Friday, September 29, 2006

Democrats? No, just Republicans-Lite

[The new detainee bill] also would prohibit blatant abuses of detainees but grant the president flexibility to decide what interrogation techniques are legally permissible. (from CNN.com)
It comes as no surprise to anyone that I despise the Republican Party. But being a person who tries to be fair, I gotta tell ya that I find myself loathing the Democrats just as much. And it's not because they're nearly as bad a bunch of corrupt corporate whores as the GOP, though they are.
It's because they are a bunch of weak, gutless, morally empty pussies. If the Democratic Party loses this November, it will be not because the Republican party is better than they are, it will be because whatever opportunity they may have had to take a moral stand on the Rights of Human Beings, as defined by the Founding Fathers and the Constitution, was squandered by them in a show of either abject cowardess or fully-compensated look-the-other-wayedness.

Screw Them.

I suspect that if the Republicans are given another two years worth of rope, we'll find them swinging from it in 2008. I think we can survive another two years of Republican Rule, assuming that afterwards the Rule of Law returns.
That the Bush Cabal, both the White House and their Congressional rubber-stampers, be brought down completely is important for the survival of this country, at least in a form recognisable (and not nauseating) to the Founders. Not only that, but it is important for the Democratic Party, and it is important for the Republican Party.

Look at it this way. Let's suppose that the Democrats take charge again in Congress. Given the complete lack of cojones shown over a legally and morally straightforward issue like Torture, or Lack of Habeus Corpus, do we really believe that the Democrats will wage an effective investigation into the malfeasance of the Bush Administration?
But imagine if they lose in 2006: It will be, hopefully, the last straw for an American Public sick of the Democrats lack of effectiveness. Heads will roll. Meanwhile, as the Bush Cabal currently in control of the GOP continues on their headlong unconstitution race towards fascism, they will continue to commit more and more egregious offenses against the Bill of Rights.

Come 2008, the Public will be greeted with a choice between another four years of autocratic rule by whoever Karl Rove and Dick Cheney line up for the next Chief Puppet, or a clean slate of vocal Democrats, freshly outraged, untainted by compromise with Evil, and ready for battle. Democrats win, the Republican Party, soundly trounced, implodes, returning actual Conservatives to the ranks of its leadership (rather than the piratical anarchists currently in charge). Everybody wins except those who would destroy the American Dream for a few more square feet in their second palatial vacation home.

That's my dream, anyway.

It wont happen, though. Democrats will regain power in Congress, then go on to be so ineffective as to make FEMA look competent. George Bush will continue to get a free pass to loot the nation and piss on the Constitution. The debt will reach new peaks, but a frightened Democratic majority will not risk their 2008 war-chest by substanially raising taxes on the rich, but instead will raise taxes on everyone else. The rich will continue to get richer. The poor will continue to get poorer. The middle class will continue to shrink. Infrastructure will continue to crumble. The military will continue to be hard-pressed and under served. Education will become a series of lessons designed to allow students to pass tests featuring only government-approved "facts". Health insurance will continue to become a greater burden for many, and a thing of the past for most.
In 2008, Frist, Brownback, or some other torture-loving "defender of freedom and security" will be elected President, maintaining the current Cabal's power and continuing our slide into the Dark Ages.

Welcome Friends, to Amerika.

That's my nightmare.

Bottom line here: Congress, the part of our government constitutionally mandated to be the "Deciders", has once again handed that lying sack of shit George Dubya Bush another blank check. They have washed their hands of this war, again. They have failed, dismally, to learn the one very basic lesson that Lord Bush should have taught them: Never give BushCo free reign to do anything.

I'm sure you're reading this and thinking, "oh Jesus, what's gotten into Dave?" Well, dont worry, I'm just soul-sick is all. My country is dying, and jackals are feasting on it's flesh even as it expires.

For a long time, I didnt pay any attention. Now I'm angry. I'm sure come November 7 I'll vote for any Democrat I can, praying that it'll be enough. Come spring, as nothing changes, depression will set in. By 2008, I'll be resigned to it, and I'll start blogging about television shows and music. Maybe I'll change the color... something happy...

Osama Laughed: a reprint

In some cave that smells of shit and incense, somewhere in the Safed Koh mountain range in Pakistan, far enough from the Khyber Pass to be incognito, Osama bin Laden is laughing his ass off watching his satellite television. He's laughing so hard on his cot that he's yanked out his catheter and now piss covers him, but it's so worth it to have this hearty laugh. It might be the guffaw that kills him, but in the end he will die knowing that he won, that in a handful of acts of violence, he showed the world who Americans really are.

