Friday, October 17, 2003

There Are a Number of Interesting Articles on The Smirking Chimp Site

Check these out:

1. Danny Postel: 'Noble lies and perpetual war: Leo Strauss, the neocons, and Iraq': an interview with Shadia Drury whose scholarly research focuses on the philosophy of Leo Strauss and his influence on the neocons. If you want to get into the heads of the cats running the White House, this would be a good place to start.

2. Paul Krugman: 'The sweet spot: How to fight Bush on taxes', lays out the start of a strategy to roll back the tax cuts (which in the long run should be called what they really are: service cuts) without alienating the middle class voters. Krugman's been one of the more sensible economists around recently, so I'd give what he says careful attention.

3. Molly Ivins: 'Politics for grownups', and this quote sums it up in a nutshell: Did you know that it is quite possible not to hate someone and at the same time notice their policies are disastrous for people in this country? Quite a thought, isn't it? Grown-ups can actually do that -- can think a policy is disastrous without hating the person behind it. Lyndon Johnson comes to mind: a great president who was disastrously wrong about Vietnam.

4. Jonathan Turley: 'Students, nuns and sailor-mongers, beware of Ashcroft', gives even more reason to get this administration out of office asap. If there is an obscuroid law on the books somewhere that can be used to stifle political opponents, Ashcroft will find it and use it. Of course I wonder how aggressively Ashcroft will go after the traitors in the White House who out CIA agents.

5. H.D.S. Greenway: 'Will the US one day regret its post-9/11 excesses?' What happens when the buzzards come home to feast on the carcass of post 9-11 US policies?

"Schemes are not always what they seem, in the maze these days twist many things, to get your soul by any means."

Anti-pop Consortium (from the album, Arrhythmia)

In most of the rest of the US, dropping out of high school after the 11th grade makes you a loser.

In Jeb Bush's Florida, it makes you a: Graduate!

Now I don't want to go on rant, but this has to be one of the stupidest educational policies I've heard of since the notion of social promotion (i.e., passing students to the next grade level regardless of their achievement level). Look, we have a problem in America already: a growing number of people are graduating from high school functionally illiterate. Ever wonder why there are so many state universities that have to offer remedial reading, English, and math courses? Maybe it has something to do with students being packed into crumbling, overcrowded schools (or in rural areas like my own, merely crumbling) in which teachers have neither the time to actually teach, or if they do find the time, they must spend it teaching the kids how to pass that end of the year standardized test. That's right: they teach to the test but don't get to teach anything that might be useful. But Florida? This has to earn Jeb Bush a prize...The Homer Simpson Award For Stupidity Above And Beyond The Call Of Duty? And this man wants to take a crack at the Presidency some day? He's gotta be smoking crack if he thinks that's gonna happen. Oh wait, he probably already is, along with his president impersonator brother. But I digress. Now where was I? Oh, yes Florida. So 11th graders can now get high school diplomas. Groovy. Here's my question: can these kids enroll in universities? Is Florida planning on importing a bunch of these 11th grade dropouts (oops, excuse me, "graduates") to other states? Here's a tip Jeb. Don't...I repeat...don't send them to my university. We have enough problem children of our own, dig? While you're at it, Jeb, put down the crack pipe, come down, and rejoin the real world. I realize reality will be ugly for someone like you, especially when confronted with the mess that you and your siblings seem to make of things, but it has to be done before you do any more damage.

I Just Love it When Conservative Columnists Diss the GOP's White House Occupant

Case in point: Georgie Ann Geyer.

Perhaps I've misread her, or perhaps I should take a closer look at what was exactly in those espressos I'd been drinking, but I'd always had her pegged as one of the GOP faithful. Anyhoo, in writing about Ted Kennedy receiving the George Bush Award for Excellence in Public Service, Geyer points out the schism that has developed between father and son over the son's policies which Ms. Geyer apparently finds distasteful. But before I could say "Holy Crap, the Apocalypse is truly iminent: Geyer is now an enemy combatant!" it became apparent that Geyer still gushes over Poppy Bush like an infatuated school-girl, and is very dismayed at how Poppy's legacy is being undone by the son. Favorite line:

The son seems to have made posturing against his father's accomplishments and beliefs his life's work. W has given way to a radical right that abhors international coalitions and manners; he mocks the world and denies any need for its help. He has led the Middle East to the nadir of its hope and possibilities, and he has led the United States to a moment in history in which we face asymmetric warfare from one end of the globe to another. And above all, he has replaced his father's courtesy and good graces with an almost proud rudeness and scorn for others.

