American Liberalism Project Archives September 2004 to June 2006

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Walls

WALLS

"Good fences make good neighbors"
Mending Wall- Robert Frost- 1915

The poet goes on to say that before he built a wall he would question what he was walling in or walling out and to whom he might give offence. Walls have been a mainstay of civilization and we find them through all of history, erected for what seemed like a very good reason at the time, and all doomed to fall or be breached for what probably seemed like an even better reason. For the most part they were built to keep invading hordes out of one's territory, but in more recent history we have seen walls erected to keep the civilian population in.

I am sure there were walls before the one in Jericho, but that is the first that springs to mind. Joshua and his army supposedly made short work of making those walls "come tumbling down". We had the walls of Troy which were impenetrable to the Greeks until they outsmarted their adversaries with the gift of a great wooden horse. And with that wall story we have the expression, "beware of Greeks bearing gifts." We have The Great Western Wall, Hadrian's Wall, The Great Wall of China, Derry Wall, Korean Wall (demilitarized zone in Korea).

There are famous walls all over the world. Turkey, England, Germany, Russia, Wales, Greece, Iran, France and Switzerland. Most of these were constructed long, long ago, and were not necessarily for defensive purposes, some as pleasing shapes in the landscape, although many would probably be listed in walls as fortifications. and now we have decided to be wall builders. This comes at great expense to the taxpayer, although you can be sure that the Bushes and Gates and Murdochs of this world will not be put out over it. Is this an exercise in futility? Did we not, in fairly recent history, have a President who demanded that a wall be torn down? Down it came but not because Reagan threw down the gauntlet to Gorbachev, but because those on both sides of the wall willed it to come down. Most walls have met a similar fate.

So, will the wall we are building between our country and the country of Mexico really keep those who want to be here out? Someone with a modicum of intelligence, one who has obviously studied the rise and fall of past walls, has said, build a fifty foot wall and someone will build a fifty-one foot ladder. How true, how true. If you cannot scale it, tunnel under it. Can't get around it, go over it! If you cannot get over it, under it or around it, go straight through it! Just like the Berlin Wall, where there is a will there is a way.

We are a country of immigrants. Each and everyone of us has ancestors who started somewhere else. True, most of them came legally and made their way through the hardships of that first winter in Plymouth, survived being transported to the Virginia Colony as a prisoner or awaited their fate at Ellis Island. Some even arrived as brides after any of the wars which were fought overseas.

What most of us will never understand is the desire to be anywhere but where one is at, in the moment. To be living in abject poverty, and to know that just a few miles away lies an area brimming with hope and opportunity has to be an overwhelming siren call. We know it is given the lengths to which some will go to cross that border. The numbers of those who have ended up paying with their lives because they were caught up by unscrupulous human traffickers who took their money and crammed them into the back of an already overcrowded trailer. Or those who think it is fun to go out at night and "hunt" Mexicans in the desert. Those who "lead" some into the desert to simply desert them to the freeing temperatures or the Border Guards.

We think we are building a wall to keep us safe from them, when, in truth, perhaps they are the ones who need the protection from us.

"Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall, 35
That wants it down.”

He says again, “Good fences make good neighbours.”

Susan B. Goodwin

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

9/11 Should Not Have Changed Everything

In the aftermath of the 9-11 terrorist attacks, it became accepted politically that everything had changed in America. The idea was always simply nonsense. The Bush Republican machine used the public hysteria to sell a broad array of pro-Corporatist and anti-civil liberties measures.

The terrorists were never going to destroy America or American political conditions by acts of terrorism. The assault on American institutions and traditions were only going to be successful if they were launched by strong elements of the American political spectrum. Our nation was unfortunate to have the Bush Republicans in power during the 9-11 attacks.

The 9-11 attacks were successfully executed largely as a result of incompetence by the Bush Administration. The outrage expressed by the Republican establishment and their Fox News allies during the 2004 Presidential Election concerning Michael Moore’s movie, Fahrenheit 9-11, was based on fear of facts. There was great fear that the American public would discover that political and policy failures by this Republican Administration. They could be documented unless the documents were hidden from public view.

The cult of government and corporate secrecy that surrounds Republican rule was sold on the basis of National Security. The doctrine has been used to conceal and justify a broad array of corruption and oppressive measures. The secrecy cult has not extended to the behavior, activities or privacy of individual citizens.

Big Brother government spying on average citizens has long been a fear of traditional conservatives but not by the Corporatists of the current Republican Right. These Bush Republican Corporatists want government behavior protected from the constraints of both law and public opinion. They want hide their corruption and abuses from the citizenry. This change is a serious threat to what America should be about…. true responsive and representative government.

Traditionally, Americans have rallied to the traditions of our Founding Fathers when faced by serious national challenges. We stood by our Constitution and Bill of Rights during World War II. The current conflict, with the forces of Bin Laden, is certainly not as serious as the worldwide war with the Nazi-Fascist-Japanese Axis.

The 9-11 terrorist attacks hurt us emotionally as a nation but were not seriously going to destroy our nation even if repeated over and over again. We are a much stronger nation than most Republican politicians want to admit. The 8-11 attacks were tiny when compared to our vast resources. We are by far the strongest military power ever seen on this planet. Our population is around 300 million and growing. We dominate an entire Continent and more.

Our economy is huge. Only the largest corporations can adversely damage our economic health as a nation. It is unfortunate that the 9-11 attacks did not focus on the damage that these corporations are doing to the interests of our American nation with the active support of Bush Republicanism. They are undermining the national security of our nation by exporting our manufacturing base and creating foreign enemies for the American nation.

It is time to use some logic politically. Use your votes to restore common sense. We need to open the actions of government to public view. We need to restrain excessive Corporate power. We need to restore individual liberties to our citizens. We need to secure the established traditions of our nation and rely on the teachings of our Founding Fathers. We need to admit that the 9-11 attacks should not have changed us in fundamental ways as Americans… because America is stronger than the terrorist threat!


Stephen Crockett

Co-Host of Democratic Talk Radio http://www.DemocraticTalkRadio.com ). Email: midsouthcm@aol.com .

Monday, May 29, 2006

Raping Our National Treasure

A recent article by one of my favorite columnists, Jim Hightower, was about Bush’s mendacity when dealing with one of the public’s most beloved institutions: America’s network of national parks. Survey after survey reveals our national parks to be perhaps the most highly regarded government program by the American public and this deep love cuts across all political persuasions.

Knowing how highly regarded the national parks are, Bush has used them as backdrops for ads in both his presidential campaigns, promising to increase their funding. But once the campaign is over, this promise like so many others is forgotten in the greed and hypocrisy that are the hallmarks of this administration.

Apparently, believing the American public has a very short memory the administration instructed the parks guides in the election year of 2004 to never use the phrase “budget cuts” but to refer to them in the Orwellian phrase, “service level adjustments.” Can you just see the hand of Rove in this hypocrisy?

Now, the axe is being applied again. Under the radar, Bush has asked each park service superintendent to give him a budget which will cut funding by a third over five years. This comes at a time when there is huge backlog of needed repairs and a severe shortage of park rangers.

When visitors to our parks ask why they are paying more for less such as reduced hours, fewer rangers, and deteriorating facilities, the park service has been instructed to respond with this “new speak” sentence: “The National Park Service, like most agencies, is tightening its belt as our nation rebuilds from Katrina, continues the war on terrorism and strives to reduce the deficit.”

Unbelievable, this administration which has let billions in unregulated contracts to Cheney’s favorite charity, screwed up the response to Katrina, embroiled us, through lies and deceit in an unprovoked invasion which has cost 300 billion and counting dollars, cut taxes for the rich, and as result given us the largest deficit in history wants to use these debacles as an excuse to rape the best-loved government program: the national parks. Maybe just maybe this time it has gone too far and the public will rise up in protest and throw the bums out.

David M Goldberg

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Reality Checks

One of the things that has happened in America since 2004 is that Liberal and Progressive voters and Democrats in Congress have lost confidence in themselves and their leaders. The reason is that there are many routes to recovery and no unanimity among us all on how best to win a convincing and lasting victory at the polls. One of the elements of this lack of confidence is the possibility of corruption among us. It has been asserted that significant Democratic leaders in Congress are on the take from corporations.

Personally, in some cases I have suspected a deliberate campaign emanating from certain quarters to sow dissention in the ranks. For instance, if I were Hillary I would not want Nancy to become Speaker. That would put a woman into unparalleled prominence for two years before the general election in 2008. Some people might think that one woman is enough and begin to back away from supporting my aspirations. A group of people around me but not extremely close might begin to spread nasty rumors.

This is all speculation, of course. This week I happened on a resource that makes a major step in the elimination of speculation. I have added it to the extensive group of Links on the American Liberalism website, and I would like to you to take a look now. Here is: Congresspedia! Look up your Representative or your Senators and see where they are getting their money and which interests are their major supporters. Just in time, Congresspedia will begin to dispel the clouds of mistrust ... or in some cases confirm them.

James Richard Brett

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Democratic Leadership

There are a couple of ways for the Democrats to win the election this fall. One of them is to do a lot of pointing and name calling, all of it richly deserved. The Republicans have their elephant and have painted a huge target on its belly with the antics of Tom DeLay and Co. Rarely has a political party so repudiated its ideals by corruption so rapidly and thoroughly than have the Republicans in the last dozen years.

My own instincts ran toward the "eradicate and annihilate" side of politics from the moment the Supreme Court ripped off the election in favor of George W. Bush. I have been angry and almost ferally alarmed by what we have experienced. It is essential, though, that we win and that having won we can do something with the victory that will be meaningful and lasting.

