Saturday, May 31, 2008

Deja Vu-doo

Everybody's putting in their two cents about former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan's new memoir, and what he has to say about the president who has become the country's favorite voodoo doll, George W. Bush.

McClellan's argument that, while the Bush administration lacked the necessary coordination to prevent 9/11, ironically enough, their greatest legacy will be just how well they micromanaged the mainstream media in the lead-up to the war in Iraq is implausible. Is it fair to say now that Scott McClellan is spinning about spinning, and what's behind it?

How it is that, even in the midst of the most unthinkable turmoil, the American press manages to stay in hindsight mode, and allow the wool to be pulled over our eyes, once again, in the lead-up to military aggression against Iran, defies credulity. Yes, the media is complicit in this campaign of hindsight.

The now "retired" White House press secretary's revelations have a deja vu quality, his not being the first accusations of this nature leveled against the current commander-in-chief, and this not being the first time these allegations have been heard from him. After all, six months ago, his publisher leaked an excerpt of the book.

The obvious question is-- why this hyperfocus by the mainstream media? What does McClellan's memoir reveal and, more importantly, what does it conceal? Why his sudden urge to come clean? Whose pawn was he, and who is the pawn now?

Can the timing of the book's release have something to do with the fact that his good friend, colleague, fellow "resignee," former Deputy White House Chief of Staff, Karl Rove, was subpoenaed by House Judiciary Committee to testify, under oath, about his involvement in the outing of covert CIA operative, Valerie Plame, as well as in the firing of nine U.S. attorneys, most of whom refused to play ball on voter fraud cases. Is all the media hooplah a way to deflect attention from the dangerous liaisons that are politics as usual in Washington currently by focusing on the dangerous liaisions that happened on McClellan's watch?

Apart from the obvious, their proximity to members of the Executive Branch, Rove and McClellan 's departure from the White House is only separated by one year. McClellan resigned in 2006, and Rove in 2007. Rove, as you recall, left with a cloud over his head, and questions as to whether he perjured himself, and/or obstructed justice in Plame-gate.

Notably, the House Judiciary Committee, and Congressman Robert Wexler, are working overtime to ensure that one-time Republican "political analyst," Karl Rove, who now writes for Fox News, Newsweek, and the Wall Street Journal, won't get away with defying subpoenas, and gravity, and may yet get to face the Committee to talk about not only his role, as well as that of Vice President Dick Cheney, but, yes, that of former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan. Wexler even brings up the possibility of an Inherent Contempt of Congress charge for Rove, and any other administration official who is arrogant enough to think they can defy a House subpoena.

While all eyes have been focused on the media-storm that is Scott McClellan's confessional, as the New York Times reports, the chief judge in the Guantanamo Bay military trial of a 26 year old Australian detainee, Ahmer Khadr, has been "retired," on Thursday, by mutual agreement of the court and the Army, for a ruling against military prosecutors who refuse to hand over records to Khadr's defense team. My, what a penchant we have for "retiring" folks, in this country, with nobody asking why.

So it is then that while the "sexiest" part of his memoir has to do with President Bush, and the concerted effort to tweak the reasons for going to war, to propagandize, the real story is McClellan's insistence that he was duped, or misled, and lied to, by his good friend Karl Rove, among others, and had no idea about the efforts underway to obstruct justice in Plame-gate. But, apart from who would believe that, why should this matter now? Maybe because McClellan is poised to face the same cross-examination that Rove will get if he is coerced, by law, to comply with a House subpoena.

Aside from the obvious book sale incentive and the speaking tours, McClellan must be thinking about what he's going to say when brought before the House, and/or a federal court, as well as possible indictment on accessory to perjury and obstruction of justice charges. To put it bluntly, Scott McClellan is building an alibis.

That publication of his memoir just happens to coincide with congressional efforts to demand testimony from his colleague, and close friend, Karl Rove, is not coincidental, but the underlying question the author seems to be asking is -- can it be a lie if it appears in print? One has only to look at the "weapons of mass destruction" stories that appeared on the front page of all the major newspapers to answer that one. Nice try, but even memoirs lie.

No one would question McClellan's epiphany, and conversion, from conservative pitcher to what his good friend, Karl Rove, calls a "left wing blogger" is authentic, only if the former White House press secretary is the only pawn in what he calls the "Washington game."

What an amazing job the press, and broadcast media, are doing playing ball with administration insiders, and feeding us only the news that sells the most Viagra. Just think, for a moment, about how many Americans know what Valerie Plame-Wilson looks like. But, how many can name even one U.S. attorney who was fired by this president, or tell why? How many nightly viewers of CNN and Fox, in a multiple choice test, could identify the meaning of "contempt of Congress."

President Bush said he will "work hard" to forgive his former press secretary whose crime it was to tell the truth, for whatever motives, in a world in which perjury has become a way of life, but who will pardon the press, in America, that has worked in collusion, for nearly a decade, to bring this nightmare to a theatre near you.

By its obstinate habit of avoiding important news, like the Judiciary Committee's subpoena of Karl Rove, and the former White House chief of staff's refusal to acknowledge that subpoena, as well as the possible legal ramifications this portends for McClellan, the mainstream media has become a pawn yet again, too.

Two More Birthdays of Note

Happy Birthday

President John Fitzgerald Kennedy
May 29, 1917
poet Walt Whitman
May 31, 1819

Only a few days, and a hundred years, separate these two, but their visions, for America, remain inseparable.

And, as the song goes, may they stay forever young.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Courtesy of Bill Moyers Journal

George Bush, At Sea in the Desert

By: Michael Winship

President Bush's recent speech before the Knesset, ostensibly to celebrate Israel's 60th birthday, was not only a display of political cynicism at its worst - using a diplomatic occasion to perpetrate an unseemly attack on Barack Obama - but a microcosm for the disregard with which the President holds the rest of the world. And vice versa.

Events in the Middle East over the last two weeks are all theproof you need. Here's what the President said: "Jews and Americans have seen the consequences of disregarding the words of leaders who espouse hatred. And that is a mistake the world must not repeat in the 21st century."Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along. We have heard this foolish delusion before.

