Friday, October 22, 2004

There's Nothing Like the Doctor of Gonzo Journalism

Dr. Hunter S. Thompson's latest column in Rolling Stone: Fear and Loathing, Campaign 2004. Here it is. Enjoy:



Armageddon came early for George Bush this year, and he was not ready for it. His long-awaited showdowns with my man John Kerry turned into a series of horrible embarrassments that cracked his nerve and demoralized his closest campaign advisers. They knew he would never recover, no matter how many votes they could steal for him in Florida, where the presidential debates were closely watched and widely celebrated by millions of Kerry supporters who suddenly had reason to feel like winners.

Kerry came into October as a five-point underdog with almost no chance of winning three out of three rigged confrontations with a treacherous little freak like George Bush. But the debates are over now, and the victor was clearly John Kerry every time. He steamrollered Bush and left him for roadkill.



Did you see Bush on TV, trying to debate? Jesus, he talked like a donkey with no brains at all. The tide turned early, in Coral Gables, when Bush went belly up less than halfway through his first bout with Kerry, who hammered poor George into jelly. It was pitiful. . . . I almost felt sorry for him, until I heard someone call him "Mister President," and then I felt ashamed.



Karl Rove, the president's political wizard, felt even worse. There is angst in the heart of Texas today, and panic in the bowels of the White House. Rove has a nasty little problem, and its name is George Bush. The president failed miserably from the instant he got onstage with John Kerry. He looked weak and dumb. Kerry beat him like a gong in Coral Gables, then again in St. Louis and Tempe -- and that is Rove's problem: His candidate is a weak-minded frat boy who cracks under pressure in front of 60 million voters.



That is an unacceptable failure for hardballers like Rove and Dick Cheney. On the undercard in Cleveland against John Edwards, Cheney came across as the cruel and sinister uberboss of Halliburton. In his only honest moment during the entire debate, he vowed, "We have to make America the best place in the world to do business."



Bush signed his own death warrant in the opening round, when he finally had to speak without his TelePrompTer. It was a Cinderella story brought up to date in Florida that night -- except this time the false prince turned back into a frog.



Immediately after the first debate ended I called Muhammad Ali at his home in Michigan, but whoever answered said the champ was laughing so hard that he couldn't come to the phone. "The debate really cracked him up," he chuckled. "The champ loves a good ass-whuppin'. He says Bush looked so scared to fight, he finally just quit and laid down."



Ali has seen that look before. Almost three months to the day after John Fitzgerald Kennedy was murdered in Dallas, the "Louisville Lip" -- then Cassius Clay -- made a permanent enemy of every "boxing expert" in the Western world by beating World Heavyweight Champion Sonny Liston so badly that he refused to come out of his corner for the seventh round.



This year's first presidential debate was such a disaster for George Bush that his handlers had to be crazy to let him get in the ring with John Kerry again. Yet Karl Rove let it happen, and we can only wonder why. But there is no doubt that the president has lost his nerve, and his career in the White House is finished. NO MAS.



*****



Presidential politics is a vicious business, even for rich white men, and anybody who gets into it should be prepared to grapple with the meanest of the mean. The White House has never been seized by timid warriors. There are no rules, and the roadside is littered with wreckage. That is why they call it the passing lane. Just ask any candidate who ever ran against George Bush -- Al Gore, Ann Richards, John McCain -- all of them ambushed and vanquished by lies and dirty tricks. And all of them still whining about it.



That is why George W. Bush is President of the United States, and Al Gore is not. Bush simply wanted it more, and he was willing to demolish anything that got in his way, including the U.S. Supreme Court. It is not by accident that the Bush White House (read: Dick Cheney & Halliburton Inc.) controls all three branches of our federal government today. They are powerful thugs who would far rather die than lose the election in November.



The Republican establishment is haunted by painful memories of what happened to Old Man Bush in 1992. He peaked too early, and he had no response to "It's the economy, stupid."



Which has always been the case. Every GOP administration since 1952 has let the Military-Industrial Complex loot the Treasury and plunge the nation into debt on the excuse of a wartime economic emergency. Richard Nixon comes quickly to mind, along with Ronald Reagan and his ridiculous "trickle-down" theory of U.S. economic policy. If the Rich get Richer, the theory goes, before long their pots will overflow and somehow "trickle down" to the poor, who would rather eat scraps off the Bush family plates than eat nothing at all. Republicans have never approved of democracy, and they never will. It goes back to preindustrial America, when only white male property owners could vote.



Things haven't changed all that much where George W. Bush comes from. Houston is a cruel and crazy town on a filthy river in East Texas with no zoning laws and a culture of sex, money and violence. It's a shabby sprawling metropolis ruled by brazen women, crooked cops and super-rich pansexual cowboys who live by the code of the West -- which can mean just about anything you need it to mean, in a pinch.



Houston is also the unnatural home of two out of the last three presidents of the United States of America, for good or ill. The other one was a handsome, sex-crazed boy from next-door Arkansas, which has no laws against oral sex or any other deviant practice not specifically forbidden in the New Testament, including anal incest and public cunnilingus with farm animals.



Back in 1948, during his first race for the U.S. Senate, Lyndon Johnson was running about ten points behind, with only nine days to go. He was sunk in despair. He was desperate. And it was just before noon on a Monday, they say, when he called his equally depressed campaign manager and instructed him to call a press conference for just before lunch on a slow news day and accuse his high-riding opponent, a pig farmer, of having routine carnal knowledge of his barnyard sows, despite the pleas of his wife and children.



