Sunday, January 29, 2006

Gore Vidal on Fear

Gore Vidal has been there, done that. I like what he has put together from his many many years of observation and critical thinking. His development of the "Closing of the American Mind" speaks volumes about the cumulative effect of fear -- and just as significantly, despair -- in the service of power. 

Vidal's work is done with what appears to me to be a relentless hope grounded in an honest memory (thus the correct reading of Tiberius' history.) I understand hope to be the opposite of despair and thus the divining of history and current events offered by those without hope is a much more cynical hermenutic. 

Cynicism as it projects despair is popular because it takes little or no courage at all, requiring only the strength to fend off altruism while one is allowed to put on the guise of tough realism. Think of Rove's latest criticism of some democrats he claims are reading the world through “pre-9-11 eyes.” He only sounds tough. But his realism is not tough or realistic at all! It is cynicism with all the incumbent misinterpretations of history, all the false rhetoric, all the fear-mongering, and all the abuse of power to maintain power of an apocalyptist without hope. 

Cynicism is the canary in the coal mine of any generation's "closing." But behind it there is a deep despair. Whatelse allows a 20 year old Georgian to support Sen. Frist's threat of nuclear option as the "best option" allowed by the politicization of "advice and consent?" Does the Constitution encourage us to understand as rubber stamp what is really the high authority of "advice and consent?" Frist et al would have it portrayed as a duty at best to "give the president's nominees the up or down vote they deserve." No high callings around. How audacious of the Kennedys and Kerrys to presume otherwise! 

I understand consent in general as the action of a parent or board of elders like the Senate. Who were originally unlimited in the number of terms they could serve and elected on a slower cycle than the other offices of national import and thus privileged to an honest memory. Remember term limits? or perhaps more pointedly said "will the real originalists please stand up!" Later on I'll get my rant about term limits and the need we have to repeal that freakish legislation. We forget the role it has played in accelerating change, in making elections more easily purchased than contested and in concentrating power toward the top of both parties and away from the grass roots. But like I said, that's later. 

For now read Vidal. 

Published on Saturday, January 28, 2006 by TruthDig

President Jonah

by Gore Vidal


While contemplating the ill-starred presidency of G.W. Bush, I looked about for some sort of divine analogy. As usual, when in need of enlightenment, I fell upon the Holy Bible, authorized King James version of 1611; turning by chance to the Book of Jonah, Read more

Friday, January 27, 2006

If you talk the right talk, you can do no wrong v. Matthew 15:11

This from the comments to The Carpetbagger Report January 25 article on Roy Blunt supporter in a business that provides services for a phone sex business. JoeW has spoken the truth. Isn't interesting how blind to our own "contradictions" us religious types can become when power is in play. 

C'mon CB! 'm sure Dobson and his ilk will applaud it along this line: 

Blunt heroically outfoxed the godless fornicators. He took their ill-gotten booty and cleansed it in the light of the baby Jesus. Taking money from these filthy secularists and turning it to God's cause shows how deeply he cherishes his Christian convictions. 

With the Christian right, if you talk the right talk, you can do no wrong. 

Comment by JoeW — 1/25/2006 @ 10:46 am 

Personally, I do not care from where Blunt's money comes. He is dangerous to the nation -- not just Missouri -- as a top dog in the Republican machine. It's not what goes into a man's mouth that defiles him . . . 

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Fear Not = Vote Republican?

Time was when we understood the biblical refrain ''fear not" as a comfort spoken to those suffering unjust oppression. Now there may another reason to follow this holy imperative: to protect ourselves from our own leaders. BTW "fear not" appears 39 times in the RSV translation of the Hebrew Scriptures and 5 times in the Christian Testament. Eugene Robinson has a great take on the latest fear-mongering from the White House. 


