Monday, August 30, 2004

Is an oil crisis looming? An Insane Planet article asserts that it is: "The US knows damn well that even with heroic levels of environmental vandalism there is no longer any way to scavenge enough oil to supply world demand AS IT IS, much less as it trends." But Victor T. LeVine, professor emeritus of political science at Washington University, would disagree. His column in the Sunday Post says that:
there is no shortage of oil; in fact we've got enough "proved" reserves ("proved" means what we're pretty sure we know is down there, and which we can recover given current costs and technology) to last us until the end of this century, at present rates of consumption. Even if the Chinese double their consumption in the next 10 years, we can still make it to the end of 2099 with our "proved" reserves. ...
There's surprisingly little disagreement about all this if you read the supply data provided by the American Petroleum Institute, the U.S. Department of Energy and the major oil companies.

The question is, if LeVine is correct, am I pleased to hear it? An odd question, you might think, but it isn't really odd when you consider the headline of an op-ed piece from the Post-Dispatch on Tuesday, Aug. 24: "HIGHER OIL PRICES MAY SAVE THE PLANET: WORLDWIDE OIL CONSUMPTION IS SOARING. HIGH PRICES WILL FORCE CUTBACKS THAT HELP CURB ENVIRONMENTAL DAMAGE." So I repeat: am I pleased that LeVine might be correct? And my answer is, I don't think so. We humans can find alternative sources of energy. We can't find another planet to live on once we ruin the climate on this one.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Lately, I have been struck by the alarming nature of the growing oppressive tactics adopted by law enforcement agencies. I think it’s time to start asking why we have accepted, and even embraced, Police State-style infractions against people in America.

Let me tell you why I have been moved to write this particular piece. I turned on the TV and of course, the Olympics was on. Determined to avoid the nauseating alliterations and constant fawning of Bob Costas, I changed the channel and ended up on our local Fox affiliate, Channel 2. The show playing was “COPS”. I was treated to a demonstration of how the Police use tazer technology in the field. The subject, a large man who does look intimidating, had two “probes” shot into his side while his hands were on the hood of the police car and he had “assumed the position”, although he was clearly unhappy about it and expressed his opinion. This man had done nothing but display a bad attitude, and 50,000 volts were forced through his body. TWICE.
The man was on the ground, muttering “Oh God that hurts”, and the Police Officer tells his partner to “hit him again”.
Another 50,000 volts.
(After “COPS” ended, “America’s Most Wanted” comes on. If you’ve never seen the old Swarzennegger film “The Running Man”, then rent it and then watch “AMW”. If you still think John Walsh is a stand up guy, then you’re an idiot. But I digress.)
Thoroughly disgusted, I decide to check my email. Lo and behold, one of my fellow CFMers had posted a story published by the Progressive. The abridged version of the story:
FBI Trails and Interrogates Missouri Activists

