American Liberalism Project Archives September 2004 to June 2006

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Grinching

At the risk of beating a dead horse, I felt this morning that I needed to go back and address the issue of the holidays, especially in light of the fact that my city almost caused an international incident, last week, by referring to the gift of a Christmas Tree as a "Holiday Tree"!

For many years now, the city of Halifax, Nova Scotia has sent the City of Boston a Christmas Tree, in appreciation for the help Boston had sent after the horrendous explosion Halifax suffered through back in 1917. This year the tree was donated by a couple by the name of Hatt whose gorgeous spruce now adorns the City of Boston's Common. However, some bright spark at the City's web site referred to the tree as a Holiday Tree rather than exactly what it is...a Christmas Tree. It made Mr. Hatt so angry he said he wished he had put it through the chipper! Mrs. Hatt, tending to be more gracious about it, felt it was ok because many other faiths celebrate at this time of year as well and they should, rightfully, be included.

This got me to thinking. All this political correctness over a holiday seems a bit off kilter considering that all those trimmings and trappings that we associate with the Christmas Season were actually "borrowed" from...are you ready?...the PAGANS and their celebrations of the Winter Solstice.

So here I go, being a Grinch, although, even for the sake of the blog, I will not paint myself green. Just imagine me that color, ok?

Way, way back at the beginning of time (almost), a virgin went to a cave and gave birth to a child. This child was known as the Light of The World, his symbol was the Lamb and he had twelve satellites (disciples). He traveled far and wide, and was also called the Prince of Peace. Well, you say, that's an easy one, why it is Jesus of course! You would be wrong, as the child was known as Mithra and he was THE god for thousands of years. Interesting story though, isn't it? The selection of December 25th, as the date of Christ's birth, was first recorded in scholarly texts, in 324 AD. As most of the Pagan world, at the time, viewed the Winter Solstice, as the rebirth of the sun, (Mithra), so, the early church fathers felt it was easier to continue celebrating on that date. It goes to show that even our Christmas story was borrowed.

So, we started with the story, but then we moved on to incorporate all the othe Pagan symbols associated with the celebrating of the Winter Solstice and which today we associate with our celebration of Christmas. The Yule log, candles and mistletoe all had great symbolic meaning to the ancients. Even the word Yule, or Jul, means wheel and thus represents the continuation of the life cycle, the "wheel" of life.

With the lighting of Yule Log the ancients were celebrating the return of the sun, it's warmth and life giving properties. Remember, this was the shortest of days in the dead of winter, but the subsequent days started to lengthen giving them more hours of sunlight. To bring success to the new year the log had to be lit on the first try and had to burn for 12 hours. It was yet another tradition to save the ashes from the Yule log to carry over into the following year.

The Holly, Ivy and Mistletoe, represent the "kissing bush" a group of evergreens (including the coniferous pine and yew) which showed through the winter that life continued even in these coldest and darkest of days. The mistletoe became the favorite as it's leaves were the darkest and berries the brightest. Around the 18th century the custom of kissing under the mistletoe came into fashion...strictly a modern day part of the holidays! All of the above mentioned were used to decorate in some way, as today we use the boughs from the evergreens and conifers as wreaths and other decorations.

The Yule Tree, a symbol of man's connection to the earth, has also been a part of the Solstice and then the Christian celebration. Man has venerated trees as the life giving force that they are, and the decorating of them with candles, fruits, nuts and berries is also a connection to the seasons. Even the 5 Pointed star which sits atop the Yule tree represents the unity of the four elements and the cardinal directions as well as the sacred other world; the fifth point.

All of the things I have mentioned above have been held together as traditions as long as man has been on the planet and sought to explain his presence, his gods and life. Most are near and dear to all of us, but we should never forget that there are those who do not hold these things a sacred part of their faith. And, one would have to ask, why do we, when there are those who vilify those they would call Pagans.

Wishing you all a joyous and prosperous Winter Solstice!

I cannot wait until Easter!

Susan B. Goodwin

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Calibrating

We have four articles to offer this morning. Seymour M. Hersh knows the Iraq War. Here is his latest prognostication on the subject.


Paul Bigioni writes about creeping fascism ... a must read!


John Pilger writes about blogs and the corporate press.


Nick Turse adds to his list of the fallen legion—the casualties of this corrupt administration.


JRB

Monday, November 28, 2005

Fool Me Twice Shame on Me

In a recent Time Magazine column, Joe Klein argued that we should not withdrawal troops from Iraq and we should not waste our time talking about how we got into the mess in Iraq. He is wrong on both counts.

This is the second time we have been deceived into a major war. The first time was the Vietnam War. Remember the excuse to expand that war was the so called Gulf of Tonkin incident which we later learned never happened. Now we find out that the intelligence on Iraq was doctored to support the reasons for going to war. We have learned that the Iraq WMD program was effectively dismantled by the UN and that no connection existed between the 9-11 terrorists and Iraq.

So it is vital that we get to the bottom of how this could happen again. That our leaders have lied to us to justify the US getting into a war for their own spurious reasons and for which we have no real exit strategy. We vowed after the Vietnam War that we would never let this happen again, but we to easily forget the lessons of the past.

Secondly, Klein in his article posses two questions: Will an American withdrawal from Iraq create more or less stability in the Middle East? Will a withdrawal increase or decrease the threat of another terrorist attack at home? NO and no; Iraq never a terrorist threat to the United States. Almost all the 9-11 terrorists were from Saudi Arabia none were from Iraq. The Middle East is a lot less stable since we decided to invade Iraq. Iraq has become ground zero for every terrorist group in the Middle East since we invaded and will continue to be so until we pull out. Moreover, every poll taken in Iraq shows that the citizens of Iraq want us out.

We must get out now and we must make our leaders accountable for their actions which got us into this mess.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Pax Americana

As the Thanksgiving Day weekend begins to recede into history and as Liberals around the nation enjoy the woes of their adversaries, the solemn fact remains that there are three more years of this administration, three years during which the madness of Dick Cheney can be spread throughout our society and across our planet. The UK Guardian frequently refers to Dick as "barking mad," and here are the reasons why. Dick has mistaken the comic book version of the "win" over the Soviet Union as a reality he can manipulate to control his life ... and ours. Did he really think that he could high-jack an entire country to his insane purpose?!

SBG and JRB

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Repentance and Outrage

While resting after a beautiful Thanksgiving not far from where the first Thanksgiving meal was consumed, we stumbled upon these interesting essays at a very interesting website. Liberals should take heart from these:

  • Repentance
  • Outrage


    SBG

  • Thursday, November 24, 2005

    Happy Thanksgiving!

    Mark Morford at SFGate rings in the holiday season with this marvelous scene from the Bush White House. Enjoy!


    JRB

    Wednesday, November 23, 2005

    Happy Holidays Mr. Falwell!!

    Ok. That's it! I have officially had it!

    Thanksgiving is not even a recent memory and already the fanatics among us have started on their Christmas Rampage. Just this week, that very model of Christian paranoia, Jerry Falwell, is threatening to SUE anyone who attacks Christmas! Say what? I knew Jerry, and his group of humbugs, had a tenuous hold on reality but they have raised stupidity to an art form. And, borrowing a page from our exalted Chief Executive's playbook, he has exhorted those, who subscribe to his hate filled brand of Christianity, to sign up on his "Friend or Foe Christmas Campaign"

    Ridiculous as law suits over a holiday greeting may sound, these people actually are represented by legal counsel! Liberty Counsel a conservative legal organization, stands at the ready to slap your rear end with a lawsuit should they find your reference to the holiday season anything other than Merry Christmas! Should you perhaps choose to use the Happy Holidays slogan within your place of business, you might be slapped with, what I would term, a ridiculous lawsuit, or a boycott at the very least. Even some schools have their own brand of "Christmas Police" in the form of the 8,000 member strong Christian Educator's Association. I am not quite clear as to what might happen should a child be caught humming the Dreidel song and not O, Holy Night in the corridors of his school. I am assuming that these teachers are on the look out for school extravaganzas which encompass all faiths and not just Christianity and the singing of Christmas related songs. I am now wondering if schools themselves will be sued if they choose to have "Holiday Breaks" instead of "Christmas Vacations".

    And what will become of the Christmas Tree? One Christmas tree farmer has allowed as how he does not much care what they refer to them as, as long as they keep buying them. Yet another, refuses to deal with those who do not actually call them Christmas trees! This has elevated the argument to the height of ridiculousness. What else would you call the thing if NOT a Christmas Tree? That would be like calling a Menorah a candlestick wouldn't it? Let's be serious folks. There are certain things which are justifiably a part of each faith's traditions at this holiday season. With so many blended families of different faiths, we find many celebrating more than one holiday. In many homes the Menorah has pride of place in the dining room and the Christmas tree reigns in the living room. Obviously these diverse groups have found a way of coping with the holidays.

    Now Jerry Falwell has called for all his followers to resist "...bullying tactics of the ACLU", and other secular organizations, "...which spread misinformation about Christmas." Most of these secular organizations have made it clear that there is no war against Christmas. and the controversy swirling around it is nothing more than the Fundamentalist's efforts to fan the fires of hate and discontent against any who do not hold their world view that the United States is a "Christian" nation. What are they so afraid of? I am thrilled that my children learned, and my grandchildren are learning, about other faiths and the holidays that they celebrate. It has helped to make them tolerant and accepting human beings. The only note of discontent that I ever heard from them was the fact that their Jewish friends had EIGHT days of presents!! Talk about unfair!

    When, oh when, did my country get hi-jacked by these loonies out on a day pass from the funny farm and certainly off their meds? No one is proposing that Christmas or the celebration of same, be relegated to the dust heap, they are, however, saying that there are others in this country who celebrate the Holiday Season in a different manner and why should they not be given equal time?