Using Our Fear 

By Eugene Robinson 

Friday, January 27, 2006; Page A23 

Once upon a time we had a great wartime president who told Americans they had nothing to fear but fear itself. Now we have George W. Bush, who uses fear as a tool of executive power and as a political weapon against his opponents. (Read more)

Jack Who? Deemed "not relevant," photos scrubbed by Bush supporter before Time announcement

Talking Points Memo by Joshua Micah Marshall 

(January 26, 2006 -- 11:59 AM EDT) 

. . . So, here we have it that the president of Reflections admits that she removed photos of Abramoff and the president from their online database. If what her employee told me on the 11th is accurate the photos were also deleted from the CDs they keep on file in their own archives. So the scrub seems to have been pretty thorough. (Read more)

Turns out the company's president is a Bush contributor. Read it on Public Campaign Action Fund: Clean Money, Clean Elections in their Thursday January 26th blog. How else did they get the contract in the first place? Either pay to play or just join the regime. What other institution works this way and on this scale? . . . 3,2,1. . . The Mafia.

Molly Ivins is right, again!

By Molly Ivins 


AUSTIN, Texas -- We live in interesting times, we do, we do. We can read in our daily newspapers that our government is about to launch a three-day propaganda blitz to convince us all that its secret program to spy on us is something we really want and need. "A campaign of high-profile national security events," reports The New York Times, follows "Karl Rove's blistering speech to national Republicans" about what a swell political issue this is for their party. (Read more)

Book of Daniel's Desparations

This is a wonderful essay/review of two TV shows I have watched and enjoyed for the very different reasons this author lists here. 


Jesus, 'Daniel,' and 'Earl' 

by Donovan Jacobs 

SojoMail 1-25-2006

It's no surprise that a range of conservative Christian organizations and commentators criticized NBC's recent TV series The Book of Daniel, canceled this week by the network, which blamed low ratings around the country. Between the title character - a pill-popping Episcopal priest who regularly talks to a vision of Jesus - his gay son, pot-dealing daughter, and martini-swilling wife, the show featured enough hot-button topics to rile up virtually anyone on the Religious Right. (Read more)

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Too many wrongs don't make a right, just one dizzy.

I've pasted a Truthout translation of Gaudemar's essay as it appeared in Liberation. This is a sobering reminder that our government is digging holes on too many fronts to count. I almost forgot about this horror of illegal detention. It is depressing to realize that Abramoff's troubles like all the other crap W's methods and madness have brought us to contemplate have only diverted our attention from bad news with more bad news. 

Oh to be diverted by the truth that we have stopped spinning and corrected these wrongs! 

    By Antoine de Gaudemar in Libération Thursday 12 January 2006 

    Four years after its creation, Guantánamo prison camp remains faithful to its sinister reputation. More than five hundred men of about thirty different nationalities are still rotting there, and not all of them were made prisoner in 2002 in Afghanistan during the American military intervention in that country. Some of them were arrested in the course of illegal kidnappings in third countries. This scandal is only the first in a long list: as of today only nine detainees have been charged; not one has been tried. In spite of a decision by the United States Supreme Court - which has still not ruled on the legality of the military tribunals headquartered on the Cuban base - arbitrary action and abusive treatment continue to reign there: although a few prisoners have been able to meet their lawyers, they denounce the inanity of procedures that change constantly. Neither the families, nor NGOs - with the exception of the Red Cross - can visit the precincts where hunger strikes are on the increase. This opacity makes us fear the worst about the conditions of detention inside the camp, fears confirmed by the new testimonies of torture Amnesty International published yesterday. The only glimmer of light in this nightmare is the drip drop of detainee releases after months and months of imprisonment, most of the time for nothing. Along with the tortures practiced in Iraqi jails and secret CIA prisons, Guantánamo symbolizes what is most hateful about the George Bush regime: the desire to be above its own laws as well as international law and a total sense of impunity. Because the fight against terrorism does not require that we use the same weapons it does, the very existence of Guantánamo is a most serious defeat for democracy. 

Translation: t r u t h o u t French language correspondent Leslie Thatcher.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

How much warrantless searching will $89.95 get you?