As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared:'Lord, if I could only have talked to Hitler, all this might have been avoided.' We have an obligation to call this what it is - the falsecomfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited byhistory." Although officially President Bush denied that he was talking about Obama - and the Democrat's stated willingness to talk with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad - John Yang at NBC News reported,"Privately, White House officials said the shoe fits the Democratic frontrunner."

American historian Brian P. Murphy told the Boston Globe, "I can't imagine there's a precedent for a sitting president to go beforethe legislative body of a foreign government and launch a political attack on a major-party nominee running to succeed him." It was a shabby performance in an improper, overseas forum. Hedidn't care. Of course the reference to appeasement was an attempt to smear by making a comparison between Senator Obama and British PrimeMinister Neville Chamberlain's capitulation to Hitler at Munich in 1938.Last summer Bush read the book Troublesome Young Men, an account of how Winston Churchill and fellow Conservatives fought back againstChamberlain's submission to the Nazis.

But ironically, as the book's author, Lynne Olson, pointed outin a Washington Post op-ed last summer, it's the appeaser and Bush wh ohave more in common than the president may care to know. "Chamberlain came to office with almost no understanding of foreign affairs or experience in dealing with international leaders," she wrote. "... He surrounded himself with like-minded advisers and refused to heed anyone who told him otherwise." President Bush's own continuing heedlessness was again highlighted just a couple of days after the Knesset speech when hedelivered a chastising lecture on democracy to Arab nations at the World Economic Forum in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. "Obtuse" is how a Boston Globe editorial described it. "Bush seemed oblivious to the loss of respectfor the United States that his Mideast misadventures have caused in theregion."

Newsweek's Christopher Dickey echoed the Globe's dismay:"Looking at Iraq, the peace process, Lebanon, the growing strength ofIran, the continued deterioration of Somalia, the potential disintegration of Sudan, not to mention the vast decline in the value of the dollar and the faltering global economy, the participants at the forum knew only too well they were halfway to hell on roads paved withGeorge W. Bush's good intentions."

So, as Bush thoughtlessly careens into the last months of his presidency, a good portion of the rest of the world has decided it canspin on quite well without him. Even Israel. Almost as if everyone waited until President Bush had left theregion and the coast was clear, there was immediately a surpriseannouncement of Turkey brokering indirect talks between Israel and Syriaover the Golan Heights. And now Qatar has brokered a politicalpower-sharing deal between the Lebanese government and the Hezbollah Shiite militia that may keep the country from exploding in another war. The United States has opposed both efforts.

Such defiance isn't just because George Bush is a lame duck. Sobereft is his administration's Middle East policy of initiative orconsistent purpose that the United States has lost what littlecredibility it had left.

It's becoming clearer as Egyptian newspaper editor and humanrights activist Hisham Qassem says, "...America is neither loved norfeared." Instead, we're the lumbering, addled giant, aimlessly kicking desert sand, irritating the world instead of leading it.--

Michael Winship is senior writer of the weekly public affairs programBill Moyers Journal, which airs Friday night on PBS

Crystal Balls

So, as we all know by now, Rupert Murdoch came within inches of an outright endorsement of Barack Obama yesterday at the All Things Digital conference.

Murdoch, the media tycoon, owner of Fox News, The Wall Street Journal, the New York Post, among others, and poster boy for media consolidation, expresses concern about his "old friend," John McCain's flagrant lack of expertise in economics. How unfortunate for Sen. McCain that his old pal Rupey no longer wants to buy him an election.

The only difference between the pundit-in-chief, George W. Bush, who made some election prognostications of his own, a few months ago, and Rupert Murdoch is that the crystal balls Murdoch owns are Lenox crystal. But, is it the role of the media to just lay there when they're getting screwed?

One important element that can't be overemphasized, while it may not be as sexy or as headline grabbing as the Fox chief backing Barack Obama, is Murdoch's nonchalant acknowledgment that he might even go so far as to try and influence the New York Post's election coverage to lean towards Obama.

It doesn't matter who, or what, the chief executive officer of a newspaper, or network, endorses---it is egregious, and flat out unacceptable for Mr. Murdoch to tilt the direction of his editorial board in any presidential candidate's favor---whether it be John McCain or Barack Obama. The arrogance of his admission is beyond belief. The only thing more incredible is the lack of media coverage of this outright confession to use our "free press" to mitigate the outcome of an election.

It would be in Senator Obama's best interest to distance himself, as fast as possible, from this media shark's grip. Obama must join those of us who care about the First Amendment autonomy of the press, and the media, in expressing outrage at the mere suggestion that the publisher of a major metropolitan newspaper would openly admit to considering strongarming his editors and writers by micromanaging content of news stories. This is what we feared most about Murdoch. Now that we have the smoking gun, even the media appears loathe to use it.

While Obama would appear to be a more enlightened candidate than McCain, no newspaper publisher has the right to peddle his own personal influence without being accused of propagandizing.

After all, there is little difference between tweaking the evidence in the lead-up to war, editing reports by "military analysts" about the progress in Iraq, and buying a newspaper as a way to control the outcome of an election. Murdoch's endorsement, and admission that he is willing to throw his weight behind any candidate for president of the United States must be recognized for what it is--an insult to what the framers had in mind by the phrase "free press."

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Remembering Isadora

"I have reached such high peaks flooded with light, but my soul had no strength to live there--and no one has realized the horrible torture from which I have tried to escape. Some day if you understand sorrow you will understand too all I have lived through, and then you will only think of the light towards which I have pointed and you will know the real Isadora is there. In the meantime work and create Beauty and Harmony. The poor world has need of it."

From "The Art of The Dance" by Isadora Duncan

Happy Birthday!

Isadora Duncan

May 27, 1877

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Of Mice and Straw Men

Now that we've figured out, six years into it, that the war in Iraq wasn't about fighting Al Qaeda, but straw men, it's time to turn our attention to the Senate who singlehandedly showed their horsepower this week by adding protections for veterans, and the jobless, onto the the Iraq war funding bill. Notably, the bill passed the Senate by a wide, bipartisan margin.