So, the Democratic leadership in Congress has irritated every one of us who have wanted to draw blood and watch the Republican beast die a horrible painful death. Nancy Pelosi has incurred the wrath of every male chauvinist in the Democratic Party for her quiet, "centrist" ways. I have thought and written lately that I trust her and, lo, on Friday I got her periodic "House Call" message and now have something very important to show you.

The strategy of the Democratic Party is to take the Left and ALL OF THE CENTER. Here is how they intend to do that. Notice that not one centrist voter is going to feel like a vote for an honest Democrat (meant as a vote against a dishonest and corrupt Republican) is going to feel disenfranchised or unrepresented. As far as I am concerned this is a courageous and absolutely necessary political stance, and I applaud Mrs. Pelosi (next year's Speaker of the House) and her colleagues for it.

James Richard Brett

Friday, May 26, 2006

Narcissism, Corruption & Politics


Those of us born in the middle half of the 20th century grew up dealing with the terms and theories of Freudian psychology. Freud is not gone, but his influence over our view of mental phenomena and the construction of personality have been overtaken by psychology and neural physiology science in many significant respects, yet, much remains. Freud began his career under the tutelage of Hans Brücke and drank deeply from the materialist causation theories of the late 19th century. Early in his studies Freud wrote about finding the material substrate of personality, but gave up the task because of the mounting evidence that science was nowhere near advanced enough to provide the necessary answers. Instead, then, Freud erected an edifice (perhaps it would be better to say "effigy") of personality that drew on the evidence of contemporary "normative" personality development, on the one hand, and from classical stories from various mythologies. That is, he found in the myths of European culture characteristic stories that expressed very well the pathologies into which human personality development can fall prey.

Among the aberrations of personality categorized by Freud that attracted attention widely among the intelligentsia of Europe (and soon North America) was the condition known as "narcissism." Adult narcissism is both normal (at very modest levels of self-absorption), but normally very pronounced among infants and children up through the age of five or so. In a sense narcissism is a stage of development that might be predicted to occur given the structural genetic inheritance of the human brain and the artifacts and processes of human culture. We conclude that a personality is appropriately embedded in society with meaningful relationships to other human beings with the term "self respect." It connotes an positive valence of integration with the rest of us.

But at first, as neonates, we understand virtually nothing of the outside world and are completely captivated by the sensations of our own bodies. Mother's smiling face only gradually is distinguished from self and much else follows this pattern of separation of one's own perceptions and needs and desires from material and psychological reality. Differentiation is not an easy process for mother's milk flows in anticipation of baby's need, and so it goes throughout early childhood that those hovering external beings seem to cater to emerging needs as if by divine plan. Perhaps "the terrible 2's" are a signpost along this process.

Children who do not shed their infantile egocentricity for whatever reason ... doting parents, mistaken understandings of cause and effect, etc. ... are usually called "spoiled," spoiled not like milk, though for some it appears to be irredeemable. No, it is more like spoiled like a ground or surface, contaminated, not by a pollutant but by a false paradigm, a false notion of how the world's processes proceed, remediable, but perhaps only with "Superfund" resources.

For those who grow up to become corrupt politicians their narcissism is marked by their insistent belief in their fundamental worthiness to "receive" bountifully and an overweening belief in the correctness of their own frames of reference. A person like William Jefferson Clinton, whose well-publicized appetites are essentially narcissistic, is trapped in a developmental cul-de-sac from which escape is thwarted by the unavailability of the personalities who played (or should have played) the necessary roles to help Bill work this out "normally" on his own. Clinton has patched together a reasonable facsimile of successful personality development (as do most of us), but as the world knows, the Clinton result leans heavily toward narcissism which is tempered (and sometimes deluded) by a formidable intellect.

A person like Tom DeLay on the other hand uses a strong will in the place of a strong intellect and is, in any case, a different sort of narcissist. DeLay is a second level pathological narcissist, whose personality's ego centrism has reached the point where starkly binary relationships exist for him: those who fawn over him and kiss his ring are favored, those who don't (and everyone in their party) are not even worthy of being called human beings. The rejection of a person's humanity provides a multitude of excuses, of course, but fundamentally a person like DeLay has no friends, only courtiers who, like DeLay, see a feeding/suckling frenzy for what it is and latch on for their own narcissistic ride.

Leadership, especially significant political leadership, is expected (by those led) to be a tight wire act. We know that leaders are fallible, but we want them to have just enough narcissism to smooth over their occasional faulty judgments and actions. We do not want them collapsing in distress when something starts to go wrong. We want them to deal with it and "move on." We groom people from middle school onward who show evidence of a willingness to "impose" their wills on others as long as we can also observe charm, humility, and deference to the real needs that others have expressed. We often lose track of kids, like Karl Rove, whose charm is deficient and whose deference to the needs of others takes a back seat to his own material and psychological desires and fantasies. These people emerge later in life as demagogues and in other ways significantly dangerous candidates for or advisors to those in public office. Voters are asked to judge whether the person is really as selfish and narcissistic as some actions would seem to indicate, but meanwhile political parties work feverishly to obscure the evidence that we might have if we were just taking stock of people in a neighborhood. Political parties are trying to preserve their investments and too often choose to deal with the narcissistic "pig" in the poke later on. It never works out!

Corruption in politics is often based on one of the several kinds of narcissism. The narcissism of candidates and office holders is exacerbated, of course, by the trappings of power and prestige. But the narcissism of voting citizens is more difficult to see and all the more difficult because of its diffusion to deal with. Currently in America we have a vigorous debate going on about issues emerging from the Bush administration, his war, his tax breaks for the rich, his arrogant defiance of Congress, domestic spying, and the whole litany of impeachable offenses. We know now (with very little help from the corporate press) that Republicans have assembled an "unholy group" of people in the White House whose personalities feed ravenously from one another, producing thoroughly narcissistic, misanthropic, and anti-democratic policies. Rove, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and their sometime puppet George W. Bush are all pathological narcissists. Underlying this though, is a different sort of problem, the problem of mass narcissism manifesting itself in the jarring self-righteousness of the radical and religious rightwing voters.

Over the past two years and some I have be writing my reflections on the passing events of the day, and occasionally my perspective strikes a reader as wrong or worse, wrongheaded. The readers who think me wrongheaded write comments and send me email calling me an asshole, bastard, jackass, fucking son of a bitch, and some other similar but intersyllabically complex names you probably never heard unless you spent some time around sailors at sea. These vocabulary-challenged people are miniature versions of the pathological narcissist. Their attempts to denigrate the humanity of a fellow human being are evidence of their division of the world into people who love them and, they think, subpeople who hate them. These are spontaneous expressions of their own hapless egos, defending the indefensible territory of their narcissism. One does not find common cause with people like this. The fact is they have utterly missed the point. They are no better than the pathologically narcissistic rednecks and red state radicals for whom Bush, DeLay, Rove, and Rumsfeld are avatars of "the one true righteousness."

Eventually we discover that the handmaidens of narcissism are corruption and intolerance.


There is no one true righteousness. There is no single truth. No one can understand all of the world and its activities, and in fact, no one acting on the public stage really and truly understands what the mid- and long-term effects of his or her actions might be. The narcissists (by definition) isolate themselves and so they lose the benefit of productive discussion, discussion which might easily avoid the kinds of consequences now raining down on us from Bush & Co.

No political party is free of narcissists, but parties must learn that weeding out the pathologically narcissistic corrupt is a solemn and necessary duty. We play the game of politics in America knowing full well in advance (under our separation of powers Constitution) that we are playing with a part of human nature that all too easily slides into corruption. We must, if we are to govern ourselves democratically, be ever on the alert for signs of narcissistic pathology and remove these people from positions of authority.

James Richard Brett

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Verifying Votes:


Making a Paper Trail


If, when we were in school holding elections for Student Council, we were told we had to vote on "machines' devised by one of the candidate's supporters, we would have considered that outrageous and seen that as a red flag that there may be an intent to commit fraud when the votes were tallied. Why would we accept that now? In the last four elections the use of questionable machines has resulted in questionable elections. This is a big step by people in power to manipulate our precious votes and to keep us like sheep in pens, powerless and silent.

How did the voting tools and process ever get away from our control? It is imperative that the people control the voting systems, not the candidates or elected candidates. We have a vested interest in the voting process as it is one of the too few times we actually get to put our two cents in as to how our money is spent and how we like or don't like the direction the country is going.

November 2006 will be an election in which all the new voting machines are in place. This is the moment of truth for us. Will we accept results that come from these machines which have been imposed on us or will we devise a way to make sure every vote is recorded and counted?

Let's allow ourselves the option of jumping their fences and creating a paper trail at all the polling places. Using printed ballots and pen or pencil, we can help the voters leave a paper trail. In Germany all elections still use this method. It takes five days for civil servants to count the votes but the people are secure that every vote counts. Each polling committee could get ballots printed, secure them in locked boxes then count them under the scrutiny of community watchers. Simple and back to basics.

Putting Questions on the Ballot

Communities could also request that certain issues be put on the 2006 ballot. There are issues we are concerned about but that don't get addressed by our government. Why not get a direct vote from us as to how we want things handled?