His campaign manager was shocked. "We can't say that, Lyndon," he supposedly said. "You know it's not true."



"Of course it's not true!" Johnson barked at him. "But let's make the bastard deny it!"



Johnson -- a Democrat, like Bill Clinton -- won that election by fewer than a hundred votes, and after that he was home free. He went on to rule Texas and the U.S. Senate for twenty years and to be the most powerful vice president in the history of the United States. Until now.



*****



The genetically vicious nature of presidential campaigns in America is too obvious to argue with, but some people call it fun, and I am one of them. Election Day -- especially a presidential election -- is always a wild and terrifying time for politics junkies, and I am one of those, too. We look forward to major election days like sex addicts look forward to orgies. We are slaves to it.



Which is not a bad thing, all in all, for the winners. They are not the ones who bitch and whine about slavery when the votes are finally counted and the losers are forced to get down on their knees. No. The slaves who emerge victorious from these drastic public decisions go crazy with joy and plunge each other into deep tubs of chilled Cristal champagne with naked strangers who want to be close to a winner.



That is how it works in the victory business. You see it every time. The Weak will suck up to the Strong, for fear of losing their jobs and their money and all the fickle power they wielded only twenty-four hours ago. It is like suddenly losing your wife and your home in a vagrant poker game, then having to go on the road with whoremongers and beg for your dinner in public.



Nobody wants to hire a loser. Right? They stink of doom and defeat.



"What is that horrible smell in the office, Tex? It's making me sick."



"That is the smell of a Loser, Senator. He came in to apply for a job, but we tossed him out immediately. Sgt. Sloat took him down to the parking lot and taught him a lesson he will never forget."



"Good work, Tex. And how are you coming with my new Enemies List? I want them all locked up. They are scum."



"We will punish them brutally. They are terrorist sympathizers, and most of them voted against you anyway. I hate those bastards."



"Thank you, Sloat. You are a faithful servant. Come over here and kneel down. I want to reward you."



That is the nature of high-risk politics. Veni Vidi Vici, especially among Republicans. It's like the ancient Bedouin saying: As the camel falls to its knees, more knives are drawn.



*****



Indeed. the numbers are weird today, and so is this dangerous election. The time has come to rumble, to inject a bit of fun into politics. That's exactly what the debates did. John Kerry looked like a winner, and it energized his troops. Voting for Kerry is beginning to look like very serious fun for everybody except poor George, who now suddenly looks like a loser.



That is fatal in a presidential election.



I look at elections with the cool and dispassionate gaze of a professional gambler, especially when I'm betting real money on the outcome. Contrary to most conventional wisdom, I see Kerry with five points as a recommended risk. Kerry will win this election, if it happens, by a bigger margin than Bush finally gouged out of Florida in 2000. That was about forty-six percent, plus five points for owning the U.S. Supreme Court -- which seemed to equal fifty-one percent. Nobody really believed that, but George W. Bush moved into the White House anyway.



It was the most brutal seizure of power since Hitler burned the German Reichstag in 1933 and declared himself the new Boss of Germany. Karl Rove is no stranger to Nazi strategy, if only because it worked, for a while, and it was sure as hell fun for Hitler. But not for long. He ran out of oil, the whole world hated him, and he liked to gobble pure crystal biphetamine and stay awake for eight or nine days in a row with his maps & his bombers & his dope-addled general staff.



They all loved the whiff. It is the perfect drug for War -- as long as you are winning -- and Hitler thought he was King of the Hill forever. He had created a new master race, and every one of them worshipped him. The new Hitler youth loved to march and sing songs in unison and dance naked at night for the generals. They were fanatics.



That was sixty-six years ago, far back in ancient history, and things are not much different today. We still love War.



George Bush certainly does. In four short years he has turned our country from a prosperous nation at peace into a desperately indebted nation at war. But so what? He is the President of the United States, and you're not. Love it or leave it.



*****



War is an option whose time has passed. Peace is the only option for the future. At present we occupy a treacherous no-man's-land between peace and war, a time of growing fear that our military might has expanded beyond our capacity to control it and our political differences widened beyond our ability to bridge them. . . .



Short of changing human nature, therefore, the only way to achieve a practical, livable peace in a world of competing nations is to take the profit out of war.

--RICHARD M. NIXON, "REAL PEACE" (1983)



Richard Nixon looks like a flaming liberal today, compared to a golem like George Bush. Indeed. Where is Richard Nixon now that we finally need him?



If Nixon were running for president today, he would be seen as a "liberal" candidate, and he would probably win. He was a crook and a bungler, but what the hell? Nixon was a barrel of laughs compared to this gang of thugs from the Halliburton petroleum organization who are running the White House today -- and who will be running it this time next year, if we (the once-proud, once-loved and widely respected "American people") don't rise up like wounded warriors and whack those lying petroleum pimps out of the White House on November 2nd.



Nixon hated running for president during football season, but he did it anyway. Nixon was a professional politician, and I despised everything he stood for -- but if he were running for president this year against the evil Bush-Cheney gang, I would happily vote for him.



You bet. Richard Nixon would be my Man. He was a crook and a creep and a gin-sot, but on some nights, when he would get hammered and wander around in the streets, he was fun to hang out with. He would wear a silk sweat suit and pull a stocking down over his face so nobody could recognize him. Then we would get in a cab and cruise down to the Watergate Hotel, just for laughs.



*****



Even the Fun-hog vote has started to swing for John Kerry, and that is a hard bloc to move. Only a fool would try to run for president without the enthusiastic support of the Fun-hog vote. It is huge, and always available, but they will never be lured into a voting booth unless voting carries a promise of Fun.