Osama bin Laden laughed at the absurdity of the statements of those supporting the Military Commissions Act of 2006. At the fact that, with a straight face (for, indeed, what other face does he have?), Senator Mitch McConnell could say, "We are at war against extremists who want to kill our citizens, cripple our economy, and discredit the principles we hold dear--freedom and democracy," even as he voted to gut some of those principles like a river trout before a campfire. McConnell continued, to Osama's great amusement, "This system is exceedingly fair since al-Qaida in no way follows the Geneva Conventions or any other international norm. Al-Qaida respects no law, no authority, no legitimacy but that of its own twisted strain of radical Islam. Al-Qaida grants no procedural rights to Americans they capture." Yes, Osama thinks, one of his great achievements was to bring the great and wide United States into the caves with him.

Osama bin Laden chortled as the mighty John McCain spouted forth, "Should the United States be seen as amending, modifying, or redefining the Geneva Conventions, it would open the door for our adversaries to do the same, now and in the future. The United States should champion the Geneva Conventions, not look for ways to get around them, lest we invite others to do the same," even as the torture-weakened Senator voted to allow the Geneva Conventions to be interpreted with the same clarity as the clues in an episode of Lost (unironically, one of bin Laden's favorite shows).

Yes, yes, oh, how Osama bin Laden's having a great laugh at our expense. When the Congressional debate first began, bin Laden simply said, "Goddamn, I expected to fuck some shit up, but, really, c'mon, who would've thought we'd do this?" as his men around him wiped piss from his lap, shit from his ass, but could do nothing to get that fucking smirk off his face.

stolen outright from the Rude Pundit, and how right he is.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

quote for the next day

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

Chalmers Johnson, Sorrows of Empire

Stolen from The Third World Traveler

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

quote for the day

I can see you. I know who you are. I watch you... I KNOW. I am what you see. I am what you watch. I am it. I am the hands. I am the feet. I am the eyes. I am the body. I. AM. ROSEBUD. ROOOOSEBUUUD... THE WATCHER. THE FEAR. THE ETERNAL. THE SAINT! You are nothing.A man who does not know the truth is just an idiot but a man who knows the truth and calls it a lie is a crook.

—Bertolt Brecht

stolen from the Existentialist Cowboy

It's not the Pledge of Convienience

Attn: George Bush and Company

I know y'all think the whole torture issue is resolved with the "compromise" you've hammered out with "the Rebellion", but as long as there is a rest of the world and a court system, it really isnt. You see, you've forgotten something that any school child knows...

I pledge allegiance
to the flag
of the United States of America,
and to the Republic,
for which it stands;
one nation, under God, indivisible,
with Liberty and Justice for All


Remember this little phrase?

"Innocent until proven guilty".

This includes murders, rapists, child molestors and, yes, terrorists. You dont have to like it, I certainly dont, but it's not there for the protection of criminals, it's there to protect those who are not criminals from being treated as such. It is there because the forefathers, who had just battled to escape from one system of tyranny, knew full well that the only thing stopping their own system from going the same way was rule of law, and the will of the people. You've done a pretty good job of subverting the will of the people, or at least the loud ones with media access, but it's going to take a bit more work on the legal part. Here's why:
No bill of attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed.
—US Constitution, Article I
Have a nice day!

buy one, get one freedom

Sunday morning, as is my habit every morning, I'm reading the opinion pages first thing (okay, second, right after the Fry's ad). I've got a love-hate relationship with the letters sent to the editors. One the one hand, it's always nice to get a feel for what the people are saying. On the other hand, the people are idiots. Not all of them. Just most of them, like this fellow...
It's amazing to see Charles Rangel and Nancy Pelosi criticize Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez for calling President Bush the devil. They and other Democrats set the stage for exactly what happened.
After they called Mr. Bush every name in the book for six years, it's no wonder Mr. Chávez thought he could say anything he wanted.
Day after day, Mr. Bush is pounded by the entire Democratic Party, the liberal press, talk-show hosts and TV comedians. It never stops, and it is hurting our country. But as long as the Democrats regain power, they don't care what happens.
I can only assume that this person was in Europe from 1992 through 2000, or perhaps somewhere in Tibet, in a cave or hunting the elusive yeti. Because I'm pretty sure that Republicans are at least as responsible as the Democrats are. I mean, the letter could have just as easily said...
It's amazing to see Bill O'Riley and Rush Limbaugh criticize Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez for calling President Bush the devil. They and other Conservatives set the stage for exactly what happened.
After they called Mr. Clinton every name in the book for eight years (and counting), it's no wonder Mr. Chávez thought he could say anything he wanted.
Day after day, Mr. Clinton was pounded by the entire Republican Party, the MSM, talk-radio show hosts and TV comedians. It never stopped, and it is hurting our country. But as long as the Republicans gained power, they didn't care what happened.
But for now, let's set aside the blame game, and look at the really important and disturbing part of this letter. Better yet, let's look at another one...
We've sunk to a new low when we'll allow a dictatorial thug to stand on our own soil and call our president a terrorist and a devil with impunity. It's not likely that an official of this country would be afforded the same liberty in Hugo Chávez's country.
"Thought he could say anything he wanted"?
"When we'll allow"...someone to come to America and call our president names? These are people who werent paying attention in civics class, obviously. The entire point of Freedom of Speech, that extremely important part of the Democracy so many claim we're "spreading" around the world, is that anyone, even "dictatorial thugs", can say anything they want to about the president, regardless of whether or not we would be allowed to do the same in his country. This is not kindergarten, we're not playing doctor, there's no "you show me your liberties and I'll show you mine" here. We are supposed to be better than Chavez. Sure he's an asshole, but once he crossed our border, he was an asshole who could say what he wanted. That's the American way.
On the other hand, defering to the President for any other reason than politeness, parliamentary procedure, or that it's just simply his turn, is not.
The President is our employee, and I think we all know what happens to employees who are screw ups.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