Why? I'll leave the question of "killing the father" to the psychiatric thinkers. Meanwhile, the tension between these two men reveals itself daily.

Dubya with unresolved Oedipal issues? Freud would have a field day!


Ike Was Right

Talk about sticker shock. The condition of the country was far worse than anyone dared imagine. Engineers released their findings this September and, using a grammar school grading system, they assigned grades to describe the state of disrepair they found.

The country's roads got a D+. Aviation infrastructure got a D. Schools a D minus. Wastewater treatment facilities, a D. Dams, a D. Hazardous waste storage a D+. And, even though the nation is a major oil producer, the energy sector got a D+.

In all, the experts said it would take more than $1.6 trillion over the next five years to bring the country's infrastructure up to modern standards.

Or to put it more succinctly: Bush diddles while America crumbles.

Holy Blown Batcover!

US troops question presence in Iraq

A sizeable portion of US forces serving in Iraq describe troop morale as low, and say they have no intention of re-enlisting, damaging the campaign by the US government to brighten up the image of the postwar occupation.

The survey of 1,935 troops, published in a series of special reports on Iraq in the Stars and Stripes newspaper, also found that a significant number of troops were confused about the purpose of their presence, and had lost faith in their mission...


Just a little satire to brighten up your day. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 16, 2003

Kennedy to assail Bush over Iraq war

By Anne E. Kornblut, Globe Staff, 10/16/2003

WASHINGTON -- Ratcheting up his criticism of the war in Iraq, Senator Edward M. Kennedy accuses the Bush administration of telling "lie after lie after lie" to defend its policy in a fiery speech prepared for delivery today on the Senate floor.

"The trumped up reasons for going to war have collapsed," Kennedy says in a speech that underscores his opposition to President Bush's request for $87 billion to fund military operations and rebuilding in Iraq and Afghanistan. An advance copy of the speech was obtained by the Globe.

"The administration still refuses to face the truth or tell the truth," Kennedy says, accusing the White House of misleading the public about every aspect of the war, from the financial costs to the motivation and the aftermath. "Instead the White House responds by covering up its failures and trying to sell its rosy version of events by repeating it with maximum frequency and volume, and minimum regard for realities on the ground."

Asked about the senator's planned remarks, White House spokesman Trent Duffy said, "The United States and the world are safer today because of the actions that were taken in Iraq, because Sept. 11 taught us that we need to confront new threats before they reach our shores."

Kennedy's last broadside about the war -- he described it in September as a fraud "made up in Texas" as part of political strategy -- drew a scolding phone call from White House chief of staff Andrew H. Card. Advisers in both parties say the speech planned for today is further evidence that the personal relationship between the Massachusetts Democrat and the president has greatly deteriorated.

"Our men and women in uniform fought bravely and brilliantly, but the president's war has been revealed as mindless, needless, senseless, and reckless," Kennedy says, according to the text of his speech. "We should never have gone to war in Iraq when we did, in the way we did, for the false reasons we were given."

After the similar, but relatively mild, remarks from Kennedy in September, Bush blasted the senator for being "uncivil," and Card privately complained to the senator for what he considered a personal attack on the president's credibility, according to officials in both parties. Republicans on Capitol Hill were incensed, and House majority leader Tom DeLay called the remarks a "new low."

At the same time, Kennedy's criticism -- coming after a July 15 speech at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, in which the senator said "ideological pride" prevented the administration from seeking international help -- seemed to energize Democratic critics of the administration's Iraq policy. Public opinion polls indicated the president's approval ratings slipped as the criticism grew sharper.

The address prepared for delivery today shows that the reaction from the White House and Card, a Massachusetts native who has known Kennedy for many years, had little effect on Kennedy -- further evidence, advisers said, that Kennedy and Bush have abandoned the kinship they shared at the start of the administration.

"They blew it," one Democratic official said of the White House's handling of its relationship with Kennedy. "They came into office and they started to work together on a number of issues, and then they completely dissed him."

