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Sunday, July 27, 2008

McCain Melts Down
(Ronald McDonald Rejects VP Offer)

by David Michael Green
July 25, 2008

I'm not exactly sure what (former?) chief economic advisor to the McCain campaign Phil Gramm would say nowadays about his pal John's current situation, but I wouldn't be surprised if it included the word 'whiney'.

The only thing more egregious than the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune pummeling any Republican candidate for president in 2008 is the bunglingly inept campaign of a guy who's been in politics forever, and even run for president once before.

No small part of the campaign's ineptness is its predicate, either. McCain sold his soul eight years ago, when he let Rove bugger him like some mere Democrat, spreading rumors in South Carolina about the old man's sanity and about how his adopted daughter from Bangladesh is actually a love child from a liaison with a black woman.

It was lame enough that McCain didn't just let loose and open a can of whoop-ass on Bush during the subsequent debate (which might have gotten him the nomination, given how much terrified GOP primary voters appreciate violent tendencies in their politicians), but then it just got worse, as the defeated war hero later traipsed around the country campaigning for the victorious war avoider. And then it got even worse yet at the convention in 2004, as McCain fawned all over Bush and ever since has gone to the wall supporting the Iraq debacle, transparently the worst foreign policy cock-up in American history, and somewhat less transparently its greatest crime.

Now we see McCain committing stupid mistake after stupid mistake in a campaign that already once experienced a near-death experience from precisely such ineptitude. All this, it's worth remembering, in a year in which any Republican running for president would need to be near perfect to have the slightest prayer of winning. Americans have hardly ever been more surly about their politics, nor despised an incumbent quite so much.

They've never in recorded polling history expressed so much conviction that the country is headed in the wrong direction. The country is fighting two endless and losing wars. Just about every economic barometer in existence is in record awful condition, ranging from national debt to personal debt, from the trade deficit to the value of the dollar, from inflation to unemployment, from the Dow to mortgage meltdowns. That alone should be plenty to sink the aspirations of any representative of the incumbent party faster than a gaping hole in a concrete barge.

Remember the question Ronald Reagan used so devastatingly against Jimmy Carter in 1980?

"Are you better off than you were four years ago?"

Like any good Republican campaign tactic, it was a lie, rooted in an appeal to the public's most base attitudes. But, also like any good Republican campaign tactic, it worked great. It was a lie because conservatism was in fact the reason that people were less well off, and would be even more so after the thirty years of conservative policy ascendency which would follow. And it was base because the question - especially from such a cardboard cowboy patriot like Reagan - should have been, "Is the country better off than it was four years ago?"

In any case, I hope Obama has the smarts to use either variation, and never cease to remind voters, when he does, that this was Reagan's question, in order to innoculate it from any plausible response from that (nauseatingly frequently) self-described "foot-soldier in the Reagan revolution", John McCain. (Of course, McCain never mentions the part about how Ronnie and Nancy disowned him and wouldn't talk to him anymore, after McCain unceremoniously and selfishly dumped his first wife, who happened to be their good friend. After that, he became the door mat in the Reagan revolution.)

Anyhow, combine all of that with the corruption, arrogance, bungling and lies, with Katrina and Guantanamo and Social Security, with torture and domestic spying and ruined reputation abroad - put all of this together and it would be a miracle if any Republican could possibly win this year.

There just aren't enough swiftboaters out there to put this Humpty-Dumpty back together.

There just aren't enough looking glasses to step through before this Republican disaster can be twisted sufficiently into something that even vaguely resembles a desirable government. Even those greatest purveyors of those most absurd fairytales, evangelical preachers, don't have the heart for it this year. And why would they? Having seen that they can influence politics, they are learning that it's a two-way street, brother.

George W. Bush is many things, but a recruiter for the religious right is not one of them. It doesn't require a prophet to see that their (not so) little pious enterprises are going to go the same way as Republican members of Congress if they continue to be associated with the Boy Wonder.

So, this is the landscape for John McCain, on top of which, he's a ripe old geezer who can't tell a Facebook from the Internets, who can't effectively deliver a speech to save his life, and he's running against an opponent who regularly gets compared to Jack Kennedy, not to mention endorsed by Teddy. The guy, in short, steps out of the gate having to run an inspired campaign to even have a prayer under these conditions, and instead he clunks along from one ham-handed debacle to another. Is this what they mean by hoof-and-mouth disease?

The Phil Gramm bit was priceless. There's the GOP desperate to prove that they care about equally desperate middle class voters - not just the Greenwich, Connecticut set - and here comes McCain's top economic advisor to tell economically wounded Americans that they're just making it all up, this nation of whiners.


Though not quite as astute as McCain's claim that Gramm doesn't speak for him, on the very same day in which Gramm was doing precisely that, representing the boss before the Wall Street Journal editorial board (now there's a pair to draw to!).