At least thirty-three percent of all eligible voters in this country are confessed Fun-hogs, who will cave into any temptation they stumble on. They have always hated George Bush, but until now they had never made the connection between hating George Bush and voting for John Kerry.



The Fun-hogs are starving for anything they can laugh with, instead of at. But George Bush is not funny. Nobody except fellow members of the Petroleum Club in Houston will laugh at his silly barnyard jokes unless it's for money.



When young Bush was at Yale in the Sixties, he told the same joke over and over again for two years, according to some of his classmates. One of them still remembers it:



There was a young man named Green

Who invented a jack-off machine

On the twenty-third stroke

The damn thing broke

And churned his nuts into cream.



"It was horrible to hear him tell it," said the classmate, who spoke only on condition of anonymity. He lifted his shirt and showed me a scar on his back put there by young George. "He burned this into my flesh with a red-hot poker," he said solemnly, "and I have hated him ever since. That jackass was born cruel. He burned me in the back while I was blindfolded. This scar will be with me forever."



There is nothing new or secret about that story. It ran on the front page of the Yale Daily News and caused a nasty scandal for a few weeks, but nobody was ever expelled for it. George did his first cover-up job. And he liked it.



*****



I watch three or four frantic network-news bulletins about Iraq every day, and it is all just fraudulent Pentagon propaganda, the absolute opposite of what it says: u.s. transfers sovereignty to iraqi interim "government." Hot damn! Iraq is finally Free, and just in time for the election! It is a deliberate cowardly lie. We are no more giving power back to the Iraqi people than we are about to stop killing them.



Your neighbor's grandchildren will be fighting this stupid, greed-crazed Bush-family "war" against the whole Islamic world for the rest of their lives, if John Kerry is not elected to be the new President of the United States in November.



The question this year is not whether President Bush is acting more and more like the head of a fascist government but if the American people want it that way. That is what this election is all about. We are down to nut-cutting time, and millions of people are angry. They want a Regime Change.



Some people say that George Bush should be run down and sacrificed to the Rat gods. But not me. No. I say it would be a lot easier to just vote the bastard out of office on November 2nd.



*****



BULLETIN

KERRY WINS GONZO ENDORSMENT; DR. THOMPSON JOINS DEMOCRAT IN CALLING BUSH "THE SYPHILLIS PRESIDENT"

"Four more years of George Bush will be like four more years of syphilis," the famed author said yesterday at a hastily called press conference near his home in Woody Creek, Colorado. "Only a fool or a sucker would vote for a dangerous loser like Bush," Dr. Thompson warned. "He hates everything we stand for, and he knows we will vote against him in November."



Thompson, long known for the eerie accuracy of his political instincts, went on to denounce Ralph Nader as "a worthless Judas Goat with no moral compass."



"I endorsed John Kerry a long time ago," he said, "and I will do everything in my power, short of roaming the streets with a meat hammer, to help him be the next President of the United States."



*****



Which is true. I said all those things, and I will say them again. Of course I will vote for John Kerry. I have known him for thirty years as a good man with a brave heart -- which is more than even the president's friends will tell you about George W. Bush, who is also an old acquaintance from the white-knuckle days of yesteryear. He is hated all over the world, including large parts of Texas, and he is taking us all down with him.



Bush is a natural-born loser with a filthy-rich daddy who pimped his son out to rich oil-mongers. He hates music, football and sex, in no particular order, and he is no fun at all.



I voted for Ralph Nader in 2000, but I will not make that mistake again. The joke is over for Nader. He was funny once, but now he belongs to the dead. There is nothing funny about helping George Bush win Florida again. Nader is a fool, and so is anybody who votes for him in November -- with the obvious exception of professional Republicans who have paid big money to turn poor Ralph into a world-famous Judas Goat.



Nader has become so desperate and crazed that he's stooped to paying homeless people to gather signatures to get him on the ballot. In Pennsylvania, the petitions he submitted contained tens of thousands of phony signatures, including Fred Flintstone, Mickey Mouse and John Kerry. A judge dumped Ralph from the ballot there, saying the forms were "rife with forgeries" and calling it "the most deceitful and fraudulent exercise ever perpetrated upon this court."



But they will keep his name on the ballot in the long-suffering Hurricane State, which is ruled by the President's younger brother, Jeb, who also wants to be the next President of the United States. In 2000, when they sent Jim Baker down to Florida, I knew it was all over. The fix was in. In that election, 97,488 people voted for Nader in Florida, and Gore lost the state by 537 votes. You don't have to be from Texas to understand the moral of that story. It's like being out-coached in the Super Bowl. There are no rules in the passing lane. Only losers play fair, and all winners have blood on their hands.



*****



Back in June, when John Kerry was beginning to feel like a winner, I had a quick little rendezvous with him on a rain-soaked runway in Aspen, Colorado, where he was scheduled to meet with a harem of wealthy campaign contributors. As we rode to the event, I told him that Bush's vicious goons in the White House are perfectly capable of assassinating Nader and blaming it on him. His staff laughed, but the Secret Service men didn't. Kerry quickly suggested that I might make a good running mate, and we reminisced about trying to end the Vietnam War in 1972.



That was the year I first met him, at a riot on that elegant little street in front of the White House. He was yelling into a bullhorn and I was trying to throw a dead, bleeding rat over a black-spike fence and onto the president's lawn.