Published on Friday, January 13, 2006 by the Chicago Sun Times

Blogger Buys Presidential Candidate's Call List

by Frank Main 


One of the nation's top political bloggers purchased the cell phone records of former presidential candidate Gen. Wesley Clark on Thursday to demonstrate the growing privacy concerns highlighted in a Chicago Sun-Times story last week. 

John Aravosis, publisher of, said he bought Clark's records for $89.95 from Aravosis said he obtained a list of 100 calls made on Clark's cell phone over three days in November -- no questions asked. Read on

And the 70's, too!

Published on Friday, January 13, 2006 by 

Play It Again, Sam

by Richard Hendrick 


Play It Again, Sam. 

It looks like Sam Alito will be a Supreme Court Justice. Before he gains whatever credibility inheres in this lofty office, let me record my objections to his contributions to the revision of Sixties history and point out the glass house from which he has lofted a few stonesŠin my direction. 

It has been a rough thirty years since the end of The Sixties. Not least because The Sixties has taken such hits in its rewriting. What was (among many things) a time of almost childish naivete, innocence, and idealism has been slowly, purposefully and completely robbed of its virtues. It is now depicted as a time of confusion, irresponsibility, self-indulgence and unwarranted violence (on the parts of demonstrators, not the military and police!). Read on . . .

Imperial Presidency v. Government Drowned in a Tub

I'm trying to figure out the mind set of someone who can campaign espousing smaller federal government -- like Patrick Basham recalls in his Cato Institute piece after Bush was elected over Gore by a 5 to 4 Supreme Court vote -- and then work so hard to expand his own power as if two centuries of "checks and balances" were some so-called "liberal fantasy." I am left with just a couple of logical conclusions. 

One is that W is a liar. This is my less cynical conclusion BTW. It is less cynical because I have tried in my evaluation to give him credit for what he said in public throughout the two campaigns and while in office as President. I consider it less cynical to assume that W knows what he is saying when he is saying it. I am also assuming that he believes everything he says. Not to would require that we admit for him higher levels of intelligence and mental acuity than he has ever demonstrated in public discourse or by official/institutional testing. He does demonstrate a degree of "good-old-boy" street smarts at times looking much like the former Clemson football coach Danny Ford. You know, "he's as a dumb as a fox." It seems to me that Molly Ivins has asked us to understand W this way. So . . . let's give him credit for what I want to call conscious expediency. Another way to say it is: Saying or doing what he thinks he needs to say or do so that he can say or do what he thinks he needs to say or do. 

CE is W's part in what Paul Waldman calls Fraud. This how he outlines it in his book

How to Build a Fraud: 

• Portray son of one of America's most influential families as down-home Texan 

• Berate media as "liberal" until they stop asking tough questions 

• Take advantage of reporters' tendency to not check the facts 

• Mask reactionary policies in compassionate words and pictures 

• Push false stories from right-wing media into mainstream media 

• Extol the virtues of workers while systematically pushing an anti-labor agenda 

• Propose a series of tax cuts aimed at the wealthy, but sell them as a boon to ordinary Americans 

• Disguise destructive initiatives with friendly sounding names 

• Befriend media with "genuine guy" routine 

• Keep the public from accessing information 

• Maintain message discipline at all times 

• Question patriotism of anyone who disagrees 

• Repeat above until it all seems true 

At some point, George W. Bush took a good long look at who he was and what he wanted for the country and decided that the American people would never buy it if he gave it to them straight. So Bush and his political machine made their decision: the American people would have to be lied to. 

I couldn't agree more. As I said, he believes what he thinks he knows. Belief is important because ultimately some vision -- of which W is simply an ordained recipient (in cahoots with other fellow travelers) --becomes the sole/soul and -- this is important --purifying motivation for everything that he says or does. With the deluding indignation of a self-appointed martyr and a pronounced comfort with contradiction, he lies. How can you tell that he is lying? Read his lips. If they're moving, he's lying. 