And let's just talk about whiners for just a sec, shall we?

Remember all these last weeks as the hapless McCain, trying desperately to find something that would stick against the opponent his campaign has now come in frustration to refer to as "The One", ragged on and on about how Obama hadn't been to Iraq recently, and about how he hadn't made the obligatory pilgrimage to the tent of Deity Dave Petreaus?

Yeah, well, Obama called his bluff and went rampaging around the Middle East with just about the entire American news establishment in tow (snide comments from the McCain camp referred to the few remaining reporters left to cover boring stuff like Republican presidents or would-be Republican presidents, as the "JV Squad"). All this press attention on Obama only gave McCain something new to whine about, as The One drowned out completely any hope of McCain getting any news traction during The Sojourn. First Obama's a jerk because he hasn't gone to Iraq, then he's a jerk because he did. Way to go, John. No doubt you'll be picking up votes in droves with that attitude.

Actually, though, given the caliber of the campaign he's running, McCain's lack of press coverage might not be such a bad thing. The McCain team's idea of a cool press event is to run up to Kennebunkport and hang with Poppy Bush, the much-loved father of the much-loved president who brought us the much-loved war Obamster was off trying to figure out how to end. What in the world were they thinking?

That the 84 year-old ex-prez was the only guy with his boots still above ground that their candidate could stand next to and actually look younger? That the Bush family endorsement will bring a 'surge' of voters to carry McCain over the finish-line this November? Wow, that's some strategic acumen, eh? Take good notes, children - you don't very often get to see pros in action at the top of their game like this.

The only stupider public relations screw-up I've seen in American politics for a long time was when a Republican presidential candidate secured the nomination in the primaries and rushed off the very next day to be photographed at the White House with the despised current president from his same party.

What was that idiot's name? Holy cow, Batman!, that was McCain too! Wham! Kapow! Thwack!

You can tell how deeply the handwriting has been jack-hammered into the wall when Obama goes to Iraq and gets an endorsement from the Prime Minister there for his troop withdrawal plan. Didn't any wisp of a raison d'etre for the entire McCain campaign just immediately evaporate into thin air at the moment the supposedly sovereign government of the country we invaded said we should get the hell out, just like Obama wants, and just when Obama wants?

The outrageousness McCain's response was matched only by its ho-hum coverage in the media.

Maybe we've all just grown too comfortable with a Republican arrogance that could make Caesar blush, but when McCain pooh-poohed Maliki's polite but firm get-the-hell-out request by pulling rank and claiming "I know what Iraqis want", this entire country should have fallen of its collective chair. So let me see if I have this straight: We went to Iraq to fight for freedom and democracy, but the democratically elected government of this sovereign state, which we fully support, is less qualified than John McCain to decide when the occupying force which invaded their homeland should buzz off? He knows what the Iraqi people want and need better than their own prime minister?

I guess it does make sense if we remember that McCain is the foreign policy expert in the race.

He won't have a learning curve in the White House. He's the guy you can trust when that call comes in at 3:00... Oops, sorry, wrong political prostitute. Anyhow, you get the idea. One small problem, though. Every other time the guy opens his mouth he demonstrates one of two things, neither one of which exactly emerges from his campaign's playbook. Either he isn't quite the foreign policy guru we're supposed to believe he is, or he's, ahem, having some senior moments here and there. Which is not entirely unexpected given that he is, well, you know... senior. Either way, on some days he is running a better campaign against himself than is Obama.

Memo to McCain, the great foreign policy expert in the campaign: Czechoslovakia is not a country. Repeat, not a country. Hasn't been for about 15 years now. Stop using the term.

Especially, don't use it three times in a row!

Memo #2: If you're gonna be a foreign-policy expert, get your freakin' Sunnis and Shiites straight, whouldya?

In this particular decade, it matters. And, no, it won't do to have Joe Lieberman standing behind you holding your crib sheet. Unless, that is, you plan to have him in bed with you every night, just in case that call comes in at 3:00 AM. And, if you do, then you've got a different problem, and don't expect to be getting any votes from Republicans in November.

Maybe Hillary would be available, but then Republican voters don't care much for adultery either. Oops, I mean adultery committed by Democrats.

Memo #3: You'd probably be right, as you stated just the other day, about the urgency of securing the Iraq-Pakistan border. Under one condition, that is - that there was such a thing.

There isn't in the real world, John, so it doesn't look real good when the guy, whose only remotely plausible rationale for winning the election is to continue scaring enough people about national security one more time, tells us all how important this is.

Memo #4: Vladimir Putin is not the president of Germany.

In fact, if you want to get all technical about it, he's not the president of any country right now.

