Saturday, July 23, 2005

"U.S.S.A. ... U.S.S.R."

Nothing like a little blast from the past, especially when it comes from a nearly 20-year-old Butthole Surfers album. There does indeed seem something strikingly Soviet about the US government as of late, as I and others have periodically noted over the past couple years. Among those who see the parallels is William Rivers Pitt, who writes in Bush's Soviet State:
It's funny in an awful sort of way. The defining events of the last fifty years all centered around the Cold War and the eventual demise of the Soviet system. Toward the end of the Soviet regime, their government was often forced to grossly overstate the size of grain harvests or the preparedness of their military in order to maintain an illusion of strength and order. In other words, intelligence and facts were fixed around the policy. In essence, fixing the facts became the policy.

Self-deception was piled upon self-deception. Rather than address the systemic problems within the nation, the Soviet regime chose instead to massage the illusions until the problems became too huge to overcome. Pretending everything was fine became the chosen course of action, and the state's ability to manufacture a pleasing reality became a perfect circle of inaction and delusion. By the time the tanks rolled and the Wall fell, the deal had already gone down.

Sound familiar?

[...]

Willful blindness is an appropriate phrase. It captures not only the fact that we are manufacturing threats to our security every day we remain in Iraq, but the fact that virtually everything associated with Bush administration policy depends on self-delusion and the manipulation of data to fulfill political desires. Even the most fundamental underpinnings of conservative political philosophy have been ground up in the gears of this grand fantasy.

Truth no longer matters. Ethics no longer matter. Facts are there for the twisting. Decades-old conservative ideals regarding the budget and the size of the Federal government have been thrown under the bus because they are no longer convenient, and get in the way of the manufacture of reality. Soviet self-delusion led that nation into Afghanistan and disaster. The Bush administration’s self-delusion has led us into Iraq. Res ipsa loquitor.

The parallel between this Bush administration and the old, failed Soviet regime can be taken one step further. One of the main reasons the Soviet government was able to stagger on for years making up facts out of whole cloth was that the leaders of that regime were accountable to no one. The Politburo said it, and so it must be true, and if it wasn't true, there was no authority or check to their power that could blow a whistle, throw a flag or demand an investigation. The old Soviet government lived in a bubble, free from the fear that they might be called to the carpet for lying, getting a lot of people killed and putting the State in mortal danger.

Sound familiar? Bush and his people have managed to walk through the raindrops since 2001, managed to pull off more than a few impeachable crimes, for no other reason than that they are accountable to no one in government ... or, more properly, no one in government who has the power to call them to account has done so. Congress is run by Bush allies, the Justice Department is run by his longest-standing hatchet man, and all of them prefer to maintain the pleasant fictions over any attempt to fix what has gone so drastically and demonstrably wrong.

We watched the Soviets smash themselves to pieces because they refused to deal with what ailed them, because lies made life easier on the powerful, because actually attempting to address a problem might expose the powerful to censure or even removal, because no one had the power to stop them.

It is happening again, right before our eyes.

As I mentioned in Consequences, this White House is hell-bent on maintaining its illusions at all costs. Their success in maintaining those illusions centers on maintaining control of the means of political discourse, power, and the means of communication. Indeed, one can make a good case that indeed this is the current sorry state of our nation. At some point, however, the illusions will be shown for what they are. It is only a matter of time. Eventually, the old Soviet politburo had to face the demise of the Berlin Wall and the complete collapse of its hold on power even within Russia's borders. Eventually,in Sartre's No Exit, Garcin meets up with his Ines who tears away his mask of false bravado and reveals a life-long coward. Sooner or later, the same will happen with the White House and its inhabitants and with its enablers. Let's hope for sooner rather than later - and let's continue to work dredge up those inconvenient truths that our own politburo would just as soon not face.

Say hell to

Talk to Action, at its temporary blog home. Want some insight into Christian Reconstructionism? This is a good resource.

Cynthia McKinney: 9/11 Coverup?

