18 03 2008

for the American political process, it was a pretty remarkable speech….that said, I think some intelligent criticism from the left is in order….from my mom’s star student Ted Rall:

Dem Wimp Throws His Truth-Telling Preacher Under the BusNEW YORK–If Americans were represented by an animal, it wouldn’t be an eagle. It would be a tiny shrew, nervous and paranoid and living in constant terror of being attacked by predators.

Our national prey mentality doesn’t have much basis in reality. The last attack on U.S. soil took place two-thirds of a century ago; Hawaii wasn’t even a state at the time. Before that, you have to go back to 1846–and we provoked that one. Whatever the historical basis–or lack thereof–for this innate fearfulness, U.S. voters look to their president as a Father Protector figure–someone who, if threatened, will ferociously defend what is now called, stupidly and horribly, das Homeland.

Republican candidates win elections in years when national security is a top concern. In 2004, it didn’t matter that John Kerry volunteered for, fought in, and returned with medals from Vietnam. What mattered was that he turned the other cheek to the Swift Boat ads. He held his fire in the debates. If Kerry wasn’t willing to stand up for himself, voters reasoned, how would he protect them? Bush may have been a coward during Vietnam, but his “dead or alive” cowboy movie bravado, not to mention starting a couple of wars from scratch, conveyed a comforting, if imbecilic bellicosity. The monosyllabic tough-guy act soothed a savage, terrorized electorate.

Hillary Clinton has figured this out. Her policy actions–voting for war twice, the Patriot Act, keeping silent about torture and Guantánamo–have been engineered to project Republicanesque hawkishness. She dresses butch and talks like a female prick–i.e., bitch. You don’t like her. She doesn’t want you to. She wants you to think that she’s macho enough to deal with Them the next time They pick a fight at three in the morning.


27 02 2008

this just in from The Hill:

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s (D-N.Y.) proposal to mandate that all people purchase health insurance would be a boon to the industry, filmmaker Michael Moore said Friday.

“Can you imagine, every time Sen. Clinton says that, the licking of the lips that goes on with these health insurance executives?” Moore said during a conference call with reporters.

Moore, director of the Academy Award-nominated documentary “SiCKO” about the U.S. healthcare system, criticized both Clinton and her rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.), for failing to support a universal system of government-financed health coverage during their runs for the White House. “The two Democratic candidates don’t quite get it,” he said.

and a mostly conservative Canadian paper casually reveals that

Republicans have created budget deficits with their tax cuts for plutocrats, CEOs, Wall Street hedge fund pirates, lawyer ambulance chasers, overpaid doctors and insurance companies. (Their combined profits last year were nearly what provinces spend on providing health care to 32 million Canadians).


22 02 2008

Ted Rall makes some trenchant observations:

Everyone knows that Senator Barack Obama was against the Iraq War since the beginning. He’s been blasting it in speeches since October 2002. He was still at it a few days ago, telling supporters: “John McCain and Hillary Clinton voted for a war in Iraq that should’ve never been authorized and never been waged. A war that is costing us thousands of precious lives and billions of dollars a week.”

Nice talk. But less than a year ago, on March 27, Senator Obama voted to fund the Iraq War to the tune of $122 billion. On April 26 he voted yes again, for a $124 billion version of the same bill. On November 16, he voted for another $50 billion. Billions of dollars a week…

Reporters don’t ask Obama why he keeps voting for the war if he’s against it. Former President Bill Clinton did: “…there was no difference between [Obama] and George Bush on the war and…there’s no difference in [Obama’s] voting record and Hillary’s…This whole thing is the biggest fairy tale I’ve ever seen.” He was absolutely right.

The media pressured Clinton–not Obama–to apologize.

And Matt Taibbi compares Hillary Clinton to Richard Nixon in Rolling Stone, but has no love lost for Obama:

In Barack Obama versus Hillary Clinton, we’ve basically got Kennedy-Nixon redux, and I mean that in the most negative possible sense for both of them — a pair of superficial, posturing conservatives selling highly similar political packages using different emotional strategies. Obama is selling free trade and employer-based health care and an unclear Iraqi exit strategy using looks, charisma and optimism, while Hillary is selling much the same using hard, cold reality, “prose not poetry,” managerial competence over “vision.”

….we were all suddenly reminded of all the reasons we came to hate the Clintons over the years — why there were scores of very smart people who by November 2000 were actually willing to pull a lever for Ralph Nader rather than go anywhere near a Democratic Party ticket. Seven years is, it turns out, a long time, just long enough to forget that Clinton fatigue was what saddled us with George Bush in the first place.


