The Watch

The Watch is concerned about the increasing pressure towards feudalism in the United States from corporations, social regressives, warmongers, and the media. We also are concerned with future history concerning our current times, as non-truths which are “widely reported” become the basis for completely false narratives.

Friday, January 31, 2003

Chickenhawk Down

My apologies for the link yesterday about the Rush boycott. Apparently it had 24-hour linkrot, and then required an egregious registration process to access it. The gist was that some advertisers have already folded from the list of Rush's sponsors, and others were probably going to follow soon. The boycott was started most directly as a response to Rush calling war protesters "Anti-American".

Activism Watch

Thanks to Gary for this link to Working for Change. Under the "activism" link there you will find valuable links to look up contact information for your representatives. It is a good reminder that as easy as it is to complain about the current situation, and God knows it gets easier with each passing atrocity, real (non-silicon-based) activism can still change the world for the better.

Iraq Watch

This article from the Philadelphia Daily News hearkens back to the Atlanta article we saw a couple of days ago, but it is even more relevant to today and also more recent. It's good to know that this story seems to have some legs at least. Mail this one to some friends, it's important to know what the junta is up to.

Here's one from Mark Morford, who is way over the top today, and not mincing words.

Author Watch

I thought it was pretty bad when John Le Carre said that our country had collectively gone mad. But check out what Kurt Vonnegut has to say.

FuneralGate Watch

Here is an article which is a little more direct in discussing the possible perjury by the Pretzeldent in FuneralGate. Don't remember this from the campaign? Hmmmm. I wonder why. This seems pretty minor in contrast with the massive human rights and refugee problems we are about to unleash against the world, but it is good to know if someone starts going on about Clinton "lying under oath".

Bartcop Watch

One of the funniest, most partisan, double-barreled, no-holds-barred websites out there is Always good for a laugh, usually good for many great quotes and links to excellent articles. The man behind it started the website as an Anti-Rush Limbaugh site. Check out the back issues. There are several excellent rants archived there as well.

Dick Watch

Here is an old favorite about Cheney from that dearly departed daily, Suck. This exquisite article has some harsh words for W, Gore, and Lieberman as well, but the most poignant are about our VP; about what an armchair warrior he was in Desert Storm; about how Powell and Schwartzkopf had to keep him from implementing stupid military fantasies; about how his view of the military was shaped by Ken Burn's "Civil War"; about how he rhapsodizes about observing the gravestones in Arlington, but doesn't know what their actual shape is. The article is a tour de force. Please see "ChickenHawk Down".

Election Watch

Martin Sheen, who is not the President but plays one on TV, has endorsed Howard Dean. Dean seems to be one of the most exciting potential candidates in a long time, smart, charismatic, and humane, and he actually is pushing a progressive agenda. Imagine that in this day and age. Which means the media crucifixion of Howard Dean will begin soon and not let up until he is out of the race, either in the primaries or in the general election. See The Daily Howler archives at to see how it was done against Gore. In any case, keep an eye on Dean.

Environment Watch

Gary Trudeau hit one out of the park this Sunday.

Humor Watch

Atrios posted a link to this old article from The Onion today, which I remember enjoying very much when I first read it in early 2001. Reading it now, it seems like they had a crystal ball.

Thursday, January 30, 2003

Maybe anyone CAN grow up to be President

The beauty of a George W. Bush "presidency" is that it really lowers the bar for all kinds of complaints against future Democratic candidates. Now, the GOP can't with a straight face accuse anybody else's candidate of being inexperienced, stupid, a draft dodger, slow, a cocaine user, dim-witted, spoiled, obtuse, callous, thick, a product of the Ivy League, dense, a liar-under-oath, simple, corporate-controlled, vacuous, a convicted criminal, empty-headed, ideological, or dumb as a bag of hammers. Bush has taken all of those accusations off the table as disqualifications for the job of president. So, the GOP has decided it is ok for the president to have any or all of those qualities, and we certainly won't have them hypocritically railing against anyone else for those qualities. Or will they?

Two arguments you'll hear against the candidacy of Edwards are that he is inexperienced, and that he is (or rather was) a trial lawyer. The pace and the ferocity of the attacks against Edwards when he announced he was running indicated that the GOP is scared out of their wits that Shrub will have to run against him. Is he inexperienced? He has exactly, exactly, the amount of public service under his belt that Dim Son did when he ran for president, so I guess we can't count on the GOP not to be hypocrites (huge surprise there). He was also a trial lawyer. Trial lawyers have been vilified in our culture. One of the big reasons for that is that big corporations hate them. Trial lawyers represent one of the last ways that individuals can exert themselves in a meaningful way against the power of huge corporations, and so they are a particularly hated group by people who want concentration of power. "Trial lawyer" has become a hated epithet. But when you think about what many of them actually do, they don't seem so bad. Edwards was instrumental in a lawsuit against a company that made pool drains that sucked the innards out of children. I guess the GOP is pro-innards-sucking pool drains. Or something.

But wait, you are being recorded as saying (please see "So you are living in a police state" if you haven't already) - "lying under oath? I know the GOP had a fit when they were accusing Clinton of lying under oath, but I haven't heard of W lying under oath". That is because of the magic of our conservative media. Here are three articles on "FuneralGate", what should have been a scandal from Bush's term as Texas governor, which went highly underreported in the campaign, and which makes Bush a perjurer.

Blog Watch

There is an excellent new Blog by David Niewert called Orcinus.

Gasbag Watch

A cheery article on the Rush boycott.

Wednesday, January 29, 2003

The AIDS ploy and the democracy ploy

I heard the new Senate majority leader, Bill Frist, on the radio this morning, saying he was "blown away" by something in Bush's speech last night. Namely, that Bush had promised $15 billion to help fight AIDS in Africa. That sounds like a fairly big number. By my reckoning it is an average of $150 per household. If someone were passing the hat to help fight AIDS in Africa, that would be a pretty good haul. So good on Bush for doing _something_ for Africa, but shame on him and Frist for acting like it is a) a sacrifice on Bush's part (he's not paying the taxes, after all), and b) it is anything but a cynical spin point.

This also raises a point that neither Frist nor Bush seems to get. John Lewis, a member of the black caucus (I don't need to specify the Democratic black caucus because the GOP has no black members in the house or senate), said he was disappointed that Bush didn't mention race relations in his speech, which was a little surprising given the Lott thing and the U. Michigan case. Then NPR (which is becoming more and more a shill for their corporate masters - it is such a shame to hear that happening. I mean, we expect that kind of crap from Fox (or Faux, as it is so aptly nicknamed), but when we get Republican spin from NPR you know things are bad) puts on Frist to talk about sending money to Africa. Was this supposed to soften the paucity of Bush's vision on race? Why would NPR juxtapose these two points in this way?

Whenever Frist talks about race relations he also mentions his work in Africa, but never anything about what is going on in _this_ country. Here is a news flash for Frist and Bush: Africa is not where black Americans live! Those people are Africans, and no matter what you do for them, it doesn't change or improve the state of race relations among us here in this country. I guess the more important point for the GOP is this: black Americans aren't Africans!! Helping Africans != helping black Americans! You'd think they could grasp that basic concept, but I guess it is symptomatic of them not seeing non-white people in this country as true Americans. They can't fathom why African Americans don't trust the GOP - just look at the good work they do in Africa! Ha ha. It would be funny if it weren't so warped.

