Monday, July 28, 2008

Did A Culture of Right-Wing Hate Lead to Church Shootings?

By MARC McDONALD

A man who is accused of shooting and killing two at a Tennessee church apparently targeted the congregation "out of hatred for its support of liberal social policies," police said Monday.

One might ask: where would such extreme hatred of Liberals come from?

To get the answer, turn on Right-Wing talk radio any day.

There, on a daily basis, you'll hear the most amazingly vicious bashing of Liberals imaginable.

From Savage to Limbaugh to Hannity to the rest of HateWing radio, every day, one hears the most extraordinary demonization of Liberals and Democrats. If you get all your news and views from HateWing radio (as many Dittoheads do), you'll be convinced that Liberals are traitors who are working hand-in-hand with Al Qaeda to undermine the American nation.

Along with the hate, there's a hefty of dose of violent threats against Liberals on the AM radio dial these days.

Take right-wing nutcase Michael Graham, for example. In June 2007, he said he wanted to see someone "whack" the Clintons in a Sopranos spoof. And in 2003, Graham said of Hillary Clinton: "I wanted to bludgeon her with a tire iron."

Such inflammatory language is nothing new for the right-wing. Recall how Ann Coulter once wrote that the debate over Bill Clinton should be about "whether to impeach or assassinate."

Such seething hatred and threats of violence have ricocheted around the GOP echo chamber for at least the past couple of decades. And it hasn't been limited to right-wing talk radio.

Recall the comment by Jesse Helms in 1994: "Mr. Clinton better watch out if he comes down here. He'd better have a bodyguard."

Or G. Gordon Liddy's comment in 1995, when discussing how he'd used stick figures of the Clintons for target practice. "Thought it might improve my aim," he said.

Given this toxic stew of hatred and violent threats that poisons our nation's political discourse, we really shouldn't be surprised that there are many people out there who harbor extreme hatred toward Liberals.

Update:

Books seized from suspect Jim David Adkisson's home, included The O'Reilly Factor, by television commentator Bill O'Reilly; Liberalism is a Mental Disorder, by radio personality Michael Savage; and Let Freedom Ring, by political pundit Sean Hannity.

Knoxville Police Department Investigator Steve Still wrote in the search warrant that Adkisson went on a rampage at the church, "because of its liberal teachings and his belief that all liberals should be killed because they were ruining the country."

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Slicing Through 'Surge' Propaganda: Haven't We Heard It All Before?

By MANIFESTO JOE

Full disclosure: I have no military background. I do have 30 years of experience as a professional journalist, and have known enough U.S. history, for long enough, that at 17, I earned 6 hours of college credit in that subject just by taking a test. Take those for whatever they're worth.

My perhaps-risky thesis: The "surge" in Iraq, now being touted as some kind of unequivocal success, is yet another deception in a military campaign that will be remembered as the war that keeps on costing.

Granted, al Qaeda in Iraq has apparently been dealt some crushing blows (for now), and U.S. military casualties are sharply down. These things are being widely reported as Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is on his overseas trip, which included a stop in Iraq.

But, the latter point, about the decline in U.S. casualties, reflects the ethnocentrism with which Americans tend to look at foreign conflicts. Juan Cole, writing on Informed Comment, points out:

Despite all the talk about Iraq being "calm," I'd like to point out that the month just before the last visit Barack Obama made to Iraq (he went in January, 2006), there were 537 civilian and ISF Iraqi casualties. In June of this year, 2008, there were 554 according to AP. These are official statistics gathered passively that probably only capture about 10 percent of the true toll.

That is, the Iraqi death toll is actually still worse now than the last time Obama was in Iraq! (See the bombings and shootings listed below for Sunday). The hype around last year's troop escalation obscures a simple fact: that Obama formed his views about the need for the US to leave Iraq at a time when its security situation was very similar to what it is now! Why a return to the bad situation in late 05 and early 06 should be greeted by the GOP as the veritable coming of the Messiah is beyond me. You have people like Joe Lieberman saying silly things like if it weren't for the troop escalation, Obama wouldn't be able to visit Iraq. Uh, he visited it before the troop escalation, just fine.