21 02 2008

Here’s a story that makes the point that Bush has, in his way, been very effective as America’s leader.  A sample:

The Clinton/Obama nomination battle is filled with ironies. It is important to watch, yet it is also a side show, a dangerous distraction from other developments. Obviously it matters who gets the nomination and in this tight race, how they go about getting it. But it must never be forgotten that George W. Bush still sits in the White House. His presidential powers are not diminished and he clearly has no intention of coasting through his lame duck year.

Bush has little reason to back down. His goals in 2008 are to leave his office to John McCain, and set the stage for continued Democratic support for his awful legacy. A kangaroo court show trial complete with a 9/11 conviction might do the trick.

While two people with essentially the same voting record battle as if they were actually different, six men will be tried by military tribunal at Guantanamo, charged with planning the September 11th attacks. They will face the death penalty if convicted. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is among them, a victim of “extreme interrogation” techniques before he confessed to killing journalist Daniel Pearl, planning 9/11 and causing bad weather.


“Bush’s goal is to set the stage for continued Democratic support for his awful legacy.”


Not only have the six accused men been denied due process in the American judicial system, but this military tribunal will be conducted in a presidential election year. Neither the media nor the Democrats have asked why they have not been charged until now, despite being in United States custody for years.

Neither Clinton nor Obama has pledged to end these travesties of justice and violations of international law. Both speak only vaguely of closing Guantanamo. Clinton goes out slightly further on the limb, saying she would determine on a case by case basis whether the federal courts or court martials should be used to try prisoners. Not surprisingly, Obama won’t go that far. “I think it’s important to be careful about commenting on specific cases pending before the tribunals at Guantanamo Bay.” In other words, Obama will continue the Bush policy of violating the Geneva conventions regarding treatment of prisoners. Bush still wins.

George W. Bush is an intellectual mediocrity who was never legitimately elected president in the first place. He now faces Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress and has an abysmal approval rating. It never seems to matter. Bush is clearly the most successful president in modern history.

“Obama will continue the Bush policy of violating the Geneva conventions.”

Where has he failed? He wanted to win by hook or crook, and he stole an election. He then perfected the art of electoral theft to insure more Republican victories. He wanted to loot the treasury for the benefit of corporations and wealthy individuals and he has. He wanted to invade Iraq, steal its resources and make it a cash cow for corporations and he did just that. He wanted to expand his power to conduct surveillance on anyone and he did. He declares that the president is above the law and can do anything he wants, including hold citizens indefinitely without trial. He has done that as well.



9 02 2008

It’s all over but the shouting in the New Hampshire recount, and the results, I would have to say, are mixed at best. On one hand, Hillary Clinton won fair and square, and there were not major inaccuracies in the count. On the other hand, the New Hampshire Secretary of State’s office reportedly treated the recount request, and the ballots themselves, in such an offhand manner that it was hard for observers (biased ones, admittedly) to believe they weren’t trying to hide something.

Electronic memory cards were missing. Ballots were kept in open boxes. Gee, I always thought of New Englanders as neat by nature, but according to the accounts I’m reading, New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner, a very prim-looking guy, was treating the cornerstones of democracy the way a distracted teenager treats his homework. I’m surprised we didn’t hear the line, “the dog ate my ballot.”

Meanwhile, we have Brad Friedman of Bradblog and Bev Harris of BlackboxVoting.org straining hard to find voting machine problems, but ultimately having to admit that “Most of the big reports are election administration failures. Administration failures are those failures that cannot be blamed on voting machines or the voters or poll workers. They are those failures that fall directly in the laps of clerks or registrars or boards of elections. Not enough paper ballots at the precinct is an administrative failure.”

One of the administrative failures was ballots in California that seemed rigged to cause independents to disqualify themselves from voting in the Democratic primary by failure to mark the right box on the ballot. Also in California, many people who intended to register as “Independent” were instead registered by the Board of Elections as “American Independent,” which is George Wallace’s old party, and were thus barred from voting in the Democratic primary. Another was that, in Green Party primaries, conducted by Republican and Democratic officials, there were (somewhat predictably) major glitches that may have been negligence and may have been malice–like ballots not being sent to rural counties in Arkansas, or Illinois’ decision to print a green stripe on Democratic ballots and a brown stripe on Green Party ballots, and fail to inform polling officials of the Green Party ballots’ existence, so that many Green Party voters were given green ballots instead of Green Party ballots.