those poor wealthy folk
(another lengthy rant from Dave)

I was looking around for evidence of Clinton-bashing by the Right during his Presidency (yeah, I know, I dont need to, I just thought a solid link might be nice) and I found this quote from the conservative Cato Institute, refering to changes in a tax plan that Clinton wanted back in 1997:
What does it mean for a tax plan to be "fair?" According to President Clinton's definition, a tax cut is equitable if the least productive people in the economy get the largest tax break and if the most productive people get no tax cut at all. Four years ago he made the amazing statement that his tax increase plan was "fair" because "70 percent of the taxes would be paid by the wealthiest 2 percent of the families."

Americans do want a fair tax system. But by "fair" they do not mean the Clintonian notion of requiring the rich to bear almost all the tax burden
.
Okay, skipping the conceit that equates pay and productivity, I do think that Americans believe that those who benefit most from the nation's bounty ought to pay the most in taxes. I mean, why shouldnt the wealthy bear the brunt of the tax burden? After all, they bear the brunt of the wealth burden. And as most of us would like to find out, it's a dirty business trying to figure out how to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars every day, so why fight it when help comes along? Look, here's a pie chart showing wealth distribution in the U.S., circa 1998.remember, this is 1998, folks - the rich have gotten richer since thenBut does a pie chart really get the idea across? Try this...
Another way to put it: Assume there are 100 people who have $100 to split up. No one expects it to be divided perfectly evenly at $1 apiece, but everyone involved expects that some basic fairness will be used in the process that will split up the money.

Now let's say the $100 winds up being divided as follows:
  • 1 person gets
  • 4 people get
  • 5 people get
  • 10 people get
  • 20 people get
  • 20 people get
  • 40 people get
  • $38.10 each
  • $5.32 each
  • $2.30 each
  • $1.25 each
  • .60 each
  • .23 each
  • 1/2 cent each
The 40 people getting 1/2 cent each might be a bit annoyed at the person getting $38.10. The 20 people getting 23 cents each would probably not be happy with the 4 people receiving $5.32 each. And so on...

This is how our economic system has distributed the wealth of our country. It's so far from any type of fairness as to be laughable, were it not a direct cause of certain segments of our society lacking adequate resources for food, clothing, shelter, medical care and other necessities, let alone any amenities of a beyond-subsistence life.
(props to The Rational Radical)
What those Cato folks were aiming at was this idiotic idea, presented by Republicans in the last decade or so, that rich people wont continue to try and make money if taxes are high (when I say "idiotic" I refer to the people who believe it, not its obviously successful use). So far, I've not seen any evidence that anyone in the MSM has tried to dispute this idea. Who really believes that a) the money is the sole motivator of these people, and b) that they wouldnt try to become (or indeed, be) really really rich even if the government took away 50%, or even 75% of their income? Were you aware that from WWII to 1961, the rate of taxation for the highest bracket was 94% (though, no doubt, just like today, there were plenty of loop-holes)?
Are you going to try tell me that the 50's were a period of major economic stagnation? That's funny, I always thought it was the period that conservative groups hold up as the nation's Golden Age. Well, gee, I guess it was the period when the Middle Class grew by leaps and bounds, and that's certainly bad for rich people (or must be, since they're getting all the tax cuts lately, and the Middle Class is shrinking while the Rich get richer). But hey, maybe only the Rich are able to invest in the economy, while all that middle class people can do is buy lots and lots of stuff and try and put aside a bit for a comfortable retirement (and that's not good for the economy, is it?)
And why do the rich insist on acting like their achievements have been made by them and them alone? No CEO ever did anything by himself. But because workers are easily replaced, they are considered fair game for being lowballed, both in terms of pay and benefits. Funny that no one thinks Executives (which you need far fewer of) are so easily replaced, but then who's doing the replacing?

