Friday, December 30, 2005

ACLU Calls For Special Counsel: Add Your Voice

"Now, by the way, any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires — a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so. It’s important for our fellow citizens to understand, when you think Patriot Act, constitutional guarantees are in place when it comes to doing what is necessary to protect our homeland, because we value the Constitution."

-- George W. Bush, April 20, 2004

When Bush secretly authorized the National Security Agency to spy on Americans, he violated the Constitution and his oath of office. The ACLU is calling for the Department of Justice appoint a special counsel to investigate and prosecute any and all crimes committed. Follow this link to add your voice to this effort.
Also, U.S. Rep. John Conyers, Jr. is calling upon Congress to form a Special Committee to investigate the Bush administration's abuses of power and to report any offenses which rise to the level of impeachment. Go here to add your voice to Conyers' effort.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Spying Shows "Il Doofus" Bush Not Only Worst President: He's the Craziest


Much has been written this year about the possibility that future historians will regard George W. Bush as the worst U.S. president ever.

Recently, columnist Richard Reeves wrote:

"The History News Network at George Mason University has just polled historians informally on the Bush record. Four hundred fifteen, about a third of those contacted, answered ... 338 said they believed Bush was failing, while 77 said he was succeeding. Fifty said they thought he was the worst president ever."

I'll go one up on that. Not only is Bush at the bottom among the presidents -- Fillmore, Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, Grant, Harding, Hoover and Carter, I would argue, were probably all marginally better, or at least not quite as bad -- in addition, Bush is arrogant to a point that suggests megalomania, a mental disorder. He's even more arrogant than Nixon, and that's saying plenty.

I leave it to Reeves to lay out specifics of Bush's staggering incompetence. He did a fine job in the aforementioned article, "Is George Bush the Worst President -- Ever?" It can be found on his Web site. I'll just add that Bush has the anti-King-Midas touch. Everything seems to turn into excrement.

But after his so-called defiant performances in defending the secret eavesdropping, in complete disregard for the law, the "president" revealed himself as what some have long suspected. This is the American Mussolini, only crazier. (And at least Il Duce could make the trains run on time).

Early in Bush's first term, even before 9-11, one blogger dubbed Bush "Il Doofus." Now, with three years left in Bush's second term, it doesn't seem so funny.

Bush not only has the insolence to claim that his warrantless domestic spying was proper, he has also complained about "illegal" leaks to the media about his administration's brash lawlessness.

The fact is that a 1978 law, passed in response to Nixon's many abuses of power, clearly and explicitly requires the government to obtain a warrant for such action.

Predictably, Bush has had defenders. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales were quick to oblige. And this is simply part of the problem. This megalomaniac has surrounded himself with nothing but cronies and toadies. Anyone who would dare risk one of his private tantrums has long since departed, leaving America to be "led" by a crypto-fascist crackpot who apparently believes that God speaks directly to him.

The first thing the House of Representatives should do when it reconvenes in January is start drawing up articles of impeachment. If they would do that to a president who lied about getting a blow job, what about one who has clearly broken a law that specifically limits his powers?

Problem is, some of Bush's GOP toadies are in the House, chairing committees. And then there's the Supreme Court that appointed him president in the first place. This offense is likely to go to them for a decision. It will be 5-4, I'll bet.

The Boston Globe recently quoted Yale University constitutional law professor Jack Balkin: "Once you begin with the assumption that an emergency justifies suspension of constitutional rights, and that the president cannot be bound by the rule of law ... there is very little left to restrain the president. And so he has not been restrained."

I'll suggest one thing to restrain this president. A straitjacket would do the job nicely.


Tuesday, December 27, 2005

It's Time For Progressives To Look Beyond the Ballot For Change


As America enters 2006, it's clear to many of us that this nation is in deep trouble.

Some progressives console themselves with the hope that perhaps the 2006 elections will return Congress to the Democrats' control. Other progressives are hopeful that support will grow for Bush to be impeached. Others are looking further ahead to the 2008 elections.

I know I stand the risk of being painted as an "anti-American" radical for saying this, but I'll go ahead and say it anyway. If we ordinary working Americans really want to take back our country, we really need to start looking beyond the ballot.

No doubt, Republicans will accuse people like me of seeking to overturn America's constitutional democratic system. This, of course, is a bogus argument. The fact is, the system has already been overturned by fanatical Bush loyalists.

In fact, America long ago ceased having the slightest resemblance to the original system that was envisioned by the Founding Fathers. No doubt, the Founding Fathers would be astonished at how America's political system has been thoroughly corrupted and tainted by money.

Indeed, if the likes of Thomas Jefferson returned today, he'd no doubt be absolutely sickened by the likes of Bush, a corrupt and evil politician who takes his marching orders from the rich, the powerful, and the corporations that dominate America today.

Incidentally, Jefferson had a few things to say about corporations in his day. For example:

"I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial by strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country."

It's clear that the Founding Fathers, were they to return today, would in fact support a second American revolution---one that would sweep away the corruption that has infested our government and one that'd return democracy to the people.

To anyone who believes that this is simply too radical a step to take, I would like to emphasize that the Republicans have already bypassed our Constitution in their relentless drive to seize and consolidate their power the past couple of decades. Does any clear-thinking rational adult out there really believe that the 2000 and 2004 elections were legitimate?

The Republicans have already successfully gotten away with stealing two consecutive elections. Does anyone care to wager that they won't steal the vote yet again in 2008? I mean, what's going to stop them? The Democrats? (Don't make me laugh). The media? (Don't make me laugh even harder).

One thing I will give the Republicans credit for, though, is this: when they want something, they will relentlessly focus on getting it, no matter what the cost. By contrast, the Democrats have utterly failed in their role as the nation's opposition party.

With a few exceptions, the Democrats are weak and timid. Democratic candidates for office are simply too polite and they're always careful to follow the rules and to not upset or offend anyone.

By contrast, Republicans go into elections like street fighters. A lot of today's Republicans follow no rules in elections. They won't hesitate to use a pair of brass knuckles, or pull a switchblade out of their sock and stab you in the back. And in the end, if they lose the election, that's OK---they'll simply steal the vote.

As bad as Bush is, I have no doubt that the next guy the Republicans run for president in 2008 will be even more extreme and more evil. I mean, Bush makes Reagan look like a moderate (and, by contrast, Nixon was a downright liberal compared to Reagan). So you can imagine the horrors that face this country in the years ahead.

So how can we, the working people of America, really change things, going up against the Republicans and their billions of dollars in backing from the rich and powerful? The traditional checks and balances in our nation's system simply are no longer there.

Once upon a time, corporations were actually controlled somewhat by a few rules here and there---they weren't allowed to run amok with unbridled power as they are today. Once upon a time, our nation's media actually performed a watchdog role---unlike today's timid, cowardly media, where the likes of Bob Woodward and Judith Miller actually collaborate with the White House.

As far as the impeachment process goes, I don't have much confidence that today's Democrats have the spine to hold Bush accountable for his crimes. I mean, the Democrats are so timid these days, they don't even contest blatantly stolen elections. How can we expect them to ever take such a bold step as to impeach Bush?

No, if you really want true, genuine change in America these days, the only way to do it is to look beyond the (stolen) ballot. People are going to need to take to the streets and demand change if we're ever going to get it in this country.

Maybe we could take a cue from our nation's past progressive history and organize a nationwide general strike. In any case, people power is capable of wonderful things: look at how peacefully protesting masses played a crucial role in bringing down the Eastern Bloc communist states without a shot being fired.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

"Fooled Again" Author Mark Crispin Miller: Why American Democracy Is In Danger


In the following interview with, author Mark Crispin Miller talks about his new book, Fooled Again, which takes a look at the 2004 election. In this interview, Miller describes how America's current election system is "rotten to the core." He explains why American democracy is finished if the nation doesn't implement serious electoral reform immediately.

In a nutshell, what is your new book, Fooled Again, about?

Miller: The theft of the 2004 election. The book provides an overview of all the many tactics and devices that were used nationwide--indeed, worldwide--to cut the Kerry vote and pad the Bush vote. It's also an analysis of the fanatical mentality behind that vast crusade against American democracy.

What motivated you to write this book?

Miller: A sense of civic outrage, not only at the fraud itself but at the general silence over it. With just a few exceptions here and there, the whole political establishment, the press included, steadfastly refuses even to acknowledge the grave danger of election fraud.

If we don't have serious electoral reform ASAP, American democracy is finished; and yet both parties and the press are largely unified in deeming last year's race legitimate. So there's been next to no debate over a major danger to American democracy, and, therefore, to our very lives and liberty.

That silence is a grave betrayal of American ideals, and an insult to common sense, and I wrote Fooled Again to break it.

At what point did you first become aware of problems in the 2004 election?

Miller: Big problems were already popping up before Election Day--not just in Ohio, but in Pennsylvania, Florida, Minnesota, Texas and a lot of other places.

There was evidence of a concerted effort to disenfranchise Democrats by using fake opinion pollsters in Nevada, Oregon, New Jersey, West Virginia and elsewhere. There were intimidation tactics, blunt obstructionism, state disinformation drives, and even break-ins, all over the country.

There was interference with the huge vote of Americans abroad. All such evidence was on the public record--not in any prominent place, but out there on the record--prior to Nov. 2. After Bush & Co. miraculously won, all memory of those problems seemed to disappear completely from the national radar screen.

Did you encounter many obstacles in writing this book? For example, did you find that officials were reluctant to talk, or that records were difficult to obtain?

Miller: A lot of evidence was missing when I wrote the book and is still missing now.

