Friday, August 31, 2007

Remembering Katrina: Part I

Remembering Katrina, Part II, Part III

Ask most Americans what is wrong about the federal government’s response to Katrina and the answer will be brief: “Everything.” But to this administration, the answer is, “Nothing.”

Cynical? I don’t think so. Here’s why.

Much has been said about the administration’s stunning incompetence, about crony boys in grown-ups' jobs. But for these people, as W himself epitomizes, qualifications are irrelevant. For him, it’s not about capability or performance. It’s about sinecure. Such priorities are incompatible with genuine concern for the people's wellbeing.

Bush’s Gulf South response was and is scripted by the likes of Grover Norquist. It was and is a demonstration project meant to convince us that big government is inherently unreliable. Some even say that FEMA’s fantastic incompetence was intended to set us up for Bush’s government dismantling strategy, but I haven’t seen much dismantling.

In fact, just as Bush’s Department of Homeland Security is a mammoth, Rovean Republican patronage spigot, Bush’s response to Katrina is a demonstration project in “privatization,” a novel form of wealth redistribution in which your taxes and assets end up in the portfolios of the top 5 percent of America’s richest families.

But wait; there’s more.

In Politics and Vision (expanded edition), Professor Sheldon Wolin said of Nazi totalitarianism that it

represented the precise inversion of the modern conception of revolution. Like Nietzsche it identified with the strong and aimed at the weak—Jews, Gypsies, Slavs, homosexuals, social democrats, communists, trade unionists, the sick, deformed, and mentally ill. (xix)
It seems to me that everything about the administration’s response during those excruciating hours between August 29 and (roughly) September 6, 2005, showcased precisely that: a thoroughly Nietzchean “revolution in reverse.”

Person to person, the President and his Cabinet appalled the world with their indifference. Cheney went fly fishing. Bush and McCain ate birthday cake and W played his air guitar. Rice went Ferragamo hunting. That night, she took in Spamalot, and the next day she played tennis with Monica Seles.

For calculating political pros -- remember, Katrina was before the crucial 2006 elections -- such actions are strategically inconceivable. That's why I conclude that they were meant to signify a new theory of the role of government, the "Stuff Happens" theory.

The strong (the President, his Cabinet, and his patronage chieftains), I believe, are operating the federal response to Katrina exactly as they are operating the Iraq war--from within an ideological framework that tacitly sanctions just what we saw take place. Anyone who thinks this is mere incompetence had better sit down and take a deep breath. This is purposeful. This is looting, officially sanctioned.

The President and his minions know that for that top 5% to get maximum bang for their contribution bucks, as many as possible of the weak must perish and/or be relieved of their real property assets. And that is exactly what happened and what continues to happen even as we speak.

In these case studies, Iraq and the Gulf South, the weak are oil-rich countries abroad unable to withstand an American occupation. At home, they may have the misfortune to be sitting on some prime real estate, or they may simply be people this administration views as drags on the economy, people who can testify to the vapidity of an “Ownership Society.”

That would be folks who are working three jobs but permanently poor, the frail elderly, the single moms, the diabetic, the overweight, the gay, the mentally ill. Most but not all were African Americans, and most whose assets were literally washed away were also Democrats. In Bush’s eyes, that’s a three-fer.

Almost immediately the ideological cover for what I believe to be deliberate federal inaction played out across our televisions. Any “lootin’, shootin’, burnin', and carryin’ on” was magnified out of all semblance to reality, we found out. We know now that most of the looters were looting from dire desperation (and we know that in their place, we’d do the same thing). We know now that the city wasn’t crawling with armed killers after all. We know there was a handful of thieves and armed thugs—all in all, pretty remarkable for a city in extremis, full of frantic, starving, dehydrated, dying, and despairing people.

We later found out that, in truth, there was no baby raping, and we are asked to believe that a few shots kept federal relief at bay, even though they didn’t intimidate news media from around the globe, or the US Coast Guard, or the “Cajun Navy,” that brave flotilla of local lifesavers and out-of-town volunteers.

We learned what Lt. General Russel Honoré already knew: Those people weren’t dangerous. They’re our neighbors: “Put those goddamn weapons down.”

But if we learned later that 80% of the Ninth Ward are home owners, the meme pumped out from dawn to dark was that those gang-bangers and welfare queens deserve exactly what they get. The meme gave the Bushies a little cover because it functioned as intended: to align observers for a while with the President’s perspective. Most folks bought in.

All of this, in my view, is wholly consistent with intent, as are the two events that marked the finale, at least from the administration's vantage.

As a horrified world and a shamed, grief-stricken America watched corpses waiting on main street sidewalks and bloating in mile after mile of disgusting brown sewage, as we watched little African American kids being separated from their families and sent willy-nilly, hither and yon, without escort or explanation or even a tracking system, Bush’s mother shared with us the Administration’s official spin:
What I’m hearing, which is sort of scary, is that they want to stay in Texas. . . . So many of the people in the arenas here were underprivileged anyway, this is working out well for them.
And just as soon as W’s last syllable bounced off a garishly blue-lit Cathedral, the feds shut down his little son et lumière and pulled the plugs again on New Orleans.

Remembering Katrina, Part II

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Bush Iran Policy Leaked

The blogosphere is full of buzz that -- demented, demonic, and disastrous (make that apocolyptic) as it will be -- Bush-Cheney are taking us into Iran.

It must be true; we just got hold of a leaked copy of the White House Iran policy:

We’re on our way!
Pack up your pack!
And if we stay
We won’t be back.
How can we go? We haven’t got a dime!
But we’re goin’, and we’re
Gonna have a happy time!

Puh-puh-puh-leeze: Get on the phone, like now, and tell your US representative to impeach them immediately. (Mine hadn't even heard the buzz. It was so reassuring.)

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

False Negatives

MSM? Nope, not “mainstream media.”

America learned from “Larry King Live” this week that there are men who are not gay who have sex with men who are not gay.

MSM—men who have sex with men—is CDC terminology for a bunch of guys: prisoners and others who have opportunistic same-sex sex, men who rape men, men “on the down low,” bi- men, closet gay men, and out gay men.

Clinically it makes sense. “Gay,” ”homosexual,” and bisexual” don’t work well in surveys and treatment settings that depend on self-identifying because they don’t reach men who won’t or don’t identify as gay or bi.

Socio-politically, however, it’s a problem. Words like “gay" and “fairy” have a long history of connoting a despised effeminacy. But in our culture, a phrase that uses “men” twice has other, more acceptable connotations. For that reason, MSM can even further divide and ostracize gay and bisexual men by implying that there’s something even more different about them.

It can also give false “plausible deniability” to politicians, preachers, and others whose careers might tank if they were forced to acknowledge gay identity. Of CouRse we cAn’t thInk of any Glaring examples at the moment.

Rising Chi

At last my tribe is recognized for what it is: sidekick of Dobermans and Stealth Guardian of the West:

CHARDON, Ohio - Though she's only a 6-pound Chihuahua-rat terrier mix who looks like she belongs in Paris Hilton's purse, Midge has the will, skill and nose of a 100-pound German shepherd. The newest recruit for the Geauga County Sheriff Department's K-9 unit could very well be the nation's smallest drug-sniffing pooch.

As the Sid Hudgens of Chis, I'm gratified.

Off the record, on the QT, and very hush-hush.


2nd Unhappy Anniversary

Hurricane Katrina wiped out the Mississippi Gulf Coast, and was the straw that broke the shabby levees that wiped out New Orleans two years ago today. Both the Coast and the Crescent City remain in shambles. More later as we remember the people and places of the Gulf South, and consider the implications of these past two years for America and Americans.


OK, on a more serious note, the Craig deal is about the closet.

As Maj. Darryl Tolleson of the Atlanta Police said this week on CNN, the majority of men his officers catch pursuing bathroom sex are “family men.” But Tolleson juxtaposed “family men” against “gay” men, as if one were animal and the other vegetable.