McKinney reopens 9/11:
Washington — Revisiting the issue that helped spur her ouster from Congress three years ago, Rep. Cynthia Mc­Kinney led a Capitol Hill hearing Friday on whether the Bush administration was involved in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

The eight-hour hearing, timed to mark the first anniversary of the release of the Sept. 11 commission's report on the attacks, drew dozens of contrarians and conspiracy theorists who suggest President Bush purposely ignored warnings or may even have had a hand in the attack — claims participants said the commission ignored.

"The commission's report was not a rush to judgment, it was a rush to exoneration," said John Judge, a member of Mc­Kinney's staff and a representative of a Web site dedicated to raising questions about the Sept. 11 commission's report.

The White House and the commission have dismissed such questions as unfounded conspiracy theories.

McKinney first raised questions about Bush's involvement shortly after the attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania, generating a furious response from fellow Democrats in Washington and voters in Georgia, who ousted her in 2002.

"What we are doing is asking the unanswered questions of the 9/11 families," McKinney, a DeKalb County Democrat who won back her seat in 2004, said during the proceedings.

She rebuffed a reporter's repeated attempts to ask her why she would so boldly embrace the same claims that led to her downfall.

"Congresswoman McKinney is viewed as a contrarian," panelist Melvin Goodman, a former CIA official, said. "And I hope someday her views will be considered conventional wisdom."

Though she left the testimony and questioning of panelists to others, McKinney was the main attraction, presiding over more than two dozen participants, including the author of a book that claims the U.S. government had advance knowledge of the Pearl Harbor attack and allowed it to happen, and Peter Dale Scott, who wrote three books on President John F. Kennedy's assassination.

Georgia peanuts, Cokes and coffee were available to more than 50 attendees, whose casual dress was a decided change from the gangs of blue-suited lobbyists who usually crowd Capitol Hill hearings.

McKinney herself offered witnesses bottled water and found additional trash cans to place around the room.

Nearly a dozen 9/11 enthusiasts lined one side of the room, camcorders at the ready, broadcasting the hearing live over the Internet or recording it for later release. C-SPAN cameras documented the hearing, and a DVD recording of the proceedings will soon be available.

Ten people sat in a section reserved for family members of 9/11 victims.

"Nine-eleven could have been prevented," said Marilyn Rosenthal, a University of Michigan professor who lost a son in the attacks, echoing the premise of the hearing.

Panelists maintained that Bush ignored numerous warnings from the CIA, the Federal Aviation Administration, foreign governments and others who told him before 9/11 that Osama bin Laden was planning to attack the United States and that terrorists were likely to use hijacked airliners as weapons.

But why would the president or his administration want the 9/11 attacks to occur? Power, the panelists agreed.

In the wake of the attacks, the administration was able to greatly expand the president's power and the reach of the federal government, they said, but whistle-blowers and other potential witnesses who could have testified to the Sept. 11 commission about such things were either prevented from speaking or ignored in the commission's final report. Panelists called the commission's report "a cover-up."

"The American people have been seriously misled," said Scott.

She's certainly not the only one with questions about what really happened on 9/11. Michael Moore tried to address some of the oddities surrounding that tragic event in his last film, and bloggers like Kurt Nimmo have contended for ages that the conventional wisdom about the attacks is wrong. I try to maintain a degree of healthy skepticism about both the conventional wisdom and the claims that it's an inside job.

Pretty well sums up Bu$hCo

Just makes you swell with pride to be an American...
"The Bush administration in recent days has been lobbying to block legislation supported by Republican senators that would bar the U.S. military from engaging in 'cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment' of detainees, from hiding prisoners from the Red Cross, and from using interrogation methods not authorized by a new Army field manual."

Not surprising, of course.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Walking for peace

Here's a little something that made our local news:
A peaceful walk: Californian crosses country in trek to end Iraq war

Peace activists all over the country have found creative ways of showing their distrust of the Bush administration and the war in Iraq. Mike Oren decided that he would show his protestation of Bush administration policies one step at a time.

Also known as the Peace Walker Oren, 51, had decided to walk across the country to protest all war but particularly the war in Iraq.