State of the Union Watch

I missed Smirk last night. I couldn't bear to watch everyone standing up and cheering and clapping how he read off the teleprompter, while having to listen to him mangle the language. There are several excellent (and some funny) takes on the speech, however: TBogg, A good editorial from the Daytona Beach News Journal (who knew?), and a line-by-line commentary by D. Ehrenstein.

Iraq Watch

There's a lot of rhetoric lately about how by invading and occupying Iraq we will be bringing democracy to Iraq and maybe we can get other countries in the region to have democracy, etc. This argument is a stinky load of dung. Do not be misled by it. Democracy is the last thing our government wants in many of those countries, for example, Saudi Arabia. The Saudis have a secular ruling class, suppressing a huge, highly fundamentalist Islamic religious underclass. Democracy for the Saudis would mean having the world's largest oil supply in the control of Islamic fundamentalists. We can't have that now, can we? This is why we can't say boo to the Saudis, even though most funding of terrorists comes out of Saudi Arabia, 16 of the 19 9/11 highjackers were Saudi, and Osama bin Laden is something of a favorite son there. If we don't like that, we should start work on fuel cells or something. (By the way, I heard the Smirky recommended hydrogen-powered cars in his speech last night. This, according to his partisans, belies the fact that the coming war is about oil. What a joke. The republicans know how to treat this issue. First, ridiculing people who actually believe it, like Gore. Then, adopting the rhetoric when it serves their purpose. Finally, offering little to no funding for the projects or not enforcing regulations on Detroit, etc. That was a huge whopper he told.)

On to two very strange articles. The first describes the "Shock and Awe" strategy which might be used against the Iraqis, especially those in Baghdad. I know everyone keeps talking about how "grateful" the Iraqi people will be when we "liberate" them, but if we bomb the crap out of Baghdad, killing civilians, won't they hate us? Wouldn't we expect them to? Also, doesn't that totally violate the Geneva convention? Since when has "total war" been acceptable? Isn't it a major war crime? Fortunately, we'll be spared having to worry about this further, since our reporters will not be allowed to cover this war except in very controlled and fawning ways.

Second, this very strange article about the US buying up Iraqi oil now, to cover some shortfalls. It also talks a bit about some of the international wrangling over oil which will come out of this conflict. But it all strikes me as very weird that the public is not really being informed of our true position in all of this. Iraq is ramping up its production of oil for us! Why? How strange.

Thanks to Paul for this excellent article on the cynicism and hypocrisy of the administration on the issue of inspections.

I think I am in love with Janeane Garofalo. Read how she hands the always obsequious-to-power Howard Kurtz his butt in this transcript.

Bush Watch

Consortium News has a really fascinating article about Bush's behavior and the way the corporate press has "enabled" his behavior. Full of good things which are important to remember.

Humor Watch

In honor of the State of the Union speech, the image at the top. (If you aren't a fan of Mystery Science Theater 3000, don't worry about it).

Tuesday, January 28, 2003

The end of photographic evidence

I read a really interesting article about a year ago (I had it linked but I can't find it now because I have such a crappy filing system for links) about how the last 150 years or so have been a really aberrant time in the history of humanity. Prior to the Civil War, there was never any photographic proof of anything. So, if someone told you they saw something, you would have to judge that claim based on what you knew of the person. No one could produce undeniable evidence in the form of a photograph, or a sound recording, for what they had seen or heard. All that changed with photography and videography. For a time, evidence of things seen could be encapsulated, stored, retrieved when necessary, produced for a jury, examined, etc. And that subtly changed the way we dealt with "the truth" between us. Because if a normally untrustworthy person could produce a picture to back up his account, well then we had to believe him, didn't we?

Just as technological progress produced this state of affairs, so does it take it away. Photo and video manipulation technology has become so good that there is now no way to distinguish well-made fakes and forgeries from real photographs and videos. And so, the concept of objective visual "proof" has passed away again, and we are left again to rely on what we know about ourselves as guides to the truth.

I mention all of this because I read that the Bush administration is now ready to produce the evidence against Iraq that they claim they have had for all of this time. On the radio this morning, it was announced they had satellite photos and intercepts which would show that Iraq has been cheating or continuing their weapons programs or something. Clearly, this is another step towards justifying their war inevitable.

But, it also raises some questions. Why produce this evidence now? Why authorize the UN inspectors, only to end run around them with this evidence, which we apparently didn't furnish to them in the first place? Why was this evidence not present in the packet which Tony Blair presented a month ago? If it was not ok to present it then, why present it now? What has changed? And finally, can we trust this evidence?

The movie "Wag the Dog" was about Gulf War I. Most people of course think it had something to do with Clinton, because of the beret-wearing presidential dalliance in the film, and because the conservative media did such a good job of parroting "Wag the Dog (Squawk!)" in talking about Clinton going after Bin Laden (remember him?). But the movie was devised as satire about how the US population was rushed into war against Iraq the first time. There were two crucial pieces of misinformation spread before the start of that war. The first was some _satellite pictures_ showing Iraq's army amassing at the Kuwait border, ready to invade. The second was a heart-wrenching tale about Iraqi soldiers removing premature Kuwaiti infants from their incubators, stealing the incubators, and leaving the infants to die. These data were used to push the Congress and the American people to support the fight against Iraq. And both of them were false, as cynically produced as the war against Albania was in "Wag the Dog". The satellite photos turned out to be completely false forgeries. The Iraqi army was simply not there. The incubator story was completely made up. The woman who told the story to Congress turned out to be the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador to the US, and had never even been in Kuwait when the baby story was supposed to have happened. The story was never verified by any other "eyewitness", and has been proven to be false. (I have links to articles discussing this deception, but I'm having trouble finding them. I'll keep looking).

To give Poppy Bush credit, he and his war machine did take the time to build up an international coalition against Saddam before we took him on, and these two lies may not have had to been used. Iraq was on the verge of invading another sovereign country, after all (even though Kuwait was slant-drilling Iraq's oil across their border - much like that Simpson's episode! And even though our Ambassador to Iraq at the time, April Glaspie, gave Saddam tacit permission to invade Kuwait along with assurance that we wouldn't do anything to stop him). But still, the rest of the world weighed the evidence and decided that Saddam needed to be stopped.

The current situation is totally different, because the people on this planet do not want this war. Even the American people do not want this war. Even Chris Matthews and Robert Novak (Robert Novak!), who usually are up to their cheeks in this administration's posterior, are opposed to this war. Even Norman Swartzkopf has expressed reservations, speaking for many Pentagon personnel who cannot give their views professionally. (See also these links for more veterans who are against this war, "3 Retired Generals Warn of Peril in Attacking Iraq Without Backing of U.N.", and former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark's letter to the UN).