Another Democratic official said that while Kennedy has aided the president's attempts to pass a prescription drug benefit for Medicare, the relationship is no longer warm, largely as a result of the war and the heated rhetoric since. Kennedy voted against the resolution authorizing the use of military force against Iraq.

A White House spokesman declined to comment on the phone call between Card and Kennedy, and neither side would discuss the personal relationship between the two publicly. "Senator Kennedy is willing to work with the administration when he can and oppose them when he has to," spokesman Jim Manley said.

Privately, Republicans argue that Kennedy is simply playing to his liberal base -- a repayment of sorts to compensate for his cooperation with Bush on other issues. "Senator Kennedy has worked well with us on things like education and prescription drugs, but knowing politics, I suspect he'd have to go even further, and be more dramatic [than his true views], to play with members of his own party" in areas where he disagrees with the president, one White House official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

When Bush first came into office, he and Kennedy spoke several times, and Bush even invited some members of the Kennedy family to the White House to watch a movie. They discussed the longstanding ties between their families, and seemed to relate to each other as members of two leading political dynasties. In the year that followed, the two men toured the country together touting their work together on the No Child Left Behind education bill, and in November 2001, Bush renamed the Department of Justice after Kennedy's brother Robert, the former attorney general who was assassinated during the presidential primaries in 1968.

But the relationship began to slide, especially as the administration declined to fund the education bill as much as Kennedy wanted, and interpreted the bill differently than he had expected. When Bush said that John F. Kennedy would have supported his tax cut, the senator and other Kennedy relatives pushed back, angrily declaring that unlike the Bush tax cut, the tax cut in President Kennedy's administration went mostly to the poor and working class.

Kennedy's address today seems likely to put even more distance between the senator and the White House.

"Nearly six months have elapsed since President Bush flew out to the aircraft carrier and declared `Mission Accomplished' in Iraq," Kennedy says. "Today, we all know all too well that the war is not over; the war goes on; the mission is not accomplished. An unnecessary war, based on unreliable and inaccurate intelligence, has not brought an end to danger. Instead, it has brought new dangers, imposed new costs, and taken more and more American lives each week. We all agree that Saddam Hussein was a murderous tyrant, and his brutal regime was an affront to basic human decency. But Iraq was not a breeding ground for terrorism. Our invasion has made it one."

He continues: "All the administration's rationalizations as we prepared to go to war now stand revealed as double-talk. The American people were told Saddam Hussein was building nuclear weapons. He was not. We were told he had stockpiles of other weapons of mass destruction. He did not. We were told he was involved in 9/11. He was not. We were told Iraq was attracting terrorists from Al Qaeda. It was not. We were told our soldiers would be viewed as liberators. They are not. We were told Iraq could pay for its own reconstruction. It cannot. We were told the war would make America safer. It has not."

© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.

More on the Day of the Locust

White racism and Republican politicians make for very compatible bedfellows.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Warning: That Stuffed Teddy Bear May Be Armed And Dangerous

How about some more unnecessary panic on the friendly skies? Now our lovely fearmongers claim terrorists can hide weapons in stuffed animals. So now airport security are to be on the look-out for suspicious looking stuffed teddy bears, bunny rabbits, and so forth. Should I eye my son's stuffed Po with suspicion? Has he been reading Al Jazeerah behind my back?

So, what's next? Exploding diapers? I've got news for you: I've seen exploding diapers daughter presents those to me every time she starts outgrowing her present diaper size. Just on the off chance that you ever end up seated next to me and my daughter, I promise that I will make sure that her diapers fit, and so you and all other fellow passengers will be safe from any threat that might be posed if she does a #2. Or, how about airplane food as a weapon of mass destruction? Actually I've always thought there was something suspicious about the food served on TWA and United Airlines flights for a long time. It always tastes lousy, and I never do quite feel right after partaking of airplane cuisine. However I don't think there's much of a threat there these days, as airlines have cut back drastically on the food service (truly a blessing in disguise).

How about we ask ourselves a very simple question: what are the odds of being killed in a terrorist plane hijacking? My guess is that any of us would have a much better chance at winning the jackpot in the Texas state lottery than becoming casualties on that next flight to Toledo. In other words, it's high time that we Americans take the pill of chilling and don't go looking for threats that are not there. There's enough to be afraid of without manufacturing new fears. Give me a break!