We were angry and righteous in those days, and there were millions of us. We kicked two chief executives out of the White House because they were stupid warmongers. We conquered Lyndon Johnson and we stomped on Richard Nixon -- which wise people said was impossible, but so what? It was fun. We were warriors then, and our tribe was strong like a river.



That river is still running. All we have to do is get out and vote, while it's still legal, and we will wash those crooked warmongers out of the White House.

Some useful tools for undecideds

Compare, Decide, Vote



100 Facts and 1 Opinion, also available as a pdf document, if you want to print out some pamphlets.



You Decide

Bu$hCo's True Believers are Misinformed

The faith-based community provides a stark contrast to the reality-based community:





    • 75% believe Iraq was providing substantial support to al Qaeda.

    • 74% believe Bush favors including labor and environmental standards in agreements on trade.

    • 72% believe Iraq had WMD or a program to develop them.

    • 72% believe Bush supports the treaty banning landmines.

    • 69% believe Bush supports the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

    • 61% believe if Bush knew there were no WMD he would not have gone to war.

    • 60% believe most experts believe Iraq was providing substantial support to al Qaeda.

    • 58% believe the Duelfer report concluded that Iraq had either WMD or a major program to develop them.

    • 57% believe that the majority of people in the world would prefer to see Bush reelected.

    • 56% believe most experts think Iraq had WMD.

    • 55% believe the 9/11 report concluded Iraq was providing substantial support to al Qaeda.

    • 51% believe Bush supports the Kyoto treaty.

    • 20% believe Iraq was directly involved in 9/11.





The facts of course speak for themselves, and are clearly contrary to opinions held by Bush's True Believers.



Here's some more of what PIPA reports:

This tendency of Bush supporters to ignore dissonant information extends to other realms as well. Despite an abundance of evidence--including polls conducted by Gallup International in 38 countries, and more recently by a consortium of leading newspapers in 10 major countries--only 31% of Bush supporters recognize that the majority of people in the world oppose the US having gone to war with Iraq. Forty-two percent assume that views are evenly divided, and 26% assume that the majority approves. Among Kerry supporters, 74% assume that the majority of the world is opposed.



Similarly, 57% of Bush supporters assume that the majority of people in the world would favor Bush's reelection; 33% assumed that views are evenly divided and only 9% assumed that Kerry would be preferred. A recent poll by GlobeScan and PIPA of 35 of the major countries around the world found that in 30, a majority or plurality favored Kerry, while in just 3 Bush was favored. On average, Kerry was preferred more than two to one.



Bush supporters also have numerous misperceptions about Bush's international policy positions. Majorities incorrectly assume that Bush supports multilateral approaches to various international issues--the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (69%), the treaty banning land mines (72%)--and for addressing the problem of global warming: 51% incorrectly assume he favors US participation in the Kyoto treaty. After he denounced the International Criminal Court in the debates, the perception that he favored it dropped from 66%, but still 53% continue to believe that he favors it. An overwhelming 74% incorrectly assumes that he favors including labor and environmental standards in trade agreements. In all these cases, majorities of Bush supporters favor the positions they impute to Bush. Kerry supporters are much more accurate in their perceptions of his positions on these issues.



"The roots of the Bush supporters' resistance to information," according to Steven Kull, "very likely lie in the traumatic experience of 9/11 and equally in the near pitch-perfect leadership that President Bush showed in its immediate wake. This appears to have created a powerful bond between Bush and his supporters--and an idealized image of the President that makes it difficult for his supporters to imagine that he could have made incorrect judgments before the war, that world public opinion could be critical of his policies or that the President could hold foreign policy positions that are at odds with his supporters."




You can read another take on the findings here.



Last night when I was first reading this material I tried to brainstorm a bit on what this all meant. Here are a few observations that come to mind:

  1. Bush's true believers are remarkably resistant to the effects of cognitive dissonance. Even though the facts clearly do not conform to their perceptions, and those facts have been widely reported, the true believers have managed to somehow conveniently ignore those facts.
  2. Most of Bush's true believers are probably highly authoritarian. I've mentioned right-wing authoritarianism (RWA) before on this blog. People who are highly RWA are more prone to compartmentalize dissonant information, hence making it easier to forget or to discount as irrelevant. Highly RWA individuals also tend to be less cognitively complex than people who are only moderately authoritarian or non authoritarian. They're not stupid, but rather simply do not like to actively question information or think as deeply as most of the rest of us. Once they've found the answer they seek, they will stubbornly hold onto that answer even in the face of contradictory information. They already know what they "need" to know.
  3. Crises such as 9-11 play into the hands of authoritarian regimes, in part because authoritarian leaders are adept at playing on people's fears of mortality, at playing the role of protector. Collectively, we tend to become more authoritarian in orientation during such crisis periods and are more prone to give our leaders a free pass. The difference between the folks who are already highly RWA and the rest of us is that those who are highly RWA continue to give those same leaders a free pass long after the rest of us begin to voice skepticism. For the faith-based crowd, the mere possibility that Bush could make mistakes will simply be unacceptable. He will continue to get a free pass from that particular demographic for the foreseeable future.
  4. Persuading the True Believers is probably an exercise in futility. Those who initially were favorable towards Bush's handling of domestic and foreign policy but who are now harboring some doubts, on the other hand, are worth trying to persuade.

My two cents.

Eminem on Bush

via Informed Comment



I've been a fan of Eminem for a while and although I am unsure as to what is actual politics are, I've certainly noticed that he's been quite anti-Bush administration these last few years. He's also apparently been encouraging young people to take the time to vote. His demographic? Mostly young lower middle class white males, as Juan Cole notes:

The other interesting thing about the lyrics above is their invocation of the icon of lower middle class white identity, the "rebel yell." The appeal of the Confederate South for most of them lies not in its horrible race politics or slavery, but in a resistance to the intrusion of the Federal government into their lives.



Eminem cannily turns the Republicans' Southern Strategy against them, calling for a revolt against Bush policies by the guys Howard Dean referred to as having Confederate flags on their pickup trucks. (Although most listen to Country, some of the youngsters are Eminem fans.) Bush now becomes a symbol of grasping, stupid Federal interference, and Iraq is reconceived as a carpetbagging operation. "Until they bring our troops home" is a lyric that makes a moral claim. Bush & Co. have kidnapped US young persons in uniform and are holding them prisoner in an Iraqi cauldron for no good reason. The soldiers are not just soldiers but teenagers, Eminem's constituency.



The song is important as a development in popular culture. But I am arguing that it may also be important in class terms. If any significant number of lower middle class white youth are thinking like this, it could make a difference in some races.

Science Friday

Theory of Relativity Evidence Found



By measuring variations in satellite orbits, scientists have found the first direct evidence of one of the hallowed tenets of Albert Einstein's theory of general relativity -- that the Earth and other large celestial bodies distort space and time as they rotate.



Researchers reporting yesterday in the journal Nature said improved satellite data had enabled them to show the effect known as "frame-dragging" with a degree of precision never previously possible.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Cheap publicity stunt as the "October surprise"?

What else would George the Lesser be doing on his "day off?" It's either that or while away his time doing lines and shots, I suppose:



Bush's Day Off: Iraq Trip



So, I see (via Atrios) that Junior is taking a day off on Saturday.

Sure he is. In the fight of his life, ten days before the election, he's taking a precious day away from the campaign trail.



How much do you want to bet he's being measured for a new military costume as we speak?



My only question is whether it will be Kabul or Baghdad.



And if the braindead press corpse handle this as anything but a cheap, taxpayer financed stunt we should raise holy hell. In fact, it wouldn't hurt to let them know now that any October Surprise like this is not a "surprise" it's an act of sheer desperation and if they don't cover this with the skepticism and derision it deserves they can never call themselves anything but whores.



It's called working the refs folks. If this thing happens, the press needs to have our take on it firmly implanted in their minds before they start their bizarre, erotic fantasizing about the manly preznit.




Baghdad? Kabul? Will he play dress-up again? Maybe he can create yet another Dukakis moment while on the campaign trail. I'm pretty cynical at this stage of the game, to the extent that the only "surprise" for me at this point would be if Junior actually did go back to Crawford to take a day off.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Go Sox!

Now THAT'S what I'm talkin' about!



Favorite quote:

In hindsight, perhaps it was a mistake for the Yankees to raise a "Mission Accomplished" banner above their dugout after Game 3.




I dig the symbolism.

Fascism, pseudo-fascism

First, Wake up and smell the fascism: George W. Bush and the 14 points of fascism. Worth passing on.



Also check out David Neiwert's latest installment from his series The Rise of Pseudo Fascism, Part 5: Warfare By Other Means. If you haven't already done so, check out the rest of his fine series of posts on pseudo-fascism.

Here's a count of the casualties for Tuesday in Iraq

You know, the ones that Bush said would not exist? 10 Dead, 109 Wounded



Iraq in a word - or acronym: FUBAR. Cole's post also showcases the lack of attention to the details of occupation paid by the Bushies. Hubris. Sheer, unadulterated hubris.

Hubris, thy name is George

Robertson: I warned Bush on Iraq casualties



Pat Robertson, an ardent Bush supporter, said he had that conversation with the president in Nashville, Tennessee, before the March 2003 invasion. He described Bush in the meeting as "the most self-assured man I've ever met in my life."



"You remember Mark Twain said, 'He looks like a contented Christian with four aces.' I mean he was just sitting there like, 'I'm on top of the world,' " Robertson said on the CNN show, "Paula Zahn Now."



"And I warned him about this war. I had deep misgivings about this war, deep misgivings. And I was trying to say, 'Mr. President, you had better prepare the American people for casualties.' "



Robertson said the president then told him, "Oh, no, we're not going to have any casualties."




Yeah, tell that to the families of the 1100+ US soldiers killed and to the families of the nearly 140 coalition troops killed. Tell that to the thousands who have suffered debilitating and disfiguring injuries. Tell that to the thousands of Iraqi civilian casualties. No casualties my ass! Talk about being out of touch.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Here's an interesting post:

The Danger of a 2000 Redux, quoting John Broder:



America could very well wake up on Wednesday, Nov. 3, not knowing who won the presidential election. Judging by the latest polls, the race is close enough in a number of key states that human error, technical foul-ups and the inevitable legal challenges could delay the results for days or weeks, in an unwelcome replay of 2000.



...Could the country stand another Florida? How deep would the political and psychological damage be?



...Some scholars and political combatants believe a second contested election could open lasting fissures in American society. They fear that the red-blue political geography of the country could become imprinted on the national psyche for years to come, squelching hopes for bipartisan cooperation in governing the country.



Before 2000, the last time the nation suffered such a disputed presidential election was in 1876, when the wounds of the Civil War were still fresh and the public had no appetite for a pitched partisan battle, said David Herbert Donald, an emeritus professor of history at Harvard University and a scholar of the presidency. That dispute cooled soon after Rutherford B. Hayes, declared the winner by a bipartisan commission, assumed office in 1877.



This time could be different, Mr. Donald warned. "There was a lot more residual ill feeling, more of a feeling that 'we were robbed,' in 2000 than in 1876," he said. "If we have another cliffhanger in which the court decides the outcome, there will be serious doubts about whether this is the best way to run a government."



If either candidate wins without leading the popular vote, as Mr. Bush did in 2000, there could be serious calls to abolish the Electoral College and make other fundamental changes in the machinery of American democracy.




Actually, we might want to think about the usefulness of the Electoral College any way. To take a look at the rationale for the Electoral College (as well as the rest of the political system), let's consider Dye & Zeigler's (1984) The Irony of Democracy:



The structure of the national government - its republicanism and its system of separated powers and checks and balances - was also designed to protect liberty and property. To the Founding Fathers, a republican government meant the delegation of powers by the people to a small number of citizens "whose wisdom may best discern the true interest of their country, and whose patriotism and love of justice will be least likely to sacrifice it to temporary or partial consideration." Madison explained, in classic elite fashion, "that the public voice, pronounced by representatives of the people, will be more consonant to the public good than if pronounced by the people themselves." The Founding Fathers clearly believed that representatives of the people were more likely to be enlightened persons of principle and property than the voters who chose them, and would thus be more trustworthy and dependable.



Voters also had a very limited voice in the selection of decision makers. Of the four major decision-making bodies established in the Constitution - The House of Representatives, the Senate, the presidency, and the Supreme Court - the people were to elect only one. The other bodies were to be at least twice removed from popular control. In the Constitution of 1787, the people elected only U.S. House members, and for short terms of only two years. In contrast, state legislatures were to elect U.S. senators for six-year terms. Electors, selected as state legislatures saw fit, selected the president. The states could hold elections for presidential electors, or the state legislatures could appoint them. The Founding Fathers hoped that presidential electors would be prominent men of wealth and reputation in their respective states. (pp. 45-46)




With some tweaking (namely the amending the Constitution to allow for direct election of Senators) the system as originally developed is largely in place. The rationale of course is that the elites, with whatever benefits of status and privilege they receive, are better positioned to know what is in our interests than are the people. In terms of the Electoral College, there is minimal accountability to the voters. Once those electors are let loose, they can pretty much do whatever they want. Most states have a winner-take all set-up where the party's candidate who receives the most popular votes within that state receives - in theory and so far in practice - all of that state's electoral votes. A few states allow for a proportional allotment of electors. However, there is no recourse as far as I am aware if an elector or electors decide to deviate from how they are "supposed" to vote. We also have no recourse if the popular vote and the electoral vote differ, as was the case in 2000, and prior to that in 1876. Ultimately, the decision as to who is elected president is taken out of our hands, is made for us - hopefully reflecting our preferences - by others who presumably know what is best for us.



To a large degree I look at the Electoral College as antiquated. The elitists will argue that we, the masses, are generally too ignorant to be given the responsibility to elect our presidents directly. Maybe, but if we're ignorant that's often by design rather than choice - and being of the elite class is hardly sufficient in staving off ignorance as our most recent president and his cronies have aptly demonstrated. Maybe back in the day when the literacy rate was lower, when the ability to communicate information was considerably slower the elites would have had a point. That's not true today. To make the presidency a truly democratically elected office, abolishing the Electoral College would be a good start, and perhaps would go some ways to restoring some of the legitimacy to the office that has been lost over the years. Generally I am in favor of putting the decision making powers to the people and out of the hands of the elites to the greatest extent possible, while maintaining the checks and balances that our founders had in mind when setting up the Constitution. The move to directly electing senators has worked quite well, thank you, and I imagine that direct presidential elections would work just as well. Some food for thought.

Axis of Evil Endorses Bush!

Hot on the heels of Vladimir (Stalin II) Putin's endorsement, we now have this gem:



Bush Receives Endorsement From Iran

TEHRAN, Iran - The head of Iran's security council said on Tuesday the re-election of President Bush (news - web sites) was in Tehran's best interests, despite the administration's axis of evil label, accusations that Iran harbors al-Qaida terrorists and threats of sanctions over the country's nuclear ambitions. Historically, Democrats have harmed Iran more than Republicans, said Hasan Rowhani, head of the Supreme National Security Council, Iran's top security decision-making body. "We haven't seen anything good from Democrats," Rowhani told state-run television in remarks that, for the first time in recent decades, saw Iran openly supporting one U.S. presidential candidate over another. "We should not forget that most sanctions and economic pressures were imposed on Iran during the time of Clinton," Rowhani said of the former Democratic president. "And we should not forget that during Bush's era — despite his hard-line and baseless rhetoric against Iran — he didn't take, in practical terms, any dangerous action against Iran." Though Iran generally does not publicly wade into U.S. presidential politics, it has a history of preferring Republicans over Democrats, who tend to press human rights




The way that authoritarian despots stick up for each other is truly heart-warming.

If only Al had this much fire four years ago

'The failed presidency of George W. Bush'



Better late than never, and if his passionate speeches can help evict Bu$hCo, all the better.

Monday, October 18, 2004

From the "Above and Beyond the Call of Duty" department:

Soldiers Saw Refusing Order as Their Last Stand

JACKSON, Miss., Oct. 17 - What does it take for a man like Staff Sgt. Michael Butler, a 24-year veteran of the Army and the Reserve who was a soldier in the first Persian Gulf war and a reserve called up to fight in the current war in Iraq, to risk everything by disobeying a direct order in wartime?...Ms. Butler has her big family to lean on, and on this Sunday, the day after the phone call from her husband, they went to church and turned to their neighbors, friends and faith. Ms. Butler went to the altar rail of Zion Travelers Missionary Baptist Church and told the congregation: "My husband has been in the Army more than 20 years, but refused to take those men in that convoy. He said it would be suicidal.''




Also this article from Reuters:



U.S. Mutiny Soldiers Say Army Ignored Complaints

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. soldiers who staged a mutiny and refused to go on a convoy in Iraq felt commanders ignored their plight when they complained about the safety and condition of their vehicles, their relatives said on Monday.



Ricky Shealey, father of one of 18 soldiers who face discipline for refusing an order to go on a convoy last week, said his son's commanders dismissed complaints they were being asked to transport contaminated fuel in broken-down trucks.



"The command just totally ignored them when they told them this fuel was contaminated and they were still gonna send them out on this mission with contaminated fuel. They were completely aware of this situation and I believe it's a command issue, not a soldier issue," Shealey told CBS' "Early Show."



Refusal to obey orders, especially in a combat zone, is a serious military offense.



Anxious to squash any suspicion of U.S. troop morale or discipline problems in Iraq, the Army said on Sunday it was investigating the "isolated incident" and preliminary findings indicated the soldiers were worried about maintenance and safety.



Last year, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, complained to the Pentagon his supply situation was so poor it threatened the Army's ability to fight, said an official document revealed by The Washington Post on Monday.



Army officials said most of Sanchez's concerns had been addressed and they were keeping a close eye on the situation.



Civilian and military convoys in Iraq, where more than 1,000 U.S. troops have died and thousands have been wounded since the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003, are frequent targets for roadside bombings and other ambushes.



FRANTIC CALL



The 18 soldiers refused to accompany fuel tankers on a supply run from southeastern Iraq to Baghdad on Wednesday, arguing the fuel was contaminated and their unarmored vehicles were in bad shape.



The tankers had previously been carrying jet fuel and had not been cleaned before the new cargo of diesel fuel was loaded, said Teresa Hill, who received a frantic telephone message from her daughter Spec. Amber McClenny.



"Hi mom, this is Amber. This is a real, real big emergency. I need you to contact someone, I mean raise pure hell. We yesterday refused to go on a convoy. ... We had broken down trucks, non-armored vehicles and we were carrying contaminated fuel," said McClenny in the message aired on U.S. networks on Monday.



Hill told NBC's "Today" show her daughter referred to the convoy as a suicide mission.



"She felt like the Army was just leaving them out there to drown," said Hill, who said her daughter feared the contaminated fuel might be put in a helicopter that could ultimately crash and add to the U.S. death toll in Iraq.



In an interview with ABC's "Good Morning America" show, Johnny Coates said his son complained in one instance his truck broke down four times on the way to delivering fuel.



Like other relatives, Coates called his son a good soldier who felt he had to take a stand. "I think he did the right thing. He lived to talk about it for one more day."





Supporting the troops means something different to Bu$hCo than it does to me. Aren't they supposed to have the equipment they need to do the job? Why don't they have that? Why are they being ordered to transport contaminated fuel - presumably useless in any case? Why are they being sent on suicide missions? Was this what Bu$hCo tried to sell to us in late 2002/early 2003? If this war were a used car, we'd be calling it a lemon.

Is something wrong with the president?

Here's a compendium of posts I saw in the aftermath of the final debate:



Bush facial asymmetry NOT SEXY



A bit of a snarky title, but has much more serious content, offering a quote or two from a social psychology article published a few years ago:

Facial asymmetry as an indicator of psychological, emotional, and physiological distress. ... negatively covaries with observer ratings of attractiveness, dominance, sexiness, and health.








Bush: Health Problems? Stroke?



Why Did Bush Skip His Physical?



Bush is losing his mind



There's a good deal of speculation as to why Bush skipped his physical this year. Given his temperament during the debates - his behavior was strange, to say the least - and his declining physical appearance one has to wonder. The speculation is probably mostly fueled by Bush's secretiveness and failure to be forthcoming on numerous other issues during his presidency. A case could be made that he's suffered a recent minor stroke, is suffering from tardive dyskinesia caused by neuroleptics, progressive dementia brought on by his many years of addiction to alcohol and cocaine, or perhaps an addiction to some other substance (possibly prescription). The last of the links shows him videotaped giving a scripted statement that should have been easy for him to come across as polished - he appears instead to blank out in spots and has some difficulty completing his sentences. What's up with that?

Chairman Dubya, Chairman Mao...same crapola, different ideology

Juan Cole fairly aptly sums up what another four years of Bu$hCo would mean both domestically and overseas, and shows how Bu$hCo's faith-based approach to the presidency has already been a disaster, somewhat analogous to the disasterous "Great Leap Forward" policy by Mao during the 1950s. The devil is in the details, found here: Suskind on Bush: "I can Fly!". I remember in high school history classes and later when taking my required freshman history coursework in college that Mao Zedong's "Great Leap Forward" of the late 1950s was looked upon as an excellent example of an ideologically-driven policy gone awry. For Mao and his true believers, faith was the rule of the day. Problem is, as the Chinese found rather quickly, you can't eat faith. Mao had no interest in hearing complaints about the impossibility of much of his policy - such individuals of course in Maoist lingo would have been written off as Bourgeous who required "re-education" (a niftly little euphemism for imprisonment). Change the lingo a bit, and we can replace "bourgeous" with "traitor".