Hey, guys, everybody knows the Dems are the ones with the brown stripe! But seriously, until we have a Green Party hefty enough to have representatives in the Board of Elections, we are not going to get any respect from the big guys. They are so insecure, and with such good reason…By the way, in case you hadn’t heard, the Greens are splitting between Cynthia McKinney and Ralph Nader like the Dems are splitting over Hillary and Barak.
But there have been no reports of weird results from the voting machines, no complaints of voter intimidation. Of course, it is just a primary, but would Diebold really skew their machines for Hillary? Considering the amount of attention that’s on this issue right now, the odds and consequences for getting caught probably look unacceptably high.

Here in Tennessee, we had faith-based voting, which is what you have to call voting on touch-screen machines. This may be our last video poker election, though! More on that in a minute.

Faith-based voting brought a big win for the faith-based candidate, Mike Huckabee, who wants to put Jesus in the Constitution, just like they did in The Handmaid’s Tale. He hasn’t said if he wants to change the name of the country to The Republic of Gilead. Tennessee also went for Hillary Clinton, in a pattern that I find very disturbing.

Obama won big in all the urban counties, including Williamson, which is usually considered a conservative hotbed–I guess what Dems there are around Franklin are liberal ones. In rural, redneck Tennessee, however he rarely polled more than 20% of the vote, and there were counties in which John Edwards did better than Obama.

Couldn’t have been because he’s white, now, could it?

What I infer from this is that racism is not dead in Tennessee, and I don’t think that bodes well for Obama’s chances should he win the nomination. If he doesn’t get the nomination, I’m not sure Hillary will be able to win the election, because she’s going to have to squash a lot of people’s hopes to prevail.
Here’s a couple of numbers for you: so far, approximately 17 million people have voted for Democratic candidates in the primaries, and only 11 million have voted for Republicans. I’m sure that if the Dems try hard enough, they can blow that lead.

And of course, John McCain is now the Republican front-runner, and the buzz on him is that a lot of conservatives and evangelicals won’t vote for him, so he can’t win, either. This is kind of a backwards way of arriving at the conclusion that the 2008 Presidential election is a no-win situation, but really it is. Whoever wins the election is inheriting a bankrupt, spendthrift country that can’t get out of a war it has no moral justification in pursuing and no money to pay for, a country that almost singlehandedly (through our prostitution of China and widespread promotion of “the American way of life” is pushing the planet into a heatwave the likes of which have not been felt since there were crocodiles in Greenland.

Phew….let’s not talk about that now…it’s almost too horrendous to contemplate…can we have a little good news? Even if it’s just a little?

OK, how’s this…as I said earlier, it looks like Tennessee is going to be able to dump its touchscreen voting machines, hopefully by next fall’s election, if the feds co-operate. (Downside: more toxic high-tech junk!) In spite of tremendous, almost inexplicable resistance by Tennessee Election Commissioner Riley Darnell, who acts like his salary gets paid by Diebold rather than Tennessee taxpayers–and hey, maybe it is, how would we know? In spite of resistance from the state’s election officials, and the same goes for them, a small group of committed citizens talked to enough legislators and got enough other citizens to talk to their legislators to get a bipartisan bill to the floor of the Tennessee House that calls for Tennessee to switch over to optical scan voting machines by 2010 at the latest, and this year if the feds come up with the funds. New Jersey Representative Rush Holt is pushing a bill through that will make funds available to states to switch back from the touchscreen machines mandated by Bush’s Helping America Vote Republican Act of a few years past. It’s not perfect, but it’s an improvement that, hopefully, can be improved upon.

Speaking of improving on the improvements, the next step after verifiable voting in Tennessee is getting somebody on the ballot who’s worth voting for. Current ballot laws in the state map out a tortuous and unlikely pathway for third parties to get a named ballot line–that is, for candidates to be identified on the ballot as being members of the Green Party, just for example, rather than as “independent.” A recent court case in Ohio ended with the Federal Sixth Circuit Court declaring that Ohio’s law, which is quite similar to Tennessee’s, is in violation of the First Amendment to the Constitution. The Green Party of Tennessee has joined with the Libertarian Party and the Constitution Party to initiate a lawsuit to overturn Tennessee’s ballot roadblock, and we have every reason to believe that the decision will be handed down in time for the November election.