For instance, we still don't have the raw precinct-level data that was used by the official exit pollsters. The media corporations that paid for it won't make it available to independent scholars. And certainly the politicians and the bureaucrats, the party operatives and corporate personnel, observed a stubborn silence on a broad range of electoral concerns.

Across the board, Republicans refused to answer questions; and a lot of Democrats were strangely eager not to talk about the numerous anomalies, contradictions, improprieties. Such stonewalling was a given, something that you had to work around.

The evidence in Fooled Again comes either from the public record, or from people not afraid or disinclined to tell the truth.

The mainstream media in this country have been reluctant to examine problems with the 2004 election. Why do you think this is?

Miller: The U.S. media does not provide the crucial civic service that the Framers had in mind when they extended constitutional protection to the press.

The U.S. press today, in other words, does not inform the people for the purpose of republican self-government. It answers not to us, but to its parent companies, their shareholders and advertisers, and, not least, the government, which keeps the cartel well-protected from the people.

Whereas America's free and independent press was meant to function as a major part of our great system of checks and balances, and thereby help to keep us free from state dominion, the juggernaut that we now call "the media" is itself an instrument of such dominion. It does not report the news so much as it determines which news is, and which news isn't, beneficial to those managing the state. (By and large, this process works not through conscious and deliberate policing from on high, but far more subtly, through the fears and needs and aspirations of the people working in the media at every level.)

This is why the U.S. press will not report whatever news might pose a threat to the political establishment. It's why they never did report the truth about Bush/Cheney's drive for war against Iraq, even though there always was abundant evidence against the claims that Bush & Co. were making. It's why they've quickly veered away from every story that, if followed through, could well have blown the Bush regime to smithereens: 9/11, Gannongate, Katrina.

And, worst of all, it's why the press refuses to report the ever-worsening condition of American democracy: last year's election fraud; the current push by Diebold to get its DRE machines into more precincts coast to coast, despite a growing wave of popular resistance; the mammoth money-laundering operation that was used to pay for the subversion of the race last year; the Bush regime's attempts to gut the Voting Rights Act; and so on.

Do you believe that our nation's election system problems will be fixed in time for the 2006 elections?

Miller: There simply isn't enough time. We do have time to get a good start on improving things considerably by 2008. Before the next election, there is time to organize a national grass-roots polling operation in the most important places. Such an effort--which ought to be bipartisan, or non-partisan--would at least provide us with a rough idea as to how accurate the final vote-count really is.

In the meantime, we must do everything we can to force the scandal of last year's election out into the light of day. Once people know what really happened, they will demand electoral reform, and then we can debate how best to do it. If, on the other hand, the people keep on thinking, or half-thinking, that that election was legitimate, reform will seem unnecessary.

"If it ain't broke, don't fix it." We have to tell the nation--and the world--that things are badly broken here. If we do not, American democracy will soon be past repair.

I'd imagine that, after reading your book, there will be many alarmed citizens out there who will be wondering what they can do to help ensure honest elections in the future in America. What would be your advice to them?

Miller: The effort must be local as well as national. Those concerned should learn about the voting system where they live and vote (or try to vote), and work to make it as efficient and transparent as possible.

There are currently aggressive efforts under way to get Diebold machines approved, or their use extended, in New York, Pennsylvania (Bucks County), North Carolina, Arizona and New Mexico. In all those places there are grass-roots movements dedicated to genuinely democratic systems and procedures.

If you live in such a place, join that movement. If there's no such movement and you see the need for one, start one up. If you don't think there's any need for one, devote yourself to working on the problem at the national level. (For a sense of the broad range of possibilities, check out

The national effort must begin with--again--a vast campaign to tell the people what went down last year. Be relentless. Tell your elected(?) representatives, and the media, to investigate the fraud last year, deal openly and thoroughly with the danger of election fraud right now, and to pursue the issue of electoral reform ASAP.

It simply will not happen if you don't demand it.

Overall, are you optimistic or pessimistic, long-term, about the fairness of elections in America?

Miller: The current system's rotten to the core. As far as the people are concerned, however, I'm an optimist. I'm confident that, when they learn the truth, they'll make the right decisions. That's why I wrote Fooled Again.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

To Founding Fathers, Christmas Was No Big Deal


This holiday season, Fox News and the rest of the nation's right-wing echo chamber have decreed that "the war on Christmas" is the biggest issue facing America.

Silly me, and here I was thinking that perhaps the disastrous war in Iraq was the biggest issue facing us.

Self-appointed "moral watchdogs" like Bill O'Reilly want to put the "Christ" back into Christmas and restore the holiday to its supposed proper place in our nation's history as a religious observance. Anyone familiar with O'Reilly's work knows that he is the appropriate moral figure to make such a call.

O'Reilly's 1998 novel, Those Who Trespass, for example, is filled with Christian-inspired wisdom and moral clarity. It includes such heart-warming scenes as a 15-year-old prostitute who smokes crack cocaine and performs fellatio.

In a sense, I share some of Fox's appreciation of Christmas. I think it can be indeed a special day to Christians and I really would like to see it designated as a holiday in which every non-emergency worker gets to take off and spend time with his or her family.

This last point is particularly important to me. The Republicans, after all, have always ferociously fought against any government regulation requiring that businesses give time off to their employees. The U.S., after all, is alone in the First World in not requiring the private sector to give any vacation time to workers.

So, as someone who was required by my private sector employer to work every Christmas for 15 years, I would indeed like to see Christmas made into a holiday that everyone can enjoy (not just government employees like Bush).

However, someone needs to send a memo to the Fox News talking heads regarding the true place of Christmas in our nation's history. The fact is, Christmas was nothing special to our nation's Founding Fathers.

This uncomfortable fact would lodge like a lump of coal in the throats of America's right-wing (if only they were aware of it in the first place). Conservatives in this country are always busy painting the Founding Fathers as devout Christians. However, any serious historian will tell you that the Founding Fathers were in fact not Christians.

Nor was Christmas particularly important to our Founding Fathers (or the nation as a whole). The U.S. government didn't even recognize Christmas as a holiday until 1870. Until then, Congress routinely met and conducted business on Christmas day. It was, in fact, just another workday.

Truth be told, Christmas was a totally different affair during the first century of America's history. It was far removed from today's holiday in which families gather and open presents around the Christmas tree.

So how did one celebrate Christmas back in those days? Well, typically, you might start off the day getting blindingly drunk. Then, you'd take to the streets and approach passer-by and demand money from them. If they refused, you'd beat them up. You might conclude the day by smashing some store windows or breaking into people's homes and stealing their food. Peruse a newspaper from the 1820s and you can routinely read of such chaotic yuletide lawlessness.

In the early part of the 19th century, Christmas was, as one historian once noted, "like a nightmarish cross between Halloween and a particularly violent, rowdy Mardi Gras." In fact, a massive Christmas riot in 1828 led to the formation of New York City's first police force.

Indeed, newspapers of the era are filled with disturbing accounts of what Christmas was really like in those days: widespread rioting, sexual assault, vandalism, drunkenness, street violence and general lawlessness. Most of these "traditions" were carried over from Europe, where, dating back to the Middle Ages, Christmas had been regarded by the wealthy classes as a safety valve for releasing the peasants' pent-up frustrations.

Christmas as we know it today didn't really take root until the 1870s. In fact, the holiday as we know it today was invented by middle-class merchants in the late 19th century, primarily as a gimmick to increase sales. In this respect, Christmas hasn't changed much since then.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Forget Exit Strategies, the U.S. Never Had An Entry Strategy In Iraq


As the U.S. sinks deeper and deeper into the blood-soaked sands of the Iraq quagmire, much of the debate here at home has focused on possible exit strategies from this fiasco. I have to admit, I don't feel confident that the U.S. can formulate a workable exit strategy when in fact we never really had an entry strategy that made sense.

The question remains: why exactly did the U.S. invade Iraq? It's a question that I think the families of the 2,128 dead soldiers are entitled to know. So are America's hard-pressed working-class and middle-class taxpayers, who've been forced to cough up $224 billion so far for this ongoing fiasco.

Ask any Republican nowadays why we invaded Iraq and you'll get a different answer each time. But you can't really blame GOP partisans; after all, their own leader expresses a new reason every day for why the U.S. invaded Iraq.

Bush can't seem to come up with a consistent reason for the Iraq war. One day he's talking about establishing democracy in Iraq. The next day, he blathers about the need to establish "stability" in the Middle East. The day after that, he'll insist that removing Saddam was crucial to bring about a safer world. And, of course, he never fails to once again try to link Iraq and 9/11.

Curiously, though, in trying to defend his war, Bush these days studiously avoids mentioning anything about WMDs---the reason he gave in the first place. Nor does he mention what a growing number of us suspect was the REAL reason for the invasion: so America could control Iraq's oil.

Many analysts believe that Bush found success in the 2004 election because he projected the image of a strong, decisive leader, while John Kerry was painted as a flip-flopper. It's strange then, that Bush in reality has flip-flopped repeatedly on an issue that no national leader should ever be less than decisive and honest about: launching a war.

It's clear that we never really had a good entry strategy for Iraq. The mirage of the non-existent WMDs evaporated quicker than the Bush team could hoist the now-infamous "Mission Accomplished" banner on the USS Abraham Lincoln in May 2003. It became clear early on that the war was based on lies, a fact that even Fox News was eventually forced to concede.