So now the Bush administration, caught lying and obfuscating and hiding in secrecy so many times before, so obviously wanting to invade Iraq for the oil (they are, of course, trying to buy away France's UN security council veto by offering oil to French oil companies in the "liberated Iraq"), made up of the same people who doctored satellite photos and ginned up false human rights stories 12 years ago, are going to produce satellite photos as their smoking gun against Saddam.

All I'm saying is, we might need a grain of salt for this new "evidence". That's all I'm saying.

Iraq Watch

Digby has some excellent commentary on a NYT article about why our European allies think Bush sucks.

Humor Watch

Political Strikes has some funny cartoons made from actual photos. Usually good for a laugh.

Monday, January 27, 2003

Fait accompli

I saw a teaser for a set of shows on the Discovery channel tonight. It said that America was "preparing for the possibility of war". As much as I hate to admit it, the war in Iraq is a fait accompli. For while the rest of us are still preparing for the possibility of war, the Bush misadministration has been preparing for war. We have thousands of soldiers in place and ready to invade and nothing will bring them back until Bush has his wargasm. No development in Iraq can possibly stop them or change their minds. After months about going on and on about how we had to remove Saddam, and after the expense of amassing our invasion forces, Bush can't possibly back down now, no matter how sane or beneficial such a course would be. Now it is just a matter of when.

I've heard it mentioned that the people in charge of planning this little war of ours don't want to fight in the hot Iraqi summer, so you can see why the war rhetoric has been ramped up recently. They have to start this thing soon so they can be done by summertime. I'm guessing that Bush may be able to keep up his thinly veiled lust for blood and oil for another few weeks, but that by March the patina of acting like someone who even remotely cares what kinds of weapons Saddam has will be gone. "Enough talkin'!"

And then we will be off to the races in one of the most ill-conceived and reckless policy fiascoes in our history. "Gulf War II, This One's for Poppy". Even the Germans - the Germans! - don't want this war.

Right now the justification for invading is still way too thin. No proof of anything has been offered, and nobody, apart from Blair, supports our actions. But there will be a war, which means that they must be planning some massive PR event which will serve to paper over the holes in this idea long enough to get it going. Archduke Ferdinand is not around to assassinate, so who will it be? I'm guessing the CIA will off some of the UN weapons inspectors and blame it on Saddam. That would be pretty dramatic. Or maybe they will either stage or allow another spectacular terrorist attack, and plant an "I [heart] Saddam" T-shirt in the perpetrator's getaway car. Something like that has to happen, or else Bush is just really so arrogant that he thinks he can just bluster his way in as things stand now and damn the consequences.

This is what happens when we let our democracy get stolen. It is bad news for the entire world. Because of our position in the world today, we have a special responsibility to make sure that it doesn't happen again. But these guys will surely try.

Media Watch

Three very interesting developments at MWO lately: First, the good news that there has been a boycott of Rush Limbaugh, and it is meeting with some success. Go and join the boycott!! Second, Susan McDougal's book review in the NYT included false statements about Clinton's guilt in Whitewater. Third, Jeb Bush is cutting all funding to the Florida organization which is storing the ballots from the 2000 election, in the hopes that they go down Winston Smith's little memory hole and are never seen again. With the proof gone, they can spin the election theft any way they want to.

Thanks to Paul for this excellent article from Frank Rich. I have lots of these articles bookmarked - hopefully we'll have time to get to some more of them.

There is an excellent Top Ten Conservative Idiots this week and also a very good new This Modern World about oil and Iraq. (You may have to click through a couple pages of adds to get to it, but it is worth it).

Race Card Watch

You will find an excellent analysis of Affirmative Action here.

Dick Watch

Two items concerning Cheney's business while at Halliburton are here. Check this item and the one below it.

Friday, January 24, 2003

The Tax Warfare Banquet

The top headlines on a CNN news site this morning were: "Chinese Astrology: What it Says About You", "40% Off: Preorder Next 'Harry Potter'", and "War With Iraq: Can It Be Avoided?". Gee, do you think war can be avoided? Maybe if we all put our heads together and brainstorm, we can figure out a way to make that happen. It's also nice to see that this news "story" has its proper place among these headlines. To be fair, the Iraq headline was between the other two, not at the bottom, and all three were under the headline "Hard cold in the East", so at least we have our priorities straight. Also tonight, I note that the State department is warning Americans overseas that they should be ready to flee. So at least the heightened sense of fear is being maintained.

Korea Watch

Joe Conason has an excellent article about the stupidity of the term "axis of evil" before its first anniversary, the bungling in the Korean situation and our inconsistency between the North Koreans and Iraq. But really, for a sharp guy like him, this is like shooting fish in a barrel. See "Korean Crisis Befuddles Bush". Note that this is a time-sensitive link.

Media Watch

We've noted before that Helen Thomas is a national treasure, and she is proving to be even more valuable in the face of this administration than ever before. This article gives some background on her and the various administrations she has covered. But the money shot is at the bottom of the article.

Dick Watch

Joshua Marshall has written a very interesting article about what may well be a huge gap between the perceived and actual competence of Dick Cheney. "Vice Grip" gives many examples where the most egregious mistakes and missteps of this administration can be traced back and laid at the feet of the Snarling One himself.

Iraq Watch

Please see "The President's Real Goal in Iraq". This is one of the most important articles written about what may be our actual policy in the region, and where those ideas come from. It also contains a rogue's gallery of Iraq hawks. This article will chill you.

Class Warfare Watch

Finally today, here is a little parable about taxation which I first saw when a conservative friend of mine blast-emailed it to me along with others on his mailing list many years ago. At the time, it struck me as incredibly misleading. Apparently it was recently also featured on Sean Hannity's radio show and website (Hannity, along with Rush and Bill O'Reilly, make up the unholy trinity of the most egregious and dangerous liars in the public discourse). And again, it has struck me as incredibly misleading. Have a look at this little item, which is no doubt designed to make rich people cry in their soup about their unfortunate place in our system. Discussion at the end.

The Truth about Taxes

by Anonymous

Let's put tax cuts in terms everyone can understand. Suppose that every day, ten men go out for dinner. The bill for all ten comes to $100. If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes, it would go something like this:

The first four men-the poorest-would pay nothing;
The fifth would pay $1:
The sixth would pay $3;
The seventh $7;
The eighth $12;
The ninth $18.
The tenth man-the richest-would pay $59.

That's what they decided to do. The ten men ate dinner in the restaurant every day and seemed quite happy with the arrangement-until one day, the owner threw them a curve. "Since you are all such good customers," he said, "I'm going to reduce the cost of your daily meal by $20."So now dinner for the ten only cost $80. The group still wanted to pay their bill the way we pay our taxes. So the first four men were unaffected. They would still eat for free. But what about the other six-the paying customers? How could they divvy up the $20 windfall so that everyone would get his "fair share?" The six men realized that $20 divided by six is $3.33. But if they subtracted that from everybody's share, then the fifth man and the sixth man would end up being *paid* to eat their meal. So the restaurant owner suggested that it would be fair to reduce each man's bill by roughly the same amount, and he proceeded to work out the amounts each should pay.

