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, May 16, 2003

The racket of war

Warmongers/War Profiteers Watch

Here is James Woolsey, former head of the CIA, and member of the Project for a New American Century, declaring that "World War IV", which we are apparently now in, will last longer than WWI or WWII did but "hopefully" not as long as WWIII (aka the cold war) did. He also manages to threaten the governments of Iraq, Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt. No doubt he will be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize next. Here is the text of the speech, and here is an article on how Woolsey is all set to make handsome profits on this "war": "Bush ally set to profit from the war on terror" So I guess there really is no incentive for him to tone down his bellicose rhetoric. Thanks for stirring up the shite there Mr. Woolsey. I'm sure a lot of parents of dead servicepeople will be thanking you in the future, too. Some other bizarre parts of the speech are that he says Iran, Iraq, and Syria have been at "war" with the US for years, but we didn't notice (Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia) and saying that the US is "on the march" and "on the side" of the people of Saudi Arabia, and that the rulers of Saudi Arabia had better "be nervous" about us. This is so totally weird I don't know what to make of it. The rulers of Saudi Arabia, the house of Saud, are relatively urbane and secular, and without them, all of that precious oil that we can't live without would be in the hands of the much more fundamentalist population. Of course, he probably means that we are on the side of the population in as much as we would like to get rid of the government, take their oil, and then let the population choose their own government, as long as it is not a Muslim theocracy. Like we are doing in Iraq! Dealing with the House of Saud is the center of the devil's bargain which is at the heart of our relationship with Saudi Arabia. Poppy Bush has the rulers of Saudi Arabia as his most important business partners. So what is with Woolsey?

On a different note, instead of profiting from the conflicts he is trying to start, Rumsfeld seems to only have profited by selling nuclear technology to a country which we now call "evil". (There was a similar article about Richard Perle a month or two ago). Remember this the next time you hear these guys denouncing the Clinton administration's dealings with North Korea. If they thought it was a bad policy, at least they didn't let that stop them from profiting handsomely from it.

FCC Watch

More on the vote scheduled to happen in June: "FCC close to easing media caps Giant firms want to own more outlets", "FCC may ease rules for media ownership" and this. Also, Krugman on our broken media.

Dean Watch

Here is a good article on the Dean campaign, and a mini-biography of Dean. (I especially like this quote: One of the old ladies shakes Dean's hand and issues a command. "You beat that goddamn Bush," she says.) Here is the full interview from the article. Here is the Dean campaign's response to the bizarre attack by the DLC this week. LiberalOasis wrote some analysis of the attack and response.

Major T.J. Kong Watch

Here is an article about Operation Strangelove, which I missed this year, but sounds like a great idea.

Thursday, May 15, 2003

The Israelification of American conflicts

Terrorism is how poor people wage war. War is how rich people wage terrorism.

I don't know who's right and who's wrong in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. The prejudices go back centuries, and even the immediate problems are older than I am. I do know that most of the rest of the world feels profound sadness over the situation, as the extremists on each side harm and aggrieve innocent people on the other, and drag both societies into a continuing cycle of violence, retribution, mourning, revenge, and cruelty. The moderate voices on each side don't have the volume to rise above the rhetoric of the hard-liners, who seem to have the eradication of the entire opposing side as their only ultimate goal.

The Israelis always seem to go into "peace talks" with the same promise. If the Palestinians will only stop the violence, then they can have peace. But that always puts the ball in the extremists court. They don't want peace - they want violence, or they wouldn't be extremists. Therefore the peace process teeters on the actions of the extremists, and always seems doomed to failure. I've often thought that for peace to happen it would take an Israeli leader to stand up and say, "Look, we're going to continue to have bombings anyway. Here's what we are going to do. We are going to remove our settlements in the occupied territories. Then we will keep our defenses up, but we won't retaliate for violent acts. We will dampen the cycle of violence, until both sides can see that we are acting with integrity and the healing can begin." By accepting the fact that more bombings would probably keep coming until both sides realized they were serious about peace, it would take the power away from the extremists. (I should note here that I think Arafat blew it in a major way when he balked at the Oslo peace process and eventually killed the negotiations. He personally had a chance to make real progress for his people, and blew off the chance.)

But extremists like to have power. In particular, the more reticent Arafat is about reining in the bombers, the more power Sharon and Likud gets in denouncing them, launching their own horrible attacks against Palestinian civilians. So this horrible pattern of violence seems to work pretty well for the ruling classes of both groups - it is just the innocent, less powerful people getting maimed.