But he was the president of this really big country called Russia (no, it's not the Soviet Union anymore - that went out along with Czechoslovakia), and you should probably know something about it and its government if you're going to be the go-to guy when that phone rings at...

Of course, the McCain campaign describes all the attention to these boners as unfair media coverage, to match the fawning treatment given to Mr. Senator The One. Apart from the fact that my dictionary defines such complaints as "pathetic whining", it beggars belief that John McCain, of all people on the planet, could complain about unfair media coverage.

This guy has been stroking the press for decades, and they've been returning the favor in spades, with hardly ever an unfavorable article written about him or his flip-flops or his skanky associations, and hardly ever a report where his name is mentioned and the word "maverick" is not. This is no pot calling the kettle black. This is a concentration-of-matter-so-dense-that-its-gravitational-pull-actually-sucks-light-waves-into-its-complete-darkness black-hole calling the kettle black.

It's all going completely wrong for McCain, ranging from every voter Bush alienates to every mistake McCain makes to every one Obama doesn't. And because it's falling apart so very badly, the desperation and ugliness is starting to set in - not coincidentally - with the new campaign staff drafted directly from Karl Rove Political Assassinations, Kneecappings and General Mayhem, Inc.

McCain relentlessly hammers Obama for supposedly having gotten it wrong on the surge, and for continuing to refuse to admit that. Meanwhile - even assuming he is right about that, and it is not at all clear that this was the factor which brought down violence in Iraq - McCain is stupid to play that game. Okay, who was right on the whole friggin' war then, John, from the very beginning?

Hint: it's not the guy in the same political party as George W. Bush.

But the bigger question is, who cares? Does anyone think that voters are going to choose their president in 2008 on the basis of their Iraq policy?

And even if they were to, would they pick the guy who wants to stay on the same path we've been on in Iraq? And even if they somehow want that, are they willing to choose someone because of that, despite his desire to continue the same economic policies that are currently crippling most voters?

McCain looks as pathetic as he truly is beating this dead horse relentlessly. But now it's gone farther than that even. This week McCain described Obama - who, by the way, never fails to honor and admire McCain before disagreeing with him on policy questions - as someone who "would rather lose a war in order to win a political campaign".

That sort of sleazy personal attack is way beyond the pale, especially when describing one of the few brave souls in American politics who opposed the war from the very beginning, back when doing so was a serious political liability, especially for anyone ever contemplating running for president. I felt bad for McCain when the Rove pigs savaged him in 2000. But now he has become them, and I am reminded of other pigs, those being observed at the end of Orwell's Animal Farm: "The creatures outside looked from Rove to McCain, and from McCain to Rove, and from Rove to McCain again; but already it was impossible to say which was which."

Regressivism is a sickness, and it has infected John McCain, who now appears to be capable of saying or doing most anything to gain the presidency.

Fortunately, however, there's just enough health left in the American body politic that the metastisizing cancer of the last thirty years is likely to be ingloriously expelled this November.

And John McCain, its latest avatar, with it - just another political hack seeking personal affirmation through presidential ambition. Indeed, one so seized with the need to be president that he no longer recognizes the irony that he has become the personal embodiment of precisely the opposite of his self-description - a man who puts country ahead of self.

If that were the case, McCain would fire the Rovots he's staffed his campaign with, apologize for ever having been a Republican, beg forgiveness from the Iraqi people, and vote for Obama on November 4th.

None of that will happen, of course, but very likely it won't matter anyhow.

As far as I can see, about the only thing which could possibly save John McCain right now, in the America of 2008, would be if he were running against, say, a black man, as the Democratic presidential nominee.


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

"Dead Zone" In The Gulf Of Mexico Now Bigger Than Ever

By Michael Graczyk
Huffington Post
July 23, 2008

Researchers say a "dead zone" in the Gulf of Mexico off the Texas-Louisiana coast this year is likely to be the biggest ever and last longer than ever before, with marine life affected for hundreds of miles, a scientist warned.

"It's definitely the worst we've seen in the last five years," said Steve DiMarco, a Texas A&M University professor of oceanography who for 16 years has studied the Gulf of Mexico dead zone, so named because the oxygen-depleted water can kill marine life.

The phenomenon is caused when salt water loses large amounts of oxygen, a condition known as hypoxia that is typically associated with an area off the Louisiana coast at the mouth of the Mississippi River. The fresh water and salt water don't mix well, keeping oxygen from filtering through to the sea bottom, which causes problems for fish, shrimp, crabs and clams.

This year's dead zone has been aggravated by flood runoff from heavy spring rains and additional runoff moving into the Gulf from record floods along the Mississippi.

DiMarco, joined by researchers from Texas A&M and the University of Georgia, just returned from an examination of 74 sites between Terrebonne and Cameron, La. He said the most severe hypoxia levels were recorded in the mid-range depths, between 20 and 30 feet, as well as near the bottom of the sea floor at about 60 feet.