The Day of the Locust

Was the California recall election more about white fear? That seems to be the take here. Having lived in California, I do know that white middle-class and well-to-do types tend to be very nervous about all of the immigration into California, and are not handling being an ethnic minority after being the "majority" for as long as any of them can remember. One of my friends did a qualitative field study of the country music phenomenon among Orange County's white middle class, and in the process of hanging out with all these cats learning to line dance and two-step came to the conclusion that they were embracing country music at least in part due to a fear-based nostalgia: a longing for an Orange County that didn't have so many Vietnamese, Koreans, Blacks, and Hispanics (Orange County's main draw among whites was its reputation as a white conservative oasis; a longing for the days when America's leaders were never questioned; and so on. Arnold also represents a longing for an idealized past, when the hero (always white) would save the day at the last minute, where men were men and women knew their place; and a buffer for the fear of the present and the potential for more drastic change in the racial make-up of the state in the future.

Bush's Aura: The Light of the Heavenly Father or The Heat From the Fires of Eternal Damnation?

An amusing picture of our Great Misleader. Personally I wonder how much makeup is required to cover up the "666" mark on his forehead. Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

"Iraq is wonderful" offensive uses form letter

Here's a story that's been making the rounds lately: those op-ed letters purportedly written by soldiers on the front lines in Iraq who paint a rosy picture of the situation on the ground are apparently fake! Our "Ministry of Truth" has been passing off a form letter using different names to newspaper editors, figuring that they'd be taken face value. Might have worked too, had it not been for the Olympian (from beautiful Olympia, WA, just a little ways south from the Tacoma metro area that I called home for a couple years), receiving two of these form letters. But, hey, a picture is worth a thousand words, so feast your eyes on these:

But hey, the war is going wonderfully, our great Misleader assures us, and contrary to reality, the Iraqis love us, our troops still don't know what to do with all the roses they've received from the grateful Iraqi civilians, and "life's just a cocktail party on the streets" of Baghdad. (1)

How wonderful is it? Our increasingly stressed-out soldiers are killing themselves at a rate that is double what is normally seen among military personnel, about one fourth of our troops don't have body armor for protection, and as the Bushies lied and soldiers died and keep on dying, the Iraqi Governing Council has gone Pinnochio, and are refusing to let the Bush administration pull the strings when it comes to letting Turkish troops into Iraq. Let us not forget the ever present car bombs that make Baghdad look like Beirut or the West Bank, US troops are bulldozing farmers' crops, as part of their new PR effort to win the hearts and minds of Iraqis (now why is it again that so much of the world hates the current White House regime?), and Iraqi collaborators with the US are under fire, literally. Just a friendly reminder: those who collaborate with repressive occupying forces tend to fare poorly in the long run: just ask the French civilians who gave comfort to the Nazis after WWII ended.

(1) The quote is from a Rolling Stones tune "Shattered" (from one of their last great albums, Some Girls) -- a title that I think is befitting of the illusions of progress in Iraq, shattered.

George Lakoff: 'The frame around Arnold'

George Lakoff is a linguist who studies the influence of metaphors on our thought processes. In this particular column, Lakoff discusses a number of "frames" that were used in the recent California recall election, and how those "frames" capitalize on varying views of the "government as father" metaphor, and that Ahnuld appealed most strongly to those who hold a "government as strict father" metaphor. Overall the article makes for an interesting and informative read. If you're a progressive and are going to read just one column today, make Lakoff's the one you pay attention to.

Monday, October 13, 2003

Are you a dangerous ultra-left wing partisan zealot?

Take this simple quiz to find out.

Just in case you want to know how I scored, let's just say I answered "A" to all the questions. What does this mean?

IF A MAJORITY OF YOUR ANSWERS WERE "A"...please consider yourself an "Enemy Combatant." You have chosen, for whatever twisted reason, to oppose our President and give aid and comfort to our enemies in a time of war. Luckily, our Attorney General has performed a "sneak and peak" inside your home, and discovered enough Michael Moore books, Susan Sarandon DVDs and Dixie Chick CD's to put you away for life. Please report to Guantanamo Bay for indefinite detention at your earliest convenience. Get your affairs in order. Say goodbye to loved ones. Get ready to take a dirt nap, you traitor.