Friday, December 29, 2006

The Real Reason Republicans Hate Hillary Clinton


Trying to fathom the various hatreds of the Republicans these days is always a tricky exercise.

After all, these are people who despise saintly figures like Jimmy Carter. How, exactly, does one go about hating someone like Carter? It's like hating Mother Teresa.

The wingnuts also despise decorated war heroes like John Kerry, John Murtha and Max Cleland. I've never understood how soldiers who fought and bled for their country could be the target of such venom from anyone, either on the Right or the Left.

But it's always been a complete mystery to me why the Republicans would hate someone like Hillary Clinton.

Surely it's clear to anyone outside of the Rush-listening, knuckle-dragging base of the GOP that Hillary is hardly an extreme liberal. In fact, she's quite moderate.

Despite what the likes of Fox News would have us believe, Hillary is a business-friendly politician who is hardly the champion of worker's rights. In short, she's not much of a progressive.

In fact, Hillary's 2002 vote in favor of using military force against Iraq and her pandering on the flag-burning issue have been enough to distance her from a number of progressives.

Liberal columnist Molly Ivins, for example, famously declared last January that she would not support Hillary for president.

The mainstream media hasn't helped things over the years when reporting on exactly what it is that Hillary stands for.

Indeed, the MSM continues to insist on calling Hillary a "divisive" figure.

Presumably, in giving her this label, the MSM is referring to the rabid GOP nutcases who are consumed with hatred for Hillary. What's interesting about all this is that the MSM hasn't stuck a similar label on George W. Bush---even though no president has ever done more to divide the country (and alienate the world from America).

Frankly, the mainstream media has done a lousy job of reporting on Hillary Clinton over the years. And nowhere is this more evident that the lies and misinformation that it spread about the 1993 Clinton health care plan.

The MSM went out of its way to try to scare the American public about Clinton's health care proposal. As a result of the media's misinformation, most Americans were under the impression that the plan called for some kind of scary, Communist-style government takeover of the entire U.S. health case system. This is a misconception that exists to this day.

In fact, the Task Force on National Health Care Reform (which Hillary headed) called for no such thing. It didn't even call for a Canadian-style single-payer plan. In fact, it left the nation's health care system firmly in the hands of the private sector.

The MSM's inability to convey even this basic, fundamental fact about Clinton's health care plan, of course, played right into the GOP's hands as they fought fiercely against the plan. I suspect we'll see a great deal more of this MSM misinformation about Hillary should she pursue the presidency.

Which brings me back to my original question: why, exactly does Hillary inspire such foaming-at-the-mouth hatred from the GOP these days? It sure as hell isn't because Hillary is some sort of FDR-style progressive.

It's clear that the real reason the Republicans hate Hillary is that they simply can't stand strong-willed women.

Let's face it: such "uppity" women frighten the Republicans. It's not that the GOP necessarily despise women in general---it's just that the right-wingers want women to stay in their place in society.

Republicans, of course, would strongly deny that this is the case. They'd protest that they're not hostile to women and, as "proof" would offer up examples like Bush's appointment of Condoleezza Rice, as well as the various female GOP politicians and leaders in America.

However, Republicans know damn well that a significant part of their base supports "traditional family values"---which is simply code for keeping women in their place as docile, cookie-baking homemakers.

It's important to remember that for all of the boasting that our nation does about being some sort of "beacon" of human rights, the fact is, today's America still harbors tens of millions of bigots, whose views on race and gender haven't changed much in the past 100 years.

And what party do you think these bigots vote for? It sure as hell ain't the Democrats.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

How Did America's Founding Fathers Feel About Christmas?


"The day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the supreme being as his father in the womb of a virgin, will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter."
---Thomas Jefferson, in an 1823 letter to John Adams

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

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Newspapers That Once Called Upon Clinton To Resign Are Silent On Bush


"Has the President so failed in his duties to the nation that he should leave office? The answer to that question is yes, and the time for the President to leave is not after months of continued national embarrassment but now. Clinton should resign."
---USA Today editorial, Sept. 15, 1998

George W. Bush is a crook.

He has violated the Constitution. He has violated his oath of office. He lied America into a disastrous war of aggression that killed 650,000 Iraqi men, women and children. He made the United States the most feared and hated nation on the planet.

By contrast, all Bill Clinton did was lie about a blow job.

Guess which president our nation's media called upon to resign?

In 1998, Kenneth Starr released his special counsel's report, the product of a $50 million, blatantly partisan GOP witchhunt aimed at bringing down the Clinton presidency. Despite this incredibly intense probe into every detail of his life, the only real "dirt" the report had on Clinton was that he lied about his affair with Monica Lewinsky.

Americans never really gave a damn about the Lewinsky affair. Even at the height of the impeachment "crisis," Clinton enjoyed strong approval ratings in the high 60s. I always got the feeling that the American public just wanted Congress to move on from this silly affair and get back to the real business of the nation.

What's remarkable is the American people believed this way despite the fact that, day after day, the "liberal media" was desperately hyping the Lewinsky story and trying to convince the public that it was a serious "crisis" for the White House.

In fact, after Starr released his report, dozens of major U.S. newspapers called upon Clinton to resign. The biggest circulation newspaper in America, USA Today, led the way.

In a Sept. 15, 1998 editorial, USA Today said:

"Has the President so failed in his duties to the nation that he should leave office? The answer to that question is yes, and the time for the President to leave is not after months of continued national embarrassment but now. Clinton should resign."

Many other major newspapers joined in the call for Clinton to resign, among them The Seattle Times, The New Orleans Times-Picayune, The Des Moines Sunday Register, The San Jose Mercury-News, The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Looking back on all this eight years later, it's difficult to fathom what the fuss was all about.

Today, America is saddled with an unbelievably corrupt occupant in the White House. Bush is guilty of a long list of serious crimes, from embracing torture as official state policy to illegal wiretaps to lying America into a war that has turned out to be the biggest strategic blunder in U.S. history.

And what's the U.S. media's reaction to all this? (You know, the same "liberal media" that was screaming and hollering for Clinton to resign for lying about a blow job?)


Not one major newspaper has called for Bush to resign.

In fact, since Bush first took office six years ago, the nation's media has fallen into an eerie slumber. From GannonGate to PlameGate to the Downing Street memos, the media has snoozed through one major Bush scandal after another.

Not to worry, though. With the Dems now back in power in Congress, we can expect the media to shake off the cobwebs and go back to its watchdog role of holding Democratic politicians' feet to the fire (even if this "watchdog" role will consist of non-stories with no basis in fact: see HairCutGate, Whitewater, etc.)

It's great to live in a democracy with a free press. Someday I hope I have such an experience.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

This Thanksgiving, Remember The Millions Who Go Hungry In Bush's America


From time to time, I like to browse the right-wing nutcase sites that populate the Web. It's always interesting to see what the Kool Aid-drinking wackos are up to these days, especially in the aftermath of their crushing Nov. 7 election defeat.

Earlier today, I visited to see what the drug-addled Fat One was up to these days.

Imagine my surprise when I spotted the following headline on Rush's welcome page:

"There Are No More "Hungry" in America (But the Media Will Still Cover Homeless on Thanksgiving to Make Us Feel Guilty)."

I expected this headline to be linked to a page containing yet another rambling "screw the poor" screed by Limbaugh.

But instead, the link goes to a story by Australia's The Age newspaper.

The story talks about a recent change in terminology by the U.S. government. For whatever reason, U.S. bureaucrats have begun referring to Americans who are hungry as people with "very low food security."

The article mentions that "the change in terminology has angered groups that fight hunger who say it is aimed at hiding a stark reality."

Terminology aside, what caught my eye in this article is the fact that it mentions that nearly 11 million Americans face a "constant struggle with hunger." This information, by the way, is in the opening sentence of the article.

And yet, astonishingly, Rush points to this article (in a high-profile link at the top of his site's welcome page) as evidence that there are there are no more "hungry" in America.

I don't get it. Is this some sort of sick joke on Rush's part? (like in 1992, when he referred to then-13-year-old Chelsea Clinton as "a dog." Or did the Rush Web site team just neglect to actually read The Age story that they linked to? Or maybe they just didn't understand the story.

Who knows?

Limbaugh isn't the only right-wing nutcase who likes to make jokes about the millions of Americans who are homeless and hungry. Take (please) Michael Savage, for example.

In September 2000, Savage was discussing a program in which students volunteer to distribute sandwiches to the homeless in San Francisco, when he let loose this tirade, (which is creepy on so many different levels, you could write a book about it):

"The girls from Branson can go in and maybe get raped ... because they seem to like the excitement of it. There's always the thrill and possibility they'll be raped in a Dumpster while giving out a turkey sandwich."

Anyway, when you sit down to enjoy today's Thanksgiving meal, remember that there are millions of Americans who still go hungry every day in George W. Bush's America. While Bush and his cronies have been fighting for more tax cuts for the mega-wealthy (like Limbaugh) he's completely neglected the millions of Americans who, (unlike the likes of Bush and Paris Hilton) weren't born into wealth and luxury.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Get Ready For The Mother of All GOP Propaganda Blitzes


Life is good if you're a Democrat these days. And if you've listened in lately on the Fox News/talk radio propaganda network, it seems like the stunned GOP has been at a rare loss for words (relatively speaking) since Tuesday's elections.

The Republicans are clearly down at the moment. But make no mistake: they're not out of the game yet.

I believe the Great Republican Slime Machine is gearing up for what will be the mother of all GOP propaganda blitzes.

The GOP noise machine's ultimate goal: to get as much dirt on this incoming Congress as possible and make Nancy Pelosi and the Dems radioactive to the voters in 2008.

