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.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Executive Activism Watch

The president has been spying on Americans... on American soil... in clear violation of law.

How sad.

In the days when the president harps incessantly about judicial activism (which is really judges interpreting the Constitution -- correctly for the most part in my opinion), it is particularly "ironical" that Bush continues to be the champion of executive activism.

In addition to the latest scandal regarding spying on Americans without warrants or oversight (illegal and unethical), remember that he has also sponsored, encouraged, and overseen torture (illegal, disgusting and immoral), run secret prisons (immoral and illegal), held people for years without access to a lawyer or for that matter any court whatsoever (illegal and shocking), and conducted extraordinary renditions (illegal and just plain evil).

Yessir, Mr. Bush is one fine upstanding Christian fundamentalist -- willing to get his hands really and truly disgustingly dirty for the Good Lord.

Yesterday, Bush actually defended his actions, stating that he was acting within the law and castigating the whistleblower. This is outrageous behavior - more akin to a dictator than a president and Bush demeans the presidency with this behavior. A whistleblower is one who alerts people to abuses of power -- which is exactly what this was. The whistleblower was correct to alert the public to this mess -- just as another whistleblower was correct to leak details of secret prisons being run by the CIA. Yet, at the same time, when it is self-evident that Karl Rove leaked Valerie Plame's name to attack a political opponent, Bush doesn't even fire Rove, much less call for his arrest.

It is singularly unbelievable how morally and ethically corrupt this administration is. All hail Dictator Bush -- Above the Law in All Respects.

-John Locke

Eating the Afterlife

I'm in the middle of reading an excellent book called "Resurrection: Myth or Reality" by an Episcopal Bishop named John Shelby Spong. I like the cut of this guy's jib. He is one of the most honest and brave writers about Christianity I've read in my whole life. Some of the other titles he has written, including "Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism", "The Sins of Scripture : Exposing the Bible's Texts of Hate to Reveal the God of Love" and "Living in Sin? A Bishop Rethinks Human Sexuality", give you some idea of where he is coming from.

Today I was reading and hit upon a passage that touches on something I've been meaning to write about for a long time, which is the effect on the belief in an afterlife, or eternal justice, has on our actions as people within a society. From the book:

I began to understand how the concept of life after death had acted as a deterrent to any passion of building a just society. Life after death made the unfair world appear to be fair, for it represented justice delayed, not entirely denied.


I also began to document the historical and polical reality that when belief in life after death began to fade in Western civilization in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, it was replaced by liberal politics. Indeed liberal politics were born, I would argue, to fill the vacuum created by the denial of a belief in life after death. Everything . . . was an unconscious response to the loss of a sure conviction in regard to life after death . . . When the hope that fairness awaited us in the afterlife waned in our unbelieving age, the need to make fair the unfair world was keenly felt and found expression in the political arena. Liberal politics came into being with that as its single basic agenda. If fairness was not destined to be achieved in an afterlife, a passion to achieve it in this life must be served.
This resonates extremely strongly with me, because I believe it explains, in the backwards direction, what it is that our leaders, who so want us just to shut up as they make our world increasingly less just, would have us do. It explains, to a very large degree, why Reagan, whose agenda was taking from the poor to give to the rich, also ushered in the current and ongoing takeover of the GOP by the religious fundies.

If you want to screw the people out of fairness in this life, you've got to offer them something else, something to nourish their sense of justice. Do the GOP want to screw people out of fairness? They seem to be riding a one-way ticket to abolish all earthly justice: affirmative action, discrimination legislation, a progressive taxation system, the power of the individual to get redress from powerful corporations, autocracy and surveillance from the government. And on the other hand, they lament at how "secular" our society is. Oh, if only the people would except heavenly justice and quit clamoring for earthly justice. It really makes the rich people mad, trying to accomodate these calls for fairness on earth. How they are able to put up with the demands of the poor. Why, those people expect the rich to follow the same laws as everyone else! They expect warprofiteers not to start wars which just get a lot of people killed when there is money to be made. They expect a little security in their old age, or in case of a sudden loss of a breadwinner. Peons.

