Wednesday, December 08, 2004
Such a recent example is Congressman Tom DeLay, R-TX, the powerful House Majority Leader who was reprimanded by the House Ethics Committee for shady dealings, is apparently going to be indicted in the State of Texas for election law violations, and articulates a dominionist theological imperative and even spoke of such in a recent interview in Worldview Weekend:
"He [God] is using me, all the time, everywhere, to stand up for a biblical worldview in everything that I do and everywhere I am. He is training me."
Well Tom, next time you pray to God ask him to give you training in Biblical worldview as it relates to Christian love, tolerance, forgiveness, evenhandedness, and even honesty, all words that do not describe your politics or political warmongering in the least bit, and while you are at it, Tom, talk to God about obeying the election laws in the State of Texas, since they are in your own Dominionist views God based. Also, take the God Course of Accountability and when you break the law, do not go running to the majority leadership of the U.S. Congress to grant you a waiver from being held accountable. You talk it, now walk it. Be a man and face your punishment for being a fraud Christian and a dirty politician.
Yes, Tom, you can consider that a Christian rebuke, from a Christian that clearly sees that you are a Dominionista Fascist.
Surely there must be some logical explanation.
That's the first thing Steven Freeman thought the night of Nov. 2, after exit polls showing that John Kerry would win most of the key battleground states turned out to be wrong, and George W. Bush ended up being re-elected by nearly 3.5 million votes.
But after several days, it became obvious that no one in the mainstream media was investigating the bizarre discrepancy, says Freeman, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania. So he decided to conduct his own investigation.
"I just felt that the discrepancy ought to be explained - that people expect these exit polls to be accurate, and there's no good reason they shouldn't be accurate within statistical limits," he said in a phone interview Monday.
Either the exit polls were off or the count was off, says Freeman, who has a Ph.D. in organizational studies from MIT.
"And beyond that, every deviation was in the same direction" - showing more support for Kerry than the actual vote - "so I thought that ought to be explained as well. And the more I looked into it, the more interesting it was."
That's putting it mildly.
As various media - including this paper - reported last month, Freeman's findings have helped fuel speculation that the election wasn't exactly, shall we say, on the up and up. More specifically, Freeman concluded in a paper on Nov. 10 - a paper, by the way, he has revised twice since - that the odds of exit polls in the critical states of Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania all being so far off were roughly 662,000 to 1.
Remember, they had four years to figure out a clever way to do this. Was it clever enough?
Mr. Scalia, whose judicial motto might be: "To afflict the afflicted and comfort the comfortable," is a disgrace and a disappointment to my people. He has chosen the role of collaborator in order to become un pezzo grosso, a big shot. He is to the Italian community what Marshal Petain was to the Free French. He has chosen to forget whence his people came, what they had to endure to secure the blessings of liberty to themselves and their families. He is a professional Italian, willing to prostrate himself before his corporate masters and be their willing buffoon. I would go so far as to say, that were Antonin the presiding judge at the Sacco and Vanzetti trial, he would have been only too glad to execute them on the spot.
For some reason, I find Scalia and Tom DeLay to be the most repulsive of the current right-wing nuts.
This misinformation seems to be the only reason that 46 percent of Americans still believe the invasion of Iraq was justified. After all, 74 percent of the country, including 58 percent of President Bush’s own supporters, say they would only support the war if Saddam had WMD or ties to Al Qaeda—which of course he did not. Bush literally needed voters to believe outright lies to sustain support for his policies.
Being lied to by the White House for four years may have something to do with voters’ confusion. The list of fabrications is all too familiar now — Iraq would be a “cakewalk,” there was “no doubt” that Saddam had nukes, Mohammad Atta had met with Iraqi agents in Prague — but as another practiced demagogue, Vladimir Lenin, once said, “A lie told often enough becomes the truth.”
But the task of lying to the public was made easier by our political climate, which inhibits independent thinking. In his recent book, The Middle Mind: Why Americans Don’t Think for Themselves, social critic Curtis White argues that our contemporary culture encourages Americans to consume the soundbites they’re spoon-fed rather than seek out information and evaluate it critically. White’s diagnosis would explain why voters seem increasingly willing to buy into prepackaged, spin-dried versions of the truth while tuning out inconvenient facts. In today’s polarized political milieu, many Americans would rather march in lockstep with Michael Moore or Bill O’Reilly than draw their own conclusions on each issue.
These simplistic ideologies frequently graced the campaign trail. Despite Kerry’s plan to cut taxes for 98 percent of Americans, Bush was able to use the senator’s tax increase on the top 2 percent to incite clichéd right-wing fears of Washington Democrats “raising your taxes!”
Tuesday, December 07, 2004
The writer of War not the answer, nor is Bush (Letters, Dec. 1) had it right. President Bush has put us all at far greater risk because of his comic-book hero approach to détente. His good ol' boy approach to international relations is a joke; this president is a joke.