Oren's walk lead him to Guymon where he is going to take a break before returning to his walk.

Oren got inspired to partake on his walk when he heard a story on CNN about a man in Florida who doused himself with gasoline and burned himself alive because he had learned that his son had died in Iraq.

"That outraged me. I quit my job and went out to San Bernadino, Calif. after that," said Oren.

Oren's destination is New York City. He expects to end his journey on Nov. 15. His journey started in September of 2004.

He left San Bernadino and followed Route 66 up to Tucumcari, N.M. It was there he decided to follow Highway 54 north and east. He will follow 54 up to Springfield, Ill.

Since he has been walking Oren says he has lost 70 pounds, but he feels his trials have been worth it.

"I have seen the real America so far," said Oren.

Oren's walk has completely been publicly funded. He buys food and motel rooms to stay at based on donations from people he has met.

He gets about 15 to 20 dollars per day. When he can't stay in a motel he sleeps at local homeless shelters until he gets back on his feet and walking again.

Every once in a while though he has gotten lucky though and a motel would give him a complimentary night in a room to support his cause. People have also donated food to his cause.

"I never take more than I need," said Oren.

He walks in all kinds of whether.

Hot and dry or cold and rainy he continues his quest for peace in the Middle East and to change the world one step at a time.

The Peace Walker's web site is www.thepeacewalkerquest.blogspot.com

Link

Consequences

It's a truism that our actions have consequences. It also seems to be a truism that many a person will try to avoid facing negative consequences of their actions - perhaps to avoid possible punishment, perhaps to maintain an illusion of noble character. Think of the power of the last judgment for many Christians - the potential for one to be tormented by all of one' sinful deeds before either entering the pearly gates or condemnation to the fiery pit of Hell. On a more secular level, I often draw on a powerful one-act drama by Jean-Paul Sartre, No Exit, which is set in Sarte's own vision of Hell. This one isn't so much of fire and brimstone as the Hell of having others see you for who you really are as opposed to your false illusions. One character, just by way of example, Garcin, fancies himself as a brave freedom fighter who is shown by Ines to be little more than a coward who hid behind his cause. I think of this a lot when I think of our "war president" who fancies himself as a "spreader of democracy and human rights" among other things. The potential to be forced to face the consequences of policies that have been - it's fair to say - destructive (and that is truly an understatement) has to be quite frightening. Hence, the secrecy. Hence, the efforts to keep truth from seeing the light of day. It's in that spirit that I present to you the following:

Bush Blocks Abu Ghraib Photo Release:
July 22, 2005, New York, NY—The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) today denounced the latest efforts of the Bush Administration to block the release of the Darby photos and videos depicting torture at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib. [...]

In June, the government ... received an extension from the judge stating that they needed time in order to redact [faces in] the photographs and videos. They were given until today [but] at the eleventh hour filed a motion ... based on an entirely new argument [requesting] a 7(F) exemption from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act to withhold law enforcement-related information in order to protect the physical safety of individuals.

Those images, like the ones that came out of Abu Ghraib over a year ago, are likely to be powerful in their portrayal of an administration that has embraced torture, that has fully embraced physical coercion and humiliation as a form of policy. Given the illusions that this White House prefers to harbor, I can see why they would want to keep photos of Bu$hCo-authorized torture from reaching the public. What we do know is that those who have seen these images were deeply disturbed by what they saw - much more so than they might have been by the images that were first made public.

What about the illusion of spreading democracy? This note to supporters of the Iraq war by a blogger called Kn@ppster pretty well spells out just how authoritarian the Iraq constitution really is. To give you a taste:
Freedom of association -- "It is forbidden to construct civil society organizations whose activities are aggressive, harmful to the interests of the society, secret, military in character, or take the form of militias." [Emphasis mine throughout these quotes] So much for opposition political parties, labor unions, etc.