It’s a little step, but it’s the first one we can take, and whatever we do, we can only do it one step, one day at a time. I hardly even see how it connects with changing the big picture, considering the resistance even a relative lightweight like Barak Obama met out in the hustings of Tennessee.

Perhaps all that’s left for us at this point is to meet the coming catastrophe as gracefully as we can, because it’s becoming obvious that politics-as-usual is going to prevail in the short run, and politics as usual is as capable of dealing with what’s headed our way as the Polish cavalary was capable of stopping the blitzkreig. And we, with our scattered little Green Party here in Tennessee, are metaphorically even more powerless than the Polish Cavalry. But we have a vision, and a call to live that vision–so what else can we do?

music: Eliza Gilkyson, “Milk and Honey”


1 02 2008

I TOLD YOU SO! From the Wall Street Journal:

The Bush administration, in a major policy reversal, canceled its support for a planned $1.8 billion coal-gasification plant that was supposed to herald a new era of emissions-free power but instead has been plagued by huge cost overruns.

“Clean coal” as if destroying West Virginia and Kentucky is clean. “Clean nuclear” as if the massive pollution from mining and processing uranium doesn’t count, as if the fact that waste from the used fuel will be lethal for longer than we have been human beings doesn’t count. Hey, if it’s good enough for Obama….


13 01 2008

This just in from New Hampshire: Dennis Kucinich and Albert Howard, a minor Republican candidate, have asked for a recount of the machine-tabulated ballots due to statistical irregularities in the way the vote broke down. Here’s the deal:

Just as in Ohio in 2004, where exit polls indicated a Kerry victory but the votes came in to give the state to Bush, Obama led in the exit polls but lost in the vote–but only in precincts that were machine counted. These were primarily more urban precincts where Obama should have done well. He won in most of the precincts that were hand-counted, which were more rural, conservative areas where Ms. Clinton would be expected to do better.

The machines that did this automatic counting were made by Diebold, the same company that provided the voting machines that Ohio’s new, Democratic secretary of state, Jennifer Brunner, says were rigged to throw votes to Bush.

If this really was a fix, the question is, whodunnit and why? Some people say that the powers behind the throne want Hillary, not Barak, to be our next President because she’s more with their program than he is. After all, it was her husband Bill who failed to pursue criminal investigations of the Reagan and Papa Bush administrations that set up the Cheney-Bush Junta. If the Iran-Contra and other inquiries had been pursued, many key players in our current ruling elite would now be in prison instead of power, and Hillary seems to be signalling that, as President, she would do the same. And hey, if Bill, on his way out the door, would pardon Marc Rich but not Leonard Pelletier, you know their hearts are not in the right place.

Others say that the Republicans think HIllary would be easier to beat than Obama, and that’s why Diebold, a major Republican campaign contributor, would throw the election to Ms. Clinton.

Why didn’t Obama complain? Maybe he didn’t want to look like a sore loser, since the media are trying to play Ms. Clinton as being picked on by the guys in the race. Hey, they’re not picking on her because she’s a woman. They’re picking on her ’cause she’s wrong!

If you’re more paranoid, maybe Obama is in on the fix. A Clinton-Obama ticket would lend her some much-needed charisma and set him up to run when she retires. And maybe everything was fine, but it starts the election season with questions about the integrity of the process, and that’s something we need to be vigilant about right through to the end. More on this as it develops.

music: Jackson Browne, “Lives in the Balance”


9 03 2007

I was cruising along in my car the other day, listening to the competition—NPR. They were telling the story of Jennifer Harris, a perhaps unique female Marine helicopter pilot, who had died when her helicopter was shot down while evacuating wounded soldiers. The profile that NPR ran characterized her as a truly extraordinary human being—not just motivated, but smart, compassionate and outgoing—and now very, very dead. I started crying so hard I just about had to pull over to the side of the road. Yes, I know she was a Marine, and I’m a pacifist. She was also a human being.

Tears of rage, tears of grief—because here was one of America’s best and brightest, killed just five days before she was due to leave Iraq. We are entering a very challenging time, when we are going to need all the good hearted, intelligent, clear-thinking people we can muster. To lose Jennifer Harris in a war that “should have never been authorized, and should have never been waged, and on which we’ve now spent $400 billion, and have seen over 3,000 lives of the bravest young Americans wasted” isn’t just a tragedy, it’s a crime.