I know what you're thinking right now: what if there ISN'T any dirt to be had on the incoming Democrats? What if they're all squeaky clean? What if they're scandal-free?

Actually, it doesn't matter.

The Great Republican Slime Machine doesn't actually need a real scandal to damage its opponents. Its main effective weapons of choice are rumors, innuendo, and just flat-out lies. Its preferred method of operation is simple brute force and endless repetition in the GOP noise machine's echo chamber. After all, if you hammer away and keep repeating a lie long enough, sooner or later, you'll start to plant seeds of doubt about any politician's reputation.

Don't underestimate the Great Republican Slime Machine. This is a lethal, finely tuned apparatus that is capable of doing mortal damage to anyone that it sets its sights on.

To me, it's not surprising that the GOP slime machine had the gall to go after a decorated war hero like John Kerry. What's frightening to me is that, by the time the GOP attack dogs were through with him, even some reasonably educated voters were starting to harbor doubts about Kerry's distinguished war record.

And make no mistake: the GOP attack dogs are gearing up to go on the offensive, even as we speak. Clearly, they will do their best to Swift Boat as many Democrats as they possibly can between now and Election Day 2008.

You've gotta give the Repukes credit for one thing: they know how to dish out the slime better than anyone else. And they have remarkable success in getting the mainstream media to go along with their attacks.

Hence, in the 90s, we saw 18 months of around-the-clock coverage of Clinton's lie about a blowjob from the "liberal" media. What's amazing is that this is the same media that has snoozed through the past six years of what is clearly the most corrupt White House in U.S. history.

Will the mainstream media go along with the GOP attack dogs this time around? You bet. In fact, Nancy Pelosi better make sure that she doesn't so much as double-park in Washington for the next couple of years. Of course, it doesn't matter how squeaky clean the newly elected Dems are. If the GOP attack dogs lack evidence to smear their foes, they just simply make up bullsh*t.

Is there any way the Dems can fight back against the GOP noise machine for a change? Yes, there is, actually. They need to revive the Fairness Doctrine, a policy that required broadcasters using the public airwaves to give equal coverage to all sides of major issues. The 1987 abolishment of the Fairness Doctrine by Ronald Reagan led directly to the rise of the likes of Rush Limbaugh and the rest of today's mighty GOP propaganda noise machine.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

What's The Best Way Democrats Can Drain The Swamp of Corruption in D.C.?


I'm still in a state of shock over the Democrats' stunning election success, which turned out far more promising than most of us had ever anticipated.

It's hard to believe that we now have a government that can tackle issues that many of us had given up for dead a long time ago. (Does anyone remember the Kyoto Protocol?).

Indeed, there's a long shopping list of items that now actually have a chance of passing. A minimum wage hike. Better access to affordable health care. A halt to the socialism-for-the-rich of Dick Cheney's Halliburton. An end to this insane Iraq War. And on and on.

Democrats are already looking the options for their agenda for the next couple of years.

Things are definitely going to change for the better in Washington in the coming months. But there's one profound way the Democrats could change America for the better that could last a lifetime and make our government infinitely more responsible to the people: publicly financed elections.

No doubt, this will be an enormously difficult challenge. But there isn't a politician alive who doesn't realize that the only way to true, lasting reform in America's political system is to drain the swamp of campaign contributions in Washington. The latter has not only corrupted our politicians---but our very political system itself.

Spending on political races is out of control these days, with billions of dollars flowing through each election cycle. By the time a political is elected these days, he or she is already bought and paid for by special interests.

The only way to end this merry-go-round of corruption is to introduce a system of publicly financed elections.

If the incoming Democratic Congress really wants to be remembered for changing America for the better forever, then introducing publicly financed elections is the way to do it. It's the one issue that profoundly impacts all other issues in Washington.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

As U.S. Slides Toward Corpo-Fascism, This Election May Be Our Most Crucial


"When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross." -- Sinclair Lewis

There's a new color of fascism out there -- it's the shade of a Brooks Brothers gray flannel suit.

This is not your grandfather's fascism. They don't need to put dissidents in camps. They can often accomplish the same thing with private blacklists or firings to economically marginalize or eliminate foes.

And next week, U.S. voters may decide in a midterm congressional election whether this is the future of the once great hope for democracy in the world.

Examples of how the new smiley-face fascists operate are plentiful, so for brevity's sake I will focus on a very recent one: NBC's refusal to air an ad promoting the Dixie Chicks' new documentary, Shut Up & Sing.

According to the Web site Think Progress, Variety reported that "NBC's commercial clearance department said in writing that it 'cannot accept these spots because they are disparaging to President Bush.' "

Imagine the international reaction if the TV network were in Venezuela and the leader in question were Hugo Chavez. Braying jackass though many people believe Chavez is, he was, for an example of hypocrisy, vehemently criticized when he had the audacity to fire a high-ranking government official who disagreed with him (like this has never happens in our own government).

But, back to the Chicks. Harvey Weinstein, who is distributing the movie issued the following statement, according to Think Progress:

"It's a sad commentary about the level of fear in our society that a movie about a group of courageous entertainers who were blacklisted for exercising their right of free speech is now itself being blacklisted by corporate America. The idea that anyone should be penalized for criticizing the president is profoundly un-American."

So, what's next for NBC (and parent company General Electric)? Will they stop accepting campaign ads from the Democrats? Kick Leno off the air the next time he tells a "disparaging" joke about Bush?

If the Republicans manage to win, or steal, next week's election, I honestly wouldn't be surprised to see such things coming to pass very soon.

It has been Republican policies that have built the foundation of the new fascism, as the main political arm of corporate America. It has long been the case that Americans are bought and sold in the marketplace, or discarded for the sake of profits -- but of course, they are theoretically free to change masters anytime. But now, suppression of free speech has become endemic in the corporate media, even when the speakers have the money to buy the air time. And, let me remind libertarians that this is an FCC-regulated concern, as it should be (unless you want to go back to pre-1934 broadcast anarchy). But regulation that is actually in the public interest seems a lost concept.

In the upcoming election, if a fix is in, my words here may be rather futile. But there's only one way, in the short term, that Americans can possibly stop the corpo-fascist octopus: Cut off its political arm (or should I say tentacle?).

If you value freedom, vote Democratic on Nov. 7. If nothing else, we can, as Greg Palast has put it, "make them steal it."


Monday, October 30, 2006

Log Cabin Republicans Are Like Chickens for Colonel Sanders


In the 1960s, the Democratic Party lost the South because of its leaders' support for civil rights. Barry Goldwater won several Deep South states even while losing badly almost everywhere else. Sen. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, announcing that he was switching parties, said, "I didn't leave the Democratic Party. It left me."

It's too bad that gay and lesbian Republicans can't see, in an inverted way, the same thing a bigoted philistine like Thurmond could.

The Mark Foley scandal has put this GOP minority into the spotlight, albeit in an unfortunate way. Foley's misbehavior certainly isn't representative of the gay community.

But many Americans are now aware of something I don't think they'd given much thought to before: There are surprisingly many gay and lesbian Republicans.

My question is: why? Why would people of those sexual orientations continue to vote for and donate money to candidates of a party mostly composed of people who regard them as, at best, sick freaks, and at worst, hellbound sinners?

The most high-profile organization that gives these GOP outsiders something of a voice is the Log Cabin Republicans. Their home page describes them as "loyal Republicans" who believe in things like:

  • Low taxes. (So they'd rather live in Central America than in one of those socialist nightmare regimes in Scandinavia. Have they read anything about the state of gay rights in Guatemala lately?)

  • Limited government. (Do they mean the kind that can't respond to natural disasters like hurricanes? Or the kind that gives the president semidictatorial powers to, for example, define what constitutes torture?)

  • Strong defense. (Like the kind that, after the U.S. is attacked by Al Qaeda, decides to attack an adversary of theirs in Iraq? And then doesn't send enough troops to secure the borders, the precious oil fields, or bring any semblance of order to the country? But still stretches our military so thin that it likely wouldn't be able to respond to a real threat from, say, North Korea or Iran? And somehow manages to create a virtual terrorist training ground in Iraq? Can you say Larry? Moe? Curly Joe?)

  • Free markets. (Do they mean the kind in which contractors like Halliburton, with incestuously close ties to the "vice president," get no-bid contracts worth well over $10 billion?)

  • Personal responsibility. (Do they mean the kind that George W. Bush and Deadeye Dick Cheney have demonstrated during their adult lives?)

  • Individual liberty. (Do they mean the kind the Texas Republican Party endorsed in its 2004 platform, in which it opposed legalization of "sodomy," and also advised candidates that a risk of not supporting the entire platform would be withholding of state party funding?)

I understand that what Log Cabin Republicans have in common with politicians like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mary Bono and Lincoln Chafee is that all contemporary Republicans, "moderate" or otherwise, are economic royalists.

It's not hard to understand how someone would want their human rights and the trust fund, too. They basically want the little people to pay the bulk of the taxes, and then much more; and they may even sincerely believe, for whatever misguided reasons, that they should. I'll save that argument for another time.

But as the radical right extends its already decades-long dominance of the GOP, these "moderate" politicians are looking almost as irrelevant now as James Eastland and Lester Maddox appeared among Democrats in the Sixties.

Log Cabin Republicans, you didn't leave the party, but it left you -- 25 or 30 years ago. Maybe it's time you gave some thought to something you regard as unthinkable -- to follow the lead of Media Matters for America founder David Brock, and back Democrats, at least for a while. The only way "moderates" (I'm old enough to remember when they were called conservatives.) are ever going to retake the GOP is for the radical right to start losing elections. A lot of them.