    In a season which is noted, in the Christian community, for celebrating the birth of the Prince of Peace, there is a group that would make it devisive and unpleasant. They are full of sound and fury, which truly signifies nothing. If members of their Christian organizations find it difficult to shop in stores which say Happy Holidays rather than Merry Christmas then they need to grow up and get over it. Or do not shop. You, indeed we ALL, have choices.

    We are now entering into that time of year where the message of the Christian faith, has always been, Peace on Earth and to men of Good Will. I think Mr. Falwell and his ilk had better go back to their Bibles and re-read that message once again. No one is trying to steal your holiday!

    Buon Natale, Feliz Navidad, Joyeux Noel, Kala Christougena, Mele Kalikimaka, Eid Said, Nodlag Sona Duit, Froeliche Weilnachten, Kinge Shinnen, Tin Hao Nian, Vesela, Frolijke Kerstmis, Merry Christmas and
    HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

    Susan B. Goodwin

    Tuesday, November 22, 2005

    Shame and Atonement

    CommonDreams website is picking up almost all of the good essays out there on the net. Here are four to keep your vigil and dander up:


  • My Blood Boils for Robin

  • Kent State Redux?

  • ACLU Files Lawsuit

  • Give Thanks No More; It's Time for a National Day of Atonement

    JRB

  • Monday, November 21, 2005

    The Alito Nomination

    Bush’s nomination of Judge Alito to fill Sandra Day O’Conner’s position on the Supreme Court seems to have gone under the radar as far as the news media is concerned. Intellectually Alito is certainly qualified but philosophically he is not.
    Let us look at his record as both a litigator and as a judge:

    Alito stated in an application for Asst. Deputy Attorney General that he did not believe women had a constitutional right to reproductive choice.
    As the lone dissenter (disagreeing even with Michael Chertoff, now head of Bush's Homeland Security Department), he would have upheld the strip search of a 10-year-old girl without a valid warrant.
    Again in dissent, Alito would have upheld a PA law requiring women, in many cases, to notify their husbands before obtaining abortions.
    In dissent again, Alito said that a congressional law restricting the transfer and possession of machine guns was unconstitutional.
    While working under Attorney General Edwin Meese, Alito urged President Reagan to veto a bill to protect consumers from used car dealers who roll back odometers -- he said it wasn't the federal government's job to protect citizens' health, safety and welfare!

    This nomination is a threat to our rights and freedoms. Alito does not believe in the right of a woman to reproductive choice, he does not believe in individual rights or at least he believes the government’s interests trump those of the individual. He is all the more dangerous because he is very smart and knows how to say the correct thing at the right time to sooth those senators who would normally oppose his nomination.

    His vote will probably be the tie breaker in many of the Supreme Court’s most controversial decisions. Decisions which will affect this country for many years to come. Now is time for all liberals to write, fax or call their senator to tell them that they oppose Judge Alito’s nomination to the Supreme Court.

    Sunday, November 20, 2005

    Closing in on the War


    On a big news week such as we have just seen, it gets harder and harder to touch bases with all the good and honest sources. So here are three you may have missed:


  • Need to Know, in American Prospect by Greg Sargent.


  • Decoding Mr. Bush's Denials, editorial of the NYT ... one of their finer moments!


  • Representative John Murtha's website and his speech on the Iraq War. One of his finest moments, we think!


    JRB

  • Saturday, November 19, 2005

    The Week's Talking Point


    Oh how I love it when the Administration reveals it's "Talking Point of the Week!" It is always a source of amusement to me to unravel the word strands that are wrapped around the current nugget.


    We are meant to hear only the oft-repeated and emphasized "nugget word" such as this week's "re-writing history." It's as much fun as getting "the word of the day," but much richer for further amusement.


    It's like having a mini mystery to examine every week! The quest is to discern the truth from the web of surrounding words the "nugget" is wrapped in and see what you have left.


    They make it pretty easy as it's easy to check their assertions from the print and video record. I think they assume that fluoridated water has keep us short of memory and devoid curiosity.In this they are "misunderestimating" us. It seems, however that they themselves either have selective memories or have overdosed on fluoride (or something else) as they constantly deny having said things that are on video tape for all to see!


    Lucky for them the MSM also seems to be mentally foggy when it comes to a good analysis of what actually matches the facts. They fail time after time to question blatant points of error.


    We, however are at our leisure to analyze to our content.
    This week we have the "rewriting history" accusation being thrown around by the very people who have done their best to rewrite our history! Is this a cosmic joke, or what?


    The first time I noticed this week's talking point was in President Bush's Veteran Day speech in PA. In response to war critics and their assertions that the intelligence had been manipulated, Bush said, "...it is deeply irresponsible to rewrite the history of how that war began..." then Bush proceeded to rewrite history by stating "When I made the decision to remove Saddam Hussein from power, Congress approved it with strong bipartisan support."


    Wrong!


    Congress passed P.L.107-243 which declared that the President could use military force on Iraq only if Saddam refused to comply with UN res. 14541, if he sought a second resolution from the UN permitting force be used and if he obtained legislation from Congress to use military force. He was also supposed to keep Congress informed of progress and present to them evidence that force was necessary.


    He failed to do all of these. Never was the removal of Saddam Hussein part of the agreement. He signed that agreement yet he violated every requirement he was to fulfill before using military force.


    As Saddam had agreed to abide by UN resolution 1441 in September 2002 and the inspectors were back in Iraq doing their work and saying they were satisfied with the co-operation of the Iraqis, all requirements were being met. Yet, on March 17 2003 Predident Bush gave Saddam 48 hours to get out of Iraq or face attack. Where did this come from? The inspectors were forced to stop their work and flee for safety as Bush unleashed an attack two days later.


    It begs the question: Why wasn't there an emergency session of Congress calling the President to order on these points? This situation reminds me of a kid who gets the keys to the family car by agreeing to all the family rules then, keys in hand, goes out and does as he pleases, ending up in a wreck.


    In the Nov 11th speech, President Bush also makes the assertion "critics are now claiming that we manipulated intelligence and misled the American people about why we went to war." He follows with the statement .". a bipartisan Senate investigation found no evidence of political pressure to change the intelligence community's judgements related to Iraq's weapons." Here's one of those sneaky maneuvers where two true statements are used but in a deceptive way. The Senate investigation was only part one where they looked at whether pressure had been put on intelligence people to come up with slanted information. It did not go into phase 2 which was to examine whether the intelligence was manipulated. That investigation is yet to come. So he is misleading us when he claims that the question of manipulation has been satisfied. Another rewrite.


    The next mention of "rewrite" was by Cheney on Nov 16. In response to members of Congress demanding investigations into the use of pre-war intelligence, Cheney said, "The President and I cannot prevent certain politicians from losing their memory, or their backbone, but we're not going to sit by and let them rewrite history." I guess they feel that's exclusively their domaine.


    Well, that's it. Once you eliminate the facts from the fiction all that is left is a rewrite of history! I can't wait 'til next week's "talking point!"

    Sue Dyer

    Friday, November 18, 2005

    Raised on Fear

    A little while ago I wrote an essay about the differences between conservatives and liberals. Mind you, I was not writing about Republicans and Democrats or Libertarians and Greens or about any political party, I was writing about the fundamental positions of ideologies. I republished the essay in another venue and got a very strident comment back that questioned my understanding of conservatives.

    I said conservatives distrust the federal government (most governments, in fact), and my commenter said they love government for all it can give them and for all the protection it affords. I am going to try to clear up this confusion today.

    There are differences between political parties and political ideologies. An ideology is a logical structure of ideas about human nature and about its consequences in and for group behavior.

    Conservatives are worried, fearful, fretting persons whose lives must be virtual hell holes of anxiety and distrust. Liberals, on the other hand, are loving, warm-hearted people who get their shins barked and their noses bloodied for easily putting their trust in strangers. Neither group seems very smart when described this way, so there must be something else to this.

    You may have noticed that the glue in ideologies is emotional. A lot of it has to do with how we are raised and what we believe are the important things about our lives. Of course there are completely rational notions within ideologies. The five principles of Liberalism are rational expressions of our experience of living with one another in many, many kinds of circumstances.

    We Liberals hold that Individual Liberty is a worthy principle because we are ourselves individuals who want liberty and who need liberty in order to be able to express ourselves fully and honestly in whatever we do. This principle comes directly from the Golden Rule and the notion of the essential dignity of the human being.

    We hold that Humanity is a worthy object of our attention and activities, because we are humans and know what it is like to be injured, hungry, sick, immature, senescent, and so forth. The human condition is our condition and we both want and need to assure ourselves that we are respected by and respectful of others.

    We hold that Progress is a worthy ideal. We understand that things inherently change over time, and that being the case, we believe we should try to direct that change so that the outcomes are better for all of us and our fellow men and women on this planet, rather than letting things go their own merry undirected way and resulting in sometimes lethal outcomes. (We believe that there are market forces, but we believe that they apply only to the buying and selling of marketable goods and services. Market forces are the overall texture of many individual decisions and actions. There's nothing mysterious about them!) We believe in the efficacy of ourselves, in the ability of humans acting together and individually to affect positive outcomes in social affairs.

    We have Ethical standards because we understand that selfishness leads to abuses of the lives, liberties, and happiness of others. We agree to abide by principles of social behavior so that others will do the same. We test our Ethics against the Ethics of others and make little modifications, not to constrain our Ethics, but to make them more congruent.

    And, we believe in a Rule of Law because we have experienced in our national histories the opposite, the imposition of a single human being's will over us, constraining our activities, administered unevenly and perfidiously. We know that men and women, if given too much authority, soon forget where they got it and become tyrants. The Rule of Law stands against the Rule of Men (and Women).

