Thursday, January 26, 2006

Limbaugh Remarks Demonstrate Right Wing's Creepy Views About Rape


Right-wing nutcase Rush Limbaugh has an odd definition of rape. For example:

1. If Iraqi prisoners are being sexually assaulted and tortured at Abu Ghraib prison, then, in Limbaugh's view, they are being subjected to mere fraternity pranks.

2. However, if the state of Maryland requires companies like Wal-Mart to spend modestly to provide some basic health care for their workers, then this is the "government-sanctioned rape of an American business."

Limbaugh isn't the only right-wing nutcase with odd views on rape these days. Take Michael Savage, for instance.

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."

Once upon a time, comments like these could land right-wingers in hot water. I recall that in 1990, Texas gubernatorial candidate Clayton Williams cracked a "joke" about how rape is like the weather. "If it's inevitable, just relax and enjoy it," he said, in a comment that quickly became the biggest issue of the campaign and wound up sinking his prospects for election.

These days, I doubt such a comment would even be remarked upon by our increasingly timid national media. We're so used to twisted comments by the likes of right-wingers like Ann ("Earth is yours. Rape it.") Coulter that our capacity for outrage has blown a fuse.

But I would like to send a memo to Mr. Limbaugh on the topic of rape. The fact is, if a state government requires the likes of Wal-Mart (a company with annual revenue of $288 billion) to spend a modest amount providing basic health care to its workers, this is not "rape." Indeed, it's merely an entirely reasonable request: asking the world's largest corporation to pick up the tab on an expense that taxpayers would otherwise be forced to cough up.

On the other hand, what took place at Abu Ghraib was most definitely rape.

As journalist Seymour Hersh has pointed out, the U.S. government has videos from Abu Ghraib that depict children being sodomized. The White House has fought to prevent the public release of these videos.

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

A message to all you right-wing nutcases: if you're going to talk about rape, please consult a dictionary first so that you have a clue as to what the word means.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

The Right Wing's Sliming Of Michael Moore Is Nothing New


Chris Matthews has compared Michael Moore to Osama bin Laden, creating a firestorm of controversy among liberal bloggers. To which I say: so what's new? Moore has been the target of vicious slander for years now.

Bear in mind, I'm not just referring to the nut-case, right-wing media. I'm referring to the mainstream media, as well. In fact, even some progressives these days have been careful to distance themselves from Moore.

I think Moore has gotten a bad rap. In reality, his films and books are far more accurate (and balanced) than he gets credit for. In fact, the accusations I've seen against Moore are themselves highly distorted and inaccurate.

The current wave of Moore-bashing seems to date back to his "infamous" March 2003 Oscar-night speech. The press reports I read about the event focused solely on the fact that his comments drew boos from some audience members.

Few people, though, seem to remember exactly what Moore said that night, three days after the U.S. launched its war on Iraq.

"We live in a time where we have a man who's sending us to war for fictitious reasons," Moore said, thus throwing a wrench into the carefully choreographed TV event beamed around the world.

In hindsight, of course, this comment has turned out to be amazingly prescient. The Bush team's stated rationale for the war has been shown to be, indeed, fiction.

As it turns out, Moore's comments about the impending war were more accurate and truthful than anything the mainstream media was churning out at the time.

Recall how, in the buildup to the war, the media did little more than stand on the sidelines, acting as a cheerleader.

On May 26, 2004, in a stunning and unprecedented half-page correction, The New York Times basically admitted that ALL of its pre-war coverage was seriously flawed.

And yet, somehow, at the end of the day, Moore's Oscar night speech seems to be regarded by many as some sort of black mark on his record. I find it bizarre that he's the target of criticism, as opposed to the mainstream media, which completely failed in its role to tell the America people the truth.

I think this episode pretty much sums up Moore's career. He raises vital issues that no one in the mainstream media has the courage to address. And, instead of taking a look at the urgent issues Moore raises, media pundits invariably attack Moore himself.

Have you ever seen Moore interviewed by a mainstream media pundit? It's an interesting experience. It's the only time I've ever seen one of these milksops actually grow a backbone and challenge someone with hard-ball questions and relentless grilling.