Some of the worst hypoxic levels occurred in the western Gulf toward the state line.

"We saw quite a few areas that had little or no oxygen at all at that site," DiMarco said Tuesday.

"This dead zone area is the strongest we've seen since 2004, and it's very likely the worst may be still to come."

"Since most of the water from the Midwest is still making its way down to the Gulf, we believe that wide area of hypoxia will persist through August and likely until September, when it normally ends."

Last year, DiMarco discovered a similar dead zone off the Texas coast where the rain-swollen Brazos River emptied into the Gulf.

The zone off Louisiana reached a record 7,900 square miles in 2002. A recent estimate from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Louisiana State University shows the zone, which has been monitored for about 25 years, could exceed 8,800 square miles this year, an area roughly the size of New Jersey.

DiMarco said a tropical storm or hurricane likely would have no impact on this year's zone, believed to be caused by nutrient pollution from fertilizers that empty into rivers and eventually reach the Gulf.


Monday, July 14, 2008

Coming to terms with Obama's FISA vote

By Mary Shaw
Smirking Chimp
Jul 12 2008

Still fuming over the FISA sellout, and greatly disappointed by Barack Obama's "Yea" vote [1], I decided to do more research.

What I found did help a bit, but I'm still disgusted by the fact that the telecoms who illegally spied on us now have retroactive immunity.

What I found, the thing that helped me feel a tiny bit better about all this, was a statement [2] by Barack Obama about why he decided to support the FISA bill.

In a nutshell, he voted for the bill because:

• it brings the FISA court back into the picture and demands compliance with the court;

• it requires the Inspectors General to investigate past misconduct, so maybe someone(s) -- other than the now-immune telecoms, of course -- will be exposed for their role(s) in the illegal wiretapping and perhaps even held accountable.

So he obviously put a great deal of thought into it and did what he felt was best for now. That's his prerogative.

But I still strongly oppose this legislation.

Sure, the FISA court is back as a requirement, but that never stopped the Bushies from sidestepping the court.

And the Inspectors General may launch an investigation, but we know that the Bushies are good at dodging any kind of proceedings through which they might be held accountable for their misdeeds. They just play the "state secrets" card, or the "executive privilege" card, like they're above the law. And they always seem to get away with it.

And the fact still stands that Congress gave the telecoms a get-out-of-jail-free card.

Imagine the outrage if Bill Clinton had illegally spied on us like Bush has. They probably would have used that to impeach Clinton all over again, not pass a bill supporting the activity.

But Bush -- with a 25% approval rating [3] -- gets a free pass and a Congressional blessing.


No wonder this Congress now has a 9% approval rating [4].

In an ideal world, Obama would have joined with Senators Russ Feingold, Chris Dodd, Pat Leahy, and others who firmly opposed the bill, and we would have seen a filibuster.

But this is not a perfect world, and Obama is not a perfect person. He is a politician, and this is a very important election year. We know that the Republicans will continue to play the fear card.

Hence, Obama's "Yea" vote.

Disappointed as I am, however, I will still support Obama's campaign in every way I can.

Because no one is perfect.

Because this election is about more than just one issue.

And because the alternative -- a McCain presidency -- is unthinkable.



Saturday, July 12, 2008

Is the Fourth Estate a Fifth Column?

Corporate media colludes with democracy’s demise

By Bill Moyers
July 11, 2008

I heard this story a long time ago, growing up in Choctaw County in Oklahoma before my family moved to Texas. A tribal elder was telling his grandson about the battle the old man was waging within himself. He said, “It is between two wolves, my son. One is an evil wolf: anger, envy, sorrow, greed, self-pity, guilt, resentment, lies, false pride, superiority and ego. The other is the good wolf: joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.”

The boy took this in for a few minutes and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf won?”

The old Cherokee replied simply, “The one I feed.”

Democracy is that way. The wolf that wins is the one we feed. And in our society, media provides the fodder.

Our media institutions, deeply embedded in the power structures of society, are not providing the information that we need to make our democracy work. To put it another way, corporate media consolidation is a corrosive social force. It robs people of their voice in public affairs and pollutes the political culture. And it turns the debates about profound issues into a shouting match of polarized views promulgated by partisan apologists who trivialize democracy while refusing to speak the truth about how our country is being plundered.

Our dominant media are ultimately accountable only to corporate boards whose mission is not life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for the whole body of our republic, but the aggrandizement of corporate executives and shareholders.

These organizations’ self-styled mandate is not to hold public and private power accountable, but to aggregate their interlocking interests. Their reward is not to help fulfill the social compact embodied in the notion of “We, the people,” but to manufacture news and information as profitable consumer commodities.