    The Liberal ideology is found in the interplay between these five principles. It can be quite a complex intermixing of any one or more of the five principles. A political action strategy to create a Head Start program, for instance, is built on an understanding of the needs of Humanity, on Ethical principles, and on a belief in Progress in the service of building a strong foundation for Individual Liberty. The program is itself formulated as Law, which shall treat each applicant the same without prejudice or any other failing of human administration.

    Conservatives will tell you that their undergirding principles are not nearly as abstract or high falootin' as Liberals' are. They believe in individual liberty, but assume it is a something to be earned, not an inherent, inalienable part of being a citizen. Accordingly, conservatives are not surprised or even abashed when someone's individual liberties are trammeled. Their easy assumption is that the person for reasons, apparent or not, did not deserve liberty.

    Conservatives believe in humanity, but they believe that humanity is basically a struggle of each individual against all others. Conservatives require that any human being must prove his worth, while Liberals believe worth is intrinsic to the person. Accordingly, conservatives do not believe in projects or programs to assist their fellow man unless the fellow pays some kind of obeisance to the giver. There is no free lunch, they say. Liberals just don't mind picking up the tab occasionally.

    Conservatives believe in progress, but it is not progress of the whole, but of the part. Being based on and ruled by a "struggle" metaphor naturally puts the conservative perspective at the selfish end of the spectrum. The ideal for conservatives is for an individual to win and to rise above the hoi polloi. The Liberal, on the other hand, does not constrain individual initiative, but makes sure that individuals understand they are standing on the shoulders of those who have preceded them, and will be expected to help those who follow reach their individual potentials.

    And so, finally, it comes down to the Rule of Law. Yes, my commenter was correct! Of course everyone in their most self-centered moment would like government to pass a law granting them immunity from all the slings and arrows of life, to grant them fortunes and privileges like those of kings. But then we grow up, and we understand that the purpose of polity and government is primarily to protect and assist the whole, the individual as part of the whole, the individuals liberties and freedoms, so that all are protected.

    Conservatives are schizophrenic when it comes to the largess of government. In the adolescence of their minds they hate the idea of being told what to do, even though it may be for a common good. In the childishness of their minds they want to be showered with goods and services for which they would not have to work. In the infantile center of their minds they fear the power of bigness, the anonymous bogeymen in Washington who may not know how nice and cute they are and, therefore, may accidentally ignore their infantile, egotistical demands for attention. The adult voice of the conservative is unfortunately all of these, for the adult conservative is a person whose human potential is unrealized.

    Being a child of fear and an adult of anxiety the conservative is constantly and inevitably thrown back by daily challenges to his earlier, familiar selves evoking the fears real and imaginary that haunted those days. Forced over and over to relive vestiges of the neglect and sometimes violent willfulness of parents, teachers, and clergy the conservative kindles from among these memories strong reflexive behaviors that recall the excitement and terror of youth.

    The conservative becomes addicted to the essential terror of his life. Some of these terrors are idealized and thought of as good, hard lessons, lessons he deserved. He develops a crusty shell on his public façade, one which he hopes will be mistaken for maturity. It is a fantasy, though, for all who look can see it is nothing but the callosities of a tragic life poorly wrought and poorly lived. The conservative is not a man of appropriate ethical prudence; he becomes at his core a moral coward.

    James Richard Brett

    Thursday, November 17, 2005

    Meet Joe


    It's time you all met Joe. Joe Bageant is a self-taught person of considerable writing and thinking talent. He's from the apple country up around Winchester in that Red state with the Blue fringe on top. He's authentic, I think, having exchanged emails with him a couple of times. I like his perspective and hope after reading him you'll understand why he's being featured here today, namely to give One Last Kick at the Liberal Dog.


    JRB

    Wednesday, November 16, 2005

    Republicans Who Actually Had Something Intelligent to Say


    Since November 11th, and Bush's venomous, partisan Veterans' Day speech, which went far afield from honoring our veterans, much has been written in that vein. It was not so much a speech of the sort that one would expect from a Commander in Chief on that day of memoriam, but rather another stump speech. An attempt to lie himself out of the lies already told about our very reasons for going to war. I think few families whose sons and daughters, those whom he should have been honoring, were comforted by the President's empty rhetoric or his continuing attacks on those who do not support the debacle of Iraq.


    Much also has been written about Bush's lack of tolerance for any sort of criticism of his opinions, policies and pronouncements. Thankfully, all this is starting to fade away, and we are seeing the seeds of discontent being sown farther and wider across the land. With all that is swirling about our President, low poll numbers covering everything from lying, lack of ethical behaviors, the spectre of Bush's Svengali, Karl Rove, ever at the forefront, indictments of top White House personnel, not to mention the War in Iraq, as well as the word Impeachment finally being said aloud and in print.

    I thought I would search for those Republicans of yore who really understood what the office was about and what their commitment to the people of the United States truly meant. I invite you to read and compare and judge.



    Abraham Lincoln, first Republican President(1861-1865) (a far greater communicator than Ronald Reagan, and hands down more eloquent) at Gettysburg:

    that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, and that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

    2nd Inaugural Address:

    With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan -- to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves, and with all nations.


    Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909)


    The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the Nation as a whole. Therefore it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile. To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or any one else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about any one else. --in the Kansas City Star, May 7, 1918


    William Howard Taft (1909-1913) Speech given after the attack on Pearl Harbor


    As a matter of general principle, I believe there can be no doubt that criticism in time of war is essential to the maintenance of any kind of democratic government ... too many people desire to suppress criticism simply because they think that it will give some comfort to the enemy to know that there is such criticism. If that comfort makes the enemy feel better for a few moments, they are welcome to it as far as I am concerned, because the maintenance of the right of criticism in the long run will do the country maintaining it a great deal more good than it will do the enemy, and will prevent mistakes which might otherwise occur.


    Gerald R. Ford (1974-1977)


    I believe that truth is the glue that holds government together, not only our government but civilization itself. That bond, though strained, is unbroken at home and abroad. In all my public and private acts as your president, I expect to follow my instincts of openness and candor with full confidence that honesty is always the best policy in the end. (1974)


    The American people want a dialogue between them and their president . . . And if we can’t have that opportunity of talking with one another, seeing one another, shaking hands with one another, something has gone wrong in our society.


    The Constitution is the bedrock of all our freedoms; guard and cherish it; keep honor and order in your own house; and the republic will endure.


    George H.W. Bush (1989-1993) (Now THIS is the father he should have consulted!)


    A government that remembers that the people are its master is a good and needed thing.


    America is never wholly herself unless she is engaged in high moral principle. We as a people have such a purpose today. It is to make kinder the face of the nation and gentler the face of the world.



    Ronald Reagan (1981-1989)


    Since the turn of the century, the number of democracies has grown fourfold. Human freedom is on the march, and nowhere more so than in our own hemisphere. Freedom is one of the deepest and noblest aspirations of the human spirit." (AND those democracies he mentions happened without pre-emptive war!!)


    Unerringly, it appears, the Republicans that preceded senior Bush (41), had a good sense of the ethical nature of the office, the answering to the public who were the ones who elevated them to the highest position in the land. One speaks of not forgetting the families of those who have paid the highest price...the widows and orphans of servicemen. A far cry from the of cutting veteran's benefits we see today. Another speaks of it being one's patriotic DUTY to question the President, and yet another speaks of truthfulness and morality. Above all the honor of our Constitution is to be protected, not torn down or trampled by those who would rule by fear, cloaked in the guise of patriotism.

    I wonder what quotes from George W. Bush might be held up as examples of his White House years. Better yet, why not take a look at what the future will have to choose from. The Complete Bushisms - Updated frequently. By Jacob Weisberg


    Susan B. Goodwin

    Tuesday, November 15, 2005

    Bush Whacked

    For Tuesday we have two articles about our boy George. The first by Rob Kall of OpEdNews.com provides a very interesting and intelligent psychological analysis of Bush and the Bushites. You will want to quote from this one!


    Second is a piece from the experienced Village Voice reporter Ward Harkavy on Bush lies about Bush lies.


    JRB

    Monday, November 14, 2005

    Intolerant and Unchristian

    This President and much of his administration pride themselves and extol the virtues of being conservative born-again Christians. They claim that those who adhere to this form of Christianity are more moral, more incorruptible and are surly the chosen ones for inclusion in God’s kingdom. Their view of religion seems to be largely based on fear of retribution by a wrathful God; not a God of love.

    Included in the pantheon of leaders of the born agains is Pat Robertson, the founder of the 700 Club and presumably one of the religious leaders Bush looks to for spiritual guidance. Robertson’s recent pronouncements, however, must give even the most rabid of conservative Christians pause for thought-assuming of course that they actually think.
    This summer Robertson on his daily television show, the 700 Club, called for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. In October 2003 he suggested that the State Department be blown up with a nuclear device. He has also said that feminism encourages women to “kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians.”

    His most recent rant involved the citizens of Dover Pennsylvania who recently voted off their school board all the members who tried to have the so-called intelligent design theory of evolution included in the curriculum of the Dover schools. On his 700 Club broadcast Robertson warned residents of Dover not to be surprised if disaster strikes there because “you just voted God out of your city.” He went on to say, “I’d like to say to the good citizens of Dover if there is a disaster in your area, don’t turn to God, you just rejected Him from your city. Later Thursday, Robertson said, “If they have future problems in Dover, I recommend they call on Charles Darwin, maybe he can help them.”


    Brushing aside the fact that one of the Ten Commandments condemns killing, it is most instructive to look at the underlying drivers of statements like these. They are based on fear, not love. Love, however, permeates the New Testament. Though shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy mind and thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself, on these two commandments hang all the law and the prophet. This is the essential message of the New Testament; a message of love and tolerance but one that the conservative Christians seem to ignore.