Some issues that could be put to the vote are:

  • Do you want the US occupation of Iraq to end?
    How soon? - Three months - Six months - nine months - 12 months - let the politicians decide.
  • Do you want a National Health System?
  • Do you want impeachment hearings held now for this administration?
  • Do you want a legal investigation into the administration's intent and behavior leading into the War with Iraq?
  • Do you want an independent investigation of 9/11, its members, witnesses and questions chosen by the people.
  • Do you want a Constitutional Amendment that states 'Only human beings can be considered people or persons in our law. Only the humans of this nation have the rights as endowed by the Constitution." (Currently Corporations are considered by law to be 'persons' and compete with us for those rights.)
  • Do you want run-off voting in all elections? (In run-off voting, you get to vote for choice 1,2,and 3. If your #1 candidate does not get a 51% win, your vote goes to choice #2, failing his/her win, your vote goes to your third choice, #3.) Thus your vote is never wasted and allows the candidate most favored to win.
  • Do you want selections to be decided by popular vote?

    How about voting on whether we would want a national media system free of government and corporate influence, paid for with fees levied on the advertising revenue of the broadcasters who use our publicly owned airwaves for no cost at present. I think that among the citizens are plenty of people who could operate a national public media system well. We could vote on budget limits or getting the private banks out of the Federal Reserve. The potential is incredible.

    I think we should list and vote on issues that concern us. Clearly, we have lost many of our Congress people to special interests leaving us without representation. I would make the case that we have a good case for a class action suit claiming there should be "no taxation without representation."

    Meanwhile, why not take voting on issues into our own hands? I also believe that many non-voters would be interested in voting if their voice on issues would be heard.

    Ballot questions are a wonderful way for us to get out voices heard. It's our vote why not use it?

    The use of questionable machines to take our votes is a situation where we can make sure that votes are not lost or changed. As a grassroots movement, we can make sure a paper trail exists. It is our right as voters. Therefore, if every polling place meets to organize the logistics and the tools, (secure boxes, ballots, writing implements, staff) we will be sure that every vote counts. Please pass this on to everyone you know and let's be ready to make sure no fences corral our votes!

    Sue Dyer

    Guest Essayist

  • Wednesday, May 24, 2006

    Liberal Is Not a Four Letter Word

    I have heard the word liberal so often used in such scornful terms it gives the speaker a tone of being somewhat superior. Those who adopt this tone somehow seem to imply that perhaps I am less than intelligent if I chose liberalism over conservatism, especially compassionate conservatism.

    The idea behind the American Liberalism Project was to educate, to help some make informed decisions about their political feelings. If what liberalism has to offer is not your cup of tea, well then, so be it. I do feel however, that you cannot make liberalism and conservatism a black and white issue. There are certainly conservative liberals and certainly liberal conservatives. Unfortunately, the current political atmosphere has polarized so many that I am sure a great number of young people feel disenfranchised with politics. Especially since we have heard, for the last 5 1/2 years, that you are either "with us or against us", and it has been used not only as a battle cry in the War on Terror, but as a weapon by conservatives to smear their opponents.

    Liberals are just as God loving (and some are not), law abiding, country loving, troop supporting, tax paying, compassionate individuals as any other American. To imply that we are less than upright members of our communities, or our country, because we do not happen to support those things which we see as morally reprehensible, is just simply wrong. I do not mean to imply that those who are not liberal are anything other than what we liberals are, that was not my intention, however, we have been smeared way too loudly for way too long by those who call themselves conservatives. It is ironic that those who sit themselves to the right of our President, who has labeled himself the great compassionate conservative, are just about anything but compassionate. Those who would wrap themselves in the shroud of Pat Robertson's brand of religion certainly do not practice what Jesus preached.

    What exactly is liberalism? Most would define it as progressive, tolerant, generous, open to change and open minded. In contrast conservatives seek to maintain the status quo. I ran across this list which gives one a better way of comparing the liberals and conservatives and their beliefs.

    Liberals Conservatives

    Collectivism Individualism
    Change Tradition
    Science Religion
    Inclusiveness Exclusiveness
    Democracy Constitutionalism
    Equality Merit
    Public Sector Private Sector
    Pacifism Armed deterrence

    These are not, however, absolutes for either group. Would we be struggling in Iraq now had we deferred to diplomacy (pacifism) rather than running off on a fool's errand based on lies? Absolutes would eliminate religious scientists, of which there are many, and also eliminate those who work in the private sector but to the benefit of the public sector. Liberals would be those who align themselves with and represent the poor, workers, (the working poor), women, minorities, academics, environmentalists, artists and those who would promote gun control. Again, this is not to say that there are not liberals who are gun owning members of the NRA, nor wealthy business owners, or those who do not favor the police or the military.

    The Constitution is our Democracy's sacred document, but we have a President who feels it is just a "G**damned piece of paper." Conservatives have railed against the ACLU, but since 1920 it is that group which has defended the Bill of Rights for all Americans. Conservatives proposed anti-tax, pro-property amendments would favor those who already have the most wealth and power. Blatantly obvious that the constitution is used as a political ploy, a vehicle to galvanize those who have such a narrow view of everything to begin with, it does not take much to turn them against others.

    When the Constitution was finally ratified in 1788 it was a document that had been written by rich white, slave owning (some of them) men. Blacks could not vote (they had no rights), women could not vote (until 1920-they too had few rights) tax debtors got the right to vote in 1964 and young people. those who were off fighting our war in Vietnam, were not allowed to vote until 1971. It would appear today, that if we wish to preserve what has been given to us, to We The People, it is the liberal faction in this country which will do it.

    Susan B. Goodwin

    Tuesday, May 23, 2006

    Qualities

    Pardon me while I sit, shaking my head in puzzlement, wondering what on earth it will take to make the remaining 29% of the population, who are still enamored of President Bush, to see the light. Outside of the fact that it is widely touted how everyone would like him, should they have the opportunity to meet him, I have to wonder how many of these supporters have actually had the dubious pleasure of having shaken the man's hand or had a beer with him, or even gone for a bike ride with him. OK, forget the bike ride.

    There have been two realities operating in this country for the last 5 1/2 years. One is the faux reality Bush is laboring under and would have us all believe, and the other is what is in actual fact transpiring in this country and around the world, particularly in places such as Afghanistan and Iraq (increase in terrorist activity?). There have been many times in these last 5 1/2 years that I have despaired of my fellow countrymen, especially after the last election when I had thought that surely more had seen the truth of George Bush and his henchmen. Granted, had there been a more positive agenda from the left, the results might have been different, but it was still hard for me to realize that some could see George Bush as a great leader and statesman.

    I began to think about all the things which I feel are important in a public servant. Qualities which I feel have sadly been lacking in this administration. Those who do have these qualities, departed this administration early on, when it became blatantly obvious that those same qualities were lacking in their peers. I made a list and tried mightily to attach these qualities to anyone in the administration, however, I was unsuccessful. I present the list here, and suggest that you try and find any of these socially redeeming qualities in anyone (Bush, Rove, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice) who are now representing We The People to the rest of the world.

    Statesman:

    1. One versed in the principles or art of government; one actively engaged in conducting the business of a government and shaping its policies.
    2. One who exercises poltical leadership wisely and without narrow partisanship.

    Integrity:
    1. Firm adherence to a code of especially moral values: Incorruptability;
    Honesty

    Ethics/Morality/Honesty:
    1. A fairness and straightforwardness of conduct; adherence to the facts; Sincerity.

    Synonyms: Honesty, Honor, Integrity, Probity mean uprightness of character or action. Honesty implies a refusal to lie, steal or deceive in any way. Honor suggests an active or anxious regard for the standard's of one's profession, calling or position. Integrity implies trustworthiness and incorruptability to a degree that one is incapable of being false to a trust (The Presidency?), responsibility (upholding the Constitution?) or pledge (Oath of Office?). Probity implies tried and proven honesty and integrity.

    Charitable:
    1. Full of love and good will towards others; Benevolent
    2. A liberal in benefactions to the needy: Generous
    3. Merciful or kind in judging others: Lenient

    In every respect I honestly cannot find one person in George Bush's White House that embodies any of these qualities. And yes, I know, Bill Clinton lied, but that is also ancient history. The reality of today is that we have George Bush who has lied to us about things which are a thousand times over more serious. (WMD's-Saddam/Bin Laden terrorist connection)

    Then again, perhaps this is a wake up call to all of us to be more aware of the candidates that we elect to represent us. We have become so complacent, and many, I am sure, find it easier to elect the devil they know rather than the devil they do not. With the mid-term elections about 5 months away, it behooves us all to make sure that we are sending the very best candidates to represent us, to carry with them our best interests, not their own. If there is any cleaning up to be done in Washington then we are the ones who are responsible for wielding the broom.

    Susan B. Goodwin

    Monday, May 22, 2006

    Another Nail in Their Coffin

    I would like to return to a favorite topic of mine: How the Administration misused intelligence to justify the Iraq invasion.

    Below is verbatim exchange between Carl Levin, Democratic senator form Michigan, and the President’s nominee for Director of Central Intelligence Agency, General Michael V. Hayden. General Hayden was being questioned as to whether the intelligence community was pressured by the administration to find information to support the invasion of Iraq. Hayden, had to be careful not to reveal intelligence information in open session and also not to politicize his answers. Nevertheless, his answers are very revealing if you know what to look for.

    LEVIN: An independent review for the CIA, conducted by a panel led by Richard Kerr, former deputy director of the CIA, said the following -- and this relates to the intelligence prior to the Iraq war -- "Requests for reporting and analysis of Iraq's links to Al Qaida were steady and heavy in the period leading up to the war, creating significant pressure on the intelligence community to find evidence that supported a connection."
    Do you agree with Mr. Kerr?