Bush has long condemned anyone who dares question his war as sending "mixed signals" to America's troops in Iraq. Personally, I think what sends "mixed signals" to our soldiers is when our nation's leader gives a new reason for the Iraq invasion every time he speaks. The fact is, Bush's own idiotic ramblings have done more to hurt the troops in Iraq than any comment war opponents have made. After all, it was Bush himself who taunted the insurgents with his "bring `em on" comment.

As far as Bush's ever-changing reasons for why we invaded Iraq, a reality check is in order:

1. To establish democracy in Iraq. Iraq is an ancient tribal-based culture that predates the birth of Christ. If anyone thinks the U.S. can waltz in and impose Western-style democracy at the barrel of a gun, they've been watching too much Faux News. Bush partisans maintain that Iraq now in fact has a "democracy." As for me, I say it's hard to tell what's really going on in a nation engulfed in a bloody civil war. The average Iraqi on the street is too busy dodging bullets and car bombs these days to give much thought to lofty political ideals.

2. To establish stability in the Middle East. Before 9/11, Osama Bin Laden was a marginal figure in the Islamic world. Most educated Islamic people regarded him with a mixture of loathing and downright embarrassment. The bloody U.S. occupation of Iraq has done more to generate hatred toward the U.S. and to radicalize the Islamic world than anything Bin Laden could have accomplished in a thousand years of recruiting for Al Qaeda.

3. To fight the war on terror. When Bush makes this particular statement his "flavor of the day" excuse I can't help but laugh at the dishonesty of it all. But don't take my world for it. Ask the U.S. State Department, which released a report in April that revealed that terrorist attacks worldwide in 2004 tripled over 2003 (which in turn was the worst year for terrorist attacks in two decades). Or ask the former Sept. 11 Commission, which in a report Monday, charged the U.S. government of failing to protect the country against another terrorist attack.

There's an old saying in Texas: "If you don't like the weather, wait 15 minutes and it'll change." That sounds a lot like Bush and his ever-changing reasons for his war in Iraq. Call me pessimistic, but I get the feeling that the U.S. isn't going to be able to come up with a solid exit strategy from this mess when we never really had a honest entry strategy in the first place.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

What We Progressives Have to be Thankful For


At first glance, it might appear that we on the left don't have much to celebrate this Thanksgiving. After all, the country is ruled by a criminal Republican administration. Young working-class Americans are dying daily in Iraq for an illegal and immoral war. And America seems to be going to hell in a hand basket (made, of course, in China--the same nation that is financing our nation's nightmarish trade and fiscal deficits).

But this Thanksgiving, it's important to remember that, despite all that is wrong in Bush's America, we progressives still have a number of things to be thankful for:

1. Cindy Sheehan. When you gather today with your family to celebrate Thanksgiving, give a word of thanks for this brave mother of a fallen soldier, who is once again returning to Crawford. Sheehan stood up to the forces of the right and demanded accountability from Bush over his immoral war when no one else would, including our gutless mainstream media.

2. U.S. Rep. John Murtha. He was a brave soldier who served in Vietnam and he continues to show his bravery as a politician, daring to speak the painful truth about the Iraq war. His wise words carry weight, too, (as indeed they should coming from a twice-wounded retired Marine Corps colonel).

3. BuzzFlash and the rest of the growing progressive online media. These might not be the best of times for the American left, but I'll say one thing: today, we are more networked and informed than ever, thanks to online alternative media. With the rise of the Internet, the media is splintering into thousands of independent voices, that corporate America (much to its horror) cannot control.

4. The prospect of impeachment. Granted, this one probably has a remote chance of ever happening, at least as long as the GOP controls Congress. But admit it, it's something that is at least fun to fantasize about, as we watch the ongoing TreasonGate investigation unfold.

5. Tom DeLay's indictment. Delay is the first House leader to be indicted while in office in at least a century and, man, has this case been entertaining to watch.

6. Bev Harris. The director of Black Box Voting (which refers to voting on electronic machines that do not print paper ballots) is still out there on the front lines, working to make America's elections fair.

7. Air America. A breath of fresh air on the nation's airwaves, this growing radio network is a slap in the face to right-wing commentators who previously had arrogantly assured us that liberal talk radio would never fly.

8. John Conyers. Back in June, the Democrats finally re-discovered their backbone when Conyers kicked off a lonely fight against long odds to investigate the Downing Street memo.

9. Bill Maher and Jon Stewart. Some of the smartest, and funniest, progressive discussions on the boob tube happen on Maher's HBO show. His only rival is the incredibly incisive and right-on-target political humor on Stewart's "The Daily Show."

10. Noam Chomsky. After all these years, this activist, author and national treasure is still telling the truths that America needs to hear. Chomsky's inspiring words of wisdom are more important than ever today.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Despite Cheney Claim, Iraq Documented That It Had No WMDs in 2002


As he continued to accuse war critics of "revisionism," Dick Cheney insisted that the "burden of proof" was on Saddam Hussein to show that Iraq had no WMDs.

Actually, it is Cheney who is engaging in revisionism. The fact is, Iraq went to great pains in 2002 to document that it had no WMDs.

For example, on Dec. 7, 2002, Iraqi officials presented the U.N. with a 12,000-page dossier disclosing Iraq's programs for weapons of mass destruction (as demanded by U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441). Also, on that day, Iraqi officials agreed to open the country to another round of U.N. weapons inspections.

No one could accuse Iraq of skimping on details in the dossier. The declaration included 11,807 pages of information, with 1,334 pages devoted to biological weapons and 1,823 pages devoted to chemical weapons and 12 CD-ROMs containing 529 megabytes of information, according to a CNN report.

At the time, Iraqi General Hasam Amin said the dossier shows "that Iraq is empty of weapons of mass destruction. I reiterate Iraq has no weapons of mass destruction."

Of course, the Bush White House denounced the dossier--but offered no evidence to show that the document was in any way inaccurate.

On Dec. 5, 2002, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer ridiculed the idea that Iraq might not have WMDs after all:

"President Bush has said Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. Tony Blair has said Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. Donald Rumsfeld has said Iraq has weapons of mass destruction ... Iraq says they don't. You can choose who you want to believe."

In hindsight, I suppose it's quite predictable that the Bush White House would casually dismiss Iraq's accounting of its WMDs in its reckless rush to war.

But one point that has been overlooked in this whole episode is that when Iraq presented its dossier to the U.N. in December 2002, its information was actually not much different than that which had been presented by the Bush White House the previous year.

Colin Powell made this clear when he praised the U.N. sanctions as effective during a Feb. 24, 2001 press conference.

"(Saddam) has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbors."

As it turns out, Iraq was telling the truth after all in 2002 when it declared that it had no WMDs. It was the Bush White House that was lying to the American people and the world.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Hard Truth From Murtha, More Ludicrous Lying From Cheney


It looks like the gloves, at long last, may finally be off. And the fellow now leading the charge against a tragic and needless war is an unlikely one.

U.S. Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania is a Democrat, but a very hawkish one. He's a retired Marine Corps colonel who was wounded twice in Vietnam. He was an early supporter of the Iraq war.

But after 32 months and the loss of over 2,000 American lives, it was time at last for someone of his background to state the obvious.

"The U.S. cannot accomplish anything further in Iraq militarily," Murtha said. "It is time to bring them (the troops) home."

This came just after our "vice president," Dick Cheney, said that accusations that the Bush administration manipulated intelligence to justify the war were a "dishonest and reprehensible" political ploy. He went on to call Democrats "opportunists" who are peddling "cynical and pernicious falsehoods" to gain advantage while U.S. troops are dying in Iraq.

Cheney's absurd venom would be laughable if it weren't so audacious. It comes from the quintessential political opportunist, and someone whose approval rating in one poll has plummeted to 19 percent -- probably a little higher than Lyndon LaRouche's.

Cheney's habitual lying about Iraq is well-documented. has a link to an online document, prepared for U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., presenting 51 instances of Cheney misleading the country about Iraq. And the contradictions, one upon another, over time, are so blatant that it would be a sick joke to try to pass this stuff off as lapses of memory, a la Karl Rove's ostensible defense over Leakgate.

The "vice president" has also been a shameless prevaricator about other things. During his debate with John Edwards in 2004, the perpetually sneering Cheney apparently lied in his snide, petty comments about never having met Edwards. The idea, it would seem, was to cast aspersions on Edwards' attendance record in the Senate. The fact is that they were photographed together more than once, years before the debate. The proof surfaced the next day.

Unfortunately, Edwards is a nice guy who decided to keep the gloves on. He didn't call Cheney a liar right on the spot. He just showed the news media the pictures the next day. But the damage had been done. And this graciousness is a mistake Democrats have been making for decades.

But now an unlikely Democrat, an ex-Marine with views similar to the late Sen. Henry "Scoop" Jackson, has his knuckles out. And he seems ready to decorate them with a little brass.

He said sardonically of chickenhawk Cheney, "I like guys who got five deferments and (have) never been there and send people to war, and then don't like to hear suggestions about what needs to be done."

It is sad that our political discourse has degenerated so much into the muck of ad hominem attacks. But hey, newsflash -- this whole thing got far too personal long ago. When one is dealing with foes as unscrupulous and disingenuous as the perpetually sneering Herr Cheney, dirty, ruthless and mean fighting is somewhat necessary.

It is not the way we would normally choose. And I'm not talking about stooping all the way down to their pond-scum level. (That would actually be hard to do.) But the gloves have to come off, and stay off.

All Democrats, and all Republicans who still have half a brain and half a conscience, should follow Murtha's example. One way or another, it is imperative to put an end to this administration's brazen contempt for public responsibility, honesty and just plain decency.