Freedom of speech and press -- "All individuals have the right to express their opinion and publish it in any manner in accordance with the law, provided it does not disturb the public order or public morals. ... Freedom of opinion, expression organization, publishing, the press, media, advertising, meetings, peaceful demonstration and parties is guaranteed ... insofar as public security and morals are not harmed." If you're not an idiot, this should be pretty self-explanatory. If you are an idiot, here it is in simpler English: You're permitted to speak and write, as long as the government likes what you have to say. If not, well, it sucks to be you, doesn't it?

Speedy public trial -- "Court decisions are public unless the decision of a court make them secret."

Double Jeopardy -- "It is forbidden to try someone more than one time for the same accusation after his acquittal unless new evidence has appeared." Translation: If we want to get you, we'll hold back evidence and try you over and over again until we get a conviction or you hang yourself in despair, feeding in a little new evidence to justify each trial.

Right to keep and bear arms -- "Citizens are forbidden to possess, bear, buy or sell weapons except with a permit ..."

The truth has this tendency to make its presence known. Whether by bloggers, the occasional journalist, etc., the illusions that this White House has held on to so desperately can be cast aside quite readily. The proverbial man behind the curtain is not nearly what he appears to be at first glance.

As Sartre put it so aptly in No Exit, "Hell is other people." A part of that Hell is those inconvenient truths which others impose on illusions of grandeur, decency, courage, and so on.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

As Treasongate Continues...

First let's take a trip down memory lane. Karl Rove is indeed a character.

And now...BREAKING: More Dirt Coming on Rove and Libby. Seems this story keeps taking twists and turns. Perjury, perhaps? Stay tuned.

Also, Friday morning, 10 am Eastern Time, there will be a Democrat panel on the national security issues involved in the Treasongate scandal.

Wake up and smell the coffee

Some links and thoughts with the Thursday morning brew.

We live in a police state,, and Clear Channel is fine with that. Hardly a newsflash. Here's a clip:
As you read the article below, keep in mind that while these two deejays got suspended after threats of a police boycott, you still have stations where the N word and other racial and sexist epithets are used day and day out. You also have the recent case where a Clear Channel station in San Francisco hired a racist producer who penned a parody song for Emmis' Hot 97 where he made fun of Tsunami victims by calling them 'Chinks' and 'Gooks'.

So Clear Channel will suspend two jocks for making inappropriate remarks about the police the week of a funeral for a slain officer, yet that same company will go out and hire a known racist who made fun of 220 thousand innocent victims to a horrible tragedy. So where do we draw the line as to what's appropriate and what isn't?

So the message is clear, our tax dollars which support the public airwaves LICENSED to the Clear Channels of the world can be used to support over the top racist behavior, but those same tax dollars will not tolerate anything said against the police who by the way we pay with our tax dollars Something to think about...

Treasongate nevers goes away, much as the White House would prefer it did. Ray McGovern asks Did Dick Finger Valerie? BooMan asks How High Does the Plame Leak Go? and also notes that the Bu$hCo insiders are revolting. To paraphrase an old line heard many a time - it's about time you figured that out! Oh, it's the other definition of "revolting": too many former staffers have been slighted, and they are increasingly willing to sing.

Susan Hu has this to say of Sy Hersh: he's sublime, never supine. Word!

Brad's Brain is going on vacation, but he offers some of greatest hits.

Brenda Stewart has a run-down on some of SCOTUS nominee Roberts' Iran-Contra baggage. Somewhere I've also read that he has been a supporter of Operation Rescue - I'll try to add a link later as time permits.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

The continuing story of Bu$hCo lies

David Chandler has several posts that act as a chronicle of the widening scandal in the White House:

More Documentary Evidence of Bush's BIG Iraq LIE - the DSM refuses to die.

Protecting the BIG LIE!