Thursday, October 19, 2006

Condi's Con: One More Contemptible World-Class Liar in the Bush Junta


"We were not left a comprehensive strategy to fight al-Qaida." -- Condoleeza Rice, in a New York Post interview

The pantheon of liars in the Bush administration can now add Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to their highest ranks. Joining her boss, and Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and others in weaving the web of anti-history, Condi seems to have conveniently forgotten a series of briefings that the departing Clinton administration set up in January 2001 for their (illegitimate) successors.

One of the meetings was described in the Aug. 4, 2002, edition of Time magazine by reporter Michael Elliot in a story titled, "They Had a Plan":

"One such meeting took place in the White House situation room during the first week of January 2001. The session was part of a program designed by Bill Clinton's National Security Adviser, Sandy Berger, who wanted the transition between the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations to run as smoothly as possible. With some bitterness, Berger remembered how little he and his colleagues had been helped by the first Bush administration in 1992-93. Eager to avoid a repeat of that experience, he had set up a series of 10 briefings by his team for his successor Condoleezza Rice, and her deputy, Stephen Hadley. Berger attended only one of the briefings -- the session that dealt with the threat posed to the U.S. by international terrorism, and especially by al-Qaeda. 'I'm coming to this briefing,' he says he told Rice, 'to underscore how important I think this subject is.' Later, alone in his office with Rice, Berger says he told her, 'I believe that the Bush Administration will spend more time on terrorism generally, and on al-Qaeda specifically, than any other subject.' "

The story goes on into detail about the terrorism briefing by expert Richard Clarke, at which Rice was present. Then, Elliott goes on to outline how the Bushies, in the months that followed, basically did little or nothing in response. And Condi was one of the main ones who ignored this wealth of information and let our nation fall prey to terrorists that she had been amply warned about. And yet she shamelessly lies about having had this information.

What seems clear in hindsight is that the Bush junta was told in no uncertain terms what a threat al-Qaeda was, and specific things it should do to counter the threat. The warnings were ignored, right up until the week before Sept. 11, 2001. Clarke, who was later demoted by the Bushies, recalled before the 9/11 Commission, as reported by The Washington Post:

"I believe the Bush administration in the first eight months considered terrorism an important issue but not an urgent issue. There was a process under way to address al Qaeda. But although I continued to say it was an urgent problem, I don't think it was ever treated that way."

Clarke is on record as having written to Rice on Sept. 4, 2001, urging "policymakers to imagine a day after a terrorist attack, with hundreds of Americans dead at home and abroad, and ask themselves what they could have done earlier."

The Post reported further that Clarke told the commission that while "the Clinton administration treated terrorism as its highest priority, the Bush administration did not consider it to be an urgent issue before the attacks."

Most recently, a New York Times story reported: "A review of White House records has determined that George J. Tenet, then the director of central intelligence, did brief Condoleeza Rice and other top officials on July 10, 2001, about the looming threat from Al Qaeda, a State Department spokesman said Monday (Oct 2, 2006).

"The account by Sean McCormack came hours after Ms. Rice, the secretary of state, told reporters aboard her airplane that she did not recall the specific meeting on July 10, 2001, noting that she had met repeatedly with Mr. Tenet that summer about terrorist threats."

Doesn't Condi know that in the age of the Internet, anybody from Toledo to Tora Bora can look this stuff up?

The secretary of state seems to have learned well from others in our rogue administration how to lie through her teeth.


Sunday, October 15, 2006

Fiscal Cost of Iraq War Will Soon Exceed Cost of Korean War


The Iraq War is already the fourth costliest war in American history (as measured in constant dollars). Soon, it will be the third costliest war in U.S. history.

The National Priorities Project has reported that the Iraq War has cost U.S. taxpayers $334 billion so far. The cost of the Iraq War is rapidly approaching the cost of the 1950-53 Korean War, which cost the U.S. $361 billion.

The most expensive wars in U.S. history, according to The Christian Science Monitor are: World War II ($3.114 trillion), the Vietnam War ($531.5 billion) and the Korean War ($361.2 billion). Note: all figures are in 2005 dollars.

Actually, even these figures don't tell the whole story, though. The cost of fighting World War II was offset by the fact that after the war, America acquired an enormously valuable treasure trove of highly lucrative German technology and patents. This ranged from aerospace and jet engine technology to military technology to sophisticated chemicals.

By contrast, the U.S. won't be reaping any benefit whatsoever from the Iraq War. In fact, we're having a difficult time just accessing that nation's oil reserves. So much for the Bush team's pre-war prediction that Iraq's oil would pay for the cost of the invasion.

On that topic, I'd like to debunk one of the stupidest Republican arguments to have come down the pike the past couple of years. That is: that Bush's rationale for the Iraq War could not have been oil, since the U.S. hasn't had much luck in accessing Iraq's oil since the invasion.

I've heard this argument repeated by right-wingers endlessly. The lack of logic is breathtaking. First of all, just because America hasn't gotten its grubby hands on Iraq's oil doesn't mean that our leaders don't want the oil. All it means is that the Iraqi insurgents have been highly successful in targeting Iraq's oil infrastructure and pipelines. It's difficult for Iraq's oil industry to operate when the nation is in the midst of chaos and civil war.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Who Will Direct November Election: Frank Capra--Or David Lynch?


If you're a Democrat these days, life is good. At least it seems to be good.

The embattled GOP appears to be on the ropes. Even before the Foley story, the party had been reeling from an endless series of scandals and revelations. Things have gotten so bad that Republican congressmen are running away from their own president, as George W. Bush's own approval ratings sink further into the toilet.

How could the Democrats possibly not re-capture the Congress in November?

Well, before you pop that champagne cork, keep a few things in mind. The Republicans are still massively well-funded and they and their allies still control the nation's corporate media. Last, but not least, America's election system is still broken and subject to tampering (and the GOP has shown time and again that they will not hesitate to steal votes).

Nevertheless, Democrats remain jubilant these days. The past six hellish years of Bush and NeoCon control of this country appear to be nearing an end. And if the Democrats can re-capture the Congress, then we have a chance to make Bush finally answer for his crimes. The NeoCon corruption, crime and evil that soiled our nation's capital might finally come to an end.

It's a heartwarming scenario with a happy ending that might have come straight out of a Frank Capra movie.

There's only one problem.

The America that we all grew up with and admired as a nation no longer exists in the George W. Bush era. The nation that was once admired and emulated around the world no longer exists. Our present government has sullied America's good name in scores of ways, from embracing torture as official policy to illegal wiretaps, to brazenly stealing elections, to illegally invading sovereign nations.

Democrats are hoping that the November elections will have a happy ending, like something Capra would have directed. But I fear that it instead will resemble the work of another director: David Lynch, the cinematic master of the creepy, the surreal, and the horrible.

As good as things appear to be for the Democrats at the moment, it seems like a lot of us have forgotten that America's election system still has severe problems that have yet to be corrected. Although a number of investigators and writers have extensively documented the election system problems, I don't think we'll see them resolved until the mainstream media brings them to the attention of the American people.

Democrats already face huge obstacles to re-taking the Congress---and that's before we even start talking about stolen votes.

Incumbents in Congress already enjoy an enormous financial advantage over their challengers. Take the House for example. As has pointed out, House incumbents have raised a total of $376,250,753 (which works out to $887,384 per candidate). That dwarfs the $95,260,904 raised by challengers, who have only raised $170,413 per candidate.

No wonder incumbent re-election rates are so high these days. As notes, in 2004, an eye-popping 98 percent of House incumbents were re-elected (excluding incumbents facing incumbents), as were 96 percent of incumbent Senators.

It is indeed a bleak prospect to think that the Democrats won't prevail in the November elections. But I'd like to emphasize that I'm not suggesting that anyone not bother to vote in November. Not by any means. I still urge everyone to get out and vote. Are you registered to vote? Go to this site to find out.

As investigative journalist Greg Palast has written:

"How many times am I asked, "Why vote if they're going to steal the election?" That's the point: Make them STEAL it. Make them know they can't win UNLESS they steal it."

Friday, September 29, 2006

A Guide To Deciphering Today's GOP Vocabulary


Many commentators have lamented the widening gulf between Democrats and Republicans in recent years. Personally, I think part of the problem may be misunderstandings in communication between the two parties. Even though Right Wingers technically speak English, a lot of us on the Left often have trouble understanding what they're talking about these days. So in the interests of harmony, I'd like to present a handy guide to understanding the modern-day GOP vocabulary:

1. "The War On Terror." A widely-used term among Republicans that in reality refers to the disastrous U.S. invasion and occupation of the sovereign nation of Iraq, a nation that had nothing to do with 9/11. To Democrats, the term has a totally different meaning: namely to work to prevent terror attacks on America and pursuing members of Al-Qaeda.

2. "Capitalism." As modern-day Republicans understand it, an economic system that steals from working-class and middle-class Americans and gives billions of our tax dollars in closed, no-bid contracts to wealthy, politically connected corporations like Halliburton. The way the Democrats understand the term, capitalism refers to private corporations earning an honest profit in the private sector and competing in the marketplace like the rest of us.

3. "Christianity." You know the values that Christ talked about? Helping the poor? Compassion and love? Turning the other cheek? Blessing the peacemakers? Well, none of that has anything to do with "Christianity" as the present-day Republicans understand the term. To them, somehow Christianity has something to do with repression, hatred of gays, bigotry, ignorance, and a general distrust of anyone who isn't a white Republican Protestant.