Friday, November 18, 2005

Did U.S. Forces Seize Fallujah Hospital to Conceal Evidence of White Phosphorus Attacks?


The recent revelation that U.S. forces used white phosphorus weapons during its assault on Fallujah raises questions about the seizing of Fallujah's general hospital early in the campaign.

U.S. military officials have recently admitted using white phosphorus weapons in Fallujah after long denying it. The devastating chemical weapons melt human flesh and can burn through skin, right down to the bone.

When the U.S. military forces bombarded Fallujah in November 2004, their first act was to seize the city's main hospital and arrest the doctors. U.S. officials claimed at the time that the hospital was selected as an early target because it was a "center of propaganda."

Author Noam Chomsky has pointed out that the hospital seizure was a blatant violation of the Geneva Conventions. The treaties state that "medical units and transports shall be respected and protected at all times and shall not be the object of attack."

Chomsky notes that after the U.S. military's seizure of Fallujah's general hospital, "patients were kicked out of their beds and doctors and patients were forced to lie on the floor, handcuffed."

And it raises an interesting question: did the U.S. military seize the hospital to suppress news about the use of its white phosphorus attacks in Fallujah? After all, the U.S. official's stated rationale for seizing the hospital was to control the flow of information. And what better way to conceal reports of civilian casualties bearing telltale white phosphorus burns than to seize Fallujah's hospital?

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Republicans Don't Understand Capitalism


If you're a progressive, you know how tedious it can be to engage in an argument with a Republican these days. Conservatives delight in rambling on about topics that they believe they understand (but are actually clueless about). "American values" for one thing.

But no topic gets Republicans more passionate than "capitalism." After all, the GOP is supposed to be the party of capitalism, free markets, and unbridled free enterprise.

It's interesting, though, how little Republicans seem to know about capitalism. It's probably just as well, because if they delved into the history of capitalist theory, they'd likely have a heart attack.

Take, for example, the bible of capitalism, Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations. Smith wrote this book after an extended visit to Paris in the 1760s in which he met with French economic thinkers and listened to their theories about laissez faire.

Therefore, much of what we identify as "capitalism" these days originated in France, of all places. So the next time your conservative brother-in-law starts bending your ear about capitalism, free markets, and economic competition, you might point out to him that he's supporting French ideas.

This really shouldn't be surprising, though. I mean, what could be more French than George W. Bush taking a 5-week vacation?

When I hear the likes of Bush and Dick Cheney talking about capitalism and free markets, I have to laugh. Neither man would know capitalism if it ran over him on the highway.

For example, Bush was a total failure in the business world. He drove three companies he founded into the ground (despite the fact that his daddies' rich friends gave him financial backing).

Bush only became rich when his daddies' wealthy friends linked him up with a sweetheart deal: The Ballpark stadium in Arlington, Texas. The stadium was funded by taxpayers. It was hardly an example of "capitalism". In fact, it was the very definition of corporate welfare.

It's obvious that Bush knows nothing about capitalism, or what it takes to survive and prosper in the private sector. But that, of course, doesn't keep him from constantly rambling on as though he were a seasoned expert on topics like capitalism, the private sector and free markets.

It's clear that Bush's idea of "capitalism" consists of socialism for the rich, and brutal, dog-eat-dog capitalism for the rest of us.

As a result, in Bush's America, U.S. corporations pocket over $300 billion a year in corporate welfare. And over 60 percent of corporations pay zero income taxes.

Meanwhile, small mom-and-pop businesses across the land are struggling to compete with the likes of corporate-welfare-collecting giants like Wal-Mart. As a result, Wal-Mart's success in crushing its smaller rivals has nothing to do with "the free market" or "capitalism."

Republicans know nothing about capitalism. And the fact that they control all the levers of power in this country at the moment is worrying for anyone who's concerned about America's economic health.

A big problem is Bush's lackadaisical attitude toward deficits. America's trade deficits and government deficits are both at unprecedented levels and are soaring into the stratosphere.

If Bush was a seasoned, experienced businessman with real-world success in the private sector, he might be alarmed at the deficits he's racking up.

People like George Soros (who have real-world experience in the dog-eat-dog capitalist jungle) ARE alarmed. They realize that America's nightmarish deficits are unsustainable. In fact, to a growing number of economic commentators, America's mammoth deficits are by far the biggest threat facing America these days.

I believe that Bush & Co. not only don't understand capitalism, but that their ignorance is responsible for an unfolding economic train wreck that will end America's dominance in the world.

One might wonder: why ISN'T Bush alarmed at America's deficits? After all, we're talking about deficits that are unprecedented in world history. We're talking about a government deficit so massive that it costs the U.S. over $300 billion a year just to service the debt interest.

As author Gerald J. Swanson pointed out in his recent book, America the Broke, our nation's total future obligation, in current dollars, now totals at least $44.2 trillion. (That's trillion, with a "T").

Actually, there's a simple reason for Bush's complacency. He's confident that other nations will always be happy to finance our debt. Republicans in general have a "don't worry, be happy" approach to this crisis.

To Republicans, it's perfectly rational to dole out billions of dollars in tax breaks for the rich, while launching two costly wars. They give little thought to where all this money is coming from. They're quite confident that the likes of China and Japan will always be happy to dole out billions to finance our deficits.

Republicans remind me of wealthy, naive, trust-fund-collecting kids who regularly jump into their BMWs and drive up to their ATM machines to withdraw money. They never give a second's thought about where that money is coming from.

To those of us who actually understand capitalism, though, we have reason for alarm about America's future.

We understand what it takes to run a successful business and balance our books. And we know that America's soaring deficits are simply unsustainable.

We understand that the nations that finance America's debt could get cold feet at any moment and yank the rug out from underneath the U.S. With the dollar already in steady decline, investing in the U.S. Treasury bills is an increasingly unattractive option for the likes of Japan and China these days.

Unlike the Bush & Co., anyone with even a passing knowledge of capitalism understands that the U.S. dollar is headed for meltdown. And the era of U.S. economic global dominance is about to end.

People born with a silver spoon in their mouth like Bush & Co. and their smug wealthy supporters are about to get a harsh dose of cold reality in the lessons of Basic Capitalism 101.

Unfortunately, it'll be the American people who pay the price for Republicans' ignorance about the fundamentals of capitalism.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

An Open Letter: Don't Be a Coward Again, Mr. Bush, Meet With Cindy


Cindy Sheehan is planning to resume her protest during the Thanksgiving holiday at Bush's Crawford ranch. So I figured this would be as good a time as any to send an open letter to Bush:

Mr. Bush, we all know you were a coward who ran like a little girl from serving in combat when our nation was at war in Vietnam. But I urge you not to be a coward this time. Please go ahead and meet with Cindy Sheehan. She doesn't bite.

I don't know if you're aware of this, Mr. Bush, but the United States is not a monarchy. And you are not a king. Instead, you are merely a government employee. You work for the taxpayers (like Cindy and myself) who pay your salary.

So please don't be a coward, Mr. Bush. Go ahead and meet with Cindy---you owe it to her, as she lost her son in your illegal invasion of Iraq. This war, which was based on lies, has led to the senseless deaths of more than 2,000 U.S. soldiers, as well as 100,000 Iraqis.

I find it interesting, Mr. Bush, how you don't have time to meet with Cindy---and yet you've always found time to warmly receive Saudi princes at your Crawford ranch. (You know, the same Saudis who have admitted that they funded Al Qaeda and Bin Laden. The same Saudis who have steadfastly refused to cooperate in any way with U.S. 9/11 investigators).

Granted, unlike the Saudis, Cindy doesn't have billions of dollars to give you, your family, and your business associates. But I still urge you to meet with her and hear what she has to say. Please, I urge you. Don't be a coward again, Mr. Bush.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Bush White House Borrows A Trick From Nixon In Altering Transcripts


It's clear that we're dealing with a corrupt administration when the White House can't even be trusted to provide accurate transcripts of its own statements. In altering the words of Press Secretary Scott McClellan, the Bush White House is taking a cue from the Nixon administration, which resorted to the same dirty trick in its embattled final days.

The Web site Think Progress has documented how the Bush White House altered the transcript of McClellan's words from an Oct. 31, 2004 press conference.

From Think Progress:

There is a brewing controversy about what exactly was said at the White House press conference on October 31. Everyone agrees NBC’s David Gregory said this:

Q: Whether there’s a question of legality, we know for a fact that there was involvement. We know that Karl Rove, based on what he and his lawyer have said, did have a conversation about somebody who Patrick Fitzgerald said was a covert officer of the Central Intelligence Agency. We know that Scooter Libby also had conversations.

Both Congressional Quarterly and FNS transcribed McClellan’s answer as "That’s accurate." The White House transcript lists McClellan’s answer as "I don't think that’s accurate."

This episode is likely to trigger a sense of deja vu among those of us who recall a similar controversy that emerged during the Watergate scandal.

In his book, The Arrogance of Power: The Secret World of Richard Nixon, author Anthony Summers documents how the Nixon White House also altered transcripts, which it released in lieu of the Watergate tapes that were subpoenaed by the Judiciary Committee. When the latter compared the transcribed conversations to several that the panel had already received in audio form, it discovered a number of troubling discrepancies.

One example cited by Summers:

Transcript for March 22, 1973, as released by Nixon:

PRESIDENT: Well, all John Mitchell is arguing then, is that now we use flexibility in order to get off the cover-up line.