To read the entire Cole article, click here.

What we seem to be hearing is that when fewer Americans are being killed and maimed as a result of the "surge," that makes it an unequivocal success. When the furrenurs is gettin' whacked a little faster than they wuz two and a half years ago, well, that's their tough luck. It's an A-Murkan world.

And, we've heard all this before, at other times and in other places. And it hasn't been so long since we've heard it. I seem to recall that "we" (in the editorial sense) were supposed to have pretty much routed the Taliban and their al Qaeda allies in Afghanistan. Been reading or hearing any news from there lately? It ain't over till it's over. And that one, the war "we" actually have reasonable justification for, is far from over.

I also seem to recall a day in 2003 when, just weeks after the invasion of Iraq, Il Doofus staged a landing on the deck of an aircraft carrier and declared major military operations in Iraq to be over.

The MSM mouthpieces remain very much on the Pentagon bandwagon (not to mention the Straitjacket Express), with a mantra of "Obama was dead wrong" on the outcome of the "surge."

True, Obama didn't call it right in predicting that the "surge" would bring an increase in violence.

But, given the continued toll on Iraqi civilians, reports of success seem greatly exaggerated. I think the "surge" could be pronounced a success on the day that there are no unusual civilian deaths in Iraq, that the millions of refugees can return home safely, and that a stable Iraqi government can be elected without being propped up by a U.S. military presence. Perhaps in 100 years?

I'll venture a possibly risky prediction, but one firmly based on recent U.S. history.

In January 1973, the Nixon administration finally reached that elusive "peace with honor" deal with North Vietnam. The "peace" lasted a while. Then, a couple of years later, communist troops were overrunning South Vietnam. The American people were so sick of that bottomless pit of lives and money that they said a loud and resounding "NO" when the Ford administration had the nerve to propose that "we" go back in there.

The bottom line is that the U.S. is an occupier in a land generally hostile to the occupation. And, it should come as no surprise that the resistance will hide and play possum with every "surge" that our taxpayers can be conned into bankrolling. That's the name of the game in guerrilla warfare.

I'll gamble, and predict an outcome similar to the previously cited ones. For Americans, this will be the war that keeps on costing.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Why Al-Maliki Had Better Watch His Back

By MARC McDONALD

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is starting to become a real pain in the ass for the Bush White House. Instead of being a good little client state puppet, he keeps shooting his mouth off, asking for a timetable for the U.S. military to leave his shattered nation.

If Al-Maliki is smart, he really needs to start watching his back. His days are clearly numbered.

In order to realize this, you don't have to put on a tin foil hat. All you have to do is look at America's own sordid history in dealing with foreign heads of state who don't stick to the script. Time and time again, they wind up deposed or dead.

Take Saddam Hussein, for example. For decades, he was a U.S. ally in the Middle East. We armed him and funded him and even helped him ruthlessly purge his opponents in Iraq. It was only when he stopped following the script from Washington that he became an enemy of the U.S.

But Saddam is hardly alone among heads of state who ran afoul of U.S. policy over the years (and wound up dead or deposed as a result).

In fact, the CIA has been running around the world deposing foreign heads of state for decades, (including such democratically elected leaders as Iran's Mohammed Mosaddeq and Guatemala's Jacobo Arbenz Guzman).

Now, Al-Maliki is latest leader to run afoul of U.S. policy. In the latest controversy, he has expressed approval of Barack Obama's plan to get U.S. troops out of Iraq within 16 months of next January. He made the remarks in an interview with the German magazine Der Spiegel.

This latest stunning development has the NeoCons reeling. In a desperate attempt to spin the story to their advantage, the NeoCons have been claiming that Al-Maliki's words were mistranslated or misinterpreted.

Much to the NeoCons' dismay, however, Der Spiegel has stood by its story. As Juan Cole points out, Der Spiegel still has the audio recording of the interview and what's more, it turns out that the translator involved works for al-Maliki, not for Der Spiegel.

Thus, the last fig leaf that the NeoCons could hide behind has been removed. The whole incident has become an enormous embarrassment for Bush and his allies.

There can no longer be any doubt: Al-Maliki now clearly wants a firm timetable for getting U.S. troops out of his nation and he even explicitly supports Obama's plan.

