Saturday, July 19, 2008

Hmmm... Will the Bush Pioneers be raising money for this, too?

By J. Thomas Duffy

It seems that if the 110th Congress isn't going to do it, the citizens of San Francisco are.

That being, they are planning on flushing our Court-Appointed President (H/T Barry Crimmins) down the toilet:

George W. Bush Sewage Plant plan is on ballot

San Francisco voters will be asked to decide whether to name a city sewage plant in honor of President Bush, after a satiric measure qualified for the November ballot Thursday.

The measure, if passed, would rename the Oceanside Water Pollution Control Plant the George W. Bush Sewage Plant. McConnell said the intent is to remember the Bush administration and what the group sees as the president's mistakes, including the war in Iraq.

This is cool!

Perhaps, it may take a generation, or two, but little children will learn, when the graduate from potty training, to "Bush" the toilet, when they are finished.

I wonder if The Commander Guy's buddy, Stephen Payne, will be trying to raise money for this?

After all, a significant percentage of people refer to the bathroom as "the library" ...


Bonus "Bushing" Links

The Presidential Memorial Commission of San Francisco

Skippy, the bush kangaroo: what? no public toilets were available?

Wonkette: George W. Bush Sewage Treatment Plant One Step Closer To American Reality

Emptywheel: Does Ray Hunt Do This Kind of Fund-Raising, Too?

Kagro X: Bush "Pioneer" and WH Advance man caught soliciting bribes on tape

(Cross-posted at The Garlic.)


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Top Ten Cloves: Ways to tell tomatoes are safe again

By J. Thomas Duffy

News Item: Warning on Tomatoes Is Withdrawn

10. Barack Obama is switching from arugula to tomatoes.

9. Well, the Government says so, isn't that enough?

8. Whether they are safe, or not, Phil Gramm wants you to stop whining about them.

7. Former Attorney General John Ashcroft even believes eating tomatoes doesn't constitute torture.

6. Stumblin' Bumblin' John McCain isn't joking that we should let the Iranians eat them, so they can die.

5. Nancy Pelosi is willing to put them on the table.

4. You're comfortable enough to remove your lawyer from your speed dial list.

3. Get Baby Alex to do a new spot, eating a tomato.

2. Lift from Popeye, and the Spinach Industry campaign, and have Whimpy say, "I'll gladly pay you Tuesday, for a tomato today!"

1. The one big sign tomatoes are safe? Cindy McCain is back scouring the Internet for recipes to steal.

(Cross-posted at The Garlic.)

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Friday, July 18, 2008

Vanity, thy name is Krauthammer

By Michael J.W. Stickings

It's all part of the Republican Smear Machine's ongoing efforts to brand/label Obama. Hillary helped out during the primaries, desperately trying to make the case that he isn't ready to be president, but the Republicans are on to the next stage of the game.

The Rev. Wright story had some staying power, though Obama diffused it both with his brilliant speech on race and by effectively distancing himself from his former pastor. With McCain running on his experience, as if being around a long time is qualification enough to be president, the Republicans are, like Hillary before them, arguing that Obama is unprepared. Which should be a worry for Obama. Whatever McCain's actual record and policy positions, the media have accepted his claim that he has what it takes to be commander-in-chief from the get-go, what with his "experience" in national security and foreign policy. And the American people, fed by these media, are still buying it.

But the Republican effort is actually much simpler than that, because, as with Republican efforts past, it's mostly about straightforward character assassination. Obama is a tougher target than, say, Dukakis, but the smears are flying: Obama is an elitist. Obama is an egotist. And now, via Krauthammer, Obama is an audaciously vain lover of self. Why? Because he wanted to speak at Berlin's Brandenburg Gate (he's speaking elsewhere, by the way) even though he's done nothing to deserve it (unlike, say, Reagan, in Krauthammer's estimation). And because he has an "elevated opinion of himself," because his campaign is all about himself (not the people: 'I,' that is, not 'we'), because he immodestly thinks of himself as a saviour, as Jesus-plus. Or so says Krauthammer.

All of which is nonsense, of course. Obama has a high opinion of himself, to be sure, but most politicians do -- and certainly anyone seriously running for president must be confident that he or she has what it takes, that he or she can look in the mirror every morning and say, "Yes, I want to be president." There is always the worry that self-promotion can cross the line into narcissism, or that popularity can breed a cult of personality, but Obama, despite a few missteps (talking about Whole Foods and arugula in Iowa, the stupid quasi-presidential seal, etc.) has been admirably modest even while being swept up in a wave of enthusastic support and victory -- even while turning into, and leading, what has become a massive grassroots movement to reform American politics.

Of course, some of it, much of it, is about Obama himself. He's the candidate running for elected office. But the "we" is not royal, as Krauthammer suggests, changing pronouns and taking Obama out of context, focusing on the line "We are the ones we've been waiting for" while missing Obama's meaning altogether. As Hilzoy puts it: "It's about the need to take action for oneself, rather than waiting for saviors to parachute in and do it for us." Obama wasn't saying, "I'm the one," he was saying, "We, with me as your candidate, we together..."

But Krauthammer keeps pressing his case: "Americans are beginning to notice Obama's elevated opinion of himself. There's nothing new about narcissism in politics. Every senator looks in the mirror and sees a president. Nonetheless, has there ever been a presidential nominee with a wider gap between his estimation of himself and the sum total of his lifetime achievements?"

One name comes to mind (as it does for Hilzoy): George W. Bush. Think "Mission Accomplished." Think the Second Inaugural, where he presented himself as the spreader of freedome and democracy and the liberater of the world's oppressed masses. Think "I'm the decider." Think how he has been turned into a Christ-like figure by some of his supporters, and how he has bought into it.

But if it's immodesty, vanity, and narcissism you're looking for, how about Krauthammer himself? What does he do but pontificate without expertise in newspaper columns and on the Sunday talk shows, dishing out partisan hackery and vicious smears without ever being held to account?

The Republican Smear Machine will keep churning out its attacks, of course. And Krauthammer and his ilk will be there to spread the word.