And so the fifth man paid nothing, the sixth pitched in $2, the seventh paid $5, the eighth paid $9, the ninth paid $12, leaving the tenth man with a bill of $52 instead of his earlier $59.Each of the six was better off than before. And the first four continued to eat for free. But once outside the restaurant, the men began to compare their savings.

"I only got a dollar out of the $20," declared the sixth man. He pointed to the tenth. "But he got $7!" "Yeah, that's right," exclaimed the fifth man. "I only saved a dollar, too. It's unfair that he got seven times more than me!" "That's true!" shouted the seventh man. "Why should he get $7 back when I got only $2? The wealthy get all the breaks!" "Wait a minute," yelled the first four men in unison. "We didn't get anything at all. The system exploits the poor!"

The nine men surrounded the tenth and beat him up.

The next night he didn't show up for dinner, so the nine sat down and ate without him. But when it came time to pay the bill, they discovered something important. They were $52 short! And that, boys and girls, journalists and college instructors, is how the tax system works. The people who pay the highest taxes get the most benefit from a tax reduction. Tax them too much, attack them for being wealthy, and they just may not show up at the table anymore.

Unfortunately, Liberals cannot grasp this straight-forward logic!

That poor 10th man!! I think we should have a contest and try to find all the fallacies in this analogy (and there are plenty)! I'll try to give a start here.

First of all, let's assume that the numbers given for proportion of total taxes paid are correct, though there is no reason to assume that they are. Every study I've seen shows that the rich are not taxed anywhere near proportionally to their income. That means that in this little parable world, that for every $100 dollars these men have in income, that the 10th man gets $60 or more, probably closer to $70. [As a side note, this scheme is surely based on income taxes, which the oligarchs love to quote from, but as we saw from the Times article yesterday, total taxes for people are actually at about the same percentage regardless of their income.] Anyway, this guy is totally loaded compared to the other 9.

Second, let's assume that the "dinner" is meant to symbolize services and benefits derived from the government - the other parts of these men's existence is in the private sector, where their lives will reflect their actual wealth, etc. So, some of them are dressed in rags, and a few of them are probably sick with consumption and homeless. For the poorest, the dinner may be their only chance to get inside out of the weather, and the only opportunity to eat. The 10th man, of course, lives in a fantastic mansion, surrounded by his bodyguards and servants, living a lavish and wasteful lifestyle.

Back to dinner. There is $100 worth of food served every night. The 10th man gets foie gras and osso busco, truffles, caviar, a bottle of expensive wine to himself, and sweet delicacies for dessert. He eats every crumb and drinks every drop. And licks the plates. The waitstaff dote on his every comfort. The other diners eat more modestly - a plate of liver and onions and a beer here, a nice sandwich and soda there - on down the line, until you come to where the first four are eating celery sticks, some bark, ice water, maybe a little gravel for roughage. Because, make no mistake about it, the rich get much more benefit from the government than the poor do. For example, some of our tax money goes to regulate the airline industry for safety. If you're too poor to ever take a plane, you don't ever benefit from that. Our taxes build roads, but if you are too poor to own a car, that doesn't benefit you. Our taxes fund the FDIC, meaning up to $100,000 of our savings accounts are federally insured, so the richer you are, the more benefit you get from that. Tax-funded police defend the property of the rich, and our tax-funded military defends the interests of the wealthy overseas. And the freeloading poor? Sometimes they get some money to help pay their fuel bills in the winter (not this winter, though). Sometimes help buying food. Sometimes reduced rent. It is nothing compared to the way the interests of the rich are protected and pampered.

Now, back to the story. The next development is that the restaurateur cuts $20 off their bill. This is a false analogy to the way tax cuts work, so let's clear this up. First of all, mainly because of the 10th man's wine, the restaurant usually serves more than $100 dollars worth of food each night, and has been taking a steady loss. But he is now willing to feed them for $80. Maybe #10 has been complaining about his bill, and has bribed the waiters to agree with him. Maybe the owner is hoping to die before his debts catch up with him, and leave the mess to his son. Most likely he is borrowing money from man #10 to make up the difference, which he will have to pay back with interest. In any case, he has to provide the same meal he did before for a much lower cost, meaning either he will have to go into much more debt much more quickly (man #10, the creditor, doesn't mind this a bit), or he will have to cut back. Maybe he will fire the maitre'd. Maybe the sandwiches will get a bit thin. But the tenth man will most assuredly not notice any change in his menu. He would complain most bitterly if he did, and blame it on the celery at the other end of the table.

That the 10th man expects any benefit from the tax break at all is a little hard to believe.

Then the tale crosses the line from profanity to absurdity. The 10th man gets beat up by the other nine. If this is an allusion to some civil uprising in the US against the rich, I've never heard of such a thing. If it is just the other nine being angry at man #10 for being rapacious and self-serving, then my heart breaks for him. And what does "not showing up for dinner" mean? If it means that the rich will stop taking any benefits from the government, then good on them. But unless the tenth man moves clear to the next town, you can bet he will continue to show up faithfully for his dinner. He might refuse to pay, but he will be there for the food.

Those dumb Libruls just don't get it.

Now, I don't fall into the fallacy of rich people all being evil or poor people being all noble and humble, etc. But I wish the rich would stop feeling so damn sorry for themselves that they have to pay a few taxes, and shut up already. And I really really wish that they would stop trying to bribe all of our public servants to agree to change all of the groundrules and laws in their favor. If they could pay happily for their wonderful dinners, maybe buy a little something extra for the other end of the table because it is the right thing to do, then that would be a story worth telling.

Thursday, January 23, 2003

The Hatfields and the Husseins

As we plunge headlong towards a war with Iraq, it is becoming increasingly obvious that no one - no one - wants this war except for a small group of people surrounding the unelected president, people like Wolfowitz and Richard Perle. And it is clear that even though the rest of the world, including friends, enemies, even Robert Novak (!!), is coming out against this war, that this small group of people really, really wants to invade Iraq. They want some dead people, and they want them soon. And the only credible motivation left after all of the smoke is blown away is oil. Bush couldn't find oil in Texas, so now that he has the power of the American military at his disposal, he will use it to steal oil from another sovereign nation. I wonder how many dead Iraqis to the gallon we will get. Imagine: we have united France and Germany in opposition to this suicidal idea. W always said he was a uniter.

Nobody really believes that this "war" will make us safer in the long run. Why should it? We will be an aggressor nation, creating even more, and more bitter, enemies around the world with this action. You can't bomb somebody into loving you. (And, as we saw last week, cheesy PR campaigns don't help much either). What a huge fiasco our fear-weary citizens are being rushed into. Even if we all agreed that taking Iraq's oil was a great policy, the future implications of occupying a huge territory (with a population which will be at least partially hostile) like Iraq has not even been discussed - not the financial implications, not the political implications, and not the implications for national security. This fever-dream, this Hatfield-and-McCoy fantasy has got to be stopped.