I don't know how exactly a country gets embroiled in a terrible, tragic quagmire like Israel/Palestine. But we've seen it before, in situations like France and Algeria, for example. France's ultimate answer was to withdraw from the aggrieved Algeria, thus ending the terrorism. One thing I do know, and that is that I wouldn't want to go down that path in this country. Our country is a wonderful place. Open and free, with the freedom to travel from place to place. Suspicion is not necessary in every public place. People are free to relax in safety in public, without worrying that something is about to explode and kill them. We are (still) relatively free from oppressive government monitoring to fight "terrorism", and I for one would like to keep it that way.

To keep it that way, we cannot be drawn into situations that could devolve into something like Israel/Palestine. However, that requires some subtlety on the part of our leaders. The solution is not just to smash the enemy, but to do some things about the underlying causes - to really think about why people are so antagonized that they would sacrifice their lives to kill and terrorize Americans. I'm not saying that the attackers are justified. But _they_ think they are justified, and to keep our situation from devolving into a horrible cycle of violence we need to think about that.

The Bush administration, of course, instead of trying not to antagonize people in the Islamic world, has been giving them more fuel for their hatred of us. Thousands of innocent Muslims have been killed by us in Afghanistan. Thousands of innocent Muslims have been killed by us in Iraq. We are not only antagonizing all of our traditional allies, including about 80% of the UK population, we are also bullying and threatening smaller countries into joining our "coalition", and are actively threatening Iran and Syria with invasion. What we have done is gone up to a hornet's nest, and beaten it vigorously with a stick. Obviously, there will always be people who want to attack the US just because it is a big, fat target: a rich, free society, and the only defense against them is good security and intelligence. But do we really have to give those people ample recruiting talking points in the world of moderate Muslims?

When we were attacked on September 11th, the world poured its collective heart out to us, reacting with support. The (hated) French responded by announcing that "We are all Americans", and there were many large gatherings of Germans, too, with "Ich bin Amerikaner" signs and shirts. Think about that. If the Eiffel Tower were bombed, would Americans announce that "we are all French"? That's the kind of allegiance we are in the process of killing with France right now. If we suffer another attack, after what we have now done in the Middle East and Central Asia, the only emotion it is likely to elicit from the rest of the world is schadenfreude.

I've attached a picture of an Iraqi boy named Ali. You may have already seen it. It is pretty heartbreaking - you may not wish to open it. Our forces killed Ali's mother and father, and all of his siblings. They also blew both of his arms off, and burned a large portion of his skin. This picture will be used to recruit lots and lots of Muslims into hating the US even more than they already do. And we handed this bit of PR to Bin Laden on a silver platter.

Let's review our accomplishments in our two foreign wars so far: We deposed the Taliban, who faded into the woodwork, and drove Al Qaeda even farther underground. We installed a former oilman as the leader of Afghanistan, but his sphere of influence is very small, limited to the capital city, and warlords control the rest of the country as they have always done. Osama "Dead or Alive" Bin Laden and Mullah Omar are still at large, and the Taliban is reported to be regrouping and gathering strength in the hills of western Pakistan. We deposed the Baathist Iraqi government, but we are now bringing parts of that government back into power to help us rule Iraq. We are in the process of installing an embezzler as the leader of Iraq. We are trying to get Iraq to have self-government, just not the kind of government they want (good luck with that). Saddam "Dead or Alive" Hussein is still at large, with at least a billion dollars.

We managed to make secure the Iraqi Oil ministry and the oilfields, and also to secure the way for an oil pipeline to be built across Afghanistan.

We weakened the UN, NATO, all of our alliances, and the rule of international law. We have severely antagonized the Muslim world. We have also demonstrated to the world that if you don't want to be invaded, you should quickly develop nuclear weapons, because then the US treats you much differently.

Iraq is a Pyrrhic victory. You cannot fight "terra" by waging war. Terrorism isn't a limited, particular set of people. It is a methodology, and a mindset. We have strengthened the mindset, and weakened our standing in the world.

The only conclusion I can come to is that the Bush administration looked at the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, and decided that it was an excellent model for how the US should live. Because we are getting ourselves into a cycle of terrorist attack and retribution, with both sides laying the blame on the other. It takes subtlety and wisdom to stay out of that kind of situation, attributes that our Cowboy in Chief's administration lacks.