The more cynical outcome is to conclude that he is being duped -- like the Emperor with no clothes. Interestingly, we focus on the gullibility of the subjects through out our retelling of the age-old tale. Blaming them for their succumbing to a lie. We do the same with the American public today. But doesn't the fairy tale contain the truth that publics "under the power of a "despot" -- puppet or not -- do not know what they do not know? "Tell them over and over until they believe it is true." Eventually "they" don't know. Only someone who has participated in that which is the subject of the lie, the whistleblowers like Russell Tice or who have not yet been hypnotized by the droning, the child whom I've always thought was a little girl, can dispel the lie for what it is in its dissonance and incongruity. Bush appears at times to be horribly ignorant or at least susceptible to his own droning. Like an emperor so enamored by flattery that he never questions the source. Gullible is as gullible does "a heck of a job." 

Part of not knowing what we don't know is that we can not tell the difference between the person who is President and the Presidency itself. The rhetoric flattens these two into one. So that we can no longer speak of how W has dishonored the office without being accused of dishonoring the office ourselves. The doublespeak of the puppet plus the doublespeak echoing back via a hypnotized media and public equals little or nothing of consequence recognized as utterable. Think of Bill Murray going Japan to show us what living in the US with a mind of your own was like. Oh that W had an inking of Bob Harris' self consciousness. 

See what I mean about this being the more cynical conclusion? 

I guess it doesn't matter which part of the doublespeak comes out his mouth or whether he is conscious of it as doublespeak or not. We are in trouble, of Orwellian proportions. Because neither an imperial presidency or a drownable government will be our salvation. We already have a way of doing things in this country that could rescue us from either of these false Saviors. It has the potential to inform us so that we can honestly join the little girl who utters the truth from her innocence and hear the prophetic voices of whistleblowers like Russell Tice. It is the Constitution. But I best be careful otherwise I do dishonor to W which he has not already done to himself.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Economic Cronyism

01/10/06 20:50

Published on Tuesday, January 10, 2006 by the Daytona Beach News-Journal (Florida) 

What Numbers Aren't Saying About the Economy Most Live In

by Pierre Tristam 

. . . From 1947 to 1979, family income for the poorest 20 percent of the population grew by 120 percent, and by comparable rates for the next two-fifths of the nation's households. Income for the top fifth grew by 94 percent. Since 1979, household income for the poorest 20 percent has risen 0.7 percent. Total. It has risen between 7 percent and 8 percent, total, for the next two-fifths of the country's households, or about 0.3 percent per year. For the richest 10 percent, household income grew 61.2 percent during the same 25 years. And for the richest 1 percent, it grew a staggering 111 percent. Wealth had been becoming a more equal opportunity. It's now a privilege again. . . . Read more

Monday, January 9, 2006

Militar Spending: All This and NO Flack Jackets?

Published on Sunday, January 8, 2006 by the Toronto Sun (Canada) 

The 'Fin de Regime'? 

An Out-of-Touch George Bush Now Presides Over a Lost Foreign War and a Morass of Influence Peddling 

by Eric Margolis 


WASHINGTON -- China's Taoists philosophers warned that you become what you hate. We see this paradox in Washington, where the current administration increasingly reminds one of the old Soviet Union. 

The U.S.S.R. went bankrupt after spending 40% of national income on the military. President George Bush's administration will spend a staggering $419.3 billion US on the military this fiscal year. An additional $130 billion US has been budgeted in 2006 for the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. 

That's $10.8 billion a month -- 40% above previous estimates -- and somewhat more than the monthly cost of the Vietnam War at its height. Add to this huge sum an estimated $1.5 billion in monthly secret expenditures in Iraq and Afghanistan by CIA and Pentagon intelligence. 