The "welcome" Bush got in Canada was no aberration. Bush has alienated our closest neighbor. The not-so-loving crowds who greeted the president was the first peek this country's media have allowed of the real story: This president is hated throughout the world.
How could this be? How could we be in such a mess and have everyone here bury their heads in their save-me-Jesus Sundays and pretend everything is fine? How could we be so dumb?
Lest anyone forget, we invaded a sovereign nation and we didn't have to. Twelve hundred of our brave and beautiful young people have been killed and the pain for their families will never end. Multiply that death and pain and sadness by a thousand times and you have the Iraqi people. Bush is directly responsible for all this death.
Despite right-wing prattling about a "culture of life", Bush and his cronies have been responsible for a startling number of deaths over the years, from the numerous capital-punishment victims of then-Governor Bush right up through the 100,000 Iraqi civilians killed (so far) by Our Great Leader.
"My pastor kept asking us to pray for George Bush to win," a Georgia woman told me last week, "and most folks seemed to go along with it. So I just kept quiet and secretly prayed for the other side."
She's not alone. A majority of frequent churchgoers may have voted for President Bush (if surveys are right), but a large minority voted for Sen. John Kerry. Not all Christians - not even all evangelicals - are born-again Republicans.
But the word "Christian" (not unlike the word "moral") is increasingly tied in the news media to the word "Republican," thanks to the successful alliance between Karl Rove and leaders of the religious right. (In one pre-election news account, a minister described comforting a parishioner who anxiously asked if he could remain a Christian and vote for Kerry.)
Growing numbers of Christians are alarmed by the hijacking of their faith. In an editorial last week, Robert Parham of the moderate Baptist Center for Ethics vowed to "take on the religious right more forcefully - critiquing its false religion and anointment of the GOP as God's Only Party."
Meanwhile, emboldened by the perception that evangelicals decided the election, Jerry Falwell, James Dobson and other evangelical leaders close to the White House are already lining up to claim the spoils. They expect to have the power to shape the Republican agenda on everything from constitutional amendments to Supreme Court appointments.
But before conservative Christians get too comfortable with this church-state alliance, they would do well to remember a bit of familiar wisdom: Those who seek power by riding the back of the tiger end up inside.
Do tax cuts for the wealthy represent the will of God?
What might normally be an impertinent and perhaps offensive question suddenly seems entirely reasonable after hearing George W. Bush’s ungrammatical but passionate pledge to defend the tax cuts his administration provided to the richest, smallest segment of American citizens, at the cost of his own life if need be. The vow he uttered during his town-hall meeting in California over the weekend — "Not over my dead body will they raise your taxes!" — was the strongest he’s made on any subject since his promise to deliver Osama bin Laden to justice "dead or alive."
Even allowing for hyperbole, such edgy remarks indicate what matters most to Mr. Bush. For the moment, however, he appears more capable of fulfilling the former promise than the latter. And since it has lately become respectable to discuss his elevation to the nation’s highest office as a matter of divine will, Mr. Bush’s deep determination to empty the Treasury into the pockets of friends and supporters may likewise signify the unknowable agenda of the Almighty.
Until now, few directives have been clearer than the guidance enunciated by prophets of both the Old and New Testaments regarding earthly greed. "Woe to you who are rich," Jesus told his disciples, "for you have already received your comfort." The impoverished carpenter also reportedly informed a well-heeled acquaintance that it is "easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." His best-known speech included the admonition that "you cannot serve both God and Mammon."
Universally familiar as those statements are, they are reliably among the most widely ignored.
The hypocrisy of this "Christian" president is almost beyond belief.
A week in the United States, such as I have just spent, is enough to make anybody feel a trifle fed up with God, or rather with the relentless invocation of the deity by American politicians, led by their president. No public occasion would be complete without the blessing of the Almighty being besought for whatever endeavour tops the agenda, most prominently the war in Iraq. The appeal to faith, seldom mere ritual, is usually founded upon conviction.
There is an attractive rationalist case for insisting that candidates for election anywhere in the world are required to sign a declaration forswearing religious affiliation. Had this been done in Ireland a couple of generations ago, think what we would have been spared.
Few modern political careers are compatible with religious principle. Government by atheists would relieve us of the irksome moral conceit that impels George Bush and Tony Blair to do deplorable things while remaining convinced that slots are kept open for them in heaven.
Now, every army has its share of lunatics. The litmus test is how their political masters treat them. The world waited in vain for Rumsfeld to sack this grotesque Strangelovian, whose words seemed to undermine every possibility of constructive engagement with Islam.
It never happened, of course. I was in Washington while the little drama was being played out. A defence academic said to me sardonically: "This administration will never sack a general for saying things that every senior figure in the cabinet believes," and so it proved.
