Without A Country. It's worth the investment. Vonnegut even explains precisely why Shakespeare's Hamlet is a masterpiece. It might well be the best lesson you can get from the wise old man.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Ethical Realism

by digby

Your Sunday night reading assignment, should you decide to accept it, is this article in The American prospect by Flynt Leverett, former member of the Bush administration, who quit in 2004.

His assessment is one of the most clear eyed views I've seen of the ramifications of the Bush Doctrine as it's been applied in the middle east. He calls for a return to "realism" which not so long ago was considered a dirty word by people like me. But I've learned a few things in the past few years --- there is something far worse than foreign policy realism and it's called neoconservatism in full effect, a lethally stupid combination of puerile Trotskyite idealism with a belief that brute force is the only path to democratic utopia. Combine that with epic ineptitude and you have the chaos that the Bush administration will bequeath to the next administration. And if a Republican succeeds him, the roots of neoconservatism are now deep enough in the party establishment that it will probably carry on for some time.

After five years of that Frankenstein experiment I'm more than happy to try some old fashioned stability, if only to catch a breather and survey the damage that's been wrought. I suspect many ordinary people in the mid-east would appreciate it as well.

Leverett points something out that we Democrats are going to have to think about. As I noted in my post yesterday about the "bipartisan" neocon think tanks, we have some issues to deal with on our side:

This focuses attention on the role of Democrats as the nation’s “loyal opposition” and whether the party can articulate a “return to realism” in U.S. foreign policy. The party has little to be proud of in the way it has discharged its role on foreign-policy issues. It has endorsed (or acquiesced to) all of the fundamental tenets of Bush’s revisionist approach to the Middle East. Broad support for the Iraq War among congressional Democrats was intellectually legitimated by “experts” like Kenneth Pollack, who wrote a best-selling book using an analytically flawed assessment of the Iraqi WMD threat to argue that going to war against Saddam was the “conservative” option. Similarly, Democrats have not posed a significant challenge to the administration’s emphasis on democratization in its strategy for the war on terrorism or its non-historical approach to the Palestinian issue.

Democrats have fallen into a “soft neconservatism” that has dulled the party’s voice on foreign policy. Henry Kissinger once observed that the United States is the only country in which the term “realist” is used as a pejorative. The more progressive elements of the Democratic coalition have been especially strident in voicing their antipathy to Kissingerian realism. But it was the 20th century’s greatest Democratic secretary of state, Dean Acheson, who defined a fundamentally realist paradigm for U.S. foreign policy in Europe during the Truman administration that laid the foundations for eventual peaceful victory in the Cold War. America needs that kind of wisdom about the Middle East today. It is time for Democrats to understand that, when it comes to curbing the threats posed by problematic states like Iran, encouraging reform in strategically important states like Egypt and Saudi Arabia, or ensuring Israel’s long-term future, realism has become the truly progressive position on foreign policy.

It's popular to invoke the Truman, Acheson period these days and i'm a little bit skeptical about this somewhat romantic characterization of a policy that was driven as much by simple pragmatism (a good part of the world was in rubble) as overarching philosophy. But I suppose there is an argument to be made that by connecting with some heroic ancestors we might be able to reclaim the mantle of patriosim from the nutball neocons. But regardless, the critique of the Democrats is correct. Many of them have adopted a soft neoconservatism, which until recently, I assumed to be a purely political decision due to Bush's massive early popularity and the trauma of 9/11. I'm not so sure now. Seeing the reactions to the recent Israel-Lebanon war, I can only assume that some sincere kool-aid drinking has gone on and that is very worrisome.

I am not entirely sure how I feel about this notion of "Ethical Realism" but I'm completely confident that neoconservatism in any permutation is dangerous and doomed to fail.

I will repeat my favorite little story to illustrate:

I remember as a child a strange little neighbor girl who was found in her backyard swinging her cat by the tail against the sidewalk screaming "you're gonna love me!"

That's neoconservatism. It's so insane, I believe almost anything is an improvement.