Judiciary Committee transcript:

PRESIDENT: But now--what--all that John Mitchell is arguing, then, is that now, we, we use flexibility.
JOHN DEAN: That's correct.
PRESIDENT: In order to get on with the cover-up plan.

Summers notes that the Nixon White House also made other alterations in the transcripts, including the deletion of the now-infamous passage in which Nixon ordered: "I want you all to stonewall it...cover up, or anything else."

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Torture Is As American As Apple Pie


George W. Bush raised a lot of eyebrows when he emphatically stated that the U.S. does not engage in torture. It was an ironic comment, especially in view of the White House's recent fierce lobbying against a congressional drive to outlaw torture.

I'm not sure how Bush defines "torture." But, as journalist Seymour Hersh has pointed out, the U.S. government has videos that depict children being sodomized at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. The White House has fought to prevent the public release of these videos.

As Hersh noted:
"...the boys were sodomized, with the cameras rolling, and the worst above all of them is the soundtrack of the boys shrieking."

I have to admit, I was a bit baffled at Bush's "we do not torture" comment. Torture has been well documented at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo and other U.S. facilities. Torture techniques range from the practice of "water boarding" (which simulates the effect of drowning) to vicious beatings. Other torture techniques include the pressing of lit cigarettes against detainees' flesh. Prisoners were also reportedly forced to walk on broken glass and barbed wire.

Although the Bush White House has embraced torture and vigorously defended the practice, it's important to note that torture is nothing new in American history.

For example, torture was widely employed by the Reagan-backed Central American death squads, which massacred hundreds of thousands of civilians in Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua in the 1980s. One secret CIA manual, from 1983, offered advice in various torture techniques.

If Bush really believes the U.S. doesn't engage in torture, he really ought to bone up on his history. Bush wouldn't have to venture far from his Crawford ranch to find ample evidence---after all, nearby Waco knows a thing or two about torture.

For example, in 1916, a mentally retarded African-American youth, Jesse Washington, was arrested on the flimsiest of evidence in the murder of a Waco-area woman. After a short sham trial, the 17-year-old youth was dragged out of a courtroom by the trial spectators. He was slashed repeatedly with knives, castrated, and had his fingers and toes cut off. Then, before a crowd of 15,000 in downtown Waco, he was burned alive at the stake. City officials did nothing to stop the lynching, which was observed by the mayor and chief of police.

But I suppose it's unfair to single out Waco for this atrocity. In fact, Washington's torture-murder was only one of tens of thousands of lynchings that occurred during what historians have referred to as the era of "spectacle lynchings" from the 1880s to the 1920s. In many cases, the victims were tortured for hours, before they were soaked with kerosene and set on fire by cheering mobs. Like the Washington murder, many of the lynchings occurred in broad daylight, in crowded downtown areas, while city officials looked on, or even participated.

This ugly chapter of widespread torture has been largely forgotten by Americans today. Taking a cue from Stalinist Russia, the U.S. has carefully airbrushed away its atrocities when presenting the official, sanitized version of American history.

Some people might argue that, although thousands of lynchings did occur, they all happened a long time ago. They might wish to tell this to the family of James Byrd, Jr. In 1998, Byrd was chained to a pickup by three white supremacists and dragged to his death in Jasper, Texas.

In the aftermath of the Jasper lynching, a grass-roots effort in Texas urged the state to pass a hate crimes act to help prevent future atrocities. However, the bill failed to pass in the Texas Legislature after then-Governor George W. Bush refused to support the bill.

When Bush claims that the U.S. doesn't engage in torture, he's simply carrying on a rich tradition of denial and suppression of the truth that is as American as apple pie.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Bush White House Gives Conspiracy Theories a Good Name


Years ago, conspiracy theories were usually only embraced by wacky people who were beyond the fringe. But after five years of George W. Bush in the White House, some conspiracies don't seem that wacky after all.

In a way, this reminds me of Conspiracy Theory, a 1997 film in which Mel Gibson portrayed Jerry Fletcher, a paranoid cab driver who is consumed with dark visions of shadowy CIA plots and black helicopters.

Although initially no one takes Fletcher seriously, as the film progresses, we learn that Gibson's character isn't really crazy after all. The wild conspiracies that he's constantly rambling on about turn out to be true.

I think a similar situation exists in the real world today. Even before the 9/11 attacks launched a thousand conspiracy theories, the Bush White House was already operating in the sort of shadowy nether world that's always been a hallmark of this administration. It's the sort of secrecy that's long fueled conspiracy theories.

Until recently, I was never that big a proponent of conspiracy theories. It seemed to me that the simplest explanation was always likely to be the truth and that a mundane explanation was more plausible than a complex conspiracy.

However, with Bush in the White House, I've come to the opposite conclusion over the past few years. These days, the most plausible explanation IS a conspiracy.

Take for example the event that put Bush in the White House in the first place: the highly disputed 2000 election. To this day, there is still a great deal that is unanswered about this election. A lot of people continue to believe that there was a GOP conspiracy to steal the vote. And the 2004 election was even more controversial and shrouded in mystery.

Although the mainstream media never took an in-depth look at the unanswered questions surrounding the 2004 election, a number of notable books have examined it, including Mark Crispin Miller's just-released Fooled Again. The book examines a number of factors in the election that will warm the heart of any conspiracy buff. These include voter disenfranchisement, mysterious computer glitches and exit poll discrepancies.

To me, the scariest part of the 2004 election isn't the possibility that the Bush people stole it. It's the fact that the media refuses to examine this possibility. After all, this indicates a conspiracy on a much more grand scale than simply a corrupt administration trying to steal votes.

Conventional wisdom has long been that conspiracies on a vast scale are generally implausible, simply because they're too complex to successfully pull off. However, in the aftermath of the Judith Miller/New York Times case, it's become clear that no conspiracy involving the media in this country is too far out to be implausible.

At one time, America's once-credible mainstream media itself made the idea of grand conspiracies implausible. But in the past few years, the U.S. media's credibility has crumbled. No serious person these days believes that a conspiracy is unlikely simply because it hasn't been reported by the mainstream U.S. media.

Because it holds few press conferences and operates in shadowy secrecy, the Bush White House has spawned many conspiracy theories in recent years. Given the corrupt nature of this administration, a lot of conspiracy theories are frighteningly plausible. During a previous era in our nation's history, we could have depended on the media to act as a watchdog. But those days are over. Indeed, Big Media's eerie silence itself seems to give credence to even some of the wildest conspiracy theories these days.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Bush's Failed Border Policy Screws Taxpayers


By signing the new Homeland Security bill last week, George W. Bush ensures that the United States will keep throwing billions of dollars of taxpayers' money at an illegal immigration problem that's as intractable as that other perennial money pit, the war on drugs.

It won't matter in the long run how much money goes to the border patrol, or to any other "enforcement" campaign. There are two root causes of illegal border-crossing that neither the U.S. nor Mexican power elites are willing to address.

The first cause should be obvious. About half of Mexicans live in hopeless, abject poverty. Robbed and exploited by corrupt officials and a rich ruling class that is almost feudal in arrogance, the Mexican worker has no incentive to stay home, however dearly he or she loves his or her homeland. Desperation has driven millions north to a strange land filled with unsympathetic English-speakers. And unless there is ever real socio-economic reform south of our border, we will see millions more of them.

The second cause is that many thousands of U.S. employers are most happy to hire illegal aliens, especially Mexicans. They work cheap. They don't usually make waves because they don't want to draw attention to themselves. They can't demand paid vacations. And -- here's the real payoff for scofflaw employers -- they aren't necessarily covered by any kind of health insurance or workers comp, nor can they generally demand it.

Unofficially, there's a cozy arrangement between the rich and powerful of both countries.

In Mexico, there's a distant memory of what can happen when millions of angry peasants unite. Ninety years ago, the country was in the middle of a bloody 10-year revolution. I suspect that at some point it occurred to Mexico's elite that every time a poor worker heads north, that means one less potential troublemaker. It's a way to get rid of their surplus of low-wage laborers and subsistence farmers.

Here, for scofflaw employers, every undocumented worker is a living subsidy. He or she is corporate welfare with arms and legs. If the worker is unfortunate enough to get hurt or sick, that generally means a trip to the nearest charity hospital -- courtesy, for the most part, of U.S. citizen taxpayers. You, Mr. and Ms. U.S. taxpayer, are paying for all these trips to the ER.

Low wages, no health care costs, obedient and quiet workers, no possibility of unionization, undercutting the wages of American workers both union and "non" -- Dude! Business has never been better!

And if the immigrants don't like the deal, maybe they can go back to their side of the border and work at a maquiladora, where pay and safety standards are even worse.

What is even more enraging about this is that, instead of Mexico becoming more like America, America is slowly becoming more like Mexico. Wal-Mart, for example, has a business plan that gets 'em coming and going.

First, they hire desperate workers at wages so low, they often qualify for food stamps. This is a public subsidy that we, the taxpayers, are paying indirectly to the company. Then, because their payroll is low, they sell cheap, undercutting competitors dumb enough to pay better wages. They don't offer some of their workers health insurance, so the public charity hospital gets even more business. And since their "associates" are so poor, where do they shop? (Duh!)

Wal-Mart, the corporation, is like a big, private-sector Mexico. It has adopted poverty as its corporate culture. No wonder their international division, Wal-Mart de Mexico, is doing a booming business.

True, we've got a long way to go to get in a hole as deep as Mexico's. But believe this: Our corporate rulers, with the Bush administration's help, are steadily digging. It means richer rich people, while the ranks of the poor grow. "Tinkle-down" economics is the all-too-familiar formula. And as long as you're among those doing the "tinkling," hey, it works.