Democracy without honest information creates the illusion of popular consent at the same time that it enhances the power of the state and the privileged interests that the state protects. And nothing characterizes corporate media today more than its disdain toward the fragile nature of modern life and its indifference toward the complex social debate required of a free and self-governing people.

Let’s look at what is happening with the Internet. This spring the cable giant Comcast tried to pack a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) hearing on network neutrality by hiring strangers off the street to ensure that advocates of net neutrality would not be able to get a seat in the hearing room. — a bipartisan coalition — and its supporters helped expose the ruse.

Soon after, there was a new hearing, this time without the gerrymandering seating by opponents of an open Internet.

Now Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) has introduced a bill to advance network neutrality, and it has become an issue in the presidential campaign.

We must be vigilant. The fate of the cyber-commons — the future of the mobile Web and the benefits of the Internet as open architecture — is up for grabs. And the only antidote to the power of organized money in Washington is the power of organized people at the net roots.

When Verizon tried to censor NARAL’s (National Abortion Rights Action League) use of text messaging last year, it was quick action by Save the Internet that led the company to reverse its position. Those efforts also led to an FCC proceeding on this issue.

Wherever the Internet flows — on PCs, cell phones, mobile devices and, very soon, new digital television sets — we must ensure that it remains an open and nondiscriminatory medium of expression.

By 2011, the market analysts tell us, the Internet will surpass newspapers in advertising revenues. With MySpace and Dow Jones controlled by News Corporation’s Rupert Murdoch, Microsoft determined to acquire Yahoo!, and with advertisers already telling some bloggers, “Your content is unacceptable,” we could potentially lose what’s now considered an unstoppable long tail of content offering abundant, new, credible and sustainable sources of news and information.

So, what will happen to news in the future, as the already tattered boundaries between journalism and advertising is dispensed with entirely and as content programming, commerce and online communities are rolled into one profitably attractive package?

Last year, the investment firm of Piper Jaffray predicted that much of the business model for new media would be just that kind of hybrid. They called it “communitainment.” (Oh, George Orwell, where are you now that we need you?)

Across the media landscape, the health of our democracy is imperiled. Buffeted by gale force winds of technological, political and demographic forces, without a truly free and independent press, this 250-year-old experiment in self-government will not make it. As journalism goes, so goes democracy.

Mergers and buyouts change both old and new media. They bring a frenzied focus on cost-cutting, while fattening the pockets of the new owners and their investors. The result: journalism is degraded through the layoffs and buyouts of legions of reporters and editors.

Advertising Age reports that U.S. media employment has fallen to a 15-year low. The Los Angeles Times alone has experienced a withering series of resignations by editors who refused to turn a red pencil into an editorial scalpel.

The new owner of the Tribune Company, real estate mogul Sam Zell, recently toured his new property Los Angeles Times, telling employees in the newsroom that the challenge is this: How do we get somebody 126 years old to get it up? “Well,” said Zell, “I’m your Viagra.”

He told his journalists that he didn’t have an editorial agenda or a perspective about newspapers’ roles as civic institutions. “I’m a businessman,” he said. “All what matters in the end is the bottom line.”

Zell then told Wall Street analysts that to save money he intends to eliminate 500 pages of news a week across all of the Tribune Company’s 12 papers. That can mean eliminating some 82 editorial pages every week just from the Los Angeles Times. What will he use to replace reporters and editors? He says to the Wall Street analysts, “I’ll use maps, graphics, lists, rankings and stats.” Sounds as if Zell has confused Viagra with Lunesta.

Former Baltimore Sun journalist and creator of HBO’s The Wire, David Simon, chronicled the effect that crosscutting and consolidation has had in media businesses and on the communities where those businesses have made so much money. He wrote in a Washington Post op-ed, “I did not encounter a sustained period in which anyone endeavored to spend what it would actually cost to make the Baltimore Sun the most essential and deep-thinking and well-written account of life in central Maryland. The people you needed to gather for that kind of storytelling were ushered out the door, buyout after buyout.”

Or as journalist Eric Alterman recently wrote in the New Yorker: “It is impossible not to wonder what will become of not just news but democracy itself, in a world in which we can no longer depend on newspapers to invest their unmatched resources and professional pride in helping the rest of us to learn, however imperfectly, what we need to know.”

For example, we needed to know the truth about Iraq. The truth could have spared that country from rack and ruin, saved thousands of American lives and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives, and freed hundreds of billions of dollars for investment in the American economy and infrastructure.