Hey, I know, how about a sports analogy? Everyone loves sports analogies:

Imagine that a sports team wins the Championship, then has to sit and listen while the owner tells everyone how the team won because of his brilliant ownership, awards himself a fat bonus, and says, by the way, next year he'll be charging the team for equipment and field rental (it will later be revealed that the company supplying the equipment is run by the owner's brother-in-law)(and anyone living in a major city knows who actually paid for the field).
Then the owners of the losing teams get up, blame the unions for their losses, and then announce that in addition to the equipment charges and rentals, players will have to start paying for their own medical care (hear, hear! says the winning owner, a capital idea!).
The players revolt, strike and are replaced by scabs, because, after all, there are only a few owners, but lots of people want to play football.
Think I'm being silly? Of course I am, players have the backing of the public to keep them in the money. But imagine if those players didnt have the legions of fans devoted to their cause, but were more like, say, air traffic controllers? Now am I being silly?

Here, let's make it a bit simpler. Who has more money left over after paying for the basics of life; food, housing, clothing, transportation, stuff like that? Never mind the quality of these things, for this point we can ignore the diffence between the palatial homes of the rich and the ratty slums of the poor. Let's talk about after all the "basics" are paid for (however extravagant they may be), who then has money for more stuff? Second home at the beach? Month in Europe? 40' cabin cruiser? Vintage sports car for weekend getaways? Not the poor. These are the lifestyles of the rich and famous, and who, other than the Rich, isnt against taxing excess (the more wretched the excess, the better).

I'm not saying that I wouldnt have all of these things if I could. I would.
I'm also not saying that I would resent paying taxes if I was wealthy. Hell, I resent paying taxes now that I'm poor. But I also resent giving my kids ice cream drumsticks, because I'd rather hog them all myself. But I share anyway, because that's what responsible adults do.

Paying taxes is what responsible citizens do.



Has anyone ever considered the idea that today's "starve the beast" republicans (many actually Libertarians) are really just anarchists in disguise?

Thursday, September 21, 2006

the devil and daveawayfromhome

You know, it never occurred to me before (in what I will admit is my Americanocentrism), but I thought of the following (once I stopped laughing) after hearing Hugo Chavez's remarks to the United Nations:If you are a fundamentalist Christian, of the apocalyptic bent, and you're from any part of the world where the U.S. is not the greatest thing since sliced bread (or, in some cases, regularly-occurring bread), then you probably consider our President to be an excellent candidate for AntiChrist. I myself have "joked" about it, as much as one can joke about something that fits so neatly into a fear drummed into one during childhood. So is it any wonder that the world hates us?

Sunday, September 17, 2006

get over it...
everybody

Whenever I call the U.S. to the carpet on some issue like torture, I do so because a) torture is just simply wrong, and b) to condone torture destroys U.S. credibility on being an "enlightened" culture.
Wait, that's not what I meant to say, see how I get sidetracked by stuff? What I meant to say, is that whenever I call the U.S. onto the carpet about some issue (any issue) I do so because a) I want this country to be the best country it possibly can be, and b) Free speech is an American right that allows me to complain about the U.S. when I feel it's doing something wrong.
Plus, I'm just an opinionated son-of-a-bitch, and I dont care who knows it*.

Well, now it's Islam's turn. Sorry guys, but when someone criticizes you for being "violent", you cant protest about it by setting something of his on fire. See, that's just proving their point for them. You can have your cake on the shelf, looking all pretty. Or you can eat it. But you cant do both (unless you hollow it out and eat the insides, but then the cake will probably collapse under the weight of the frosting) (how's that for a metaphore?).

And now back to our regularly scheduled U.S. stupidity. Oh, and FOX news can burn in hell.

*(which is why my true name and full address are listed in my profile - not!)

Saturday, September 16, 2006

dramady

DUBYO: There wouldn't be no trouble except for that king shit dictator! All I wanted was something to burn in my SUV. But the man kept pushing, Sir.

TRAUTMAN: Well you did some pushing on your own George.

DUBYO: They drew first blood, not me.

TRAUTMAN: Look Georgie, let me come in and get you the hell out of there!

DUBYO: They drew first blood...

TRAUTMAN: (sighs) You really must stop listening to Dick.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

"Yes, let's blame Bush"

I read the following letter in todays Dallas Morning News. I'm reprinting it here since I felt the need to respond to it, and I know that the "News" wont publish the letter I sent in, yet I feel like my response needs to be heard.
let's blame Bush

Gas goes up, gas goes down. Six weeks ago, it was high. Now it's dropping fast and might get below $2 per gallon before long. If President Bush was responsible for the summer's high prices, he must also be guilty for this dramatic drop. One can only hope that the media, which vigorously blamed his administration for high prices, will pursue with equal enthusiasm this reduction as the president's fault, too.