Meanwhile, U.S. taxpayers are screwed yet again, with our government hurling money quite futilely at the immigration problem. It's like heroin or cocaine -- but in this case, it is greedy, venal employers who are hooked. They are addicted to cheap, docile labor -- and you, Mr. and Ms. "Murkan" Taxpayer, are subsidizing their habit. The "enforcement" is just a ludicrous show.


Friday, October 21, 2005

Miller Case Shows That Media, Not Bush, Is America's Biggest Problem


Over the years, there has been a long list of Republicans that Democrats love to hate: Richard Nixon. Newt Gingrich. Bill O'Reilly. Kenneth Starr. Tom DeLay. Rush Limbaugh. Ad nauseam.

But of all the GOP figures in the history of the Republic, I'd say that none inspires more intense loathing than George W. Bush.

I have to admit, I myself am a fully-paid-up, card-carrying member of the Bush-hater's club. I despise Bush with every fiber of my being. I have a difficult time watching his smirking face on TV, without feeling a powerful need to smash the screen.

But on the other hand, I sometimes wonder if we progressives are directing our rage and anger to the right target.

Sure, Bush is evil. He has the blood of thousands of Iraqi men, women, and children on his hands, all for a war that was based on lies. He is a puppet in the most corrupt administration in the history of America. He shamelessly wraps himself in the American flag and the Bible. He is a coward, who refused to serve his country in Vietnam. He always had everything handed to him on a silver platter by his rich, powerful family and yet never tires of advocating "rugged individualism" and "self reliance" for everyone else. Etc. Etc.

But shouldn't it be the U.S. mainstream media that our anger is directed toward?

After all, you really can't blame Bush for being Bush. I mean, lying, cheating, stealing and corruption is what this man is all about. What else do you expect from a Bush? Blaming Bush for the way he acts is like blaming a tiger for eating a small child that wandered into its zoo cage.

On the other hand, we should be blaming the media for a multitude of sins. The media in this country is supposed to have a watchdog role. It's supposed to keep an eye on our leaders and hold them accountable for their actions. Above all, the media is supposed to tell America the truth (even if the truth hurts).

At one time in our nation's history, our media did all of the above. The Fourth Estate was an institution that we could all be proud of. It was widely emulated and admired around the world. It was a mover and shaker in American affairs and it worked hard to draw attention to America's problems.

But today, the media itself is clearly the problem. I'd venture to say that the mainstream media is America's biggest problem today---and it poses the biggest obstacle to this nation returning to a democracy that represents the people.

The Judith Miller case sums up much of what is wrong with the media today. When Bush was peddling his case for war, many of us at the time figured it was based on pack of lies.

What did the media do in the build-up to the Iraq war? Did it investigate Bush's case for war? Did it bring a healthy skepticism to this story?

No. It simply parroted the Bush White House's lies, thus actually giving them a veneer of credibility. Later, the media also stood on the sidelines and acted as a cheerleader as our armed forces rolled into Iraq.

The U.S. mainstream media has probably reached its lowest point ever, for truthfulness and credibility. The same media that gave the Monica Lewinsky case 18 months of around-the-clock saturation coverage, has become nothing less than the mouthpiece of the Bush White House.

The same media that did hard-hitting, exhaustive investigative coverage of overblown "scandals" like Whitewater has snoozed through one Bush White House outrage after another, from Jeff Gannon, to the Downing Street Memo.

The fact, is the U.S. media has been handling Bush with kid-gloves since Day One. I have yet to see Bush get a hard-ball question in a U.S. press conference. Bush can lie through his teeth all day and never face a challenge from the press.
Remember when Bush was interviewed by the Irish journalist Carol Coleman last year? Bush seemed to be taken aback by her hard-hitting questions. Bush was actually offended that Coleman wasn't lobbing the usual softball fluff questions that he'd gotten used to from the U.S. press corps.

Bush has always gotten an easy ride from the U.S. media. Remember, this is a man who to this day has never been called to task by the mainstream media for the lies he told way back in the 2000 election campaign.

"By far the vast majority of my tax cuts go to those at the bottom end of the spectrum," Bush said at the time. I'm still waiting for the media to challenge that 5-year-old whopper.

So the next time you simmer with anger over Bush's latest outrage, be sure to remember the U.S. mainstream media's role in allowing the horrors of the past few years to happen. The fact is, if Bush was really held accountable for his crimes by the media, there would have been a popular outcry for his impeachment a long time ago.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Will Saddam Trial Reveal Deep, Dark Secrets About U.S.?


For the Bush White House, the trial of Saddam Hussein can't start soon enough. The Bush team is eager to steer the focus of the world's media away from the ongoing disaster of the Iraq war to the crimes of Saddam.

Given that the Iraq war has been an unmitigated catastrophe, the Saddam trial is the final fig leaf the Bush White House can use to try to justify the whole god-awful mess. And what better way to expose to the world the crimes of Saddam than a high-profile trial that'll be broadcast around the world?

The Bush White House is eager for the world to know all the details of Saddam's crimes over the years. But the Bush people ought to be careful what they wish for.

For a start, if Saddam receives anything remotely resembling a fair trial, then the world will not only learn about the dictator's crimes, it'll also learn the deep, dark secrets about America's relationship with Saddam over the years.

It's clear that Saddam was an evil dictator. However, I've long believed that the U.S. really doesn't have a moral leg to stand on when it criticizes Saddam's crimes. After all, two decades ago, when Saddam was at the zenith of his power and was committing his worst atrocities, the U.S. was funding and supporting him.

The U.S., in fact, had a cozy relationship with Saddam that lasted for decades. How many Americans are aware that, in 1959, the CIA hired the then-22-year-old Saddam to carry out a plot to assassinate the Iraqi prime minister, General Abd al-Karim Qasim? (Saddam's assassination attempt failed when he fired too soon and he only wound up killing Qasim's driver).

Bush has long condemned Saddam for crimes such as gassing the Kurds in the town of Halabjah in 1988. But how many Americans know that the U.S. in fact sold materials to Saddam for creating biological and chemical weapons in the 1980s?

As Craig Unger reported in his 2004 book, House of Bush, House of Saud,:

"Beginning in 1984, the Centers for Disease Control began providing Saddam's Iraq with biological materials--including viruses, retroviruses, bacteria, fungi, and even tissue that was infected with bubonic plague."

Unger notes that the latter exchange may have been initiated in the spirit of an "innocent" transfer of scientific information. But as he points out: "It is not difficult to argue against giving bubonic-plague-infected tissues to Saddam Hussein."

Unger quotes former Senate investigator James Tuite: "We were freely exchanging pathogenic materials with a country that we knew had an active biological warfare program."

The fact is that Saddam was a monster---but he was a Frankenstein of America's own making. I'd suspect that if Saddam's trial truly delves into the truth of Saddam's crimes, there will be quite a few nasty, embarrassing episodes involving the U.S. that will come to light.

In short, before the U.S. gets on its high horse in condemning Saddam for crimes like torturing prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison, we need to remember that we tortured people there, too. The problem is the U.S. spends too much time pointing the finger at the crimes of other nations and not enough time reflecting on our own crimes.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Does Anyone Seriously Believe Constitutional Referendum Will End Iraq's Nightmare?


There's no doubt that if Iraqis approve Saturday's constitutional referendum, this will be hailed by the U.S. mainstream media as a victory for the Bush White House's Iraq policy. No doubt, the Fox News Channel's talking heads will assure us that Iraq is now finally well on its way to freedom, peace and democracy.

Americans have always been suckers for stories where good triumphs over evil and everyone lives happily ever after. Unfortunately, that's not going to happen in Iraq, no matter what the result is during Saturday's election.

No matter how many "feel good" speeches Bush gives, this is one story that's not going to have a happy ending. The ongoing disintegration of the Iraqi state is too far along for the process to be halted by anything the U.S. does at this point.

One would have to be pretty naive to suspect that Saturday's vote will really change anything in the long term. The fact is, ordinary Iraqis are simply preoccupied with surviving another day on the street to give much thought to lofty ideas about "democracy" these days.

Speaking of democracy, I find it ironic that if the Iraqi constitution passes, it'll actually be a setback for people's rights in Iraq, in many ways. Note that the proposed constitution will make Islam the primary source of legislation.

As The Wall Street Journal noted Thursday:

"(The charter) would overturn a tradition of secular family laws that gave women nearly equal rights. Hewing to Sharia, or Islamic law, it would leave women far fewer civil rights if they divorce, get into child-custody disputes or seek an inheritance."

In embracing Bush's simplistic, black-and-white view of the Middle East, many Americans are ignorant of the fact that, in many ways, Saddam's Iraq was actually in the forefront of women's rights among Arab nations. Women were allowed to get a college degree, drive a car and wear Western-style clothes.

By contrast, Bush's good friends and allies, the Saudis, permit no such rights for women, who're regarded as little more than property. Women in Saudi Arabia are forbidden to drive, much less get a college degree, and in public they must keep themselves covered from head to toe at all times, lest they risk a beating from the state's religious police.

The Bush White House has long been looking desperately for any news from Iraq that it can seize on to hype as "the turning point" in that nation's tumbling fortunes. Every event, from the capture of Saddam to Iraq's first vote, has been hailed as a milestone that means that, at long last, the nation is on its way to peace and democracy.

Of course, the reality has been quite different. Since the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the nation has descended into an incredibly bloody anarchy that has steadily gotten worse and worse, with no sign of a letup. While U.S. pundits ponder whether a civil war is in the offing, numerous observers who are actually on the ground in Iraq report that the nation is already in a state of civil war.