The FBI trailed and interrogated three young men from Kirksville, Missouri, in July, and talked to their parents. The activists were then subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury on the very day they were planning to be in Boston for a protest at the Democratic National Convention.
"In the week leading up to the Democratic National Convention, the parents of each of three were visited by agents of the FBI identifying themselves as members of the Joint Terrorism Task Force," says Denise Lieberman, legal director of the ACLU of Eastern Missouri, which is representing the three men. "They said they were there to get their sons' current contact information and to ask some questions about their sons' political affiliations."
Two things make this case even more alarming than other similar incidents around the country, she says.
The first is that her clients were subpoenaed, and as a consequence could not go to their intended protest.
"On Monday, July 26, my clients received a subpoena to appear before a federal grand jury, and at the same time they received a target letter saying they were a target of the investigation," says Lieberman. "They were ordered to appear on Thursday, July 29, which was the same date they were scheduled to appear in Boston for a protest. It certainly had the effect of preventing them from attending the protest."
Lieberman says that neither the subpoena nor the target letter offered specific information about particular incidents of alleged criminal activity. And she said the prosecutor refused to grant her clients an extension.
The second distinctive characteristic of this case, Lieberman says, is that her clients were repeatedly and overtly tailed.
"Our clients were put under 24-hour surveillance," she says. "It began approximately Sunday July 25th. At that point, they all had come to St. Louis. They noticed cars in front of the house where they were staying, at least three at any given time. One was a dark SUV, one was a GMC suburban, one was a silver truck. Sometimes there were other cars. They were there for a period of five days, and they followed them everywhere they went."
Lieberman says her clients would drive around their block four times, and the FBI would be there behind them. Undercover agents also followed them to the grocery store and even to her ACLU office.
One member of the house who was not involved with the planned protest in Boston "was followed to work at his local grocery store and was taken aside by his supervisor," she says. "This person felt that perhaps his job could be jeopardized."
Lieberman says she is very troubled by the government's tactics.
The use of surveillance and even a subpoena as an apparent tool to prevent people from going to a protest violates the First Amendment, she believes.
"It's one thing if you go to a protest and engage in illegal activity like civil disobedience, where you know you could be subject to arrest. And police have every right if people do that to arrest them," she says. "But it's quite another thing to stop them before the protest and question them and take steps to intimidate them or prevent them from going in the first place."
And the intimidation extended beyond her clients.
"There were about 10 people who were supposed to go with them to Boston, and all of them cancelled," she says. "That makes the chilling effect greater."
Joe Parris, a spokesman for the FBI in Washington, told The New York Times: "The FBI isn't in the business of chilling anyone's First Amendment rights. But criminal behavior isn't covered by the First Amendment. What we're concerned about are injuries to convention participants, injuries to citizens, injuries to police and first responders."
But Lieberman says her clients hadn't engaged in criminal activity and were simply trying to exercise their First Amendment rights.
"The FBI," says Lieberman, "is sending a message not just to those targeted but to those around them: If you are outspoken, an FBI file may be opened on you or you might expect to see an FBI agent knocking on your door."

Now, I have never had a problem with law enforcement officers having the ability to do their jobs, but doing your job is also respecting the rights guaranteed to us by the Constitution. The Police have crossed this line with alarming regularity. The FBI and the St. Louis Police Department have used these tactics a number of times in the last few years, most noticeably when the homes of Monsanto protesters were raided just before the World Agricultural Conference last year, the arrest of a very active labor leader at a peaceful protest, and a rash of harassments of people who wear dreadlocks and ride bicycles. These incidents, including the tazer demonstration on “COPS”, reinforce the idea that the Police do not HAVE any respect for Free Speech protections or the 1st Amendment.
This is America Dammit, and I got news for them! I am not afraid of stating that they’re breaking the law. Law Enforcement agencies and procedures need to be reformed and curtailed at all levels, the Department of Homeland Security be deemed illegal, and the officers who engage in these tactics should be locked up for life because of their activity. The actions of the Police and the Fraternal Order of Police Association need to be scrutinized. (Oh yeah, there’s that “Patriot Act” thing too)We have to make a stand against such Orwellian tendencies, and it’s time to hold the Police accountable for acting like brownshirts in 1930’s Germany. The days of the St. Louis Police State and the political machine that coddles these forces are numbered, but only if we act NOW. I hate to think of the alternative.
I challenge all CFM members and readers to run for office so we can make reforms like this, as well as other issues we all care about. The city elections will take place in March and April of 2005, and most of the intimidating tactics take place the City of St. Louis. Run for Alderman. Run for Mayor. Run against the politicians who are allowing the Police to act this way. You have rights. Use them. Do not live your life cowering in fear.
Howard Dean asked us if we want to take our country back. It’s time we answered him.
Joe Bruemmer

Saturday, August 28, 2004

I ragged on Alan Greenspan yesterday, but not thoroughly enough. I have one more complaint and then a question. The complaint is that he claims there's no housing bubble. Right. And in 1999, he informed us that there was no stock bubble. Wrong on both counts. As proof that there is currently a real estate bubble, let me point out that property prices have risen 30 percent faster than the rate of inflation these last ten years. It is unprecedented in this country for real estate prices to rise faster than the rate of inflation.

So here's my question. Greenspan is not a political appointee and yesterday's news article mentioned that he was recently confirmed for a fifth term as the Fed chairman. Who confirms him? Bankers I would assume. When the housing market bursts, as I'm betting it will, I'd like Greenspan's head on a plate, but it looks as if he's safely insulated by the ruling class. Oh, and one last question: Is it only we left wing political geeks who notice what a scam artist he is? Everyone else murmurs his name with awe.