Roger Roney, Flower Mound
My response, the one I sent in, was to reprint almost the entire letter, word for word, but change the last sentence to "One can only hope that the media, which vigorously blamed his administration for high prices, will pursue with equal enthusiasm this reduction as incredibly cynical pre-election price manipulation". I mean seriously, can there be all that much doubt. Have things calmed down all that much in the middle east? Has our relationship with Venezuela changed? Have the Iranians suddenly become less belligerent? Have the Chinese switched to solar power?
No, but which party is starting to sound really worried about the outcome of the next election, less than two months away? Could it be the party of George Bush and Dick Cheney, the oilman's friends, the party which has stood by while Americans suffered at the pump while under the rule of Lord Bush and his oiley Grand Vizer? Listen to this quote from Dead-Eye Dick:
Let us rid ourselves of the fiction that low oil prices are somehow good for the United States
-Washington D.C., Oct. 1986
¿Que?!!! Just how narrow is Dick Cheney's vision of the United States. I must not be included in it, because I know that low oil prices were great for me. Certainly, the rise in oil prices in the last few years havent been good for anyone else America, unless you're an oil company executive or stockholder (and you better have a lot of shares, or any profits you made will be burned up driving to the bank to cash in your dividend check).

There's an easy way to tell, of course. Just wait. This Thanksgiving, when Karl's cunning and Diebold's deceit will narrowly allow the GOP to squeek by another two years without any messy congressional investigations, watch the gas prices head back up again. They'll blame it on "high demand for the holidays", or some ruckus in Iran, but we'll know. Oh yes, we'll know. And maybe, just maybe, we'll remember.



Interestingly, I find that in the summer of 2000, gas prices were up pretty high, especially, it seems, in "blue" state urban areas. Republicans blamed Clinton (naturally). Believe it or not, they're still blaming him. Then, in 2003, after a respite, prices began climbing again, shortly after Republican majorities took office in the Senate, House and state governor's offices. I'm sure that's just a coincidence, though. Right?

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

On a lighter note...

Well, sort of... Go to Paul Hipp's MySpace page, and listen to "Dick Cheney Blues", or hell, just go straight to "Sub-Iraqi Homesick Blues" right now.

Monday, September 11, 2006

5 years

"No American who lived through that [day] will ever forget it. It seared deeply into the national consciousness, shearing away illusions that had been fostered for generations. And with the first shock came a sort of panic. This struck at our deepest pride. It tore at the myth of our invulnerability. Striking at the precious legend of our might, it seemed to leave us naked and defenseless"*

No, this quote wasnt about 9-11. It was about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Like 9-11, it was a sneak attack which drove the country into war. 2,335 dead, very close to the 9-11 toll. The outcome, however, was a bit different. Perhaps this was because of leadership. Perhaps this was because theirs was a more clear-cut enemy. Or perhaps it's because the Nation faced a genuine and obvious threat from an aggressive military power, rather than an incredibly painful sucker-punch from a bunch of religious thugs.

More likely, though, it's because, deep down, we know that this isnt really a war. We know that, at best, this qualifies as something at the level of a turf war, a clash between two rival gangs. Because it's roughly true. Despite the amount of destruction that bin Laden has been behind for many years, he's not much more than a criminal mastermind. He's certainly not a world leader, or at least, wasnt at the time.
Perhaps, rather than making such a big, state (as in State Department) deal out of 9-11, we should have couched it more in terms of being criminal activity. If we had declared it a murder, albeit a murder of incredible scale, and proceded with the investigation and eventual punishment phase as a police matter, we could have framed it more like the battle between Capone and Ness, rather than that of the Allies and the Axis. Bin Laden, however much money he may have, is nothing more than a Gang Boss, a state-less capo with a pack of fanatical henchmen. Unpleasant as this assessment may be, it's made worse by this simple fact: by describing our nation's relationship with bin Laden to be one of two armies at war, we have granted him a legitimacy far above that of a mere petty, outback warlord.
This could have been a simple mistake, made in a spirit of panic by our leaders, the same as so many decisions made by more common citizens in non-leadership roles. But isnt the reason we choose leaders is because we feel that they should be better at making decisions than we are?

There's another possibility, though, one more disturbing. Isnt it possible that our leaders know that this is not a real war. After all, aside from constitutionally dubious "security" policies and ethically and legally dubious P.O.W. policies (and they are prisoners of war, if this realy is a war, right?), just exactly what has the Bush Administration done to indicate that the country is on a war footing?