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FISA bill signing: post mortem

By Carol Gee

7/18/08 -- Because I have been travelling, my posting here at The Reaction has been lacking. Today I am posting something I did on the 12th at South by Southwest that never made it over here. I do this because I am "still smarting" about this disaster, and wanted to share my "take" on it as I wrote it at the time -- for whatever it's worth. The post follows:

How did the courage of Congressional Democrats die, when it comes to protecting our citizens' civil liberties? What happened to their oaths of office in the face of OCP's (our current president's) massive assault on Fourth Amendment privacy protection. First, please look at WaPo transcript of what OCP said as he signed the new FISA bill: Bush remarks on signing of FISA bill. Here is an excellent article headlined, "Bush Signs Spy Bill, ACLU Sues" by Ryan Singel at Wired: Threat Level. To quote:

The American Civil Liberties Union filed suit Thursday over a controversial wiretapping law, challenging the constitutionality of the expanded spy powers Congress granted to the president on Wednesday.

The federal lawsuit was filed with the court just hours after Bush signed the bill into law.

Civil liberties advocates have not laid down and died, however. Read this excellent piece regarding what one of the key longtime advocate organizations thinks about the current moribund situation, etc.: "Interview with ACLU re: constitutional challenge to new FISA law," by Glenn Greenwald at To quote:

. . . the extraordinary fact that the surveillance program implemented by Congress yesterday does not merely authorize most of the President's so-called "Terrorist Surveillance Program" that gave rise to this scandal in the first place, but is actually much broader in scope even than that lawless program, because there is not even any requirement in the new FISA law that the "target" of the surveillance have any connection whatsoever to Terrorism, nor is there any requirement that the Government believe the "target" is an agent of a foreign power or terrorist organization, or even guilty of any wrongdoing at all.

. . . Sen. Chris Dodd -- whose stalwart, relentless efforts to stop this law were nothing short of heroic, as those efforts often provoked substantial hostility among many of his colleagues -- sent around the following email today to his mailing list highlighting the positive aspects of the battle:

Yesterday was a sad day for the United States Senate.

It is my hope that the courts will undo the damage done to the Constitution.

But let us stand tall, knowing that by working together we were able to make wiretapping and retroactive immunity part of the national discourse these last number of months.

We came together – all of you, Senator Feingold, bloggers like Jane Hamsher and Glenn Greenwald, organizations like the EFF and ACLU, and untold hundreds of thousands of Americans who simply wanted to make sure that this one, last insult did not happen with ease.

I'm sorry we weren't successful.

I just hope I'm lucky enough to have you by my side in the next fight, whatever that may be.

Thanks for all you've done.

Chris Dodd

. . . the only people outside the Executive Branch who have any real knowledge at all of how these illegal spying powers were exercised are a small number of Senators on the Intelligence Committee who have been briefed by Bush officials, but they are barred by law from saying what they know. Nonetheless, here is what one of those members -- Sen. Russ Feingold -- said during his remarks on the Senate floor regarding the new FISA bill, as highlighted by Howie Klein. In a minimally rational world, these revelations from Sen. Feingold would be major, major news:

I sit on the Intelligence and Judiciary Committees, and I am one of the few members of this body who has been fully briefed on the warrantless wiretapping program. And, based on what I know, I can promise that if more information is declassified about the program in the future, as is likely to happen either due to the Inspector General report, the election of a new President, or simply the passage of time, members of this body will regret that we passed this legislation. I am also familiar with the collection activities that have been conducted under the Protect America Act and will continue under this bill. I invite any of my colleagues who wish to know more about those activities to come speak to me in a classified setting. Publicly, all I can say is that I have serious concerns about how those activities may have impacted the civil liberties of Americans. If we grant these new powers to the government and the effects become known to the American people, we will realize what a mistake it was, of that I am sure.

Important details about the ACLU lawsuits: Blogger emptywheel at Firedoglake discussed a number of and ideas about what might happen next to revive the question. To quote:

. . . one of the article's most intriguing elements: we have worked single mindedly under the assumption that, while many parts of the FAA might could be reversed or minimized through subsequent legislation with a new Congress, the retroactive immunity portion was irrevocable and final. That may, and I emphasize this is a tentative and weak may, not necessarily be the case.

If Congress could not do its job of checking an out of control executive, then there is only one branch left to do it, the judicial. I have not permanently given up hope, but it will be a long tough fight to revive it. The USA is a very sick patient now. We still need to work to save it.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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A general time horizon for meeting aspirational goals

By Creature

First the Bush administration appeases Iran by sending delegates and opening up offices and now they are cutting-and-running from Iraq with their new "general time horizon for meeting aspirational goals" deal with Maliki.

As Josh Marshall says: "Keep an eye out here for a concerted Bush-McCain push to take Iraq off the table for the election. They declare victory, say we'll be out in no time. So what's to argue about?"

Less to argue about, yes, but with a diffused foreign policy environment won't the American people feel secure? And, with security on the world front, won't they be more open to consider Obama? Bush-McCain may have a plan, but I'm not so sure it won't backfire.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Waterboarding a-okay, says Ashcroft

By Michael J.W. Stickings

As if he has any idea what he's talking about. (These conservatives love their war and their torture, don't they? It's "the bravery of being out of range," as Roger Waters put it: ignorance, arrogance, and ruthlessness, without anything in the way of experience, and at no risk whatsoever to themselves.)

Perhaps Hitchens could enlighten him.

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John McCain is a big fat liar

By Creature

There, I said it. The media certainly won't. He's flipped, he's flopped, and he's lying through his teeth about it. Steve Benen's got the latest denial, plus McCain's use of increasingly belligerent language to describe Obama. Folks, it's only July, come November I predict we'll see John McCain himself screaming that Obama's a Muslim terrorist who will blow up your babies if elected. That, and raise your taxes, of course.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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"The survival of the United States of America as we know it is at risk."

By Michael J.W. Stickings

The survival of the world, in fact, the survival of all of us.

There has been a lot of reaction to Gore's speech -- what a visionary, challenging speech it was -- and I recommend Andrew Revkin's Dot Earth post, but please take the time to watch it in full (see below).

You can read the speech here: "There are times in the history of our nation when our very way of life depends upon dispelling illusions and awakening to the challenge of a present danger..."

And yet those are some pretty powerful illusions, promulgated by powerful interests, and Americans will not give them up easily. Which is why one must appeal to baser self-interest: "The way to bring gas prices down is to end our dependence on oil and use the renewable sources that can give us the equivalent of $1 a gallon gasoline."

Renewable, non-carbon-based energy is good not just for the planet -- and the key to our very survival -- but for our pocketbooks. But it will take firm political will...

And Obama has responded: "I strongly agree with Vice President Gore... [T]hose are the investments I will make as President."