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

Chickenhawks and the wars they love

Serving one's country is an honorable thing to do, especially in the form of providing "for the common defense". Even though they are funded by all of us, our country's military forces, coast guard, and national guard are made up of people who have devoted their time, energy, and talent to protecting the rest of us from physical harm and dangers to our property, our infrastructure, and our government.

The existence of the military and the way it is funded is one of the greatest practical admissions on our part that there is actually a good of the commons. We have all come together as one country to fund and create a group of employees for our common defense. Without this, we would each have to hire our own personal bodyguard or mercenary force to keep us safe, and most of us don't have that kind of money. The military was placed under explicit civilian leadership in the constitution to discourage the military telling us what to do, rather than the other way around (the tail wagging the dog). The military are our employees, but they are incredibly valuable, incredibly valued, and should not be wasted, thrown away, or used for political gain. We should always remember to treat their service with great respect, for while we train them, clothe them, house them, feed them, and pay them, they allow us to concentrate on things other than if we will be killed or overrun by hostile people.

A young person's decision to serve America is a serious one, for while the military offers definite opportunities, it also makes severe demands on almost every aspect of one's life. It also occasionally calls for risk to life and limb, and hardship, grief, and mourning for both the members of the military as well as their friends and families. As employers, we need to make sure that our military employees are well taken care of, and that after their service they are also provided for. I'm surprised that we even need to discuss the need for good, accessible health benefits for older veterans, let alone people who have been injured while serving, but those are the times we are live in.

In light of all of this, it is amazing to see the incredible contradictions underlying the actions and attitudes of the public, the military, and the current Republican leadership with respect to our armed forces. I'm sure there are many cultural and social aspects involved in these contradictions, but one of the most important factors has got to be propaganda, pure and simple.

The biggest contradiction of all, from which all others flow, is that the military loves the current Republican leadership and despises the Democratic leadership. I know that is a pretty sweeping generalization, but it does seem to be generally true, and it is certainly the impression which our corporate-funded media is eager to promote. Let's try to figure this out.

Could it be that the military holds in high regard politicians who actually served in the military, who have experienced military life, and served their country with honor? That would certainly make some sense. I mean, after all, Clinton got an academic deferment to go to Oxford on a Rhodes scholarship during the Vietnam war, and he was reviled as an odious draft dodger. And Bush Sr. flew for the Navy in WWII, and had his plane shot out from under him. Bob Dole is a genuine war hero. But they seem to be the exceptions to that rule. Let's return to two old favorite sites, "Who Served?" and The ChickenHawk Database. Who Served? lists people by who served and who never served in the military. The ChickenHawk database is focused on hypocrisy, highlighting people who are extremely bellicose in their warlike rhetoric and quick to throw military lives at problems when they themselves avoided combat. From these and other sources (see this for example), we find an incredibly long list of Democrats who served their country with honor: Gephardt, Daschle, Bob Kerrey, Al Gore, Charlie Rangel, Ted Kennedy. Jimmy Carter served his country for 7 years and flew fighters in the Navy. Even Mike (Zorba the Clerk) Dukakis and Walter Mondale served in the Army for a few years. Gore volunteered to serve in Vietnam as an Army reporter (an untrue smear about him is that he had a low lottery number and would have been drafted anyway, but he was already in before the lottery occurred) and was certainly shot at. Max Cleland, who the voters of Georgia recently voted out of office for “not being patriotic enough" (replacing him with draft dodger Saxby Chambliss), had three limbs blown off in Vietnam. John Kerry was decorated numerous times and was wounded three times in Vietnam. On the other hand, let's look at the Republicans (and Republican propagandists) who never served: Dick Cheney, Ashcroft, Wolfowitz and Perle (our two masterminds behind Iraq), Phil Gramm, Jack Kemp, virtue-meisters Bill Bennett and Ken Starr, Newt Gingrich, Denny Hastert, Tom Delay, Trent Lott, Bill Frist, Rick Santorum, and warmongers Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, Tony Snow, Wolf Blitzer, and Brit Hume. (This last bunch should be especially ashamed of themselves, as they propagandized shamelessly for the spilling of American blood on foreign soil, something they themselves would never do). Sure, Rumsfeld and Powell served in the military, but other than them and Dubya (more on him below), it would seem that military service disqualifies someone for a leadership position in the Republican party. If Clinton is an odious draft dodger for taking a student deferment, how much more so is Dick Cheney, who took 4 student deferments, and finally a 5th because he was married? John McCain, that rare Republican who served in Vietnam, was tarred and smeared mercilessly by the Bushites in the primary season of the 2000 election, and the media stayed mum.