From a rich person's point of view, I'll bet they would like this country to become super duper Christian. Not enough money to heat your home? Warm yourselves with thoughts of how much Jesus loves you. Got screwed by some huge, megalithic corporation which owns half of Congress? Well, your suffering here on earth with be rewarded after you are dead. No money for food?

Eat the afterlife.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Congressional mushrooms

The Democrats (and many Republicans) in Congress who "voted for this war" (though that isn't really what they did, and no one in either party is consistent enough with this idea to usefully draw the distinction between giving Chimpy the right to go to the UN to present his case, and "voting for The War"), thinking that it would be politically bad to ever vote against a war lead by warmongering idiots and fools, are now predictably backpedaling on their pro-war stances because the qWagmire has turned into a financial, military, and moral disaster the size of which staggers even the most far-sighted war protestors.

Their defense? They didn't get the same intelligence that the White House did, so they were "fooled". It's not so easy to see how they were fooled into thinking that any war lead by this particular team, "Halliburton" Cheney and "Selling nuclear reactors to North Korea" Rumsfeld among them, would turn out OK. Maybe they thought that Bush wars in Iraq were always going to be short and popular, like the 1991 blood-for-oil fest led by Bush Sr. Maybe they just missed the fact that the architect for THAT little adventure, Brent Scowcroft, was in the papers arguing against IraqII, but then our Congresscritters seem incredibly dim on most matters. So, they were "fooled" by the intelligence they had is their defense.

Bush, wanting to strap the entire govenment onto himself and spread the blame around far and wide, says that the Congress couldn't have been "fooled" because they had the same intelligence that the Shite House had.

Turns out, yet again, that Bush is lying through his fucking teeth. Our Congressional mushrooms were kept in the dark and fed bullshit. The non-partisan Congressional Research Service was asked to look into this matter, and Diane Feinstein has published their findings. Among them:

By virtue of his constitutional role as commander-and-in-chief and head of the executive branch, the President has access to all national intelligence collected, analyzed and produced by the Intelligence Community. The President's position also affords him the authority - which, at certain times, has been aggressively asserted - to restrict the flow of intelligence information to Congress and its two intelligence committees, which are charged with providing legislative oversight of the Intelligence Community. As a result, the President, and a small number of presidentially-designated Cabinet-level officials, including the Vice President - in contrast to Members of Congress - have access to a far greater overall volume of intelligence and to more sensitive intelligence information, including information regarding intelligence sources and methods. They, unlike Members of Congress, also have the authority to more extensively task the Intelligence Community, and its extensive cadre of analysts, for follow-up information. As a result, the President and his most senior advisors arguably are better positioned to assess the quality of the Community's intelligence more accurately than is Congress.

In addition to their greater access to intelligence, the President and his senior advisors also are better equipped than is Congress to assess intelligence information by virtue of the primacy of their roles in formulating U.S. foreign policy. Their foreign policy responsibilities often require active, sustained, and often personal interaction, with senior officials of many of the same countries targeted for intelligence collection by the Intelligence Community. Thus the President and his senior advisors are uniquely positioned to glean additional information and impressions - information that, like certain sensitive intelligence information, is generally unavailable to Congress - that can provide them with an important additional perspective with which to judge the quality of intelligence.


Congressional Access to Intelligence Information Not Routinely Provided in Four Areas

The executive branch generally does not routinely share with Congress four general types of intelligence information:

  • the identities of intelligence sources;
  • the "methods" employed by the Intelligence Community in collecting and analyzing intelligence;
  • "raw" intelligence, which can be unevaluated or "lightly" evaluated intelligence, which in the case of human intelligence sometimes is provided by a single source, but which also could consist of intelligence derived from multiple sources when signals and imagery collection methods are employed; and,
  • certain written intelligence products tailored to the specific needs of the President and other high-level executive branch policymakers. Included in the last category is the President's Daily Brief (PDB), a written intelligence product which is briefed daily to the President, and which consists of six to eight relatively short articles or briefs covering a broad array of topics. The PDB emphasizes current intelligence and is viewed as highly sensitive, in part, because it can contain intelligence source and operational information. Its dissemination is thus limited to the President and a small number of presidentially-designated senior administration policymakers.