I open the newspaper this morning and the first thing I see is that "Greenspan Would Revise Promises to Baby Boomers"--in other words cut retirement benefits. I know that's not necessary. Early last March, Krugman gave me the skinny on this corrupt old man, and it makes my teeth ache to see the Fed chairman still peddling the same nonsense. Here's a synopsis of Krugman's column, "Maestro of Chutzpah":
Greenspan really likes to stick it to the poor and middle class: First, he wants to raise the regressive payroll tax in the 1980s to create Social Security surpluses. Then he promotes the regressive Bush tax cut in 2001 since he thinks those surpluses are too large. Finally, in 2004, he wants to cut Social Security benefits now that the Bush tax cuts will eat up too much of that surplus.
Please don't settle for the synopsis. To read one of Krugman's best, click here.
And today I'm throwing in a twofer. Krugman's followup column on social security and Medicare says:
After Alan Greenspan's call for cuts in Social Security benefits, Republican members of Congress declared that the answer is to create private retirement accounts. It's amazing that they are still peddling this snake oil; it's even more amazing that journalists continue to let them get away with it. Yesterday in The Wall Street Journal, a writer judiciously declared that "personal accounts alone won't cure Social Security's ills." I guess that's true; similarly, eating doughnuts alone won't cause you to lose weight. Why is it so hard to say clearly that privatization would worsen, not improve, Social Security's finances?
Here's the link to that column.
You may think you don't have time to read two links, but these two columns ought to be required reading for every progressive. If I were still teaching, I'd tell the class, this info WILL be on the test. Know it.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Question: Does the author of the follwing paragraphs about right wing student organizations approve or disapprove of liberal professors in the politics department at Ithaca College?
... [C]onservatives are making quick advances on even the most liberal campuses and YAF's (Young America's Foundation)millions are no small reason. Take Ithaca College. When foundation officials described it to me, it sounded like a suffocating gulag. I was told that a Bay Buchanan speech had been reported to the college's Orwellian-sounding bias-related-incidents committee and that professors in the politics department openly sniggered at Republican kids in class. ...
When I spoke with her in March, Professor Barlas told me it was her department's role to challenge students with perspectives they won't get elsewhere. ... "Our strength is our ability to offer our students alternative perspectives." "Alternative" in this case means "liberal": with help from the local Republican Party, some conservative students surveyed the college's professors and found 113 Democrats and seven Republicans, none of whom taught politics.
But outside the radical pocket of that department, the Ithaca College Republicans--with YAF help--have begun to change the campus in the four years since Roger Custer founded the G.O.P. organization.
8/30/04 Time Magazine
Okay, phrases like "suffocating gulag" and "radical politics department" are a dead giveaway, as if anyone on this site believed in the "liberal media" myth anyway. But I don't want to be scoffing, ten years from now, at the "myth" that college professors are ever "liberal." Right now, many of them are, but I don't want them purged or censored the way left wing professors were in the McCarthy era. We need to organize.
I'll be writing next about how the Republicans organized over the last thirty years. They got serious about organizing and they still are. It's time we started to do the same.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Then there was the educated Texan from Texas who looked like someone in Technicolor and felt, patriotically, that people of means--decent folk--should be given more votes than drifters, whores, criminals, degenerates, atheists and indecent folk--people without means. The Texan, a character in Catch-22, was probably a Republican.
But he does raise the question of whose vote counts the most. The New York Daily News reports that 46,000 New Yorkers--all wealthy enough to own two homes--are registered to vote in both New York and Florida. It's impossible to know for sure how many voters have taken advantage of this situation. "But the News found that between 400 and 1,000 registered voters have voted twice in at least one election. In the 2000 presidential race, a margin of 537 votes tipped the victory to George W. Bush." But the double voters didn't necessarily help Bush. "Of the 46,000 registered in both states, 68 percent are Democrats, 12 percent are Republicans and 16 percent didn't claim a party."
Actually, though, 46,00 people with two votes is peanuts. Voting twice isn't even legal, and most double registered people don't do it. But it IS legal for the electoral college to count votes in sparsely populated states much more heavily than votes in densely populated states. One electoral vote in Wyoming represents 71,000 voters. One electoral vote in Florida represents 238,000 voters. So a Wyoming voter has more than three times as much clout as a Florida voter. Damn the electoral college.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