I find it fascinating that this lack of service is so common a feature at the top of the current Republican leadership. And yet, maybe it isn't so contradictory. After all, the current Republican leadership does seem hell bent to destroy the assets held in common in this country, giving them away to private interests. Perhaps it is natural that that philosophy would be advocated by people who would not donate their own time, energy, and possibly safety toward the common good. And yet, they don't hesitate to put other young people in harm's way. It's amazing that the media paints the current Republican leadership as the party of patriots, strong on national defense, and it is also amazing that the Democrats have let them get away with it. Why are the Democrats, so heavy with veterans, seemingly more reticent to send our military people into harm's way? It couldn't have anything to do with actually understanding the costs and dangers of service and combat, could it? I don't think that only people who have served can make combat decision wisely, but I do think that an awful lot of people who don't seem to show much regard for the lives of American servicemen are A) Republicans who have B) never served. Still, the military loves them. Fascinating.

Ok, so it isn't prior military service that evokes the military love for the current Republican leadership. That much is certain. Maybe the military shows loyalty and high regard to people who keep them safe, who only apply military force to situations where an attempt has been made to minimize loss of life, or to avoid military conflicts all together. This hypothesis is clearly a straw man, as it is untrue just by looking at the anecdotal evidence. The Reagan and Bush I administrations made liberal use of the military in the Middle East, in the Caribbean, in Central America, and in Africa. The Bush II administration has made it clear that it thinks the proper response to September 11th is an never-ending military campaign against all of our "enemies", which at one point or another seems to encompass the entire Muslim world, plus Germany, France, Canada, and Mexico. The Clinton administration, as a recent counter example, was very careful in its choice of the application of military force, and would seem to have also been very judicious in exposing members of the military to harm. It has been said that Clinton never sent anyone into a combat situation who didn't come back alive. I cannot verify this, but does anyone know what the US casualty numbers were for Kosavo, Bosnia, or the bombing campaign against Iraq? If they were not zero, they were certainly small.

Which brings up Somalia. There has been a lot of heavy lifting done in the media to place the Somalia ambush and debacle in Clinton's lap. But let's face some facts about Somalia. George H.W. Bush put troops into Somalia at around Christmas time 1991, about a month before Clinton took office, under the guise of a humanitarian mission. Clinton left Bush's commanders in charge, following their advice on military matters until Mogadishu, when he decided since there was a) no good reason to be in Somalia in the first place (except at the behest of US oil companies like Conoco, Amoco, Chevron, and Phillips, who wanted at Somalia's rich oil reserves and wanted Aidid out of the way) and b) US soldiers were dying, that he would end it. The movie Blackhawk Down apparently portrays Clinton as not caring at all about the military men stuck in Somalia. It is also a complete hatchet job on Clinton, brought to you by Ridley Scott and Jerry Bruckheimer. Far from not caring about our people enough to protect them, Clinton was the only one who was willing to pay the political price for pulling us out of there before it got really ugly. It is true that Clinton's Secretary of Defense Les Aspen and his Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Colin Powell, (whom Clinton had left on in that role from Bush) did not send additional armor to the men in Somalia when it was requested. But Aspen and Powell were in the process of deciding to withdraw those troops. A congressional investigation into the matter drew mixed conclusions, but Clinton was never implicated in bad decision-making. Clinton did not send troops into Somalia, but he did get them out. So watching out for the life and limbs of people in the military does not win politicians friends. Only endangering military personnel will win military loyalty.