Gore praised both Obama and McCain, but Steve Benen makes the point that needs to be made about McCain: "Is McCain 'way ahead' of most politicians? Maybe in today's Republican Party, but he's not where Americans need him to be."

One final thought for now: As much as I like Obama -- and if you read this blog you know that I'm a passionate admirer and supporter -- it is Al Gore who should be president.

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Phil Gramm, porn mogul

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Well, not quite. He was a small-time investor, not a mogul, but, if nothing else, as Max Blumental recounted at HuffPo the other day, Gramm's forays into the porn industry in the '70s were rather amusing.

Back in 1973, he tried to invest $15,000 in a soft-core movie called Truck Stop Women ("No Rig Was Too Big For Them To Handle"). With that oversold, he eventually put his money in Beauty Queens (about pageant judges and contestants). When that fell through, he "contributed at least $7,500 towards... a satire of the Nixon White House called White House Madness that featured the crazed president wandering around the White House in the nude."

Gramm may or may not have known that his money ultimately went to help finance a soft-core anti-Nixon spoof -- the director of Beauty Queens, Mark Lester, shelved that project in order to make White House Madness, a sequal to his Tricia's Wedding (about drag queens) -- but what is clear is that, from the outset, he eagerly wanted to invest in porn. Not that he had much success, however. White House Madness was a failure. "Like the rest of Gramm's endeavors," Blumenthal notes, "his soft-core porn career was a complete disaster."

(And have I mentioned that Gramm is a conservative Republican who, until just recently, was a top McCain advisor? But surely you knew that already... Update: Actually, as Joe Gandelman is reporting over at TMV, Gramm is staying on as McCain advisor and surrogate. Madness!)

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Thursday, July 17, 2008

Obama at the gym: Yet another reason to despise the media and their abominable coverage of the presidential race

By Michael J.W. Stickings

As if it weren't enough that some in the media are turning the election into a referendum on Obama, thereby sparing McCain anything resembling serious scrutiny, and that the media are generally:

-- holding Obama to a much higher standard than they are McCain, emphasizing Obama's nuanced policy shifts (and calling them opportunistic flip-flops) while letting McCain get away with flipping and flopping all over the place, pandering to different audiences, on issues like Iraq and immigration, and showing utter cluelessness on others, like health care and the economy;

-- regurgitating without qualification or explanation Republican smears of Obama (he's an opportunist, an elitist, an egotist, a terrorist-coddling closet Muslim, etc.); and

-- sensationalizing even the most minute aspects of the race, and especially everything having to do with Obama, portraying every incident, however insignificant, as some sort of scandal;

as if all that weren't enough, the media are now targeting Obama's exercise habits.

Yes, you read that correctly: exercise habits.

Reporting for ABC News's Political Radar blog, Sunlen Miller writes that "[w]hile Obama spent 91 minutes at a campaign event yesterday, the Illinois Senator spent a total of 188 minutes in the gym yesterday -- making three separate stops to Chicago gyms over the course of one day."

How is this news? It isn't. But Miller's reporting is, in a word, breathless, grasping for story where there isn't one and for sensationalism where there isn't any: "Obama left the East Bank Club at 9 pm last night. A mere 11 hours later he was back in the gym again on Thursday morning."


Bush gets away with being a workout maniac, and with chopping down trees and clearing brush and whatever the hell else he does at that ranch of his, and is celebrated for it (contra the Big Mac-stuffing Clinton), but Obama...

Well, there must be something wrong with him, what with this suspicious gym-related behaviour and all: "But for reporters following Senator Obama as he strolled in and out of gyms six times over the course of one day -- his multiple visits raised a few eyebrows -- with even a campaign aide cracking a smile as the third gym stop of the day was announced."

Uh-huh. Sure.

Maybe he just likes working out. And playing basketball. Maybe it's just time away from the media glare and the rigours of the campaign. Or maybe, smiles cracking, it's time for some out-of-sight campaign-related work. Given the ubiquity of the media these days, after all, the gym is one of the few places where he would have any privacy.

Next up: Brian Williams on Obama's latest bowel movement. Did it live up to expectations?

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Taxation without presentation

By Carl

Let's talk about money for a moment.

A government is reliant on money. This generally comes in the form of taxes of some sort.

So taxes are a necessity, a necessary evil.

There's a fairly comprehensive, if anecdotal, body of evidence that suggests our current income tax system is not only ineffective, but possibly illegal.

your NotPresident, I have a simple yet elegant solution, one that will lower taxes for most of us, yet re0jigger the tax liability so that it is more equitably distributed amongst the people who most benefit from our nation's freedoms.

After all, they have more freedoms than you or I. Look at how OJ Simpson got off!

Income is easy to tax and even easier to account for: you get a check, it gets deducted ahead of time, if you earn a salary. But that's not the problem. The problem comes from all those non-wage earnings: dividends, sales proceeds, and so on.

The disincentive of an income tax is to avoid spending money until after you've settled your debt to society. Withholdings make this bit easy, but the first time you get a lump sum from, say, the sale of a stock, you are clueless as to what to do regarding your taxes.

My tax system would avoid all this. Rather than focus on income, I would focus on wealth.

You are free to earn as much money as you can, legally, illegally, I don't care. What I DO care about is how much you keep out of the economy. And there's the difference.

Simply put, I would tax any investment that, in turn, did not create more income. No more tax shelters. No more idle rich sitting on their arses, collecting dividend checks. No more squirreling away money that you earned on the backs of the working and middle classes so that your kids can go to Choate and Harvard.

It's really very simple: the incentive in this tax system is to spend money, actual cash money, and the more you can afford, the more you should spend.

Naturally, there will be some baseline "minimum wealth" figure under which no one would be taxed. It's not fair, for example, to tax someone who owns a $100,000 home for four people, struggling by on an income of $30,000. I'd have to run the numbers a bit, but my suspicion is I would exempt anyone who owns less than $500,000 in assets.

Net of a home mortgage, to boot.

Eveerything else above that is fair game, and yes, I would tax your retirement savings. But notice something: every dollar you draw down after retirement is 100% tax free.

The tax rates would be graduated. It's not fair to ask someone who owns, say, $500,001 to pay the same rate of tax as someone who owns 500,000,001. If your hogging your wealth, you're going to get hit with a penalty, a big penalty.

Admittedly, this plan would need a lot of fleshing out (actually, it's already been fleshed out, but after Senator McCain stole my idea for a
cash prize for alternative energy, I'm laying just enough cards on the table to show my hand without putting my chips in completely.