It's all very admirable. But I tend to wonder why Moore is the only person who gets this sort of treatment.

Take for example, the media's kid-glove handling of George W. Bush. You almost never see Bush get a hard-ball question in a U.S. press conference. Bush can lie through his teeth all day and never face a challenge from the press. Remember, this is a man who to this day has never been called to task by the mainstream media for the lies he told way back in the 2000 election campaign.

"By far the vast majority of my tax cuts go to those at the bottom end of the spectrum," Bush said at the time. I'm still waiting for the media to challenge that 6-year-old whopper.

And while Bush gets kid-glove treatment, Moore gets an unfair bad rap these days, from everyone from Fox News to the supposedly "liberal" mainstream press.

Here's an example. One major issue that Moore got grief on for his film, Fahrenheit 9/11, was that he supposedly depicted Saddam's Iraq as a peaceful, happy place. Countless commentators remarked on this. The idea was even spoofed in the 2004 Team America movie.

There's only one problem. Moore never said any such thing, or anything remotely like it.

Apparently, Moore's critics are referring to a brief segment in which he shows a few random street scenes from Baghdad, without commentary, just before the U.S. bombs fell.

It's clear that what Moore was aiming to achieve with this scene was to try to put a human face on Iraq. He wanted to let Americans see the faces of the ordinary human beings who we'd soon be dropping bombs on.

Was this unreasonable? I don't think so. In fact, I think it was a perfect antidote to the relentless lies that were being spewed out by America's mainstream press.

Day after day in the buildup to the war, Americans were pumped up full of fear and hatred of Iraq by an irresponsible media that was simply parroting Bush's lies. The distortion of reality was so great that, to this day, large numbers of Americans still believe that Saddam had a hand in the 9/11 attacks.

Moore also got a lot of grief over accusations that he never pointed out what an evil person Saddam was in F911.

When I read this criticism by media pundits, I had to wonder what film they watched. In reality, a very large chunk of F911 features relentless denunciations of Saddam by the Bush team. We see endless video footage of everyone from Bush to Cheney to Powell to Rice to Rumsfield ranting and raving about how evil Saddam is and why America has no choice but to attack Iraq immediately.

Indeed, it's these over-the-top, wildly inaccurate statements from the Bush team that served to enhance Moore's thesis: that Bush's case for war in Iraq was a pack of lies.

An entire industry has arisen these days, devoted to bashing Michael Moore. Web sites proliferate across the Net solely dedicated to sliming the film maker. Numerous books and films have been released, aimed at tarnishing Moore's reputation.

This brings us to an interesting question. Why is Moore subject to so many attacks? Is it really because he doesn't tell the truth?

Or, perhaps, is it because he shines light on difficult, troubling issues that America's rich and powerful would rather keep the public in the dark about?

I firmly believe it's the latter. And there's powerful evidence that this is indeed the case.

Take, for example, Moore's endless problems with securing funding and distribution for his projects.

This flies in the face of all conventional business wisdom. After all, virtually everything Moore has touched has turned into commercial gold, starting with his 1989 film, Roger & Me. The latter, shot on a shoestring $160,000 budget, went on to earn millions worldwide.

Which brings us to Moore's 2004 film, Fahrenheit 9/11. Profit-obsessed Hollywood should have been chomping at the bit to release this film.

After all, Moore had proven himself a solid commercial property. Moore's books, Dude, Where's My Country? (2003) and Stupid White Men (2002) were enormous bestsellers. And his 2002 film, Bowling for Columbine, produced for a mere $4 million, went on to earn more than 12 times that amount worldwide. Clearly, Moore had a huge, loyal audience that numbered in the tens of millions.

By any sane business logic, Disney should have been very eager to release F911. They refused, leaving Moore in a awkward 11th-hour scramble to secure a distributor. In the end, Moore had to go to Canada to find a distributor who'd handle his film in the U.S.

Was Disney's decision strictly a "business" decision, as the right-wing (and indeed, the mainstream media) claimed? Or was it outright censorship, done solely for political reasons?

It's clear the latter was the case. If Disney really believed F911 wasn't going to be a box office winner, given Moore's stellar commercial track record, then it's no wonder that Disney needs hundreds of millions of dollars in corporate welfare to make ends meet these days.