The fact is, the insurgency is growing, and it has only been nurtured by the occupying U.S. forces. With their short MTV-attention spans, many Americans have already forgotten about the horrors dished out by the U.S. occupying forces over the past two years, from the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuses to the bloody assault on Fallujah. And memories of these events will continue to feed the insurgency, as well as its base of support, no matter what happens during Saturday's vote.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Why Are GOP Wingnuts Surprised? The Miers Nomination Is Just One More Example Of Bush Cronyism, Stupid!


I recall, over five years ago, when three co-workers asked for my honest assessment of then-Gov. George W. Bush. "I think he's an empty suit," I said.

In mob slang, an empty suit is defined as someone with nothing to offer who tries to hang around with mobsters. In politics, this would translate into someone with nothing to offer who either seeks or holds public office. And Bush, with his nomination of unqualified crony Harriet Miers for Supreme Court justice, has provided yet another example of a vapid politician with nothing to offer. Bush has no substance. He's always relied on cronies to furnish it -- such as they could.

Much to the country's lasting misfortune, Bush has been marketable. Surrounded by Machiavellian thugs like Karl Rove, he has somehow stammered and swaggered his way into two terms in the Oval Office.

But having the talents needed to be president of the frat house (backslapping joviality, cutsie-pootsie nicknames, smarmy "charm", and a sort of everyman appeal to the herd) doesn't prepare a person to be president in the White House.

So why are the right-wingers so appalled by the Miers nomination? News flash, righty kooks -- Bush has operated in this contemptibly shallow fashion his entire life.

The disaster in New Orleans showed what can happen when a weak, poorly prepared chief executive surrounds himself with "yes" men and women, and appoints inexperienced sycophants to key posts, as though he were putting buds in charge of the panty raid. To mention only the most prominent of many examples, FEMA's former "director," Michael Brown, was a Bush political hack with as much background in emergency management as Bush has experience in self-reliance.

One would think that perhaps Bush could have learned from so many disasters. He's created his share, and worsened others. (That, of course, would be assuming that he's in something close to a normal learning curve.)

But now he's ready to appoint to the nation's highest court a lawyer who has never been a judge, with no experience in constitutional law, and who happens to be a longtime associate and a Bush family friend. It appears that in most ways, he hasn't learned a thing; and it's fairly obvious that he never will.

The one big thing Bush learned, and very early, was how to schmooze, party, socialize in the most frivolous ways -- in other words, how to collect cronies. And, of course, spend Daddy's money.

Now he's doing his best to put his buds in charge of the store, no matter how much looting and damage ensues. And the money he's spending now isn't Daddy's, but ours.

It may be recalled that President Kennedy installed his brother as attorney general, to head a Cabinet post for a few years. OK -- conservatives don't have a monopoly on political patronage or cronyism. But this nomination has vastly greater importance. As a justice who would perhaps be the swing vote on a court that has already been appallingly politicized, Miers would probably sit on the court for decades and wield enough power to change the course of U.S. jurisprudence. Something tells me that this wouldn't be for the better. This is a person who has publicly called George W. Bush "the most brilliant man I ever met."

That ludicrous statement alone should disqualify her.

But one must understand that in the Bush playbook, Miers has the top qualification -- being a Bush family toady. The nomination is the payback for taking out the garbage so many times. and for propping up a suit with no substance inside.

But, we've seen this sullying of our republic before; and no doubt, we'll see it again -- at least until, perhaps, a House panel approves the overdue articles of impeachment for both Bush and Cheney.


Friday, October 07, 2005

Bush's "Foiled Terror Plots" Claim Makes No Sense


If you stop and think about it, Bush's claim that the U.S. and its allies foiled 10 plots by Al-Qaeda in the past four years, doesn't make sense.

First of all, there's the question of why the American people are only now hearing about all this. The timing is suspicious, to say the least. The fact is, the embattled Bush White House is at its lowest ebb ever. Bush's approval ratings are in the toilet. And most Americans now say the disastrous Iraq war wasn't worth it.

Details about the alleged terror plots have been pretty skimpy, to say the least. But the White House has referred to a murky series of alleged attacks that were set to occur from 2002 to 2004.

Here's what doesn't make any sense to me. If the U.S. did indeed foil terror plots during that time frame, don't you think we might have heard about it during the bitterly-fought, take-no-prisoners 2004 election campaign?

After all, Bush was desperately trying to convince the American people that his war on terror was a big success and that he could protect America better than John Kerry could. It seems to me that the Bush team would have been shouting from the highest rooftops that the U.S. had already foiled numerous Al-Qaeda attacks.

I've heard Republicans argue that Bush was unable to mention the foiled attacks previously, out of concerns for national security.

Of course, this makes no sense either.

I could see the need to maintain secrecy before a terror attack is foiled. But there is no reason to keep news of a foiled attack secret AFTER the fact.

And bear in mind, that although the Bush team has mentioned the foiled attacks now, the White House hasn't exactly offered many details about the alleged plots. Indeed, details about the "foiled plots" are extremely vague.

However, from what few details are known about the "foiled plots," it seem that Bush is once again misleading the nation. In only two of the cases are any details known---and the evidence in both cases is mighty thin:

In first case, involving Jose Padilla, it's important to note that Padilla has not yet even been charged with a crime.

As Britain's The Telegraph newspaper pointed out, Paul Wolfowitz "stressed that 'there was not an actual plan' to set off a radioactive device in America and Padilla had not begun trying to acquire materials. Intelligence officials said his research had not gone beyond surfing the internet."

The second case, involving Ohio truck driver Iyman Faris, is unlikely to be dramatized in a Tom Clancy-style thriller appearing at your local cinema any time soon. As Think Progress pointed out:

"(Iyman Faris) ... pleaded guilty in June 2003 to two felony charges of supporting a foreign terrorist organization. He was charged with plotting to destroy the Brooklyn Bridge, but U.S. officials admitted that Faris had abandoned the plot because he deemed it unlikely to succeed. "After scouting the bridge and deciding its security and structure meant the plot was unlikely to succeed, he passed along a message to al Qaeda in early 2003 that said ‘the weather is too hot.’" [CNN, 6/19/03]"

Of course, outside of the meager details known about the aforementioned two cases, next to nothing is known about the other eight alleged foiled terror plots.

It's commendable that Bush avoided any mention of these "foiled plots" during the 2004 election campaign. Otherwise, he might have been accused of politicizing the "war on terror" to his own benefit. Yeah, right.

In any case, for Bush to trot out this tale of foiled plots now, when his political fortunes are at their lowest ebb, is only the latest contemptible attempt by the White House to shamelessly use 9/11 to bolster its political fortunes.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Despite DeLay's "Partisan Zealot" Claim, Most Politicians Investigated By Texas Prosecutor Have Been Democrats


Tom DeLay, the first House leader to be indicted while in office in at least a century, has been quick to dismiss charges against him as driven by partisan politics.

DeLay and his friends and allies have been quick to denounce the prosecutor in the case, Ronnie Earle, as an "unabashed partisan zealot."

However, it's important to note that 12 of the 15 politicians investigated by Earle over the years have been Democrats.

Since 1978, Earle, has investigated a number of high-profile Democrats, including: Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Yarbrough, State Treasurer Warren Harding, Attorney General Jim Mattox, House Speaker Gib Lewis, former state Rep. Betty Denton and former state Rep. Lane Denton.

Despite this, DeLay and his allies have wasted no time in portraying the indictment as politically motivated.

Typical of the comments Wednesday was that made by DeLay spokesman Kevin Madden:

"This indictment is nothing more than prosecutorial retribution by a partisan Democrat."

DeLay chimed in with his own attacks during a rambling press conference in which he labeled Earle as a "zealot" and a "partisan fanatic."

I expect the great Republican slime machine to kick into action in full force in an effort to tar the name of Ronnie Earle, a former Eagle scout, who has held office for 27 years.

But it's clear that DeLay and his goons are going to have to find another flaming necklace to put around Earle's neck besides the tired cliche of "partisan politics," as this investigation moves forward.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

For The Truth, Forget The Media And Listen To The Protesters


In the build-up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq in March 2003, the world saw the largest series of demonstrations ever, as millions of anti-war protesters took to the streets around the globe.

Fast-forward to Sept. 24, 2005. Once again, anti-war protesters are taking to the streets in Washington, D.C. and London, and elsewhere.

Bush will, of course, ignore the marching masses this weekend who oppose his evil war for oil---just as he ignored the protesters of 2003. That much is given---but what worries me more is whether the mainstream media in this country will cover the demonstrations, or give them the same short shrift it gave the massive demonstrations of 2003.

The largely middle-class, pampered and carefully groomed members of the mainstream media have already made a startling discovery about this country when they were rooting around in New Orleans, looking for sensational video footage opportunities in Katrina's aftermath. That is: that there are desperately poor people in this country.

If the mainstream media bothers to do much reporting on this weekend's demonstrations, it might also be enlightened to another fact: that a majority of the American and British people are sick and tired of this evil war and they want our troops brought home now.

One thing that I will give the Republicans credit for is that they are determined and relentless. If Clinton had launched this war and later found that it was all based on lies, there would've been a lot of agonized soul-searching within the Democratic Party.

By contrast, now that Bush's war rationale has been exposed as a fraud, he continues to draw fanatical support from his rabid followers. None of the Bush partisans seem to remember why Bush said we needed to invade Iraq in the first place. The term "Weapons of Mass Destruction" (easily the most common phrase appearing in the mainstream media in 2003) has completely disappeared from the White House's vocabulary (except to pop up on one occasion during a truly sick "comedy skit," in which Bush made light of the whole issue).