    This would be of academic interest if it were not for the fact that much of how Bush views the world is seen through the prism of conservative Christianity. Pat Robertson is a conman in clerical garb, a lying demagogue and a person beneath the dignity of most Americans Yet, he is one of the leaders of the faith that “W” believes in. If fear, not love and tolerance, is the driving motivator of this administration then it may help to explain its policies. We fear what we don’t understand therefore we attack it. We fear gays because they are different, we fear Muslims so we attack them, and we keep a climate of fear in the United States with confusing statements about potential terrorist attacks.

    You cannot run a country with a policy based on fear and hate. You must have compassion for those less well off than you, who have ideas and life styles different than yours. You cannot have a foreign policy based on fear and mistrust. When you do you wind up with the kind of government we have now. This is not the type of government most Americans want and as recent polls show, they are less and less willing to accept.

    David M. Goldberg

    Sunday, November 13, 2005

    Impeachment Soon!

    The talk of impeachment is mounting on the internet, flooding some websites, inundating those used to the vapid broadcasts of the corporate media and their paper allies.

    Here's an article from Santa Cruz probably more valuable for the website running it than for the lead article's ostensible content, but interesting nevertheless.

    Morale among democrats has been guttering because of Kerry's and Biden's and Hillary's inability to divorce themselves from the Iraq War, trembling in their boots over the issue of "soft on ..." perpetrated by the opposition's mouthpieces. Just in case you think otherwise, the Democrats didn't know what George knew. That should be obvious.

    In long tradition of Americans getting their act together http://www.impeachpac.org/ has been formed.

    Pundits are all over this, and strategy is the heady brew being concocted here and there. Impeachment is first, last, and always a political event, as we learn here.

    In the midst of this weekend's deluge of impeachment banter and impeachment lore we find this uneasy essay. We think that the time is nearly upon us when oblique language will be the order of the day.

    Susan B. Goodwin and James R. Brett

    Saturday, November 12, 2005

    Voting Fraud

    Voting Fraud is the name of the crime that was committed in 2004 and probably in every election going back to Andrew Jackson, maybe even earlier than that. It used to be a local affair, Chicago, Texas, etc., but now it's become national, it seems.


    CommonDreams ran a couple of articles Friday on voting fraud: one called A Crime Without a Name which we take to mean that it is so heinous that it is unspeakable, not unnamable.


    The other CommonDreams article is What John Kerry Said About 2004's Stolen Election ...". The "It's" in the rest of the title is an ambiguous pronoun, when you think about it. Think about it!

    Reading all of this got us fired up and so we Googled on "voting fraud" and came up quickly with these two:


  • How a Private Company Counts Our Votes on the http://votefraud.org/ website, and

  • The Mother of All Vote Frauds.


    Isn't it time you got really interested in all of this? Don't you think that ACLU has its hands full? You have to demand honesty in our elections and you need to do right now.


    JRB

  • Friday, November 11, 2005

    Crystal Ball

    People reading this essay work for a living, have other things to do in the evenings, and want some sort of key to the perplexing kaleidoscope of political news stories and pundit opinions. It has been this way forever; politics is the fifth wheel on every buckboard, stagecoach, and 767 driven or flown across this country.

    This means that hardly anyone is expert at politics among the voters. For most, politics is a passing acquaintance, one you nod to, but hardly ever speak to. Politics is the guy with the too shined shoes, the alligator belt, the easy smile and full head of hair. Politics is alien and troubling.

    This fundamental ignorance breeds the sort of contempt that ironically often passes for wisdom among adults in America, the easy contempt for "both their houses," the lying, cheating, pork-eating bastards! But, maybe this is all wrong. Maybe the interest in Bartlet's West Wing and Mackenzie's Commander in Chief arises from a yearning to know what cannot really be publicly told. Perhaps there is something going on in politics that transcends the grubby and brazen. Perhaps the almost universal ennui over high school civics and history is the symptom and not the cause. Maybe the electorate, in the main, really does understand that honest people sometimes have to lie low waiting for the right moment to appear honest publicly and register their weight when it will do the most good.

    Maybe that very moment is upon us. It could very well be that the issue that propelled a dozen people (among them the staff of the American Liberalism Project) to petition the Democrats in both houses two years ago, calling for the impeachment of George W. Bush is now ripening in the larger arena of professional politics and, finally, journalism. If you read The Nation 11/14/05 issue, Elizabeth de la Vega's uncompromising conclusion is that impeachment is warranted.

    At the same time, we have all been wondering about the wimpy attitude and comportment of Hill and statehouse Democrats. Why were they so inept in challenging Bush, Cheney, and the Rumsfeld cabal? The answer is that they understand political momentum better than we. More important, they understood the lack of it. With even his narrow victory in 2004 Bush was able to propel his 9/11 national security juggernaut out into the foreseeable future of January 2005. The war was a mess, but interest in the war was desultory. Then, later this year, a series of missteps and bad luck stopped the imperial machine in its tracks. Katrina was the accidental coup d'grace, the fulcrum of fecklessness, the piece d'resistance!

    Here is how it is playing out now. UK Prime Minister Blair will lose another vote in Parliament and there will be a parliamentary rebellion. Chemical warfare, especially white phosphorus, will be the rallying cry. This may play out over the 2005 holidays and into February and March. Blair's successor will withdraw British troops from Iraq, giving Bush/ Cheney/ Rumsfeld inadequate notice to formulate a politically palatable response.

    By mid-January home heating oil costs will be vividly apparent to everyone in the temperate zones of North American and Europe. This will set up the dynamic between people and their elected representatives.

    House and Senate Republicans, already chastened by October's and November's significant losses all over the political landscape and spectrum, will rebel. We won't see this happen, but people around Blunt and Hastert and around Santorum and Hatch, pushing aside Frist and DeLay as albatrosses no one wants stinking around their necks in 2006, will force the issue with Bush (or Cheney). One or the other, they will be told, may be impeached and Republicans' hands will be tied.

    Cheney might resign to avoid the opprobrium and another heart attack. Bush will not. He will cling like grim death to Karl Rove, who has already been mentioned as a prime candidate for resignation, but whose hand will not be forced because of the huge power he has over Bush and the cowboy/neocon cabal in the Republican Party.

    All of this is Englishmen and Republicans responding to the unfolding of events. Democrats are behind the scenes putting their minority weight now where it will do the most good. "Get along" Congressmen will become more and more intransigent.

    Special Attorney Fitzgerald will come out with additional indictments. Rove may or may not be mentioned, but our guess is that he will be. He is a terrible witness and probably has already indicted himself. The only reason he was not named right off the bat is because Fitzgerald, knowing that Cheney was in his sights and possibly Bush himself, wanted to afford Bush some time do something really stupid and revealing.

    The SEC will indict Senator Frist and he will be forced to resign not just from the leadership of the Senate, but from public office entirely. This will echo down the marble hallways and into the RNC where opponents of Senator John McCain will take notice that Cheney's antagonist now is a surer nominee. McCain's ever more obvious enmity to Cheney will stoke the fires of disunity and leave the White House even more off-balance.

    DeLay's trial may or may not begin before the next event.

    After the holiday recess, during which the poignancy of the war weary troops is brought to mind again and again and again, Bush, hoping for a new commander-in-chief role to play to the bleachers, will play "the bird flu card." He will try a practice run of the newly hatched plan to "secure and quarantine." The targets cities will be places like Portland, Oregon and Portland, Maine, but the drill will go massively awry in the rainy and bitter weather, embarrassing every Republican from the Hamptons to Newport Beach. Meanwhile, Bo Pilgrim sitting on several million chickens down in Texas will give W an impossible ultimatum that he cannot refuse.

    With the 2006 bi-elections hurtling into the ever-gloomy present, panicked, and fearing annihilation, the ultra-rightwing Republicans will make an ugly stab at mobilizing the theocrats. The Christian Restoration in Ohio, Rev. Rod Parsley and Co., and their acolytes in Texas, Oklahoma, and elsewhere will overplay their hands, nauseate the moderate middle, and turn over the election to the Democrats. Santorum will go down in ugly self-righteous flames, taking with him the Republican majority in the Senate. With the impeachment court now in enemy hands, the House, which will now hang on an issue-by-issue and slim but undisciplined Republican majority, will be faced with daily media full of the testimony spilling out in the Abramoff case, the DeLay case, the incarceration of Frist in the Martha Stewart memorial suite in West Virginia, the arraignment of Libby and others, the frothing madness of Dick Cheney, and the truculent, mendacious, arrogance of Rumsfeld mismanaging the occupation of Iraq. Bush himself becomes the sacrificial lamb ... excuse me ... goat!

    Bush will be impeached! There is no other way for Republicans to be rid of him, to distance themselves from his stench enough to have a chance of a rebound after 2008, when surely Democrats playing their new momentum will retake the White House.

    Politics is the momentum of perception played on the grassy knoll of belief.

    James R. Brett

    Thursday, November 10, 2005

    Cheney

    Dick Cheney is the most serious contender for heel of the epoch that we can think of. A series of articles about him, occasioned no doubt by the indictment of his henchperson Irvin Lewis "Scooter" Libby, brings into new focus the really dreadful person that Dick is. Imagine being the highest ranking person in the whole world in favor of torture as an instrument of national policy!

    In many respects Cheney is really the de facto President; his office runs national security. It's not just a backroom cabal, but a frontroom coup d'etat.

    The indictment of Libby and therefore the attention to Dick is news everywhere and Asia's leading newsmedia thinks that he may be an expendable albatross around Bush's neck.

    The best of these articles, though, is this one from James Carroll in CommonDreams deconstructing Cheney.

    We're adding this piece by Mark Morford of SFGate because it is a funny essay on how we all deal eventually with the battering of news about these sociopaths in Washington.