But as reporters at Knight Ridder — one of the few organizations that systematically and independently set out to challenge the claims of the administration — told us at the time, and as my colleagues and I reported in our PBS documentary Buying the War, and as Scott McClellan has now confessed, and as the Senate Intelligence Committee confirmed in June, the Bush administration deceived Americans into supporting an unprovoked war on another country. And it did so using erroneous and misleading intelligence — and with the complicity of the dominant media. It has led to a conflict that, instead of being over quickly and bloodlessly as predicted, continues to this day into its sixth year.

We now know that a neoconservative is an arsonist who sets a house on fire and six years later boasts that no one can put it out. You couldn’t find a more revealing measure of the state of the dominant media today than the continuing ubiquitous presence on the air and in print of the very pundits and experts, self-selected message multipliers of a disastrous foreign policy, who got it all wrong in the first place. It just goes to show, when the bar is low enough, you can never be too wrong.

The dominant media remains in denial about their role in passing on the government’s unverified claims as facts. That’s the great danger. It’s not simply that they dominate the story we tell ourselves publicly every day. It’s that they don’t allow other alternative competing narratives to emerge, against which the people could measure the veracity of all the claims.

Now the dominant media is saying, “Well, we did ask. We did do our job by asking tough questions during the run-up to the war.”

But I’ve been through the transcripts. And I’ll tell you, you will find very few tough questions.

And if you come across them, you will discover that they were asked of the wrong people.

John Walcott, Washington bureau chief for McClatchy, formerly Knight Ridder, recently said of his colleagues in the dominant media, “They asked a lot of questions, but they asked even the right questions of the wrong people.” They were asked of the sources who had cooked the intelligence books in the first place or who had memorized the White House talking points and were prepared to answer every tough question with a soft evasion or an easy lie, swallowed by a gullible questioner.

Following the March 2003 invasion, Vice President Dick Cheney dropped into a media dinner to thank the guests for their all-the-war-all-the-time coverage of the contrived and manufactured war.

Sadly, in many respects, the Fourth Estate has become the fifth column of democracy, colluding with the powers that be in a culture of deception that subverts the thing most necessary to freedom, and that is the truth.

But we’re not alone and we know what we need to say. So let us all go tell it on the mountains and in the cities. From our websites and laptops, the street corners and coffeehouses, the delis and diners, the factory floors and the bookstores. On campus, at the mall, the synagogue, sanctuary and mosque, let’s tell it where we can, when we can and while we still can.

Democracy only works when ordinary people claim it as their own.

This article was adapted from Bill Moyers’ keynote address at the National Conference for Media Reform Conference in Minneapolis on June 7. You can read and respond to the full speech at

Bill Moyers is the president of the Schumann Center for Media and Democracy and the host of Bill Moyers Journal on PBS.More information about Bill Moyers


Friday, July 11, 2008

FISA Immunity and September 11

By Xymphora
July 8, 2008

Why is the American political establishment so keen on allowing Bush to grant immunity to telecommunications company wrongdoers who broke the law in helping Bush to fight Bibi's 'war on terror' by running roughshod over the rights of Americans?

Even Obama, whose instincts seem top notch, refuses to take what appears to be the obvious politically appropriate position, infuriating many of his core supporters. Could it be because the the American political establishment is afraid that telecom executives, put on trial, will sing a sorry tune in their defense concerning American government foreknowledge of September 11?

From the NYT (my emphasis in red):

"The phone company Qwest Communications refused a proposal from the National Security Agency that the company’s lawyers considered illegal in February 2001, nearly seven months before the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, the former head of the company contends in newly unsealed court filings.

The executive, Joseph P. Nacchio, also asserts in the filings that the agency retaliated by depriving Qwest of lucrative outsourcing contracts.

The filings were made as Mr. Nacchio fought charges of insider trading. He was ultimately convicted in April of 19 counts of insider trading and has been sentenced to six years in prison. He remains free while appealing the conviction.

Mr. Nacchio said last year that he had refused an N.S.A. request for customers’ call records in late 2001, after the Sept. 11 attacks, as the agency initiated domestic surveillance and data mining programs to monitor Al Qaeda communications.

But the documents unsealed Wednesday in federal court in Denver, first reported in The Rocky Mountain News on Thursday, claim for the first time that pressure on the company to participate in activities it saw as improper came as early as February, nearly seven months before the terrorist attacks.

The significance of the claim is hard to assess, because the court documents are heavily redacted and N.S.A. officials will not comment on the agency’s secret surveillance programs. Other government officials have said that the agency’s eavesdropping without warrants began only after Sept. 11, 2001, under an order from President Bush.

But the court filings in Mr. Nacchio’s case illustrate what is well known inside the telecommunications industry but little appreciated by the public: that the N.S.A. has for some time worked closely with phone companies, whose networks carry the telephone and Internet traffic the agency seeks out for intercept."

Mr. Nacchio appears to be putting pressure on prosecutors in his insider trading case by threatening to reveal what the NSA was up to prior to September 11. The juicy details are all redacted. We've been led to believe by American authorities like Condi Rice that the sum total of American intelligence was based on scraps of 'chatter' out of the Middle East, with no specific details (". . . I don't think anybody could have predicted . . ").

Just what 'improper' activities were resisted by Quest, activities which it saw as similar to the requests to monitor 'al Qaeda' after September 11?

Just who was the NSA interested in listening to in the United States at a time months before they - and the American government - were even supposed to be aware there was a plot to attack the United States?


Sunday, July 06, 2008

Why I Will Not Vote for John McCain

By Phillip Butlerd
March 27, 2008

As some of you might know, John McCain is a long-time acquaintance of mine that goes way back to our time together at the U.S. Naval Academy and as Prisoners of War in Vietnam. He is a man I respect and admire in some ways. But there are a number of reasons why I will not vote for him for President of the United States.

When I was a Plebe (4th classman, or freshman) at the Naval Academy in 1957-58, I was assigned to the 17th Company for my four years there. In those days we had about 3,600 midshipmen spread among 24 companies, thus about 150 midshipmen to a company. As fortune would have it, John, a First Classman (senior) and his room mate lived directly across the hall from me and my two room mates.

Believe me when I say that back then I would never in a million or more years have dreamed that the crazy guy across the hall would someday be a Senator and candidate for President!

John was a wild man. He was funny, with a quick wit and he was intelligent. But he was intent on breaking every USNA regulation in our 4 inch thick USNA Regulations book. And I believe he must have come as close to his goal as any midshipman who ever attended the Academy. John had me "coming around" to his room frequently during my plebe year. And on one occasion he took me with him to escape "over the wall" in the dead of night. He had a taxi cab waiting for us that took us to a bar some 7 miles away. John had a few beers, but forbid me to drink (watching out for me I guess) and made me drink cokes. I could tell many other midshipman stories about John that year and he unbelievably managed to graduate though he spent the majority of his first class year on restriction for the stuff he did get caught doing.

In fact he barely managed to graduate, standing 5th from the bottom of his 800 man graduating class. I and many others have speculated that the main reason he did graduate was because his father was an Admiral, and also his grandfather, both U.S. Naval Academy graduates.

People often ask if I was a Prisoner of War with John McCain. My answer is always "No - John McCain was a POW with me." The reason is I was there for 8 years and John got there 2 ½ years later, so he was a POW for 5 ½ years. And we have our own seniority system, based on time as a POW.

John's treatment as a POW:

1) Was he tortured for 5 years? No. He was subjected to torture and maltreatment during his first 2 years, from September of 1967 to September of 1969. After September of 1969 the Vietnamese stopped the torture and gave us increased food and rudimentary health care.

Several hundred of us were captured much earlier. I got there April 20, 1965 so my bad treatment period lasted 4 1/2 years. President Ho Chi Minh died on September 9, 1969, and the new regime that replaced him and his policies was more pragmatic. They realized we were worth a lot as bargaining chips if we were alive. And they were right because eventually Americans gave up on the war and agreed to trade our POW's for their country. A damn good trade in my opinion! But my point here is that John allows the media to make him out to be THE hero POW, which he knows is absolutely not true, to further his political goals.

2) John was badly injured when he was shot down. Both arms were broken and he had other wounds from his ejection. Unfortunately this was often the case - new POW's arriving with broken bones and serious combat injuries. Many died from their wounds. Medical care was non-existent to rudimentary. Relief from pain was almost never given and often the wounds were used as an available way to torture the POW. Because John's father was the Naval Commander in the Pacific theater, he was exploited with TV interviews while wounded. These film clips have now been widely seen. But it must be known that many POW's suffered similarly, not just John. And many were similarly exploited for political propaganda.

3) John was offered, and refused, "early release." Many of us were given this offer. It meant speaking out against your country and lying about your treatment to the press. You had to "admit" that the U.S. was criminal and that our treatment was "lenient and humane." So I, like numerous others, refused the offer. This was obviously something none of us could accept.

Besides, we were bound by our service regulations, Geneva Conventions and loyalties to refuse early release until all the POW's were released, with the sick and wounded going first.

4) John was awarded a Silver Star and Purple Heart for heroism and wounds in combat. This heroism has been played up in the press and in his various political campaigns. But it should be known that there were approximately 600 military POW's in Vietnam. Among all of us, decorations awarded have recently been totaled to the following: Medals of Honor - 8, Service Crosses - 42, Silver Stars - 590, Bronze Stars - 958 and Purple Hearts - 1,249. John certainly performed courageously and well.

But it must be remembered that he was one hero among many - not uniquely so as his campaigns would have people believe.