Despite stubborn efforts by the mainstream media to ignore it, there is a strong likelihood that the next president may be facing a majority of Democrats in both the House and the Senate which could make it problematic to slip an activist conservative Supreme Court justice, should the White House next be occupied by a wannabe conservative Republican.

Who knows---despite the flagrant absence of a fight for nomination, the Republican presumptive nominee's fight for election could get interesting, especially in light of Mr. Bush's new role as fundraiser-in-chief, and lobbyist, for John McCain. Reportedly, the president. whose approval rating is below 30%, will be working to raise cash for the Arizona senator next week at private fundraisers in Arizona and Utah as the dynamic duo makes their way on the campaign trail like that famous pair of migrant workers in Steinbeck's novel.

While it's not out of the ordinary for fundraising events that take place in private homes to be closed to the public, White House Press Secretary Dana Perino says that it is customary for McCain to shut out the media at all events in which money changes hands. Wonder why that could be? Could it be that the Senator doesn't want the public to see the maverick image he worked so hard to construct is nothing more than a straw man?

Now that we know what McCain thinks about pastor Hagee; now that we know what he thinks of two Bush appointments to the Supreme Court, John Roberts and Samuel Alito, as well as the Bush tax cuts, both of which he heartily endorses, one would be remiss not to ask how the wannabe commander-in-chief feels about current recruiting, by the FBI, of college kids to serve as plants, and informants, at the Minneapolis-St. Paul Republican National Convention in early September?

One might expect him to say something like "been there, done that" as, after all, planting people to attend conventions, and political events, then report back to intelligence is nothing new, and hearkens back at least to the Nixon era. But, what does the good senator from Arizona think of the USA Patriot Act which all but dissolves Fourth Amendment rights to due process? What does he think of banning books, or requiring booksellers and libraries to honor National Security Letters?

Does he think it okay to infiltrate peace and environmental groups, and any others who exercise their First Amendment right to freedom of assembly in an effort to extract information that may later be used to bring "homegrown terrorist" charges?

Indeed, what does Senator McCain think constitutes domestic terrorism? What does he think of electronic surveillance by the National Security Agency? What does he think of granting retroactive immunity to telecoms, and other corporate giants, who compromised consumer privacy, so they could cooperate with a covert, and maybe illegal investigation? Does he think there is a constitutional entitlement to privacy? Or, will he need to get an advisor for that question just as he insists he will before he can answer the question as to whether there should be an abstinence-only requirement for global, and domestic, HIV/AIDS funding? Remember, too, that this is the same candidate who said he will seek guidance on economic policy, too. Are voters okay with the concept of outsourcing decision-making, or leadership by proxy?

Now, in the midst of a Memorial Day weekend, with the President's request that we pause to honor those who have served this country, there can be no better way to serve them than by telling the truth. Truth is, while he served his country honorably, something that cannot be said of our current commander-in-chief, John McCain has shown, by his actions, what he thinks of our veterans- he voted against the GI Bill that was just passed by a majority of the Senate, a measure which will expand funding for college to those whose numerous tours of duty have taken them to Iraq, and Afghanistan.

But, we must also ask--what is McCain's thinking about the staggering figure of 1,000 veterans committing suicide per month, and more suicides than combat fatalities as a result of this war, and of the plans, by some Veterans Administration psychologists, to broaden the definition of PTSD such that benefits to some returning soldiers will be cut exponentially, just as the definition of torture was expanded such that "unlawful enemy combatants" would lose protection otherwise afforded by Geneva and international law. How does this jive with his idea that America is a "Christian nation?"

What about those other straw men, the "unlawful enemy combatants," created by Donald Rumsfeld to circumvent human rights obligations under Geneva? Candidate McCain must answer what he thinks of the designation "unlawful enemy combatant," and if due process can ever be rightfully denied to anyone we detain. While he agrees that waterboarding is torture, candidate McCain has yet to express his point of view on legislation to proscribe torture, and to prohibit any practice that involves "cruel and unusual punishment."

May we expect a McCain Pentagon to be embedded in the mainstream media, too, and for retired military members to make scripted appearances converting broadcast news into a propaganda delivery vehicle? Does McCain see his role as that of a unitary president, and one that can invoke executive privilege, signing statements, and the almighty veto whenever it is politically, and ideologically, expedient, as well as neutralize the federal courts, and fire those U.S. attorneys who refuse to play ball on voter fraud cases?

More importantly, should he become president, will John McCain acknowledge that the "war on terror" is itself the most insidious straw man---the pretext of invading Iraq based on an argument intended to be knocked down by something more substantive, and yet more military exploits to fill an already bloated war chest.

It has become a virtual cliche to acknowledge that there was no Al Qaeda in Iraq before we got there, just as it is now common knowledge that Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with blowing up the Twin Towers nearly seven years ago.

But, as the Republican National Convention approaches, in the Twin Cities, the signs of hubris, and abuse of power, are fast becoming evident as even the press retreats from asking whether McCain will try to strongarm, and neutralize, news coverage, as well as micromanage media coverage of the war in Iraq, and the build-up to Iran, the way George W. Bush has.

That Bush and McCain are aligned like two peas in a pod is no secret now nor is anyone hiding Bush's new role in funneling cash into McCain's campaign. As reported, the pair have been "coordinating their messages behind the scenes." But, no one is asking which messages are being coordinated, specifically, and who will most feel the impact. One message, to the conservative wing of the Republican party, is not to worry, regardless of how he may appear to shift, or differ, from the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, McCain will stay true to course by stacking the highest court in the land, and federal courts, with those who are anti-choice, pro-gun, and opposed to affirmative action, or any attempt at economic equity.

It is the role of Congress to start coordinating their messages, too, a task which, happily, the Senate has already begun by ensuring President Bush's war funding bill includes protection for countless Americans who have been most impacted by his policies---the poor, and those most deeply scarred by combat in Iraq, and Afghanistan. Hopefully, those who erected that straw man in Baghdad, and brought about the anguish, and unspeakable pain of hundreds of thousands of returning soldiers, will get to visit with the despair that they have inflicted on so many.

A Congress that is autonomous, and independent from a bully executive, or a bully pulpit, is what the framers had in mind, and not a straw man, or dummy purchaser. By adding billions of dollars in enhanced programs for veterans, and extending unemployment benefits by thirteen weeks, the Senate is showing that it is capable of being president-proof, something that may prove to be immensely important, after November.