    JRB

    Wednesday, November 09, 2005

    Ethics 101

    In the past week, it has come to this writer's attention, that President Bush has ordered his staff to attend one hour daily "ethics" briefings. What is wrong with this picture? Besides it seeming to be too little too late, it brings into focus the fact that apparently ethics are a problem with those who are currently serving in the White House and in our government. Ethics should be a prerequisite in all things, but especially so in the public sector. Like Caesar's wife, those who are in office should be above reproach.

    It surely is no surprise that the ethical behavior, of this administration, is an area that needs much help. Certainly more help than can be provided by a daily one hour briefing. Ethical behavior normally starts in early childhood when we are taught that there is a right way of doing things and a wrong way. We are taught not to lie, not to cheat and not to steal. It is not ethical to tell "stories" or gossip about others and certainly not okay to tell falsehoods about others. Most things, (lies, thefts, cheating) we soon learn, come to light and there are consequences.

    Where are the consequences for the decidedly unethical behaviors that have been taking place in our Nation's capital these last four years? I fear the consequences have been working in the reverse, and those of us who have been lied to, are the ones who are suffering. Two thousand of us have suffered the ultimate price for this unethical behavior.

    One of my favorite quotes, which I never tired of saying to my children, is Sir Walter Scott's, "Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive." Tell one lie and you have set yourself up for a continuing thread of lies. Making up more outrageous falsehoods to justify the original, This is exactly what we have seen happening the last four years in Washington. I am not naive enough to think that a certain amount of lies, innuendo and back stabbing is not par for the course in D.C., but never in living memory has such blatant and outrageous lying taken place in a city named for a man who, we were always taught, prided himself on NOT telling a lie. Or from a group which prides itself on being Christian.

    Shortly after September 11th and the bombing of the WTC, those in charge of our National Security threw their hands in the air and said "Who knew!?" Well, it now appears, that they all did, at least much more than they would have us believe. The former administration had been tracking the activities of Al Quaeda for years, were aware of Bin Laden, and had passed along, to the incoming administration, the information regarding them. Some information had come directly from an operative whom the FBI had taken into custody when he, armed to the teeth, had tried to slip into the country from Canada. He was singing like the proverbial canary about the plans for terrorist attacks. Who knew indeed!

    Our adventure into Afghanistan had the backing of most of the country and there was a definite goal...retaliation. The capture, either dead or alive, of Osama Bin Laden and his gang of henchmen, who had perpetrated the WTC bombings, was seen as the right thing to do. The manner in which we were presented this option, however, was hardly ethical. It preyed upon our fears at the moment. Fears having arisen, and rightly so, of the spectre of more attacks. But, as has come to light, more recently, that fear was manipulated, in order to promote a hidden agenda. Unethical.

    We were also told that Saddam and Bin Laden were in partnership. Saddam was behind 9/11 in some shape or form. Never mind that the majority of the hijacker/WTC bombers were Saudis, with a couple of Egyptians, not Iraqis.
    To have allowed Saudi nationals, friends of the Bush family, to leave the United States when there was a no fly order over the entire country, was unethical.

    Next, we are told that Saddam had WMD's which could annihilate us in a heartbeat. When the weapons inspectors left Iraq in 1998, they reported that 95% of his weapons had been either accounted for or destroyed. He had had twelve years, in which to wreck havoc on this country, and he did nothing. Some have argued with me that if we did nothing, and something did indeed happen, then we "liberals" would be up in arms. If in fact there had been hard, verifiable intelligence to that effect then probably I would have to agree with them. Instead, what we, and the United Nations, were fed were composite pictures, not even photographs, but drawings. We were warned of "mushroom clouds". In light of the Downing Street Memos, I think we have an idea of how this was used to promote this administration's global "War on Terror." Unethical.

    If one has any questions about the true agenda for the war in Iraq they need to read about PNAC, whose charter members include, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Abrams and Wolfowitz. It is guaranteed to open your eyes and raise the hair on the back of your neck. In 2000 they issued a paper which outlined their determined plan for military buildup and global strategy, which shows that prior to 9/11, some of the subsequent actions had already been planned for. The WTC attack was the catalyst for their pushing forth this agenda. Unethical.

    Apparently, feeling threatened by the truth spoken by Joseph Wilson, former Ambassador to Iraq, a distinguished career diplomat who had served under Bush #1, they felt it necessary to reveal the covert status of his wife, Valorie Plame, a decidedly unethical action which put not a few lives in grave danger. Again, they say, "Who knew!" but it is glaringly obvious that they did and the outing of this CIA agent was simply another weapon, used by them in order to exact their pound of flesh from those they were unhappy with. Unethical.

    We have an administration which turns a blind eye to the overt use of torture. Indeed we have seen memos which specifically ask for means and methods to avoid having to answer for the use of it, and we have seen photographs of it. And then we are expected to believe that a young girl from the hinterlands is to blame. Anyone who buys that has no idea how the chain of command in the military works, or what is meant by "a fall guy."And speaking of fall guys, "Scooter" Libby, it appears, is the most recent victim of the unethical behavior running amok throughout this administration.

    And last, but not least we have the recent events which unfolded, to our horror, here, on the Gulf Coast. It was Mother Nature's turn to "shock and awe" with Katrina. Should there have been a safety net in place for those so devastated by this killer storm? Yes there should. Was there grave concern on the part of those whose job it was to see to the safety of this Nation and her people? The answer would be yes if you consider vacationing and making speeches, out of harm's way, to have been the ethical thing to do. However, once again, we were, for four days. shown the total lack of concern on the part of those whom we trust with National Security. We have heard the phrase Ship Of State, and the President recognized as the Captain at the helm. With the debacle in New Orleans we now look more like the Exxon Valdez, with the captain asleep below decks, while those even less competent (uncaring?) steer us on. Unethical.

    I cannot help but remember back, four and one half years ago, when we were promised that ETHICS would be returning to the White House. Truth (lies?), justice (Guantanamo?) and the American Way (pre-emptive war?) Highly unethical.

    I do not know about you, but it is far easier to understand the unethical behavior of an illicit rendezvous than the unethical behaviors which have lead us to war and the corrupting of just about everything which my country has always stood for.

    Susan B. Goodwin

    Tuesday, November 08, 2005

    Keep Your Eye on the Pea

    John M. Kelley has written a piece for the Truthout website that will leave you a little shaken. Forewarned, we highly recommend that you read Watch That Pea.


    Sue Dyer

    Monday, November 07, 2005

    How Liberals Can Regain the Country

    It is going to take much more than the bad news dogging this administration to defeat this administration next year. It’s fun though to recap the precipitous fall from grace that has “W” running for cover and his feeble attempts to recover such as his recent pronouncement that the White House staff will stand down for a show and tell on ethics and the handling of classified information. This bunch has been in power for five years but still don’t understand ethics. If they don’t understand what ethics is after all this time, I doubt that a three day refresher course is going to make much of an impact.

    It began with the administration’s abysmal handling of Hurricane Katrina, followed by the aborted nomination of Harriet Miers for the Supreme Court. Then the white knight of prosecutors Patrick Fitzgerald rode in to take down Libby who is accused of lying to the grand jury and continue the hunt for the person in the White House who tried to smear Joseph Wilson by outing his wife who was a covert CIA agent. Let us not forget the indictment of Tom DeLay and Bill Frist’s appointments with financial investigators. In the background is the public’s ever increasing discontent with the Iraq war as the casualties and the costs mount and the reasons for going to war are revealed as a tissue of lies. All this has resulted in Bush’s approval rating being currently stuck on the wrong side of 40 percent.

    Yet, Bush is not without resources. His recent naming of Samuel Alito to replace Sandra Day O’Conner on the Supreme Court may prove to be a stroke of intelligence and it has won back his conservative base and assuaged the pundits and think-tankers who want a reliable judge. He has, for better or worse the bully pulpit of the presidency to use to rally the troops coupled with his cunning and his monumental self-confidence. This Administration understands that politics is a contest between winners and losers and winning is the only thing that matters. It also understands that victory doesn’t happen over night and it begins at the local level. In other words, this administration is not going to fall just because it is not doing a very good or even a terrible job of governing. The Democrats cannot win by default; they must offer the country a clear alternative to destructive conservative policies.

    The Democrats have to offer the country a national face for next year’s midterm elections. Voters may not be happy with the party in power, but the mess in Washington to them looks like one for which both parties are responsible. Democrats have to offer good reasons why they should replace the party in power. Otherwise, the voters may decide to keep the devil they know.

    On Iraq, the Democrats must stop obfuscating and take a united stand. Democrats must recover from their appalling collapse in 2002 and 2003 which led to the party’s senators split down the middle on Bush’s war resolution. Democrats have to take the moral high ground and demand that troop withdrawal be pegged to concrete and substantive goals while simultaneously demand that the Republicans be brought to the court of public opinion over their lying us into this war and their appalling mishandling of it once it began.

    The area where the Republicans are most vulnerable is the economy. With the huge debt coming due it gives a new meaning to chutzpah that the GOP attempting to reduce it on the backs of the poor while simultaneously proposing more tax cuts for the wealthy. The Democrats must not only demand that the poor not be the scapegoat for the deficit but also demand that the tax cuts for the wealthy are rolled back.

    Democrats must show some backbone by filibustering Alito’s nomination to the Supreme Court. Alito is nothing more than Scalia dressed up in more attractive garb. His judicial record is to the right of the right and if he is appointed much of the work of the court in advancing the rights of the individual will be undone.

    Democrats have made a good start by building up the party’s withered infrastructure. Under Howard Dean the party has put in place in every state a funded national staff. This will pay dividends especially in the House races which tend to emphasize local issues. Beyond that, the party must put forth a national agenda which appeals to the natural instincts of the voting public that government policies at both the national and international level should be fair, just and compassionate. It should be the party of hope in contrast to the current political climate in which fear is the primary motivator.