There's certainly a lot of rhetoric flying around which deals in imagery from WWII, accusations and comparisons involving Nazis and fascists, about epic battles between good and evil. But all this is nothing but propaganda, words designed to sell something, whether it's pacifism or participation. But, aside from provisions to bolster sagging enlistment in our all-volunteer Army, what "war efforts" have been made? (One might think, by the way, that in a "market-driven" society, flagging enrollment in a Military-by-choice would indicate a general disinclination to "buy" into the war effort.) The answer is...

Nothing.

Look, in World War II, everything was thrown into the war effort. Have you ever read anything about rationing or talked to someone who experienced it? Or, I suppose, even lived it yourself? Do you know what we, as a nation, have sacrificed, in the "War On Terror", besides over 2600 of our soldiers lives?
As far as I can tell, we've sacrificed some of our constitutionally guaranteed rights, many having to do with privacy and unreasonable search and seizure (seriously, is it reasonable to take our toothpaste?), something for which some argue, without irony, we do in order to "protect our freedoms".
We've sacrificed the financial security of our children (and probably the retirements of most working people over the age of 40), because we're too selfish to pay for this war as it happens, this being more true the richer one is. Were you aware that during WWII the tax rate on all income over $200,000 was 94%. For the "War on Terror", our leadership has responded with a tax cut, most of which went to the wealthiest of our citizens. But imagine this, if you will: In April of 1942, FDR wanted to raise the marginal tax to 100%, suggesting that "no American citizen ought to have a net income, after he has paid his taxes, of more than $25,000 a year" (the modern day equivalent of about $300,000). Contrast that with today's wealthy few.
Have we sacrificed anything else? I wish I could say that we've sacrificed our inordinate thirst for petroleum products, but we havent (we have sacrificed at the pumps, but unfortunately only for the profits of the oil companies). Of all our non-sacrifices, this seems like the most unforgivable. Where does our current trouble come from? Mostly from the Middle-East. And what would the Middle-East be without the massive flow of cash that comes from oil? Empty, poor? Maybe not, but how about quiet? Without oil, the Middle-East would return to its former occupations, farming, trading, and religious squabbling - you know, like normal people. (This may happen sooner than one might think.) Were you aware that the U.S. imports over half the oil that it uses? And that we use 25% of the worlds petroleum? Tell me, what do you drive? Something small? Or maybe an SUV?

So, since we dont seem to be sacrificing much, is this really a War? I mean, it's a bloody mess alright, with lots of people dying in war-like ways. But this was also true in Korea, and in Viet Nam, and those were called "Police Actions". Is it possible that George Bush was simply more honest when he refered to the current conflict as a War?

Okay, I can see you're laughing. Go ahead, get it out of your system.

So, here's what worries me. We are a nation "at war", yet show no signs of being so aside from body bags, internal spying and a damn nuisance at the airport. Our civil rights are being eroded, often by administrative fiat when Lord Bush cannot get Congress to cooperate. If it's not a war, why call it a War? Could it be a distraction? A magician's slight-of-hand to lead the eye and mind while the real action goes elsewhere?
Let's say that the People finally get tired of this. Let's say there are massive demonstrations, rallies calling for impeachment, etc. Kind of like the 60's, maybe. Remember the 60's? You can bet the Boys in the White House do. Remember who was called out to keep the peace back then? That's right, the National Guard, the same guys currently in Iraq, getting shot at and blown up by what appear to be civilians, and generally learning how to do urban battle. Does this sound like potential trouble to you?

5 years since the destruction of the World Trade Center. 5 years of bloody-minded madness, of killing, torture and invasion (Enough Iraqis have died since the 2003 for at least fifteen 9-11 attacks). 5 years of secrecy and "security" largely aimed at the American People. 5 years of rising oil consumption, rising oil prices, and rising oil profits, overseen by a failed oilman, who is aided by a very successful oilman.

Is this the American dream you were raised to dream?
Do you feel any freer?

Do you feel any safer?


5 years today. Has anything been done to make the deaths of those 2752 people anything other than a tragic crime? Or have we simply compounded the work of one thug with thuggery of our own?