Guess the Major didn’t get the note in the bottle. Many gay men are married, with children. They, like Craig, may be bisexual or gay, and are in the closet. Their options for sexual gratification are limited because the risks of being outed are overwhelmingly frightening. So frightening, in fact, that some don’t even think of themselves as gay.

Hard to understand? When people are defined in law, religion, and society as dirty, wicked, and diseased, denial might seem necessary. It might even seem reasonable.

The consequences for coming out don’t usually involve death, but they aren’t a walk in the park, either. For teens and young adults, they include expulsion from the family, loss of financial security, social ostracism, harassment, physical violence, and for those who come from conservative religious faiths, just coming out to self can be impossible.

This may be where Craig is coming from. If so, I feel sad for him, but I don’t excuse him.

It takes guts to come out, and especially for those who live within the Bible bubble, it takes a profound leap of faith. It takes the conviction that nothing can separate you from the love of God. It takes willingness to risk the loss of everything important and even necessary to your welfare, and implicitly, the conviction that you can survive all that. Such people are brave indeed. Such people are heroes.

But people like Craig chose a different path, preferring denial over acknowledgment; social security, career, and reputation over authenticity. They chose to risk the wellbeing of others – lovers, wives, and children – to sustain their fabrication. They chose, as well, to believe that the costs they themselves would face in coming out were always greater than the costs confronting others just like themselves, and then they chose to advantage themselves at the expense of people just like them. In Craig’s case, the betrayal goes one giant step further: He could, and did, help to enact laws to oppress people just like him. There's neither integrity nor courage nor compassion here.

Everything here – everything he’s done – goes back to the cruel propaganda and the fear that drove him into the closet and kept him there. If his duplicity hurts the Republican party, if his hypocrisy confounds and divides the “social conservatives” and is a factor in their descent from power, well, I figure it’s a form of Karma. Judgments, actions, and choices have consequences for family, friends, political parties, and countries.

Self-serving hypocrisy and a career-long habit of denying authenticity to his loved ones and perfect access to the sustenance of our Constitution and Bill of Rights to those he represents, have consequences.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Craig Crisis Sum-Up

Let's just cut to the chase:

In a belated discovery that the Roy Cohn Defense* does not work, Senator Larry Craig (R-ID) announced his retirement, saying, "I have decided not to seek re-election in order to spend more time with my very, very, very, very, very heterosexual family."

*"I'm not gay. I just like to have sex with other men."

He's Nuts!

I’m listening to Idaho Republican Senatory Larry Craig. Besides repeating the STOOPIT mistake all Republicans make--denying instead of admitting, apologizing, and moving on--I think he’s manifesting a whole new form of Hysterical Homophobic Dementia (HHD).

From the press conference (say what?):

(1) He overreacted and pleaded guilty to the crime of making a gay sex overture because he was stressed by the Idaho Statesman’s calling him gay?

(2) There’s a cloud over Idaho?

(3) He's sure the issue is not over yet? Does this mean he hopes it won't go away?

(4) Now he’s going to retain a lawyer?

(5) He’s not gay and never has been?

As we say in Chihuahua, no es el sense.

That was, undoubtedly, the worst press conference I've ever seen in my total life.

Oh Larry, Larry, Larry!

Rumors circulated about Mark Foley for years, and rumors have been circulating about Larry Craig for years, too. There's not always fire, but when there's this much smoke. . . .

It's not just the hypocrisy. It's the stoooooopidity, too. It's like Republicans are issued Stoopit permits at puberty. That must be it, because this happens to them so often that I'm getting bored with it. Now I'm just waiting for him to deny, deny, deny--which, as he would know if he weren't so stooopit, just sets up Act II.

Bye. Rushing out to see if Fox is calling Craig a Democrat.

Monday, August 27, 2007

"Burning the Law in a Riot of Treason"

Please read William Rivers Pitt's column at, "Burning the Law in a Riot of Treason," August 27, 2007.

Witness Gonzales is Excused (Not)

Haldeman last week was serene and amiable under the gentle if confused questioning of his own attorney, John J. Wilson. But he turned evasive and sometimes stammered as Assistant Special Prosecutor Richard Ben-Veniste slashed at his testimony. With devastating effect, the combative prosecutor read excerpts from a March 21, 1973 White House tape in which Haldeman suggested that Watergate witnesses could always evade a question by saying they "forgot," and Nixon advised: "Just be damned sure you say, 'I don't remember, I can't recall.' Ben-Veniste then cited numerous "I don't recall" answers in Haldeman's subsequent grand-jury testimony. Inadvertently dramatizing the prosecutor's point, Haldeman in just one hour responded with "I don't recollect" no fewer than 18 times to Ben-Veniste's questions. [From Time, Monday, Dec. 16, 1974, “Witness Richard Nixon is Excused”]

Alberto R. Gonzales will first be recalled as the least respected Attorney General in modern history and the most inept lawyer ever to testify before Congress, and second, as an incompetent and fatally integrity-challenged head of the Department of Justice.

In fact, he should be recalled, with Karl Rove, as one of Bush’s two chief WMDs in an ongoing Republican war on the US Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the US system of justice. The treason he has inflicted on the American people may take a decade or more to sort out.

More important, however, is that everything about Gonzales, including his infamous obstructionist tactics and his Patriot Act legacy, is a continuation of a 30-year far-Right/GOP/Bush Family campaign to suppress individual citizens’ rights, expand the powers of the executive branch to near monarchy, and sabotage justice itself.

Gonzales was chief engineer of (1) The Patriot Act (later, The USA PATRIOT Reauthorization and Improvement Act, the gift that keeps on giving);(2) the conversion of the United States from a compliant and respected Geneva Conventions signatory to a torturing state; and (3) the still-emerging strategy to politicize US attorneys general—-a body blow to impartial justice. He will also be remembered as (4) chief inquisitor during W’s tenure as Texas governor, where he was known for recommending execution even in the face of inadequate dues process or evidence of innocence.

But Gonzales didn’t invent The Patriot Act. Nor was he the first GOP consigliore to advance the Bush Family/far-Right GOP assault on the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

His antecedents in these treasonous disgraces date from at least the anti-communist feeding frenzy of the 1950s. Among other things, they favored a “guilt-by-association” clause that was repeatedly rejected by Congress until it was resurrected in the 1996 Antiterrorism Act following Oklahoma City. (The agenda advances best when the players can point to evil aliens, homegrown or otherwise.)

But as Truthout reported in May 2002, it was Ronald Reagan and Bush I who previously sought to enact many of The Patriot Act’s most dangerous anti-civil liberties provisions. These include “guilt by association, association as grounds for exclusion or deportation, the ban on supporting lawful activities of groups labeled ‘terrorist,’ the use of secret evidence, and the empowerment of the Secretary of State to designate groups as terrorist organizations, without judicial or congressional review.” (Do these sound familiar?) And it was unctuous GOP Sen. Orin Hatch (UT) who has patiently midwived the notorious limitation on the right to habeas corpus through a reluctant Congress and into The Patriot Act.

The obstructionist act that Gonzales is best known for is the “I don’t remember” defense. It, too, has a venerable Republican heritage. Its legacy is embodied conveniently in the person of Fred Fielding.

Fielding was appointed W's White House Counsel in January, 2007, succeeding Harriet Miers. Fielding was also Counsel to President Ronald Reagan (1981-1986) and Deputy Counsel to President Richard Nixon (1970-1974), under John Dean. Not coincidentally, Fielding is best known for his aggressive, nimble white collar criminal defense—or, as some of us prefer to think of it, for mastering the art of obstructing Congress and the courts.