    HAYDEN: Sir, I -- as director of NSA, we did have a series of inquiries about this potential connection between Al Qaida and the Iraqi government. Yes, sir.

    LEVIN: Now, prior to the war, the undersecretary of defense for policy, Mr. Feith, established an intelligence analysis cell within his policy office at the Defense Department.

    LEVIN: While the intelligence community was consistently dubious about links between Iraq and Al Qaida, Mr. Feith produced an alternative analysis, asserting that there was a strong connection.
    Were you comfortable with Mr. Feith's office's approach to intelligence analysis?

    HAYDEN: No, sir, I wasn't. I wasn't aware of a lot of the activity going on, you know, when it was contemporaneous with running up to the war. No, sir, I wasn't comfortable.

    LEVIN: In our meeting in our office, you indicated -- well, what were you uncomfortable about? Let me...

    HAYDEN: Well, there were a couple of things. And thank you for the opportunity to elaborate, because these aren't simple issues.
    As I tried to say in my statement, there are a lot of things that animate and inform a policy-maker's judgment, and intelligence is one of them, and, you know, world view, and there are a whole bunch of other things that are very legitimate.
    The role of intelligence, I try to say it here by metaphor because it's the best way I can describe it, is you've got to draw the left- and the right-hand boundaries. The tether to your analysis can't be so long, so stretched that it gets out of those left- and right-hand boundaries.
    Now, with regard to this particular case, it is possible, Senator, if you want to drill down on an issue and just get laser beam focused, and exhaust every possible -- every possible ounce of evidence, you can build up a pretty strong body of data, right? But you have to know what you're doing, all right?
    I got three great kids, but if you tell me go out and find all the bad things they've done, Hayden, I can build you a pretty good dossier, and you'd think they were pretty bad people, because that was I was looking for and that's what I'd build up.
    That would be very wrong. That would be inaccurate. That would be misleading.
    It's one thing to drill down, and it's legitimate to drill down. And that was a real big and real important question. But at the end of the day, when you draw your analysis, you have to recognize that you've really laser beam focused on one particular data set. And you have to put that factor into the equation before you start drawing macro judgments.

    LEVIN: You in my office discussed, I think, a very interesting approach, which is the difference between starting with a conclusion and trying to prove it and instead starting with digging into all the facts and seeing where they take you.
    Would you just describe for us that difference and why you feel, I think, that that related to the difference between what intelligence should be and what some people were doing, including that Feith office.

    HAYDEN: Yes, sir. And I actually think I prefaced that with both of these are legitimate forms of reasoning, that you've got deductive -- and the product of, you know, 18 years of Catholic education, I know a lot about deductive reasoning here.

    HAYDEN: There's an approach to the world in which you begin with, first, principles and then you work your way down the specifics.
    And then there's an inductive approach to the world in which you start out there with all the data and work yourself up to general principles. They are both legitimate. But the only one I'm allowed to do is induction.

    LEVIN: Allowed to do as an intelligence...

    HAYDEN: As an intelligence officer is induction.
    And so, now, what happens when induction meets deduction, Senator? Well, that's my left- and right-hand boundaries metaphor.

    LEVIN: Now, I believe that you actually placed a disclaimer on NSA reporting relative to any links between Al Qaida and Saddam Hussein. And it was apparently following the repeated inquiries from the Feith office. Would you just tell us what that disclaimer was?

    HAYDEN: Yes, sir.
    SIGINT neither confirms nor denies -- and let me stop at that point in the sentence so we can stay safely on the side of unclassified.
    SIGINT neither confirms nor denies, and then we finished the sentence based upon the question that was asked. And then we provided the data, sir." Hayden Transcript
    The "mainstream media" are doing a great job of ignoring this exchange in the Hayden CIA hearing, but what Hayden did here is repudiate altogether the Administration assertion (supported by various bogus commissions and the SSCI under Roberts) that intelligence analysts were not "pressured" by abusive repetitions of "requests" for information into backing away from what they knew to be true about Iraq before the war.

    Look at what Hayden said:
    - There was pressure from Feith's Office of Special Plans in the Pentagon pushing the analysts towards judgments that were desired by Feith and company.

    - That he was aware at the time of the pressure that it existed.

    - That the "World View" of parties un-named in the Administration "informed" their judgment as much as the opinions of the intelligence community. This is important because the administration is now claiming that it is innocent of "original sin" in this matter and that the colossal errors in understanding Iraq were altogether the fault of the intelligence community.

    - That the Feith/neocon crowd went outside the "boundaries" of what the intelligence community thought might be the situation in Iraq and were incompetent in the attempt.

    - That the Feith/neocon crowd ignored evidence contrary to their views.

    - That the Feith/neocon group committed the ultimate "sin" for an intelligence analyst, i.e., they used "deductive" rather than "inductive" reasoning in reaching their conclusions about Iraq. "Deductive" thinking is poison injected into the bloodstream of the government's decision process.

    - That when "pressed" by the Feith/neocon crowd about NSA's conclusions concerning the AQ/Iraqi connection, he caused NSA to respond that "SIGINT neither confirms nor denies.." This was an appropriate and important.response for NSA which is a COLLECTION arm of the intelligence community and which does not perform analysis in the sense that the term is properly used.

    In an earlier blog I stated that The Office of Special Plans was used by the White House to provide phony intelligesnce and to provide cover if no WMD were found in Iraq and if no Al-Quida connection could be established. If you combine this testimony with the Downing Street Memo, which stated the following about the Iraq war and the use of intelligence, “ the intelligence was going to fixed around the policy,” it is clear that we were lied to about the war, there was no intelligence failure, and the President will have to answer to the country for his impeachable offense.

    David M Goldberg

    Sunday, May 21, 2006

    Big Brother is Here

    It was interesting that many people (60% by one preliminary poll) feel it is all right for the government to get all of our phone records in order to “catch terrorists.” To me, even this, seems a violation of unreasonable search and seizure, which requires “probable cause.” But when considered along with other actions of the government it seems much more Kafkaesque.

    Not only is the government compiling the telephone numbers called by all American’s on both cell phones and landlines, they have conducted warrantless eavesdropping on foreign calls (maybe domestic calls) and tracked people’s movements by their cell phone signal. Yes, you may not know that the government can track or reassemble your travels if you carry a cell phone.

    They say they are not mining all of that phone data, just looking for patterns. Isn’t that the same thing? Their stated goal is to get records of every call ever made and gain access to all voice and email communications. Along with that, the government has requested that internet companies retain records of all websites people visit, sought to sample website searches and requested all search records for a week from internet service providers. There are also revelations from a former CIA agent that spy satellites that can see detail down to at least one meter have been used to watch Americans in this country.

    Previously the Defense Department proposed an operation called Total Information Awareness that would have allowed them to “data mine” personal information on driver’s licenses, passports, credit card purchases, car rentals, medical prescriptions and records, banking transactions, employment records and more. That proposal was withdrawn following a public outcry, as far as we know.

    The administration has all but openly admitted to breaking the FISA law and continues to do so. It’s solution? Legalize the illegal activity retroactively and pass a law that allows it to be even more intrusive. Senate Bill 2455, the Terrorist Surveillance Act of 2006 introduced by Republican Senator from Ohio, Mike DeWine includes free rein for the President to wiretap anyone he wants, stating: the President, through the Attorney General, may authorize a program of electronic surveillance without a court order for periods of up to 45 days if--
    (1) the President determines that the surveillance is necessary to protect the United States, its citizens, or its interests, whether inside the United States or outside the United States;

    How’s that for vague?

    This decision will be reviewed by the Attorney General (Alberto Gonzales, the guy who argued for the right to torture) and a summary of the activity reported to a Senate subcommittee, eventually. The Act also proposes keeping all congressional review secret, penalizes whistleblowers who tell if its been used in violation of the constitution with up to 15 years in prison and a one million dollar fine and provides no penalties if the government violates its own statutes.

    If you were hoping for government investigation or oversight, think again. A recent investigation of the NSA wiretapping program by the Bush Justice Department was shut down by the Bush National Security Agency because it refused to give the Bush Justice Department clearance to look at the alleged violations. When Harry Reid, Democratic Minority leader who is vice-chair of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee tried to hold a meeting on February 16th, where it was expected he would be joined by three Republicans to call for hearings on the NSA wiretaps, Bush supporter Pat Roberts from Kansas cancelled the meeting and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, threatened to restructure the committee to dictate its agenda if Reid pursued hearings.

    The administration is pursuing investigations, with the promise of prosecution of those who leaked the NSA violations and the reporters who reported it. Given the Bush administration’s secrecy, its willingness to bend the truth to accomplish its goals (WMDs, Al Qaeda/Saddam connection), signing statements saying he can ignore laws at will, its willful and unnecessary violation of FISA, and a history of punishing even Republicans who disagree with it, it is impossible to trust that they will not use this information against their political opposition or people who report their wrongdoings.

    There seems to be some discussion of implanting the real ID with the same technology that is being introduced by the National Animal Identification System (NAIS) to track every individual livestock animal with a radio traceable biochip. In the President’s proposal on immigration he wants to incorporate local police in to immigration control. Does that mean they will be able to stop people and ask for papers? Local police have already been found to be receiving funds to establish local intelligence units that have spied on peace groups, environmentalists and others. Forgive me if the more the President tells me he is out to protect me the more worried I get.

    John Kelley
    Guest Essayist

    Saturday, May 20, 2006

    CRASH!