You want it, Barack? John? Come buy it off me!

I even promise to spend the check!

(Cross-posted to
Simply Left Behind.)

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Engaging Iran: Is Bush now promoting diplomacy with Tehran?

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Sensible people have for a long time been calling on the U.S. to adopt sensible policies towards Iran -- and by sensible I mean, of course, something other than the saber-rattling of the Bush Administration. I am no friend of the theocratic regime in Tehran, and would be happy to see it fall, but diplomacy and engagement seem to me to be far more effective tools than the various threats issued by the warmongers, from Bush and Cheney on down. Iran poses a threat to U.S. interests, to be sure, not to mention to the Middle East, but the best way to deal with that threat is not to try to bomb it out of existence, which wouldn't work and/or would produce new and perhaps worse problems (e.g., an unleashing of terrorist activity against U.S. interests), but to work towards an agreeable settlement and ultimately to reach a deal that is mutually beneficial.

Well, it seems now that the U.S., as The Guardian is reporting, is at long last getting sensible:

The US plans to establish a diplomatic presence in Tehran for the first time in 30 years as part of a remarkable turnaround in policy by President George Bush.

The Guardian has learned that an announcement will be made in the next month to establish a US interests section -- a halfway house to setting up a full embassy. The move will see US diplomats stationed in the country.

The news of the shift by Bush who has pursued a hawkish approach to Iran throughout his tenure comes at a critical time in US-Iranian relations. After weeks that have seen tensions rise with Israel conducting war games and Tehran carrying out long-range missile tests, a thaw appears to be under way.

This in addition yesterday's White House announcement that "William Burns, a senior state department official, is to be sent to Switzerland on Saturday to hear Tehran's response to a European offer aimed at resolving the nuclear standoff."

Of course, such diplomatic moves do not mean that there will be no war. A military strike is still possible, whether conducted by the U.S. alone, by the U.S. and Israel together, by Israel alone, by Israel with U.S. backing, or by a U.S.-led "coalition." And I have no confidence that Bush will follow through with these initial efforts to reach out to Tehran.

Still, as Democracy Arsenal's Adam Blickstein points out, the reestablishment of diplomatic ties with Iran "would represent a major shift by the Administration." Indeed, "we could actually be seeing diplomatic sensibility winning out over unproductive bellicosity when it comes to our policies towards Iran." (The warmongering, "bomb, bomb Iran" neocons must be having a hissy fit.)

Which is a big story, right? So then why is The Washington Post burying it on page A16? Regardless, it seems that Rice is behind it and that the president may have bought into it: "Bush's support suggests he increasingly is determined to put aside a possible military strike in an effort to reach a deal to end Iran's nuclear program in his final six months in office. In recent weeks, the White House already has approved a sweetened package of incentives to Iran that included a pledge to refrain from the use of force, supported a European gambit to begin preliminary talks with Iran and sent clear signals to Israel not to consider acting against Iran on its own."

Again, I have no confidence that Bush will do the right thing, but the fact that the U.S. seems to be open to talking directly to Tehran, and not just indirectly through the Europeans, is a promising sign. Perhaps -- it could also be a last-minute show of diplomacy before a military strike. (Remember how Bush talked up diplomacy with Saddam before the Iraq War?) "We tried diplomacy. Diplomacy failed. We're attacking them." This could be the line soon enough.

"Better late than never," says Kevin Drum, and I agree. I just hope it's more than a hollow gesture.

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The fundraising phenomenon continues

By Creature

Obama brought in $52 million for June. Not bad for a slow, post-primary, summer month when people are focused elsewhere. And, as far as giving goes, I'm with Libby. I think it's time to throw some money Obama's way. His Iraq, Afghanistan, and terror framing has been dead-on of late and deserve a little support.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Don't we look foolish enough already?

By Capt. Fogg

I don't think I want to watch the Olympics this year. It's not that this iteration of the games will be any more or less boring or fulsomely nationalistic than the event ever has been, but I'm afraid that some self-appointed ambassadors are going to make damn fools and hypocrites of us.

My first reaction was "tell me it's a joke" when I read the Reuters item telling us that an unspecified group of "human rights activists" have asked George W. Bush to complain to the Chinese government about political prisoners while he is there, and to wear a wristband that declares: "free the North Koreans." They intend to show up under full sail in Beijing wearing their version of the trendy rubber band rhetoric. I can almost hear the jeers.

Tell me it's a joke.

According to White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe, Bush will not be taking wristbands with him. I'm glad to hear it. Another thing George will not be taking with him on the trip is moral authority; or indeed anything else that gives him the right to demand that China not expel illegal aliens coming across the Korean Border looking for work, or that they release militant Islamic separatists, much less to extend them anything resembling the right to Habeas Corpus.

It's not that no criticism is due, it's that we are in no position to make it. I can well imagine my own feelings should a Chinese delegation show up here demanding that we free Puerto Rico, close Guantanamo and open the border with Mexico.

I mean, it's really a joke, isn't it?

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

It is the other place, Jesse...

By J. Thomas Duffy

You're traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind; a journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. That's the signpost up ahead — your next stop, the Twilight Zone.

Yes, there he is, the recently-departed Jesse Helms, relaxing in his big, plush condo, the extremely comfortable Barker Lounger, favorite beverage in-hand, settling in to watch some television.

Quickly, though, Helms blanches, fear and anger overtaking his body.

There, on the screen, is this:

Elizabeth Dole Tries To Name AIDS Bill After Jesse Helms

Republican Senator Dole introduced an amendment to name an HIV/AIDS relief bill after the recently deceased Jesse Helms. Helms, of course, was a strident foe of HIV/AIDS prevention, research and treatment.

A guttural, anguished cry comes out of Helms.

Then, on the screen, is "Joe My God," and he begins reading off the list:

Jesse Helms, the man who in 1987 described AIDS prevention literature as "so obscene, so revolting, I may throw up."

Jesse Helms, the man who in 1988 vigorously opposed the Kennedy-Hatch AIDS research bill, saying, "There is not one single case of AIDS in this country that cannot be traced in origin to sodomy."

Jesse Helms, the man who in 1995 said (in opposition to refunding the Ryan White Act) that the government should spend less on people with AIDS because they got sick due to their "deliberate, disgusting, revolting conduct."

Jesse Helms, the man who in 2002 announced that he'd changed his mind about AIDS funding for Africa, but not for American gays, because homosexuality "is the primary cause of the doubling and redoubling of AIDS cases in the United States."