From Fielding to H.R. Haldeman, to Brendan V. Sullivan, counsel to Col. Ollie North of Iran-Contra infamy, to Gonzales, Rove, Libby, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and others too numerous to be named, the relationships among Nixon and Watergate, Reagan, Bush I and Iran-Contra, and Bush II and Gonzalesgate is as ineradicable as DNA. No wonder. Besides the Bush Family itself, the stable of characters is a Who's Who of high-ups in or closely affiliated with the Reagan, Bush I, and Bush II White Houses: Cheney, Robert Gates, Elliott Richardson, John Bolton, David Addington, Michael Ledeen, John Negroponte, Otto Reich, and Edwin Meese. Honorable men? I think not.

I witnessed both the Watergate and the Iran-Contra proceedings. The balance of powers and consequently the will and capacity of Congress (through oversight, including subpoenas)to check such treasonous abuses through impeachment has steadily eroded, leaving us more exposed to fanatical ideology- and power-blinded liars and con men with each successive scandal.

God help us if Americans can’t see where we’re headed, and in November 2008, if not before, change course. It may be too late now, given the concentration of power in the "military-industrial complex," the economy's dependence on manufacturing and selling weapons, and the Bush Dynasty collosus that sits astride this, our military and intelligence apparatus, and the presidency. Either way, we can look to ourselves for ultimate responsibility.

Gonzales-Bush: Sons of Iran-Contra and Watergate

A stained Republican executive branch genealogy links today's Bush-Gonzales press duet to the performance of Oliver North before Congress during the Iran-Contra standard, and even to the office of John Dean, Nixon's White House counsel during Watergate. Fred Fielding, current White House Counsel, was deputy to John Dean during the Watergate scandal and Counsel to the President to President Ronald Reagan until 1986. Iran-Contra broke in November 1987, during the Vice Presidency of George H. W. Bush. More to come. Bleeding dog toe takes priority.

Sunday, August 26, 2007


“Personal? As between a wife and a husband? Or between a wife and a wife and a wife and a husband?” (“Big Love,” 8-26-07)

New Toy

Check out Ziptionary, a free search weapon. I like it.

This Is the Cost of the War in Iraq

"But what happened in Iraq went beyond inefficiency, beyond fraud even. This was about the business of government being corrupted by the profit motive to such an extraordinary degree that now we all have to wonder how we will ever be able to depend on the state to do its job in the future. If catastrophic failure is worth billions, where's the incentive to deliver success? There's no profit in patriotism, no cost-plus angle on common decency. Sixty years after America liberated Europe, those are just words, and words don't pay the bills." (Emphasis ours)

For more on this disgusting gangbang, including contractor Custer Battle's boggling victory in court, see D. J. Waletzky's "Offers We Should All Refuse."

It's still happening. This is who we've become. Read "The Great Iraq Swindle," online at the Rolling Stone. Don't let the instinct to puke let you stop until you've finished. And see the next article here, on Wild Chihuahuas.

It's So Much Worse Than You Thought. Now Get Moving!

Just as parallel projects are being conducted in New Orleans and on the Gulf Coast, the Bush Mafia is operating a huge plunder-and-pillage privatization scam in Iraq. Read this story in the Rolling Stone, and get ready for your head to explode.


Since time immemorial, the distribution of government largesse had followed a staid, paper-laden procedure in which the federal government would post the details of a contract in periodicals like Commerce Business Daily or, more ­recently, on the FedBizOpps Web site. Competitive bids were solicited and contracts were awarded in accordance with the labyrinthine print of the U.S. Code, a straightforward system that worked well enough before the Bush years that, as one lawyer puts it, you could 'count the number of cases of criminal fraud on the fingers of one hand.'

. . . What no one knew at the beginning of the war was that the Bush administration had essentially decided to treat the entire Iraqi theater as an exception to the rules. All you had to do was get to Iraq and the game was on.

But getting there wasn't easy. To travel to Iraq, would-be contractors needed permission from the Bush administration, which was far from blind in its appraisal of applicants. In a much-ballyhooed example of favoritism, the White House originally installed a clown named Jim O'Beirne [husband of undoubtedly objective political commentator Kate, BTW] at the relevant evaluation desk in the Department of Defense. O'Beirne proved to be a classic Bush villain, a moron's moron who judged applicants not on their Arabic skills or their relevant expertise but on their Republican bona fides; he sent a twenty-four-year-old who had never worked in finance to manage the reopening of the Iraqi stock exchange, and appointed a recent graduate of an evangelical university for home-schooled kids who had no accounting experience to manage Iraq's $13 billion budget.
And you thought it was about WMD. Or removing a dictator. Or, wait, um, bringing “democracy” to Iraq.

I guess we know now why Republicans haven’t put repairing our infrastructure high on the government’s “to do” list. My God, there are starving cronies out there!

If after reading “The Great Iraq Swindle” you can manage to choke out an intelligible syllable, you might want to call your representative and senators and RIP THEM A NEW ONE. Then, make sure everyone you know hears about this.

One last thought: This could not continue, here or abroad, without our complicity. We know, and, face it, this story is not new news, but we haven't put sufficient pressure on our media and Congress to investigate, indict, and impeach. Nor, evidently, have Democrats learned the relatively simple art of influencing American public opinion.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Musing on Andrew Sullivan's Marriage

There are times when I love Andrew Sullivan (The Daily Dish), despite our vast political and theological differences. For me, he’s at his best when he reflects on faith and theology, and when he applies his erudition to fillet the "neocons" and those he rightly calls “Christianists”—a term he coined, analogous to the terms “Islamists,” “Maoists,” “Zionists.” It connotes virulent political extremism, as it is meant to do, which is why Christianists take such heated exception to it. (FYI: A “Christianist” is--in my terms--a rightwing political agent/ideologue who strews biblicisms before him like desiccated blossoms and finds more of the Loving Carpenter in Leviticus and Deuteronomy than in the verses ascribed to Jesus himself. It’s a mystery.)

I intend to write more about Sullivan from time to time, but for now, I’ll say what I say about any other out gay or lesbian conservative. If the essence of conservatism is standing for traditional social and political values and advocating deliberate (glacial) change, essentially he is--they are--a glaring rebuke to it.

In his essence he contradicts its essence. We don’t come out gay or lesbian, or get married as gays or lesbians, especially having been traditional Christians since childhood, without drawing deeply on our own inner strengths and essential beliefs.

These, ipso facto, are not conservative. They are profoundly liberal. That is, they and the resulting actions profounding contractict both prevailing social mores and the conservative dictum regarding the pace of decorous, prudent change. Further, they reveal profound belief in the individual’s inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and in our individual responsibility to act, alone and collectively, to remove any hostile feet from our necks. Despite how conservatives like to appropriate these values unto themselves, and denigrate liberals who exhibit them, these liberal values are enshrined in our Constitution. That anyone so boldly espousing them can identify as "conservative" is a mystery.

Nevertheness, despite our differences, I wish to Andrew and his love what I wish to those of us who married at the San Francisco City Hall in February, 2004 -- I'm thinking now of course of CJ and me, and especially of Keith and Andreas, for reasons they'll understand: the happiest of weddings and honeymoons, a life of unfolding wonder, generosity, courage, and kindness, and lasting joy in each other.

And a safe return home and to the blogosphere.

Latest in Republican Christians' Edify America Campaign. . .

First reported by Gun Guys--not what you think--clean talker, NRA board member, Bush hugger and ranch neighbor, Perry pal, youth camp operator, sexual moralist, and farm-raised "wildlife" hunter Ted Nugent--he who touts (his words) the "live and let live" philosophy of the US far Right--is caught on video flapping two machine guns and threatening to kill Obama and Hillary.

In a performance that surely will show all youth the respect he has for women and inspire us to walk the path that Jesus trod, "Rev. Ted" is shown saying:

Obama, he’s a piece of shit. I told him to suck on my machine gun. Hey Hillary,' he continued. 'You might want to ride one of these into the sunset, you worthless bitch.' Nugent summed up his eloquent speech by screaming 'freedom!'