    It is a classical truth that most representatives of the species homo sapiens sapiens are by themselves incapable of perceiving very slow motion events. Our eyes and attention spans normally do not see the growth of plants or animals, only our memory gives us a clue to the fact of growth and other slow-motion events. But, our species has developed culture and civilization, means by which we can transmit little bits of accumulated knowledge to a next generation and so on so that eventually people learning the transmitted lore might be able to distinguish patterns among those individual facts.

    With "sweeps" and season finales clogging our brainstems, with summer vacations being planned, with visions of sending children off to the next year of school or college in a few short months, with elections reduced to sound bytes and meaningless chatter about "values voting" and serious issues of separation of church and state, immigration, free trade, and all the welter of daily issues ... including the occasional badly faring war ... it is a wonder that anyone has noticed the fundamental changes being wrought by the combined effect of our government's policies and actions.

    If you come to the American Liberalism Project Blog via the website you noticed that the Iraq War has now cost about $283 billion dollars and shows no sign of letting up. What is $283 billion dollars to a country whose per capita GDP (2003) is $38,611 or $11,583,300,000,000 (eleven and a half trillion dollars)? Well it is trouble, that's what it is. The bill for this war will be paid like a mortgage with the interest accumulating over the years to many times the actual money spent on bullets, stinger missiles, medical costs, flags, and salaries for colonels and soldiers.

    The bill may very well break the bank in a way that none of the "kill the beast" welfare state haters imagined. The bill will land heavily in the midst of an economy that much later than necessary discovered that it will be converting from a petroleum economy to something else ... or else! The bill will land on an economy where the middle class is thinning out and the rich are richer, but less taxed than at any time in memory. The bill will land on educational systems, medical care, and all the hopes and dreams of people whose only reason for banding together in nations and states is to enjoy a "commonwealth" of benefits, such as security of currency, neighborhood, life and limb.

    In fact the bill for all of "this" will probably not be exportable very much longer. We export our debts by keying crucial imports and exports to an idealized dollar. I am not an economist, so I have take much of this on faith. Apparently, according to Mike Whitney's article last week in OpEdNews, Inevitable Collapse of the Greenback the faith of whole countries is wearing thin. Iran has made its move. China will not be far behind. Venezuela has no interest in propping up George, nor do the majority of folk around this planet. They saw the vote in 2004, and because of it they do not care what happens to about half of Americans.

    With Reagan we had voodoo economics (so-called by the elder Bush) and now with the junior Bush we have a serious situation of a amoral, spoiled kid following the advice of lunatic fringe extremists. They knew from Day One that they would not be around to deal with the aftermath of their deeds, but like very bad kids who have set fire to the family dog, they are hoping like hell the dog doesn't crash through into their club house. Does anyone think that this administration has the brains to deal with the impending disaster?

    James Richard Brett

    Friday, May 19, 2006

    Nancy Pelosi


    Over the past two weeks there have been any number of news and opinion articles published that purport to understand the politics of impeaching George W. Bush and his friends. Last Friday's Washington Post contained such an article, written by the good soldier Charles Babbington.

    Other articles, to which I will not link because they too are not worth the electrons to paint on your computer screen, have jumped all over Mrs. Pelosi for "dumping the Constitution," collusion with President Bush, and working for the RNC. To all these people whose editors do not give a damn what they say (or tell them exactly what to say), I say, y'all need a little lesson in humility and a big lesson in arithmetic. You should give up journalism and get a job!

    The minority party in the House and the minority party in the Senate do not chair any committees. They have "ranking members" in committees, but "ranking" is not Chair, and not being Chair (or majority party) means that you have virtually no control over the agenda or conduct of that committee. The work that Rep. Conyers is doing amounts to private staff work at this point ... and, make no mistake, it is valuable work, nevertheless.

    The minority party does not win committee or floor votes along party lines. That's what being the minority means. It means you come in second; even if you "try harder," you will not be able to pass your resolutions, bills, articles of impeachment, etc. So, DUH!

    What do you expect Nancy Pelosi or any Democrat to say as the long hot summer before an election begins? Nancy Pelosi will probably become the first femme Speaker of the House of Representatives if the Democrats win in November. Not only will she be able to appoint Democratic chairs to committees, but she will be able to set committee agendas and will be able to maneuver agendas onto the floor when she and the Party believe they Constitutionally belong there. That is all you can say at this point.

    Until November, though, anything she says is going to be taken up by Republicans as the rattling of sabres and beating of war drums. She does not need to get Democrats into a frenzy over impeachment ... we are already pretty pissed off and our teeth have been clenched for well over five and a half long years. And, she does not need to get Republicans ... who are presently stunned at the utter wasteland that George Bush & Co. have made of their party ... up in arms and out recruiting votes for their candidates.

    The final inexorable mathematics of this is that Democrats have to win in November. With Rove about to be indicted (they say), we hope, and Dick Cheney's skin being measured by the local taxidermists at Justice, too, we suspect that the Republicans will continue their melt down all the way to through to 2008 or further and that Democrats could be looking at a landslide. Why screw that up!

    In other words, you jackals and hyenas of the blogs and press, do you really think that the American public is that moronic? People understand the arithmetic, even if you do not.

    James Richard Brett

    Thursday, May 18, 2006

    America The Bully


    "The time has come to redesign the American flag with the white stripes painted black and the stars replaced by skull and crossbones." So spoke Mark Twain after news leaked out of the atrocities committed by American troops during the U.S. takeover of the Philippines at the beginning of the 20th century. The American people do not know their own history and thereby fail to see the pattern of the takeover by force that our government has engaged in since the Queen of Hawaii was deposed in 1893 with the help of a U.S. gunboat offshore. The Americans who promoted the annexation of Hawaii were sugar growers who were the children of missionaries and who wanted their sugar to enter the U.S. free of tariffs. The annexation by the U.S. would achieve that. Because business interests wanted to make more profit, a whole culture lost its ability to manage the resources and laws of their nation. The U.S. government supplied the force, which could legitimately be called an act of terrorism, to threaten the Hawaiian people with attack should they resist.

    Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines came next. All were forced to submit to the will of the U.S. government and faced terrible physical retribution from a stronger military force. All were forced to allow U.S. military presence on their soil and U.S. business to control their resources, land, labor and laws. Any nation who stood up and fought against this takeover in an effort to keep or regain control of their country, has been subjected to covert actions to remove effective or democratically leaders, military interference to subdue popular movements, embargo, financial penalties and human rights abuses by the strongest, biggest, baddest military in the world, directed by the leaders in the U.S. government.

    In his book Rogue Nation, William Blum lists 54 pages of U.S. military interventions just since 1945! Stephen Kinzer, in his book Overthrow, details 14 U.S. interventions which destroyed democratic governments. Marine General Smedly Butler laid it on the line in his book War is a Racket! in which he lamented that he and his Marines had made the world safe for (and opened to) the bankers and the corporations at the expense of young blood. Soldiers have died and suffered for generations to expand business interests.

    The American people fail for the most part to see us as others see us. We have been fed lies about the people and nations our government has used military force against. Covert actions have been kept secret from us. Those who are trying to free their country are declared enemies and labeled communists, socialists, terrorists evil and whatever.

    The facts show that the true agenda of our government, using our blood and money, is to expand it's control with more military bases and to open those countries to the multi-national banks and businesses. No democracy is spread, no freedom or better life, those who are forced to follow the rules imposed by the US lose their rights to manage their country for the benefit of their people and make their own laws. Our government uses the terror of force to impose its' will and has done so for 113 years. There you have it.

    I know this is not what the American people envision as the American Dream. We do wish the world well and want every person to be free and have food, clean water, shelter and the opportunity to live in security to live one's potential. We believe that government should be by the people and for the people. We must recognize that ours has not and does not function by us or for us. We need only look around us to see that our own nation is looking pretty shabby right now. Our debt is out of sight, $8 trillion dollars, which we the people are responsible for. Meanwhile the very rich 10% have increased their wealth, funded by those very tax dollars we are in debt for. Our debt is their tax break. Huge profits are being made by the oil companies which receive equally huge tax breaks and subsidies from the government. War businesses like Haliburton and arms manufacturers are reporting record profits from the taxes allocated to pay for the war. The "War on Terror" what a laugh, how did we ever fall for that one? An endless war against an unseen enemy used to keep the tax dollars flowing into the coffers of the very rich, very powerful businesses who are in bed with our government.

    If we truly were directing our government wouldn't we have a decent health care system, a clean environment, great education for all our people, all our people fed and housed, healthy food to eat, a prosperous economy and a foreign policy that was fair, just and peace seeking? You bet we would.

    Given the increasing secrecy of our government and the imposition of laws that seek to gag, monitor and control us, we must recognize the situation we are in and resist and reject a government which does not function on our behalf and does not follow the ideals we believe in.

    We must revoke the laws that give corporations the rights of "personhood" and strip them of the right to interfere in politics and lawmaking. We must take charge of our voting system and determine the design of our voting machines, ballots and how we want to "interview" the candidates and maybe even test them to see if they are mentally and experientially competent. Popular elections and run-off voting would be two steps to open elections up to more than the two party system. There are solutions to reclaiming our government, but first we have to recognize the problem.

    Sue Dyer
    Guest Essayist

    Wednesday, May 17, 2006

    John Adams on Government

    "Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people, who have... a right, an indisputable, unalienable, indefeasible, divine right to that most dreaded and envied kind of knowledge, I mean the characters and conduct of their rulers."