God how I hate reading about global warming. It scares me. At least I'm 62, so maybe it won't affect me much, but my cute grandchildren . . . . So despite my dislike of the topic, neither I nor you dare bury our heads in the sand, and I hope you will read on. An article called "Boiling Point" in the August16/23 issue of The Nation begins:
Climate change is not just another issue. It is the overriding threat facing human civilization in the twenty-first century, and so far our institutions are doing dangerously little to address it.
Republicans and their polluting friends have addressed it--by lying about its seriousness. But 2,000 scientists from 100 countries have studied it, under U.N. auspices, these last fifteen years and have "concluded that to stabilize our climate requires humanity to cut its use of coal and oil by 70 percent in a very short time. Kyoto only calls for a 5.2 percent cut by 2012." Unfortunately, "confronted by the steel wall of resistance of the fossil-fuel lobby and their political allies," several of our country's leading environmental groups are working only for limits of future carbon levels that they think they can negotiate. We must realize that nature doesn't negotiate. It is far more implacable than the CEO of any oil company.
"Take the critical issue of climate stabilization--the level at which the world agrees to cap the buildup of carbon concentrations in the atmosphere. The major national environmental groups focusing on climate . . . have agreed to accept what they see as a politically feasible target of 450 parts per million of carbon dioxide. While the 450 goal may be politically realistic, it would likely be environmentally catastrophic."
Most climate groups shun confrontation and instead just urge individuals to use energy more sparingly. "But by persuading concerned citizens to cut back on their personal energy use, these groups are promoting the implicit message that climate change can be solved by individual resolve. It cannot. Moreover, this message blames the victim: People are made to feel guilty if they own a gas guzzler or live in a poorly insulated home. In fact, people should be outraged that the government does not require automakers to sell cars that run on clean fuels, that building codes do not reduce heating and cooling energy requirements by 70 percent and that government energy policies do not mandate decentralized, home-based or regional sources of clean electricity."
Furthermore, even if we cut our own emissions, we cannot ignore the world's developing countries. Stopping climate change will require global effort--millions of citizens from hundreds of counries committed to saving this climate. I'm reminded of Big Bill Haywood, the famous labor leader of the beginning of the twentieth century, who used to thrill immigrant factory workers with a simple example. He'd hold up his fingers splayed out and ask someone to bend one of them. Easy. Then he'd make a fist--and make his point. In unity is strength. It's still true and necessary on a huger scale than ever. We need worldwide unity among environmental groups to fight this problem because the current arrangement is too namby pamby. As the author, Ross Gelbspan, concludes: "Activists compromise. Nature does not."