That is, of course, unless George W. Bush finds his way to his favorite V-chip -- the veto. With any luck, he'll stumble upon his refill of Viagra first.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

In the Overall Scheme of Things

The news of Senator Ted Kennedy's diagnosis made it impossible for me, like many others, to think of little else yesterday.

And, while CNN blasted nonstop coverage of the Democratic primaries in Tennessee and Oregon, I found myself utterly distracted, and thinking-- clearly, some things are more important than politics. The love for one's family, children, spouse; the love for one's friends; life and death.

I found myself thinking, too, of the times the Grim Reaper paid me a visit, as it has Senator Kennedy, only to have me close the door in his face, and say "No, thanks. We don't want any."

Words are almost as stubborn as termites, but suffice it to say that the Senator's news is everyone's news----the owner of a newspaper stand in a Bay Area train station, the driver of a bus in Seattle, the mother holding an ornery infant, the veterano in a Los Angeles barrio, the maitre d' at a Bel Air hotel., and the shoe shine man on Park Avenue.

Yes, America took a time-out not just to say a prayer, but to honor the service of one whose dedicated vision is responsible for many of the enlightened social programs we have in place, and to think of the Kennedy brothers, Jack and Bobby, who are waiting in the wings with that bottle of champagne to celebrate the launch of a new era, a Democratic victory in November, and their brother's hand in that.

But, it is more important to remember this:

It's not who we are, but what we give

It's not what we say, but what we do

It's not our accomplishments, how many initials we have after our names,
nor how many zeros there are in our net worth

it is how we love, and only how we love, that counts.

It is not how long we live,
but how well we live

and what we leave behind for those who come after.

If years could be meted out based on what one gives to the human
community, Senator Kennedy would live forever.

But, wise men know that mortality is life's best friend

only those who disdain this gift

will dread the passage.

Death is our alarm clock

ever threatening to ring

to remind us that we don't have forever.

But, there are some, like Sen. Kennedy,
who need no reminding who have walked with purpose
who have lived for the greater good.

There are those who embrace laughter in the face of pain
peace in the face of war
light in the face of
darkness and,
in the end, this is all that matters.

Those who speak truth to power will join you, Senator, in your fight not to
defy the inevitable, but to show that
even Death must sometimes bow his head and,
in doing so, admit that
you are the better man.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

On the Fast Track to the Apocalypse...

For years, I’ve tried to stay out of any dialogue about the Middle East mostly because, from what I can see, there has been no dialogue–only an extended monologue.

Since my college days, I have endorsed a free, and autonomous, Palestine, and have descried the second-class treatment of Muslims within Israel. I have openly, and publicly, deplored Israel’s attack on Beirut, and the ongoing Israeli blockade of Gaza.

But, let me be clear. To condemn the actions of a nation is not the same as condemning that nation. I am outraged by the invasion, occupation, and plundering of Iraq, and would be equally outraged by the suggestion that my antipathy for the occupation makes me “unpatriotic.” Just as it doesn’t make me un-American, or unpatriotic, to speak out against the actions of my country, it doesn’t make those who speak out against Israeli military exploits anti-Israeli, or anti-Semitic.

Having said that, there comes a time to cry foul. There comes a time, at the risk of calumny, to speak out against an obdurate, and deliberate, confusion between Israelis and Jews, Zionists and Israeli citizens, and this seems as good a time as any in light of Israel’s 60th anniversary.

Recently, I read a comment to an article about the presidential race that appears on a Web site whose primary audience is American expatriates. While the article primarily lamented the loss of candidates Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul, the person posting the comment, Anna, took advantage of an opportunity to blast Israel, and the U.S., for what she calls the AIPAC Congress, and giving any support to Israel since its inception sixty years ago. Anna suggests that if any nation should have been helping Israel, after World War II, it should have been Great Britain.

What dear Anna neglects to mention is that the U.S. gained more, after the war, from trade with Nazi war criminals than they ever gave to the Jewish state. What she also neglects to do is connect the dots, and tell how a race for the presidency relates to the Jewish lobby, specifically, not inferentially. Indeed, the devil is not so much in the details as in the implications.

Moreover, apart from the egregiousness of trading with our declared enemies, which is hardly news after Iran-Contra, and given who’s been arming the Taliban in Pakistan, what is most horrifying is how, increasingly, many are using any chance they get to lash out at Israel, and the so-called Jewish lobby. It’s as if there were some vast Jewish conspiracy to control the capital, big business, and Congress which all sounds eerily familiar.

Nowadays, anyone who remembers the words of Rev. Martin Luther King, 40 years ago, that “anti-Zionist is inherently anti-Semitic, and ever will be so” risks being labelled an “Israel apologist.” Clearly, a lot has changed over nearly half a century, given that Israel is only slightly more than half a century old. Dr. King could not have foreseen the “my country right or wrong” mentality that has taken hold of the Jewish state or, for that matter, of the United States, and that it would one day be possible to be anti-Zionist and not anti-Semitic.

Still, those who speak out against Israeli militarism, in this country, often seem to have difficulty distinguishing between nationality and religion, and think that to be Jewish and to be a Zionist are one and the same. So, it turns out, that not much has changed over the past 40 years, in this regard, after all, and that Rev. King was right to smell the rotten hands of racists at work.
Arguably, to be anti-Semitic means to despise not only Jews, but Muslims, too, as Jews and Muslims are both of the Semitic race. Is it acceptable, then, for any presumptive president of the United States to put “Islam” in the same breath as “fascism” without being labelled anti-Semitic?

So, to the Annas out there, I say only: what a shame, what a crime, that the U.S. wasted one tax dollar on Israel, and allowed ourselves to be blinded by the AIPAC Congress which, as you know, has been ruled by AIPAC since this country was founded back in the 1700’s, or so you’d have us think. To hear you tell it, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson were members of AIPAC, too, as well as those daughters of the American Revolution who committed genocide against native Americans.