Maybe the military is attracted to people who do not cut deals with our military enemies? People who would never put profits ahead of our men- and women-in-arms' safety? Of course, this explanation doesn't work either, for our current Republican leadership is well known for profiting from people who shortly thereafter turn their weapons on American military personnel. Where to begin? How about with George H.W. Bush's father, Prescott Bush, who continued to trade and make profits from Nazi Germany for almost a year after America entered WWII, until his operation was stopped short by the Trading with the Enemy act in 1942 (see this for more details). Prescott's own son was soon to be shot down by Axis forces, but he couldn't see fit to stop making money with the Nazis? In more recent times, we can look to other US firms that made plenty of dough supplying arms to people who would use it against Americans. For example, there are the people who armed Noriega, the people who armed the Iranians (though the Iranians only used the weapons against our stated allies, the Iraqis), the people who armed the Iraqis, the people who armed the Contras (though, to be sure, the Contras only used their weapons against civilians, like a few American nuns, etc.), the people who armed the Taliban (and Al-Qaeda). In short, if we hadn't been fighting people who were armed to the profit of American corporations (and fighting them with weapons which also profited American corporations), we would have had very few people to fight with. Cheney's Halliburton, in particular, made lots of money in Iraq in the 90's, just shortly before he came to office and we started hearing about what a threat Saddam was. In the midst of all of this profitable, swirling activity of arming people and then having to take them out again, is Poppy Bush, the smiling mamba and prime mover in the Carlyle group. This most recent war in Iraq enriches the Carlyle group (and therefore Poppy Bush - and by extension Dubya, Frank Carlucci, former British PM John Major), Halliburton (and also Cheney), Bechtel (and therefore George Schultz and Casper Weinberger), Paladin capital group (and therefore James Woolsey), Trireme Partners (and therefore Richard Perle) - I could go on and on. War is a great money maker. (For more information, see this and this for starters). Isn't it wonderful that these guys can manage to save America from the imminent threat of Saddam's horrifying WEAPONS of MASS DESTRUCTION, and also at the same time get filthy rich in the process! What a neat-o trick. But if the armed forces have begun to feel like the puppets of American oil companies and defense contractors, they haven't complained about it. They sure do love their W! Clinton, of course, was never tied to war profiteering in any of his conflicts. That's why he's hated, I guess.

What about cutting veteran's benefits and military budgets? Here there might actually be something to the military's seeming dislike of Democrats. There was a spending bill prepared by the Republican House in 1995 that included some pretty major cuts in veterans' benefits, which Clinton did sign into law. Many people consider it to be a major mistake on his part. Surely Dubya, with this fervent love of all things military, has improved things for veterans and those in the armed forces (he did keep repeating "help is on the way" in the campaign). Alas, I find many articles online with titles like "Bush Cuts Veteran's Benefits by Billions", "How War Distracts from Outlandish Bush Policies", "Michaud, Allen protest cuts in veterans’ benefits", "At a time of war, how dare we reduce veterans' benefits?", and "As President Bush pours money into the military, he also reduces money to military veterans". All of this, of course, is to help fund the tax cuts Bush so desperately needs to get to his core constituency, the rich. Also this little gem: "Bush wants 175 million cut from military schools". So, you see, help is on the way, in the form of someone who will tell you how much he loves you, but will cut your benefits as well.

So, what kind of politician gives the military that warm fuzzy feeling they so evidently crave? Apparently, it is someone who A) never served in the military themselves B) enthusiastically puts them in harm's way C) profits enormously by selling weapons to the very people who are using them against our military D) profits enormously by selling weapons to our military and E) slashes veterans' benefits. To be fair, the above description only applies completely to Dick Cheney, Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, etc. Dubya himself served in the Texas Air National Guard for 4 of his 6 year commitment, and so doesn't fit all the criteria. Oh, also that person has to be a Republican, because no Democrat would have the rah-rah backing of the corporate-sponsored media. Now, looking at these criteria, you'd think that our military personnel were perhaps not acting (and voting) in their own best interests. Perhaps.

What we haven't addressed yet is bellicosity, which is the only criterion which I can think of which explains the (what I see as skewed) affection of the military for Bush. Bush wants to go to war - war wasn’t his last resort in Iraq, as he claimed - it was his only resort. Bush likes leadin’ the troops and killin’ our enemies. Bush sees nothing wrong with a state of perpetual war. Bush used his first state of the union address to call three other sovereign nations "evil". Bush called our military effort against a Muslim government a "crusade".

Our military is trained for combat situations. If they don't get to go to combat, I guess some of them feel disappointed. Combat makes them feel important, and more noble. It raises the level of their sacrifice. It brings their existence into sharp focus. It gives them the right to bitch at all those hippy peaceniks. Combat and war is an extremely validating experience for them, I guess, in their naiveté. They would rather be wounded and killed under Bush than come home alive under Clinton.

I'm not sure what to think about that conclusion. Can it possibly be true? Can anyone think of another reason why the military loves Bush?