Hallelujah, honey! Break out the hymn books and fall on your knees. I'm sure by the time we're done singing, the US Secret Service will have arrested him and the RNC will have returned his contributions. Yeah right.

This from the same "Rev. Ted" who--invited performer--wore a Confederate T-shirt and hurled insults at immigrants and "hippies" at the Gov. Goodhair inauguration.

Gun Guys, a pro-gun control, anti-gun violence project of Freedom States Alliance (worth a visit), is calling on the NRA to remove Nugent from its board and apologize.

Be sure to set your RSS feeds for when that happens.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Callin' It Like He Sees It

Surfing around, found this:

As someone who loves traveling and climbing in Europe, I'm dismayed by the ever-weakening dollar. Five years ago, my dollar would have bought a euro and change; today it buys less than 75 cents. In other words, everything is at least 33 percent more expensive. Dave Goldstein and I were lamenting this fact as we hiked out to a climb the other day, and he said something along these lines: 'You can blame Bush, and I will every chance I get, but Cheney is the one calling all the shots. We ought to rename the dollar the Dick.'

But hey, it's a great economy, right?

Thanks to The Mountain World for the grin.

GOP Operative Found Dead in FL

Ralph Gonzales, described as "a prominent Republican Party consultant" was found dead with two other men in a home in central Florida on Thursday.

The home's address is listed as the office of The Strategum Group, a firm founded by political strategist Ralph Gonzalez.

Gonzalez's clients have included U.S. Rep. Tom Feeney, State Rep. Dean Cannon and U.S. Rep Tom Price, among others, according to the firm's Web site. Gonzalez is the former executive director of the Georgia Republican Party, the Web site stated. (From Local6 News online.)
Gonzales and The Strategum Group advised Republican candidates on political strategy. The Orlando Sentinel reports that detectives believe the deaths resulted from a double murder-suicide. Gonzales shared the house with David Abrami, an attorney also active in the Republican party. The two were hosting a friend, Robert Drake. The men were in their thirties.

They Knew This, Too

Greg Palast reports yesterday that the White House and FEMA knew at 11 a.m. on Monday that the levees were going to breech, and that at 2 p.m., FEMA helicopters flew over the 17th Street Canal and took videos of the breech. But the White House, FEMA, and the Army Corps of Engineers didn’t alert state authorities responsible for emergency preparations.

Palasts’s source for this stomach-churner is unimpeachable: Dr. Ivor van Heerden, deputy director of the Louisiana State University Hurricane Center, the chief technician advising the state on the hurricane's progress and expected effects.

The reason the White House sat on its information, Palast explains, is

Political and financial cost. A hurricane is an act of God - but a catastrophic failure of the levees is a act of Bush. That is, under law dating back to 1935, a breech of the federal levee system makes the damage - and the deaths - a federal responsibility.

This leaves unanswered why not alerting state and local authorities would mitigate, much less invalidate, federal responsibility. If the levees failed, the levees failed. And the levees failed. As Palast reminds us, Katrina didn’t strike the Crescent City. It struck east of the city. It wasn’t Katrina. It was the failure of Army Corps of Engineers' levees, and that's important to keep repeating.

The White House/FEMA/Corps failure to tell state and city officials about cracks in the levee at 2 p.m. Monday led inexorably to 1,500 deaths that might well have been saved otherwise. It also adds to a mountain of incomprehensible failures of this Administration, failures any one of which would warrant impeachment.

But what better way to shrink the rolls of Democrat voters? Delay, incompetence, and malice aforethought. That’s our W.

More on the Bush/Katrina inundation forthcoming.

No Top of Ol' Smokey

Disclaimer: I’m writing as a daughter of East Tennessee, descendant of some of the first Anglo settlers in an area of The Great Smoky Mountains known as Cades Cove. Those hazy blue ridges are in my blood, and for 200 years, my family has called them home.

Maybe our flagrantly “Christian” president can explain to me why he needs to drive heritage landowners off their land, blow the tops off majestic mountains, destroy irreplaceable habitat of countless mammal, plant, fish, amphibian, reptile, and insect species, dump megatons of toxic wastes and acid mine drainage into the headwater streams and rivers that supply much of the southeastern US, eliminate about 1,000 sq. miles of the country’s most diverse biosystem, depress numerous local economies in Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia, pollute their air, permanently bury their creeks, streams, and other waterways, and bring on floods, mudslides, and acid rain to wipe out what's left of natural life, when instead, he could provide education, job creation, economic security, and environmental protection enhancements for millions of Americans and secure our global competitive footing by pursuing clean alternative fuels. I’m too stoopit to get it. I mean, what would a smart person do?

That said, Dirk Kempthorne, Bush Interior Secretary, issued a proposed rule that, according to the New York Times:

would enshrine the coal mining practice of mountaintop removal. The technique involves blasting off the tops of mountains and dumping the rubble into valleys and streams.

Environmental activists say the rule change will lead to accelerated pillage of vast tracts and the obliteration of hundreds of miles of streams in central Appalachia.'This is a parting gift to the coal industry from this administration,' said Joe Lovett, executive director of the Appalachian Center for the Economy and the Environment in Lewisburg, W.Va. 'What is at stake is the future of Appalachia. This is an attempt to make legal what has long been illegal.’

Is it me or does “Appalachia” seems to function sometimes as a throwaway prompt, almost as if inherent in the word itself is “it’s only”?

What the Times and other outlets I've seen haven't noted is -- guess who's responsible for evaluating coal mining companies applications an requests for exceptions to applicable rules? The Army Corps of Engineers! There, don't you feel better?

What is mountaintop removal?
What does it look like?
What does it do to the economy?
To families and communities?
To the environment?

Six things you can do to help

1. Get up to speed on the issues. Read the books. Missing Mountains and Lost Mountain and Big Coal, see the documentary, and watch the video.

2. Demand it stop. Contact your senators and representatives until it does.

3. Contribute generously to those who are fighting on the front lines.

4. Get green! And

5. Register to vote as Democrat or Independent, and

6. Never, never, never, ever vote Republican again.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

"The Defining World Struggle of Our Times"

Hoo boy, this one's a must-read. From today's Daily Kos, a sample:

The White House chose to staff the Baghdad-based government with hundreds of inexperienced die-hard conservatives with no actual knowledge of the country or infrastructures they were governing, even though it presumably knew a rapid and competent rebuilding of the Iraqi nation was absolutely vital for any chance of stability. But instead the White House chose years of cronyism and partisan loyalty over nonpartisan expertise and experience, because critical efforts to win the defining world struggle of our times were considered less important than promoting those partisan ideological economic experiments and fiefdoms.

Forgotten Soldier

Joan Walsh, on Salon, like many of us, is kind of squicked by Ari Fleischer's inability to name Iraq war veteran John Kreisel, the paraplegic soldier featured in Ari's multi-million-dollar pro-war ad series.

Back story: Fleischer, as you know, was White House press secretary, or lead propagandist. Now he has his own propaganda outfit called, fulsomely, Freedom's Watch, and it has received funding--can we guess the source?--to produce a five-week, $15 million ad series to support Bush's discretionary war.

Premiering the series on "Hardball" yesterday, Fleischer pulled up nada when Mike Barnacle merely asked the name of the soldier he'd trotted out to flak the war. You'd think he'd know.

I'm pretty sure that this story wouldn't walk except that it so neatly symbolizes the truth of Republican chickenhawks' feelings about the actual people doing the bleeding.

If BushCo had not systematically slashed veterans' benefits, or had sent our kids to war with instead of without top-quality armor, vehicles (and preparations), Prince Ari's carelessness wouldn't have hit a nerve. But given known facts--that Bush chose this war, that GOP hawks don't ask their sons and daughters to actually fight or anything, and that Rumsfeld, Cheney, and Bush couldn't be bothered to provide the best strategy, arms, and care possible--it did.