    David M. Goldberg

    Sunday, November 06, 2005

    The Right Goes Very Wrong

    Sunday morning and football has not yet injected its sopornarcosis into the body politic. A lot happened in October and with a week's perspective on it all, the quintet of essays selected for your reading enjoyment center on the George and the Republicans, the fortunes of whom and which are waning, we are very pleased to say.

  • Read David Orr's Demise of the Republican Party, Part Iand Part II.

  • TomDispatch enlists Mark Engler to discuss Bush's Bad Business Empire.

  • From OpEdNews Ten Bohn describes the psychology of The Man himself and Rob Kall minces no words figuring out how beloved is our boy George.

    JRB

  • Saturday, November 05, 2005

    Avian Influenza

    From time to time we bring you up to date on the pharmaceutical industry (of which Don Rumsfeld was a significant part until taking up his baton in the Pentagon again). Big Pharma is a major part of the Bush Base of government trough-feeding corporations like Halliburton and others. What they are doing with "bird flu" is what they did with Osama bin Ladin. They get us all peeing in our pants and then feed massive federal money to their corporate friends in a mock effort to deal with the situation. Bird flu could be the biggest debacle in world history, bigger than the Black Death in Europe of the 15th and 16th centuries. What the Bush Administration is doing (and not doing) is nothing short of criminal.

    Here is recent newsletter from Vera Hassner Sharaf of the Alliance for Human Research Protection.



    If the Administration were serious about preparing for an avian flu pandemic--or for ANY health disaster for that matter--the money would be spent on developing reliable infrastructures at the state and local level. What we witnessed in New Orleans was bedlam and health care workers abandoned without basic first-aid equipment.

    Instead, the Administration is paying for vaccines that have no relevance to avian flu. The only beneficiaries of this $7 billion public give-a-way are the biotech and pharmaceutical industries. Furthermore, "Bush's plan would also make drug or vaccine companies less vulnerable to lawsuits over safety or side effects.”

    Indeed the public is utterly unaware about a radical bill, the "Biodefense and Pandemic Vaccine and Drug Development Act of 2005"(S. 1873), that has already passed the Senate HELP committee in one day--without so much as a public hearing! The bill, according to those who have read it, is "a drug company stockholder's dream and a consumer's worst nightmare."

    When the original Homeland Security Act was signed into law (2002) , someone “mysteriously” inserted a clause giving Eli Lilly immunity from parents who were suing the company for its mercury-laced vaccines. See: http://www.ahrp.org/infomail/1102/15.php

    The proposed legislation—S. 1873--will effectively strip Americans of the right to a trial by jury if harmed by an experimental or licensed drug or vaccine that the government forces them to take, whenever federal health officials declare a public health emergency.

    This legislation would with one swipe, strip Americans of their inalienable right to voluntary, informed consent. If passed into law, this would spell the end of the American democratic process.

    Vera Hassner Sharav http://ahrp.org/

    Sources:

    Bush requests $7.1 billion to stop bird flu
    BAY AREA COMPANIES LIKELY TO BENEFIT
    By Steve Johnson
    Mercury News

    President Bush proposed a $7.1 billion plan Tuesday to protect the nation against a potential bird-flu pandemic by ramping up funding for vaccines and anti-viral drugs that could boost several Bay Area companies. ``It's really an encouraging step,'' said Dino Dina, chief executive of Dynavax Technologies of Berkeley, who hopes to get some of the money for a drug it is developing to increase the effectiveness of bird-flu vaccines.

    More details on the government's preparedness plan for a pandemic, or worldwide epidemic, are expected to be unveiled today. But Bush made it clear in announcing his proposal during a speech at the National Institutes of Health that he considered bird flu a matter of urgent concern. ``If we wait for a pandemic to appear, it will be too late to prepare, and one day many lives could be needlessly lost because we failed to act today,'' he said.

    The virus has spread among birds, primarily in Asia but with more recent outbreaks in Eastern Europe. So far it has also killed 62 people, all in Asia, but experts fear the virus could mutate into a form that could spread among people and kill millions more.

    On Tuesday, Canadian authorities reported finding it in wild birds in British Columbia, a day after nearly three dozen birds were found to have the virus in Quebec and Manitoba. But it's unclear if the strain found in Canada is the one linked to human deaths.

    Most of Bush's plan, which requires Congressional approval, would involve stockpiling and developing drugs to counter bird flu.

    Bush proposed allocating $1.519 billion to buy vaccines, to keep people from becoming infected, and $1.029 billion for anti-viral drugs, to minimize the illness once someone is exposed to the virus. Another $3.6 billion would be to develop new vaccines or other treatments, as well as a new method to make vaccines using cell cultures instead of the less reliable method of making it from chicken eggs.

    The rest of the money would help governmental agencies monitor and prepare for a possible bird-flu outbreak. Bush's plan would also make drug or vaccine companies less vulnerable to lawsuits over safety or side effects. Federal officials haven't spelled out who would get the money. ``Those are all issues that are in the process of being determined,'' said White House spokesman Ken Lisaius.

    Nonetheless, Chiron of Emeryville and Gilead Sciences of Foster City, which both have track records in this field, are likely candidates.

    Despite contamination problems at two of Chiron's winter flu-vaccine plants in Europe this past year, the government considers the firm a key player in the battle against bird-flu.

    Chiron has developed vaccines for two of the bird-flu strains -- including the most virulent H5N1 form -- and just last week won a $62.5 million federal contract to begin manufacturing a bird-flu vaccine. Chiron and federal officials also announced last week that another Chiron product appears to significantly increase the effectiveness of bird-flu vaccines.

    Gilead developed the anti-viral drug Tamiflu, which was singled out for mention in Bush's announcement, along with Relenza, made by GlaxoSmithKline of England. Under a licensing deal, Tamiflu is manufactured by Roche and Gilead receives royalties, typically 10 percent. Assuming the $1.029 billion Bush has allocated for anti-viral drugs is split evenly among Tamiflu and Relenza, Gilead's share would likely be about $50 million.

    Other local companies could benefit, too. After hearing about Bush's plan, executives at Juvaris BioTherapeutics of Pleasanton immediately began discussing how to apply for some of the money for a bird-flu vaccine they are developing.``We intend to absolutely find that out and pursue it,'' said Martin Cleary, chief executive at Juvaris.

    It's unclear which vaccines or anti-viral drugs may prove most effective against bird flu, if the virus mutates into a form that can be transmitted by humans. ``You might see -- for lack of a better word -- money being thrown around for different therapies,'' said Ren Benjamin, an analyst with Rodman and Renshaw. ``There could be a number of winners.''

    Not everyone is happy about Bush's plan. Vera Hassner Sharav, president of the non-profit Alliance for Human Research Protection in New York, contends fears about bird flu are exaggerated and considers Bush's plan a waste of money. ``What we're having here is essentially a transfer of wealth from the taxpayer to the pharmaceutical industry,'' she said.

    But Cornelia Dekker, who directs a Stanford vaccine program and is on the federal government's National Vaccine Advisory Committee, said there is cause for worry. Although it's hard to know if the bird flu will develop into a pandemic, ``there are worrisome signs,'' she said. ``This is something to take seriously.''

    Contact Steve Johnson at sjohnson@mercurynews.com or (408) 920-5043.



    NVIC Press Release
    Wednesday, October 19, 2005
    CONGRESS SET TO PASS LAW ELIMINATING LIABILITY FOR VACCINE INJURIES

    Washington, D.C. - The National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) is calling the "Biodefense and Pandemic Vaccine and Drug Development Act of 2005"(S. 1873), which passed out of the U.S. Senate HELP Committee one day after it was introduced "a drug company stockholder's dream and a consumer's worst nightmare." The proposed legislation will strip Americans of the right to a trial by jury if harmed by an experimental or licensed drug or vaccine that they are forced by government to take, whenever federal health officials declare a public health emergency.

    The legislation's architect, Senator Richard Burr (R-NC), Chairman of the HELP Subcommittee on Bioterrorism and Public Health Preparedness, told the full HELP Committee yesterday that the legislation" creates a true partnership" between the federal government, the pharmaceutical industry and academia to walk the drug companies "through the Valley of Death" in bringing a new vaccine or drug to market. Burr said it will give the Department of Health and Human Services "additional authority and resources to partner with the private sector to rapidly develop drugs and vaccines." The Burr bill gives the Secretary of DHHS the sole authority to decide whether a manufacturer violated laws mandating drug safety and bans citizens from challenging his decision in the civil court system.

    The bill establishes the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Agency (BARDA), as the single point of authority within the government for the advanced research and development of drugs and vaccines in response to bioterrorism and natural disease outbreaks such as the flu. BARDA will operate in secret, exempt from the Freedom of Information Act and the Federal Advisory Committee Act, insuring that no evidence of injuries or deaths caused by drugs and vaccines labeled as "countermeasures" will become public.

    Nicknamed "Bioshield Two," the legislation is being pushed rapidly through Congress without time for voters to make their voices heard by their elected representatives. Co-sponsored by Republican Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN), Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Mike Enzi (R-WY), and Senate Budget Committee Chairman Judd Gregg (R-NH), the legislation will eliminate both regulatory and legal safeguards applied to vaccines as well as take away the right of children and adults harmed by vaccines and drugs to present their case in front of a jury in a civil court of law.

    "It is a sad day for this nation when Congress is frightened and bullied into allowing one profit making industry to destroy the seventh Amendment to the Constitution guaranteeing citizens their day in court in front of a jury of their peers," said Barbara Loe Fisher, president of NVIC. "This proposed legislation, like the power and money grab by federal health officials and industry in the Homeland Security Act of 2002 and the Project Bioshield Act of 2004, is an unconstitutional attempt by some in Congress to give a taxpayer-funded handout to pharmaceutical companies for drugs and vaccines the government can force all citizens to use while absolving everyone connected from any responsibility for injuries and deaths which occur. It means that, if an American is injured by an experimental flu or anthrax vaccine he or she is mandated to take, that citizen will be banned from exercising the Constitutional right to a jury trial even if it is revealed that the vaccine maker engaged in criminal fraud and negligence in the manufacture of the vaccine."