Race Card Watch

Of course, I should have checked The Daily Howler before I wrote yesterday's piece on the University of Michigan case. Somerby has been all over this topic this week, writing three excellent pieces on the spin going on. In addition to tracing the 20/12 misrepresentation back to its original source, he documents very thoroughly which media outlets are repeating this false claim, gives links to an article that thoroughly explains the admissions point structure (and puts it in proper context), and shows us just how lazy journalists are. It is amazing that in this day and age, one spin point, one out of context spin point clearly meant to deceive, one outrageous spin point designed to obfuscate is repeated over and over again by journalists. None of them ever go to the original source for clarification or enlightenment on this point, or even to see if it is actually true - or if they do, they take a step back and purposefully decide to lie about it. They apparently think it is ok to repeat it because they themselves heard it or read it somewhere else. Amazing. And this lie becomes part of what is accepted as true because it is repeated so often.

What is also amazing to me is for what low stakes these folks will sell out their reputation for. I mean, I might be able to see perpetuating a known lie if the stakes were really important to the country for some reason, though I doubt this is what reporters tell themselves. But being too lazy to actually tell the truth or the context of Michigan's admission policy?? What a cheap sellout.

Class Warfare Watch

The Daily Howler this week also has some links to an analysis of what people in different income brackets actually pay in taxes, as a percent of their income. This article by Daniel Altman debunks many of the arguments put forward by Bush for his current stimulus plan. See especially the above chart.

Commentary on this article. The bottom line is that people in all income brackets pay roughly the same percentage of their income in taxes. How is that for regressive? And of course, wealthier people get more, much more, for their taxes than poorer people. More on this later.

I Can't Believe He Said That Watch

Secretary of War Strangefeld has finally apologized for his weird remarks about drafted veterans. He says he meant no disrespect, of course. While it may be true that the cost/benefit ratio for drafted troops is very high, it is certainly strange that he would choose to express that opinion, at a press conference, in such a tone deaf way.

Humor Watch

Barry Crimmins is an excellent progressive comedian. He turns current events into stand-up, with some very pointed straight commentary.

Blog Watch

Digby has an excellent weblog.

Wednesday, January 22, 2003

What to do on a Monday

Hooray for the war protestors!!

The beginning of each new week brings a real treasure of material from progressive and liberal websites, making Mondays and Tuesdays almost tolerable. Though it is Wednesday, I wanted to point you to some features which may help you to start your week with a laugh and also some good information.

I've already mentioned Pundit Pap at American Journal Online. This excellent feature always has lots of good nicknames for our acting president. (This week they used "Baby Dork" for the first time, but I like "Dim Son" also).

Also on Mondays, you will find a new This Modern World cartoon from Tom Tomorrow. Tom's blog page. New cartoons and archives.

Finally, a must-see feature is the Top Ten Conservative Idiots list, updated nearly every Monday at Democratic Underground. Check out this week's list. In addition to being an excellent key to conservative idiocy, this feature is succinct, timely, and always to the point.

Race Card Watch

By now, you've probably heard the din of conservative media shouting that an applicant to the University of Michigan gets 20 points for being from a minority group, but only 12 points for a perfect SAT score. As nearly every progressive web site I've seen points out, the 12 points for the SAT score are just additional to a whopping 80 points or so that applicants get for a strong academic high school record. There are places on the web where the entire UM admissions policy is laid out - it looks like a good balance of academic and social considerations to me. And, of course, conservatives rarely mention that students from Michigan's upper peninsula also get 20 points (Will Bush come out against this?). This whole foolish debate wears me out. But please note, that if you hear someone spouting the "20-12" talking point, that they are reading directly from the Republican National Committee's blast fax, and are either too lazy to check out the policy themselves, or are deliberately misleading you.

The Watch Watch

The watch will be archived periodically at its home web page. Check it out. Suggestions for permanent links are welcome. Thanks to everyone for their support.

Friday, January 17, 2003

Millions and Billions: A rule of thumb

How much does a $10 million dollar program cost you? Should you be upset that the Pentagon has "misplaced" billions of our dollars? (Maybe they should look under the couch cushions). I've always been amazed that the media provides no useful context for the money numbers they bandy about when discussing policy - nothing to hold it to the real world. I've tried to come up with my own rule of thumb, but I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts on it, (my numbers are probably full of holes) Or finding out what your rule of thumb is, if you have one.

Anyway, so here is my rule of thumb. I start with the assumption that there are ~275 million americans, and that there are roughly 2.75 people per taxpaying household in the US. Therefore, there are about 100 million taxpaying households in the US. Therefore, each million that something costs the feds costs each household about an average of one cent. So, I reason, and realizing it is just averages, a million dollar government program costs me one penny. A 100 million dollar a year program costs me a dollar a year. A billion dollar program costs me $10 - and now you are starting to catch my cheapskate attention.

Bush, the anti-Robin Hood, says his latest lavish give away to the super rich will cost on the order of $675 billion dollars over 10 years. The government will therefore need to take about 7,000 of my dollars over that time to make up the shortfall. Or it could go into deficit spending (and I will have to pay that much, plus interest, later). Or it could cut back its spending. None of these options is attractive or makes any sense. Will the media lay it out this way? No.

Propaganda watch

Thanks to David for this article, which briefly describes a government "media blitz" against, oh, I mean, aimed at Muslims. The $15 million program (only 15 cents from me, I guess I don't mind too much) is designed to fool Muslims in other countries about how wonderfully Muslims in our country are treated. I hope we do treat Muslims in our country with the respect that every person deserves. But maybe we could try fostering some goodwill in the Muslim world by not bombing the crap out of them and saber-rattling all the time. Just a thought. See "U.S. Propaganda Pitch Halted".

Right to Choose Watch

Thanks to Melissa for this article, which describes Bush's "National Sanctity Of Life" Day, timed to coincide with the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. The irony is so raucously over the top here, I don't even know where to begin. Perhaps with the sanctity of the all of those lives that Dubya saw fit to snuff out on Texas's death row (but who did, after all, have the benefit of Texas's famously competent public defenders and just legal system). Perhaps with the sanctity of all of those lives, American and Iraqi, which Shrub is just itching to extinguish (for what? The only logical rationale for this war is Iraqi oil). Perhaps with the sanctity of the life of the serviceman who had to take W's place in Vietnam when he was placed into the Texas Air National Guard after scoring the lowest acceptable score on the pilot exam, then deserted his post during wartime. Perhaps with the sanctity of all of the innocent Afghan lives we took while making that country safe for the oil pipeline which is being built there. Anyway, more pandering to his hard right base. It will be interesting to see what Dubya does now that the Republicans control all three branches of federal government. He might try to repeal abortion rights, which I hope he does not, but it would certainly be political suicide to do it. On the other hand, the Republicans have been cynically flogging this issue with the religious right for so many years that now they don't have any excuse not to repeal abortion rights. They are a bit damned if they do and damned if they don't, and being caught in this trap couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of hypocrites. See "Bush declares a National Sanctity of Life Day".

Class Warfare Watch

Paul Krugman absolutely hits one out of the park today. First, he compares Bushco to an alcoholic falling off the wagon. Then, he hits them with their broken campaign promises and the bogus "trifecta" lie. Then he rips the Red Ink Republicans for mortgaging our future, then rips them more on North Korea. I could go on and on - well, just read the article. As so many of us do when we read Krugman's articles, I hope he stays off of small planes. Off the Wagon.