Still, if Ari had had the decency to blush or apologize, we might be less critical. Instead, he out-Tuckered Carlson. His reaction, insouciant and arrogant, insinuated that the question was somehow about a detail no one of his import could possibly be expected to know. And that said it all.

It's of a piece, isn't it?

Xoloitzcuintli: Only the Clerisy Knows for Sure

Word of the day: Xoloitzcuintli, pronounced Sho-low-eats-queent-lee. Who knew.

Illegal Government Wiretapping

This from Digby, whom I grow to respect more with each passing day:

"It's not obvious to me why the government would feel the need to write a law giving retroactive 'liability protection' to communications companies if communications companies hadn't been involved in something they need liability protection for. I guess it's more of that 'trust me' style of governance we now live under."
Me either. Her posts on Mike McConnell, Director of National Intelligence, are well worth reading.

Of course it's also true that making corporate complicity with illegal wiretapping retroactively legal takes Bush and Gonzales out of the tacky position of having to admit that illegal corporate wiretapping complicity means their government wiretapping was illegal, too. But we knew that.

The question is, does anybody in the real world care?

Michael Vick

Within three years, tops, Vick will be playing again for the NFL. Between then and now, he will go to a lovely retreat in the desert where he'll emerge rehabbed as a member of PETA's board of directors, marry a nice lady veterinarian, and take up dog rescue as a community service. He will appear on Larry King and blabber about his misguided youth and the racists that declared him guilty before his trial, and his new-found sensitivity, and he won't be sporting dreds.

In the meantime, it appears that our rush to judgment was right, after all. People reached the only sane conclusion possible, based on the evidence in the media. What made our conclusion not a collective racist spasm was the deed and the videos, duh.

Georgia's NAACP would do well to issue a revised statement on the Vick sitch, because, excuse me, rote defense--let me repeat that: rote defense--of any popular, wealthy African American athlete regardless of circumstance and evidence (does the name O.J. ring a bell?) does diddly squat to enhance our collective sensibilities about justice, diversity, and personal integrity. It stinks of special pleading, undermines the credibility of the NAACP when it does confront genuine racism, and adds to what I fear is a building store of resentment among many white Americans about an overplayed card.

If he should be diagnosed as a bona fide sociopath--and it's not out of the question--Vick's actions would be more comprehensible but not excusable. He has no excuses. He knows what cruelty means, but he chose to make it a business proposition just the same. His macho quotient evidently insufficiently demonstrated on the football field, he chose to torment dogs to prove how tough he really is.

Vick sure isn't the first guy to equate abuse with manliness, and that's the rest of the discussion we should be having about this matter. Yes, I'm encouraged that it has shed some light on the truth about dog fighting and "pit bulls"--vicious dogs are made by vicious people, not born with a breed imprint--but I hope that, in addition to a special on the spectacular nastiness of dog fighting, we will soon see a CNN special on the connections between men who abuse their dogs and men who abuse their wifes and lovers, because it's unquestionably there. Such a documentary would add significantly to the good that could come out of this hideous episode, but no, I'm not holding my breath.

One last thing: Dog fighting isn't a southern disease, and I'm sick of hearing that it is, so siddown, shuddup, and get a clue. It exists worldwide, and it exists in every US quadrant, social milieu, and demographic. But it's illegal, so it's hidden. Like bootlegging, usually the poor people do it and the rich people get the thrills. (In this case, the rich man did it and got the thrills.) Stop with the specious projections, please, and look at the facts. Recently it was reported that one in five of every Chicago school kids has witnessed dog fighting. Google on Chicago dog fighting. If you think it's a southern thing, you'll definitely be surprised.

Let's put this virulent regional chauvinism out with the rest of the trash.

Question for Wolf

Dear Mr. Blitzer,

Just wondering: When will you be interviewing the seven soldiers who wrote the anti-war op ed in the New York Times? You know, the one that says:

VIEWED from Iraq at the tail end of a 15-month deployment, the political debate in Washington is indeed surreal. Counterinsurgency is, by definition, a competition between insurgents and counterinsurgents for the control and support of a population. To believe that Americans, with an occupying force that long ago outlived its reluctant welcome, can win over a recalcitrant local population and win this counterinsurgency is far-fetched. As responsible infantrymen and non-commissioned officers with the 82nd Airborne Division soon heading back home, we are skeptical of recent press coverage portraying the conflict as increasingly manage-able and feel it has neglected the mounting civil, political and social unrest we see every day. (Obviously, these are our personal views and should not be seen as official within our chain of command.)
(Re: that disclaimer: I don't think there's much danger of that.)

Oh, and while I'm on the subject of CNN, when will Jack Cafferty stop giving the Republicans in Congress a total free pass? The truth, Jack, is that Democrats hold the House and Senate by unworkably slim majorities, and members from both parties vote.

Invertibrate Watch

This piece on The Muckraker reminds me still yet again one more time why I hate this entire Congress and slime-slurping fambly-values GOP crooks, liars, wife-collectors, and child molestors.

Florida's top police agency said Wednesday its investigation into former [Republican] U.S. Rep. Mark Foley's lurid Internet communications with teenage boys has been hindered because neither Foley nor the House will let investigators examine his congressional computers.

Given a choice between protecting a pageboy gawker's House computers and standing up to a full-scale White House assault on Congress' constitutional authorities, where does this assemblage of invertibrates draw the line?

Why does this sound so familiar? Hold on, it's coming. Ah, right. The Catholic bishops!

Why would anybody think we have no moral values?

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

American Travesty

I got a message this morning from a dear friend of 40-something years, a minister and educator in Gulfport, MS. A life-long resident there, she stayed through Katrina to shelter 18 people in her home. Ever since, she's been up to her eyebrows sheltering, clothing, feeding, and caring for her community. Here's what she has to say about the Mississippi Gulf Coast today, August 22, 2007:

The coast is still a mess, and I do mean a mess. Garbage and debris still line most streets; too many houses still have blue tarps for roofs; building materials are so expensive here (moreso by far than in towns 50 miles away); contractors are starting jobs and not finishing because they underbid, not expecting suppliers to raise costs willynilly; non-decisions by government officials re: permit fees, height regs, etc. Most of my friends who lost everything are not rebuilding because insurance costs are prohibitive. One family has a quote to rebuild their smallish size house south of the railroad track that they can handle. But the insurance is $40,000 a year! Can you believe it???

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Joe's Hotline

In Maricopa County, Arizona, everybody knows Sheriff Joe Arpaio, he of desert prison tents and pink underwear for inmates. What everybody doesn’t know is that Arpaio’s theatrics haven’t lowered our crime rate. I mention this for any Kevlar-codpiece-wearing Freepers who may be lurking. Arpaio’s all bowl and no punch.

Arpaio’s most recent installation is a hotline on which we “legals” are encouraged to report “illegals.” I haven’t done a survey, but my sense is that most people are fine with that. Phoenix is a little more than a two-hour drive from Mexico, and there’s an immigration crisis, and it’s personal here. Against that background, a hotline doesn’t seem like such a bad idea. Except that it stinks.

“Why?” you ask. “Isn’t using the hotline just like reporting a crime?”

Nope. This hotline doesn’t target behavior. It targets people.

Having at one time been a closeted Queer, I know about living in the bilious glare of somebody else’s righteous paranoia. I get what it feels like to be one mistake from exile, and I know what I did to minimize the risk. I hid, I lied, I obfuscated, and if I’d had to pay taxes to be Queer, I’d have cheated. These are not behaviors we want to cultivate in anybody.

This hotline—I call it a ratline—pees in the public well. Arpaio has “deputized” regular civilians without our consent, much less an oath of allegiance or a system of accountability. We’re being asked to replace information with guesswork and facts with prejudices, heedless of the consequences.