Friday, August 20, 2004

Friday I ranted about how republicans piss me off. Now the worst group of all. Us. Yeah that's right, us mealy mouthed, pasty facedLiberals. We can't seem to agree on anything. Should Sandy Berger go to jail? Yes, No, Maybe So. It's in our nature to explore the nuance of every issue, so we will, of course, argue about legislation until it's too late and little gets done. We squandered Democratic control in Washington by arguing about the nuance of various laws for so long that we only got a few good changes through, and all of a sudden we had raygun the oblivious in the White House. What a shame.The republicans, on the other hand, take control ofCongress and the White House and the legislation starts flying. Of course there are two reasons for why the gop gets laws passed so fast - the first is the propensity for recycled JohnWayne lines like, "You're either with us or agin' us". We Liberals wouldn't dare say things like this to each other, we might hurt each other's feelings. The second is more basic. If you press a political scientist for the simplest definitions possible, a Liberal is someone who recognizes the possibility that there is a better way to do something, while a conservative is someone who believes that things should either remain the same or revert to an earlier form. When you go for the status quo it's easy to agree; when you explore possible alternate solutions to problems consensus is far more difficult to achieve. What pisses me off more than anything is that when we have power we squander it. Shame on us. This abuse of power is, in a different way, as bad as what the republicans have wrought. Except of course that we will still have water to drink and air to breathe while we're arguing. Still pisses me off, though, that us namby-pamby Liberals can't agree on anything beyond the obvious - that bush and his crew are all scum and there is a special place in hell for them. If we do assume power in January we once again won't know what to do with it. There have been some glaring exceptions to this, such as Roosevelt, but keep in mind that he was elected as a conservative. So what to do? The conservatives have been stealing our ideas for years. It's time for us to steal two of theirs. First of all, let's speak with one voice. You need to do more than vote for Kerry, you need tobelieve in him so you can convince other voters to do the same. The alternative is too depressing to consider. Maybe you like Holden, well we've gotClaire. Unless you want Blunt, who will rubber stamp everything that comes out of our medieval state house, you better start believing in Claire. Unless of course you want to be living in a state which will teach creationism, ban all abortions, and institute mandatory gun ownership. Homosexuals in stockades in the town square can't be far behind. Which brings me to the final point. Seems like I hate everyone, doesn't it? Well I don't. I am an AngryLiberal (throw your TV out the window and yell, "I'm mad as hell and I'm not gonna take it anymore!"). I'm not cute about it like Al Franken or brilliant about it like Jim Hightower. What we angry Liberals should do is be pissed about it. Be assertive. I like Angry Liberals. I'm just pissed enough where, if someone calls me a Liberal, I will get in their face and say, "DAMN RIGHT, and DAMN PROUD OFIT!" Just because Rove and Bakker vilified the word inthe eighties doesn't mean we can't bring it back to the glory Liberalism represented when it had teeth;when Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin were the leading Liberals of their day. adj. 1. a. Not limited to or by established, traditional, orthodox, or authoritarian attitudes, views, or dogmas; free from bigotry.b. Favoring proposals for reform, open to new ideas for progress, and tolerant of the ideas and behavior of others; broad-minded. adj. 1. Favoring traditional views and values; tending to oppose change.2. Traditional or restrained in style: a conservative dark suit. But you knew that already, didn't you.
Peace, gsquared

Thursday, August 19, 2004

They say great literature is born of pain. Some think it is the product of a twisted mind. Fortunately, I got gobs of both. Unfortunately I'm not here to make great literature. I'm here because I'm angry. Pissed off. None of this sublimated-midwestern-I'll-tell-someone-later kind of pissed off, NO, I'm talking in-your-face-Brooklyn-kind-of pissed off. Another time, maybe soon, I'll explain that difference, for now I'll tell you about some groups that have me pissed off. Let's start with the obvious. Fat cat republicans. Nothing to like about them unless you're one of them. As a wise man once said, born on third base and thinks he hit a triple. I'm paraphrasing. I'll do that a lot. Don't complain about the form, just the content. Back to them. Arrogant. Liars. Don't think the rules apply to them. Think we're all dumb and compliant as sheep (lemmings?) and that none of us will ever catch on to the evil they do. No matter how blatant. Accuse us of doing what they do when it's determined to be bad--like every time democrats object to a reactionary ideologue of a judicial nominee who happens to be black orHispanic, we are the racists. Ludicrous! Co-opt and bastardize our ideas. Do we need examples? I think not, it's obvious, and it's in the newspapers daily. Yes, they have me pissed off. I am not a violent person, but the death penalty would be too kind a fate for some of these arrogant liars who claim that their self interest is sound public policy. Makes me want to yell at my rich republican neighbor's dog for failing to recognize his master as reprehensible. And as Bruce Cockburn once sang, "If Ihad a rocket launcher...".
How about rank and file republicans? Should I be angry at them, or pity them? Everyone from the middle class ones, who think it's great that they got $1,000 back off their taxes last year (without realizing that their family is $50,000 in the hole now, their part of the spiraling national debt). My old neighbors fromVermont who lived in a trailer, subsistence level, but were proud of their snowmobiles, eight foot satellite dish (aka Vermont State Flower), and family tradition of conservative politics. Young one issue voters, the kind from the Westboro Baptist Church who post hatefilled messages at (I kid you not!), who at 18 or 19 have dedicated their lives to one issue, whether it's assault weapons ownership, the assault on a woman's freedom to choose, or limiting the civil rights of a subculture. Should I be angry at these people due to their naiveté? Are they truly mean and vindictive, like the fat cats, or have the fatcats duped them? When someone cuts me off on the highway, should I assume that he is an incompetent driver, or should I assume that he did it on purpose? Or was it my, "Some Other Asshole ForPresident" bumper sticker? Depending on the day, my mood, and how much my foot hurts, I'll attribute some of it to uninformed citizenship, and some of it to selfishness. Even poor people think they're gonna be rich someday, and when they are BOY are they gonna be glad that the former resident of the texas governor's mansion gave them that five figure tax cut. So they're delusional. I'll pity them AND be pissed at them.
Tomorrow I'll rant on about why I'm pissed at us liberals.