I am quoting Barak Obama here. Senator Obama gets—not the truth in strange places, but the “profile in cowardice” award for backtracking on that remark. Those three thousand deaths (and the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi deaths we so conveniently sweep under the rug) and four million Iraqi refugees are the “collateral damage” from criminal fraud at the highest levels of the US government. None of Bush’s stated reasons for invading Iraq have turned out to be valid. Saddam was not a threat to anyone outside his country—the country Don Rumsfield and friends helped him control. There were no WMDs. The ones the US government gave him in the eighties were long gone. Establishing “democracy” in the Middle East was a bunch of hooey. Democracy cannot be imposed from the outside.

Our government’s political meddling has opened the way for Iraq to become a radical Shiite state like its neighbor, Iran—much to the dismay of Iraq’s other neighbor, Saudi Arabia. Putting more American troops into this situation is like pouring more gasoline on a fire in an attempt to put it out. Our army is in a situation it can’t fix, and to call insisting that it stay there “supporting the troops” is totally hypocritical, especially coming from an administration that has been repeatedly called to task for failure to supply our soldiers adequately, and for cutting back on the benefits and care available to injured veterans. The US military has been sent up in a box kite called Iraq, and to call insisting that it stay there and be shredded “supporting the troops” is another Orwellism from an administration that increasingly seems to conduct business in Newspeak.

In another Orwellian development, the Bush junta continues to rattle its saber at Iran over its alleged support of Shi’ite insurgents in Iraq, as if nobody noticed that the Iraqi government is Shi’a dominated and the Iranians have nothing to gain from destabilizing it. Most of the violence comes from Sunni groups, who are supported by Saudi Arabia—but the Saudis are our friends—or sell us lots of oil, which in the junta’s view is the same thing—so we’re not going to fuss at them. Until we dominate Iran’s oil just as handily as we control the oil in Saudi Arabia and Iraq, Iran will be the enemy.

Now the Democrats are creating the appearance of moving to withdraw US troops from Iraq. I say, “creating the appearance” because they are talking very specifically about pulling US combat troops out—the operational word here is “combat.” The US has established five very permanent bases in Iraq—four heavily fortified military bases and the likewise heavily fortified “green zone.” (Did they call it that just to smear our party?–but, I digress…) Any “withdrawal” that leaves these bases intact will not be seen by anyone in the Arab world as a withdrawal. It just positions the Dems to be scratching their heads in a year and asking, “why do they hate our freedom?” We have no right to make free with their country, their resources, and their way of life. That’s called “imperialism.” That’s what they hate.

We need to admit that occupying Iraq was as much an act of aggression as the Nazi occupation of Poland. We need to bring our war criminals to justice and make them pay the price for this oil war. American taxpayers should not have to bear the financial burden of the Bush junta’s calumny. Not that we won’t paying the price for their crimes in other ways even if we donate all of the combined treasuries of Halliburton, Exxon, and Shell to the Iraqi rebuilding effort, but you’ve gotta draw a line somewhere.

And Obama doesn’t seem to be the man to draw the line. He retreated from his honest statement about the lives of young Americans that have been wasted in Mr. Bush’s oil gambit. Furthermore, although he waxed eloquent over the evils of the Military Commissions Act, he has yet to cosponsor the bill that could repeal it. On the domestic front, despite his populist veneer, he has not endorsed universal availability of medicaid, although this simple solution to the insurance/health industry crisis is obvious to most Americans.

Why is Obama, like Bush, looking more and more like he’s all hat, no cattle? Just like Bush, it’s because of the money. The supercharged, superstar atmosphere that has been created around the Presidential race means it takes lots of money to be a player, and the only way to get lots of money is to get it from those who already have it—defense industries and insurance companies—thus insuring that there will be no radical new ideas introduced into the presidential debate. It insures that America will fail. It insures that Jennifer Harris died in vain. I put my fingers against the glass, and bowed my head, and cried….

Sen. Obama, there was no need to apologize. We ARE wasting our young people’s lives in Iraq. Iraq was not a problem until George Bush made it one. His obsession with Iraq has diverted our nation’s attention from the real issues we should be addressing: an environment that is spinning out of control; a dangerously selfish obsession with material security; an overdrawn and inefficient energy supply; loss of national and local self-sufficiency; and lack of accessible health care coupled with a media-induced ignorance of good lifestyle habits, to name the top few. These, not some ephemeral “victory in Iraq,” are the missions we need to accomplish.

music: Richard Thompson, “’Dad’s Gonna Kill Me

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