It's not because of his sterling service record. We've been over this a few times, but it is worth repeating. During the Vietnam War, Bush chose to join the "champaign unit" of the Texas Air National Guard. There was a waiting list of about 100,000 others at the time for his slot. He scored a 25% on the pilot portion of the test, the lowest acceptable score. A family friend was asked to pull strings to get him in the unit, and get him in they did. He got a commission as a 2nd Lt., which usually required ROTC training which he didn't have. He was trained at enormous taxpayer expense. In 1970 he applied for a voluntary 3-month tour in Vietnam (the bravest thing he ever did, on paper), but was (shockingly) turned down. His flight activities fall off for the next two years. Finally, he is scheduled for a physical to maintain his flight clearance, shortly after the military institutes random drug testing. He never appears for that physical and loses his flight status. He appears to have lost all interest in the TANG after that, essentially just deserting his post during wartime, wandering off to another state to work on political campaigns. During his last two years of service, his flight status is never reinstated, and his expensive flight training is not available to a country at war.

Well, ok, that was 30 years ago, and the things that Bush did when he was young and foolish were young and foolish, so what is the problem? The problem is his latest stunt, the TopGun flight out to the Abraham Lincoln on a jet, wearing a military uniform. The jet wasn't needed, of course, because the carrier was very close to shore. The stunt was costly, of course, but that wasn't the problem with it. The military trappings, which made him look like some tin pot dictator in some banana republic, were not necessary (several people have reported flying in such planes without the jumpsuit costume our littlest dictator chose to wear). And he also delayed the service people from getting home to their families by a day (for some reason, the entirely made up story of Clinton causing a 4 hour delay at LAX for a haircut got more outraged air time, but we'll even give Dubya a pass on this one). The problem was, he was using the servicepeople, _our_ servicepeople, as the backdrop for an election campaign photo-op. We own that carrier, all of us, Protestants, Catholics, Pagans, Atheists, Wiccans, and Muslim Americans. Every person who protested Operation Deserter Storm owns a piece of that ship, and Dubya ("put another quarter in the horsey, Daddy") Bush thinks nothing of using it for a campaign photo-op. When we get to the 2004 election (Dubya's motto: "Elect Bush - Just This Once!" [thx to Barry Crimmins]) and we see pictures of this guy acting like the Republicans and Republicans alone own the military, I hope the Congress submits a bill for the show to Dubya's campaign. With this stunt, and by playing up his "flyboy" background, Karl Rove has opened Bush's record up for scrutiny, and I think we should scrute away. Because it is one thing to desert your National Guard post and shut up about it. It is an entirely different thing to desert your National Guard post and then play "war hero" at the taxpayers' expense. Who does this guy think he is?

For more on all of this, please see this excellent timeline of Bush's TANG career, this article, "Media AWOL in noting irony of Bush's flight", "Man on Horseback" by Paul Krugman,this, and AWOLBush.

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

Covering up 9/11

Coverup Watch

Why won't Dubya fund a swift, thorough investigation of what happened before and during the attacks on September 11th? I don't know the answer to that question. What we do know is that Daschle was threatened by Cheney when he started a Senate investigation. We know that Dubya tried to appoint Kissinger to head the investigation (hardly a sign that the final report would be an honest account). We know that the investigation has been allocated about $3M (while the Clintons, who were innocent of illegality, were investigated to the tune of $70M) and given a deadline which is being threatened because members of the committee can't get security clearance. I honestly don't believe there is anything nefarious, at least for Bush, behind what happened that day. But why oh why are they acting so guilty? What is it that they don't want us to find out? Why would this administration stifle an investigation into the most deadly attack this country has ever suffered? Bob Graham, on the Senate Intelligence Committee, is alleging a coverup by this administration. Why? Why would they submit themselves to charges of coverup if they don't actually have anything to hide? It is very strange.

Check out this timeline, sourced from reliable news outlets, of the events of 9/11. It raises some interesting questions.

FCC Watch

For those of you who would like to follow up on the FCC vote to happen on June 2nd, here is a link to a petition.

Scales Falling From Our Eyes Watch

Here is an essayist from Midland Michigan, who is trying hard (and failing) not to come to the conclusion that the Iraq war was all about the oil. (If this doesn't come up right away, go to the Our Midland front page, click on editorials, and look for "Perhaps it is about the oil". I had to click on this several times before it finally came up. I was afraid it had been pulled.)