Granted, the Bush-Mao analogy can only go so far: Bush is a veritable pissant when compared to Mao when it comes to leadership, and the US is economically better off than China was in the 1950s (we're not coming off of a civil war & revolution). But both leaders are notoriously corrupt and have a propensity to stay sheltered in their respective ideological bubbles. We're already paying a steep price for the last nearly four years of faith-based presidency. The next four years, if Bush somehow wins the keys to the White House for another term, while perhaps not leading to mass famine will definitely take a very heavy toll on us financially, militarily, and morally.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Kerry gets an endorsement from a conservative mid-Missouri newspaper

Found on the Columbia Daily Tribune website: Why President Bush must go

America must reverse the embarrassing mistake that is George W. Bush’s presidency.



President Bush’s policies have poisoned the United States’ reputation in the world and undermined prosperity at home. The president has damaged the country by callously disregarding the traditions of American democracy, which fosters openness and individual rights.



It’s not that Sen. John Kerry fills us with high expectations. Sen. Kerry’s campaign to date has been mediocre. But however muddled his message, Sen. Kerry impresses us as a compassionate, ethical and thoughtful man. In other words, John Kerry is no George Bush, and that is more than enough reason to endorse him wholeheartedly.



In economics, civil liberties and the environment, the United States is far worse off today than four years ago. Record deficits will harm the economy and threaten the future. But nothing so sets the Bush administration apart from its Republican and Democratic predecessors as the arrogance, stupidity and savagery of U.S. foreign policy today.



● The president has made a mess of America’s relationships with countries around the globe. Respect for America has turned to contempt.



● The war and occupation in Iraq, with all the misrepresentations, miscalculations and mismanagement, have led to a long-term military presence without substantial assistance from foreign nations. It is hard to conceive of any outcome remotely resembling a victory.



● The Bush administration’s efforts to use the threat of terrorism to scare Americans and thus enhance the president’s re-election are tawdry. The tone and tenor of the Bush-Cheney campaign are calculated to be divisive; the opposite of what President Bush promised us in 2000 when he campaigned as a uniter, not a divider. Bush’s vote-for-me-or-die campaign of fear is unworthy of this nation and its people.



● The conspicuous prisoner abuse in Iraq bespeaks a Pentagon bureaucracy and commander in chief who ignore the most fundamental human rights. What happened at Abu Ghraib amounted to war crimes. The prisoner abuse was a mortal sin on our collective national honor.



● Huge tax cuts and accelerated spending have plunged the nation into record debt from a healthy surplus inherited from President Bill Clinton. Social Security and Medicare, never mind economic prosperity, are threatened by a bungled economic policy.



● Vigorous administration of the Patriot Act can lead Big Brother into the private lives of American citizens without cause by allowing searches of phone and Internet records without a warrant. This, coupled with a White House penchant for secrecy, raises a red warning flag about the disintegrating power the people hold over their government.



● The efforts to gut the Clean Air Act, to reduce funding for the Clean Water Act and the flam-flam shenanigans of the Medicare Reform Act signal the administration’s greater concern for the profits of big corporations than the health of ordinary citizens.



The Bush administration has sullied America’s once-shining reputation as a great democracy championing human rights and civil liberties. The administration has recast the United States into the shadow of history’s dark empires by acting militarily against Iraq without a legitimate reason, acting unilaterally without our allies’ full support and acting arrogantly without even a sense of historical perspective.




There's more. All in all quite a rant, and from a newspaper whose editor has always been a GOP-leaning libertarian and who endorsed Bush in 2000. I'm entirely certain that among the wingnut crowd, the Trib will join a growing legion of "America haters" and "fifth columnists" for daring to acknowledge that Dear Leader's presidency has been nothing short of disaster. The cool part is just how multi-partisan, and multi-ideological the writings against Bush have become. It's a smaller bubble that Bush and his true believers must live in these days.

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movement conservatism: the true believers drink the kool-aid

The Brownshirting of America by Paul Craig Roberts. This guy is basically a libertarian - what would have been called a conservative many moons ago before the wingnuts hijacked that label for themselves. Agree or disagree with cats like Roberts on many issues, but realize that he and others like him have some valuable points to add to the dialog. To me one of the most important things we can bear in mind when thinking about the issues that face us is to accept the limits of ideology, and to be willing to take a look at the hard data - both those facts that disconfirm ideology and those that confirm. That's something that movement conservatives have consistently failed to do.



I mentioned Georgie Ann Geyer in a previous post. Here's the column where she disses Bu$hCo's foreign policy and concedes that Kerry will offer a much more responsible approach. Geyer usually annoys the hell out of me, but she seems to at least get that there is something dreadfully wrong with a White House run by fanatics.



Civil liberties T-shirts trigger 'alarm', adds another story to the long list of Bu$hCo intolerance to anything that comes across as dissent. Apparently even wearing t-shirts that say something as innocuous as "Protect Our Civil Liberties" is sufficient to be tossed out of a Bush rally. Think of what this says about the true believers in Bush.

Sunday quote to ponder

from a review of Ben Watson's new biography, Derek Bailey and the Story of Free Improvisation:

Bailey's sometime perverse music and Free Improvisation itself are precious and memorable for another reason. Watson articulates it at great length near the end of this volume:



"In the late capitalist era, the ability to supply 'quality product' has become the assumed aim of everyone, from manufacturers of chicken tika to suppliers of industry-friendly graduate students. The ideology of commodity production means that everything must serve the needs of the accumulation of capital, or be decried as useless, self-indulgent and anti-social. In such circumstances, it's no surprise that 'perversity' has become a word for what the bourgeoisie promised us in its early, heroic, revolutionary epoch: freedom."