Monday, December 06, 2004
Has President Bush lost his grip on reality?
In his December 1 speech in Halifax, Nova Scotia, President Bush again declared his intention to pre-emptively attack "enemies who plot in secret and set out to murder the innocent and the unsuspecting." Freedom from terrorism, Bush declared, will come only through pre-emptive war against enemies of democracy.
How does Bush know who and where these secret enemies are? How many more times will his guesses be wrong like he was about Iraq?
What world does Bush live in? The US cannot control Iraq, much less battle the rest of the Muslim world and beyond. While Bush threatened the world with US aggression, headlines revealed the futility of preemptively invading countries: "Pentagon to Boost Iraq Force by 12,000," "US Death Toll in Iraq at Highest Monthly Level," "Wounded Disabled Soldiers Kept on Active Duty."
We are getting our butts kicked in Iraq, and Bush wants to invade more countries? It is clear as day that we do not have enough troops to deal with Iraq. The 12,000 additional troops "to improve security" are being acquired by extending the combat tours of troops already on duty in Iraq.
Surely the American president is not so dumb as to believe that Osama bin Laden went to all the trouble of bringing down the World Trade Center simply because Muslims hate freedom and democracy.
Well, that's what he keeps telling us. Maybe he thinks we're dumb.
The April 30, 2004, statement awarded Tillman a posthumous Silver Star for combat valor and described how a section of his Ranger platoon came under attack.
"He ordered his team to dismount and then maneuvered the Rangers up a hill near the enemy's location," the release said. "As they crested the hill, Tillman directed his team into firing positions and personally provided suppressive fire. . . . Tillman's voice was heard issuing commands to take the fight to the enemy forces."
It was a stirring tale and fitting eulogy for the Army's most famous volunteer in the war on terrorism, a charismatic former pro football star whose reticence, courage and handsome beret-draped face captured for many Americans the best aspects of the country's post-Sept. 11 character.
It was also a distorted and incomplete narrative, according to dozens of internal Army documents obtained by The Washington Post that describe Tillman's death by fratricide after a chain of botched communications, a misguided order to divide his platoon over the objection of its leader and undisciplined firing by fellow Rangers.
The Army's public release made no mention of friendly fire, even though at the time it was issued, investigators in Afghanistan had already taken at least 14 sworn statements from Tillman's platoon members that made clear the true causes of his death. The statements included a searing account from the Ranger nearest Tillman during the firefight, who quoted him as shouting "Cease fire! Friendlies!" with his last breaths.
OK, so we can't believe anything the military says either. Who do you trust?
George Bush's new administration, and its supporters controlling Congress, are setting out to dismantle three decades of US environmental protection.
In little over a month since his re-election, they have announced that they will comprehensively rewrite three of the country's most important environmental laws, open up vast new areas for oil and gas drilling, and reshape the official Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
They say that the election gave them a mandate for the measures - which, ironically, will overturn a legislative system originally established by the Republican Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford - even though Mr Bush went out of his way to avoid emphasising his environmental plans during his campaign.
"The election was a validation of the philosophy and the agenda," said Mike Leavitt, the Bush-appointed head of the EPA. He points out that over a third of the agency's staff will become eligible for retirement over the President's four-year term, enabling him to fill it with people lenient to polluters.
The environmentalists point out that almost every local referendum on environmental issues carried out on election day achieved a green majority.
But our president doesn't listen to "focus groups".
At first glance, Kerik seems an unlikely candidate to head a department responsible for overseeing the work of 180,000 federal government employees, including the US Secret Service, immigration and border agents, the Coast Guard and airport baggage inspectors.
A high school dropout — he later acquired a high school equivalency degree — Kerik has no experience in national politics or the Washington bureaucracy. The Washington Post said Friday that a “high-ranking business executive” familiar with Kerik’s career “expressed shock” at the appointment. “Management just simply isn’t his strong suit,” he said.
Kerik’s presence at the head of the agency — his lack of management skills, political experience and intellectual ability notwithstanding — serves two essential purposes. First, there is his connection to — and shameless exploitation of — September 11. Second, he brings to the agency the political sensibilities of a prison guard and an undercover cop, having no compunction about trampling on democratic rights.
Kerik’s elevation is an ominous warning of the repressive measures the Bush administration is preparing for its second term.
Wouldn't you think Bush could make just one sensible, smart appointment, just to appease the reality-based community?
Sunday, December 05, 2004
Presidents who are popular and skilled enough to win a second term often clean house in their cabinet before that term starts. The wholesale turnover now taking place in President Bush's cabinet is no different in that respect.
But Bush's appointments to fill out his new team reveal a pattern that may not serve him well. Rather than bringing in "new blood" to many of these high-level posts, the President is reaching into his loyal inner circle time and again to fill the jobs. The danger is that an administration already lacking a healthy range of competing voices at the table will become further insulated.