4. "Patriotism." A great deal of confusion exists over this term these days. Democrats take the term to mean support of one's nation. Republicans interpret "patriotism" to mean blind, fanatical, unswerving loyalty to George W. Bush. Indeed, they call anyone who criticizes Bush for any reason "unpatriotic." (They also throw a temper tantrum---much the same as Bush himself does when he doesn't get his way).

5. "John Kerry." To non-Republicans, this term refers to a U.S. senator and a decorated war hero, who was wounded in action while serving in combat in the Vietnam War. To NeoCons, this term seems to refer to something entirely different: they interpret it to mean a (fictional) person who was weak, traitorous, and who faked his war wounds and then somehow conspired with none other than the United States Navy to be awarded military decorations he didn't deserve, such as the Bronze Star, the Silver Star, and three Purple Hearts.

6. "Fiscal responsibility." To Democrats, this term refers to setting taxes at a level in which the nation can afford to pay its bills. (During wartime, this also involves raising taxes in order to pay for the war effort). To Republicans, this term refers to giving away billions in tax cuts to the richest 1 percent of Americans and simply ignoring the resulting titanic wartime deficits.

7. "Family values." To Democrats, this means things like policies that actually help America's families, like decent wages, maternity leave, affordable health care, and good schools. To Republicans, the term refers to ramming their narrow, twisted interpretation of "Christianity" (See #3, above) down the throats of the rest of us.

8. "Exploitation." This term, as Democrats understand it, generally is in agreement with the Webster's dictionary interpretation: "To make unethical use of for one's profit." (Note this term is completely absent from the Republican vocabulary and they have no idea what it means).

9. "Bipartisanship." To Democrats, this means reaching across the aisle and working with the opposite party, in an effort to serve the American people (who, after all, pay the bills). To Republicans, this means that you need to agree with and rubberstamp EVERYTHING Bush wants, from legalizing torture to illegal wiretaps, or you will be branded as an anti-American traitor.

10. "Health care system." To Democrats, this refers to a system that helps keep the nation's population healthy and provides medical care to the sick. To Republicans, this refers to yet another way to make lots of money (and the fact that sick people are often desperate and have no other options just sweetens the deal).

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Sooner Or Later, The Dissent-Hating NeoCons Will Crack Down On Progressive Web Media


Do you ever have one of those days when you suddenly get hit by an ominous premonition and a feeling of deep dread about the future? I'd imagine that a lot of us on the Left regularly experience these sorts of days in the era of Bush's America.

But recently, I haven't been able to shake the feeling that something sinister is around the corner. And it involves the end of the relatively new but fast-growing progressive Web media.

The Web's progressive media is still nothing more than a mosquito compared to the established giants of the corporate media. But the Liberal Web is growing and it's starting to become a force that even the MSM cannot ignore, whether it is CNN offering a daily roundup of day's hottest blogs to Bill O'Reilly ranting and raving on Faux News about the evils of the "far left" Web sites.

For progressives, the past six years have been a nightmare. Well, really, things have been going downhill for the Left since Reagan was first elected--but that's another article. But the past six years of Bush's America have been particularly gruesome.

One of the few bright spots in the past decade has been the rise of a whole new progressive media online. A new media that tells the truth and is answerable to no shareholders or multinational corporations. A new media that corporate America has discovered (much to its horror) that it has zero control over.

This, of course, is a major and growing irritant for the Right Wing. After all, over the past quarter century, Republicans have methodically consolidated their power in America via a variety of methods, from blatant gerrymandering to stealing votes. Today, the GOP controls all three branches of government.

Perhaps even more crucially, the Right Wing controls Big Media in this country. The latter is a vital lever of the GOP's power. The MSM can be relied on to spread the Right Wing's agenda and pacify the American people and keep them ignorant and apathetic with pabulum disguised as "news."

Control the information and you control the people.

There's only one obstacle to the Right Wing's master plan for controlling the flow of information: progressive and independent Web media.

This is something that has to drive the Wingnuts crazy (or at least crazier than they already are). Remember, these are people who despise dissent and who go absolutely bonkers when anyone says anything negative about their hero Bush.

Bush and Cheney themselves are notorious for not tolerating the slightest hint of dissent. Both men are surrounded by sycophants and "yes" men. Both men will refuse to set foot in a public venue to give a speech, unless the building has been thoroughly emptied of all dissenters and protesters.

It's clear that the Wingnuts' depth of hatred for the Web's progressive media is at least as deep as their slavish, fanatical devotion to Bush. I have zero doubts that if Bush tomorrow pushed for a law to curb dissenting Web sites in the name of "national security," the Wingnuts would line up to voice their support.

Is it really that implausible that the Bush regime would do such a thing? To ask the question is to answer it. Anyone who believes otherwise is simply naive.

We've all seen what happens to those who voice any opposition or dissent these days. From treasonously outing CIA agents to libelously sliming war heroes like John Kerry, John Murtha and Max Cleland, there is nothing the NeoCon Wingnuts will not do to crush their opposition.

Can we expect a NeoCon crackdown on the progressive Web in the future? I think it's entirely possible. Really, the only thing the NeoCons need to make it happen is to come up with a snappy, focus-group-tested, benign-sounding name for the crackdown. Which shouldn't be a problem: I mean, these are the people who shredded our nation's Constitution and called it "The Patriot Act."

Thursday, September 07, 2006

2003 Cancellation of "The Reagans" TV Series Showed GOP's Power Over Media


The ruckus over Disney/ABC's upcoming 9/11 "docudrama," brings to mind an earlier controversy over a TV series that raised a firestorm of controversy. In 2003, right-wing protests led Viacom to cancel its showing of "The Reagans" on CBS. Instead, the series ran on Showtime on pay-cable (which greatly reduced its audience potential).

The controversies over the two TV series demonstrates how that GOP wields vastly more influence than Democrats over how history is presented in TV dramas these days. After a threatened boycott, the Republicans were able to successfully prevent "The Reagans" from being broadcast on CBS, because they took issue with the program's portrayal of the Reagan family.

However, the Democrats have no such power. Disney/ABC has no intention of canceling "The Path to 9/11," (which is set to air on Sunday and Monday). This, despite the fact that the series is riddled with errors and is clearly a blatantly partisan hatchet job on Bill Clinton and the Democrats that is being aired only eight weeks before the midterm elections.

As Media Matters has pointed out that the miniseries "twists and invents facts and storylines to create a false picture of the Clinton administration's role in failing to prevent the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, while largely ignoring Bush administration failures."

Interestingly enough, Disney/ABC has refused to provide Clinton, Madeleine Albright and Sandy Berger advance copies of the "docudrama," while GOP bloggers have been sent copies.

Clinton's office has strongly denounced the program, calling ABC/Disney "despicable" for airing a program that is "fiction" and "in direct contradiction of the 9-11 commission report and the facts."

If you'd like to add your voice to those requesting that ABC cancel this slanted, inaccurate, partisan hatchet job on Clinton, go here.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Labor Day: A Time To Reflect On How Unions Help The Economy


If you listen to George W. Bush, you might be under the impression that labor unions are bad for business and that they hurt America's competitiveness. As usual, though, Bush doesn't have a clue.

Indeed, when it comes to business and economic issues, I'm amazed that anyone takes Bush seriously these days. After all, this is someone who was a miserable failure in the private sector (despite his powerful Bush family name and connections). Bush ran every private sector company he was in charge of into the ground. And now he's well on the way to doing this to America itself.

Republicans, of course, have always been hostile to unions. But it's time to dispel a few myths about unions.

The most outrageous lie I consistently hear about unions is that they're "bad for business" and that they hurt America's competitiveness. America's pampered, grossly overpaid CEOs have long gotten their corporations' propaganda divisions (read: the corporate media) to peddle this lie to the American people.

But it doesn't hold up to scrutiny. Germany, for example, has powerful labor unions and strong labor laws---and yet that nation ranks as one of the most competitive economies in the world. For one thing, Germany (with less than one-third America's population) is the biggest exporter in the world.

Take a look at the benefits German workers enjoy: a minimum of six weeks paid vacation (two months is the average). Numerous paid holidays. Free health care. Free university tuition. Powerful unions that make it virtually impossible for workers to get fired. Etc.

Despite such strong pro-worker benefits, Germany is the world's biggest exporter. The nation leads in a wide range of ultra-high-tech industries that have enormous entry barriers for low-wage nations. (Translation: Germany doesn't need to worry about low-wage labor from China any time soon). In fact, China has represented an opportunity, not a threat to the Germany economy as China hungers for the sort of high-tech capital and factory equipment that Germany specializes in these days.

Traditional, free-market Anglo-American economists tend to downplay Germany's competitiveness, though. Indeed, the American business press regularly runs stories that purport to show that America's economy is the "most competitive" in the world. No matter how they try to spin it, though, the fact remains that America's so-called "competitive" economy doesn't produce much that the rest of the world wants to buy these days (hence America's soaring, out-of-control trade deficits).

I find it interesting that the countries that have the biggest exports these days (Germany, Japan, etc.) also have strong labor laws and unions---not to mention average wages that exceed those of American workers.

How is this possible?

Is it possible that America's economic "experts" are clueless about what makes a nation competitive and prosperous? Is it possible that, despite what economists say, unions are not bad for business, after all?

A look at the real world indicates that, far from being bad for business, unions are actually a crucial force in building a nation's prosperity and making it competitive.

How can this be? Well, it's widely accepted that unions were responsible for the rise of the Great American Middle Class. What's not as well understood or known, though, is that unions (along with strong labor laws) essentially force companies to become more competitive.