"No!, No!" a weeping Helms shouts back at the screen.

"Stop! Stop!"

Over and over, the same thing plays on this television -- for hours and hours.

He can't escape it, the television won't turn off, the volume can't be lowered.

Then his host enters.

"Is something wrong, Mr. Helms?"

Maybe it's Louis Cyphre, coming to claim his soul.

Or little, six year-old Anthony Fremont, who liked to create his own television (which Helms best learn to say, very quickly, "Real Good Anthony ... That was some real good television", otherwise, run the risk of being wished into the cornfield).

Or, is it the cornfield is where he is?

I prefer to think of it being Sebastian Cabot's "Pip", with Helms clutching at him, crying, pleading ...

"Why ... Why are you doing this to me? ... Why would you bring me here and do this? ...I'm a God-fearing man ... This could only happen in the other place and I'm a God-fearing man ... I'm a believer ..."

As in the episode, Pip retorts "Heaven? What ever gave you the idea that you were in heaven Mr.Helms? This is the other place!"


Bonus Helms' Karma Riffs

So Nice ... The Very Last Moments of Jesse Helms

Wonkette: Elizabeth Dole Wants To Name AIDS Relief Bill After Heroic AIDS Goblin Jesse Helms

John Aravosis: Dead racist bigot Jesse Helms, AIDS hero? I don't think so

Eschaton: Rolling In His Grave

Pam's House Blend: The Empty Wig's flipped: proposes naming AIDS bill after Jesse Helms

Andrew Sullivan: The Jesse Helms PEPFAR Bill

Chris Johnson: Punished for being HIV-Positive?

(Cross-posted at The Garlic.)

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The Bush administration is its own expert on reproduction, economy

By LindaBeth

According to its report released Monday, the Department of Health and Human Services is seeking to change the definition of "abortion" used to determine which services can be provided or referred at a facility receiving federal funds. As RH Reality Check reports, there are two commonly used understandings of when a pregnancy begins: conception (fertilization of the egg by the sperm) and implantation (of the fertilized egg into the uterine lining).

The report states:

A 2001 Zogby International American Values poll revealed that 49% of Americans believe that human life begins at conception [...] Both definitions of pregnancy inform medical practice. Some medical authorities, like the American Medical Association and the British Medical Association, have defined the term "established pregnancy" as occurring after implantation. Other medical authorities present different definitions. Stedman's Medical Dictionary, for example, defines pregnancy as "[t]he state of a female after conception and until the termination of the gestation."

The HHS report is suggesting that the definition of pregnancy be changed from the definition established by the American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists to one defined by... I'm not quite sure. RH Reality Check suggests that this change is being determined by polling data, but unless some of the sample said they didn't know, or they have some creative ideas about when pregnancy begins, 49% is not a majority. In any case, HHS is proposing that we change the definition of pregnancy from what has been established by medical bodies of experts to another definition established by...the Bush administration.

This new definition is highly problematic. Pregnancy would now be defined as occurring upon fertilization, and with no test for fertilization, women who utilize federally-funded health facilities can be turned away for contraceptive services on a whim. And as feministing notes, the women who will be the most affected are low-income and uninsured women. Not to mention that claims that certain contraceptives prevent implantation after fertilization are scientifically unproven. From RH Reality Check:

There is no scientific evidence that hormonal methods of birth control can prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the womb. This argument is the basis upon which the religious right hopes to include the 40% of the birth control methods Americans use, such as the pill, the patch, the shot, the ring, the IUD, and emergency contraception, under the classification "abortion."

What happens then is that the decision of whether or not something counts as an abortifacient is up to the or nurse (of course it's not up to the individual woman!). And since the proposal also includes mandating that doctors and nurses who are "conscientious objectors" not be "discriminated" against in hiring practices by facilities receiving federal funds, we have a recipe for disaster for women's reproductive rights.

So we have an HHS report that refutes the definition of pregnancy made by medical experts, uses unscientifically proven claims about how contraception functions vis-a-vis fertilization and implantation in order to redefine the contraceptive methods that 40% of women use as abortifacients, and enables federally-funded medical facilities to deny the most economically vulnerable women basic contraceptive services. And this from the "family values" administration who seems to loathe single women receiving social welfare, considering their perspective on the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program .

This also comes from our President who chastises reporters for using the term "recession" in discussing the state of our economy, since reporters aren't economic "experts." As we see here, what the experts say doesn't mean all that much to Bush when it comes to reproductive rights and pandering to the religious right's agenda.

(Cross-posted to Smart Like Me.)

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MTV takes a "shot" at bisexuality

By LindaBeth

Wow. So the other night I was just mindlessly watching "The Soup" on E! as I got ready to go out, and let me tell you, I needed a drink after that. Can I just say that I saw this coming long ago when my women's studies students informed me there'd be a new romance reality show featuring a bisexual woman, and thus, both male and female contestants. (First aside, this show could have never happened with a male bisexual, which is so unacceptable in our culture.) Yes, I'm talking about Tila Tequila's A Shot at Love.

And yes, I realize I'm actually spending time discussing the MySpace queen who stupidly takes credit for making gay marriage acceptable.

Now I didn't see the whole show in question but I looked it up later to watch the relevant snippets. The Soup reported that the final episode of A Shot at Love had Tequila choosing between a woman and a man, and during the episode the woman has some sort of breakdown. Apparently, being chosen by Tequila must be a huge commitment because she is SOO torn over... wait for it... if she "wants a man or a woman." (follow this link for the clip of the actual episode-the scene in question is at 1:05 remaining on the clip). As the host Joel McHale rightly comments, "I thought that was sort of implied when you said you were a bisexual." Of course, Tequila chooses the woman, and, on cue, the woman declines.

The Soup posits that this was done to have a 3rd season of the show, which is very likely, but it also conveniently qualms our fears about the threat of lesbian sexuality and reiterates stereotypes about bisexuality to make it less threatening, more hetero-affirmative, and indeed co-opts it for male heterosexual desire. Tequila just couldn't choose a woman and live happily ever after. The show being comprised of both guy-girl and girl-girl action was likely primarily intended to titilate the hetero male mind, not to actually show a loving caring relationship between two women external to any male pleasure. I mean, everyone knows that lesbians can only be seen if they're heterosexually-validated as "hot"...and if we can watch. And bisexuality? That's really just for bar games and threesomes. So of course, any serious attempt at an intimate relationship between two women must be thwarted.