Now, the Bush Bots and the mainstream media have gone into overdrive trying to convince the American people that the Iraq war was about bringing democracy to the Iraqis all along. The media has worked hard to portray the war as an endeavor that, while perhaps somewhat flawed, is based on noble, lofty ideals.

This weekend, as thousands again march in the streets to protest the war, it's important to remember a crucial fact that's been overlooked over the past two years.

That is: the Iraq war is, and always was, about one thing: oil.

Anyone who believes otherwise is simply naive.

Are we really to believe that if a Saddam-like figure had emerged in some obscure (and resource-poor) region of the world, that the U.S. would really care?

Oh, sure, the U.S. might file a diplomatic protest, or denounce the dictator at a press conference. But there's no way on earth that we'd spend hundreds of billions of dollars and thousands of U.S. soldiers' lives to launch an invasion.

Bush and his fanatical followers can babble on all day about the "noble" mission to bring peace and democracy to Iraq. But this war never had anything to do with lofty ideals. It's all about the oil.

If Bush was really a friend of democracy, he might do the following:

1. Stop trying to overthrow the democratically-elected (and genuinely popular) Hugo Chavez, president of Venezuela.
2. Stop propping up the evil dictatorship of Saudi Arabia---a nation where beheadings and torture are rife. (While he's at it, Bush should ask the Saudis to let our investigators examine the Al-Qaeda money trail).
3. Repeal the "USA Patriot Act," the most serious assault on American democracy in our nation's history.
4. Stop stealing elections, which, of course, the Bush team did in 2000 and 2004, with the help of a crooked partisan Supreme Court and a rabidly pro-GOP corporation, Diebold, which "counted" the 2004 votes.
5. Last, but not least, Bush ought to stop dragging the noble ideal of democracy through the mud by trying to associate it with this evil war in Iraq.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Hey, Bush: Stop Digging


There's an old saying that when you find yourself in a hole, stop digging. George W. Bush apparently never heard that one.

In recently announcing what could become the biggest federal public works program since the New Deal, it wasn't surprising that Bush is prepared to buy his way out of yet another fiasco -- with borrowed money.

Not that I'm opposed to rebuilding New Orleans. America would be stupid to let such a rich part of our cultural heritage just wash out into the Gulf of Mexico (a la Dennis Hastert's philistine remark).

The obvious question -- or at least it should be obvious -- is how the "president" plans to pay for $200 billion worth of reconstruction without raising anybody's taxes.

Not only is he not answering the question sensibly, he's actually proposing new tax breaks for businesses to build in the hurricane-ravaged areas. And Halliburton's Kellogg, Brown and Root subsidiary, already $9 billion richer from no-bid contracts in Iraq, is up for similar deals in the stricken region, as are other companies with administration ties.

In July 2003, Nobel laureate economist George A. Akerlof told the German magazine Der Spiegel, "I think this is the worst government the U.S. has ever had ... What we have here is a form of looting." Akerlof's words are ironic now, considering the media outcry about The Big Easy's impoverished black looters, and the relative media silence about Bush sweetheart deals with corporate cronies.

It's bad enough that American "capitalism" has been largely transformed into socialism for the rich. And it's bad enough to see corporate friends of this administration given a near blank check to exploit the Treasury.

The worst part, with regard to our nation's future, is that this "president" is offering no plan to pay for this largesse, other than perhaps to strip the poor and the working class of what social safety net they have left. True, he hasn't been very specific about what cuts are planned; but don't expect shared sacrifice. With a war to pay for, and possibly more tax bonanzas on the way, it's pretty obvious who's going to be in the crosshairs -- the same people who have been since Jan. 20, 2001.

Of course, they still won't find enough money to do the rebuilding. So they'll borrow the rest, putting the U.S. economy in even greater peril.

Mr. Bush, unless it is your intention to put this economy 6 feet under -- please, quit digging.


Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Of Course Bush Is Responsible. Now, How About Some Action?


The biggest non-news story this week involves Bush saying that he takes "responsibility" for failures in dealing with Hurricane Katrina.

There's only one problem. Bush is supposed to be president of the United States. Of course, he's responsible for the disastrous federal response. Responsibility is supposed to come with the job. Bush has simply never conceded this point before on anything else--from the disastrous Iraq war to 9/11 to the exploding federal deficit.

It's a bit of a media novelty now that Bush is claiming responsibility for a change---but one thing that should not be overlooked is the fact that Bush had already full responsibility, whether or not he admitted it.

This latest development is nothing more than yet another cynical ploy on Karl Rove's part. It would be significant only if it were accompanied by some sort of concrete action. But of course, it won't be.

In many nations around the world (Japan, for example), a leader would have stepped down in the aftermath of a Katrina-like fiasco. Of course, we cannot expect that of Bush. But it would be nice if Bush would follow up his PR ploy with some real action for a change.

After all, it's easy to mouth empty platitudes at press conferences. It's quite another thing to, say, end White House-connected crony capitalism in the Katrina recovery effort.

Millions of disillusioned Americans are asking why it is that companies with ties to the Bush White House are grabbing some of the administration's first disaster relief and reconstruction contracts.

Since Katrina slammed the Gulf Coast, shares of Halliburton have climbed 10 percent. Fresh from raking in billions of dollars in non-competitive contracts in Iraq, Halliburton is expected rake in billions in Katrina's aftermath. As Britain's Observer newspaper pointed out, "...Halliburton has shone in the markets partly because it is expected to do well out of the catastrophe."

In short, Bush may think he's being a bold leader by taking "responsibility" for a change. But the thing he's never realized is that responsibility is supposed to come with the job of president. And responsibility is something that he's always shirked.

Bush's Rove-scripted "responsibility" PR moment aside, does anyone seriously think that anything will change with this administration?

In the end, nothing will change. In fact, I'd bet money that, come next August, Bush will again be luxuriating in yet another European-style 5-week vacation, oblivious to the worries and concerns of ordinary working Americans.

Monday, September 05, 2005

For Bush, "Damage Control" Involves PR, Not Dealing With Katrina's Aftermath


In the aftermath of one of the worst disasters in the history of the United States, the Bush White House's top priority is to contain the damage.

No, not the damage to the Katrina-ravaged areas.

Instead, we're referring to the damage done to Bush's image.

In the early going of Katrina's aftermath, Bush took a black eye in the PR stakes via a series of blunders. This resulted in something we've not seen in the mainstream media for years: stories that are actually critical of the Bush White House.

With echoes of Nero fiddling while Rome burned, a nation watched in amazement as a vacationing Bush strummed a guitar as Katrina unleashed its fury. We then watched in disbelief as Bush made astonishingly idiotic comments.

"I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees," Bush said with a straight face to ABC's Diane Sawyer.

It seems to me that the nation's budget-starved emergency planning officials could have told Bush this years ago. (Indeed, they tried to tell him, but their cries were ignored, as billions of dollars were shifted from urgent levee projects to the quicksands of the bloody Iraq quagmire).

Bush's PR took a further beating with the growing realization that many of the thousands of expected deaths were avoidable and could be chalked up to the inept relief efforts, much of which came far too late. It's important to note that experts have long warned that the first 72 hours after a natural disaster are the vital time-frame during which lives can be saved with quick action.

The inadequate and delayed relief efforts actually prompted our nation's media to start asking sharply critical questions about Bush's leadership role in coping with the crisis. Bush's PR image tumbled further when Michael Brown, the man Bush appointed to lead the Federal Emergency Management Agency, showed himself to be disconnected from reality.

Brown professed in an interview that he was unaware until Thursday that there were 15,000 starving, desperate hurricane victims housed at the New Orleans Convention Center---even though this had been widely reported for days.

Bush has definitely lost Round One of the all-important PR battle.

But Bush spin-doctors like Karl Rove have long known that you can lose a few early rounds and still win the war in the PR sweepstakes.

What's important is not the image in people's minds right now. It's how this whole episode will be recalled a year or two down the road.

The White House damage control and PR machine cranked into action this weekend in an effort to contain the political damage.

The New York Times reported Sept. 4 that the Rove-directed PR effort seeks to shift the blame for the slow disaster aid response from the White House to Louisiana and New Orleans officials, (who as it turns out, are Democrats).

We're already seeing the first rotten fruits of Bush/Rove's "shift-the-blame" smear campaign

On Sept. 4, The Washington Post, in remarks attributed to "a senior Bush official," reported that, as of Saturday, Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco, a Democrat, had "still had not declared a state of emergency."

This, of course, is a crock. In fact, on Aug. 28, Blanco sent an urgent, detailed letter, requesting that Bush declare "an expedited major disaster for the State of Louisiana."

We can expect the Bush White House to continue to spew lies and misinformation about its bungled Katrina response in the weeks and months to come, as Rove works to keep ahead of the PR curve.

The question is, will the mainstream media play along with this? Will the press let the Bush White House continue to slime the Democrats and shift all blame elsewhere?

In the first few days after Katrina hit, we saw a rare glimpse of this nation's media breaking out of its cozy slumber and asking tough questions for a change. For a moment there, it gave many of us a sense of deja vu as we watched the sort of media that we once admired and respected many years ago.

Now, the siren song of Bush's PR and blame-game blitz is slithering out of the White House once more---will it lull our media back into a sense of complacency and cooperation? Or will we have to continue to rely on the European media and the blogosphere to get the unvarnished truth about the White House?