    The federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is legally responsible for regulating the pharmaceutical industry and ensuring that drugs and vaccines released to the public are safe and effective. Drug companies marketing painkillers, like Vioxx, and anti-depressants, which have resulted in the deaths and injuries of thousands of children and adults, are being held accountable in civil court while the FDA has come under intense criticism for withholding information about the drugs' dangers from the public. Since 1986, vaccine makers have been protected from most liability in civil court through the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act in which Congress created a federal vaccine injury compensation program (VICP) that offers vaccine victims an alternative to the court system. Even though the the program has awarded nearly $2 billion to victims of mandated vaccines, two out of three plaintiffs are turned away.

    "The drug companies and doctors got all the liability protection they needed in 1986 but they are greedy and want more," said Fisher. "And the federal health agencies want more power to force citizens to use vaccines without having to worry about properly regulating them. If the Burr bill passes, all economic incentives to insure mandated vaccines are safe will be removed and the American people are facing a future where government can force them to take poorly regulated experimental drugs and vaccines labeled as "countermeasures" or go to jail. The only recourse for citizens will be to strike down mandatory vaccination laws so vaccines will be subject to the law of supply and demand in the marketplace. The health care consumer's cry will be: No liability? No mandates."

    The National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) was founded by parents of vaccine injured children in 1982 and co-founders worked with Congress on the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986.

    Niagara Falls Reporter
    MOUNTAIN VIEWS: BIRD FLU SCAM TO COST US PLENTY

    http://www.niagarafallsreporter.com/hanchette178.html

    By John Hanchette

    OLEAN -- The current U.S. Congress has many qualities that are not endearing, but one of the worst is its addiction to hidden agendas. Case in point:

    In the middle of last week, one short day after the bill had been introduced, the powerful Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee -- by a quick, simple voice vote of the full panel -- passed something called the "Biodefense and Pandemic Vaccine and Drug Development Act of 2005."

    It will probably hit the Senate floor this week for a full vote of that august chamber (and may have already done so by the time you read this). A similar companion bill is expected to be introduced in the House of Representatives before week's end. The lobbying lubrication needed in that conservative chamber to ram it through passage will be even less than in the Senate.

    The Senate proposal (S.1873) -- authored and filed by North Carolina Republican senator Richard Burr, an obedient favorite of the current Bush administration -- sounds innocent and altruistic enough, right?

    It would establish an efficient-sounding Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Agency (BARDA) to speed up and "provide incentives and protections" for the "domestic manufacture of medical countermeasures" -- vaccines and drugs -- that would help stop pandemic or epidemic sickness within the United States. Burr said in introducing the bill that it will simply give the Cabinet-level Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) the "additional authority and resources to partner with the private sector to rapidly develop drugs and vaccines."

    So, who could be against such a lofty goal? Well, I could, for one. This bill is a slavering wolverine masquerading as a furry little lab rat. First of all, whenever you -- as consumers, taxpayers and citizens -- hear any federal government source saying it wants "to partner with the private sector," you should grab your wallet with both hands and hold on tight. In this case, you should also take your children into your arms. I'm not the only one who's noticed the danger in this proposal.

    Barbara Loe Fisher, president of the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) -- a private, non-governmental advocacy group pushing for safer vaccines -- calls the Senate bill "a drug company stockholder's dream and a consumer's worst nightmare." It is, simply put, a legislative genuflection to Big Pharma -- the steamroller-powerful drug-making sector of the economy. The pharmaceutical mega-firms contribute millions to the coffers of congressional members, but if this is signed into law, they potentially could save billions.

    That's because this proposed legislation will strip Americans of the right to a trial by jury if they are harmed by either an experimental or licensed drug or vaccine they are forced by the government to take whenever federal health officials declare a public health emergency.

    This bill gives the HHS secretary the sole authority to decide if a drug manufacturer violated laws that mandate drug safety, and it bans any citizen from challenging the HHS head's decision in the civil court system. Big Pharma has been pushing for protection like this for several years. In this millennium, the angst and sense of loss following 9/11 was manipulated to produce similar legislative efforts designed to protect drug and vaccine makers even if they manufactured products that were not properly tested, nor clinically proven safe.

    "This proposed legislation," said NVIC's Fisher, "like the power and money grab by federal health officials and industry in the Homeland Security Act of 2002 and the Project Bioshield Act of 2004, is an unconstitutional attempt by some in Congress to give a taxpayer-funded handout to pharmaceutical companies for drugs and vaccines." Further, Fisher points out, the government, under this bill, "could force all citizens to use these drugs and vaccines while absolving everyone connected from any responsibility for injuries and deaths which occur" in their wake.

    Sen. Burr is himself the chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Bioterrorism and Public Health Preparedness. In his bill, BARDA -- the new R and D agency mentioned above -- would be established as the single point of authority in the federal system for the advanced research and development of vaccines and drugs in response to bioterrorism and outbreaks of natural disease.

    And BARDA would operate in secret.The agency would be exempt from the Freedom of Information Act and from the Federal Advisory Committee Act, which requires public public transparency -- making it almost certain that no evidence of injuries or deaths caused by drugs and vaccines labeled as "countermeasures" to bioterrorism or new disease epidemics would ever become public. The bill would not only provide Big Pharma impenetrable cover, it would exempt lots of federal cost oversight requirements, and would forbid government purchases of generic versions of such new drugs or vaccines, a current practice that saves taxpayers millions of dollars.

    The Burr bill means, notes vaccine safety advocate Fisher, "that if an American is injured by an experimental flu or anthrax vaccine he or she is mandated to take, that citizen will be banned from exercising the constitutional right to a jury trial even if it is revealed that the vaccine maker engaged in criminal fraud and negligence in the manufacture of the vaccine."

    Burr himself has acknowledged that "liability exposure" is one of the factors that has left drug firms "reluctant to invest" in biodefense and influenza countermeasures. The timing of the new attempt at congressional protection for Big Pharma -- the Burr bill -- is exquisite. The wording "natural outbreaks" of disease and "pandemics" mentioned by Sen. Burr in his call for support of the bill are designed to make citizens and fellow senators alike think of one thing -- avian flu. This new biological "threat" is increasingly on the minds of Americans and is reaching near-panic level in terms of public perception.

    David Daigle, a spokesman for the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said the CDC has been experiencing an incredible average of 447,000 hits a day on its bird flu information Web site. He pegged the Internet traffic level "insane." Americans are avalanching health officials, newspapers, TV stations, their doctors and other public information sources with anxious questions about keeping bird-feeders in their back yards, whether they can eat turkey this Thanksgiving, and whether they should report sightings of dead birds along the roadside. (You can, you can, you don't have to.)Worried patients are asking their doctors for Tamiflu, designed to treat ordinary human flu -- not bird flu.

    And guess the number of Americans who have died of avian flu already? Zero.How many human cases of the bird flu have been reported in the United States? Zero. That's right, none. The bird flu, which originated in South Korea more than two years ago, rarely spreads from birds to humans, and hasn't even been shown to affect poultry yet in this country. Only 120 or so humans have ever come down with this rare viral strain of influenza -- H5N1 -- and all of them in Asia. Most of the 60 deaths so far -- 43 -- have occurred in Vietnam. Thailand has the next largest number of deaths, 13. The disease in birds is just now reaching eastern Europe through avian migration. Turkey, Romania, and European Russia have cataloged the dangerous strain. The virus might be an eventual threat to the flocks of poultry farmers here, but many scientists seem to think H5N1 influenza won't sicken or kill humans on a mass basis unless its mutating properties change dramatically.

    Can Senate Democrats stop the passage of Burr's bill? Not bloody likely. Several Democrats in that chamber have criticized the Burr bill, but mostly from the perspective that it would do little to provide any response to an avian flu outbreak. "I hope that people don't think this is going to solve the problem of the possible avian flu pandemic that is on our doorstep," warned Sen. Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat.

    This legislation is obviously fast-tracked. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, the Tennessee Republican, is a co-sponsor, as is Senate Budget Committee Chairman Judd Gregg, a Republican from New Hampshire. They obviously don't care that if signed into law, this proposal would eliminate both legal and regulatory safeguards, applied to vaccines and drugs, that need strengthening, not weakening or elimination. They obviously don't care if children or adults harmed by vaccines and drugs will have to forfeit their right to present a case in front of a jury in a civil court of law.

    Don't think this never happens. The Food and Drug Administration is legally responsible at present for regulating Big Pharma, and for ensuring that vaccines and drugs released to the public are safe and effective. Drug companies marketing pain-killer and anti-depressants that have injured thousands are being held accountable in civil courts all the time. And the FDA has come under intense criticism for keeping information from the American public about drug dangers.

    For almost two decades, vaccine makers have already been protected from most liability in civil courts through the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986 and a concurrent compensation program that offers victims an alternative to civil courts. That program has already awarded almost $2 billion to injured victims of mandated vaccines -- yet two-thirds of the plaintiffs are turned away from such compensation through vigorous defense of the manufacturers by Justice Department lawyers.

    "The drug companies and doctors got all the liability protection they needed in 1986," says Fisher of the NVIC, "but they are greedy and want more."She continues: "It's a sad day for this nation when Congress is frightened and bullied into allowing one profit-making industry to destroy the Seventh Amendment to the Constitution guaranteeing citizens their day in court in front of a jury of their peers." Amen to that.