John McCain served his time as a POW with great courage, loyalty and tenacity. More that 600 of us did the same. After our repatriation a census showed that 95% of us had been tortured at least once. The Vietnamese were quite democratic about it. There were many heroes in North Vietnam. I saw heroism every day there. And we motivated each other to endure and succeed far beyond what any of us thought we had in ourselves. Succeeding as a POW is a group sport, not an individual one. We all supported and encouraged each other to survive and succeed. John knows that. He was not an individual POW hero. He was a POW who surmounted the odds with the help of many comrades, as all of us did.

I furthermore believe that having been a POW is no special qualification for being President of the United States. The two jobs are not the same, and POW experience is not, in my opinion, something I would look for in a presidential candidate.

Most of us who survived that experience are now in our late 60's and 70's. Sadly, we have died and are dying off at a greater rate than our non-POW contemporaries. We experienced injuries and malnutrition that are coming home to roost. So I believe John's age (73) and survival expectation are not good for being elected to serve as our President for 4 or more years.

I can verify that John has an infamous reputation for being a hot head. He has a quick and explosive temper that many have experienced first hand. Folks, quite honestly that is not the finger I want next to that red button.

It is also disappointing to see him take on and support Bush's war in Iraq, even stating we might be there for another 100 years. For me John represents the entrenched and bankrupt policies of Washington-as-usual.

The past 7 years have proven to be disastrous for our country. And I believe John's views on war, foreign policy, economics, environment, health care, education, national infrastructure and other important areas are much the same as those of the Bush administration.

I'm disappointed to see John represent himself politically in ways that are not accurate. He is not a moderate Republican. On some issues he is a maverick. But his voting record is far to the right.

I fear for his nominations to our Supreme Court, and the consequent continuing loss of individual freedoms, especially regarding moral and religious issues. John is not a religious person, but he has taken every opportunity to ally himself with some really obnoxious and crazy fundamentalist ministers lately.

I was also disappointed to see him cozy up to Bush because I know he hates that man. He disingenuously and famously put his arm around the guy, even after Bush had intensely disrespected him with lies and slander. So on these and many other instances, I don't see that John is the "straight talk express" he markets himself to be.

Senator John Sidney McCain, III is a remarkable man who has made enormous personal achievements. And he is a man that I am proud to call a fellow POW who "Returned With Honor."

That's our POW motto. But since many of you keep asking what I think of him, I've decided to write it out. In short, I think John Sidney McCain, III is a good man, but not someone I will vote for in the upcoming election to be our President of the United States.

Doctor Phillip Butler is a 1961 graduate of the United States Naval Academy and a former light-attack carrier pilot. In 1965 he was shot down over North Vietnam where he spent eight years as a prisoner of war. He is a highly decorated combat veteran who was awarded two Silver Stars, two Legion of Merits, two Bronze Stars and two Purple Heart medals.

After his repatriation in 1973 he earned a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of California at San Diego and became a Navy Organizational Effectiveness consultant. He completed his Navy career in 1981 as a professor of management at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. He is now a peace and justice activist with Veterans for Peace.


Friday, July 04, 2008

The Paradox of the Republican Party

July 2, 2008

Jim Lobe discusses the paradox of the Republicans, who may be headed for a disaster of historic proportions in November, but seem hell bent on continuing with their senseless 'Iran talk'.

The price of gasoline has an enormous emotional effect on Americans, not to mention a very real effect in terms of economic hardship considering the American over-reliance on automobiles (with the importance of gasoline being more profound in those areas most likely to vote Republican), and a political party that seems unable or unwilling to do anything to contain rampant increases in the price of gasoline is likely to pay a steep political price.

A political party whose actions seem intent on raising the price of gasoline is suicidal.

The Official Story now seems to be that the 'Iran talk' isn't real, but is just the method being used by the Bush Administration to pressure the Iranian government into moderating its actions.

If so, this is one of the worst examples of diplomacy in modern history.

Bush and the Israelis have made the Iranian nuclear program into a matter of national pride in Iran, and increased support for the hardliners. Even worse, the increase in the price of oil caused in large part by the 'Iran talk' - not forgetting the other large factor, the continuing irritation of the American occupation of Iraq - has staved off economic problems in Iran which were threatening the political future of people like Ahmadinejad.

'Iran talk' has not only increased the price of gasoline, it has gone a long way to promoting the Iranian nuclear program. All this with no obvious American strategic interest in whether the Iranians make electricity out of uranium or not!

Can the Republicans be that stupid?

Are we finally seeing the fatal error in their connections with the Christian Zionists, whose desire for an end-of-the-world war appears to be leading directly to the effective destruction of the very successful conservative dominance of American politics for the past thirty years?

Two terms of Obama, with the liberal judges he can nominate, and many years of Democrat majorities in both the House and Senate will make Ronald Reagan a very distant memory.