Some people might scoff at the idea that censorship can occur in the private sector, pointing out that only the government is capable of censoring anything. That might have been true 50 years ago in America, when there were still thousands of independent newspapers and other media outlets.

However, today, with a handful of giant conglomerates controlling the media, private-sector censorship is much more plausible. (And of course, we'd be naive to assume that the White House did NOT have a hand in pressuring Disney to block the release of F911.)

In any case, Disney's stupidity in refusing to distribute F911 was its loss. The film went on to enjoy spectacular commercial success. Shot on a mere $6 million budget, F911 has reaped hundreds of millions of dollars in box office around the world.

In the end, there's a silver lining to this story. The fact is, the more America's right wing continues to bash and slime Moore, the larger his audience grows.

As a progressive who's watched this country veer sharply to the right over the past quarter century, I find that Moore serves as an inspiration during these bleak times. I'd suspect that millions of working people across the land would agree.

To me, Moore offers the hope that, despite the stranglehold that giant media conglomerates have over the nation's public debate, it's still possible today for the American people to be exposed to topics that the rich and powerful would rather us not hear about.

America's ruling elite has long been adept at using mock outrage over various aspects of our pop culture. They love to stir up "controversies" over everything from rapper Eminem to the Janet Jackson/Super Bowl incident to shock jock Howard Stern.

All this serves a useful purpose. For one thing, this fake outrage tends to convey the impression that our nation's democracy and free speech are more much vibrant than they really are. I'd bet money, though, that what really sends shivers down the spine of America's ruling class is a commentator like Moore.

How does Moore draw such a large audience for his work? Well, for one thing, his films and books are actually entertaining---a rarity during an era when Hollywood is increasingly creatively bankrupt. Moore's films are also funny (and humor is, of course, the toughest and riskiest genre to pull off successfully).

Moore is also a master of presenting delightful slices of Americana. The people who populate his films are, in many cases, ordinary working-class men and women. His audiences likely respond well to his work, because, when they look up at the silver screen, they see a reflection of themselves--a refreshing change of pace in today's plastic, celebrity-worshiping pop culture.

Moore, of course, isn't the only commentator who's taken on decidedly drab, unsexy topics like union struggles, layoffs, corporate crime, the health care crisis, the growing gulf between rich and poor, and other issues that've been ignored by the mainstream media.

But Moore IS the only U.S. commentator today who has the gift of taking these urgent issues and presenting them in a manner that consistently draws an enormous audience.

For that alone, we progressives ought to be thankful.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Q&A with ImpeachPAC's David Swanson: "We have a duty to demand impeachment"


Any clear-thinking, sane American these days knows that George W. Bush needs to be impeached before he causes more serious damage to our nation. Fortunately, there are good, patriotic citizens in Washington who're working hard to try to make this a reality. Case in point: ImpeachPAC--a political action committee that was launched in November by Washington activists David Swanson and Bob Fertik.

In the following interview with, Swanson talks about ImpeachPAC and what his organization is up to these days:

What is

ImpeachPAC is a political action committee that Bob Fertik and I set up in November in order to raise contributions for pro-impeachment candidates. Our criteria for endorsement include, for incumbents, introducing or signing onto articles of impeachment for Bush and Cheney, and for challengers, committing to make that their first act in office in 2007.

We've heard from lots of challengers but not any incumbents--though that may change. And we've endorsed one challenger already, Tony Trupiano, who's running in Michigan's 11th District. He's an outstanding candidate. We've given him $2,100, the maximum allowed for a new PAC, and bundled together for him another $7,000 in contributions. People seem to love the strong stance he's taken, but the media sure doesn't--though, again, that may change. Pundits came out swinging against him as soon as he said the "I" word, but that was before the NSA spying story made the "I" word printable by the corporate media.

Also, the coalition, an alliance of over 100 grassroots organizations, has launched a new campaign called in order to support new legislation introduced by congressman John Conyers that would censure President Bush and Vice President Cheney and create a select committee to investigate the administration's possible crimes and make recommendations regarding grounds for impeachment.