* Melosi, Martin V. - The Shadow of Pearl Harbor: Political Controversy of the Surprise Attack, 1941-1946
this is a much better illusion than the Bush Administration's ''War on Terror''

Saturday, September 09, 2006

another modest proposal

I've been giving some thought to the issues of vouchers, No Child Left Behind, and the inability of America's schoolchildren to do better than children in third world countries. Here's a possible solution that I think we could sell to our Republican Masters:

How about this system for schooling our children? At the end of each school year, the children in lowest 10% of test scoring will be rounded up and euthanized. Parents of these children will be given $10,000 to make up for their loss (with a 6 child cap to prevent Welfare Queens from making an industry out of the process). While this $10,000 dollar payout may sound expensive, considering the (wasted) lifetime cost of educating these non-achievers (plus the potential expense of adult incaceration and welfare costs), the savings will be substantial. The bottom 5% of teachers can also be killed, providing both a carrot and a stick for the improvement of test scores (and reducing the need for pesky merit-demanded pay-raises and unemployment insurance costs). The number of losses will be large for the first few years (exciting public reaction), but as time goes by the pool of children will grow smaller, and thereby reduce the number lost each round, even as public resistance cools through familiarity with the system. Additionally, the culled children can be ground up and used in an expanded school meal program, ensuring that each remaining child gets a good solid protein-based dietary intake, while simultaneously cutting the bottom line on food costs.

The savings to tax-payers under this program would be substantial, reducing greatly the monies given away to the undeserving poor, and freeing up resources towards greater tax credits for the driving economic engines of this land, multi-national corporations and the patriots who invest heavily in them. I believe this program should be put into motion as swiftly as possible.

observations

Normally, I dont read the Dallas Observer much. It's not that I dont like it, it's just that I've only got so many hours in a day, and most of those are taken up with less trivial stuff, like sleep or work. Today, though, I had my youngest at the McPlayground, so had time to kill. I'm going to link you now to two articles.
1) Is a thoughtful and balanced commentary by Jim Schutze on what we may soon be refering to as "the Katrina Problem", except perhaps in Houston where the language may not be quite so nice.
2) Is a rather grim article that I'm linking less because I think everyone should read it, than because some day, when my daughters of are an age to make some very bad decisions, I may want to find it again, and perhaps place the link in their path. Putting it into the record here may help that end.

Friday, September 08, 2006



"I absolutely did not have torture relations with that prisoner."*





*depending, of course, on what your definition of "torture" is. The Bush Corporation prefers that of Alberto Gonzoles, who says, "If you're authorizing it, Boss, then it isnt torture."

Thursday, September 07, 2006

freebie

I'm feeling generous today, so I'm going to give away some of the only asset I've got (and as one with an art degree, it aint money): creative ideation.

Today's idea: a name for anyone who might be thinking of opening their own hair salon.
"Woman, thou art moussed!"

Yeah, yeah, I'm sure someone else has thought of it first, but that doesnt change my thinking of it independently. Anyway, that's what I got today.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

a bit of reading material

The other day, I was listening to BBC on the radio, and they were talking to a historian named Niall* Ferguson. He had a new book out (the name of which I forget) and the things he said were pretty interesting. So I decided to check the library, and see if they had his new book. They didnt (it was on order), but they did have other books by him, so I checked out "Colossus".
I was hooked. A half-dozen pages into the introduction to the paperback edition, and I was hooked, and hooked tight. The quote the other day came from the first page. And the one right below. I'm probably going to have to buy my own copy of the book, because I tend to read non-fiction rather slower than fiction, my life is not terribly conductive to reading these days, and because someone else is requesting the book from the library, which prevents me from renewing it. That's okay, it's good enough to pay for. Besides, that way I can take notes in it.

The primary thesis of the book seems to be that the trouble with American foriegn policy is not that we're imperialists, but that we're half-assed imperialists. That sounds bad, doesnt it? But, I'm not sure that perhaps he's not right (on the radio, in "support" of his theory, he cited the "what have the Romans ever done for us?" scene from "The Life of Brian"). I'll have to let you know what I think after I finish the book, but expect tidbits from it from time to time. Like this one:

Ferguson has identified the Seven Characteristic Phases of American Engagement:
  1. Impressive initial military success
  2. A flawed assessment of indiginous sentiment
  3. A strategy of limited war and gradual escalation of forces
  4. Domestic disillusionment in the face of protracted and nasty conflict
  5. Premature democratization
  6. The ascendancy of domestic economic considerations
  7. Ultimate withdrawl
How dead on is that? Lest you think that Ferguson created this set of characteristics to bip the Bush Corporation, you might study the history of U.S. intervention in Latin America. Dont forget, the Monroe Doctrine has been getting us into stupid situations for decades before Middle Eastern oil was even a consideration. An example? In 1939, after decades of failed interventions all over Latin America (Sandanistas vs. two generations of the Samoza regime, anyone?), only Costa Rica could be described as a true democracy. Guess which Latin American country had never been "helped" by the U.S.A.?