"Fascism" is such an extreme, emotionally loaded word, but it's the one that came to mind when I read an article in the August 16 issue of The Nation detailing Bush's use of "Free Speech Zones". (For sheer duplicity, that term rivals "Clear Skies Act.")
At the 2000 GOP nominating convention in Philadelphia, candidate Bush created a fenced-in, out-of-sight protest zone that could only hold barely 1,500 people at a time. So citizens who wished to give voice to their many grievances with the Powers That Be had to:
1) Schedule their exercise of First Amendment rights with the decidedly unsympathetic authorities.
2) Report like cattle to the protest pen.
3) Then, under the recorded surveillance of the authorities, feel free to let loose with all the speech they could utter within their allotted minutes (although no one--not Bush, not convention delegates, not ... corporate sponsors, and certainly not the mass media--would be anywhere nearby to hear a single word of what they had to say).
As soon as Bush was ensconced in the White House, he decided to use Free Speech Zones all the time. At a Bush Labor Day rally in 2002, Bill Neel, a retired steel worker, carried a sign that said: The Bush Family Must Surely Love the Poor, They Made so Many of Us. The pro-Bush signs were okey-dokey with the Secret Service, but not Neel's. He was told to go to the FSZ, and when he refused he was arrested. At his trial, the judge threw out the silly charges and scolded the prosecution: " I believe this is America. Whatever happened to 'I don't agree with you, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it'?"
In St. Louis last year, the media were not allowed to talk to people in the FSZ.
In Columbia, South Carolina, last year, Brett Bursey stood in a pro-Bush crowd holding a sign that said No War for Oil. When he refused to go to the FSZ, he was arrested for trespassing. Guess what? You can't "trespass" on public property. That charge, too, was thrown out. And then there's what goes on in Crawford, Texas! But you'll have to get a copy of The Nation if you want to read about that.
Now I know that there was an FSZ at the Democratic convention--for shame! But at least at Kerry campaign stops, he tolerates jeers from Republicans as well as cheers from Dems. A couple of weeks ago, some Republicans started a bullhorn chant of "four more years" during a speech by Theresa Heinz Kerry. Instead of having them arrested, she yelled, "They want four more years of hell," and the crowd chanted "three more months."
What a difference in the Bush and Kerry attitudes toward protest. The men who were arrested for their anti-Bush signs weren't disruptive. They were quietly expressing their opinion. The Bush supporters with bullhorns, on the other hand, deserved to be arrested. They really were creating a public nuisance. Knowing where to draw the line can be difficult for freedom loving people. For fascists, it's easy: just stop dissent as much as you can get away with it.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

As Joe Biden pointed out in his speech at the Democratic convention, we're not involved in a war against terror. That term is too vague. No, we're involved in a war against Islamic fundamentalism, and resolving that conflict would be simple, as easy--and as impossible--as withdrawing our troops from the Middle East and distancing ourselves from Israel.
To test my thesis, you need to think about our last fifty years in that region. When Marines were attacked in Lebanon, Reagan took the most practical, effective course to solve the problem: he got us out of there. Aside from that eminently sensible step, though, our leadership has been less wise in dealing with the Middle East. We've made a habit of propping up repressive regimes. Our meddling came back to bite our backside in Iran in 1979. Using the Shah, we had created an Islamic monster there. Now that we've left Iran alone for 25 years, the monster is finally beginning to starve because most of the Iranian people--born after the revolution--hate the conservative imams and will eventually manage to do away with them. Meanwhile we're torn between giving them time to do so and knowing the imams support al Qaida and want nuclear capability.
We've been even less fortunate in the other repressive regimes we've supported--in Saudi Arabia and Egypt. The dictatorial governments there have placated the poor, frustrated, ignorant populace by supporting Islamic fundamentalist schools that directed the people's hatred toward us and away from their undemocratic rulers. Those schools eventually spawned al Qaida and its leader, Osama bin Laden. He lists his major grievance against the U.S. as the continuing presence of our troops in Saudi Arabia. If we withdrew our troops from that region, we would cease effectively recruiting for al Qaida.
Well, not quite. We'd need to take one more step--the most impossible of all--to back away from our support of Israel. Several decades ago, Barry Goldwater explained our often foolish support of that country by pointing out that he had few Palestinians among his constituents. With the exception of Israel, the people of the Middle East would be glad to see us gone, and perhaps the Israelis would be more malleable in negotiations without us propping them up.
The difficulty in withdrawing from that area lies all on this side of the Atlantic, in our own pride, arrogance and shortsightedness. As long as we pursue our present course, I fear an eventual nuclear attack from Islamic fundamentalist.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