    John Adams, Individual Rights

    Of all the Founding Fathers, John Adams was in a most unenviable position. Following, in office, as he did George Washington, Father of his Country, he had large shoes to fill. It is perhaps our great good fortune, to have had as our first President, those men who were instrumental in the founding of the country and the framing of our Constitution. They had written the rules, now they had the opportunity to put action to words.

    I give to you here, an example, in the form of a letter Adams wrote, of their commitment to making this new government and nation the best on earth. One which should stand as a beacon to others. It is clear, in it's reading, that this current administration has fallen so far from the ideals, hopes and expectations we should fear for our freedom. Indeed we do have great reason to fear.

    USA: J. Adams - Thoughts on Government

    Susan B. Goodwin

    Tuesday, May 16, 2006

    The Threat of Hugo Chavez?

    The likes of Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell would have you believe that they are about the Lord's work, when in reality, nothing could be further from the truth. I recall nothing in Jesus' words that called for the assasination of individuals with whom one disagreed, and yet we have seen Robertson do precisely that when he called for the state sanctioned murder of Hugo Chavez, the duly elected President of Venezula.

    We thought you might like to read about the person who Robertson considers such an enemy of the US. I am sure that President Chavez would be pleased that more people understand what he has done, and continues to do, for the people of his country. Please read on.

    Chávez is a threat because he offers the alternative of a decent society

    Venezuela's president is using oil revenues to liberate the poor - no wonder his enemies want to overthrow him


    John Pilger
    Saturday May 13, 2006
    The Guardian

    I have spent the past three weeks filming in the hillside barrios of Caracas, in streets and breeze-block houses that defy gravity and torrential rain and emerge at night like fireflies in the fog. Caracas is said to be one of the world's toughest cities, yet I have known no fear; the poorest have welcomed my colleagues and me with a warmth characteristic of ordinary Venezuelans but also with the unmistakable confidence of a people who know that change is possible and who, in their everyday lives, are reclaiming noble concepts long emptied of their meaning in the west: "reform", "popular democracy", "equity", "social justice" and, yes, "freedom".

    The other night, in a room bare except for a single fluorescent tube, I heard these words spoken by the likes of Ana Lucia Fernandez, aged 86, Celedonia Oviedo, aged 74, and Mavis Mendez, aged 95. A mere 33-year-old, Sonia Alvarez, had come with her two young children. Until about a year ago, none of them could read and write; now they are studying mathematics. For the first time in its modern era, Venezuela has almost 100% literacy.
    This achievement is due to a national programme, called Mision Robinson, designed for adults and teenagers previously denied an education because of poverty. Mision Ribas is giving everyone a secondary school education, called a bachillerato. (The names Robinson and Ribas refer to Venezuelan independence leaders from the 19th century.) Named, like much else here, after the great liberator Simon Bolivar, "Bolivarian", or people's, universities have opened, introducing, as one parent told me, "treasures of the mind, history and music and art, we barely knew existed". Under Hugo Chávez, Venezuela is the first major oil producer to use its oil revenue to liberate the poor.

    Mavis Mendez has seen, in her 95 years, a parade of governments preside over the theft of tens of billions of dollars in oil spoils, much of it flown to Miami, together with the steepest descent into poverty ever known in Latin America; from 18% in 1980 to 65% in 1995, three years before Chávez was elected. "We didn't matter in a human sense," she said. "We lived and died without real education and running water, and food we couldn't afford. When we fell ill, the weakest died. In the east of the city, where the mansions are, we were invisible, or we were feared. Now I can read and write my name, and so much more; and whatever the rich and their media say, we have planted the seeds of true democracy, and I am full of joy that I have lived to witness it."

    Latin American governments often give their regimes a new sense of legitimacy by holding a constituent assembly that drafts a new constitution. When he was elected in 1998, Chávez used this brilliantly to decentralise, to give the impoverished grassroots power they had never known and to begin to dismantle a corrupt political superstructure as a prerequisite to changing the direction of the economy. His setting-up of misions as a means of bypassing saboteurs in the old, corrupt bureaucracy was typical of the extraordinary political and social imagination that is changing Venezuela peacefully. This is his "Bolivarian revolution", which, at this stage, is not dissimilar to the post-war European social democracies.

    Chávez, a former army major, was anxious to prove he was not yet another military "strongman". He promised that his every move would be subject to the will of the people. In his first year as president in 1999, he held an unprecedented number of votes: a referendum on whether or not people wanted a new constituent assembly; elections for the assembly; a second referendum ratifying the new constitution - 71% of the people approved each of the 396 articles that gave Mavis and Celedonia and Ana Lucia, and their children and grandchildren, unheard-of freedoms, such as Article 123, which for the first time recognised the human rights of mixed-race and black people, of whom Chávez is one. "The indigenous peoples," it says, "have the right to maintain their own economic practices, based on reciprocity, solidarity and exchange ... and to define their priorities ... " The little red book of the Venezuelan constitution became a bestseller on the streets. Nora Hernandez, a community worker in Petare barrio, took me to her local state-run supermarket, which is funded entirely by oil revenue and where prices are up to half those in the commercial chains. Proudly, she showed me articles of the constitution written on the backs of soap-powder packets. "We can never go back," she said.

    In La Vega barrio, I listened to a nurse, Mariella Machado, a big round black woman of 45 with a wonderfully wicked laugh, stand and speak at an urban land council on subjects ranging from homelessness to the Iraq war. That day, they were launching Mision Madres de Barrio, a programme aimed specifically at poverty among single mothers. Under the constitution, women have the right to be paid as carers, and can borrow from a special women's bank. From next month, the poorest housewives will get about £120 a month. It is not surprising that Chávez has now won eight elections and referendums in eight years, each time increasing his majority, a world record. He is the most popular head of state in the western hemisphere, probably in the world. That is why he survived, amazingly, a Washington-backed coup in 2002. Mariella and Celedonia and Nora and hundreds of thousands of others came down from the barrios and demanded that the army remain loyal. "The people rescued me," Chávez told me. "They did it with all the media against me, preventing even the basic facts of what had happened. For popular democracy in heroic action, I suggest you need look no further."

    The venomous attacks on Chávez, who arrives in London tomorrow, have begun and resemble uncannily those of the privately owned Venezuelan television and press, which called for the elected government to be overthrown. Fact-deprived attacks on Chávez in the Times and the Financial Times this week, each with that peculiar malice reserved for true dissenters from Thatcher's and Blair's one true way, follow a travesty of journalism on Channel 4 News last month, which effectively accused the Venezuelan president of plotting to make nuclear weapons with Iran, an absurd fantasy. The reporter sneered at policies to eradicate poverty and presented Chávez as a sinister buffoon, while Donald Rumsfeld was allowed to liken him to Hitler, unchallenged. In contrast, Tony Blair, a patrician with no equivalent democratic record, having been elected by a fifth of those eligible to vote and having caused the violent death of tens of thousands of Iraqis, is allowed to continue spinning his truly absurd political survival tale.

    Chávez is, of course, a threat, especially to the United States. Like the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, who based their revolution on the English co-operative moment, and the moderate Allende in Chile, he offers the threat of an alternative way of developing a decent society: in other words, the threat of a good example in a continent where the majority of humanity has long suffered a Washington-designed peonage. In the US media in the 1980s, the "threat" of tiny Nicaragua was seriously debated until it was crushed. Venezuela is clearly being "softened up" for something similar. A US army publication, Doctrine for Asymmetric War against Venezuela, describes Chávez and the Bolivarian revolution as the "largest threat since the Soviet Union and Communism". When I said to Chávez that the US historically had had its way in Latin America, he replied: "Yes, and my assassination would come as no surprise. But the empire is in trouble, and the people of Venezuela will resist an attack. We ask only for the support of all true democrats."

    · John Pilger's new book, Freedom Next Time, is published next month by Bantam Press www.johnpilger.com

    Monday, May 15, 2006

    Work Forever

    A recent blog by Jim Brett titled Compromise and Cooption talks about a Liberal Compromise and the groups that comprised the force behind this compromise. He points out that for the average worker it appeared to be a bargain that would bring with it economic security in exchange for accepting that the movement would not move left into a wholesale acceptance of socialism. He points out that the key was a compromise of economics. We wouldn’t nationalize key industries; in exchange the leaders of labor were promised more and more of the economic pie and with them the workers they represented. And, as he points out for awhile it worked. It turns out however to have been a Faustian bargain whose results are now being felt and with real pain by labor. Look at what has happened as a result of that bargain.

    General Motors’ announcement that that it would no longer provide traditional pensions to its employees hired after 2001 was stunning because of its size. Yet GM is hardly alone in trying to pare down or eliminate conventional pensions. Every day, from healthy companies like Verizon to bankrupt firms like Delphi, there seems to be a new announcement. United Airlines, Bethlehem Steel, Motorola, Lockheed Martin, IBM, Hewlett Packard, along with many other pillars of our economy, have frozen their pension plans, insisting they cannot afford to keep their promises.

    The impact of simply wiping out traditional pensions resonates far beyond corporate boardrooms and company shareholders. It’s a unilateral move to cut out a main clause of our social contract, the model that a majority of Americans and their families have relied on for nearly three quarters of a century.

    Are we really ready as a society to declare the end of retirement as we know it? In order to retire, must employees now bear all the costs and take all the risks? And at the very least, shouldn’t we have a serious, national conversation before we simply accept a major shift that will have such a significant impact on our economy and the quality of life in our country for generations to come?