So, not that this helps any of the dead and dying and wounded and maimed and tortured and raped in Iraq, but for what it is worth, gee the Congress didn't "know" the full extent of how much horsecrap the administration was shoveling. I hope they can sleep at night.

More Sorrows of Empire

Turns out it isn't just a phrase I remembered from history class. It's also what looks like an extremely important book written by Chalmers Johnson. In an article from two years ago, Johnson lays out what he sees as the four sorrows of American empire, and it is hard to argue that we are suffering and will continue to suffer them for a long time:

Four sorrows, it seems to me, are certain to be visited on the United States. Their cumulative effect guarantees that the U.S. will cease to resemble the country outlined in the Constitution of 1787. First, there will be a state of perpetual war, leading to more terrorism against Americans wherever they may be and a spreading reliance on nuclear weapons among smaller nations as they try to ward off the imperial juggernaut. Second is a loss of democracy and Constitutional rights as the presidency eclipses Congress and is itself transformed from a co-equal "executive branch" of government into a military junta. Third is the replacement of truth by propaganda, disinformation, and the glorification of war, power, and the military legions. Lastly, there is bankruptcy, as the United States pours its economic resources into ever more grandiose military projects and shortchanges the education, health, and safety of its citizens. All I have space for here is to touch briefly on three of these: endless war, the loss of Constitutional liberties, and financial ruin.

I would argue that these four developments are self-evident.

The Sorrows of Empire

Just to follow up on JL's excellent post below, the cost of the war is about to go up to $500 billion, as the Pentagon is asking for $100 billion more. That means, according to my rule of thumb, that this war has added about $5,000 onto my debt which I have to pay back with interest in the future. Not only will I and my children have to pay back this debt with interest, but I'll probably have to pay even more than that if the GOP continues to pass tax cut legislation. Every dollar which the upper economic eschalon is "relieved" from having to pay is another which somebody else has to pay, and that somebody is increasingly the middle class and the working poor.

What do I get for my $5,000? An Iraq free of weapons? I had that before the war. More warm feelings for the US around the world? To put it politely, no. A Jeffersonian democracy in the heart of the Middle East? Ha ha, that's a good one.

No, what I get as the maladministration puts $5,000 on my credit card (to be paid with interest to the holders of federal bonds, mostly the wealthy and foreign governments like China) is the sorrows of empire. I get to pour more and more money into a fighting force that increasingly doesn't protect me, but rather is out subjugating foreign lands on my "behalf". I get the hatred and distrust of millions of people around the world, because I am part of the country that invades, tortures, rapes, murders, and occupies muslim peoples. I get the joy of knowing that future terrorist attacks will certainly occur in this country, because this group of people wants the US to be feared and hated, not respected and admired, thoughout the world.

All that for only $5,000? With no end in sight? What a bargain.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Bush Takes "Blame"

Worthless Watch

Today, Bush took the blame for the "bad intelligence" that led us into the Iraq war. Then he reversed track, stating that "My decision to remove Saddam Hussein was the right decision" because Saddam was a threat. Bush continued this non-explanation with the comment, "We are in Iraq today because our goal has always been more than the removal of a brutal dictator."

So, to sum up:

1) The intelligence was bad (very bad).
2) Saddam didn't have weapons of mass destruction, so he wasn't a threat.
3) But Saddam was a threat, so we made the right decision.
4) Our goal was more than the removal of a brutal dictator.
5) It is Bush's fault.

Wow. With stunning logic like that, it's quite clear how we came to be in this mess.

Bush's "taking the blame" for Iraq is just as symbolic and just as worthless as when Bush took the blame for the failure of the federal government to help the victims of Katrina.