A big flaw of present-day American capitalism is that U.S. corporations don't take a long-term view. Indeed, they don't look any further than the next fiscal quarter.

Meanwhile, in nations like Germany and Japan, corporations do take the long-term view. And as a result, they increasingly demolish their short-sighted American competition.

Take, for example, the increasingly popular hybrid vehicles that Japan is producing these days. Japan began researching these high-tech vehicles as far back as the 1980s. Meanwhile, Detroit automakers (which have never looked further into the future than the next fiscal quarter) are still highly dependent on gas-guzzling SUVs, which are increasingly losing favor with the American consumer.

In taking a look at this scenario, it's important to not overlook the role of unions and strong labor laws. The latter in effect force companies to take a long-term view. When it's virtually impossible to fire your workers (as is the case in Japan and much of Europe), companies have little choice than to plan well ahead into the future.

As a general rule, companies that have a long-term game plan for survival tend to outperform companies that take a short-term view.

All of this, of course, demolishes the economists' "conventional" wisdom that unions and strong labor laws are "bad" for business. It's clear that the opposite is true. Really, the only beneficiaries of the current U.S. economy are the ultra-rich. The Great American Middle Class is on the verge of extinction. And the U.S. economy (which is heavily dependent on gigantic amounts of foreign capital just to stay afloat) is increasingly resembling a Ponzi scheme that is in danger of collapsing like a house of cards.

Friday, September 01, 2006

'Dead Peasant Insurance' And Other Weird Tales Of Wally World: Don't Buy Cheesy Wal-Mart PR


As Wal-Mart continues a campaign to burnish its skinflint image, recent events belie this effort. Here are some developments that show that this petty, miserly corporation hasn't changed:
  • Chain Store Age reported on July 20 that a U.S. federal judge struck down a Maryland law that required Wal-Mart to provide health insurance for employees in the state. (Wal-Mart shares rose 2 percent after the news.)
  • Wal-Mart bitterly fought a proposed ordinance in Chicago that requires "big box" stores to pay a minimum wage of $10 an hour plus at least $3 an hour worth of benefits. The New York Times reported on July 27 that the measure passed, 35-14, and that a gallery crowded with supporters "broke into cheers." The city's first Wal-Mart is set to open soon -- and it may be the last, some sources say. The City Council majority was veto-proof; but of course, court challenges are likely.

  • Deutsche Welle reported on July 28 that Wal-Mart is closing up shop in Germany, where it had been struggling since 1998. Analysts said the company's attempt to apply the U.S. model (cheap goods made possible by low wages) was a "fiasco" in Germany. There were conflicts with unions, and also with the culture. For example, employees "were forbidden ... from dating colleagues in positions of influence. Workers were also told not to flirt with one another."

  • Remember "dead peasant insurance"? That was a pundit's description of a practice by hundreds of employers, Wal-Mart among them, of having insurers write policies on the lives of low-wage workers. These "corporate-owned life insurance policies" turned mighty sour on the retail giant.
Andrews Publications writer Frank Reynolds reported on July 24: "Discount retailing giant Wal-Mart cannot sue its insurers just because it gambled and lost $1.3 billion on getting a tax break from thousands of insurance policies it took out on employees, according to a brief filed by the insurers in the Delaware Supreme Court. "Press reports have dubbed the 'corporate-owned life insurance' policies at issue in this litigation 'dead peasant insurance' because most of the policies were purchased by companies that employ large numbers of workers at the lower end of the wage scale and most of the policy benefits went to the companies rather than to families of deceased employees. "Wal-Mart is contending in an appeal that it was entitled to rely on its expert insurance brokers to warn the company of the inherent dangers of buying COLI policies. Wal-Mart has asked the high court to revive its bad-faith and breach-of-duty claims against its insurers, which the Delaware Chancery Court had dismissed." As of July 2005, six states had outlawed that practice in cases in which the employee is not told, Wikipedia reports. The online encyclopedia also states: "Wal-Mart is one of those companies under fire from the US Internal Revenue Service and labor organizations for the practice. The IRS considers COLI a tax dodge, and has pursued Dow Chemical, Camelot Music, Winn-Dixie and American Electric Power, among others, to recover tax underpayments. "The practice of using COLI is still widespread ... According to one source, Hartford Life Insurance estimated that one-quarter of all Fortune 500 companies have COLI policies, which cover the lives of about 5 million employees. Wal-Mart alone has policies on 350,000 employees." MSN Money writer Liz Pulliam Weston has reported: "-- Companies pay a whopping $8 billion in premiums each year for such coverage, according to the American Council of Life Insurers, a trade group. "-- The policies make up more than 20% of all the life insurance policies sold each year. "-- Companies expect to reap more than $9 billion in tax breaks from these policies over the next five years. The policies are treated as whole life policies. So, companies can borrow against the policies (though the IRS won't let them write off the interest). And the death benefits are tax-free." That this practice by corporate ghouls became so widespread is the stuff outrageous scandals are made of. Yet this story, developing over years, was largely ignored by the mainstream media when it should have been on every front page and a lead story on every newscast. But, back to Wal-Mart: Just name any enormity, any exploitative practice, any labor abuse -- and the folks at Wally World have done it. The company has resolutely fought any and every effort to genuinely improve the lot of its "associates." And if recent developments are any indication, the cheesy PR campaign and measly "lower-cost" health care plan are like putting a pretty little Band-Aid on a hatchet wound. Folks at Wally World -- get real. Lots of shoppers aren't going to buy it. MANIFESTO JOE IS AN UNDERGROUND WRITER LIVING IN TEXAS

Sunday, August 27, 2006

GOP Has A Major Challenge Ahead In Salvaging Bush's Legacy


"The only thing one learns from history is that nobody learns anything from history."

The GOP establishment has long done a masterful job of polishing the legacies of previous Republican presidents.

Nixon, for example, was a real challenge. After all, he was a crook who resigned the presidency in disgrace. Somehow, though, after years of painstaking rehabilitation by the GOP, Nixon was magically transformed into a "respected" elder statesman and author.

In my view, restoring Reagan's legacy was an even bigger challenge for the GOP. Many of us recall The Gipper as a clown and a shallow figure who had no business in the White House. And yet, the Republican powers-that-be went to work on Reagan's legacy and by the time they were finished, Reagan was hailed as a Great World Leader, who single-handedly won the Cold War. Inconvenient details from the Reagan White House (such as the illegal sale of arms to Iran and the bloody Central American death squads) were carefully airbrushed out of the picture.

Today, tens of millions of Americans believe Reagan "won" the Cold War. Unfortunately, it's a crock. Serious historians are still delving into the causes of the Cold War's end, a process that I suspect will go on for decades. Reagan, no doubt, played a role. But we shouldn't forget the cast of millions who really were responsible for ending the superpower rivalry.

How about the millions of people of the Eastern Bloc, who peacefully took the streets, demanding change? Or the efforts of reformer Mikhail Gorbachev, who did more than anyone to bring down the Soviet Union? Or human rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Lech Walesa? Or the efforts of previous U.S. presidents, dating back to Harry S. Truman (whose Truman Doctrine policy started the U.S. policy of working to contain the Soviet Union in the first place?)

Today, the GOP legacy builders must surely realize that, in George W. Bush, they face their greatest challenge yet.

To be sure, Bush's legacy is already safe with the die-hard Kool-Aid drinkers who worship everything Bush does. To these "30-percenters," Bush is already an American hero who ranks as perhaps the greatest president since Washington. (These die-hards also get all their news and views from Rush and Fox "News." They believe that the Abu Ghraib prison abuse/torture scandal was nothing more than fraternity pranks).

The Republicans were able to salvage the legacies of Nixon and Reagan and I suspect they'll do the same with Bush. Their method for doing this will be simple: the same brute force tactics that they used to smear John Kerry. Any commentator who says anything negative about their hero will immediately be a target for sliming by the Great GOP Noise Machine. The Republicans will do whatever they can to damage the reputation of those who dare speak the truth about the Bush White House.

Serious historians who wish to do credible research on the Bush years will have to constantly look over their shoulders to make sure that the Republican propaganda juggernaut doesn't have them in its crosshairs. Researchers and historians will no doubt be reminded of what happens to those who dare challenge Bush and how their careers can be easily destroyed. Just ask Valerie Plame.

One might ask: why is all this important? After all, once Bush leaves office, the worst will be over, right? Perhaps so, but I'd like to point out the words of philosopher George Santayana: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

George W. Bush has already done America, and the world, incalculable damage that will take decades to repair. I believe that it is vital that we as a nation never forget or try to diminish Bush's crimes. If we allow the rabid GOP Kool-Aid drinkers to dictate how Bush's legacy is remembered, then we as a people are setting ourselves up for a future repeat of the tragedies of the Bush White House in the decades to come.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Five Things You're Not Allowed To Say About the War In Iraq


Supposedly, we Americans live in a free society and we enjoy freedom of speech. But in reality, in Bush's America, there's a great deal of information that is glaringly absent from America's public discourse. And on no topic are there more prohibitions about what can be said than the Iraq War. Which is ironic when you consider that one of Bush's stated reasons for the war was to bring democracy and "freedom" to the Middle East.

Here are five things that you're not allowed to say about the war in Iraq these days:

1. America Is Going To Be In Iraq Permanently. Despite all the debate about "when the troops should leave," the fact is, we will be in Iraq for decades to come. Otherwise, the U.S. wouldn't be constructing numerous giant permanent military bases in Iraq. This whole topic seems to be taboo for America's mainstream media. Nobody in the gutless White House press corps has yet bothered to demand answers from Bush about this during a news conference.