The Unsinkable Molly Ivins Watch

Molly Ivins on the consequences of our leaders lying to us to get us into a phony war. Here's an excerpt:
Come on, think about this. The Bush administration apparently feels entitled to take actions punishing close old friends, including Mexico and Canada -- not to mention the Europeans -- for not siding with us in a war that we may have lied about?

Dean Watch

Dean has released some details of his health care plan today. He has been running on health care for about a year now, and has forced the other candidates to come up with health care plans of their own. No doubt Bush will also claim to have one of his own by the time debates roll around. Just like he had a prescription drug benefit for medicare (which somehow morphed into a "discount card"), and just like he was going to preserve funds for Social Security. (Note to baby boomers - the SS trust fund is again empty, after making a comeback in the last few years, but we are still getting proposed tax cuts). Anyway, Dean is exciting a lot of people. Check out this weblog of volunteers for Dean and also this portal for discussion groups.

Question W Watch

Beverly Harris, of Blackbox Voting, has begun a meme campaign to co-opt the meaning of the question mark, and to pose questions to this administration which the media are not posing, and to which we need answers to. Question W at

Monday, May 12, 2003

Public debts, private profits

I know it's been a long time since I've rapped at ya. Now that the wholesale killing in Iraq is done, and we are down to just killing Iraqi protestors in small batches (and having our soldiers and civilians killed in small batches ), it is time to think about what we can do to save our Republic again.

The root problem that we have in this country is there is a large number of our countrymen (and women) who have been trained to think that nothing should be held in common. There should be no public property, no parks, no publicly owned roads, no public healthcare system. Everything, _everything_, should be held privately, in their ultimate worldview. Think about that for a minute, and what kind of a horrible world it would be. Poor people would have absolutely no power or opportunity or recourse. The rich would have impunity to ignore any rules or law that they wanted to, since there would be no public court system. Power would coalesce around rich people, forming fiefdoms to direct the labor of the poor and the provision of protection from other rich warlords. In essence, we would slip into feudalism, and our situation would look something like the systems in Afghanistan or Somalia (there are two countries we definitely want to emulate).

When our society holds things in public, we are professing our belief that it isn't the person who has the most money who is always right, and that there are basic activities and privileges that all people can enjoy. Public institutions provide people a way to make phone calls (public phones), move from place to place (highways), have access to information (public libraries), have access to justice (the court system), have education (public schools). The health of our public institutions is a measure of what kind of life we would like for the least rich among us, and it is a measure of our humaneness as well. As you are probably aware, our many public institutions are not doing well these days, and are under attack from the massive and powerful forces of privatization. This is often sold to us as consumer choice. Why should we bother keeping public phones working? Most of us have our own cell phones, now, anyway. Why should we bother providing public libraries? There are book stores and video rental stores in abundance, and after all nearly everyone has their own connection to the internet, right? Why should poor people be allowed to sue big corporations? There should be caps on the awards they can get. Why bother to save public schools? There are plenty of good private schools (many of which will indoctrinate kids in our unofficial, official state religion, too, so that is an added bonus). The problem is, what happens when people can't afford internet access, cell phones, private schools, etc.?

The view that nothing is really held in common has been extending to the airwaves for years now. Long ago, when the legislature realized that broadcast rights were a huge money making concession, companies were charged relatively large fees to use them, which they always recouped and then some. As the broadcasting companies grew more and more powerful, and their lobbying grew more powerful with them, fees for use of the public airwaves grew smaller and smaller. Today, they are "auctioned" away for a pittance, provided nearly free of charge to large, extremely rich corporations which use them to get richer. And a small amount of that money is funneled back into election campaigns for people who will keep the system the way it is.

Public ownership of the airwaves used to imply something else, as well. Before the term of Ronald Reagan, there used to be something called the Fairness Doctrine, which stated that as public services, broadcast outlets had to provide a diversity of views. The Fairness Doctrine dictated that when an editorial position was presented on public airwaves, equal time had to be given to an opposing viewpoint. Conservatives actually used to defend the Fairness Doctrine vigorously, because it served their interests as well. During Reagan's term, the Fairness Doctrine was quietly chloroformed. Increasing media owernship consolidation, sped along by the egregious telecommunications act of 1996, signed by Clinton, has led us to the point where we are today, awash in an electronic sea of big-business-friendly propaganda. And so it is no surprise that we are being led by the most big-business friendly faction of the most big-business friendly party, even if they did have to steal an election to get there. And our big-business friendly media says hardly a peep.