If we're interested, I had a chat with a friend of mine earlier this evening on the Plame affair. It ain't deep, and it ain't specific, but it's simple and fairly accurate. The last time I wrote something like this I was told that I ought to have put it on the blog, so... linky linky.

Friday, August 06, 2004

If you've ever found yourself in an empty room screaming at CNN, Paul Krugman's Tuesday column may reassure you about your sanity.
As the movie "Outfoxed" makes clear, Fox News is for all practical purposes a G.O.P. propaganda agency. ... CNN used to be different, but Campaign Desk, which is run by The Columbia Journalism Review, concluded after reviewing convention coverage that CNN "has stooped to slavish imitation of Fox's most dubious ploys and policies." Seconds after John Kerry's speech, CNN gave Ed Gillespie, the Republican Party's chairman, the opportunity to bash the candidate. Will Terry McAuliffe be given the same opportunity right after President Bush speaks? Commentators worked hard to spin scenes that didn't fit the script. Some simply saw what they wanted to see. On Fox, Michael Barone asserted that conventioneers cheered when Mr. Kerry criticized President Bush but were silent when he called for military strength. Check out the video clips at Media Matters; there was tumultuous cheering when Mr. Kerry talked about a strong America.Another technique, pervasive on both Fox and CNN, was to echo Republican claims of an "extreme makeover" - the assertion that what viewers were seeing wasn't the true face of the party.
But, in fact, hiding the true face of the party is what the REPUBLICANS will do in New York. They'll feature moderate pro-choice speakers and hide Tom DeLay and Donald Rumsfeld in a closet. The American Prospect satire on this subject, a la Raymond Chandler, begins:
It was one of those summer days in D.C. when people were ducking into steam baths to cool off. My feet were propped up on my desk, and just as I noticed that my shoes had started to sweat, the phone rang.
"How long has it been since you've heard a good 'My goodness'?" she asked in a voice that was all New York neo-con.
"Months," I answered. "What's it to you?"
"That's just it," she said. "Rumsfeld says 'My goodness' when he's good and steamed, or just every now and then. He's not said it in a while now. He's not really said anything. They've got to be shutting him up. Or worse," she added, and her voice started to tremble.

Near the end, the takeoff has Karl Rove chuckling:
Don't they understand that their role at election time is to hide? Lay low? Scram? That we breed these compassionate-conservative cicadas that come out every four years at Republican conventions, that we've got gay marriage for the sticks, that the last thing we need to do is parade around the architects of the Iraq war?"
He rose, walked behind his desk and threw open a closet door. There they all were, Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, the whole gang, poring over maps, planning the invasions of Old Europe, California, and the Democratic 527s. "Mum's the word," said Rove.

Click here if you'd like to read the rest of the satire.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

The most remarked on comment from Obama's rousing keynote speech at the Democratic convention was: "Go into any inner-city neighborhood and folks will tell you that government alone can't teach kids to learn. They know that parents have to parent, that children can't achieve unless we raise their expectations and eradicate the slander that says a black youth with a book is acting white." Henry Louis Gates, Jr., a professor of Afro-American studies at Harvard, concurs with Obama and expands on that theme.
"A lot of us," Mr. Obama argues, "hesitate to discuss these things in public because we think that if we do so it lets the larger society off the hook. We're stuck in an either/or mentality - that the problem is either societal or it's cultural."