What consequences? There’s something inherently corrosive about anonymous ratting. It eats at the fabric of society, erodes our judgment, and sabotages sensible restraints on abuse of power. If we collaborate, we are vigilantes who trade our empathy and reason for pure prey drive. We lose part of our own decency, and that’s not even counting the consequences for the people we report, of which we remain blissfully ignorant.

There’s no way to know by looking which kid is Queer, and there’s no way to know which one of us is an illegal immigrant. There’s no way to ensure that we know we’re right before we call, or to mediate punishment with mercy.

Even if there were a way to ensure that we are right, I can't bring myself to elevate mere technical law to the level of justice. There's nothing wrong with being Queer, legalities in some jurisdictions notwithstanding. And though it may be illegal, there's also nothing unjust in transgressing an arbitrary line in the sand in order to make a living, particularly when making a living is impossible at home and is invited by those who live across that line. The injustices of Mexican and North American oligarchy require challenge, and the place of integrity is beside illegal immigrants, standing over against those who deny their inalienable human rights and exploit them. Our job, at a minimum, is to ensure that the desperation they feel at home doesn't subject them to abuse and exploitation here. Either that's true or our Constitution is BS and our religious protestations are window dressing. Take your pick. The fact that it's complicated doesn't excuse us at all.

I doubt the hotline will affect the illegal immigrant count. But it will certainly stir up more fear and resentment, and take us in a direction no society ought to go. This isn’t the Third Reich—yet. Let’s not go there, all in one leap or one step at a time.

Even Cheney's Pals Have Had Enough

In an editorial entitled "Losing Patience," the New York Times reports that long-time Republican Bush supporters are finally breaking with the administration on its rape-and-pillage approach to national public lands. Get this:

Last Friday, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership sued the Interior Department to protest the recent authorization of 2,000 new oil and gas wells, along with 1,000 miles of roads and another 1,000 miles of pipeline in a wildlife-rich area of south-central Wyoming known as the Atlantic Rim. The suit accuses the bureau of multiple violations of federal law, including the requirement that it fully assess less destructive alternatives. It also notes that the bureau itself conceded that under its plan the “natural setting would be converted to an industrialized setting” with severe adverse impacts on mule deer, elk and pronghorn antelope.(Emphasis mine.)

Who likes these bastards?

Monday, August 20, 2007

America the Moribund?

Today I’m stuck on Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "beloved community," Robert Putnam’s research on “social capital,” Joe Bageant’s observation that most Americans are living in a happy hologram, and an article in The New Republic called “Death Grip,” which purports to explain why people vote for George Bush.

If you haven’t gotten to know Joe Bageant, it’s time. Here’s a sample:

Americans, rich or poor, now live in a culture entirely perceived through simulacra-media images and illusions. We live inside a self-referential media hologram of a nation that has not existed for quite some time now, especially in America’s heartland. Our national reality is held together by a pale, carbon imprint of the original. The well-off with their upscale consumer aesthetic, live inside gated Disneyesque communities with gleaming uninhabited front porches representing some bucolic notion of the Great American home and family. The working class, true to its sports culture aesthetic, is a spectator to politics. . . politics which are so entirely imagistic as to be holograms of a process, not a process. Social realism is a television commercial for America, a simulacran republic of eagles, church spires, brave young soldiers and heroic firefighters and ‘freedom of choice’ within the hologram. America’s citizens have been reduced to Balkanized consumer units by the corporate state’s culture producing machinery.

We no longer have a country—just the hollow shell of one, a global corporation masquerading electronically and digitally as a nation called the United States.

You know it’s true. Gated communities spring up like Hollywood sets all over the country. My cousin calls them “happy towns” because people believe that if they can just live there, they’ll finally be happy.

Everybody’s got to believe in something, I guess. Lacking anything substantial, we’ll take the simulacra, please. Make that with beer and chips.

Which brings me to Putnam. Social capital is, basically, the fabric that knits us together, unit by unit, into a shared and beloved nation. It’s all the little grids made up of churches, associations, social clubs, Tupperware parties, Red Cross tents, League of Women voters, Rotary Clubs, and PTAs that give us ways to interact and form allegiances, and the resulting bonds of acquaintance, friendship, shared interests, and trust that allow us to function in concert for mutual benefit.

The analogy is to capital as in real property, wealth, and we’re just about broke.

Despite the fact that numerous studies here and abroad show a powerful correlation between high levels of social capital and all kinds of social benefits – lower crime, better schools, more and faster economic development, more effective government, higher voting levels, more altruism, etc.--America’s social capital has been declining since the mid-60s/early 70s.

This was first brought to our attention by Robert Putnam, in Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community and later treatments, and he suspects that the cause wasn’t hippies after all, but television. Writing for The American Prospect in 1996, Putnam concluded:

Moreover, just as the erosion of the ozone layer was detected only many years after the proliferation of the chlorofluorocarbons that caused it, so too the erosion of America's social capital became visible only several decades after the underlying process had begun. Like Minerva's owl that flies at dusk, we come to appreciate how important the long civic generation [those born roughly between 1910 and 1940] has been to American community life just as its members are retiring. Unless America experiences a dramatic upward boost in civic engagement (a favorable "period effect") in the next few years, Americans in 2010 will join, trust, and vote even less than we do today. (Emphasis mine.)
Basically, more of us live our lives very close to home, in relative isolation from everyone except our immediate families, if we have families, and fewer of us belong to churches, civic groups, professional, interest, or trade associations, labor unions, garden clubs, PTAs, bridge clubs, and so on, or even socialize with friends much. Not even the advent of Internet-based association has improved our social capital. The groups we do belong to—like—whatever—don’t really involve actually seeing each other’s faces, much less the human touch. Membership is likely to boil down to reading a website and clicking a VISA icon to pay our dues.

By the way, the seeming countertrend since Putnam first wrote Bowling Alone—church membership—is limited to the right wing of the Protestant half of Christianity and even this, despite the much touted mega-churches, is showing signs of disintegration. Members who joined seeking spiritual sustenance are leaving within a year or two, having found mostly infotainment and coffee bars instead.

Which brings me to the prevailing Republican political ideology—a virulent form of social Darwinism evident in any number of anti-regulatory and “free market” Republican policies, in GOP political advertising distortions that pit each of us against the other (the “gay agenda,” “socialized" medicine), and in the GOP’s apparently thorough repudiation of core human decency (honesty, fairness, personal integrity, tolerance, empathy, the sanctity of the vote, etc.).
So my question is this. What happens to the common good when the majority of citizens, already unplugged from social networks and living in a holographic projection of an actual country that is still blessed with real ungenetically engineered food, real know-the-neighbors neighborhoods, real people of different shapes, colors, sizes, and relationships, real dogs and cats, and genuine shared aspirations, are fed, day in and day out, with xenophobia, hyper brown-shirt patriotism, terror, rage, violence, and paranoia?

What happens when these same souls see super-machismo, blind allegiance, and boythink (see my earlier post of this title) as synonymous with patriotism, and getting rich as necessarily respectable? What happens when mass-marketed historical revisionism defines “liberalism” as moral depravity instead of what it actually is—Freedom’s Power, in Paul Starr’s apt title—and hyper Ayn Rand individual-rightsism is touted as the Way, the Truth, and the Light?

What happens when society’s single most important common socializing force, the public school, is either allowed to deteriorate or is replaced by home schooling; when the most productive curriculum in history--traditional liberal arts, with its emphasis on tools for independent thinking—is replaced by pre-packaged, mail-order rightwing propaganda that our kids are force-fed in isolated little pod houses?

What happens when 50% of kids are dropping out of high school—I mean, apart from the inevitable collapse of our competitive market, AKA our economy, and the mass production of a bunch of illiterate little twerps who can shoot a 9mm but can't find China on a map?