We are in a chicken and egg conundrum now. We need the idea of the good of the commons to permeate our public discourse, so that we may restore the Fairness Doctrine and begin to regain some semblance of balance. But without the Fairness Doctrine, public discussions of the commons are strangled in their crib. And it doesn't look like things are getting better any time soon.

The restoration of the Fairness Doctrine needs to be our number one job, and I hope our leaders begin to address it soon. The corporate cabal running things now knows that its governing principles would not stand up to scrutiny or public debate, but it also knows that they don't have to -they only need to win, not be right. On June 2nd, the FCC under corporate shill Michael Powell will vote to remove one of the last major obstacles to total media ownership concentration. The current rules make it illegal for a company to have a major newspaper and radio presence in a city at the same time. Removal of this rule will be one of the final coffin nails in meaningful public debate. Contact your representatives and let them know that you appreciate a few checks on corporate propaganda, thank you, and that Powell's scheme is both reckless and unnecessary.

Those pesky WMDs Watch

It has become clear that, gee, there were no WMDs in Iraq after all. Huh. Who'd of thunk it? In this illuminating article, an administration official stresses that "We were not lying, but it was just a matter of emphasis." I'll bet that makes the parents of our dead and maimed servicepeople feel a whole lot better, don't you? And now, of course, our intelligence agencies are coming forward and claiming that they knew all along that there were no WMDs in Iraq, AND ALSO THAT THE ADMINISTRATION knew it. We were lied to. Boldface lies. Repeated lies. Lies, not about sex, but about people dying and being crippled and being blown up, and the US starting its very first unprovoked war. A war of aggression. A war of conquest. Yeah, us. And there is no public outcry about it. Why? I think the public is like a kid that gets sucker punched by one person, and then goes and pounds on some other person just to make us feel better. We can't find Bin Laden or destroy Al Qaeda, but that's ok, because we killed and conquered some other brown people. Don't we feel better now? We wanted to be lied to, I guess, because we knew the revenge would feel so good. Oh, and by the way, Dick Cheney's company Halliburton (which is still paying him a salary of $1M a year - but we don't talk about conflict of interest anymore) is making a fortune on it. Also, Richard Perle (former chairman and still member of the Defense Policy Board, leading administration hawk) is also making money hand over fist from it. Also, James Woolsey (former head of the CIA and advocate of this "war" lasting a few decades) is also making money hand over fist from it. I guess if it is good for the chickenhawks, it is good for our country.

What no one seems to realize yet, is that we have just adopted a country of 23 million people, most of whom hate each other almost as much as they hate us. And our tax dollars will keep being paid into Iraq, in the (in my opinion nearly impossible) hope that it will flower into some kind of garden spot in the middle east. But remember that the people in charge of turning Iraq into a wonderful place have a horrible record for doing the same here in the US - I'd like to see them succeed in both countries, but I'm doubtful. In the meantime, we will pay the tab (last estimate was $600 billion for rebuilding Iraq - averaging about $6000 from every american family).

Our Vanishing Rights Watch

The right to assemble and protest has been severely curtailed in this country. That part of the first amendment has been very nearly nullified by the creation of "first amendment zones" into which protestors are herded, usually behind fences and often hundreds of yards to miles away from the people/event they are protesting. Welcome to the new American dictatorship. Even John Leo from the conservative US News and World Report, recognizes the danger of this.

Dean Watch

I think we can all agree that anybody, Republican or Democrat, would be better than the empty suit we currently have in the White House. You all probably have your favorite candidate in mind. At this point, my personal favorite is Howard Dean, former governor of Vermont. His main problem right now is lack of name recognition, so this email is my small part to get his name out there to family and friends. He is a social progressive and a fiscal conservative. He is feisty, and clearly not afraid of Bush. He speaks out quickly to counter attacks (this quality was sorely lacking in Mondale, Dukakis, and Gore). His heart appears to be in the right place. In all, he seems to be a candidate for whom a vote would not merely be a choice for the lessor of two evils, but someone you could vote for with a clear conscience, even proudly. Check out his website. He is an advocate for healthcare, the environment, balanced federal budgets, maintaining our foreign alliances, and equal opportunities and protections for all people. He also seems tough and sincere when he speaks. I was fortunate enough to sit 5 feet from him during a fundraiser in Philadelphia a couple of weeks ago, and he seems like the real deal.

Conservative Idiots Watch

This week's , from Democratic Underground: