I could tell almost immediately what was going through Christine O'Donnell's mind this week during the First Amendment controversy in her debate with Chris Coons.
O'Donnell is a literalist. She was trying to argue, like many conservative Christian politicians do, that the words
"separation of church and state" are not in the constitution.
She is right, in a literal sense. But everyone who thinks beyond the literal words knows that the Establishment Clause
("Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion") are the words that effectively separate church and state. If the constitution prohibits congress from making laws regarding religion, there is no way the state can establish a state religion. Every reasonable person with a minimum of intelligence understands this, including almost every judge.
But I wonder why no one in the Media pointed this out. All the liberal talking heads on MSNBC simply laughed at O'Donnell and never actually explained her literalism. Rachel Maddow came close, but she didn't explain it the way I did above.
O'Donnell's literalism is a kind of logical fallacy, similar to equivocation. It is similar to the fallacious reasoning of the Birthers, who think that President Obama's "Certificate of Live Birth" is not his "Birth Certificate" because it isn't called a birth certificate.
But by O'Donnell's reasoning, one could argue that it's okay for Christians to lie because there is no Commandment among the famous Ten that uses that word, no commandment that literally says "Thou shalt not tell a lie.". According to this line of reasoning, "bear false witness" is not the same as "tell a lie."
And O'Donnell still doesn't seem to understand the difference. She thought she had caught her opponent in a gaff, not that she was simply misunderstanding the meaning of the Establishment Clause.
Anyone paying attention to the midterm elections in the US has to see that campaign financing is totally out of hand. We're seeing multibillionaires hiding behind the curtain of the Teabaggers, mysterious political front groups paying for slanderous attack ads, out-of-state megacorporations funding state elections, and now allegations of foreign interests influencing domestic US politics. US laws allow very powerful interests to weld huge influence on public opinion while remaining largely anonymous to the average person.
Most of these examples come from Republican tactics. Faced with the harsh light of objective reality exposing their only purpose--get elected no matter what--Republicans have to have their own propaganda agency, otherwise known as the Fox News Channel.
True campaign finance reform would take away all private money from the equation. Simply give each candidate X amount of money from a public fund, X amount of government-paid for TV commercials each, and once you've spent that, that's all you get.
Such a reform would possibly impel voters to demand real debates about issues and policy and fewer attack ads.
Yeah, I would be uncomfortable with such restrictions on free speech, but not all free speech is equal. The average person doesn't have the resources of a billionaire to buy TV time--and is that really free speech to begin with?
The problem with the way campaigns are bought and paid for points to the 2-ton elephant in the room:
Corporations, protected behind the SCOTUS-mandated definition of "a person"--one of the biggest jokes and saddest injustices in history--have become far too powerful for the public good. Corporate power is destroying the social contract between the people and their government.
Corporations are not found in the US Constitution (so why aren't Teabaggers and libertarians wailing against them, too?), but in so many ways, they have become a fourth branch of government that has upset the balance of the original three.
Today, Newsweek has found, nearly a quarter of Americans believe that Obama is a Muslim, with barely 42 percent of the nation accepting his claim that he's a Christian. CNNfinds that a quarter of Americans also believe that Obama was "probably or definitely" born in another country.
Harris found in an online poll that 14 percent of Americans believe in their hearts that President Barack Obama is the antichrist, with nearly a quarter of Republicans saying so.
25% of Americans believe that our President is a Muslim.
42% believe he's a Christian
25% of Americans believe he was born in another country.
14% strongly believe that he is the antichrist
25% of Republicans believe that he is the antichrist.
So I have a new rule. If anyone I meet or know or interact with online or in real life answers Yes to:
1. Do you believe President Obama is a Muslim?
2. Do you believe President Obama was born in another country?
3. Do you believe President Obama is the antichrist?
I will denounce them as lunatics and report them to their County Mental Health Department for insanity and committment evaluation.
This is a closed community. Membership requests from empty journals and mass adders will rejected. Only members may comment on posts.
The bigots are out in force making their pathetic noise about the gay marriage ruling in California and the proposed Muslim community center in Lower Manhattan.
And because the 14th Amendment applies to both issues, some Republicans and Teabaggers are hollering about repealing it!
1) All arguments against gay marriage are based on logical fallacies, and as we are seeing, won't stand up to judicial scrutiny. Marriage is a legally-binding contract between consenting adults (which eliminates the slippery slope that children and animals will soon be marrying adults). Reproduction isn't part of the definition anymore. Human society evolves over time, and just as most people now accept interracial or inter-religious marriages as routine, so most people will eventually accept gay marriage as a civil right. I saw a sign the other day that read "A moral wrong can never be a civil right," but of course that moral argument is based on religion, something that is personal and should not be subject to concern in the public square. People used to think slavery was morally right, but we all see how wrong that notion was. Perhaps the only slippery slope consequence to gay marriage is that eventually polygamy might become more legal one day, but again, only if it involves consenting adults.
2) Most of you know I'm a non-believer, but I believe in freedom of (and from) religion. But Obama scored some points with me when he stood up for the Muslim center in Manhattan. He may annoyingly insist on including the Party of No in his plans and his views on many issues are too conservative for my tastes, but he's no Bill Clinton or George Bush, presidents who relied a little too much on opinion polls. Obama's stand is the correct, constitutional one, and he stands to lose a lot politically by taking it, but it was the right thing to do.
3) I know this community is dead, in part because I've retired from politics and don't follow the news as closely as I once did. I had a relapse and fell off the wagon recently, only to find myself feeling tense, frustrated, and disillusioned. So I'm retreating again after this post. But the most frightening and disgusting thing about American politics today is the utter hatred, ignorance, and bigotry that so many Americans feel about EVERYTHING. We get the country we deserve, and unfortunately, like Idiocracy, the morons outnumber the reasonable.
Maybe there's more that this community can say, but as LJ has become eclipsed by Facebook, and as I've lost interest in politics, I don't think it's worth keeping going.
Classic logic fail: I wonder who pissed in her lemonade.
There is no 'free' lemonade
In giving drink away, girls ignore rules of economics -- and sum up what's wrong with U.S.
July 5, 2010
BY TERRY SAVAGE Sun-Times Columnist
This column is a true story -- every word of it. And I think it very appropriate to consider around the Fourth of July, Independence Day spirit.
Last week, I was in a car with my brother and his fiancee, driving through their upscale neighborhood on a hot summer day. At the corner, we all noticed three little girls sitting at a homemade lemonade stand.
We follow the same rules in our family, and one of them is: Always stop to buy lemonade from kids who are entrepreneurial enough to open up a little business.
My brother immediately pulled over to the side of the road and asked about the choices.
The three young girls -- under the watchful eye of a nanny, sitting on the grass with them -- explained that they had regular lemonade, raspberry lemonade, and small chocolate candy bars.
Then my brother asked how much each item cost.
"Oh, no," they replied in unison, "they're all free!"
I sat in the back seat in shock. Free? My brother questioned them again: "But you have to charge something? What should I pay for a lemonade? I'm really thirsty!"
His fiancee smiled and commented, "Isn't that cute. They have the spirit of giving."
That really set me off, as my regular readers can imagine.
"No!" I exclaimed from the back seat. "That's not the spirit of giving. You can only really give when you give something you own. They're giving away their parents' things -- the lemonade, cups, candy. It's not theirs to give."
I pushed the button to roll down the window and stuck my head out to set them straight.
"You must charge something for the lemonade," I explained. "That's the whole point of a lemonade stand. You figure out your costs -- how much the lemonade costs, and the cups -- and then you charge a little more than what it costs you, so you can make money. Then you can buy more stuff, and make more lemonade, and sell it and make more money."
I was confident I had explained it clearly. Until my brother, breaking the tension, ordered a raspberry lemonade. As they handed it to him, he again asked: "So how much is it?"
And the girls once again replied: "It's free!" And the nanny looked on contentedly.
No wonder America is getting it all wrong when it comes to government, and taxes, and policy. We all act as if the "lemonade" or benefits we're "giving away" is free.
And so the voters demand more -- more subsidies for mortgages, more bailouts, more loan modification and longer periods of unemployment benefits.
They're all very nice. But these things aren't free.
The government only gets the money to pay these benefits by raising taxes, meaning taxpayers pay for the "free lemonade." Or by printing money -- which is essentially a tax on savings, since printing more money devalues the wealth we hold in dollars.
If we can't teach our kids the basics of running a lemonade stand, how can we ever teach Congress the basics of economics?
Or maybe it's the other way around: The kids are learning from the society around them. No one has ever taught them there's no free lunch -- and all they see is "free," not the result of hard work, and saving, and scrimping.
If that's what America's children think -- that there's a free lunch waiting -- then our country has larger problems ahead. The Declaration of Independence promised "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." It didn't promise anything free. Something to think about this July 4th holiday weekend.
And that's the Savage Truth!
People can argue all they want about how the Teabaggers are comprised of people from all walks of life and all political orientations, but that's mostly bullshit. It's no accident that the Teabaggers arose as a direct, knee-jerk reaction to the election of Obama and the Democratic majority in Congress. The Teabaggers have a blind spot for the real cause of the massive national debt amassed by the US government over the previous 10 years, most of which the country was ruled by a Republican majority. Indeed, the current debt crisis that the Teabaggers are so apparently up in arms about was solely the result of George Bush's tax cuts for the rich and the irresponsible fiscal policies of the new Republican Party!
I know I'm preaching to the choir here. All one has to do is listen to a typical Teabagger to hear the absolute nonsense and ignorance most of those kooks believe in. And while I agree that they have a point about government spending and the importance of controlling the national debt, but their motivations are based mostly on pure racism.
Published on Friday, January 1, 2010 by CommonDreams.org
The Real Top Ten Stories of the Past Decade
by Robert Freeman
The media are awash with talking heads bloviating about the top stories of the last decade. The wired-in society. The growth of organic food. The new frugality. This is the ritual that reveals their true function in the culture: pacification. It's their way of signaling the masses that Bigger Thinkers are looking after things, so go back to your Wii or Survivor or Facebook reveries.
The amazing thing is how little is ever mentioned about the stories that really mattered, those that affected the very nature of our society, its institutions, and the relation of the people to their state and society.
Those stories paint a picture of danger, of a people who have lost control of their government and the corporations that own it. But you'll hear nary a word about such difficult truths from any storyteller in the conventional media.
So here, in no particular order, are my Top Ten Stories of the Naughties, the ones that really matter.( Read more...Collapse )
Happy New Year.
The thought occurred to me that American liberty is a double-edged sword and that the American Myth is built upon human exceptions. But before I try to explain (hair of the dog, anyone?), let me explain my Retirement from Politics™.
For most of the last 9 or 10 years, I've been following American politics obsessively, often consuming several hours of Media coverage from various sources every day. Like millions, I was hypnotized by the shiny tube. It was a full-time job in which I was required to sit on my ass and stare. Sure, I was often doing other things while that noise droned on in the background, but I was kidding myself, not really getting anything important accomplished with any consistency.
Late last summer, as the ridiculous healthcare "debate" played out like a recurring nightmare, I turned off the TV one night in disgust, picked up the dusty old Spanish guitar in the corner, and started to play. Now, if I turn on the TV at all, it's on football. In October, I met a group of poets in my neighborhood who helped inspire me to write poetry again, which was what I specialized in during graduate school and has been my first love since I was very young.
So three months after Retiring from Politics™, I'm much happier and more productive, and my life has a new purpose! I know others handle their political addictions in different ways--say, by actually becoming political activists! But I'm a writer, and at 47 years old, I'm not inspired enough to change my stripes. I have to do what I'm fit to do, what my own skills and education best enable me to do.
So I really have no idea what's in the bill, and I'm not at all surprised that not much will change for me this year in regards to my own lack of health insurance. I haven't had any of that since my father died in the nineties, mostly because the kinds of jobs I've had never provide benefits, nor did they pay me enough so that I could afford my own. I'm just going to have to make more money if I want to see a fucking doctor. The American Myth includes the concept of life, liberty and the pursuit of blah blah blah.
This means my problems shouldn't interfere with anyone else's lifestyle. That's a beautiful idea, but it also means that the kinds of government-run social safety nets that improve the lives of most people in the post-industrialized world will never happen in America. The American love of liberty means that the US will always be hampered by a growing gap between the haves and the have-nots.
Anyone who says it's their fault they are poor or under-employed or have no health insurance has never been trapped in a low-paying job in a crappy economy. The majority simply can't climb out of poverty or near poverty. But the exceptions always get the spotlight. It's like the lottery--millions of people squander their pocket change every day on those games, and no one ever hears about it. Until those odd exceptions when some lucky nobody wins the jackpot. Then the Myth is reinforced, and we all live in pursuit of happiness ever after in our dreams.
Have a great year! I'll be doing my own thing and not watching the noise any more. Now, how do I get my pension?
Why the American right make me sick
by Simon Hoggart
The Guardian UK
August 15, 2009
There are few tribes more loathsome than the American right, and their vicious use of the shortcomings in the NHS to attack Barack Obama’s attempts at health reform are a useful reminder.
I was thinking of this during a visit to my 91-year-old dad who is still in an NHS hospital after three weeks, recovering from a broken hip. He has had fantastic care, including a new metal hip, blood transfusions, different antibiotics to match every aspect of his condition; all administered by nurses who remain cheerful even when asked to perform tasks on men – the lethal combination of pain and old age makes some in the ward exceedingly grumpy – that I would not want to do for £1,000 a time. If he was in an American hospital he’d be using up half his life savings to get that standard of care, and few ordinary Americans could afford the insurance that would provide it. (This is because health insurers spend a large part of their income on PR against the “socialised medicine” and on sending pro forma letters explaining why your policy doesn’t cover actual illness.) All over the US there are people whose lives are being destroyed for lack of proper health care provision, and there is no sight more odious than the rich, powerful and arrogant trying to keep it that way.
Not only is his article inexact, but sadly his fatalism on the climate is catching on. I have a couple of quotes below. As far as the first one, saying just "the polar ice cap" is wrong as he is talking about the arctic in general and not antarctica. The ice cap in both antarctica and greenland are predicted to take much longer than the area of ice in the arctic that only covers water rather than land.
Anywho, my other primary point is that no, people do not assume that if we cut emissions everything will fix itself. Very many scientists believe that we must act to take carbon out of the atmosphere in addition to cuts in emissions. In fact, if you took carbon out at a quick rate you would not even have to cut emissions. How could we do this? You could seed large parts of the ocean with little life and huge algae blooms would absorb carbon. You could also simply pump carbon dioxide out of our atmosphere and trap it in many ways, under ground, or in organic structures. And don't even get me started on advanced nanotechnology.
You see, the reason Rall annoys me so much is that his kind of discourse convinces people who think that climate change is happening and something should be done into the same camp as the deniers. If Ralls discourse wins, then nobody does nothing. Anyway, those quotes are below:
"For example, the polar ice cap is doomed. Summer ice will vanish entirely within 20 years; winter ice will be gone by 2085."
"Both sides of the "debate" are liars."
"Of course, the only sane action is to pretend otherwise and enact radical change that might/might have saved the earth. The human race is probably destined for extinction. But we might as well be courteous on the way out...and stop BSing about our chances."http://news.yahoo.com/s/ucru/giveahootbutwerestilldoomed;_ylt=AmrvBUMP0zz3XXPvE3Tt5Nphr7sF;_ylu=X3oDMTM0bG10aGYxBGFzc2V0A3VjcnUvMjAwOTEyMTEvZ2l2ZWFob290YnV0d2VyZXN0aWxsZG9vbWVkBHBvcwMxOQRzZWMDeW5fcGFnaW5hdGVfc3VtbWFyeV9saXN0BHNsawNnaXZlYWhvb3RidXQ-
Wednesday 16 September 2009
by: Tom H. Hastings, t r u t h o u t | Perspective
We see the spectacle of the US Congress unable to manage decent health care reform that will actually enable the American citizenry to join the rest of the industrialized world in having health care for all. The problems, it is clear, come from those who are lying.
Death panels? That’s true - we already have them. Insurance companies deny care to Americans, who then die as a result. It happens every day, Sarah Palin - but ascribing that to the Obama plan is untrue. In fact, those corporate death panels would be outlawed.
Find the language in Obama’s bill that says that illegal aliens are covered or admit it’s a canard - God forbid we should help some migrant worker who is stricken by illness or accident while laboring in service to Americans. South Carolina’s Joe Wilson is just the Tourette tip of a dissembling iceberg.
We can’t afford the plan? That is a whopper. It’s all choice.
If every child in America doesn’t have health care, but we own more than 6,000 nuclear weapons, more than half of them on board a fleet of 18 extremely expensive Trident submarines ready to fight the Soviets (Hey! Where’d they go?), isn’t it time to ask some fundamental questions? One is: Why spend $16.5 billion just on the Department of Energy nuclear weapons budget for FY 2010 with 50 million uninsured citizens? Does US Sen. Jim DeMint (R-South Carolina) speak for us all when he calls health care a privilege (and presumably threatening life on Earth is a human right for the US military)?
When our working poor are so often without either the money to pay for health insurance or the high costs of health care for ailing family members, and yet we somehow manage to justify spending in excess of $915 billion on the so-called War on Terror, shouldn’t we engage in some national discussion about priorities?
$1 trillion for war while unemployment pushes ten percent in more and more states is unconscionable. Unemployment means a loss of health care for a high percentage of those who lose jobs and more foreclosures on the American dream of home ownership every month. Historically, it naturally correlates with increases in crime. The US is the last of the so-called developed countries to fail to insure the unemployed and underemployed, and we have the highest crime rates. So many thousands of us are shot each year that we more than qualify to be considered at war inside our own borders. Much of that carnage relates to social problems like unemployment, lack of health care and simple hopelessness.
Does it not seem that when the US can afford and not question nearly 1,000 military bases on other people’s sovereign soil - 287 of them in Germany alone - that we can afford to create jobs? Rather than have our young people learning how to hurt others in the military, we could end economic conscription, lower the crime rate, drastically reduce the numbers of uninsured, reverse the home foreclosure numbers and enhance our nation’s productivity by offering minimum wage jobs to anyone willing to work. Those jobs would include housing in some cases, health care benefits in all cases and on-the-job training and supplementary education for those needing it. Closing foreign military bases until these programs were paid for would be a giant leap for the US back toward the health of our workforce, our economy, our educational system and our very citizenry.
No one is talking about this? True. So, it’s time to start.
Commentary: We can certainly start by advocating for the closure of all 1,000 bases on other people’s sovereign soil. The people of Okinawa want us out, we must heed their request and leave immediately. It’ll dramatically ease tensions. Oh yes, when we close all those overseas bases we will have the revenue and not need to raise taxes at all! :-P
Obama's heckler is sorry, but still wrong
by Clarence Page (with additional links at the source)
10 September 2009
Help me out here: does anyone recall the last time a congressman called the president a liar to his face during of a joint session of Congress?Commentary:
That dubious distinction currently belongs to Rep. Joe Wilson, a South Carolina Republican. He’s the face behind the off-camera shout of “You lie” after President Obama declared that his proposed health care legislation will not—repeat not—provide health care to illegal immigrants.
Psst! Somebody please tell Rep. Wilson this is the U. S. Congress, not Question Time in Britain’s Parliament or a Town Hall meeting in Beaufort.
In these hallowed halls etiquette normally calls for even, say, Republican Leader John Boehner of Ohio to refer courteously to, say, Democrat Rep. (and former Black Panther) Bobby Rush as “the gentleman from Illinois.”
Wilson got the message. "This evening I let my emotions get the best of me," he said in his apology. "While I disagree with the president's statement, my comments were inappropriate and regrettable. I extend sincere apologies to the president for this lack of civility."
Wilson showed himself to be a gentleman except to admit that Obama was right and the congressman was misinformed. For those who care about facts, the nonpartisan PolitiFact.com and FactCheck.org, both examined the claims that the Democratic proposals provide coverage for illegal immigrants and found the claims to be false.
And one has to wonder why Wilson would be so surprised that he would lose control during Obama's speech. Since the full text was distributed to members of Congress beforehand, Obama's debunking of the illegal immigration myth should not have come as a shock.
Whatever good Wilson might have done himself with the right-wing yahoo chorus in the bleachers and blogosphere, he did not help his party convey an image of having grownups in charge.
He also upstaged the GOP’s designated responder, the considerably better mannered Rep. Charles Boustany, a Louisiana surgeon. “We agree much needs to be done to lower the cost of health care for all Americans. On that goal, Republicans are ready — and we've been ready — to work with the President for common-sense reforms that our nation can afford,” he said. Right. Not that Rep.Wilson sounds ready to join in.
UPDATE: MSNBC's Keith Olbermann shed additional light on 15-minute famer Wilson. He's been writing op-eds like this one to promote the myth of "death panels" that Sarah Palin made famous. (Wrong again, Congressman. End-of-life counseling was a great and popular idea, even with Palin, before it became politically expedient for Republicans to oppose it.)
Also, the Washington Independent turned up this nugget from Americans for Legal Immigration, a group that wants immediate deportation of illegals and backed Wilson's election. Maybe this helps to explain why Wilson erupted before his brain was engaged at Obama's mere mention of illegal immigrants.
It has occurred to me more than once that many people who leave comments on Internet discussion boards and blog sites probably have borderline personalities. Pardon me for calling anyone a negative name. Yesterday, on a popular website, I read a comment that claimed that one automatically loses an argument when name-calling is involved. In the above op-ed, Page calls some conservative bloggers "yahoos," apparently conceding his argument.
But we know better. Many Americans are clearly reality challenged, Rep. Wilson being a case in point. One of the best moments in Obama's speech last night was his promise to call out liars and fearmongerers. And I wonder why no one in the media has thought to do this before. Indeed, the US News Media must bear the brunt of the blame for allowing wingnut lies and misinformation to distort the issues. But I do not have a lot of confidence that much will change. Perhaps the sole achievement of the Reagan Revolution has been the politicalization of facts. If the truth contradicts ideology, then the truth must be changed.
This is why those of us who understand reality and recognize it for what it is--the real world around us--must point out who is full of shit. And if using language like "wingnut" and "yahoos" and "barbarians" makes the problem more vivid, so be it.
(BTW: My previous post about the end of the Democratic Party still stands. They have to deliver the bill, and until they do, no speech, no matter how inspiring, will change the fact that one party has a tenuous grasp of reality while the other lives in CooCoo Land.)
It's looking more and more like the Democratic Party is over. Died by self-inflicted wishy-washyness. Died by lack of political will. Died by loss of ideals. Died by the same stupidity that killed the Republican Party. Killed by the greed of a broken political system that only follows corporate money and ignores the needs of the people who elected them.
In the 2008 election, the Democrats won the largest political mandate in a generation, but they will lose all of that support when they fail to include a comprehensive public option in the forthcoming health care "reform" bill.
They have the votes, so there is no need to compromise. yet they insist on passing a "bipartisan" bill.
They can go fuck themselves!
Look, at least 50% of Americans want some kind of public option. Another 25% has questions that can easily be answered. The other 25% are simply barbarians who vote Republican even though everything the modern Republican Party stands for goes against their economic interests.
But somehow the Democrats are blinded by the noise from the barbarians. The Democrats are fatally weakened by the entrenched corporate lobby that is sucking the United States dry.
So be it. I'll be looking for a surge in support for the Green Party in the next two years. It would be interesting to see how Congress will work when neither of the two historical parties has a majority.
I can understand your anger and frustration, but I assure you that it is misdirected. You should be angry at the insurance companies who ration health care, cancel policies when people need them most, and always come between the patient and the doctor. My friends, it is the insurance companies who are the real demons, not the politicians who are trying to help you by reforming this immoral system. It is difficult to accurately research what insurance companies do, but I am fairly certain that they try to get out of paying every single claim. Their only purpose is to make as much money as possible. I'm also fairly certain that the 80% of Americans who are happy with their private health insurance have never had to make a major claim or have never had a major medical problem. As soon as they do, they will no longer be so happy about their private insurance. Such a greedy, profit-driven health care system that relies on private insurance is causing a lot of hardship in the country. Insurance companies have "death panels" already that will kill your grandparents. The government is only trying to protect you from those death panels that already exist. The government has the power to regulate and check businesses and industries that are harmful to society. The private health insurance companies are very harmful to our society. People in the United States have shorter life spans compared to people who live in countries that have universal, government-controlled health care. So you should think about these things before yelling at a congressperson or disrupting a discussion of health care reform. The real demon is the insurance industry.
I'm still skeptical, but Robinson makes some interesting points. We may have won the last election, but the war is still not over.Is the US on the Brink of Fascism?
Friday 07 August 2009
by: Sara Robinson | Visit article original @ The Campaign for America's Future
There are dangerous currents running through America's politics and the way we confront them is crucial.
All through the dark years of the Bush Administration, progressives watched in horror as Constitutional protections vanished, nativist rhetoric ratcheted up, hate speech turned into intimidation and violence, and the president of the United States seized for himself powers only demanded by history's worst dictators. With each new outrage, the small handful of us who'd made ourselves experts on right-wing culture and politics would hear once again from worried readers: Is this it? Have we finally become a fascist state? Are we there yet?
And every time this question got asked, people like Chip Berlet and Dave Neiwert and Fred Clarkson and yours truly would look up from our maps like a parent on a long drive, and smile a wan smile of reassurance. "Wellll...we're on a bad road, and if we don't change course, we could end up there soon enough. But there's also still plenty of time and opportunity to turn back. Watch, but don't worry. As bad as this looks: no -- we are not there yet."
In tracking the mileage on this trip to perdition, many of us relied on the work of historian Robert Paxton, who is probably the world's pre-eminent scholar on the subject of how countries turn fascist. In a 1998 paper published in The Journal of Modern History, Paxton argued that the best way to recognize emerging fascist movements isn't by their rhetoric, their politics, or their aesthetics. Rather, he said, mature democracies turn fascist by a recognizable process, a set of five stages that may be the most important family resemblance that links all the whole motley collection of 20th Century fascisms together. According to our reading of Paxton's stages, we weren't there yet. There were certain signs -- one in particular -- we were keeping an eye out for, and we just weren't seeing it.
And now we are. In fact, if you know what you're looking for, it's suddenly everywhere. It's odd that I haven't been asked for quite a while; but if you asked me today, I'd tell you that if we're not there right now, we've certainly taken that last turn into the parking lot and are now looking for a space. Either way, our fascist American future now looms very large in the front windshield -- and those of us who value American democracy need to understand how we got here, what's changing now, and what's at stake in the very near future if these people are allowed to win -- or even hold their ground.
( Read more...Collapse )
Cheney: No 'evidence' of Iraq, 9/11 link
by Andy Barr – Tue Jun 2, 2009
Former Vice President Dick Cheney says there was “never any evidence” that Saddam Hussein’s Iraq played any role in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. “On the question of whether or not Iraq was involved in 9/11, there was never any evidence to prove that,” Cheney said during an interview Monday night with Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren. “There was some reporting early on, for example, that Mohammed Atta had met with a senior Iraqi intelligence official,” Cheney said. “But that was never borne out.”
In a 2003 interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Cheney said that “the Czechs alleged that Mohamed Atta, the lead attacker, met in Prague with a senior Iraqi intelligence official five months before the attack.” But Cheney added, “We’ve never been able to develop any more of that yet, either in terms of confirming it or discrediting it. We just don’t know.” Cheney said Monday that former CIA Director George Tenet brought to the Bush White House information pertaining to potential links between the hijacker and Iraq as “it became available.” But Cheney pointed out that Tenet “did say and did testify that there was an ongoing relationship between al Qaeda and Iraq, but no proof that Iraq was involved in 9/11.”
The former vice president explained away the early uncertainty of the connection by insisting that intelligence gathering is “more an art form than a science,” pointing to several examples of past CIA failures.
“They misread Saddam Hussein's intent when he invaded Kuwait in 1990,” Cheney said. “They underestimated the extent of the Iraqi program to try to acquire nuclear capability back in '90 and '91. They missed 9/11.” Cheney did not list the never-found Iraqi weapons of mass destruction as an intelligence failure, saying only that the CIA and the broader intelligence community have done a “magnificent job as part of the effort to keep the United States safe these last seven and a half years.”
“The intelligence community has had some enormous successes in the last few years,” he said. “You usually don't hear about the successes. What you hear about are the train wrecks, the things that didn't work out quite right.”
My Tortured Decision
By ALI SOUFAN
Published: April 22, 2009
FOR seven years I have remained silent about the false claims magnifying the effectiveness of the so-called enhanced interrogation techniques like waterboarding. I have spoken only in closed government hearings, as these matters were classified. But the release last week of four Justice Department memos on interrogations allows me to shed light on the story, and on some of the lessons to be learned.
One of the most striking parts of the memos is the false premises on which they are based. The first, dated August 2002, grants authorization to use harsh interrogation techniques on a high-ranking terrorist, Abu Zubaydah, on the grounds that previous methods hadn’t been working. The next three memos cite the successes of those methods as a justification for their continued use.
It is inaccurate, however, to say that Abu Zubaydah had been uncooperative. Along with another F.B.I. agent, and with several C.I.A. officers present, I questioned him from March to June 2002, before the harsh techniques were introduced later in August. Under traditional interrogation methods, he provided us with important actionable intelligence.
We discovered, for example, that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks. Abu Zubaydah also told us about Jose Padilla, the so-called dirty bomber. This experience fit what I had found throughout my counterterrorism career: traditional interrogation techniques are successful in identifying operatives, uncovering plots and saving lives.
There was no actionable intelligence gained from using enhanced interrogation techniques on Abu Zubaydah that wasn’t, or couldn’t have been, gained from regular tactics. In addition, I saw that using these alternative methods on other terrorists backfired on more than a few occasions — all of which are still classified. The short sightedness behind the use of these techniques ignored the unreliability of the methods, the nature of the threat, the mentality and modus operandi of the terrorists, and due process.
Defenders of these techniques have claimed that they got Abu Zubaydah to give up information leading to the capture of Ramzi bin al-Shibh, a top aide to Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, and Mr. Padilla. This is false. The information that led to Mr. Shibh’s capture came primarily from a different terrorist operative who was interviewed using traditional methods. As for Mr. Padilla, the dates just don’t add up: the harsh techniques were approved in the memo of August 2002, Mr. Padilla had been arrested that May.
One of the worst consequences of the use of these harsh techniques was that it reintroduced the so-called Chinese wall between the C.I.A. and F.B.I., similar to the communications obstacles that prevented us from working together to stop the 9/11 attacks. Because the bureau would not employ these problematic techniques, our agents who knew the most about the terrorists could have no part in the investigation. An F.B.I. colleague of mine who knew more about Khalid Shaikh Mohammed than anyone in the government was not allowed to speak to him.
It was the right decision to release these memos, as we need the truth to come out. This should not be a partisan matter, because it is in our national security interest to regain our position as the world’s foremost defenders of human rights. Just as important, releasing these memos enables us to begin the tricky process of finally bringing these terrorists to justice.
The debate after the release of these memos has centered on whether C.I.A. officials should be prosecuted for their role in harsh interrogation techniques. That would be a mistake. Almost all the agency officials I worked with on these issues were good people who felt as I did about the use of enhanced techniques: it is un-American, ineffective and harmful to our national security.
Fortunately for me, after I objected to the enhanced techniques, the message came through from Pat D’Amuro, an F.B.I. assistant director, that “we don’t do that,” and I was pulled out of the interrogations by the F.B.I. director, Robert Mueller (this was documented in the report released last year by the Justice Department’s inspector general).
My C.I.A. colleagues who balked at the techniques, on the other hand, were instructed to continue. (It’s worth noting that when reading between the lines of the newly released memos, it seems clear that it was contractors, not C.I.A. officers, who requested the use of these techniques.)
As we move forward, it’s important to not allow the torture issue to harm the reputation, and thus the effectiveness, of the C.I.A. The agency is essential to our national security. We must ensure that the mistakes behind the use of these techniques are never repeated. We’re making a good start: President Obama has limited interrogation techniques to the guidelines set in the Army Field Manual, and Leon Panetta, the C.I.A. director, says he has banned the use of contractors and secret overseas prisons for terrorism suspects (the so-called black sites). Just as important, we need to ensure that no new mistakes are made in the process of moving forward — a real danger right now.
(Ali Soufan was an F.B.I. supervisory special agent from 1997 to 2005.)
Gingrich slams Obama over Chavez
by Carol E. Lee of Politico
20 April 2009
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich tore into President Barack Obama Monday for his friendly greeting of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, saying Obama is bolstering the "enemies of America.”Commentary:
Gingrich appeared on a number of morning talk shows comparing Obama to President Jimmy Carter for the smiling, hearty handshake he offered Chavez, one of the harshest critics of the United States, during the Summit of the Americas.
“Frankly, this does look a lot like Jimmy Carter. Carter tried weakness, and the world got tougher and tougher, because the predators, the aggressors, the anti-Americans, the dictators – when they sense weakness, they all start pushing ahead,” Gingrich said on “Fox & Friends.”
Two Republican senators, Judd Gregg of New Hampshire and John Ensign of Nevada, joined in the criticism Monday, with Ensign calling Obama's greeting of Chavez "irresponsible."
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Sorry, Newt, but we tried conducting foreign policy like a 12-year-old in the schoolyard for the last eight years and the international standing of the United States has never been worse as a result. Real leaders talk to everyone, including those other leaders who don't think the United States is the greatest mommy in the world. So shut the fuck up and let the grown-ups handle things for a while.
Bush-era interrogations: From waterboarding to forced nudity
By Marisa Taylor and Margaret Talev, McClatchy Newspapers
16 April 2009
WASHINGTON — The long-awaited release Thursday of four Bush-era memos lays out in clinical detail many of the controversial interrogation methods secretly authorized by the Bush administration — from waterboarding to trapping prisoners in boxes with insects — while former President George W. Bush was publicly condemning the use of torture.
The memos were made public by the Justice Department with assurances from President Barack Obama that the intelligence officials who followed their guidance won't be prosecuted. However, the president's assurances don't apply to the former administration officials who crafted the legal justification for the interrogation program.
The newly released memos offer the public the most unvarnished and explicit look yet at once-top secret efforts to psychologically break high-level terrorism suspects.
Despite the graphic description of the techniques, the memos at the time concluded that the tactics didn't constitute "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment," even as Congress was moving to ban such treatment.
The memos reveal that by May 2005 various "enhanced" techniques were used on 28 detainees. Three high-level al Qaida operatives — Khalid Sheik Mohammed, Abu Zubaydah and Abd al Rahim al Nashiri — were subject to waterboarding, a procedure that simulates drowning and is widely regarded as torture.
Obama said Thursday that the U.S. won't prosecute CIA officials who used the techniques and ordered the memos rescinded. The CIA interrogators, some of whom were contractors, weren't identified in the partially censored documents.
"This is a time for reflection, not retribution," Obama said. "In releasing these memos, it is our intention to assure those who carried out their duties relying in good faith upon legal advice from the Department of Justice that they will not be subject to prosecution."
While civil rights groups applauded Obama for releasing the memos, some expressed frustration with his promises of immunity for those who followed the memos' guidance — and predicted that it would amount to blanket cover for all former Bush administration officials.
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Pepe Escobar Commentary, Real News: There Will Be Blood
Tea Parties? This is What Astroturf Looks Like
by $ave the Rich$ave the Rich
is exposing the truth about today’s Tea Parties:
“Astroturf.” Fake grassroots. It’s what you get when big business and rich zealots hire pricey consultants to manufacture public outrage.
With big budgets, limitless manpower, sophisticated targeting, and a sympathetic media channel, it’s not difficult to generate anger.
We will spend the next days documenting exactly who these people are. They are pushing a message out to the press, and with the press. It’s going to take information and work to push back.
The evidence of astroturfing is everywhere:
* Corporate lobbyists and their consultants are organizing behind the scenes
. Many of the events are being run by staff from think tanks like Americans for Prosperity, Freedom Works and American Solutions for Winning the Futures (ASWF) an organization run by former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
* Fox News is encouraging turnout, sponsoring, and covering “Tea Parties” across the country.
They’re coordinating much of the information for organizers on-line. Fox News hosts -- Beck, Cavuto, Hannity, Bruce, Van Susteren, Malkin and Gingrich -- are featured guests at some of the largest gatherings.
* Protesters have no idea what they’re talking about. At Tea Parties that have taken place over the last few days, attendees are more concerned with Obama’s birth certificate than high taxes or government spending. Fringe gun groups, secessionists, anti-immigration activists and neo-Nazis are out in force.
* Republican officials are driving turn out
. Sen. David Vitter is even sponsoring a bill to honor the protests. At least 12 Republican members of Congress will be featured guests at the Tea Parties. 11 of the 12 Members of Congress attending the events voted against limiting excessive bonuses just two weeks ago.