Astoundingly, U.S. military spending in 2006 will equal the rest of the world's total combined military expenditures. (DBB's emphasis) I just saw an ad for the new, $115-million F-22 Raptor stealth fighter, trumpeting how its radar can "intercept communications of insurgents." Using a $115-million aircraft to listen to cellphone calls by a bunch of jihadis in Waziristan staggers the imagination. . . . Read More

Sunday, January 8, 2006

Abramoff's Broken Theology of Merit

I want to be careful because I am not an Orthodox Jew as Mr. Abramoff claims to be. But I am attentive to the use of religious language in the public sphere. In particular the invocation of the Almighty by Abramoff. 

Here's what he said as reported in the Washington Post 

"Standing before U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle in Washington yesterday, Abramoff looked sheepish and sad. "Your Honor, words will not be able to ever express how sorry I am for this, and I have profound regret and sorrow for the multitude of mistakes and harm I have caused," he said softly. "All of my remaining days, I will feel tremendous sadness and regret for my conduct and for what I have done. I only hope that I can merit forgiveness from the Almighty and from those I have wronged or caused to suffer." 

What caught my attention was his idea the forgiveness was something to be gained or earned -- that's what merit means in most dictionaries. Likely the Almighty -- even as understood by this redneck Episcopal priest -- is interested, perhaps on occassion even impressed by sincerity, but mostly when attached to real action, especially the restorative kind so needed in this case. In other words, just how does Mr. Abramoff intend to shift the balance in favor of those he has caused to suffer and then "to merit the forgiveness of the Almighty?" 

His plea bargain is a weak attempt at that at best. He will have to endure approximately 10 years incarceration. Ask Martha Stewart how that went for her, . . . after her next show. He must pay a $26 million restitution to IRS and his Indian clients. In other words he has to pay the taxes he has already owed and not paid and he will have give back the money he kept for himself or used for purposes other than the ones named to solicit the donations. Then he has to snitch on the others mostly politicians -- of whom the best evidence says "politician equals republican" -- he courted via St. Andrew's, skyboxes, and trips to the beach. Oh darn. Is that what Mr. Abramoff means when he imagines what he'll do to merit forgiveness from the Almighty? Which one of these requirements is punitive? Which one of these is restorative? Does the Casino part of the $26 million fund them to the level they'd be now based on when the money was first collected by Abramoff? 

If the Almighty is waiting on Mr. Abramoff to earn forgiveness, I'm afraid he'll have to work through more agencies than the Federal Government's District court. But really my hunch is that the Almighty is not going to wait and will not even intervene to coerce any of the parties involved toward restoration for the sake of Mr. Abramoff's merit. If Mr. Abramoff covets -- among the many things I'm sure he has at least once coveted -- the Almighty's forgiveness he need only acknowledge that it is God's property always to have mercy. In other words forgiveness is a result of God's mercy and not our merit. If there is anything for Mr. Abramoff to hope to merit it ought to be our respect -- another word for the reduction of revulsion -- but understood exactly in terms of his ability to restore the balance he tipped so unmeritoriously in his favor. He can start doing that by getting out of Washington, entirely. His chances are just better somewhere else. Like Lame Deer, Montana -- yes, the Cheyenne have a casino but they're still broke -- where he could paint houses for the tribal council. At the rate he charges per hour it'll only take him a summer. 

I would also suggest to him that he avoid speaking of his crime as causing "others to suffer." For his clients, apparently he delivered, there was no suffering because they thought they'd received their money's worth. Yes they are victims of a crime -- it's called fraud -- but have they suffered due to his action? Has his family suffered? Hard to imagine that, given his wife's 6 figure political donation sum. And what about those politicians he was funding? President Bush had to give to charity $6000 out of the more than $100,000 that made Abramoff a Bush Pioneer. Since W is not running for re-election I can't imagine how they'll suffer from what si now a charitable donation. Just who is it that has been caused to suffer? If any one it will be those who are implicated by his testimony -- I called it snitching earlier. But if they're guilty of a crime Abramoff's not needed to explain their suffering. Unless it's only "wrong" to get caught. 