    Traditionally, pensions were part of a three-legged stool of retirement: Social Security, personal savings and private pensions from employers. Each leg is essential to ensuring that Americans can retire without fear of being desperate or a huge drain on family, friends, church or community.Yet Americans are having a difficult time saving. With stagnant wages and the escalating costs of housing, gasoline and college, many are just living paycheck to paycheck. That leaves pensions.

    For most of the late 20th century, employers offered defined-benefit plans, pensions in which retirees received a fixed sum each month based on their length of service and income. By contrast, today’s newer defined-contribution plans, known as 401(k)s, give wage earners a tax break for putting part of their own salary into an account which they can draw on after they retire.

    It’s not surprising that employers prefer defined-contribution plans. They offer the company the option of matching a worker’s contributions. But it’s just an option and a number of employers opt out. The number of American workers covered by 401(k) plans rose from 14.4 million in 1980 to nearly 60 million in 2000. Meanwhile, the number of private sector employees covered by defined-benefit plans plummeted to only one in five.

    These 401(k) plans will not be sufficient for most people to retire. The median amount of money in a 401(k) plan for individuals ages 55 to 64 is only $23,000. Most experts believe that it will take at least $200,000 to $300,000 in addition to Social Security for the average American to have a secure retirement but, the average Social Security benefit is only $12,000. Instead of having the ability to retire with some dignity, future generations of senior citizens are more likely to have to arrange to sleep on their adult children’s pull-out sofas—if they’re lucky enough to have children who can afford to help support them.

    How did retirement become so precarious? In a few years, all but the most affluent among us may have to keep working well beyond the age of 65. That’s not what we signed up for. And it’s not the way things have to be..

    Let’s not go back to an era when we saw America’s elderly eating out of garbage cans. There are many ways to ensure that Americans have a secure retirement. But let’s not pretend that everything will be alright if we do nothing as we watch corporations renege on their promises of traditional pension plans with substitutes that will not provide the same kind of coverage. We deserve a truthful conversation about the options that will provide a decent retirement for all Americans.

    David M. Goldberg

    Sunday, May 14, 2006

    Mothers Day

    Here is an article, The Myth of Marriage, that may not resonate with the greeting card moments of this Mothers day, but nevertheless has some important points to ponder.

    Marriage may have been invented for motherhood, to "insure" (on average) that children (and their moms) were given proper support during their long period of helplessness. Marriage became a vessel for transmitting property rights, of course, and among the nobility and royalty, for transmitting power.

    Moms have not faired very well under the pretenses of traditional marriage, and so this article might suggest a progressive direction to take.

    JRB

    Saturday, May 13, 2006

    Cold War

    Last Sunday I wrote about the strange behavior of Dick Cheney in Lithuania. Having a week to think about it and to use the PNAC lens on the situation, the situation seems to resolve down to this. The Iran game is probably not going to work for Dick, Donald, and George. The world is too keyed up and will instantly discern any kind of b.s. that Bush might introduce as a pretext for beginning the Iran war. Blair is on the ropes in the UK and cannot provide even the most meager assistance. In addition, Ahmadinejad has written George a letter basically indicating (between the lines) that he is afraid Bush will strike. It is a clumsy letter, but Ahmadinejad is not necessarily completely sane.

    The Cheney belligerence is designed to take the next best route to protracted war—reincarnation of the Cold War with Russia. In Putin he has a perfect stooge, presiding over an impossible mess in Russia. Cheney can work this gambit and seem like a democratic hero to his constituency, all of whom long for the good old days when the military industrial complex had on the Cold War nosebag.

    Putin is hoist on his own petard, of course, and the PNAC crew know it! If he liberalizes Russia to avoid the churlish provocations of Cheney, he will lose his own foothold on power and Russia will meander along economically crippled and politically destitute. If he continues with the deliberalization of Russia (what I called the Putinshchina), he plays into the PNAC center pocket! If you want metaphors then consider Putin's wolf cry to be a message to the world, caste in the brutal iconography of his homeland's agony. Putin knows he is trapped and that he cannot sustain another shoving match with the American arms industry!

    James Richard Brett

    Friday, May 12, 2006

    Communicating Liberalism

    In his Wednesday "Rant" at Capitol Hill Blue Doug Thompson delivered "the Pox" on "both their houses" again. (It is not worth reading, so I have not linked to it.) This time he slurred Nancy Pelosi, painting her with the same brush he used on a corrupt Democratic Representative from Florida. But, friends, isn't it enough already! Of course we know that there are (also) corrupt Democrats, and of course we depend on a non-corrupt leadership to put them in their place until the voters in their home districts come to their senses. It is tough to deal with corrupt people because you can never be sure they understand you.

    This nation was established in the full face of the idea that power corrupts and, more importantly, that civilized men and women can nevertheless perform to high standards, if they constantly remind themselves of the truth of corruption. It is important to point out corruption, but it is reckless and stupid to give up and call them all whores.

    But, Doug was not the only vituperator Wednesday. My Slate was delivered with yet another sophomoric attack on Minority Leader Pelosi, accusing her of being a double agent for the RNC! Slate is produced by the Washington Post Company and Newsweek, in case you had not noticed.

    It seems to me that half the problem is that writers write too much and too often. At the American Liberalism Project our essayists have only a once a week responsibility. They are not pushed day after day to write something. They have the opportunities of reflection, distillation, editing, simplification, clarification, and common sense. Once or twice a week is enough. I think Doug Thompson should consider writing less, backing out of the barrel he now wears, and giving us the benefit of his truly interesting experience and MUCH less of his disappointment with the human species and its politicians. As for the dude at Slate, I can only say that I read ten percent of what they send me and then only to see what direction they are going.

    Communication to the populace is tricky business. Often you cannot say exactly what is on your mind and then at other times you cannot say it often enough. In an open society (which ours still is in many respects) one communicates to the public not with a forked tongue, but with multiple purposes. When you say that Bush made a mistake you are telling your operatives to take advantage of that mistake, and you are telling your opponents that they have be uncovered ... all with the same words.

    When Bush says that he is "the decider" (re Rumsfeld) he is interpreted by the Democrats as being ego-driven, with a decidedly strange view of his office. What Bush was saying to Republicans ... for whom the stakes have become extremely dicey ... is that he, George, not Dick Cheney made the decision (in the face of press commentary that week that the Cheney-Rumsfeld team could not be cracked by George.) Whether this was to deceive Republicans or not, that's what it was about.

    Of course we all know that Nancy Pelosi has discussed the strategy of the Democrats with everyone in the Party of sufficient experience and intelligence to contribute, and THEY have decided to tell the country's Democrats that when they vote this coming November they will be voting for a civilized plan that leads toward impeachment of Buch and Cheney and perhaps others. At the same time, of course, they are ("inadvertently") telling all the Republican voters out there to get their ugly butts to the polls in November or their house of cards will come tumbling down. It is a calculate risk, no doubt about it. The way you play this game is that "the truth will out."

    Democrats are very angry these days while Republicans are very stunned by the endless ineptitude of their party and its standard bearers. Usually what happens in a situation like this is that the people with the self-righteous anger are more apt to act, while the stunned are apt to just let whatever it is happen ... namely, let the Republican Party purge itself naturally (at the polls) of the inept and stupid.

    We come to the not very surprising conclusions in all of this that (1) some people are better at communication than others, and (2) that those in the audience receiving the range of political communication they can stomach often misunderstand what they hear and read. Getting it wrong leads, of course, to anger and frustration, to confusion and paralysis, and inevitably to the old saws about the bottomless pit into which all politicians are headed. Yes, it is true that people often give up trying to understand politics because they do not have a real clue how to listen.

    Those of you who have bothered to watch the rogues gallery on the front page of the American Liberalism Project website will have noticed that in some respects the gallery is something like the fabled Kremlin Wall. Bill Clinton has not been a member of the gallery since the very early days of the website. Hillary has never been. Biden is gone. John Kerry is about to depart. Barack Obama "finessed" himself right off the wall recently as did the senior Senator from California, whose name eludes me at the moment. Steny Hoyer, the Minority Whip will never get into the group, nor will the foul-mouthed DCCC Chair from Illinois. Each of those people, whom you might expect to see but do not, have committed atrocities against Liberal principles by turning their backs on them or violating them or by inconsistent practices. In a word, they are not leaders.

    I bring this up to point out that one cannot measure a man or woman by the deeds of one day. To be political means that you have to attend to a myriad of facts and perceptions every day and be able to condense and distill from these judgments a coherent and consistent response. Most Americans do not have a clue how to do this because they have no idea about their own ideology, the set of principles upon which their politics is based.

    A recent outside commenter on an American Liberalism Project essay ranted on at length about the benefits of competition in an economy. Inevitably he got to the position that competition is the anvil of truth and justice, but he did not understand that anvils are just hard objects that require someone to act on them with purpose. The critic's philosophy was impoverished on the subject of "purpose," for he was trapped in a social Darwinist paradigm that promotes the idea of survival of the economic fittest, as if that had anything to do with the intrinsic worth of people! He knew some of the phrases and key words, but he did not understand how his thoughts are arranged in his own head. He does not have an ideology, only slogans and pat dogmas.


    Liberals judge their politicians on their promotion of Individual Liberty. They can do this by standing up for people whose liberty is clearly at stake or by using their own liberties to serve as role models.

    Liberals judge on politicians Humanity, their promotion of humane treatment for humans and the planet. They are environmentalists, nurturers, creators of programs for those who cannot help themselves.

    Liberal politicians must be Progressive and show a strong sense that improvement of our lot is not only possible but mandatory. Key to the progressive spirit is the idea that over time more and more people will attain individual liberties and more and more will be able to take full responsibility for themselves and the planet.