The House Judiciary Committee Democratic staff has just released an extensive report titled "The Constitution in Crisis: The Downing Street Minutes and Deception, Manipulation, Torture, Retribution, and Cover-ups in the Iraq War." It is available here.

When did this site launch? What initially gave you the idea to start this effort?

ImpeachPAC was launched the first week in November. We saw a president and vice president who need to be impeached, a public that agrees with that, and a Congress that lives in another world--and we wanted to change something to fix that discord. We decided it'd be easier to build a new Congress than to convince ourselves and the public that impeachment was not justified. (For public opinion polls see this site). was created this past Tuesday to support new bills introduced by Congressman Conyers.

In a nutshell, why should George W. Bush be impeached?

That's got to require at least a coconut shell. The list of crimes is quite long. See this list.

The reason that has finally gotten a bit of interest from the corporate media is that Bush broke the law to authorize warrantless spying, and basically admits as much but claims to be above the law.

The reason that led us to start back in May is that Bush lied to Congress about the reasons we had to go to war (he said Iraq's weapons were threatening the US and that he needed to go after nations that were behind the 9-11 attacks). He knew both of those to be lies. Lying to Congress is a felony. And there can be no more serious crime. If you don't impeach now, you never can again--or only for sex. But, of course, much of Congress went along with the warmongering charade, so it may be easier for some Congress members to get outraged about the spying (which is inexcusable and quite dangerous, but which as far as we know hasn't killed 100,000 people and made the whole world more dangerous).

A growing number of Americans support the idea of impeachment, but they are doubtful that this could ever happen while the GOP controls Congress. What would you say to those who are pessimistic about the prospects for impeachment?

Democracy ain't a spectator sport. A good citizen is not an amateur pundit on Fox News, but an activist for what is decent and good. We have a duty to demand impeachment. The fact that we may fail has no bearing and stems from a very disempowering habit of viewing politics as if it were a sport on a field while we're in the stands. It's time to rush the fence and tear down the goal posts.

Democrats have whispered--and this may be changing--that they won't say out loud that they're for impeachment until after they have a majority. I say they won't have a majority if they don't first say out loud that they stand with the 73 percent of Democrats who, according to Ipsos, believe that "If President Bush did not tell the truth about his reasons for going to war with Iraq, Congress should consider holding him accountable through impeachment."

"Eeek, but then we'd have President Cheney," (some people say). Oh, grow up. You can't investigate Bush without implicating Cheney. You can't investigate either of them on this without destroying the Republican party. Impeaching and removing from office are two different things, only one of which was done to Clinton, and the other of which has never been done in US history. And having criminal underlings cannot provide immunity.

If Bush has committed high crimes, he must be impeached. Same with Cheney. And the next administration that tries to start a war (based on lies, as all wars are) had better be scared of impeachment--and faster next time.

"OK, but don't censure them--they have to be impeached." They have to be both, and Congress members are too spineless to move to impeachment right away. Censure helps. And the bills that Conyers has introduced on censure are aimed at censuring Bush and Cheney, not for their obvious impeachable offenses, but for their refusal to turn over evidence that would make their impeachability even more obvious--if that's possible.

What can concerned citizens do to support your effort?

Give money--even the tiniest amount--to

Sign up to attend a town hall forum. More info here:

Contact your member of Congress.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

If You Support This War, Republicans, Then Enlist Now...Otherwise, STFU


Have you ever been pestered by a flag-waving Republican who railed on about the need for all Americans to support Bush's illegal and disastrous invasion of Iraq?

Here's a quick way to shut them up: ask them to enlist.

I've long been amazed at how Bush's sheep-like fanatical supporters tout their "patriotism" by shouting it from the highest rooftops. And yet when it comes to actually doing something to support their country, they can't be bothered.

If any Republicans are reading this, I've got news for you. The Army is coming up short in its recruiting drives. These days, not only does Uncle Sam Want You---he wants you really, really bad.

So if you support Bush's war in Iraq, what the hell are you doing here in the States? Pick up a rifle and go fight in the bloody quicksands of Iraq.