Here is an earlier article from Slate about the recent idea to make it seem like the working poor don't pay enough taxes. Just watch this meme run! Meme Watch: Bushies Take the Bait

Humor Watch

Thanks to Gary for the picture above, which had me ROTFL.

Daily Watch

Also, please remember to visit Media Whores Online. They have been on fire lately! Bob Somerby has also been excellent. Look for his description of Bush's BOLD cheerleaders this week.

Thursday, January 16, 2003

Who attacked us, again?

I hope you are all doing well. Today the topic is figuring out who our real enemy is. We must have a real enemy, but is it Eurasia or Oceania? I know we were goin' ta git Bin Laden, Dead or Alive. I know North Korea is a bigger threat to us, but for some reason the Two Minute Hate is still directed to Mr. Hussein.

"You've seen one A-rab" Watch

Who attacked us? Apparently it was Al-Qaeda and Bin Laden and the one-eyed muslim cleric and their followers. A large number (15 out of 19?) of the highjackers were from Saudi Arabia, where the vast majority of terrorism funding arises. Most of the rest were from Egypt. None were from Iraq. No link has yet been produced which in any way ties Iraq to September 11, except in Bush's fevered imagination. (You've probably read that on the day of the attacks, Rumsfeld made a note to himself about OBL (Osama), and then wrote next to it "attack SH?" Because of their need to attack Iraq, the administration has been doing a PR blitz to tie 9/11 to Saddam Hussein, and their fear-mongering has apparently worked. Check out this poll question result:

"As far as you know, how many of the September 11th terrorist hijackers were Iraqi citizens: most of them, some of them, just one, or none?"

  • Most of them - 21%
  • Some of them - 23%
  • Just one - 6%
  • None - 17%
  • Don't know - 33%

(None is the right answer). So that shows you how successful this administration has been in misleading us.

An article on this and some other results of this poll.

"Iraq is the wrong target" talks about why Hussein != Bin Laden.

"Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda Are Not Allies" is another good one for clearing up this confusion.

Finally, it is mentioned by James LeCarre in an article entitled "The United States of America has gone mad". LeCarre is of course an author of spy novels, but if you've read his novels, especially his later ones, you know that he has done as much as anyone to show what a depressing, boring, inhumane, unglamorous activity intelligence gathering is. It is with this same dose of reality that he tries to understand the goals and politics behind Bushco and Blair. It's really sad to read this article and its title. To think of the good relations around the globe we have squandered - what a mess.

Humor Watch

Another pearl from The Onion: Bush on North Korea: "We Must Invade Iraq"

Wednesday, January 15, 2003


If you were in political control of a country, and you wanted to reduce the power of all of its citizens, what would you do? Let's say that they had a strong Bill of Rights, and other powers granted them by custom and by law; for example, the power to sue a corporation that had harmed them, the power to assemble, the freedom of speech, the freedom not to have the armed forces used against them in a police capacity. How would you reduce those freedoms? Certainly, you would start by ridiculing them and possible downplaying them. You would certainly try to besmirch "trial lawyers" who make suing powerful corporations possible. You would certainly emphasize the most egregious lawsuit outcomes, while downplaying the just outcomes. You would downplay the use of the freedom of assembly by not reporting on, or barely reporting on protests. You would question the patriotism of those who spoke against you. You would find ways to get around Posse Comitatus laws. Do you see evidence of those kinds of activities around you these days? Trials lawyers are a favorite boogeyman for the republican leadership. You'd never know that huge protests of people have occurred, even right in the nation's capital, because of the underreporting of those events (the size of the protests have already reached those of protests near the end of the Vietnam war, and we haven't even begun our oil-grab in Iraq yet!). And when the media does report on protests, they usually portray protesters as "kooks" and pretend they can't understand what it is they are even angry about. The perceived patriotism of anyone who speaks out against Bushco is under constant attack. And we are getting closer all of the time to the moment when our armed forces are used against our own civilians.

But that is just the psychological side of the attack. What about the real abridgment of rights? The key here is to start small, taking rights away from a small segment of the population, slowly leaching rights away from groups which are not favored by the mainstream, until, by means legal and otherwise, you have weakened the rights of all. So ask yourself, whose rights are being abridged these days? Our rights to privacy and against illegal search and seizure have been all but destroyed by the "War on Drugs". (Mr. Clinton, though I think he had his act together in a lot of very important ways, was pretty complicitous with the Reagan and Bush I regimes in the erosions of these rights) Our rights to speech, assembly, even worship, are now under attack. Finally, there is the right to vote.

Disenfranchisement is the ultimate loss of rights in a democracy - true political death. When you think about it, almost all of the other rights can be seen as rights which are enabling of the right to vote. People exercise free speech, in part, in order to influence your vote. Assemblies and protests are held to influence your vote. Vast amounts of money are spent trying to win your mind and your vote. In the end, voting is the only direct influence most of us have on the system, and its effects are almost wildly indirect. All we can do, most of the time, is pick who we want to make policy for us. But still, that little effect each of us has has to be guarded very preciously. And here is where we have to stand up to this erosion of rights. In some states, felons lose the right to vote. The oligarchs' answer to this is to happily produce more felons. They are also happy to make sure that more people who usually vote Democratic (you know who I'm talking about here) become felons. There is a lot more to talk about in the election of 2000, and we'll get to it at some point, but the vote suppression and theft that happened in Florida is a blot on all of us. Our media still won't talk about the vast, deliberate, coordinated, and disgusting disenfranchisement that happened in 2000 (and not just in Florida), but if they don't, our democracy will soon be dead. Because once power learns that it can get away with something like that, it will not stop. We must all guard preciously _everyone's_ legal right to vote, lest we all lose it.

Class Warfare Watch

Three excellent articles about Bush's latest obscene plan to lift all tax responsibility from the rich, from the always excellent Molly Ivins, Hendrick Hertzberg, and even David Broder, who usually is up to his keister in defending the current collection of thieves in power.

Humor(?) Watch

If you have a chance, catch the Daily Show on Comedy Central. They are very subversive, and very funny. Here is their finest work to date (that I've seen, anyway), "So You're Living in a Police State" (listen for these phrases: "fun-pressive", "presto betray-o", and "Freedom Plus"):

Try here or here.

Tuesday, January 14, 2003

Introducing the Veterans Against the Iraq War

Amid the good news that Bush's approval rating has fallen to 58%, there is cautious optimism here that the Democrats may be able to restore some sanity to our country if they are able to nominate the right candidate for the coming election. Let's wish them well, for all of our sakes.

Class Warfare Watch

It was the blogger Orcinus who really hit the nail on the Orwellian head (don't you wish we lived in a time when the adjective "Orwellian" wasn't always so apt?), with the pity quote: "Opposing class warfare is class warfare." That is so true.

Robert Kuttner of The American Prospect takes on Bush and his bogus cuts.