What happens when systematic exposure to other cultures, religions, values systems, social and political solutions—once regarded as the mark of culture and a prerequisite for trustworthy political leadership—is labeled as a “war on Christianity”?

What happens when our president replaces a traditional military and its traditional rules of engagement with a Christianist private mercenary militia accountable to nobody because its values are solely self-referential?

Which brings me to “Death Grip,” and what political psychologists believe about why certain people voted for George Bush:

. . . Bush's popularity in the years after September 11 stemmed in part from Americans' need for a charismatic figure who could help them overcome these thoughts [unconscious thoughts of their own deaths, triggered by reminders of 9-11 and the Word Trade Center]. Bush's appeal, the psychologists speculated, lay ‘in his image as a protective shield against death, armed with high-tech weaponry, patriotic rhetoric, and the resolute invocation of doing God's will to rid the world of evil.'
Everything we said about how the Bushies manipulate terror alerts for political advantage wasn't just correct. It was scary correct.

What worries me is that if this thug was that popular in 2004, how much more popular will a grown-up fascist be in 2010, all things considered?

Saturday, August 18, 2007


Digby (Hullaballoo) is on a roll today. Pinging off a 2003 video Atrios has resurrected, her piece about Tom Friedman (“Tripping on Crazy”) provides as righteously gobsmacked an indictment of Friedman’s raving complicity with Bush, Rumsfeld, Cheney, Rice, and Powell prior to the Iraq invasion as anything I ever hope to see in this vale of tears. I don’t know, maybe it takes a woman to recognize stupid, mind-melting boythink when she sees it. Get this (quoting Friedman, now):

No, the axis-of-evil idea isn't thought through -- but that's what I like about it. It says to these countries and their terrorist pals: ''We know what you're cooking in your bathtubs. We don't know exactly what we're going to do about it, but if you think we are going to just sit back and take another dose from you, you're wrong. Meet Don Rumsfeld -- he's even crazier than you are.'' . . . . There is a lot about the Bush team's foreign policy I don't like, but their willingness to restore our deterrence, and to be as crazy as some of our enemies, is one thing they have right.

And how’s that workin’ for ya now, Tom?

I guess Iron John didn’t cut it.

Friedman’s take reminds me of a story a guy friend told me once. Seems he was being harrassed by some redneck neighbors. Now, Pete’s a little guy (not his real name). The fact that he’s also an ex-Marine isn’t obvious at first sight. So he decided to show the fellers just how tough he really is. He tore off a pad from a prickly pear cactus bare-handed and ate the whole thing—thorns and all—right in front of their faces. This is exactly the kind of boythink Friedman was celebrating. “You think I’m a wus? I’ll give you something to think about!” The problem is that Pete ended up in the hospital, and(duh) the boyz in the hood weren’t deterred. They were inspired.

To put it plainly, 9-11 wasn't just a hideous act of terror. It was an act that hit American men where they live. That a gaggle of Arabs could take down New York City's Twin Towers was a hugely public symbolic castration, a monumental humiliation that could not help but generate a tragic collective insanity among American males. I don't mean the attack per se, which rightfully generated rage and agony. I mean that it was the symbolic castration that made them fall in behind the first fool they found with a big gun, no plan, and a bad attitude. And it was the symbolic castration that also made it necessary to bracket W's "package" in parachute straps on the infamous day he proclaimed "Mission Accomplished."

It isn’t that an horrific attack on our soil didn’t demand a dissuading response. Of course it did. What I’m saying is that it demanded a huge and deadly response, all right, but it would have been better if the response had been well thought out and aimed at the right target. This one was neither. I guess that’s what happens when men go crazy.

Ironically, this same week, blogs across the net have pinged off the discovery by C-SPAN 3 of a video in which none other than Dick Cheney explains exactly why going after Saddam was a really crazy idea. Its utility is especially clear now that it is juxtaposed with Friedman’s pathetic war dance. Because, much as I hate to admit it, this Cheney, this 1994 Cheney, shown speaking about the first Gulf war, is doing well thought-out war-think:

Once you took down Saddam Hussein's government, what are you going to put in its place? If you take down the central government in Iraq you can begin to see pieces fly off. Part of it, the Syrians would like to have to the west. To the east, Iran. To the north, the Kurds.[If Iraq's] Kurds spin loose and join with the Kurds in Turkey, then you threaten the territorial integrity of Turkey. It's a quagmire. How many additional dead Americans is Saddam [Hussein] worth? Our judgment was "not very many" and I think we got it right.

Friday, August 17, 2007

For Bandit

On Saturday, a Chandler, AZ police officer left his K-9 partner, Bandit, in the patrol car at his family home for 12 hours. Bandit died from heat exhaustion, an excruciating death and the most common cause of K-9 officers’ demise. Bandit, a Belgian Malinois, was five years old. He had served as a police dog for more than four years. His handler, Sgt. Tom Lovejoy, is head of the Chandler police K-9 unit, and a 15-year veteran of the force.

Ordinarily, Bandit would not have been with Lovejoy on that day. Ordinarily, Lovejoy wouldn’t have learned, upon walking into his house, that his teenager had totaled a family car. Maybe he wouldn't have forgotten Bandit otherwise. We'll never know.

Initially, the Chandler police department declined to investigate, calling the incident a tragic accident, as indeed it was. After intense public outcry, however, Lovejoy is now on administrative leave, and an investigation is being mounted.

“It is at least a misdemeanor to leave an animal unattended in a motor vehicle. And depending on the incident, it could be a felony or an animal-cruelty charge,” said County Attorney Andrew Thomas. In an Arizona summer, leaving anybody unattended in a closed car for longer than a few minutes is likely to be a death sentence. Starting, oh, somewhere around March, our media cycles warnings about leaving animals and babies in hot cars as often as warnings about watching toddlers near swimming pools. It's something we all know not to do.

Those are the basic facts as I understand them.

Bandit’s story is about how humans take animals for granted, and about what we have been taught about our place in the universe relative to theirs. We still function according to the medieval “Great Chain of Being” model, with our image of God on top and banana slugs (or something) at the bottom. The implication for interspecies relations is as clear from the Great Chain as the implication for enlistee-officer relationships is from the Army organization chart.

I just don’t believe in the “Great Chain of Being” anymore. I believe in a Divine creation in which there is (as the Quakers put it) "that of God" in me and in Bandit, too. Therefore, questions like, “Which is more important, my child or your dog,” strike me as just as inane as, “Which is more important, a peach or an avocado.” I don’t believe our Creator thinks of any of us like that at all. Apart from knowing way more than we do about each creature's gifts and potentialities, that Creator loves dogs as much as us humans without confusing which is which, and wants us to do the same thing.

The Creator I believe in doesn’t modify the name of any creature with the words, “It’s just a. . . .”

I don’t want Lovejoy’s head. I know he’s grieving and heartsick, and I am sorry for his pain. Tragedies happen to good people, and I believe that Lovejoy wouldn’t ordinarily have harmed Bandit. But I also believe that like most of the rest of us, Lovejoy didn’t think of his canine partner with quite the regard he just naturally gives to a human partner.

What I want is this: I want Lovejoy and the Chandler police department to make Bandit’s death the turning point at which it becomes every officer’s ingrained instinct to treat a canine partner with all the regard he or she would give to a human partner. I want every K-9 handler’s understanding of his or her responsibility to K-9 to be so core deep, so cellular, that every action involving their team involves as reflexive an accounting for the K-9’s wellbeing as it does when both partners are human.

The fact is that Bandit would not have left Lovejoy in a lethal situation. For Bandit, it just wasn’t an option. I think anyone who knows dogs at all senses that--especially dogs trained, as Bandit was, to be a full team player.