It's important to talk about life chances - about the constricted set of opportunities that poverty brings. But to treat black people as if they're helpless rag dolls swept up and buffeted by vast social trends - as if they had no say in the shaping of their lives - is a supreme act of condescension. Only 50 percent of all black children graduate from high school; an estimated 64 percent of black teenage girls will become pregnant. (Black children raised by female "householders" are five times as likely to live in poverty as those raised by married couples.) Are white racists forcing black teenagers to drop out of school or to have babies?

Gates recognizes that race "issues are ticklish, no question, but they're badly served by silence or squeamishness." How true. Right wingers have found a way to discuss race with coded language that assumes blacks are their own and only worst enemies. Conservatives assume no responsibility for social networks to help the poor, including blacks. We on the left have a different problem. Let me offer myself as an illustration. I've been disgusted for years with our society's failure to give blacks equal educational opportunities, adequate health care, child care for working mothers, and so forth. But as a teacher who retired from a half black school, I could hardly miss or dismiss their all too common apathy about school or their frequent disciplinary problems. It's such a taboo subject, though, that I've avoided it for fear of offending or being labeled racist. What a conundrum we progressives have when it comes to discussing race.

If you'd like to see the rest of Gates's column, click here.

Jo Etta

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Ray McBee, our St. Louis "Kerry volunteer-in-chief" e-mailed an article to Kerry supporters that he called a course in Republican 101. Here's what McBee had to say about the author of the article, George Lakoff:
George Lakoff has been one of the world's best-known linguists for nearly 40 years. Professor Lakoff is widely recognized for his research on metaphorical thought, the embodied mind, and the structure of language. But in recent years, his application of cognitive science and linguistics to politics has brought him to national attention.With colleagues at the university of California, Professor Lakoff founded the Rockridge Institute, a new political think tank dedicated to reframing political thought and political debate in this country. He has a new book to appear in August, DON'T THINK OF AN ELEPHANT! WHAT EVERY AMERICAN SHOULD KNOW ABOUT VALUES AND THE FRAMING WARS.

My last two blogs summarized a Harper's article on building a new progressive movement. That article introduces Lakoff's ideas because his think tank is doing the kind of catchup theorizing Democrats need to get busy about. He analyzes how the GOP frames issues, and I'm sure he'll have ideas about a similar strategy for Democrats. After all, framing issues should be a lot easier for us since we're trying to figure out how to help people, not scam them into believing that gay marriage is more of a threat than giving their money to the rich. Here's the beginning of the article Ray McBee sent:
Framing the Dems
How conservatives control political debate and how progressives can take it back George Lakoff On the day that George W. Bush took office, the words "tax relief" started appearing in White House communiqués. Think for a minute about the word relief. In order for there to be relief, there has to be a blameless, afflicted person with whom we identify and whose affliction has been imposed by some external cause. Relief is the taking away of the pain or harm, thanks to some reliever. This is an example of what cognitive linguists call a "frame." It is a mental structure that we use in thinking. All words are defined relative to frames. The relief frame is an instance of a more general rescue scenario in which there is a hero (the reliever), a victim (the afflicted), a crime (the affliction), a villain (the cause of affliction) and a rescue (the relief). The hero is inherently good, the villain is evil and the victim after the rescue owes gratitude to the hero. The term tax relief evokes all of this and more. It presupposes a conceptual metaphor: Taxes are an affliction, proponents of taxes are the causes of affliction (the villains), the taxpayer is the afflicted (the victim) and the proponents of tax relief are the heroes who deserve the taxpayers' gratitude. Those who oppose tax relief are bad guys who want to keep relief from the victim of the affliction, the taxpayer. Every time the phrase tax relief is used, and heard or read by millions of people, this view of taxation as an affliction and conservatives as heroes gets reinforced.

I noticed an example myself during the Democratic convention. In order to refute Democratic ideas, Republicans opened an office in Boston which they called the "truth squad"--a nauseating term in its corniness but the kind of framing Republicans specialize in. And besides the issue of framing, Lakoff has ideas about the source of the different worldviews between Dems and Republicans. Professor Lakoff is all over progressive news sources recently. To read a brief column about his ideas,
click here.