Indeed, and to those who say that the Israelis should give up the occupied land, give the territory back to the Palestinians to whom it rightly belongs, and go live on some quiet pogrom in eastern Europe, I say—everyone in Brooklyn, Pittsburgh, Seattle, Los Angeles, and all over the country should start packing, so we, too, can give back the land we stole to the native Americans to whom it rightly belongs.

Try telling that to George Bush, or George Washington. Oh, and most of all, we wouldn’t want to tell Sen. McCain that some of our founding fathers were deists, or even Jews; we wouldn’t want him to think this is anything other than what he calls a “Christian nation.”

To those who think AIPAC, that boasts of being 100,000 strong, has taken control of the planet—it’s not too late to repair the damage. With your help, we may yet be able to build a detention center, in Miami, adjacent to the one for undocumented immigrants, where we can fit AIPAC, as well as throw in some of their Israel sympathizers—maybe even a few pesky members of Congress. Whaddya think? Well, it worked for the Japanese, and now Hispanics; why not the Israel lobby, too?

Look, that Joe Lieberman, once a Democrat, is now a McCain lackey and a member of the “Bomb Iran” choir, is a disgrace, but do we want to blame that on the Jewish lobby? Does racial profiling extend to Jews, too? Do we really want to lump Bush, McCain and Lieberman together as Zionists, even if they claim to be fighting Islamofascism?

Just as it’s wrong to attack those who express philosophical differences with Israeli foreign policy (being polite here) as being “anti-Semites,” it’s wrong to equate those who defend the right of the Jewish state to exist as being “Zionists.”

To all the Annas out there, wake up, and do the math—Jews comprise only a quarter of 1% of the world’s population. Anyone who thinks Jews are that powerful needs to go back and take Basic Arithmetic 101.

It’s true that a small percentage of a population can control most of a country’s wealth, as is the case in our country, but instead of focusing on the oil barons, and the war contractors, our nouveau Left is using the Israel lobby for target practice.

How, may I ask, is this any different from the policies of George W. Bush who demolished Baghdad, ousted Saddam Hussein, a country that had nothing to do with the attack on the World Trade Center? Fascism comes in many flavors, but make no mistake—regardless of how it tastes, it’s still fascism, folks.

What’s more, anyone who thinks that an organization that hosts a grassroots membership that consists of about as many folks as attended Obama’s rally in Portland the other day needs to sleep with both eyes open.

As we must work, and work hard, to affirm the right of the Palestinians, and the Lebanese, to sovereignty, and self-determination, we must accept the right of a Jewish state to exist in the Middle East. Just as it was appropriate for former President Jimmy Carter to meet with Hamas, and to acknowledge the second-class citizenship of Arabs in the occupied territories, it is right for Barack Obama to be willing to talk with Iranian leader Ahmadinejad. Behind every flag is a human being, and human beings don’t deserve to be desecrated, either. It is right, too, for America to talk openly about the status of Muslims as second-class citizens within Israel.

Leadership whose default position is search and destroy, raid and attack, the politics of pre-emption, has already taken the planet to the verge of collapse. Those who confuse pre-emptive with pro-active are those who deliberately blur the boundaries between chaos and civilization.

Make no mistake. It is those who look for scapegoats, not solutions, that are the problem; they always were, and they still are. It is the height of naivete to think that peace can ever be accomplished through warfare, or that the role of commander-in-chief involves knowing how best to deploy the military. To the contrary, the most effective leader is one who knows how to avert the military option through diplomacy, and discourse.

As for the presidential race, the candidate who is most capable of seeing the world not in black and white, but in shades of gray, ironically, just happens to be a black man—Barack Obama. The only one who has dared to address the plague of hate, and race, is not Ron Paul, not Dennis Kucinich, not Ralph Nader, but Barack Obama.

But, who wants to elect someone capable of seeing things in more than one dimension at a time? Instead, folks like Anna prefer a “progressive” version of George W. Bush whose jihad isn’t against Radical Islam, or “Islamofascists,” but AIPAC instead.

After all, why would we want to elect someone who, like Hannah Arendt, thinks that “Forgiveness is the key to action and freedom?,” someone who recognizes that bombs and discourse just don’t mix; someone who courts steelworkers and not members of the National Rifle Association?

Those who, through dedicated oversimplification, mistake target practice for toubleshooting, and feel that their overfed insecurities are at heightened risk from pesky minorities, whether they be Jews, African-Americans, or Mexicans, may yet live to see a Final Solution, in the form of nuclear holocaust, for they are putting us on the fast track to the apocalypse.


Friday, May 16, 2008

Headline of the Week..

from the Associated Press...

"Saudis see no reason to raise oil production now."

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Gender Equity

With today's court decision to legalize gay marriage, in California, we're one step closer to eliminating sexual discrimination.

But, you'll know we've achieved gender equity when people can say they "jane off," too!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Chutzpah Award

When the Oscars are handed out, next year, there needs to be a new category: "The Chutzpah Award," and the first recipient, that great friend to Hollywood, George W. Bush. Yes, in the category of most chutzpah, the Oscar goes to the president who, in an interview yesterday, had the temerity to declare his disappointment with what he called the "flawed intelligence" in the lead-up to the occupation of Iraq.

Hopefully, Mr. Bush isn't the only one with short term memory loss. Either that, or the notion of short term memory has been radically altered. After all, it was six years ago, this July, that President Bush met with then British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, to ensure that the intelligence, facts, and rationale for unseating Hussein were being fixed around policy.

And, as if it weren't enough to discuss his disappointment in intelligence that he himself cooked up, the commander-in-chief goes so far as to say he gave up golf as a symbolic gesture of respect to mothers who have lost their sons to the war. Mighty decent of the president to acknowledge that for him to play golf during a war "just sends the wrong signal."

But, does it send the right signal to order reservist troops to endure repeated tours of duty, with no clue as to when their service will end? Or, better still, what signal does it send to the thousands of those who have joined the unemployment lines, in the past seven years, and/or lost their homes due to foreclosure, to outfit the first daughter in an Oscar de la Renta gown?