Oooooh. What a leader!

With respect to Katrina, he took the blame for the deaths of a large number of people who the federal government abandoned. He took the blame for the insanely poor response of the federal government to help those in need.

For Iraq, he takes the blame for invading a country that wasn't a threat, the killing of 30,000 Iraqis -- a number to which I'm sure the rest of the Whitehouse and the Republicans never wanted Bush to admit -- and the massive failure to reconstruct/govern Iraq after the Mission Was Accomplished. He then praises Ronald Dumsfeld as doin' "a heck of a job" (sound familiar?).

And then, THEN, instead of resigning -- as most people would do after causing the deaths of 30,000+ of the people we are supposed to be "liberating", after the deaths of almost 2,200 Americans, and creating an unjust war that has cost over $300,000,000,000.00 to date, with no end in sight -- Bush goes on to paint a rosy picture of the civil war in Iraq.

Nice one, Mr. Bush. Glad you are our president! With presidents like you, who needs enemies?

-John Locke

Friday, December 09, 2005


In this excellent post, Glenn Greenwald lists a number of statements made by political and military leaders during the 10 years between 1965-1975 in the war in Vietnam. Finding similarities between these and today's statements is an exercise left up to the reader. Some of them are scary in their ability to conjure reverse deja vu.


And may I say that despite public opinion polls -- none of which may I say have ever been friendly toward a nation's commitment in battle -- despite criticism, despite understandable impatience, we mean to stick it out, until aggression is turned back and until a just and honorable peace can be achieved, until the job is done.

Gen. William Westmoreland, March, 1968:

In 1968 a new phase is now starting. We have reached an important point when the end begins to come into view.

And for truly bone-chilling recognizability, we come to this one:

President Nixon, May 5, 1969:

We can have honest debate about whether we should have entered the war. We can have honest debate about the past conduct of the war. But the urgent question today is what to do now that we are there, not whether we should have entered on this course, but what is required of us today.

Sound familiar?

This all ties in to a larger thought I've had for quite some time. I wrote a long essay about it out by hand on a plane flight this summer, but have never had time to really polish it up since then. But it has occured to me for some time that achieving a Vietnam-like quagmire is the whole POINT of this war, not just a sadly-foreseeable consequence. More on that soon.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Cutting and Running is better than Staying and Dying

Retired General William Odom recently put up a list of all of the bad things that this administration says would go wrong if we got out of Iraq. Odom argues in each case that either a) the opposite is true and leaving would actually make things better or b) the bad thing is already happening.

Here's a bit of the article:

If I were a journalist, I would list all the arguments that you hear against pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq, the horrible things that people say would happen, and then ask: Aren't they happening already? Would a pullout really make things worse? Maybe it would make things better.

Here are some of the arguments against pulling out:

1. We would leave behind a civil war.
2. We would lose credibility on the world stage.
3. It would embolden the insurgency and cripple the move toward democracy.
4. Iraq would become a haven for terrorists.
5. Iranian influence in Iraq would increase.
6. Unrest might spread in the region and/or draw in Iraq's neighbors.
7. Shi'ite-Sunni clashes would worsen.
8. We haven't fully trained the Iraqi military and police forces yet.
9. Talk of deadlines would undercut the morale of our troops.

But consider this:

1. On civil war. Iraqis are already fighting Iraqis. Insurgents have killed far more Iraqis than Americans. That's civil war. We created the civil war when we invaded; we can't prevent a civil war by staying.

For those who really worry about destabilizing the region, the sensible policy is not to stay the course in Iraq. It is rapid withdrawal, reestablishing strong relations with our allies in Europe, showing confidence in the UN Security Council, and trying to knit together a large coalition including the major states of Europe, Japan, South Korea, China, and India to back a strategy for stabilizing the area from the eastern Mediterranean to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Until the United States withdraws from Iraq and admits its strategic error, no such coalition can be formed.

Thus, those who fear leaving a mess are actually helping make things worse while preventing a new strategic approach with some promise of success.

2. On credibility. If we were Russia or some other insecure nation, we might have to worry about credibility. A hyperpower need not worry about credibility. That's one of the great advantages of being a hyperpower: When we have made a big strategic mistake, we can reverse it. And it may even enhance our credibility. Staying there damages our credibility more than leaving.

Ask the president if he really worries about U.S. credibility. Or, what will happen to our credibility if the course he is pursuing proves to be a major strategic disaster? Would it not be better for our long-term credibility to withdraw earlier than later in this event?

Read the whole article, it makes a lot of sense.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Insanity Planned for Iraq

Insanity Watch

According to Seymore Hersch of the New Yorker, Bush has an ace up his sleeve that he hasn't been showing the public...

"A key element of the drawdown plans, not mentioned in the President’s public statements, is that the departing American troops will be replaced by American airpower. Quick, deadly strikes by U.S. warplanes are seen as a way to improve dramatically the combat capability of even the weakest Iraqi combat units. The danger, military experts have told me, is that, while the number of American casualties would decrease as ground troops are withdrawn, the over-all level of violence and the number of Iraqi fatalities would increase unless there are stringent controls over who bombs what."

This part of Bush's so-called "plan for winning" is absolutely insane. Basically, we're going to retreat to airplanes so that we can rain mechanized/remote death down on the Iraqi citizens!

This plan is going to kill hundreds if not thousands of innocent Iraqi citizens just because our bombers will be relying on whatever quality of intelligence can be provided (and not all of it will be good intelligence, I guarantee). And the first missile that goes off course is almost guaranteed to hit a hospital or a school or any other equally harmless civilian structure. The second missile that goes off course will probably hit an Iraqi newspaper or press organization (Al Jazeera, perhaps?). The third missile that goes off course will probably hit an Iraqi government building or police headquarters... You get my drift. It's a good thing that the US military doesn't give a rat's @ss about the Iraqi civilians (they're just collateral damage), because otherwise, our mission in Iraq might be viewed as being in jeopardy from a policy like this!

Furthermore, while the opportunity for the US to make a mistake is large, the opportunity for the Iraqi government to abuse this awesome power is even larger. Imagine being able to call in death to your political opponents! And if your opponent "accidentally" gets killed, you just say, "Whoops! Bad intelligence! So sorry!"

Now that I think about it, I can't think of any governments that police their citizens with bomber- or fighter-jet-power. Why? Because it's absolutely totally INSANE!!!

-John Locke

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Human Rights, Continued...

This just in this morning:

El-Masri, a German citizen who was arrested in Macedonia on December 31, 2003, claims that he was handed over to U.S. officials, who flew him to a secret prison in Afghanistan, where he was held in appalling conditions and interrogated as a terrorism suspect.

El-Masri says that he was returned to Europe five months later after the CIA realized they had abducted the wrong man.

"Masri was held for five months largely because the head of the CIA's Counterterrorist Center's al Qaeda unit believed he was someone else. She didn't really know - she just had a hunch" said one former CIA official.

Apparently, the Bush Administration has asked that Germany keep quiet about the incident as well.

It apparently took five months of torture in a secret prison for the CIA to determine that they had captured an innocent person.

This is why we can't trust that the government will do the right thing without proper oversight and without limits on their power -- simply because they won't.

-John Locke

Human Rights, Anyone?

It is really unbelievable. America has fallen from being the bastion of freedom and equality to a nadir of being rebuked by the United Nations for failing to protect basic human rights.

John Pace, human rights chief at the United Nations, stated that due to the attacks on Saddam's lawyers and due to flaws in the Iraqi justice system, Saddam's trial will not satisfy international standards. This has been precisely my fear since Saddam was captured. Rather than try Saddam fairly, we apparently felt the need to "stack the deck" against him.