(I do realize that I'm trying to ascribe a serious relationship to reality show couples, and how much that just seems goofy. But if they're trying to make us think this is serious love, I'm going to treat it as such.)

And what better way to thwart the potential relationship of love and desire sans men? By having the contestant question her sexuality. You see, she doesn't know if she wants to be with a man or a woman. If she dates a woman, she might "miss" men. (Don't worry fellas, no bi woman is actually satisfied with women, and the possibility of missing the ultimate almighty penis is always lingering in the back of her mind.) She just can't decide! This is the exact popular bullshit misunderstanding about bisexuality: That bi's want to be with both as opposed to being with either. They don't want to decide, they can't commit because they like both.

Sorry, wrong. Bisexuals like either. In other words, they're attracted to people, not to genitals. They don't need a penis-fix when they're dating a woman, and they don't break up with their partners because they "feel like" being with another gender. But the episode reiterates the idea that bis are basically failed straights and failed gays. And the female finalist says that throughout the show she was worried that she wasn't "good enough" because she is bi and the other contestants were lesbian. WTF?! And what does it mean that the show's producers (likely) scripted the conclusion this way? That the female Tequila chooses is the only bi out of all the women, and, surprise! She likes playing with women but doesn't want a relationship with one -- that this is how bisexuality is represented?!

Further, the woman says "this is more than a key, this is something I have to live up to." As in, playing lesbo is fun and all, but I can't live up to being a "real" woman-lover and "give up" men, even for a time. Again, this says don't worry guys, women may say they're bi and "have fun" with each other, and are fun to watch (wink wink), but don't worry, "living up" to a relationship with a woman is too scary for them. No worries, women will always come back to the almighty phallus!

On their date, the female contestant tells Tequila that she is nervous about her lack of experience--she's never been in a serious relationship with a woman although she's had relationships with women. Tequila assuages her worries, but clearly, despite her "120% certainty" of her feelings for Tequila, for some unknown reason, her certain feelings cannot seem to translate into a relationship. And as we find out, these uncertainties are less about her experience and more about her 'sexuality.'

It just seems awfully convenient that the only bi character is chosen as a finalist, and as it turns out, she doesn't really want to date women, just play around with them, in a conveniently safe and nonthreatening representation of women's bisexuality for heterosexual men.

This treatment of bisexuality also reiterates that there are "only two": women, men; hetero, homo. Sexuality isn't fluid, or changing, or multiple, or varied. Just either/or... and you have to choose. Now. For all time.

And I think that's utter crap.

Recommended Reading: Looking Both Ways: Bisexual Politics

(Cross-posted to Smart Like Me.)

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A negotiated failure

By Creature


The Bush administration will send a senior envoy this weekend to international talks with Iran about its nuclear program in what U.S. officials described as a "one-time deal" designed to demonstrate a serious desire to negotiate a solution to the impasse over Tehran's ambitions.

Color me skeptical. This move is designed for failure. A negotiated failure that would provide cover for this:

President George W Bush has told the Israeli government that he may be prepared to approve a future military strike on Iranian nuclear facilities if negotiations with Tehran break down, according to a senior Pentagon official.

On the less skeptical side, they are sending Undersecretary of State William J. Burns. Burns was responsible for the recent North Korea breakthrough and has been a constant thorn in the side of Dick Cheney, John Bolton, and their neo-con pals (always a good thing). That being said this could be the quid pro quo Cheney was looking for, maybe from Burns himself, after having relented on North Korea. Which puts me back on skeptical footing and wondering if this "one-time deal" is designed to fail and designed to provide we-did-all-we-could cover for the bombing of Iran to begin.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A victory for the Bush Police State

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Sometimes you have to take the bad with the good, but, in this case, or, rather, with these cases, the bad, which is truly awful, far outweighs the good, a qualified good at most.

George W. Bush and his administration of Constitution-shredding warmongers are, as you should know, turning the United States into a police state. How they are doing this has been a matter of great discussion among critics of what they have done: domestic surveillance, extra-legal detentions, the consolidation of executive power over the legislative and the judicial, the creation and exploitation of a culture of fear, the vilification of the Other, etc.

And they won a major victory today, with the judiciary backing the executive (which was supported by submissive legislature). As a result, the United States is even more of a police state today than it was yesterday. The NYT has the details:

President Bush has the legal power to order the indefinite military detentions of civilians captured in the United States, the federal appeals court in Richmond, Va., ruled on Tuesday in a fractured 5-to-4 decision.

But a second, overlapping 5-to-4 majority of the court, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, ruled that Ali al-Marri, a citizen of Qatar now in military custody in Charleston, S.C., must be given an additional opportunity to challenge his detention in federal court there. An earlier court proceeding, in which the government had presented only a sworn statement from a defense intelligence official, was inadequate, the second majority ruled.

The decision was a victory for the Bush administration, which had maintained that a 2001 Congressional authorization to use military force after the Sept. 11 attacks granted the president the power to detain people living in the United States.

The court effectively reversed a divided three-judge panel of its own members, which ruled last year that the government lacked the power to detain civilians legally in the United States as enemy combatants. That panel ordered the government either to charge Mr. Marri or to release him. The case is likely to reach the Supreme Court.

The good is certainly good for Marri, but the key decision is the first one, not the second one. As Marri's lawyer put it: "This decision means the president can pick up any person in the country -- citizen or legal resident -- and lock them up for years without the most basic safeguard in the Constitution, the right to a criminal trial."

Welcome to the Bush Police State, the new America.

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A thought on economic incentives for having kids

By LindaBeth

As I sit here finishing up the final edits of my Master’s thesis, I had this thought:

The Right tends to argue that our social welfare system provides incentive for single women (a.k.a. “welfare mothers”) to pop out children left and right. This constitutes an abuse of the system.

I’m not saying that’s at all true (and actually the stats on this “phenomenon” are rather skewed: the number of kids women on welfare have is about the same as the general population), but take their argument and consider this…

Yet there are a slew of tax breaks for families with children. Does this not also constitute an incentive to have kids in order to receive unearned money (one could call it welfare, sure!) for those kids? Yet I don’t hear anyone on the right complaining about fact, they usually want to raise them! Yet why should “we” subsidize “their” children?!

Curious, huh?

I guess so-called “incentives” are OK for the “right” kinds of families…

(Cross-posted to Smart Like Me.)