Axis of Evil Watch

An excellent article on why calling other countries "Evil" was such a stupid idea, this administration just had to run with it! Turns out, adding North Korea to the list, a move which can be directly linked to the amazing mess we are in currently, with them, was "an afterthought". It's good to know the adults are back in charge. The article also shows how this administration, and Bush in particular, gets the blame for turning a situation getting progressively better in Korea, into one which quickly has gotten very bad. And the not-so-hidden subtext here is that it was done deliberately, to keep North Korea "evil" as a justification for the Missile Defense Shield. Who's evil?

I Can't Believe He Said That Watch

Donald Rumsfeld recently said that a draft for a war in Iraq wouldn't be a good idea, because of the disadvantages of compulsive training. Here is a quote: "And what was left was sucked into the intake, trained for a period of months, and then went out, adding no value, no advantage, really, to the United States armed services over any sustained period of time, because the churning that took place, it took enormous amount of effort in terms of training, and then they were gone."

That the disadvantages to training and using draftees far outweigh the benefits may or may not be true (see the rest of the transcript), but doesn't this strike you as a crappy way to refer to those very unfortunate souls who were drafted into the Army, and then killed or stripped of their humanity in Vietnam? And for the Secretary of Defense to say it this way is very odd. Here are some responses:

  • A letter to the editor of the Washington Post.
  • Charlie Rangel's response. (Rangel, it should be noted, was the one who was originally calling for the draft, so that rich and privileged people would have to put their children under the gun of Bush's foreign policy in the same way poor and disadvantaged people - claimed by Rangel to be over represented in the current military - are. That the chickenhawks won't be led into this trap is clear from Rumsfeld's comments.)
  • The response of the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation. These guys are really pissed, no surprise. And I was surprised to read that the VVAF had shared a Nobel peace prize.

Veterans are really pretty smart Watch

More wisdom from veterans: check out the Veterans Against the Iraq War

Humor Watch

This has got to be my all-time favorite piece by the Onion. Enjoy!

Monday, January 13, 2003

Media Whore of the Year, 2002

So many good links, so little time. It's been suggested that there may be too many links in these notes to catch them all. I do apologize if they seem a little overwhelming - but there are just too many good articles and features coming out to ignore. Maybe after we take care of the first few hundred really good links, we can slow down to 1-2 per day. Onward -

Iraq Watch

If you have time for only one link today, make it this one: "Happy Imbeciles At War" by Mark Moford. I agree with everything in this article, except that on top of all that is predicted, I think we will lose quite a number of our military people in Iraq as well.

Media Watch

"Bushwacked" is an excellent analysis of the problem with today's cheerleading media.

MediaWhoresOnline announces the Whore of the Year for 2002.

Pundit Pap is a feature on the American Politics Journal. They typically watch the Sabbath Gasbags and give an excellent summary of what is being spun, and they update nearly every week. Check it on mondays. Here is a quote from this week's Pundit Pap to give you a feel for the commentary:

On the subject of Iraq, Frist first heaved a heavy sigh, then said Hussein had a decision to disarm or face the consequences. He said that the arrogant thug in the White House has been given the power to use "whatever means necessary" to affect this.

Then Frist said that we had to be clear that Iraq possessed no "weapons of mass destruction" (could a phrase get any more worn out?) and then made the idiotic point of noting that Hussein had used biological weapons on "his own people" and killed 20,000 Kurds.

First of all, the U.S. provided Hussein with the means to produce this "weapon of mass destruction", secondly, we knew very well what he was doing with them at the time and didn't say a word to object or protest, and thirdly, WHILE this "evil one" was gassing his political enemies, good old Don Rumsfeld was in Iraq shaking hands with Saddam as an envoy from Bush, the older!

And on top of that, there's never any mention of how, during the Gulf War, we made it clear to the Kurds that we'd back them to the hilt if they'd just rise up and fight to topple Hussein. We convinced them that it was OK to wage open warfare against Hussein, and then, after we pulled out and went home, we didn't lift a finger to defend them or evacuate them as Saddam slaughtered them in reprisal.

Nice, huh?

It's amazing how often that they use this phony excuse as if it somehow justifies going in there and killing thousands of innocent men, women, and children and stealing their oil. It makes me wanna scream.

Humor Watch

This is a very funny rant about Bush and his ambling foreign policy and his "everyman" persona. Good for a laugh.

Saturday, January 11, 2003

Media Groupthink

Media Watch

There is an excellent example of group-think in the media in a recent Daily Howler.
It is amazing how the media so pointedly repeats everything the republican national committee spits out, but I guess that's the liberal media for you.

Korea Watch

And, speaking of things I've already linked you to, Joshua Micah Marshall has been on fire about the Korea situation. If you haven't seen his stuff (especially since the new year), you should definitely be reading Talking Points Memo.

Getting your War On Watch

Humor is a wonderful thing. If you haven't been to "Get Your War On", please do so immediately if you need a good belly laugh. It would be even more wonderful if it weren't all so frightening.

Friday, January 10, 2003

The GOP: hypocritical, warmongering draft-dodgers

Hypocrisy is all about never having to say you are sorry. The current leadership of the GOP is all about hypocrisy.

I should disclaim here that I am still a registered Republican, I guess for two reasons. The first is historical - the ideals of the historical GOP are still ones I find virtue in: fiscal responsibility, social liberty, individual rights (the GOP still is the party of Lincoln), and personal responsibility. The second is that I'm afraid they wouldn't count my vote otherwise.

The current leadership of the GOP has strayed so far from these ideals as to make their philosophy indistinguishable from that very basest of human foibles, greed. And they are sickening hypocrites to boot.

Every thing that animates them is about greed. They've got theirs, so the hell to the rest of you. Instead of doing anything which might actually help a majority of americans, what they typically do is whatever they want and then insist, with the help of their bought-and-paid-for conservative media, that it is for the good of the country. Tax cuts for the very rich at the expense of everyone else? It's for the good of the country!

But this isn't what I want to talk about. Today I want to talk about serving in the military and hypocrisy. When Bill Clinton ran for president the first time, you may recall the great hew and cry rising up from the conservative media about Clinton being a "draft dodger". We heard all about the pot smokin', draft dodgin', woman chasin' Hillbilly from Arkansas. Clinton's stance on Vietnam and his own draft status was well thought out for a person his age, ethical, nuanced, and in the end even brave, as he exposed himself to the draft after one of his best friends was drafted, despite his opposition to the war. More on this at some other time.

There is a lot of evidence that George Walker Bush, the governor of Texas who is pretending to be a legally elected president of the US, was a deserter from the military in a time of war (a war he supported). If you haven't heard about it, it is because the conservative media has suppressed the story, and they certainly haven't pursued it. Deserting in a time of war is a serious offense, and can be punished (there is no statute of limitations) quite severely. Please see AWOLBush, Who Served?, and this article for more.