Remember that the lead judge has already taken it upon himself to comment on the trial and on Saddam, granting an interview several months ago, where he stated that Saddam wasn't holding up well and that he was depressed about his situation. NEVER, NEVER, NEVER would a fair judge stoop to such unethical behavior.

I'm sure that much of this desire to have an unfair trial comes from the fear of people in the Bush Administration that Saddam will implicate them or their daddies during his testimony. The problem is that if the trial isn't completely fair and "by-the-book", the Sunnis will have even more reasons to hate the new Iraqi government. If the new government proves that it is unable to give fair trials to your ethnic group, what amount of trust would you put in your government? Answer: none.

In addition to this issue, now that the Iraqis have learned how to abuse prisoners (they learned from the best -- we taught them), the UN is concerned that the Iraqis may be hiding other prison facilities where they detain and torture Sunnis just like the prison facility just discovered a few weeks ago.

The UN has also stated that the 14,000 Iraqi prisoners being held by the US are also being held illegally. Imagine the day when the US decides to hold 14,000 prisoners illegally! Who would have ever thought that we would see the day!

Furthermore, there is increasing certainty that taxpayer dollars are being used to fund secret prisons in overseas countries (in addition to the virtual proof that even the Whitehouse Spokesliars won't even deny it).

To address this issue, Coni Rice is taking the high road, telling allies to "back off" the issue and that foreign governments should also take the high road and "win over" their publics and deflect criticism of the US.

Nice one, Condi.

You know, I have to say that this administration is by far the most corrupt, most "ethically challenged," most dishonest administration that I have seen in my lifetime. We ought to be ashamed of ourselves.

-John Locke

Saturday, December 03, 2005

The economics of fascism

From the Toronto Star, here is the article I've been waiting to read for a long time. It links the economic results of tying corporate power to government power (fascism) to the past and the present. This ties our current race to feudalism with corporate takeover of governments past.

Digging deeper into 20th century history, one finds the exaltation of big business at the expense of the citizen was a central characteristic of government policy in Germany and Italy in the years before those countries were chewed to bits and spat out by fascism. Fascist dictatorships were borne to power in each of these countries by big business, and they served the interests of big business with remarkable ferocity. These facts have been lost to the popular consciousness in North America.


Before the rise of fascism, Germany and Italy were, on paper, liberal democracies. Fascism did not swoop down on these nations as if from another planet. To the contrary, fascist dictatorship was the result of political and economic changes these nations underwent while they were still democratic. In both these countries, economic power became so utterly concentrated that the bulk of all economic activity fell under the control of a handful of men. Economic power, when sufficiently vast, becomes by its very nature political power. The political power of big business supported fascism in Italy and Germany.


Hitler attended to the reduction of taxes applicable to large businesses while simultaneously increasing the same taxes as they related to small business. Previous decrees establishing price ceilings were repealed such that the cost of living for the average family was increased. Hitler's economic policies hastened the destruction of Germany's middle class by decimating small business. Ironically, Hitler pandered to the middle class, and they provided some of his most enthusiastically violent supporters. The fact that he did this while simultaneously destroying them was a terrible achievement of Nazi propaganda.

Hitler also destroyed organized labour by making strikes illegal. Notwithstanding the socialist terms in which he appealed to the masses, Hitler's labour policy was the dream come true of the industrial cartels that supported him. Nazi law gave total control over wages and working conditions to the employer.

Compulsory (slave) labour was the crowning achievement of Nazi labour relations. Along with millions of people, organized labour died in the concentration camps. The camps were not only the most depraved of all human achievements, they were a part and parcel of Nazi economic policy. Hitler's Untermenschen, largely Jews, Poles and Russians, supplied slave labour to German industry. Surely this was a capitalist bonanza.
I note here with some concern that the US has its own untermenschen, who we lock up and then force to labor for big business. There have been several articles on prison labor being used for cheap manufacturing, US prisoners sewing jeans for Levi Strauss, etc. Is it less horrible that instead of linking slave labor directly to ethnicity as the Nazis did, that we use the war on drugs and a racially skewed justice system? Just asking.