It's clear that Al-Maliki has turned into a big, big problem for Bush and the NeoCons.

Unfortunately for Al-Maliki, he lives in the most dangerous nation on earth: a country where bloody shootouts and bombings occur on a daily basis. What's worse is that he has increasingly turned into a thorn in the side of the NeoCons who fiercely reject any timetables for withdrawal.

Like I said, Al-Maliki had better start watching his back. His days are clearly numbered.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Problem With "The Dark Knight"

By MARC McDONALD

One of the most heavily-hyped and highly rated films in years, The Dark Knight is more than just a mere movie: it's an industry unto itself. This juggernaut, which cost an eye-popping $180 million to produce, opened to rapturous response, and massive crowds on Friday. As of Saturday afternoon, it had already raked in a one-day box office record $66 million and is (at least at the moment) the all-time No. 1 highest rated film on IMDB.com, just ahead of The Godfather.

The back-story of The Dark Knight is causing a media frenzy, led by the tragic death earlier this year of Heath Ledger, who plays The Joker.

The film itself is being hailed for its dark, menacing atmosphere, as well as the sheer amount of graphic bloodiness (unusual for a comic book movie). But overall, everyone seems to be happy: from comic book fanboys to Time Warner shareholders.

However, I can't help but think that there's something horribly wrong about the whole Dark Knight phenomenon that is symbolic of what's wrong with our nation as a whole these days. And it goes well beyond the dumbing-down of our culture, which is so easily entertained by a movie based on a comic book (a mediocre comic book at that----I can think of dozens of manga and underground comics that are vastly superior to "Batman").

For a start, there is the matter of misplaced priorities. Between The Dark Knight and Heath Ledger's death, our national media has once again devoted acres of column space to a movie, during a time in which the ongoing Iraq War has all but disappeared from our nation's media radar.

The long-suffering people of Iraq have no need to go a movie to see bloody shootouts and spectacular explosions: they see them all the time in real life, every day.

In fact, while the people of America are idly distracting themselves with comic book movies, the people of Iraq are still suffering a horrible ongoing nightmare.

Despite the proclamations by the GOP and the corporate media that Iraq is "getting better," the Iraqi people still have to contend with daily shootings and bombings on a mind-numbing scale.

Take Tuesday, for example. Just on that one day, guerrillas killed around 40 people and wounded dozens in several attacks in northern Iraq.

Did you hear about this story? Of course not. The U.S. media had more important priorities, such as gearing up the Great Hype Machine for The Dark Knight.

Tuesday's attacks were the sort of horrific violence that would dominate the news for years if it happened here. But since it happened in Iraq, it barely even gets reported in the U.S. these days. Our politicians are too busy proclaiming the "success" of our operations in Iraq.

I'm sure some readers will complain that I'm being a spoilsport. "Americans are weary of the war," they'll say. "We need an occasional break from reality with escapist fare like The Dark Knight."

Therein lies the problem. America is responsible for the horrific mess in Iraq. The disaster there may no longer interest Americans, with our short, MTV attention spans. But Iraq is OUR disaster and it ought to be relentlessly rubbed in our faces every single day until we demand and scream that this disastrous, illegal, immoral war be brought to an end now.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Phil Gramm: Porn Mogul

By MARC McDONALD

Molly Ivins once exposed Phil Gramm as the typical sort of GOP hypocrite who (like George W. Bush) loudly denounces all government programs, even as he rakes in tax dollars from various government programs.

In 2002, Ivins wrote:

"Gramm, the great crusader against government spending, has spent his entire life on the government tit. He was born at a military hospital, raised on his father’s Army pay, went to private school at Georgia Military Academy on military insurance after his father died, paid for his college tuition with same, got a National Defense Fellowship to graduate school, taught at a state-supported school, and made generous use of his Senate expense account."

However, let it not be said that Gramm didn't at least attempt to make a living in the private sector (in fact, the most private sector of all). As The Nation pointed out, before Gramm joined the Christian Coalition's Ralph Reed to call for defunding the NEA, he was an active investor in soft-core porn movies.