Or how about the following quote, from a 1935 magazine article written by the highly decorated Marine General Smedley D. Butler:
"I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. The record of racketeering is long. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras "right" for American fruit companies in 1903.... Looking back on it, I feel I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three city districts. We Marines operated on three continents.
(Schmidt, Hans, Maverick Marine: General Smedley D. Butler and the contradictions of American Military History {Lexington, Ky. 1987})
Does this sound familiar? Does anyone, besides the deluded third of the country who think Dubya's doing "a heckuva job", really think we invaded Iraq to spread democracy and freedom? We've been saying that for decades (rather like the British Victorian mission to spread "civilization"), but all too often, this "democracy" is accompanied by a major American company that deals in whatever resource the country we're "helping" (ourselves to) has.
There's nothing wrong with democracy. Personally, I'm all for it. It's in everyone's best interest (except for oligarchs, petty tyrants, and boot-licking yes-men, of course). But like the proverbial horse, you cant make anyone be democratic. Lead them to it, yes. Then, wait. Odds are, if they see you enjoying your own cool draught, they'll want a bit for themselves, too. Mmmm, good. What we've managed to do, though, is drag them to the pond, muddied it up a bit, shoved their heads in, then, while they're snorting and shaking their hair out, pulled out a bottle of rot-gut (Karl's "Obliviator" brand whiskey?) and swilled it while we laughed at their sputtering. Not a terribly good example, is it?

Anyway, I'm going to keep reading the book. I'll leave you with one last quote, a conversation that took place after Woodrow Wilson, speaking of future cooperation with Latin American countries, said it would be possible "only when supported at every turn by the orderly processes of just government based upon law, not upon arbitrary or irregular force... We can have no sympathy with those who seek to seize the power of government to advance their own personal interests and ambitions"†, and indicating the resolve of the U.S. to make sure that those countries behaved in a moderate manner, a position we would enforce militarily if necessary. Then, in 1913, after the assassination of the premier of Mexico, and the seizure of power by General Victoriano Huerta, Wilson refused to recognise that government, leading to this exchange between British foriegn secretary Sir Edward Grey and Walter Page, American ambassador in London:

GREY: Suppose you have to intervene, what then?
PAGE: Make 'em vote and live by their decisions.
GREY: But supposing they will not so live?
PAGE: We'll go in and make 'em vote again.
GREY: And keep this up 200 years?
PAGE: Yes, the United States will be here for two hundred years and it can continue to shoot men for that little space till they learn to vote and rule themselves.

Jesus, when are we going to learn?

*pronounced "neel".
†the irony is even more pronounced when one
considers Bush's second inaugural adress.

quote for the day

Listen to the words of a veteran:
"We're supposed to be saving these people and obviously we are not looked on as the saviors here. They can't like us a whole lot. If we came into a village, there was no flag waving, nobody running out to throw flowers at us, no pretty young girls coming out to give us kisses as we march though victorious. 'Oh, here come the fucking Americans again. Jesus, when are they going to learn?'"
from: The Viet Nam War in the Words of the Men and Women Who Fought There, by Mark Baker

Saturday, September 02, 2006

a problem... ?

Today, on my wonderful DVR (how did I ever get along without one?) I watched the brand new episode of "Real Time with Bill Maher". There were some really funny moments, such as Bill's "new rule" about Pluto.
But while watching Maher's discussion with his "panel", I found myself questioning the very format of shows like "Real Time" and "The Daily Show", and their use of humor to skewer those in power (I would say "skewer the Republicans", but these shows will still exist after the GOP pendulum swings the other way).

Wait, that's not actually true. I think I was disturbed by my own enjoyment of the debate, because the "debate" was, at its root, an excuse to make jokes. However much Bill Maher may hate Lord Bush, however strongly he may feel about the issues at hand, the end result was always a joke. This became clear while listening to Christopher Hitchens. Hitchens, if you dont know, is an articulate, intelligent man who still somehow suffers under the dillusion that the invasion of Iraq was a good idea. And he argued such, to which Maher's replies always led to a joke.
There is nothing wrong with jokes. Jonathan Swift and Kurt Vonnegut, among others (including Bill Maher), have used them to great effect. The problem is with the viewers for whom this is their only exposure to Political Debate and Thinking.

No, that's wrong, too. That is a problem, but so is crime, poverty, carbon dioxide emissions, no-bid government contracts and the existance of Paris Hilton as a cultural icon. And, as you see, I myself like things to lead up to a little joke. That doesnt make what I said any less true (personally, I think the popularity of Paris Hilton is indicative of a severe problem with the American psyche).
How about this, then: Hitchens would sit there, and give rational arguements for his (wrong) opinion. Maher would respond not quite as rationally, then finish with a crowd-pleasing line of some sort. Maybe what bothers me is that I'm not quite sure if the crowd actually gets the arguement, or if they just love the zingers. If it's all about the zingers, then would the crowd have cheered Hitchens had he made better jokes than Maher, rather than booing him? And does this imply that the Republican party could halt its backward slide simply by hiring better joke-writers?
I dont know, something about the scene bugged me. I'll think about it some more.