Add to the mix the audacious White House insinuation that if voters opt for a Democrat in the Oval Office, another attack on the homeland is all but inevitable. This coming from the guy whose policies drove more families to bankruptcy, credit card debt, and foreclosure, and who now blames the Democrat-led Congress for dragging its feet on the housing crisis. This from a "Christian" administration, on whose watch forgiveness of debt joins the ranks of cardinal sins; one who has done little more than ensure a socioeconomic caste system, and whose idea of financial security means being able to invest in your boss's future. If this isn't the apotheosis of arrogance, then what is?

Let's not overlook how everybody's favorite unitary executive is quick to tell Politico and Yahoo News how much he misses his buddy list, can't wait to get his clearance, so he can go back to "firing off e-mails at all times" to his pals, some of whom, dare we say it, may still be hiding in caves in Pakistan. Maybe he hopes we'll forget the millions of presidential e-mails that now join the ranks of disappeared, all conveniently dated around the time of the invasion, many dealing, no doubt, with legally dubious programs like governmental spying, and waterboarding.

So, before he prepares to ride off into the sunset with his other cowboy friends, close your eyes and imagine Charlton Heston descending upon a red carpet, in 2009,, to hand the Oscar to one who discovered a spiritual use for Viagra, one who professes to have seen his faith grow exponentially, during his tenure, indeed, and to become a veritable Cyrano of faith, one so close to his creator, they may even share an air mattress. Sit back, and enjoy, this Oscar isn't just for Mr. Bush; this one is for you.

If, as they say, there are no atheists in foxholes, there isn't a foxhole large, or grand, enough to host this kind of chutzpah.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Back On The Bus

Last week, I wrote a piece that appeared on The Huffington Post about a harrowing experience that happened on a bus in a sleepy little town thirty miles outside of San Francisco.

A glutton for punishment, I decided to take the same bus again, to see if I would see my friend–the one with the noxious scowl for everyone who wasn’t as white as he is.

As fate would have it, he boarded the bus minutes after I did, only this time he wore a cap with what looked like the confederate flag on it. Not that I know what a confederate flag looks like, mind you. The closest I’ve been to one is when doing a Google search.

In any case, I decided to sit at the back of the bus, so I could observe, without being observed, and as I went to sit down, there were not one, but two, swastikas drawn with black magic marker on the seat in front of me. One held the letters “W” and “P” inside it which, nearby, were spelled out as “White Power.” The other was just a swastika that looked like it might have been drawn by a dyslexic.

I wondered, of course, if our friend in the confederate flag scratched the swastikas on the seat. Funny how your mind plays tricks what with all the adrenalin racing through — I thought maybe this fellow stumbled upon my article, but that’s unlikely.

More likely, all the optimism I expressed about a new America, one without racial division, was being eradicated by one dreadful stroke–the swastika — shorthand for hate, and a simple reminder that it may be naive, after all, to think we’ve come so far down the civil rights road, there’s no turning back.

Today, when reading an article about the racism some Obama volunteers encountered in Indiana, I couldn’t help but think that the color divide, in this country, is more insidious, and pervasive, than we would like to think, and maybe too great for any one person to bridge—even Barack Obama.

We must all hold our heads a little lower when we think that the bigotry, and perniciousness that has characterized the Ku Klux Klan can still exist anywhere in America. It is more terrifying to recognize how deeply embedded racism is in our culture, and that even the dissolution of artificial distinctions like “red state” and “blue state” won’t be enough to make it go away.
Indeed, Barack Obama will have his work cut out for him, as will those of us who want to see this kind of hatred go away.

Hillary’s 2 to 1 win in West Virginia also underscores how crucial it is for Obama to put down his Starbucks, and reach out to iron workers, and cab drivers who are quickly joining the endangered species list.

One of the more compelling ironies of this campaign season is how it is that a candidate worth more than a hundred million dollars is resonating better with those who earn $100,000 a year or less, and comprise more than 90% of the population, than one who was raised by a marginalized single mom. While Barack Obama has the judgment issue sewn up, he must now work harder on the credibility issue as, incredibly enough, his greatest appeal is among those under 30 and the Prius crowd.

To win the White House in November, Obama will have to enlist the support not just of the blue collar, white vote, but the same angry white men who still like to think they won the Civil War, and that diversity is something to eradicate; the ones who will, no doubt, overwhelmingly vote for Sen. McCain.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

A Word to the Wise

Remember, it's only a shortcut if you know where you're going.

On Iran

Keep that Viagra handy. Looks like we're going to war.

About the only thing...

About the only thing we have to show for 7 years of Republican rule are stretch marks, and a shrunken economy.

Something to consider...

The term "anti-Semite" applies not just to Jews, but to followers of Islam, too. After all, Jews and Arabs are both members of the Semitic race.

Friday, May 09, 2008

An Open Letter to Attorney General Mukasey

Dear Attorney-General Mukasey:

It is my understanding that the government now plans to collect DNA from anyone who is arrested by federal law enforcement, and that the samples will be stored in an effort to reduce violence in our society. Moreover, the U.S. government reportedly now intends to take a cheek swab from foreigners we detain, whether they've been charged or not.

While Congress may have authorized Justice to expand DNA outreach, as citizens, and taxpayers, we're entitled to know what your intentions are.

The concept of DNA collection is, in itself, not a heinous thing. Indeed, if science were to be used to combat wrongful conviction instead of setting up a blueprint for pursuing future incarceration, then I would be a strong proponent of taking DNA samples from everyone who is arrested, and storingthe samples.

But, instead, the database in which the DNA will be stored, CODIS, may one day be a holding cell for vital genetic information, as well as familial associations which may be used against a defendant in a court of law.

As one has no more control over one's genetic blueprint than over the weather, the potential for misuse of this information is staggering. Further, what entitlement does our government have to collect, and store, the DNA of foreigners?

Unfortunately, we do not live in the kind of world in which evidence is used to exculpate people, but one in which it is routinely gathered to incriminate. After all, the U.S. now has the dubious distinction of having the highest incarceration rate of any country in the world; fully 10% of our population is imprisoned.

Clearly, too, the Justice Department and the National Security Agency aren't fine tuning ways to immunize telecommunication companies who eavesdrop on ordinary, and innocuous domestic phone calls as a means of preventing citizens from being ripped off by their credit card, or mortgage, companies.