In 1973, Gramm cut a check for $15,000 to invest in a budget soft-core production called Truck Stop Women. Because the film was oversold, his money was returned to him. Later, Gramm contributed at least $7,500 toward a film called White House Madness, a satire of the Nixon White House that featured a crazed president wandering around the White House in the nude.

Gramm lost his investment after the film flopped at the box office.

Clearly, like George W. Bush, Gramm was a failure in the private sector. Like Bush, Gramm then turned to the government as a career. As The Nation pointed out, Gramm went on to become "one of the most reactionary, venal, and destructive political figures in recent times."

Today, Gramm serves as economic adviser to John McCain and spends his time smugly belittling Americans, calling us a "nation of whiners." And this hypocrite, who benefited immensely from various government programs all his life, doesn't think that the government should do anything at all to help ordinary Americans who are struggling to make ends meet in the Bush recession.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Great Prevaricator Remembered II: With Reagan Policies, Seldom Has So Much Harm Been Done To So Many By So Few (Plus Swipes At Phil Gramm)

By MANIFESTO JOE

With news of a Bush/Treasury/Federal Reserve bailout of mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac, I'd say it's unofficially official: Reaganomics, and the 30-year era of helter-skelter deregulation that came with it, is at long last dying for good.

No, it's not dead yet. I think terminal brain cancer is a certain diagnosis. Yet Reaganomics lingers, having been reanimated repeatedly from the dead. But I don't think another long-term resurrection is possible.

And as the details of a massive bailout emerge, the person who comes to my mind is that turkey-necked geezer who presided over the first "great" round of deregulation during the '80s -- The Great Prevaricator himself, Ronald Reagan.

Reagan survives largely just in right-wing mythology. But some of his soldiers, who helped him construct this sturdy economic Trojan horse, are still with us. Despite a rebuke over a recent gaffe, former GOP Sen. Phil Gramm of Texas, deregulator extraordinaire, is still John McCain's economic adviser.

Gramm, a Texas Aggie economist (Know how to spoil an Aggie party? Flush the punchbowl), earned his bars in the "conservative" movement as one of The Fibber's hardiest point men. He started in the House as a major architect of the 1981 tax cuts that, first, handed a bonanza to the wealthiest Americans. Then, those cuts plunged the federal budget so deeply into the red that piecemeal tax increases had to be sneaked past the public for many years thereafter to slow the hemorrhaging.

He was also a player in the '80s deregulation of savings and loans, which ultimately opened them up to full-scale looting. It took years, and many, many billions from the taxpayers, to clean up that mess. (Sound familiar now? To paraphrase the poet Santayana, our leaders did not remember the past, and we are ALL condemned to repeat it.)

Near the end of his venal "service" in the Senate, Gramm was a towering figure in the second "great" wave of deregulation. This from Wikipedia:

Later in his Senate career, Gramm spearheaded efforts to pass banking reform laws, including the landmark Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act in 1999, which modernized Depression-era laws separating banking, insurance and brokerage activities. Between 1995 and 2000 Gramm, who was the chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, received $1,000,914 in campaign contributions from the Securities & Investment industry.

Here, "modernize" means that the bill Gramm co-sponsored repealed certain New Deal-era regulations of the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933, which had helped keep those pillars of high finance separate, and hence relatively honest and solvent, since the '30s.

Not content with leaving only this much damage imminent, Gramm helped pull off a major deregulatory coup the following year. More from Wikipedia:

Gramm was one of five co-sponsors of the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000, which critics blame for permitting the Enron scandal to occur. At the time, Gramm's wife was on Enron's board of directors.

A big part of the CFMA was what became known as the "Enron Loophole." Again, Wikipedia:

The CFMA has received criticism for the so-called "Enron Loophole," 7 U.S.C. §2(h)(3) and (g), which exempts most over-the-counter energy trades and trading on electronic energy commodity markets. The "loophole" was drafted by Enron Lobbyists working with senator Phil Gramm seeking a deregulated atmosphere for their new experiment, "Enron On-line." ...