Departing Secretary of State Colin Powell was an adviser capable of speaking truth to power, even though he often found himself on the losing side of policy disputes with Vice President Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Bush is replacing the most prominent voice of dissent in his cabinet with national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, one of his closest, most trusted and like-minded aides. Assuming she is confirmed by the Senate, she will become the highest-ranking African American woman in the nation's history (courtesy of a conservative Republican president), and will be fourth in the line of presidential succession. An advantage is that foreign leaders will have no doubt Rice is speaking for the President. But she is even less likely than Powell to advocate policy options than run counter to the wishes of Cheney and Rumsfeld.
At the Justice Department, virtually anyone would look better than retiring Attorney General John Ashcroft. The President's choice, White House counsel Alberto Gonzales, has served with Bush since his days as governor of Texas. Once again, credit Bush for promoting diversity - Gonzales would be the country's first Hispanic top law-enforcement official. But the President is also risking more isolation here, too. The Atlantic magazine reported last year that Gonzales, as legal counsel to Bush in Texas, "repeatedly failed to apprise" him of crucial issues in pending death-penalty cases, including ineffective counsel, mitigating evidence and evidence of innocence.
We hear a lot about how "diverse" the president's Cabinet is. Tavis Smiley says it's "more diverse than NPR". But it is not at all diverse in the most important sense, as each appointment brings another willing tongue to the Bush butt. Is this any way to run a government?
Absent were any words of conciliation, compromise, or cooperation — all of which would have been necessary if America were to secure real allies before going to war. But the matter of building a working coalition was of little or no consequence to Rice, except insofar as it affected George Bush’s political fortunes — and he considered it of no consequence, either.
Rice had already learned that to succeed in her current job, she had to please her boss, which meant knowing his beliefs, preferences, and predilections. In fact, her statement about these three countries was so close to his sentiments that the same words could have come from his mouth.
By any relevant standard, Rice displayed a rare mastery for pleasing her boss. She unequivocally supported Bush’s beliefs, however misdirected and misbegotten. She constantly championed his war, however barren of sense and bereft of legitimacy. And she unfailingly promoted his policies, however unlikely to succeed and unsubstantiated by reality.
Even worse, Colin Powell was also the only person in the Bush administration who seemed possessed of any wisdom, capable of any moderation, and able to exhibit any truthfulness — although his WMD speech before the U.N. made doubters out of many of us.
Instead of Powell, we will now have Rice: an inveterate liar, an unabashed acolyte, and an unprincipled politician who has the unfortunate habit of placing George Bush’s interests ahead of everything else — including the interests of this country.
Has there ever been such a dishonest and incompetent woman (or black person) at the highest levels of American government? I can't think of one.
George Bush has flown away, traffic in Ottawa and Halifax is back to normal, and life goes on. Canadians still live beside our big neighbours, and we're still ambivalent about them.
It's tempting to say that this week's presidential visit was a metaphor for the whole Canada-U.S. relationship: It took place when they were ready; they set the agenda (and changed it, adding missile-defence as a main subject); we were collectively obsessed about the visit; U.S. media and the U.S. public hardly noticed. And the Americans made no concessions.
In day-to-day terms, we're no better off beside them than we were Tuesday morning. For a self-professed free trader, Bush has not used his political muscle to reopen the border to Canadian beef cattle, and there was a deeply dishonest ring to the way he blamed bureaucrats for the delay.
On softwood lumber, Bush can blame neither civil servants nor Congress; the extraordinary challenge the U.S. filed with the World Trade Organization came from the administration alone. It is without visible merit and, like the odious Byrd amendment that would further subsidize protected U.S. lumber barons, it is clear evidence of the political power of big business south of the border.
Bush's visit to Canada generated lots of headlines, but changed nothing. As we did a week ago, a year ago, a century ago, Canadians still live beside a big self-obsessed powerhouse. You'd think we'd be used to this by now.
In one of his more enlightened moments, President Bush promised to cut government fat by getting rid of programs that don't work. Now there's a goal we can all applaud. So why is he still spending so much money on abstinence-only education?
You don't have to be a Harvard scholar to know that teaching abstinence alone doesn't work. You just have to be a normal, red-blooded teenager.
True, abstinence is the best answer. True, abstinence does work 100 percent of the time. If you never have sex, you will never get pregnant, become HIV-positive or contract any sexually transmitted disease. But expecting all teenagers to save their first sexual experience until their wedding night is like telling them not to get acne. They may want to say no, but their body wants to say yes.
After 10 years, here's what we know about abstinence-only programs: They misrepresent the facts. They don't fully educate or prepare teenagers for the responsibilities of adulthood. They don't work. And they waste good taxpayer dollars. This is bad government.
Are you as tired of religious fundamentalists as I am?