So, one is understandably cynical when learning of plans by federal law enforcement to take swabs of DNA from those merely arrested, not convicted, of a crime.

Alarming, isn't it, how the concept of privacy, as we once knew it, has now become to modern America what speaking Latin is in Italy--antiquated, and irrelevant. The consequence of this state-sanctioned invasion of privacy is the stuff of Greek tragedy, without a doubt, and the aftershocks of governmental intrusion continue to be felt,and will doubtless outlive the tenure of whoever next occupies the White House.

We have not only descended into a moral maelstrom, but a legal morass. The current administration has rendered the Constitution, once a great document, a vestigial organ, and just another victim of conspicuous consumption.

On your watch, sir, the Eighth Amendment was ravaged with respect to your reluctance to classify waterboarding as torture, and with the Supreme Court's recent decision on lethal injection. Is there a connection? You know, there is. There is a mindset that threatens the foundation upon which the framers built the Bill of Rights, and you, sir, have succumbed to it. How can we not expect you to defer to those who would further compromise the First Amendment by nullifying an implied right to privacy.

And, for what it’s worth, if reducing violence in American society is what’s most desired, then I submit we withdraw all troops from Iraq, as soon as possible, for what kind of role model do we set for our youth when we invade, occupy, and plunder a sovereign country?

If, and when, the machinery of state may come to be used in such a way that it ensures economic equity, and to obviate social, and political disenfranchisement, DNA samples may be used to protect innocent men and women from rotting away behind bars, or falling prey to lethal injection.

Until then, we must proceed with caution, and do with the DNA samples of those under arrest what was done with millions of White House e-mails in the lead-up to the war in Iraq---namely, destroy them. Whatever is left of our freedom may depend on it.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

The Right Thing

Clearly, there is much to be said for determination, and Senator Clinton is to be admired for her staying power.

There is no doubt, too, that Hillary Clinton will make a fine president, and a far superior one to the one we have at present, or anyone her opposing party has to offer.

That said, public service, by definition, means putting the needs of one's country above one's own, so if there is only a 15% chance that extending the primary season may contribute to a defeat in November, the right thing to do would be to walk away.

Courage doesn't mean standing on principle, but taking a principled stand.

The right thing is seldom the easiest, and often the least personally gratifying. But, if Senator Clinton means what she says about changing the direction of this country, and infusing the body politic with integrity, countering the damage to our national reputation of the past seven years, then she must lead by example, and show that, unlike our current commander-in-chief, she is listening not to her own voice, but to the voice of the American people.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Rocky Times Out

The chickens of Rocky past are coming home to roost today as 1972 presidential Democratic nominee, George McGovern, defected from the Clinton camp to endorse Obama which is further proof that any analogies between Rocky Balboa and Hillary Clinton are strained. McGovern joins a chorus of those who think Clinton should walk away.

But, echoing the Bush mindset, Hillary ignores those who suggest that she do now what she must inevitably do. She has just lent her campaign another $6 milllion to stay in the race which makes $11 million out of her own pocket, but who's counting? After all, it's her business how she spends her money. The only thing that should concern us is that her decision may well come at the expense of her party's victory in November.

After watching the obsessive Democratic political contest that has plagued the airwaves for months, the only thing that is clear is that politics has become the drug of choice in Washington. What keeps the race going? Is it Clinton's tenacity, and vigor? Is it her determination? Or, is it the mainstream media that has kept Clinton's improbable campaign on life support. Indeed, the same media that prolonged what should have been a thirty second sound bite into seven days of nauseating nonstop coverage of Reverend Wright who was propped up for one reason, and one reason only, to feed the omnipresent god of ratings.

What we don't know is why the American consumers of news continue to go along for the ride? Can it be we are no different from ancient Romans who bought tickets to watch the gladiators have at each other thousands of years ago; so much for "intelligent design."

Okay, bottom line: the Democrats still don't have one definite presidential nominee, so what? They have a platform, right? The Republicans have an escalator. The Dems offer two candidates candidates both of whom would be a big improvement over the current occupant of the Oval Office, either of whom would be a reprieve from four more years of being am-bushed by neo-con wannabe, John McCain.

The larger question is who cares about McCain's policies, after all, when we have survivor T.V., and a free for view media circus that is complicit in making the decision about who will lead the Democratic ticket, in November, largely irrelevant by the time it is reached.

Who cares that a rubber-stamped Republican nominee-in-waiting is poised in the wings to run away with the prize? Why should it matter if the majority of voters know only that John McCain is a senator from Arizona, who was once a prisoner of war? Why would we expect anything more from a media that was infatuated with Paris Hilton's DUI, and O.J. Simpson's high profile run from the law?

But, how can we just sit back and allow a presidential election to be hijacked by the special interests of dumbing down the electorate such that a presidential contest is barely distinguishable from the Indianapolis 500, or any inelegant freeway car chase?

This same media that feeds us our daily pablum about the efficacy of the surge is letting the McCain "maverick" label stick, a label that is about as current as bell bottoms. Anyone who still thinks of John McCain as a reformer hasn't been paying attention to his recent voting history with respect to veterans, and pay discrimination, nor how he's reneged on revamping campaign financing, as well as ending the Bush tax advantage for the rich.

Maybe we should all turn our televisions off for three weeks in protest, and insist that the broadcast media put on their boxing gloves, and go a few rounds with the heir apparent, so-called presumptive (read "designated") Republican nominee for president. After all, doesn't John McCain deserve equal air time? We then can be treated to a McCain v. McCain debate, and can witness the McCain who was against Bush before he was for Bush.

Maybe we should read Paddy Chayefsky instead, get "mad as hell," and return to the days when "you pays your money, you take your choice." Nowadays, -you pay your money, and you lose your voice. Strange, isn't it, how artfully selective deception is practiced. Notice how we didn't hear a peep from the mainstream about why Rudy Giuliani dropped out so quickly, or whatever happened to Ron Paul. What about how Mitt Romney can supportsHillary Clinton, or why she's on Bush's buddy list?

What does it tell us about any candidate who shadow boxes with a sitting president, and passes up the opportunity to challenge her Republican Party opponent? Can it be because there is little, in McCain, for Hillary to challenge. With the possible exception of nominations to the Supreme Court, we can expect little difference between the presidencies of McCain and Clinton when it comes to foreign policy--i.e., war.