The legislation was passed by the Republican controlled Congress and signed by President Bill Clinton [ouch --MJ] in December 2000 to allow for the creation, for U.S. exchanges, of a new kind of derivative security, the single-stock future. An attempt to reverse this policy was vetoed by President Bush in 2008. Several Democratic Legislators introduced legislation to close the loophole from 2000-2006, but were unsuccessful due to Republican control of the House and Senate.


So, in the ensuing years, Phil acquired a succession of nicknames, including "Enron Phil" for the CFMA, and recently "Foreclosure Phil" for his banking "modernization."

For more on the extent of the profound injuries that then-Sen. Phil Gramm personally inflicted on America, click here for a Joe Conason article in Salon.

But enough with beating up on a now-obvious sleazebag operative like Gramm. Let's go back a generation, and longer, to that moth-eaten spirit ultimately behind the Enron accounting scandal, and behind what is becoming known as the Panic of 2008. It's that mythical right-wing figure, the man Gore Vidal once perceptively described as "grandmotherly": Reagan.

The Sixties spawned a unique cast of characters who lingered and did their dance macabre across our collective unconscious, on their way to oblivion. The same seems to be happening with the malefactors of the Eighties, the Armani-clad hooligans of the Reagan era.

They seem determined not to go away completely, at least not right away. But I foresee a day when they will be like withered cranks at small-town school board meetings, voted out of office but showing up in enfeebled bids to harass those who replaced them. An effectively permanent death seems at hand.

Going back to the Fannie Mae/Freddy Mac bailout -- and perhaps forward toward many more -- here are a couple of especially significant quotes from The New York Times on this story:

The companies, known as government-sponsored enterprises, or G.S.E.'s, touch nearly half of the nation's mortgages by either owning or guaranteeing them, and the debt securities they issue to finance their operations are widely owned by foreign governments, pension funds, mutual funds, big companies and other large institutional investors.

G.S.E. debt is held by financial institutions around the world, Mr. (Treasury Secretary Henry) Paulson said in his statement. Its continued strength is important to maintaining confidence and stability in our financial system and our financial markets. Therefore we must take steps to address the current situation as we move to a stronger regulatory structure.

"... a stronger regulatory structure"? This from a Bush Cabinet member?

R.I.P., Ronnie Reagan. (And Phil Gramm?)

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

The Great Depression of 2008

By MARC McDONALD

Until last week, most economists were divided on whether the U.S. was in a recession or not. Now, with the ailing mortgage agencies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac on the ropes, it's clear that what's unfolding is far worse than any recession.

As Britain's normally staid The Telegraph newspaper notes, the U.S. could be on the verge of a new Great Depression. That might seem far-fetched until you consider that last month, the Dow suffered its worst June since 1930.

But The Telegraph is hardly alone in using such apocalyptic language these days. The "D" word is starting to be mentioned more and more in the business media, as well as by economic commentators. As David Bullock, managing director of investment fund Advent Capital Management, put it in a comment to The New York Times on Tuesday, "We are closer to the Depression scenario than not."

Yes, a real Depression, complete with tent cities now springing up in what once were prosperous suburbs.

This doom-and-gloom language in describing the U.S. economy first began to pick up steam after investment bank Bear Stearns had to be bailed out by the government in May. In describing the bailout, the Associated Press said that Bear Stearns was "On the verge of a collapse that could have shaken the very foundations of the U.S. financial system."

The current crisis with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac is infinitely larger than Bear Stearns. The two companies either hold or guarantee a staggering $5.3 trillion worth of mortgages. Indeed, the investment magazine MoneyWeek has noted that the crisis is big enough to doom the dollar.

As MoneyWeek notes:

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac might have been deemed too big to fail---but who's big enough to bail out the U.S.? When investors start seriously asking themselves that question, expect the dollar to plunge.

Make no mistake, a catastrophic U.S. economic collapse is on the way. Such is the inevitable fate of any Ponzi scheme economy that has been running on nothing more than smoke and mirrors (and oceans of foreign capital) now for many years.

Of course, those who are poor or working class know first-hand that the U.S. economy has been in increasingly serious trouble since around 1980. Wages have been steadily declining for everyone but the very rich. And working class people now toil more hours for less pay than their counterparts in any other First World nation. (They have to, as a 40-hour workweek no longer is enough to put groceries on the table).