Mussolini, the one-time socialist, went on to abolish the inheritance tax, a measure that favoured the wealthy. He decreed a series of massive subsidies to Italy's largest industrial businesses and repeatedly ordered wage reductions. Italy's poor were forced to subsidize the wealthy. In real terms, wages and living standards for the average Italian dropped precipitously under fascism.


As in Italy and Germany in the '20s and '30s, business associations clamour for more deregulation and deeper tax cuts. The gradual erosion of antitrust legislation, especially in the United States, has encouraged consolidation in many sectors of the economy by way of mergers and acquisitions. The North American economy has become more monopolistic than at any time in the post-WWII period.

U.S. census data from 1997 shows that the largest four companies in the food, motor vehicle and aerospace industries control 53.4, 87.3 and 55.6 per cent of their respective markets. Over 20 per cent of commercial banking in the U.S. is controlled by the four largest financial institutions, with the largest 50 controlling over 60 per cent. Even these numbers underestimate the scope of concentration, since they do not account for the myriad interconnections between firms by means of debt instruments and multiple directorships, which further reduce the extent of competition.


Antitrust laws do not just protect the marketplace, they protect democracy.


In the U.S., millions still question the legality of the sitting president's first election victory, and the power to declare war has effectively become his personal prerogative. Assuming that we have enough democracy to protect us is exactly the kind of complacency that allows our systems to be quietly and slowly perverted. On paper, Italy and Germany had constitutional, democratic systems. What they lacked was the eternal vigilance necessary to sustain them. That vigilance is also lacking today.


Neo-liberals call relentlessly for tax cuts, which, in a previously progressive system, disproportionately favour the wealthy. Regarding the distribution of wealth, the neo-liberals have nothing to say. In the end, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. As in Weimar Germany, the function of the state is being reduced to that of a steward for the interests of the moneyed elite. All that would be required now for a more rapid descent into fascism are a few reasons for the average person to forget he is being ripped off. Hatred of Arabs, fundamentalist Christianity or an illusory sense of perpetual war may well be taking the place of Hitler's hatred for communists and Jews.

We really need to wake up, and soon, about just what the concentration of wealth in this society really means. We are already invading other countries without cause and torturing innocent people, and locking our own citizens up without habeous corpus. Can't we wake up and smell what is going on here?

Torture is the giveaway

When all is said and done, with this administration trying to tell us that black is white, even those people who have a rosy film of American exceptionalism over their eyes have to finally wake up and realize that we are torturing people, and that makes us . . . for lack of a better word . . . evil. Don't they? When systematic, cruel torture on people, many of whom we know to be innocent, is ADVOCATED by our highest officials, doesn't that straw finally break our camel-ly backs? Arthur Silber notes this in a post that quotes from two extremely important articles from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:

It is only our belief that we are somehow special, that we are unique, that prevents us from recognizing this starkly obvious historical reality. Even if it were true that we are unique, and even if we are unique in critical ways, none of that alters the course of history -- and it does not change the ultimate outcome once barbarism is embraced and set loose.

But we acknowledge none of this, and insist that the rules that apply to all others do not apply to us, for some reason which is neither convincing nor, more importantly, true. Our self-imposed blindness may well destroy us, and we will not finally see the truth until it is too late.

The articles quoted say, among other things

But don't take just our word for it. Experienced and well-trained interrogators within the military, the FBI and the police say that torture does not yield reliable information. Such extraneous information distracts, rather than supports, valid investigations. F. Andy Messing, a retired major in U.S. Special Forces and director of the National Defense Council, told Insight magazine, "Anybody with real combat experience understands that torture is counterproductive."


At the time the photos were taken at Abu Ghraib, the Red Cross estimated that at least 80 percent of those imprisoned should never have been arrested, but were there because it was easier to arrest persons than to let them go. They were all vulnerable to abuse not because of their guilt but because they were there.