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See, now this is funny

By Michael J.W. Stickings

From the Seattle Post-Intelligencer's David Horsey, some brilliant satire (not like the lame, cheap satire on the cover of The New Yorker -- make sure to read Creature's and Libby's takes on it), filled with layers of artfully-reinforcing irony and potent commentary on the issue du jour:

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Sign of the Apocalypse #55: The "value" of Zimbabwean currency

By Michael J.W. Stickings

So focused have we been of late on the presidential race, on Iraq and the economy, and on so much else besides, that we've only done one SOTA since January -- that one was a rather serious one, on the Chinese earthquake.

But here's one, from The Plank:

The 25 billion Zimbabwean dollar note, currently trading for $1.35 on the open market, is selling for $40 on eBay.

I can't really explain just why this is a SOTA. Is it the political turmoil in Zimbabwe? (As bad as it is, it's not like we haven't seen it before, all throughout history, and often much worse.) Is it the hyper-inflation? (Again, we've seen it before.) Is it the nature of supply and demand in the free market? (But all sorts of things get bought and sold on the free market.)

So maybe it's what I will call the eBayification of value. (Which has a nice ring to it, if also a foul odor.)

While Zimbabwe suffers under Mugabe's yoke, the people of that miserable land struggling through poverty and chaos, you can buy and sell whatever you want on eBay, including inflated currency that to us has may have little to no intrinsic value but to them could mean a bowl of rice, a cup of water, and a pinch of hope.

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Our chief weapon is Fear

By Carl

Alike were they free from Fear that reigns with the tyrant, and envy the vice of republics. -- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (Evangeline, Part i. 1)

What calls itself fear of error reveals itself rather as fear of the truth. -- Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (Phenomenology of Spirit, introduction)

Let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt (speech: July 2, 1932)

It concerns me that this nation is a nation afraid.

Nevermind the terrorists. That's a legitimate concern, but not a fear, when you come right down to it. More people died on September 11 of heart attacks than in the terror attacks, but no one is raising the heart attack warning color to orange during barbecue season.

Nevermind the economy. That's a clear problem and that has its legitimate basis for fear; fear of losing your job, your house, your life savings.

No, I mean, when did Americans become afraid of each other and of our government? A clear motivation of a quasi-dictatorial government to divide people is to conquer them. It's clear the government has intended, at least since the seventies, to divide the American people up into parcels that can be easily labelled: red state, blue state, liberal, conservative.

In so doing, it becomes easy to paint "the other guy" as what's wrong with this country. We've swallowed this whole, to be fair, on both sides, altho it seems more prevalent among conservatives. FOX News and Rush Limbaugh lead a charge of fire-breathing blowhards whose only purpose in life appears to be stoking the flames of hatred towards their fellow man.

In Rush's case, it's pretty easy to see why: poor pathetic lonely little creature who's only hope for redemption is to tear the other people around him down, and stand on the rubble of his destruction.

In FOX's case, too, the motives are easy to see: for every "BHO" reference on their network, another FCC rule falls by the wayside.

In this respect, assuming he's sincere about it, Barack Obama and I see eye-to-eye, but for different reasons. Obama wants to unite us to fix what he perceives is wrong with the country.

I want to unite us to fix the entire fucking system, from top to bottom.

It's no longer enough that we tinker and Twitter each other about this program or that program. It's clear that the system itself, like a leaky, moldy house, is creaking and in danger of collapse.

And like a leaky, moldy house, it's foundation is, however, strong. Mold can be cleaned up, creaks patched, or perhaps even the entire structure cna be torn down, but if we can keep the foundation from cracking open, we can rebuild as good as new.

The problem is, fear. I am not afraid, but I am only one man. I can take fears away from others, but even that's only a handful of people.

To enact and effect the changes necessary, as the lessons of the French and American Revolutions show, will take more. Much more.

We are a complacent people. It is said the reason the French government has to capitulate to its people is that it fears those people.

That's not a bad thing, in my eyes. A government SHOULD fear its people and not the other way around! Right now, the only thing this government fears is losing the next election, and right now, those elections are so tight that there's no point in fearing the people: the other half is easily mined for votes.

Which is why John McCain is able to shift and meld so easily between moderate-left and moderate-right voters, while clinging to a conservative base that has no other choice.

But let the government learn fear of its people, as it started to during the 1960s, and watch the power of the people rise from the ground and swell up indignantly against those crimes that politicians of both parties commit regularly.

People will have a voice once more in the governance of their day to day lives. People will suddenly care about what is going on around them, rather than trust the whims of men who are unduly influenced by powers your average man in the street cannot even begin to comprehend.

"We, the People," will suddenly mean something...

(Cross-posted to
Simply Left Behind.)

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No lie too disgusting

By Capt. Fogg

My in-box is something like a Roach Motel lately. The filthy insects check in, but I don't forward them out. Even so, something this disgusting has to be shared because it's all the proof one needs to demonstrate the unworthiness of the United States of America, or at least of half its citizens.

Here's the latest: it begins with a picture of our latest Nimitz class aircraft carrier, the Ronald Reagan. The ship was approved by congress in 1995 and if memory serves, William J. Clinton was President at the time and we were in the middle of an unprecedented economic boom.

Next we have a picture of some kind of barge with a F-14 sitting on it. We're told it's the USS Clinton, based in Canada, basically unarmed and on a mission of appeasement toward any "enemy." The point of course is that Republican Reagan is a tough guy and Clinton is a milquetoast afraid to defend our country. If the reality don't fit, you've got to sling shit.

The last picture is of a rusty scow packed with third world looking people. We're told it's the USS Barak Obama "sailing in from Cuba." The point? The point is that Obama isn't an American in the first place.

Do we write this off to mass schizophrenia, to delusional bigotry, to massive ignorance or to the maliciousness of the criminal minds that create propaganda for John McCain's America-hating party? Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn. That they are not deported, imprisoned or shut off behind a guarded steel barrier is proof that this country wants to die of the cancer eating away at its heart and mind.

Of course one can remind the sender, as I did, that Reagan was the appeaser, not Clinton; that Republicans were outraged when Clinton advocated military engagement, when he put together a coalition backed by the UN, when he fired missiles at Osama bin Laden. One could also remind the sender that since he previously told me that Obama was a Muslim he was unlikely to be based in or cooperating with the government of Cuba. I may or may not be excused for having reminded him that I'm quite capable of putting a three round grouping into his forehead before he hits the ground, stone cold dead.