2. The Iraqi People Don't Want Our Troops In Their Country. I have to admit, I'm baffled by the current debate in America's mainstream media over what the consequences of withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq would be. I've heard plenty of politicians claim that chaos and civil war would result. There's only one problem: Iraq is already in a state of civil war and chaos---which in fact has been prompted by the presence of our troops. The Iraqi people know this---and they want our troops out of their nation. In fact, about half of the Iraqi people approve of insurgents' attacks on U.S. troops.

3. The Iraq People Don't Want U.S.-Style Democracy. For a country with such enormous problems as the U.S. has today, it's always amazed me how so many of our politicians are convinced that the rest of the world has a craving to live exactly the way we do. I strongly suspect that the Iraqi people simply don't want to live in a U.S.-style democracy. This is witnessed by the recent Iraqi election (in which most of the Iraqi people gave their approval to essentially converting their country to a theocracy by basing their nation's constitution on Islamic law).

4. The Iraq War Was All About The Oil. This is one taboo topic that virtually everyone in our mainstream media has been afraid to bring up. Even the left-leaning (and usually reliable) journalist Seymour Hersh has written that he believes the Iraq War wasn't about oil. I'm afraid I have to disagree. And I'd bet that the vast majority of people worldwide would agree with me (as would the people of Iraq). The fact is, if Iraq had been a resource-poor nation, we wouldn't have cared if it was ruled by a tyrant. Most Americans are simply naive about our leaders' real motivations in invading Iraq. We want to believe that the war was for more noble and lofty reasons than plain, old grubby money. But it's time that we as a people pull our heads out of the sand and realize that we've been conned all along.

5. The U.S. Never Had A Moral Leg To Stand On In Condemning Saddam. The fact is, Saddam had no WMDs and posed no threat to the U.S. Saddam also had no connection to 9/11. However, those who defend the decision to invade Iraq still have one small fig leaf to hide behind. That is: that Saddam was a bad guy. But did U.S. really have the moral authority to condemn Saddam? I don't think the rest of the world would agree that we did. After all, we're the ones who armed and funded Saddam and sold him chemical and biological weapons in the first place. In fact, the U.S. had a long and sordid history of secret dealings with Saddam, dating back to 1959 (when the CIA contracted Saddam to attempt an assassination of Iraq's prime minister). Yes, Saddam was despicable. But so was invading a sovereign nation to steal its oil.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Which Is A Better Source Of News: The Mainstream Media Or The Blogosphere?


Which is a better source of news these days: the mainstream media or the blogosphere? Many people might say the MSM is a better, more accurate source of information. After all, they would argue, anyone can set up a blog.

By contrast, the people who work in the MSM have journalism degrees and highly specialized skills. At first glance, this appears to be a big plus for the MSM. However, it's important to note that the content that goes into the MSM has to be first approved by the giant, profit-hungry multinational corporations that own the MSM.

Although technically censorship is supposed to not exist in the U.S., in reality, the MSM has long been guilty of self-censorship. If you don't believe me, then click over to Project Censored to see a roundup of major, important stories that aren't reported by the MSM.

If you want the unvarnished truth these days, the blogosphere is the place to go. You may have to wade through a great deal of junk to find the nuggets of truth. But at least the truth exists in the blogosphere---that's more than can be said about the MSM on a lot of important issues facing America.

Don't believe me? Let's take a look at a number of major stories and see how they were presented by the MSM and the blogosphere:

1. Story: What really happened during the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001?

Mainstream media: The story of 9/11 as told to the American people by the U.S. government is the whole story and there's nothing else to report. Anyone who believes otherwise is a tin-foil hat fringe conspiracist.

The blogosphere: The U.S. government's account of 9/11 as told to the American people is a pack of lies and there has been a cover-up to conceal the truth.

2. Story: The Downing Street Memo

Mainstream media: The Downing Street What?

The blogosphere: The Downing Street Memo exposes the long-suppressed truth about how the Iraq War began. It's a blockbuster story that proves that U.S. intelligence on Iraq before the war was deliberately falsified, rather than merely mistaken.

3. Story: The 2004 election, in which George W. Bush was "re-elected" by defeating John Kerry

Mainstream media: It was a ordinary, honest election with no major irregularities or problems. Anyone who believes otherwise is a tin-foil hat fringe conspiracist.

The blogosphere: The 2004 election was riddled with problems, including voter suppression, purges of voter lists, serious problems with the accuracy of voting machines, etc. The evidence of massive election fraud cannot be ignored and is evidenced by the exit polls that projected that Kerry won by 3 million votes.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Tough Talk Aside, How Serious Are Republicans About Fighting Terrorism?


The Great Right-Wing Propaganda Machine has kicked into high gear in the aftermath of Joe Lieberman's loss to Ned Lamont. Fox News, Limbaugh, Hannity, and their ilk would have us believe that Lamont's victory in the primary Tuesday is nothing short of a victory for Al-Qaeda.

You gotta hand it to the Republicans: they know how to talk a good talk when it comes to terrorism. But when it comes to actually fighting terrorism, they're AWOL.

The fact is almost five years after 9/11, America remains startlingly vulnerable to another major terror attack. Consider:

1. Currently, less than 5 percent of the cargo that enters the U.S. is being physically inspected these days. Last year, two teams of government investigators, using fake documents, were able to enter the country with enough radioactive sources to make two dirty bombs. (If only Bush would devote more attention to this crisis than to preventing our nation's seniors from importing affordable medications from Canada).

2. The nation's hazardous chemical plants (an obvious target if there ever was one) remain unsecured, despite the fact that a terror attack on these facilities could lead to tens of thousands of deaths.

3. Amazingly, the vast majority of airliner passengers' carry-on bags are still not being screened for explosives.

4. Air marshals remain absent from the majority of flights. Indeed, the Federal Air Marshals Service is riddled with problems these days, according to recent reports.

Is it possible that for all his tough talk, Bush doesn't take fighting terrorism seriously? You bet.

Some of us have suspected this is the case since at least Aug. 6, 2001. That day, as you may recall, is the day that Bush was handed a classified President's Daily Brief (PDB) that was titled, "Bin Laden determined to strike in U.S." Bush, on a month-long vacation at the time, declined to take any action and went fishing later that same day.

If that didn't convince you that Bush is lax on fighting terrorism, then recall how after 9/11, Bush inexplicably gave Bin Laden a two-month head start in Afghanistan before he sent the military to pursue him. No wonder Bin Laden roams free to this day.

But don't take my word for it that Bush is a failure on fighting terrorism. Ask the former Sept. 11 Commission (appointed by Bush, no less) which stated in a December report that the U.S. is not adequately protected from another terrorist attack. The former commission (which was chaired by Republican Thomas Kean) issued a report charged the Bush White House with failing to protect the country against another terrorist attack.

It's true, there have been some changes for securing America since 9/11. But most of these changes have been little more than window dressing, (such as the high-profile, but ultimately meaningless "Color Coded" alerts).

Real, substantive changes in America's terror-fighting capabilities are deemed "too expensive" by the White House. This, incidentally is the reason given for why air marshals aren't present on all flights these days. (I wonder, though, how many air marshals we could hire for the price of what we spend in a typical month embroiled in a civil war in Iraq, a nation that had nothing to do with 9/11).

If you follow the money (or the oil), you can invariably find out where Bush's real priorities are these days. And it doesn't have a damn thing to do with fighting terrorism.

Recall, how early on in the U.S. occupation of Iraq, America's military raced to secure the Oil Ministry, while leaving Iraq's massive arms depots untouched across the country. Note also that munitions from those same arms depots have been used by the insurgency since then to kill thousands of our soldiers, as well as Iraqi civilians.

Iraq is a titantic catastrophe that has seriously distracted America during a crucial time and has degraded our ability to fight an effective war on terrorism. Despite this, the GOP is brazenly working to transform the Iraq fiasco into a positive asset for the upcoming elections. If the Democrats allow the GOP to get away with this astonishing propaganda, they deserve to lose in November.

Monday, August 07, 2006

American Left Should Look To Mexico For Lessons On Fighting A Stolen Election


Over the past six years, many Democrats in America have wondered why Al Gore didn't fight harder to claim the presidency that was rightfully awarded to him by the American people in 2000. We also wondered the same thing about John Kerry in 2004, after exit polls showed that he handily won the election.

What's up with Democrats and their strange reluctance to contest elections that are obviously stolen?

In the aftermath of stolen elections in 2000 and 2004, we needed the Democrats to take off the gloves and fight tooth and claw to claim what rightfully belonged to them (and to us, the American voters). Instead, the Democrats turned strangely silent and meekly accepted the GOP election theft.

But it wasn't just Gore and Kerry who lost. It was the American people---and, indeed, the entire world. And as a result, we've had to endure six hellish years of Bush/Cheney---the most evil, corrupt administration in U.S. history.

I really think the Democrats need to tear up their rulebook and throw it into the trash. They need to fire all their slick, highly-paid consultants and listen to the street for a change. They need to be bold. They need to embrace risky positions that haven't been approved by PR consultants and focus groups.

I mean, what have they got to lose? After all, for Democrats these days, there is absolutely no direction to go but up. The GOP controls every single lever of power in this country, as well as the media.

It's clear that the GOP will try to steal the upcoming November elections. I mean, what's going to stop them? The media? (Don't make me laugh). The Republicans got away with election theft in 2000 and 2004 and they know full well that they can get away with it again.

I think the Democrats should already be preparing for this possibility. And for lessons on how to deal with election theft, the Dems ought to be looking at their less-timid brethren south of the border.