    Liberal politicians must have personal Ethics, consistent principles that restrain the individual from egomaniacal quests for power and celebrity, yet balance a mature respect for one's office and encourage leadership.

    Liberal politicans must demonstrate a solid commitment to the Rule of Law, effacing their own interests to promote the concept and reality that we can only survive if we are a nation of laws.


    Politics is not taught in public schools. It would be almost impossible to do so. It is taught at home by emulation and by direct instruction. It is taught in bars and talk radio and now talk television. It is piped-in subliminally in news and novels and movies and a variety of other formal ways.

    But politics is taught best when it is overt and both teacher and student can interact with one another. The best place for this is within a political party, where no one is ashamed or self-conscious about the subject. The next best place is the neighborhoods when parties are proselytizing for candidates, for during this act of politics everyone is both on guard against being duped or insulted, there are special social rules for neighborhood politicking.

    Before one gets involved in a party, though, the person has to know what the sum of his or her basic values is. That's why at the American Liberalism Project we lead off with the statement of John Fitzgerald Kennedy:


    "...if by a liberal they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people—their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights, their civil liberties—if that is what they mean by a “liberal,” then I am proud to be a liberal." -- John F. Kennedy


    James Richard Brett

    Thursday, May 11, 2006

    Corporatism

    As you know, we are decidedly against the current status and political activities of American corporations. What was once only a method of limiting the legal liability of corporate investors to the extent (percentage of the whole) of their investment has gone completely out of control, witness this article by Thom Hartmann in CommonDreams some time ago.

    JRB

    Wednesday, May 10, 2006

    Political Parties & The Founding Fathers

    Today we find it difficult to imagine not having any form of political allegiance to one party or another. We each usually proudly proclaim our affiliation with either the Democrats or the Republicans, and many work diligently to aid their party. Each party either reflects our beliefs or appeals to us with their agendas. But such has not always been the case. The idea of political parties was anathema to Washington who stated in his Farewell Address (1796) that...
    "They [political parties] serve to organize faction, to give it an artificial and extraordinary force; to put, in the place of the delegated will of the nation, the will of a party, often a small but artful and enterprising minority of the community;..."

    How prophetic those words seem today with the current administration. Surely the agenda of the Bush administration has not been to the benefit or betterment of the nation, and surely it has appealed to but a small faction of the populace, despite what election results might show. There had certainly been blatant pandering by this administration to a certain element of our society which is far from a reflection of the whole.

    It is hard to pigeonhole any of the other Founding Fathers, Madison, Hamilton, Jefferson, into any of the political parties of today. Hamilton, would have been happy to have had a monarch, provided that monarch was benevolent and kept the welfare of the nation as the highest priority. Jefferson and Madison felt the government should be tightly controlled and in no circumstances should it intrude upon decisions of the individual states. This does not separate them into liberal Democrats or conservative Republicans as we see them today. In no way shape or manner would Jefferson approve of the Republican stance on prayer in school and abortion issues. Both he and Madison would have been appalled at any central government intrusion into what they considered local issues, if not totally personal ones. Government should not intrude into the private lives of it's citizens. One can only imagine their horror at the Terri Schiavo debacle or the religious rantings of the likes of Jerry Farwell and Pat Robertson. The role of central government as they saw it was national defense, trade both international and national, and international relations.

    In contrast, Hamilton would have had the government strictly controlling just about everything. He would have been on the positive side of prayer in school, abortion would not be allowed and he would have been a card carrying member of the NRA, as he felt everyone should be a gun owner, even if they did not feel the need or were opposed to that ownership. He would have had the President decide all and there would be no state or local governments. Congress should be in charge of raising monies and hand it directly to the President, to use at his discretion. The powers that be today would have reveled in that sort of government, and it seems they are doing their level best to achieve those ends.

    With his words, "...give me liberty or give me death.". Patrick Henry managed to state his political beliefs. He was most strongly opposed to any form of governmental intrusion into the private lives of it's citizens. The spectre of tyranny is what had brought him to his feet in Virginia's House of Burgesses, and led to those immortal words. His challenge that day, to his contemporaries, was their acceptance of slavery or freedom, based on the Crown's intrusion into their lives. Today's wiretapping government would surely have sent him into apoplexy.
    John Adams looked upon government as a benevolent parent, seeing government's role of helping those who were in need. Although a Federalist, today he would most likely be deemed a liberal. In this Hamilton and Adams were the most closely aligned. However, all of them were more or less opposed to any political party structure, seeing in them an entity not in line with the common good but rather a vehicle for separating one group of citizens from the other, pushing the agenda of one group rather than working for the good of all.

    And what if they should return today to see the state of what they labored so long and hard for? Would they be heartsick over the turn of events in the Republic that they labored so long and hard to create? Benjamin Franklin, the philosopher of the group, perhaps said it best. When, as he left Constitution Hall, he was asked..."Well Doctor, what have we got, a Republic or a Monarchy?" Dr. James McHenry, a Maryland delegate, heard Franklin reply. "A Republic, if you can keep it."

    I will leave you with a return to Washington and those prophetic words from his Farewell Address...

    "However combinations or associations of the above description (political parties) may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely, in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people, and to usurp for themselves the reins of government; destroying afterwards the very engines, which have lifted them to unjust dominion."

    Susan B. Goodwin

    Monday, May 08, 2006

    Echoes of Fascism: Rhetoric We've Heard Before (from February 6, 2006)

    "My administration has focused the nation's resources on our highest priority - protecting our citizens and our homeland," Bush said in his budget message. "Working with Congress, we have given our men and women on the front lines in the war on terror the funding they need to defeat the enemy and detect, disrupt and dismantle terrorist plots and operations."

    "An evil exists that threatens every man, woman and child of this great nation. We must take steps to ensure our domestic security and protect our homeland." -Adolph Hitler

    According to Dr. Lawrence Britt's "14 Defining Characteristics of Fascism," we are in big trouble here in the Disunited States of America. While the American right continues to laugh at our comparisons of Bush's ongoing rhetoric and the rhetoric of fascist dictator Adolf Hitler, it is no laughing matter.

    We do not make these comparisons lightly, nor do they give us joy.

    Dr. Britt named these as the fourteen defining characteristics of fascism:


    • Powerful and continuing nationalism
    • Disdain for the recognition of human rights
    • Identification of enemies as a unifying cause
    • Supremacy of the military
    • Rampant sexism
    • Controlled mass media
    • Obsession with national security
    • Religion and government intertwined
    • Corporate power protected
    • Labor power suppressed
    • Disdain for intellectuals and the arts
    • Obsession with crime and punishment
    • Rampant cronyism and corruption
    • Fraudulent elections

    The talking heads of the radical right like to point out that Hitler belonged to his country's socialist party, but I ask them to consider this: If you run far enough to the left, you will eventually cross over into the right. The political spectrum is really more of a circle, not a straight line. In addition, using a socialist platform to win the hearts and minds of the people does not make one a socialist. Kind of like how using a platform of "compassionate conservatism" doesn't automatically make one compassionate or conservative.

    Our current government promotes unquestioning patriotism, policies of torture and indefinite detainment without access to counsel, identification of Islamic terrorists as something all US citizens must live in fear of every day, the importance of strengthening our military while cutting funding for other government programs, the abolition of the legal right for a woman to make her own health decisions, and discrimination against homosexuals. Our mainstream mass media is controlled by the right. Our President is obsessed with national security, maintaining the power of corporations to drive policy, pollute the environment, and ship American jobs overseas and south of the border. The American right shows a clear disdain for labor unions and their objectives. Intellectuals are not respected for their knowledge, but mocked. The very word "intellectual" is used as an insult by the right. The conservative-heavy US government is constantly touting its "tough on crime" image while simultaneously languishing in more corruption than the majority of Americans are even aware of. And our elections have become a worldwide joke.

    It's more than a little bit scary.

    And what is scarier is the fanaticism with which right-wing commentators support our descent into fascism. In her August 17, 2005 column, conservative radical Ann Coulter (best known of late for her suggestion that someone assassinate Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens) had this to say, "America has been under relentless attack from Islamic terrorists for 20 years, culminating in a devastating attack on U.S. soil on 9/11 . It's not going to stop unless we fight back, annihilate Muslim fanatics, destroy their bases, eliminate their sponsors and end all their hope." She is also well-known for saying, a few years ago, that we should invade Muslim countries, kill their leaders, and convert them to Christianity. Coulter, of course, is widely considered a hack and a radical, so let's not stop there.

    The American right shudders in disgust when a liberal accuses the government or the right-wing media of propagating fascist policies. However, they aren't so disgusted that they can't use the same words to describe us:

    "In Newton County, Georgia, the ACLU threatened a school board with litigation if it didn't remove the words 'Christmas holiday' from the school calendar. The county caved and removed the words because it couldn't afford to defend the lawsuit. This, ladies and gentlemen, is fascism, that is, using the threat of terror, which a lawsuit is, to promote policy" (Bill O'Reilly, The O'Reilly Factor, 1/2/03).

    Of course, it is more than appropriate for the President of the United States to use the constant threat of terrorism to justify the illegal torture of detainees, the illegal denial of counsel to detainees, the illegal wiretapping of American citizens, the illegal, no forget it, I don't have enough time to write this list.

    The truth is, the right wing has taken over all branches of the United States government consistently using the threat of terrorism and the memory of September 11th. This wreaks of fascism.

    And our government will continue to travel toward becoming a fascist regime if we do not fight for change.

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