The Bush/Rove/Libby Scandal

Khalid Jarrar is still in prison

As far as we know, based on his brother's latest post, there is no new info on his status. Raed notes this as a footnote to a post on Iraqi civilian casualties (we could consider those imprisoned civilians who've died in US-run prisons & prisons run by the puppet regime in Iraq among those casualties). Of course, in an earlier post, Raed had this to say about the state of the legal system in Iraq:
On another note, it seems that the new Iraqi courts don't guarantee the right to lawyers: prisoners are neither offered the help of a public defender nor can they bring their own lawyers. News about my sibling is so confusing, but we're expecting to know more tomorrow. There are more than ten thousand people in the US prisons in Iraq, and other thousands in Iraq's governmental and paramilitary jails. Everyone deserves to have the right of a phone call to inform his family about his location and status after being arrested, everyone deserves the right of having a trial and knowing what he or she is charged with, and everyone deserves to have a lawyer for his trial.

Link

Here we see the limits of "democracy" as the neocons envision it. People are "disappeared" for little more reason than having voiced opposition to the government, may be held practically indefinitely without any hope in hell of legal representation or recourse. If you're a family member of someone who's been imprisoned, good luck. Maybe you'll find something out about their status. Maybe you won't. And for this, our soldiers are dying. For this, our Republican president and Republican-led congress have driven up budget deficits. For this whole cities have been decimated and people whose only "crimes" were those of existing have been killed or maimed.

Khalid is in danger of becoming another statistic in our government's war against the Iraqi people. He doesn't deserve - nor do others who are suffering similar fates. Sadly the plight of him and others like him will receive little attention in the US or in the western world.

Sign the petition.

Monday, July 18, 2005

About tomorrow morning's coffee

Y'all with have to serve yourselves. The coffee shop will be closed as the proprietor (me) will be out of town. See you tomorrow evening!

Iraq election rigged. Go figure.

Sy Hersh has the goods:
A Pentagon consultant who deals with the senior military leadership acknowledged that the American authorities in Iraq "did an operation" to try to influence the results of the election. "They had to," he said. "They were trying to make a case that Allawi was popular, and he had no juice." A government consultant with close ties to the Pentagon's civilian leaders said, "We didn't want to take a chance."

I was informed by several former military and intelligence officials that the activities were kept, in part, "off the books"--they were conducted by retired C.I.A. officers and other non-government personnel, and used funds that were not necessarily appropriated by Congress. Some in the White House and at the Pentagon believed that keeping an operation off the books eliminated the need to give a formal briefing to the relevant members of Congress and congressional intelligence committees, whose jurisdiction is limited, in their view, to officially sanctioned C.I.A. operations. (The Pentagon is known to be running clandestine operations today in North Africa and Central Asia with little or no official C.I.A. involvement.)

"The Administration wouldn't take the chance of doing it within the system," the former senior intelligence official said. "The genius of the operation lies in the behind-the-scenes operatives--we have hired hands that deal with this." He added that a number of military and intelligence officials were angered by the covert plans. Their feeling was "How could we take such a risk, when we didn't have to? The Shiites were going to win the election anyway."

In my reporting for this story, one theme that emerged was the Bush Administration's increasing tendency to turn to off-the-books covert actions to accomplish its goals. This allowed the Administration to avoid the kind of stumbling blocks it encountered in the debate about how to handle the elections: bureaucratic infighting, congressional second-guessing, complaints from outsiders.

Hat tip to Addison of Booman Tribune.

Wake up and smell the coffee

Some links to go with the Monday morning brew:

This just in: Iraq is still a quagmire. Other resources: Today in Iraq does a regular (almost daily) roundup of Iraq war fiasco news. Juan Cole also has a roundup of Iraq war news under the title of Bombings Provoke Fears of Hot Civil War. Raed Jarrar tells us of Iraqis and vanishing food rations.

BREAKING: FBI has been monitoring ACLU, others, to see if they're promoting terrorism

How Karl Rove Told the Media - a cartoon that aptly sums it up.

Mr. Bush, Have You No Shame?

Mohammed Hussain writes on double-standards in The Dehumanizing Factor.

Okie Funk connects the dots on Karl Rove's hubris and gives a welcome to Rove's world.

Housekeeping

Just a quick word to let y'all know I've been tinkering with the blogroll a bit. Nothing major - just wanting to keep things fresh.