The Republican party still wraps itself in the flag. Oh, they are so durn patriotic! They like nothing more than sending our military off to die for corporate interests in some god-forsaken part of the globe. But, they don't go themselves, of course. You've probably already heard about Rush Limbaugh's pyloidinal cyst on his ass, his poor hygeine preventing him from fighting in Vietnam. "The ChickenHawk Database" really skewers and lays out who among our most bellicose and jingoistic public figures, wants everyone else to experience war but managed to get out of it when it was their turn. Not that you can't use military force wisely if you haven't served. It's just that we get a little suspicious of those who are so bloodthirsty about it, but who have no idea what it actually entails.

Thursday, January 09, 2003

The United States, as the world knows, will never start a war.

Growing up, we are told what a great country this is. Why it is great because we have democracy, some guaranteed freedoms. We have the rule of law and a system which is designed so that the innocent are not railroaded. How we don't have religious oppression because of the separation of church and state. We have other freedoms, like speech, freedom from unlawful search and seizure, etc. It's all in the Bill of Rights. And also, we learn about other countries which lost their rights, countries like Germany where hate propaganda and fear were used against the populace to stifle moral and ethical outcry against the amoral (and evil, we are told) government.

And we think to ourselves (or at least I did) "Thank goodness we have freedom of speech, and the freedom to assemble, and a well educated citizenry, and the means to keep our history alive and fresh so that we don't tumble into those same pitfalls."

And you wake up one day, and the citizenry is handing over its rights as fast as they can to a group of people who are using Nazi strategy not as a cautionary tale, but as a playbook. What happened?

Sure, we were all frightened by the attacks on September 11. Sure, the horrors committed by a populace stampeded by fear are not as fresh in our minds as they might have been in 1950. But, what have we let them do with our freedoms?

Do you think that freedom of assembly actually exists in America today? That americans, in this "free country" can actually protest something, like our glorious leader and his policies, freely? We'll have some counter examples to this presented in the days and weeks to come.

Don't forget the Reichstag fire.

Media Watch

Another hugely important site is "The Daily Howler". Go there, bookmark, and visit every day. The author, Bob Somerby, does an excellent job of chronicaling how the conservative news media lies, cheats, and propagandizes in order to defeat Democratic candidates. At this site, and in its archives, you will find the true stories of Al Gore and "invented the internet", Love Canal, Love Story, the Buddhist temple, Willie Horton, the canoe trip, the Posh Hotel, and all of the other amazing untruths the press showered on the public from 1998 on about candidate Gore. The site is partisan (Somerby, along with Tommy Lee Jones, was a roommate of Gore's in college), but fair in its reporting and meticulously attributed. Somerby continues his good work by looking at current conservative smear campaigns against the next round of Democratic candidates.

Korea Watch

More reactions to Smirk's Korean policy: "High Plains Bungler"

Class Warfare Watch

Apparently committing class warfare is much less of a crime than talking about it. After all, Bush can be the anti-Robin Hood all he wants, and if someone so much as mentions that the rich are getting much richer at the expense of the poor, that person is drowed out by the polly-like squawk of "Class Warfare! Class Warfare! Braaawk!" If Bush would just stop committing class warfare, maybe people wouldn't want to talk about it so much. "Who's Playing 'Class Warfare'?" Some class warfare humor: "Wealthiest 0.0001% Praise Bush Economic Package"

Fiesty Old Lady Watch

Here is an exchange between national treasure Helen Thomas and national prevaricator Ari Fleishcher a couple of days ago:
MR. FLEISCHER: Helen, if you think that the people of Iraq are in a position to dictate who their dictator is, I don't think that has been what history has shown.
Q: I think many countries don't have -- people don't have the decision -- including us.

Helen Thomas is not afraid to tell it like it is. I worry about her.

More excellent quotes and questions from Thomas at this press conference.

Conspiracy Watch

For the tinfoil-hat crowd, here are the "Top Ten Conspiracy Theories of 2002"

Speaking of conspiracies, we'll close today with a quote from JFK from 1963:

"The United States, as the world knows, will never start a war. We do not want a war. This generation of Americans has already had enough - more than enough - or war and hate and oppression."

If only that were still true today.

Wednesday, January 08, 2003

Welcome to The Watch

Happy New Year! I hope 2003 is happy and healthy for you. Welcome to The Watch, a periodic newsletter I am going to try to publish to keep my progressive-minded friends updated on what is happening in the world. This is a response to just feeling crummy about the way events are evolving and feeling powerless to do anything about it. Consider it mostly therapy for me, but if it brings value to you at all, I'm very happy for that as well.

Responses are welcome, and please let me know if someone you know would like to be (or should be) added to the Watchlist. Also, if you would like to be removed from the list, or if there is a better email for me to use. (Or, if you'd like to be BCC'd or something else).

There is a huge social pressure driving us towards feudalism in this country, a return to a dark age where power is concentrated in a very few hands and the power of individuals is almost nonexistent. The first premise of The Watch is that this is a bad trend, and that power to individuals is a good thing.

Most of what is going on in this country today can be viewed through this lens - try it! It's a fun game. For example, an increase of corporate power is concentration of power, and removal of power from individuals. So, if corporations can't be sued, that is a gain in power for corporations, loss of power for individuals. Therefore, most "tort reform" is bad, in as much as it tries to rob individuals of power. Regressive taxes are bad, in that they rob from the poor to give to the rich. Loss of our individual freedoms is a bad thing, though why this has to be said is an amazing development.

The second premise of The Watch is that this pressure is coming from a more and more coordinated effort from various groups, most prominently in the Republican Party and the conservative news media, but also from social conservatives, etc.

The third premise of the Watch is that hypocrisy is the lowest form of evil, and there is an awful lot of hypocrisy being shoveled around our national discourse.

The fourth premise of The Watch is that there is hope if progressive people work together to help create decision making processes which empower people and help us all to make choices which help all members of our society.

On to today's featured articles and websites!!

Media Watch

One of the most amazing transformations in the last 30 years (I think of Watergate as the last great triumph of populism vs. oligarchy in the press) is one where we now have a media system owned by, operated by, and wholly designed to benefit large corporations, which definitely benefit from oligarchy (and plutocracy). As such, they have become cheerleaders for all things which benefit the already rich and powerful in this country. The pundits, anchors, editorialists, commentators, and other mandarins of our age who happily take big corporate money in return for propagandizing and tricking people into voting against their best interests are betrayers of the public trust of the worst kind. THE MOST IMPORTANT WEBSITE on the web today is Media Whores Online.

MWO has a centrist-democratic position and watches carefully for the abuses of public trust in the media. Please visit, bookmark, and return frequently.

Korea Watch

Governor Bush has done a terrible job getting us into a boatload of trouble with North Korea. Please see the following articles on this horrible foreign policy fiasco:

* "Games Nations Play" (Please do register at NYTimes - if only to read the editorials of this very brave and very honest columnist)
* "Speaking loudly without any stick"
* "Robert Fisk: The double standards, dubious morality and duplicity of this fight against terror"
* Recent entries on Korea at Talking Points Memo
* "Morality is not a Strategy"

Enron Watch

An interesting slide show.

Virtues Watch

The Fattest Right-Wing Moralizer Award is announced.

Election Watch

An excellent analysis of how the democrats should not let themselves be railroaded by the media.