In my world, this makes our duty to adopt the kind of reciprocity I’m advocating even more compelling, rationally and morally. When that’s the standard, K-9s will enter the line of duty with all the protection given any officer. All officers deserve that much--beautiful, bright, and devoted Bandit included.

Random Updates

The Saudi Arms Deal and the MidEast Management Plan, Rev. 48

What's the latest twist in Bushmanic Middle Eastern policy? Michael Young, opinion editor of the Daily Star in Lebanon, may have spotted it. Surprise! (Not.) Bush is resurrecting a venerable consensus tradeoff he and the Neo-Cons once denounced. See Young's "Profit or Principle: The West is Back to Engaging Lucrative Dictators," on Reason Online, August 16, 2007.

Panic on Wall Street and the Market's Unmanagement Plan
Would you like to understand what's behind the stock market shakes? Read Andrew Leonard's explanation on Salon, called "Panic on Wall Street." Thanks to Alisa for the tip-off.

Kucinich KOs Rumsfeld; Story Canned by Bushscribe Chip Reid
Thanks to Media Bloodhound for this one.

Former Aide to GOP Officials Arrested in Prostitution Sting
Tim Droogsma, a former press secretary to a U.S. senator and a Minnesota governor, was arrested Tuesday in a midafternoon prostitution sting on St. Paul's East Side. From Poynter Online

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Elvis Remembered

B. January 8, 2935, Tupelo, MS
D. August 16, 1977, Graceland, Memphis, TN

In 1953, Elvis recorded “My Happiness” and “That’s When Your Heartaches Begin,” at Sun Studio’s Memphis Recording Service. In 1954, his “That’s All Right,” the first of his five Sun singles, has been called his “breakthrough.” But on January 10, 1956, Elvis recorded “Heartbreak Hotel” for RCA in Nashville. Released on January 27, it sold more than 300,000 copies the first week, and the King was born.

I was 10 years old, high-toned, and hard to get. It took all of nine months, Ed Sullivan, and, well, “Hound Dog,” “Don’t Be Cruel,” and “Jailhouse Rock” to win me over. But once won, The Pelvis found a life-long friend in me, if not a passionate devotee.

As much as for his music, I remember Elvis for how he won mainstream America. It might have masqueraded as righteous indignation, but in reality, what he was up against was a very nasty American class war waged by preachers, critics, media chiefs, editorialists, and politicians. The usual guardians of the realm linked arms to condemn the sideburned, long-haired, cracker boy from Tupelo.

See, it wasn’t just about holding the line on hot male sexuality. It was about holding all kinds of lines, lines that really are inconceivable to an urban twenty-something today but that seemed solid as slab granite in the genteel hill country South in 1956. After all, my hometown, Knoxville, was just 525 miles from Little Rock, a slow southwestern slope away. And 1956 was just one year before nine African American students changed history by integrating the Little Rock high school.

Definitely without conscious plan, Elvis, in himself, qua Elvis, challenged lines between black and white, between that cracker and your daughter, between church music and roadhouse rock, between decent and incandescent. His most unforgivable sin wasn’t the pelvis thing. It was that he showed America’s girls and boys that some lines could be crossed after all, and once crossed, could begin a slow fade into irrelevance.

I don’t mean that all differences among ethnic and class groups are meaningless. Some are, some aren’t, and that’s another subject. I mean that contempt-on-sight, contempt and condescension based on “race,” class, and style, began to be challenged throughout American not only at the high school door but also in the person and the music of the most famous white man of the times.

The challenge wasn’t simply in his sound or stage presence. It was in his being, a fact which grew increasingly harder to see as Elvis got fat and hooked on pills. Nevertheless, as he fought that class war we saw that Elvis was both astronomically talented and looked like a hood, and was kind, forgiving, courteous, and big in a way that his critics never were and couldn’t fight. Whatever else he was, he was genuine--in his tolerance, his compassion, his capacity to empathize and act on his empathy, and in his sense of civic responsibility. In other words, Presley had sense enough to know which lines really do matter.

Everybody knows Elvis was deservedly the King of Rock. What they might have forgotten in a world where Britney is reckoned a “star” and CNN lingers in a tacky Graceland living room, is that the cracker had class.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Rove's New Job?

One thing is clear: The Bush Reich surely will not allow its chief propagandist and ring master to go to waste.

Of a piece with Rove’s reported plans to return to Texas to write a book on the George W. Bush administration would certainly be a new post as, er, puppet master, behind-the-scenes "managing editor" of a presidential library cum propaganda complex. If anyone knows which files hold the dirty secrets, it's our boy Karl. You heard it here.

From BushWatch (Thursday, August 9, 2007):

Dr. Benjamin Johnson, a history professor at Southern Methodist University(SMU)in Dallas, where President Bush is proposing to build his $500 million library and neoconservative institute (DeFrank, 2006; Berkowitz, 2007,recently attended the annual meeting of the Organization of American Historians. Several colleagues there reported that Karl Rove, Bush's chief political strategist, has been traveling around the country examining research facilities, discussing how to select Bush Institute fellows, and meeting with library directors (Johnson, 2007a).

According to Dr. Johnson, one well-respected colleague said, "Rove seems to know exactly what the square footage is of the building that will be at SMU and where it will be located on campus." Rove also expressed displeasure that some SMU faculty and United Methodist bishops were protesting the proposed partisan institute (Korosec, 2007; Silva, 2007)over which Bush and company will have total control (Johnson, 2007b). This hands-on involvement of a top-level White House operative like Rove demonstrates the importance of the proposed library and think tank at SMU to Bush insiders.

. . . . To re-write history on the scale Bush needs will necessitate the complete control of a disinformation institute, and if it uses the legitimacy of a respected university and the good name of a major Protestant tradition, all the better (imagine the American Enterprise Institute with a giant cross on the front door, and you get the picture).

Importantly, Rove and friends will be able to continue to conceal the most damaging information about this administration in its bubble using Bush's Executive Order 13233, signed into law shortly after 9/11, which insures [sic] that the president and his heirs are able to deny access in perpetuity to government records they select (Gillman, 2007). (Emphases ours.)

Karl Rove and Us

If politics is the process by which groups of people make decisions, Karl Rove is the end of politics.

If decision implies deliberative process, a weighing of facts and assertions, and politics a more or less orderly rendering of the verdict of the group in a way that can more or less be verified, Karl Rove is the antithesis of politics.

Rove’s method involves none of these. It subordinates the will of the group to the desires of the cabal; it replaces deliberative decision making--clean elections--with illusion.

Thus, Rove’s achievement amounts to demonstrating that a populace can be manipulated and a president installed by means of deceit, fraud, and intimidation. Wow.

This is genius? This, in the words of Faux News’ Fred Barnes, is the "greatest political mind of the century”? Well, I guess it would be, to Faux News.

Rove isn’t even original. He’s ripped-off con. Karl Rove is to great political minds what Velveeta is to cheese.

It is obvious that Rove has appropriated Machiavelli’s political pragmatics--“the end justifies the means.” Not so obvious is that, in so doing, he and his little prince have very nearly displaced our cherished representative democracy with Machiavelli’s autocracy (now known as “the unitary executive”) and have replaced the one end that, to Machiavelli, justifies any means--the health and stability of the State--with permanent GOP hegemony and plutocracy.

And what are Rove’s equally obvious means, his methods? They are straight out of Goebbels' playbook: the use of propaganda (lies, big lies, and insinuations) and the willingness to play to our worst tendencies--racism, xenophobia, paranoia, and craven terror--in order to achieve a very nasty hidden agenda.

While we slept, Karl Rove, even more flagrantly than GOP operatives Haldeman, Mitchell, Segretti, Dolan, and Atwater before him, has transformed the keystone of substantive democracy--clean electioneering--into the gauzy dream of fools and losers. Haldeman and Mitchell, and their prince, paid the appropriate price. Today's Americans fail to note this at our peril.