We need a revolution in this country; not so much a revolution against the military-industrial junta that took it over in a bloodles coup, but against the stinking, stupid psychopaths, the bigots, the morons looking for something to make them feel smart, the hate mongers, the subhuman dregs of the genetic barrel: the Republicans. Bloggers are powerless, the media don't care and truth means less than nothing. However we accomplish it, we need to flush the national toilet and we need to do it before the festering septic shitslingers put another of their brothers in scales into the presidency. So many enemies - so little time.

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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Monday, July 14, 2008

Lame satire

By Michael J.W. Stickings

It may be satire, of a kind, and the editor responsible for publishing it may be defending it, but, whatever else it is, it's pretty lousy satire that badly misses the mark. The mark, of course, is the right, the Republican smear machine that targets Obama -- caricaturing him as a dangerous, anti-American, pro-terrorist Muslim black man -- but is it clear what the mark is, or that it is even intended as satire?

To those of us who are familiar with The New Yorker, yes, I suppose it is. But not to everyone else. And satire, I would argue, must at some level be obvious, that is, must be understood to be satire.

My initial reaction to it was, Oh, I see, that's supposed to be how the right is portraying Obama. I get it. But then: Yeah, that's not funny at all. And not terribly perceptive. Or creative. Actually, pretty lame. And cheap.

So the magazine cover is either a) lame, or b) not obviously satire. Maybe that's part of the joke -- right-wingers not getting it. But that's not funny either. We already know right-wingers don't get it, just like we know they don't need The New Yorker to show them on its cover what they already think of Obama.

I can't get too worked up about it, though. It's the cover of a magazine that I rarely read -- and, when I do, it's in electronic form. I'd be more worked up if it were, say, Time or Newsweek, but, even then, it's not like a cartoon of such lameness will change any minds.

(More reaction here.)

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When withdrawal is framed as defeat

By Creature

With McCain's camp whining today about Barack Obama's desire to "lose" the Iraq war (this according to the very people that brought us this lost war to begin with), what I need from John McCain is a real definition of winning.

I get the whole head-held-high, honor crap (if honor is even possible after the mess we've created). What I don't get is why a phased, rational withdrawal (something all sides except Bush and McCain want) can't be defined as winning? Withdrawal has to happen eventually and if the Right would stop framing it as losing maybe we could call withdrawal a victory and get the hell out.

And, if it's only a matter of how high our troops heads are held on the way out, couldn't the commander-in-chief just order the troops to keep their chins up on the way out the door? Hell, throw in a few flags, do a jig, call it victory, and we're done. How hard would that be?

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Vive la revolution!

By Carl

On this date back in 1789, a nation of people, yearning to be free, stormed the symbol of their oppression, the Bastille.

These people were tired of being dictated to, not by a monarchy, but by an plutocracy that was headed by a monarch: told what to think, told what to eat, told what to do, told what to accept.

The people paid heavily taxes while the aristocracy and cronies thereof paid next to nothing towards the upkeep of the nation.

The nation had spent its way into bankruptcy on the backs of wars declared unilaterally by the ruling class, supporting "revolution" by people in countries that had nothing to do with their daily lives.

The people were ganged up on by the two largest economic forces of their day: the government, and the church.

The church imposed faith above science.

The people were hurt badly by climatic change that created famine, pestilence and widespread poverty.

The upper classes engaged in conspicuous consumption even as the people starved and worked harder than ever paying more in tithes and taxes than they had ever before.

The middle class resented the relative poverty in which even they lived as compared to their peers in other nations who *gasp* had national health care!

The people resented the oppression and limitation of even responsible opposing viewpoints, which were deemed anti-patriotic.

Toujours les memes choses, eh?

(Cross-posted to
Simply Left Behind.)

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Sunday, July 13, 2008

Iraqis assert their sovereignty

By Libby Spencer

Big week in Iraq on the political front. The good news is that Iraqis are apparently beginning to reconcile. The bad news is they're in agreement that they want the US out of Iraq. Oh wait, that's good news too, at least to those of us who agree the occupation has to end as soon as possible.

I'm thrilled to learn the SOFA negotiations have broken down over Bush's arrogant demands that Iraq essentially abrogate their sovereignty to us.

In May, Iraqi and foreign media published U.S. negotiators' demands that one administration official now describes as "frankly unrealistic," including unilateral control over U.S. combat and detainee operations, immunity for U.S. personnel from Iraqi prosecution, and control over Iraqi airspace. Additional accounts outlined a list of 58 separate military installations that would remain under U.S. control.

I already remarked on the US media's failure to inform at Newshoggers, so I won't repeat those points here but I'll add that I find it stunning we have 58 separate military installations considering how small our footprint really is there relative to the population. I guess I don't read the foreign press often enough.

In any event, Maliki and Bush are now trying to hammer out a temporary pact covering 2009 that can be signed without legislative endorsement on either side and any long term agreement will be postponed until the next president takes office. Assuming it's not McCain, that can only be good for everyone.

In related news, the Iraqis also want to liberate themselves from their 'liberators' by taking back control of the Green Zone and sending the US troops outside of the cities. They're willing to let us keep the Vatican city sized embassy there but an Iraqi spokesman says the walled enclave around it is making the locals angry and has to come down by the end of the year. That should put the true nature of the security situation into perspective for all those who have been living and visiting inside the five square mile safety bubble where the suicide attacks don't occur and the water and electricity never fails.

Meanwhile, the White House is making noises about a drawdown of US troops as early as this fall. Maybe it's more than just posturing for the benefit of the GOP prior to the election, or maybe they really don't have a choice, given the Iraqis clear desire to have us leave and the increasingly pressing need for troops in Afghanistan. Our DefSec Gates "has already extended the deployment of a force of 3,200 marines in southern Afghanistan by one month" in anticipation of the winter slowdown in fighting and is enacting plans for greater military support in the spring.

"We have clearly seen an increase in violence in Afghanistan," Gates said at Fort Lewis, discussing the carrier's redeployment. "At the same time, we've seen a reduction in violence and casualties in Iraq. And I think it's just part of our commitment to ensure that we have the resources available to be successful in Afghanistan over the long haul."

Funny it seems like not so long ago, Bush was declaring Afghanistan a success story, as in a war already won, using it as proof we could 'win' in Iraq too. Oh sorry, that was four years ago. How time flies when you're celebrating victory.

(Cross-posted at The Impolitic.)

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