You really have to admire a fighter like Mexican leftist candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. He's utterly unafraid to stand up for the truth and for what's right. And he's determined to not let the Mexican right-wing establishment steal another election.

The American Left ought to be studying and taking notes from the current Mexican election standoff. I don't know if Obrador will prevail. But it's clear that he knows that the aftermath of a disputed election is no time to be polite and timid.

Here's a few lessons I think the Democrats can learn from Mexico:

1. If any irregularities emerge early in an election, move quickly and decisively. Don't wait around for an official "blue ribbon" panel to conduct an election investigation years later, when your opponent is settled comfortably in office.

2. Strongly and forcefully proclaim that the election was stolen. Loudly announce that you don't recognize the "official" results. Gore could have learned a lesson from Obrador in this regard. Recall how in 2000, Gore quietly sat around, waiting for a decision while Bush immediately began acting for the world's media as though he were already the president.

3. Enlist the help of the people. Obrador has rallied millions in the Mexican capital. His loud and noisy weekly demonstrations are sending a clear message that the people won't stand for another election fraud. Democrats here should take a page from this approach. God knows, there are millions of us here in America who are fed up with election theft and are ready to mobilize in the streets, should the November election be stolen.

A message to all Democrats running for office in November: if you're cheated out of electoral victory, just tell us where to line up. We, the American people, are ready to take to the streets and demand what's rightfully ours.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

If The GOP Steals November Election, Will The Media Notice?


Lately, I've noticed that a favorite theme running through the right-wing blogosphere is that "liberals are sore losers in elections." The right-wing blogs note that Mexico's leftist presidential candidate Andres Obrador is strongly challenging voting results in the recent election.

As usual, the right-wingers don't have a clue. Indeed, most liberals I know have never disputed the results of the 2004 U.S. election, despite the fact that exit polls showed that Kerry triumphed by over 3 million votes.

Frankly, the 2004 election results were a non-issue among liberals, as well as the mainstream media. The 2000 election, of course, was an issue. But what do you expect from an election mired in controversy that somehow resulted in the candidate who lost by 549,000 votes being awarded "victory"?

A few observers did point out that the 2004 election was also riddled with problems, from over a million "spoiled" ballots to unprecedented numbers of voters being challenged at the polls. But the outcome of the 2004 election was never really disputed by the American Left----or, by the mainstream media, for that matter.

I'm sure this will come as a surprise to your typical Bush-worshipping Republican who gets all his news and views from Fox News. Many of them who I've talked to are convinced that the "liberal" mainstream media has been disputing the 2004 election results. I wish they were right about this. But in fact, outside of a couple of lonely commentators reporting from outside the U.S. mainstream, the 2004 election has never been disputed. The vast majority of Americans remain blissfully unaware that there were any problems at all with the vote.

Which brings us to the upcoming November election. Reporters like Greg Palast have convincingly detailed how the GOP stole the 2000 and 2004 elections and how they're already plotting to steal the upcoming election. Unfortunately, Palast doesn't work for the American media----he reports for Britain's BBC---and his program does not appear on U.S. television.

This leads to a critical problem. The GOP has already successfully stolen two elections and gotten away with it. What do you think would prevent them from stealing the upcoming November election? The fear of being caught? Unlikely. The fear that the mainstream media will do its job and investigate problems with the vote? Even more unlikely.

The fact is, it's obvious and apparent that the fix is in already for the November election. And outside of Palast and a few other brave investigative authors, we can almost be certain that the American people will be kept in the dark about all this.

Democrats these days are brimming with optimism, as they gleefully watch Bush's poll numbers sink further into the toilet. To most Democrats, victory in November seems like a foregone conclusion.

This indeed would have been the case in America once upon a time. But that was before George W. Bush took power. The fact is, we are in a new era in this country--an era in which we cannot trust our nation's election results. And until the mainstream media takes a look at this deepening crisis, America's democracy will continue to be in danger.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Natalie Maines Was Right: Bush Is Bringing Enduring Shame On America And Texas


Yes, George W. Bush's policies have indeed been an unmitigated disaster for the U.S., at home, abroad, and globally. But his recent behavior as America's head of state, representing us overseas, has been the most embarrassing ever by an American president.

His utter lack of class and decorum -- using an expletive within range of a microphone at the G-8 summit, massaging German Chancellor Angela Merkel's neck, braying on at some press conference about some pig roast -- has brought profound shame on Americans, and especially Texans. Many Europeans may have concluded that if Bush is even vaguely representative, most Texan men must be clueless rubes who go around groping and mashing on women they've barely met.

Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks was right when she told a London audience in March 2003 that she was "ashamed" that our "president" is from Texas. She definitely spoke for me, as a native Texan, then; and the polls show that she speaks for a lot more people now.

Perhaps the quintessential moment of Bush's profound unfitness to be playing world-stage politics was his skewering at the hands of his erstwhile bud, "Pootie-Poot," Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Bush, at a joint press conference at St. Petersburg, Russia, on July 15, was cretinous enough to suggest that Russia should try to emulate the democracy that has just been implemented in that oasis of tolerance known as Iraq. He mentioned a "free press" and "free religion."

Putin said, "We certainly would not want to have the same kind of democracy that they have in Iraq, quite honestly." (Source:

Observers said that Bush grew red-faced, and that the room filled with laughter.

Again, it's bad enough to have such a venal, warlike and incompetent administration, which took office fraudulently in the first place. Adding insult to injury, our "president" has the manners of an Aggie frat pledgemaster. And that some of his Yale grades were "gentleman's C's" is apparent from how regularly he makes a foolish ass of himself in exchanges such as the one with Putin.

And, it's odd how silent the Mainstream Media are about these shameful incidents. Can you imagine the caterwauling if Bill Clinton had massaged the neck of some female foreign head of state?

Now imagine this: President Nancy Pelosi. If the U.S. House changes hands in November, it could happen next year, with a legal break or two. Vote Democratic -- this time may count more than ever.


Thursday, July 20, 2006

Stem Cell Issue Reveals Bush Hypocrisy On "Sanctity" Of Life


Predictably, George W. Bush has pandered to his "fundamentalist" base by issuing his veto on stem cell research. In defending his first-ever veto, Bush claimed to be troubled by the "the taking of innocent human life."

To which I say: since when?

Bush has long had callous disregard for innocent human life that predates the 100,000 men, women and children civilians that have been killed in his immoral Iraq war.

In fact, Bush's disregard for innocent lives goes back to his term as Texas governor, where he signed off on the executions of 131 prisoners---far more than any other state. Statistically, he was likely responsible for the executions of at least nine innocent people.

In 2000, Illinois governor George Ryan captured headlines when he suspended the death penalty in his state, saying that he couldn't support "a system which has proven so fraught with error."

As journalist Alexander Cockburn has pointed out:

"Since 1977, Illinois has executed 12 -- and freed 13 from death row on the grounds that their innocence had been conclusively established. Nationwide, the number of such people spared the execution chamber (sometimes, by as slim a margin as a day or two) on grounds of proven innocence is 85."

"If Illinois is in this sorry condition, what can we say of Texas, where defendants are denied trained lawyers, appeals are rushed through often as mere formalities, and clemency is almost never granted?"

Unfortunately, there's no sign that, as governor, Bush was ever any more troubled by this shocking state of affairs than he is today by the hell on earth that he has unleashed in Iraq.

Aides reported that Bush usually only spent around 15 minutes (long enough to go fetch of cup of coffee) looking over the paperwork for each execution case in Texas.

Bush even once made light of the case of Karla Faye Tucker, the first woman to be executed in Texas since the Civil War. In an offensive, bizarre interview in 1999, Bush pursed his lips in mock desperation as he whimpered "Please don't kill me," in a mocking parody of Tucker.

In that smirking, frat-boy interview, I think we saw the real George W. Bush: a callous, evil man who couldn't care less about life (as long as it's poor, destitute people on Death Row who can't afford competent legal assistance).

As we've seen in the stem cell debate, the whole issue of "sanctity of life" is just another issue for Bush to cynically exploit. At the end of the day, it's clear that the only "values" Bush has are doing whatever it takes to serve the needs of his wealthy corporate backers.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Military Blogs Show How Propagandized U.S. Troops Are


It's become pretty obvious lately that Iraq has plunged into a civil war. That's the opinion of a variety of commentators and observers on the ground in the hell on earth that is today's Iraq.

That the Iraq War is a failure is hardly a viewpoint that is only coming from the likes of Howard Dean or Michael Moore. Here's a quote from William F. Buckley Jr., the dean of conservative American authors, writing in National Review, the bible of American conservative thought: "One can't doubt that the American objective in Iraq has failed."

After reading countless blood-curdling accounts of the ongoing Iraq civil war, I got curious recently about what the U.S. soldiers on the ground in Iraq think about all this.

It's not difficult to find the soldiers' viewpoints on the Web these days. After all, hundreds of soldiers on the ground in Iraq operate their own blogs, in which they write about their views and war experiences on a regular basis.

After reading hundreds of stories describing the situation in Iraq as a "civil war," I was curious to see what the soldiers have to say about all this. After all, if Iraq really is in a civil war, this has got to be demoralizing to our troops, (as the collapse of Iraq is the worst possible outcome for that nation). I began my quest at the popular site, which offers a large roundup of military blogs from around the Web.

I spent a few hours, browsing various military blogs, and I have to admit, I saw very few references to a "civil war." I found this curious. If the media and various other commentators and observers are falsely characterizing what's going on as a "civil war," then you'd think that the military blogs would challenge this notion.