I've talked to a number of Republicans who loudly voice their support for this war. But when they hear the word "enlist," they quickly try to change the subject. In fact, they have no intention of ever signing up. Like Bush himself, if they were ever confronted with the prospect of having to serve in combat, they'd run like little girls.

The fact is, enlisting these days is much more than simply doing one's patriotic duty. In short, the Army is increasingly desperate for warm bodies these days, as military recruiting is at a 26-year low.

In fact, in 2005, the Army missed its recruitment goal by nearly 7,000 troops (the widest margin since 1979), according to MSNBC.

As a result, the Army has greatly loosened its requirements for enlistment and is accepting people well into their 40s. Which means that chickenhawks like 44-year-old Sean Hannity would be greeted with open arms by hard-pressed Army recruiters desperate to meet their quotas.

Despite the increasingly serious shortfall that Army recruiters are facing today, I doubt we'll see any surge of Republicans stepping forward to enlist. After all, it's much easier to claim that you're a "patriot" by simply sticking a yellow ribbon magnet on the fender of your car.

Bush supporters who don't enlist these days are not only cowards; they are hypocrites. But it's a lot easier for them to mindlessly follow their chickenhawk "commander in chief" Bush, as well as Dick ("Five Deferments") Cheney. And it's easy for them to take potshots at genuine American military heroes like John Murtha, John Kerry and Max Cleland.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

2006: Is The Glass Half Full Or Half Empty For Progressives?


Half Full: The GOP is reeling from scandals and the Democrats' mid-term 2006 prospects are looking good.
Half Empty: Between blatant gerrymandering that has been perfected to a corrupt art form and a 98-percent incumbency re-election rate these days, it's going to be extremely tough for the Dems to re-take Congress.

Half Full: In the aftermath of Bush's illegal wiretaps, more and more people are daring to utter the "I" word.
Half Empty: Big media is still gun-shy about talking impeachment and it appears that (for the thousandth time) they're going to let Bush set the agenda on this story (i.e. turning the focus from the crimes themselves to the leakers).

Half Full: The Left is on the rise in Latin America, with genuinely popular progressive leaders emerging everywhere, from Venezuela to Bolivia.
Half Empty: The U.S. ruling class isn't going to sit by idly while populist movements take control in South America. I'd bet money that CIA-backed coups and assassinations are already in the works. And the U.S. ruling class will get away with it, thanks to America's amnesia about these sorts of things.

Half Full: Bush is on the ropes as the year 2005 was a disaster for his presidency.
Half Empty: We still have three long years to go.

Half Full: Bush has committed crimes (from lying the nation into war to shredding our Constitution) far greater than anything Nixon did, so impeachment should be a shoo-in. I mean, if Clinton could be impeached for lying about oral sex...
Half Empty: Impeachment ain't gonna happen with a lapdog media that refuses to tell the truth about the Bush White House. "Reporters" like Bob Woodward and Judith Miller aren't part of the solution; they're part of the problem. Our media doesn't investigate this president; they cover for him.

Half Full: The Dems could pick up some seats in the 2006 elections--maybe even retake the Congress.
Half Empty: The Republicans have successfully stolen two consecutive presidential elections. By contrast, stealing mere congressional elections should be a piece of cake.

Half Full: The right-wing bastards have a hammerlock grip on the White House, Senate, House of Representatives, Supreme Court, and the mainstream media---but at least we progressives still have a foothold in cyberspace.
Half Empty: At least for now, we do. But if the past five years of Bush have taught us anything, it's that nothing is too outrageous for the GOP these days. If anyone ever sat down and read the entire mind-numbingly complex Patriot Act, it wouldn't surprise me if, buried deep in there somewhere, there was a clause authorizing the White House to shut down liberal Web sites in the name of "national security" or some such nonsense.

Half Full: Bush pledged generous aid to poor African nations. Even Bono had some kind words for him at one point.
Half Empty: Uh, Mr. Bono: I hate to break the news to you, but Bush lied. He loves to pledge generous aid packages before the world's TV cameras, but in reality, he has no intention of living up to these promises.

Half Full: Bush totally bungled the response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, but at least the worst is now over for hard-hit storm victims.
Half Empty: 2006 looks to be another busy year for hurricanes, forecasters say.