With respect to the economy, one can only hope there will be a major shift. Obama, on the other hand, has made it his mission to take on McCain openly, and what he calls a "third term for the Bush White House." Since we're not given the benefit of watching the Republicans go for each other's jugulars endlessly on primetime T.V., maybe it's time for the media itself to step up to the plate, and give the Republican nominee a run for his money not on the nonsense issues like who his minister is, but maybe even on how he voted in 2000, as Arianna Huffington has suggested.

The larger question is -- why is the mainstream media complicit in rigging an election? By hyperfocusing on the infighting of one political party, the MSM has virtually stifled the crucial dialogue between the two parties vying for the White House in one of the most important presidential campaigns of this republic.

By allowing John McCain to bask in silence and, in effect, drowning out his stand on vital issues that have taken center stage in the Democrat's debate, the press is effectively engaging in the politics of disenfranchisement.

It's time for John McCain to do his time in the spotlight, and for the media to do its job. If it had, the Clinton campaign would have timed out weeks ago.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

On The Bus

The age of white supremacy is over, I thought, while taking the bus this week in a suburban town thirty miles outside of San Francisco. The Ku Klux Klan is clearly on the endangered species list, and none too soon.

But, if that's the case, then why is the guy sitting two seats up from me, the one with the shaved head and motorcycle glasses scowling as he looks from row to row--first at the woman speaking Spanish on her cell phone, then on to the the guy next to her from El Salvador, and the Korean student caught up in her science text.

His eyes dart to the back row where an African-American mother sits with her child on her lap, then on to the young man in his yamalke. This passenger with a shaved head struggles to hide his discomfort even from the black bus driver who, without even blinking, accepts his fare.

Poor guy, I think, to live in a state of perpetual culture shock now that we have not only a black man, but a woman, running for the White House. Poor son-of-a-bitch, what can he do now that diversity is no longer a pedagogical concept, but a political, and social reality.

I watch as his eyes jump from row to row with the same sullen, vacuous glance, the kind one might expect to find in one hired to administer lethal injection, the lost, lonely look of one damned to being a permanent anachronism, and a timely one, especially in light of this week's primary in North Carolina. Who would expect to find someone whose pet hobby is nursing swastikas on a bus outside the city that is considered to be the most liberal of American cities?

Remember, in the aftermath of the Civil War, it was a Republican governor in North Carolina, William Woods Holden, who called out the militia against the Ku Klux Klan, a move which cost him dearly. And, just a few years later, in 1873, President Ulysses S. Grant signed the Ku Klux Klan Act, also known as the Civil Rights Act, which was used to protect southern blacks from the ravages of the Klan, as well as provide legal remedy for former slaves when their civil rights were violated.

It was largely due to the Ku Klux Klan Act that hundreds of Klansmen were fined and imprisoned. And, in several counties of South Carolina, habeas corpus was suspended.

While the Klan was effectively destroyed in South Carolina, violence against blacks escalated and, in 1873, in Lousiana, as many as 280 black Republicans were killed by a white militia in what has come to be known as the Colfax Massacre. But, it was in the 1920's in economic times increasingly resembling our own that the Klan reached its all-time high in population of six million members.

Many have come to expect racism from the South, and/or in states like Indiana. How's that for geographical profiling? But, what happens when it hits this close to home? Moreover, what are we to think when this kind of hate rears its sorry, antiquated head in the suburbs of blue states like California, New Jersey, and New York where, by now, even Archie Bunker would be waving the white flag of surrender?

What do we make of it when a group calling itself the National Socialist Movement took a busload of its members to the capitol, late last month, to rail against illegal immigrants, wave swastika flags, and call for eradicating the two-party political system?

Far be it for anyone to deny them their First Amendment right to free speech, and freedom of assembly, but tell me it doesn't scare you when you hear some of their same rhetoric coming from the mouths of others who'd like to think of themselves as socialists, too.

Legislation that has been largely vestigial, for the past hundred years, the Civil Rights Act, which affirms 14th Amendment guarantees of equal protection under the law, as well as providing a broader definition of U.S. citizenship so as to secure rights for former slaves might come in handy, yet again.

Yes, a law that was passed to protect newly emancipated, and widely harassed, American citizens may yet be resuscitated in light of what may be viewed as recent violations of the 14th Amendment wiith respect to voter fraud allegations, as well as current immigration and customs enforcement policy. Can it be that the U.S. government is now doing to undocumented Mexican immigrants what the Klan once did to African-Americans in the South?

Hopefully, when folks in Indiana and North Carolina go to the polls to vote in the primaries, on Tuesday, they will remember those like this guy with the shaved head on a Northern California bus, and think --we've come a long way ,baby. Or, maybe not. And, while history is a nice place to visit, who really wants to live there?

More importantly, think of this angry young white guy, on the bus, the one with the indelible smirk, and the high octane hubris, and how miserable it must be to live in a time warp, and continuum of dislocation.

He's made it to my row now, and I earn a double scowl as if he wants to tell me it's mating season, and safe for misogynsts to come out of the closet.

Maybe, but will he admit he's outnumbered, as are all white supremacists. Will he concede that the country has changed, and there's no going back; no, sir. If not, who can he complain to? It would be like a dinosaur bitching about being extinct.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

May Day and...

A Flower
Given To My Daughter

Frail the white rose and frail are
Her hands that gave
Whose soul is sere and paler
Than time's wan wave.

Rosefrail and fair -- yet frailest
A wonder wild
In gentle eyes thou veilest,
My blueveined child.

Trieste 1913

James Joyce

On The Beach At Fontana

Wind whines and whines the shingle,
The crazy pierstakes groan;
A senile sea numbers each single
Slimesilvered stone.

From whining wind and colder
Grey sea I wrap him warm
And touch his trembling fineboned shoulder
And boyish arm.

Around us fear, descending
Darkness of fear above
And in my heart how deep unending
Ache of love !

Trieste 1914

James Joyce

As yet another Bloomsday approaches, hug those closest to you and remember a "Fathers' prayers for Sons and Daughters."