To be sure, most military blogs that I encountered are quite angry at the media. They bitterly blast the likes of the Washington Post and The New York Times.

Actually, I wouldn't blame the troops for being angry at The New York Times. After all, the Times assisted the Bush White House in its efforts to lie America into the war in the first place.

Recall during 2002, during the buildup to the Iraq War, Bush was trying to convince the nation that Iraq had WMDs and posed a threat to Americans. Instead of taking a hard look at Bush's claims to see if they were true, the Times did the worst possible thing. It pretended to investigate Bush's claims and then gave its blessing to Bush's case for war.

I know if I was in the military, I'd be angry as hell at the likes of the Times and the rest of the U.S. mainstream media that acted as cheerleaders for a war based on lies.

There's only one problem.

Most military blog writers are angry at the media---but it doesn't have anything to do with cheerleading the nation into a war based on lies. Instead, they're angry at the media for supposedly being "liberal" and anti-Bush. In fact, they're pretty much angry at anyone who opposes Bush, period (which, by the way, includes a majority of Americans these days, according to the polls, including the one conducted by Fox News).

I was really hoping that the military blogs would give me some valuable insight into this war. But most of the blogs I saw didn't offer any more "insight" than one would get from listening to an episode of The Rush Limbaugh Show. Most military blogs seem to consist of just a bunch of right-wing/Fox News bullsh*t talking points and pro-Bush blather.

Reading over the blogs, my ability to see the troops in a positive light was tested by their fanatical loyalty to Bush himself. I mean, here's a coward who ran away from serving in combat in Vietnam. Bush was waving pompons as a cheerleader at Andover prep school while true heroes like John Murtha and Wesley Clark were getting shot at in the jungle by the Viet Cong.

I guess you can't blame the troops for supporting their "commander in chief," though. What is bizarre is how many of the MilBlogs also support the likes of Rush Limbaugh, another chickensh*t coward who refused to serve his country in war-time.

Maybe I'm being unfair. The military blogs that I saw were all pro-Bush and full of right-wing cliches and Fox "News" talking points. Maybe there are military blogs out there will differing points of view. But if there are, I didn't see them. Maybe the military censors don't allow dissident points of view. Highly ironic for a "democracy," don't you think?

There's no doubt, of course, that our troops in Iraq have been heavily propagandized. That's probably the case in every war. Our nation's ruling class, of course, needs to convince the troops dying on its behalf to fully believe in the cause for which they're fighting.

However, there's a big difference between rallying the troops with the Stars and Stripes and cynically lying to them. That's clearly what has happened in the Iraq War. For evidence of this, you need to look no further than surveys like this one that show that an incredible 90 percent of U.S. troops believe that the Iraq war is retaliation for Iraq’s (nonexistent) role in 9/11.

A message to any troops who might be reading this: We support you. We just don't support this war. You've been lied to. You may not realize this today. But you will, someday. You are, in fact, fighting on behalf of a gang of crooks, cowards and liars in the White House and their wealthy backers. But you're NOT fighting on behalf of a majority of the American people (who now believe that this war was a mistake).

At the end of the day, are we to conclude that all our troops in Iraq are NeoCons who worship Bush? Fortunately, that's not the case, despite the fact that most "MilBlog" site owners seem to be Republicans. The fact is, there are plenty of troops these days who believe otherwise. There are also groups out there such as Iraq Veterans Against the War, who seek to end the war in Iraq as soon as possible.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

"Crunchy Con" Squabble Shows How Confused And Swinelike The Right Is


Rod Dreher, a conservative columnist for the Dallas Morning News, stirred an amusing controversy with a recent book, Crunchy Cons: How Birkenstocked Burkeans, Gun-Loving Organic Farmers, Hip Homeschooling Mamas, Right-Wing Nature Lovers, and Their Diverse Tribe of Countercultural Conservatives Plan to Save America (Or At Least the Republican Party).

I won't describe the book; the title is all one really has to read to get the gist of it. But professional right-wingers, among them Jonah Goldberg (of "cheese-eating surrender monkeys" fame), have taken slaps at Dreher, saying that in making a case for a rustic, hippie-ish, back-to-the-earth, Burkean conservatism, he's giving credence to liberal stereotypes of conservatives.

These pop culture stereotypes, in the baby-boomer era, have been: (1) Alex P. Keaton -- the Young Republican, free-market-worshipping, affluent philistine who always joins the right preppie frats and majors in social climbing -- or, (2) Archie Bunker, the worst bigot on the loading dock, the oblivious victim of white working-class ignorance.

It's interesting that Dreher even felt compelled to write this book. There's nothing new here. As a teen, I was that rarity -- a libertarian-leaning conservative who sometimes had long hair. I enjoyed '60s folk-rock and comfortable, unpretentious clothing and shoes; and I thought the home-cooked veggies from our backyard garden were most delicious. I even preferred whole-grain bread when it was available. I was a moralist in the best sense of the word. And to me, beauty was the most important value.

True, when sounding off on politics, I sounded way too much like Alex Keaton. The more laid-back kids at my high school regarded me as a "superstraight" moralist. But, my family was working-class and considered quite eccentric in that small Texas town, so that role worked only just so well for me. It took me awhile to discover that I was playing against type.

Basically, I was a "crunchy conservative" of sorts long before the term was coined. But a funny thing happened to me on the way to adulthood.

I found, after I went away to college on an academic scholarship, that when I was around other "conservatives," the culture gap between me and these shallow, narrow, upper-middle-class youths was a canyon. I was virtually alone. There was no "tribe" to belong to. Right-wing hipsters were almost nonexistent (a self-destructive Jack Kerouac notwithstanding). It seemed a phenomenon that existed only among elite intellectuals and artists, and rarely among them.

I hate to break it to Dreher, but "crunchy cons" are a rare breed indeed, for many reasons. And I hate to break it to Goldberg, but there are innumerable reasons why "cons" are stereotyped.

For me, the stereotypes proved mostly true, time after time. Right-wingers usually are either crass, greedy philistines who only admire short-term material success -- or else they usually are gun-loving, jock-sniffing, militaristic, racist rednecks. The exceptions seem rare in Middle America.

The specimens may even mean well, but getting their heads out of their asses is surgery that's not even in research right now. This is a place where hardly anyone knows who crime novelist James Lee Burke is, let alone who 18th-century political philosopher and literary critic Edmund Burke was. Most folks here never read. Anything. Ever. (Not even Ann Coulter, Dude. They do listen to Rush. And regurgitate the dope-addled bilge.)

Over a few crucial years, my dissonance about the cultural values of the right (or lack thereof) led me to read much more about leftist ideas. I didn't change overnight, nor did I move "all the way" to the hard-core left for very long. My short time on the right gave me a sense of balance that has made me abhor extremism of any kind. I still hold views that some people, at least the sane ones, would consider centrist, perhaps even conservative (gasp!) here and there.

But I found my former political views to be mostly at odds with my personal values. When I became a voter, I found I could not bring myself to vote for candidates of a party that (1) has sided again and again with ruthless, amoral polluters; (2) has supported or conducted activity in places like Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador, Chile, the Philippines, Southeast Asia, Iran (the 1953 coup), etc., that would be called terrorism or war crimes if Arabs had done them; (3) has historically supported economic policies that, contrary to the rhetoric, has always enriched the few and impoverished many; (4) has doggedly pursued a "war on drugs" that has, with the apparent goal of state-enforced "sobriety," has turned the U.S. into the world's biggest jailer; (5) has consistently supported assaults on Americans' civil liberties; and (6) led "us" in what was in essence a war of aggression against, yes, a brutal dictatorship, but one that had nothing to do with 9-11.

I forgot to mention all the vicious dictatorships this party has openly supported. (Yeah, the other major party has, too -- but at least less openly. I have rarely heard their politicians and pundits crow and tout the policy as brilliant strategy. Not even Joe Lieberman, now that I think of it.)

Dreher needs to wake up to simple reality -- if the "green and granola" minority among conservatives is ever going to even influence the GOP, let alone "save" it, they're going to need more money than Bill Gates has. That's the only language that really talks in that party.

More likely, these confused people will go on voting for candidates who are, in many ways, the worst enemies of their "crunchy" side. It's not that these candidates aren't "traditionalists" in a sense. Bigotry, exploitation and greed go back to antiquity -- they just represent a different, uglier "tradition."

I also forgot to mention another "conservative" stereotype -- Bible-beating fanatics. "Crunchy cons" describe themselves as religious traditionalists who do things like join the Eastern Orthodox Church and home-school their kids.

But I don't think they want to teach their college-bound offspring that the Earth is 6,000 years old, or that God really did groove, B.C., on having lots of barnyard animals senselessly sacrificed for Him. (Aside from the foolish, capricious slaughter, it seems like that meat could have fed lots of poor, hungry folks. But I suppose that when you're the God of Republicans, such considerations are trifles.)

And, I'm not sure the Christian fascist movement deserves a separate category as a stereotype. For one thing, they're too damned stupid to dignify in such a way. And, there's far too much overlap, ironically, with the materialists and the militarists. But, who says zealots have to be logical?

Dreher and his "crunchy cons" need to realize something else -- the Republican Party, with the exceptions of Lincoln and the long-extinct progressive wing, has usually been a party run by grown-up Alex Keatons who demagogue and manipulate the hapless Archies and Bubbas with chickenhawk bluster and wedge issues. It is likely to remain so, regardless of its immediate fortunes, or lack thereof.

To paraphrase Ann Richards, you can put lipstick on a pig and call it Monique, but it's still a pig. And hey, "crunchy cons" -- those split hooves don't fill out Birkenstocks worth a hoot, either.