Discussions of torture invariably deal both with questions of morality and effectiveness. In truth, torture fails both tests, as Douglas Johnson writes on Page AA1. But while our leaders state flatly that it doesn't work and that the United States does not torture, thereby seeming to agree that torture is immoral, they have acted otherwise. They have redefined what torture is, they have allowed U.S. personnel to engage in abusive "enhanced techniques" of interrogation and they have "renditioned" detainees to nations known to torture under any definition.

Must See TV!

Joe Dante has created a 60-minute movie about dead American soldiers from Iraq rising up in zombie form and coming back to vote against Bush. Nothing more needs to be said, I think. It is running tonight and a few more times on Showtime - and the good news is that a lot of cable companies are offering Showtime for free this weekend. Check your local listings, it sounds awesome (I show it coming on at 10:30 on our system). The premier was last night, sorry I didn't get the word out earlier.

"This is a horror story because most of the characters are Republicans," director Joe Dante announced before the November 13 world premiere of his latest movie, Homecoming, at the Turin Film Festival. Republicans, as it happens, will be the ones who find Homecoming's agitprop premise scariest: In an election year, dead veterans of the current conflict crawl out of their graves and stagger single-mindedly to voting booths so they can eject the president who sent them to fight a war sold on "horseshit and elbow grease."
The dizzying high point of Showtime's new Masters of Horror series, the hour-long Homecoming (which premieres December 2) is easily one of the most important political films of the Bush II era. With its only slightly caricatured right-wingers, the film nails the casual fraudulence and contortionist rhetoric that are the signatures of the Bush-Cheney administration. Its dutiful hero, presidential consultant David Murch (Jon Tenney), reports to a Karl Rove–like guru named Kurt Rand (Robert Picardo) and engages in kinky power fucks with attack-bitch pundit Jane Cleaver (Thea Gill), a blonde, leggy Ann Coulter proxy with a "No Sex for All" tank top and "BSH BABE" license plates. Murch's glib, duplicitous condescension is apparently what triggers the zombie uprising: Confronting an angry mother of a dead soldier on a news talk show, he tells this Cindy Sheehan figure, "If I had one wish . . . I would wish for your son to come back," so he could assure the country of the importance of the war. The boy does return, along with legions of fallen combatants, and they all beg to differ. [...]

Dante and writer Sam Hamm (Batman) adapted Homecoming from Dale Bailey's "Death and Suffrage," a 2002 short story that puts a morbidly literal spin on the idea of the dead being used to pad the Chicago voting roll. (The film also owes something to the low-budget 'Nam-era Dead of Night, in which a "Monkey's Paw" wish brings an undead veteran back to his family home.) Though Bush is never named, Homecoming tailors its provocative scenario to accommodate a devastatingly specific checklist of accusations, from the underreporting of war casualties to last November's dubious Ohio count. As if in defiance of the Pentagon's policy to ban photographs of dead soldiers' coffins, Dante's film shows not just the flag-draped caskets at Dover Air Force Base but their irate occupants bursting out of them. "There's a lot of powerful imagery in this movie that has nothing to do with me," Dante says. "When you see those coffins, which is a sight that's generally been withheld from us, there's a gravity to it. Even though there's comedy in the movie, there's something basically so serious and depressing about the subject that it never gets overwhelmed by satire." [...]

"You don't have to be a rocket scientist to see what a fucking mess we're in," he continues. "It's been happening steadily for the past four years, and nobody said peep. The New York Times and all these people that abetted the lies and crap that went into making and selling this war—now that they see the guy is a little weak, they're kicking him with their toe to make sure he doesn't bite back. It's cowardly. This pitiful zombie movie, this fucking B movie, is the only thing anybody's done about this issue that's killed 2,000 Americans and untold numbers of Iraqis? It's fucking sick." While gratified by the warm reception to Homecoming in Turin, Dante says he's eager for the right-wing punditocracy back home to see it: "I hope this movie bothers a lot of people that disagree with it—and that it makes them really pissed off, as pissed off as the rest of us are."