For me Abramoff's apology is made hollow by bad theology. Because of who the Almighty is, Abramoff has already been forgiven. Abramoff should stop apologizing and actually do somthing restorative, something that really helps make the world a better place. Only after a long time can he start talking "merit."

Wednesday, January 4, 2006

More on Abramoff's $$

Lobbying Plan Was Central to GOP's Political Strategy

By Janet Hook and Mary Curtius
The Los Angeles Times
Wednesday 04 January 2006

. . . According to a study by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, 296 members of Congress since 1999 have received contributions from Abramoff, his Indian tribe clients or SunCruz Casinos. Abramoff and his wife contributed $204,253 - all of it to Republicans.
    In addition, Abramoff also leaned on his Indian clients to give to key lawmakers. The center found that Abramoff's clients gave almost $4.2 million, more than half to Republicans. . . .

Tuesday, January 3, 2006

Follow these two links for the officially reported contributions from Abramoff (and his wife) to political figures. Here and here. Word is that there are NO Democrats on those two lists.

And check out the chart which lists the distribution of campaign contributions from Abramoff's Indian Casino Clients.

Let's do the math
$ 843,209 to 33 members house/senate
$ 651,393 to 26 Republicans = ~$25,000 per person (9 were at or above the average)
$ 191,816 to 7 Democrats = ~$27,000 per person (4 were at or above the average)

From the Daily KOS
Out of Republican talking points as quoted by Bloomberg- hitting the streets today comes this 
Between 2001 and 2004, Abramoff joined with his former partner, Michael Scanlon, and tribal clients to give money to a third of the members of Congress, including former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, according to records of the Federal Election Commission and Internal Revenue Service. At least 171 lawmakers got $1.4 million in campaign donations from the group. Republicans took in most of the money, with 110 lawmakers getting $942,275, or 66 percent of the total.

Let's do the math using Republican talking points
1.40 million to 171
-.94 million to 110 Republicans = $8566 per person
.45 million to 61 Democrats = $7500 per person

Also from the Daily KOS
And the LA Times reported more Abramoff donation facts: 
Abramoff, a once-powerful lobbyist who is the subject of a federal influence-peddling investigation, is considering a deal to plead guilty and cooperate with prosecutors, according to sources familiar with the probe. That could open the prospect that Abramoff will implicate any number of lawmakers and aides who were part of his vast network of access. [snip] 
"Washington is holding its collective breath," said one Republican lobbyist who did not want to comment for the record on a scandal affecting his profession and political allies. 
The concern is widespread because Abramoff's reach into the Capitol was so deep. According to an analysis by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, 210 current members of Congress have received contributions from Abramoff, his Indian tribe clients or SunCruz Casinos since 1999. 
Most received less than $10,000, but 25 lawmakers received $21,500 or more. Twenty were Republicans and five were Democrats, but none of the Democrats received money directly from Abramoff. (Emphasis mine, DBB) 
Jack's lobbying firms and some of his clients gave to Democrats as well the GOP. While those are Abramoff-connected donations, they are not the same as Jack's personal checks to candidates. 
It is only true to say that some Democrats received donations from co-workers of Abramoff and/or his clients, but that is different than an direct donation or connection to Abramoff. 
And all Democrats are auditing all their connections and purging any funds that they find to be connected to Jack by the thinnest of threads.
(Thanks to Daily KOS for this excellent compilation)

Every time but one the Republicans try to paint Abramoff as an equal opportunity lobbyist they end up "more equal." The only time Democrats were "equal" to Republicans as recipients -- and this was campaign contributions from Abramoff's clients, not Abramoff himself -- are the 3 from Louisiana (John, Landrieu, Breaux) and the one from Nevada (Reid). Incidentally, the Republican leader "enjoyed" ~$36,000 more than his Democratic collegue. Several of these folks have redirected some of these funds. Dennis Hastert is telling folks that he gave his Abramoff $$ to charity. I wonder who got it.