    John Hanchette, a professor of journalism at St. Bonaventure University, is a former editor of the Niagara Gazette and a Pulitzer Prize-winning national correspondent. He was a founding editor of USA Today and was recently named by Gannett as one of the Top 10 reporters of the past 25 years. He can be contacted via e-mail at Hanchette6@aol.com


    Friday, November 04, 2005

    Cause & Effect: The Human Condition

    What kind of people are liberals? For that matter, what kind are not? We run around in our daily ambits discovering who we are and with whom we can have civilized conversations. We find that conservative people either like us in spite of our liberalism, or they cannot abide our company because we are liberals. We wonder why.


    A liberal is a person who, when asked if there is a solution to a societal problem, quickly says, "yes there is." By comparison, though, when you ask a true conservative they will more likely than not say "Well, there may be a solution, but I would not trust a government with the power to effect the solution."


    The liberal might then respond, "Well, Conservative, what is the problem you have with government? Is it the long history of English (and other monarchs) that bothers you, or is it something intrinsic to democracy that makes you nervous?"


    The conservative will probably say, "Well, yes, the history of monarchies and governments in general is the history of individual liberties being crushed by the actions of arrogant people in government, so I just don't trust governments. As for democracy, if there were such a thing, I would be afraid of it. The problem with democracies is that the poor will vote themselves money from the rich."


    "Really," says the liberal, "and when did you notice the poor voting themselves into riches?"


    "Have you never heard of welfare?" responds the conservative.


    "Yes, but I have never heard of anyone getting rich from AFDC or any welfare program. I think your notions of welfare and democracy are in error."


    "As you know, Mr. Liberal, the American form of government is a 'republic,' a 'representative democracy.' This form keeps the will of the greedy masses at one remove from legislation, administration, and the conduct of judicial proceedings. People with merit and experience are elected to 'represent' both their constituents and the nation generally. It keeps things moderate and on an even keel. That's why I am proudly a Republic-an. Get it?!"


    "I understand," replied the liberal patiently. "What do you suppose is the reason there are poor people and criminals, anyway?"


    "Well, those are two different questions, Mr. Liberal, but I suppose the reasons are not too far apart in many cases. The poor are lazy and/or stupid. Most of those people are born that way and it's not my job to hand them a living. As for criminals, well, some people are just bad inside. They do not care about the rights of others ... and they are too lazy to do anything the honest way ... so they lie, cheat, steal, and murder to get what they want. I suppose you think it is a problem with their environment! Hah!"


    "Yes and no, Mr. Conservative. Poor people are poor because they cannot amass enough value (money, goods, or credit) to get themselves and their families past the threshold of poverty. They keep slipping back because they cannot solve the elementary problems of personal economy. They cannot earn enough to feed, clothe, and shelter their families. They typically short change their education in the process. Sometimes they are born into it, inherit it from their parents, and continue the same behaviors and poor judgement that did not serve their parents well either. (You see, of course, how it is a problem of education.) Sometimes they fall into poverty because of sickness, war, accidents, death of family members, etc. Sometimes they lose their jobs because of decisions made by people they do not even know, who did not bother to consult with them about it and plan for it. People in continuous poverty probably are depressed psychologically, too."


    "Typical liberal! Always looking for outside causes instead of fastening the blame where it belongs—on the individual person!"


    "Well, yes, we liberals do look for causes. We think that the long history of human life on this planet is the interplay of human will or spirit and 'causes,' some natural, some social, but always the effect you see is the result of some cause you can discover. We believe in science and the ability of humans to understand things based on evidence."


    The conservative sees an argument about evolution lurking in the background and walks away still convinced that liberals are golldarned fools and spend thrifts. The idea of evidence will not sink in for another generation.


    Liberals wake up in the morning believing that there are things citizens and governments can do to make life more healthy, comfortable, and rewarding for everyone. The words "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" are meaningful to liberals. Liberals do not believe that people are intrinsically bad and generally not to be trusted. In fact, they believe that given trust, most people will respond positively to it. To put it another way, Liberals believe in humanity; they have a positive feeling about the potential of virtually every person. Liberals understand that occasionally a person will make big mistakes or even less often deliberately decide to violate the law and social practices and taboos. Liberals do not believe that people like these establish the rule; they are the exceptions and should be dealt with as exceptions. Conservatives, on the other hand, believe that truly good people are the exception, like saints, and that society must be organized to deal with the lazy, indolent, greedy, lying, cheating, fornicating masses.


    Modern society is complex. We find nearly everyone speeding in their automobiles, fibbing about being too sick to go to work, fantasizing about sex with someone already committed to another, and a whole host of minor infractions of the social compact. We call the sum of these infractions and the reasons for them the "human condition." We do not give up, though, we just understand that there is an appropriate social pressure to put on each issue. The appropriate social pressure is determined by understanding the causes and effects of the infractions. Liberals understand that if the causes and effects of infractions are outside the compass of somebody's mythology, the fault is not of the society or of liberalism, but of the mythology.


    James R. Brett

    Thursday, November 03, 2005

    The Presidency


    A couple of articles on the presidency fill our in-basket this morning. First, one from TomDispatch that first appeared in The NY Review of Books about a Berkeley law professor who became the ultimate yes-man.


    Then a short piece from Time Magazine about the Permanent Campaign that has swallowed both the office and the men in it.


    JRB

    Wednesday, November 02, 2005

    The Fear Season

    Well, another Halloween has come and gone. The children have had their overload of candy and are finally winding down. The Grim Reapers, Ghosts, Goblins, Witches and Bogeymen have been relegated to the trash heap of "I was that LAST year" and thoughts have turned to Thanksgiving and how many shopping days left until Christmas.

    Halloween is a great time to allow perhaps our own deepest, hidden fears to come forth. While some protest about their belief in ghosts, perhaps, just perhaps, we secretly feel they actually might exist. But with Halloween we can pretend and the pretending makes it ok and not as unsettling. It is but one night out of three hundred and sixty five others that Americans deliberately, but with a sense of fun, try and scare the begeezus out of each other. But though the holiday has come and gone, the fear factor lingers on, compliments of George W. Bush & Co.

    Now there is a certain latitude which goes along with fear. Most of us grew up with some level of fear in our lives. Who has not feared an upcoming test in school, or feared our parents disapproval? Who has not believed that there was actually a bogeyman in their closet or under their bed? Parent's, too, are great at striking fear into the hearts of their children with time worn phrases such as, "Do that and you will break your neck!"..."Just wait until your father gets home!"..."You are grounded for LIFE!" We fear not getting what we really, REALLY wanted for Christmas, not making the team, not passing our driving license test, not being asked to the Prom or getting bad grades, not getting into our first choice college. But those fears soon dissolve and the threat of them no longer lingers over our heads.

    For the last 1,464 days, however, it has been Halloween on the Potomac. The operative word has been FEAR, and the daily plan is how much of that fear can be struck into the hearts and minds of America's citizens. We were told that we had much to fear from those who hated us for what we have. We were shown images of mushroom clouds and pictures of bearded, dark skinned people who were out to destroy us, unless of course we got them first! Pictures of containers which supposedly housed WMD's which could wipe us out in a heartbeat. And to make doubly sure that the fear level remained fairly high, lest we forget, or allowed it to fade into the background, color coded "fear" alerts to help us remember. There has been a pattern to this fear mongering.

    Each and every time there has been a meltdown of some sort, in this administration, we have had the spectre of horrible, ghoulish things happening. All of the warnings, however, have been carefully choreographed and controlled by the administration. When the fear factor is underwritten by those who are sworn to protect you, it is the ultimate form of control, and used in it's highest form by those who are out of control. Since September 11, we have been fed government sponsored terrorist alerts. We are told it is not a matter of IF it will happen, but WHEN. Meanwhile, our ports, chemical plants and railways go unprotected. Our airports are still at risk with no serious monitoring of cargo, but plenty of diaper bag scrutiny.

    When it was intimated that Bush & Co. did in fact have intel prior to September 11, and that members of his administration had, basically, ignored those warnings, the media was fed hoaxed terror alerts which supposedly targeted among other things, the Statue of Liberty, shopping malls, the Brooklyn Bridge, sports stadiums and nuclear power plants. Other terror alerts warned of Pakistanis who had entered the country and planned on using a dirty bomb to wreck havoc. All of these things were uncorroborated by the CIA or the FBI but were being issued in order to keep the fear level high in order that Bush might be seen as the great protector. Even as the last election showed a closer race than liked between Kerry and Bush, we were once again treated to a video tape from the elusive Osama Bin Laden (he of the Wanted Dead or Alive posters...THE Bogeyman!). No one knows how long the tape had been in the hands of those in control, but it's chosen release time coincided with the election and obviously had the desired effect. We did not switch horses in mid stream, and Bush, apparently, was the man to fight terrorism. Look at what he had done so far! No more attacks on the Homeland!

    Real threats on the other hand are mainly ignored. Government agencies which were created in order to address real threats, such as hurricanes and their aftermath, have bogged down. The behemoth that is Homeland Security is unable to come to the fore when disaster strikes through acts of nature, so how on earth can we be safe from terrorists? We had all the warning in the world about the threat which was Hurricane Katrina, and still, those warnings fell largely on deaf ears and the resultant destruction from that one storm eclipsed the WTC attack in scope and scale of disaster.

    When the threats are revealed, for the hoaxes that they are, they manage to exonerate themselves by stating that they were "misinformed". Like yelling FIRE! in a crowded theater, this sort of activity is illegal and punishable by fines and a prison term. But it seems that now, those who have been so willing to keep us in a state of fear, who have lied and manipulated are themselves fearful of the future, as well they should be. Slowly they are being unmasked as the fearful bogeymen that they truly are.

    I wonder what the market will be next Halloween for Bush, Cheney, Rove and Rumsfeld masks. No one will want to be "Scooter" Libby.

    Susan Goodwin

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