But as long as America had a tiny elite of prosperous super wealthy, we could always point to them and try to convince ourselves that our economy couldn't be all bad. After all, we would note, there are some people out there making a fortune. All it takes is hard work and ambition, right?

Today, with the stock market in the toilet, and the Fed having to step in to bail out the financial sector, it should be clear to anyone that the U.S. economy is in crisis.

If the U.S. economy actually produced anything of value, this would be nothing more than just another typical downturn in the economic cycle.

The problem is, the U.S. economy no longer produces anything of value. Our economic activity basically consists of importing trillions of dollars from central banks in East Asia---which we then use to prop up our Ponzi scheme economy. The ocean of foreign capital that flows into our nation daily is used to pay for the shopping habits of U.S. consumers.

In fact, in recent years, the Great American Consumer has been hailed by U.S. economists as the "locomotive" of the world economy. There was only one problem: U.S. consumers had zero savings and were depending on foreign capital to finance their shopping binges.

Now, with the stock market crisis and the ongoing housing mortgage crisis, nobody is in much of a mood to do any spending these days. And with the dollar rapidly declining, it's only a matter of time before the East Asian central banks start to unload their depreciating greenbacks (which will accelerate the dollar's fall even further in a vicious cycle).

The frightening thing is that East Asian central banks haven't even begun seriously dumping their dollars and yet the dollar is already plunging.

And the dollar has already lost an astonishing 40 percent against an index of U.S. trading partners' currencies over the past seven years.

The key numbers which measure the current U.S. economic crisis are so far off the chart that it is difficult to even fathom them. As economics writer Eamonn Fingleton has noted, the U.S. current account deficit (the widest and most meaningful measure of our trade position) now represents an astounding 6.5 percent of our gross domestic product.

As Fingleton notes, only one other major nation has ever exceeded this figure: Italy in 1924. That was just before Benito Mussolini seized dictatorial power.

This BBC report takes a look at tent cities that are starting to spring up outside Los Angeles:

Sunday, July 13, 2008

A Reminder From Woody Guthrie That Jesus Was No Capitalist

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For all the manufactured "shocking" behavior of today's music stars, there is nothing around today that is as remotely subversive as this 1940 Woody Guthrie song. After all, it celebrates the Bible's most subversive passage, Mark 10:21: a verse in which Jesus tells the rich that they need to sell all their property and give the money to the poor in order to avoid the flames of hell.

Indeed, this is a Bible verse that is so troubling to the Christian Right that the latter basically just quietly tiptoe away from it and try to pretend it doesn't exist. What must be particularly worrisome to them is the simple clarity of the passage. This isn't one of those vague Bible verses that can be interpreted dozens of different ways.

If there is a God, then all these hypocritical, GOP-supporting "Christians," with their "screw-the-poor" attitudes will be roasting in Hell someday.

Meanwhile, let's celebrate Woody Guthrie's "Jesus Christ," a brilliant song that reclaims the heritage of Jesus from the Right Wing. It reminds us all that the Republicans have hijacked Christianity and have proceeded to warp and distort Christ's message of generosity, peace, love, compassion and forgiveness.

Jesus Christ was a man who traveled through the land
A hard-working man and brave
He said to the rich, "Give your goods to the poor,"
But they laid Jesus Christ in His grave

Jesus was a man, a carpenter by hand
His followers true and brave
One dirty little coward called Judas Iscariot
Has laid Jesus Christ in His Grave

He went to the preacher, He went to the sheriff
He told them all the same
"Sell all of your jewelry and give it to the poor,"
And they laid Jesus Christ in His grave.

When Jesus come to town, all the working folks around
Believed what he did say
But the bankers and the preachers, they nailed Him on the cross,
And they laid Jesus Christ in his grave.

And the people held their breath when they heard about his death
Everybody wondered why
It was the big landlord and the soldiers that they hired
To nail Jesus Christ in the sky

This song was written in New York City
Of rich man, preacher, and slave
If Jesus was to preach what He preached in Galilee,
They would lay poor Jesus in His grave.


Lyrics from: WoodyGuthrie.org

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Why Is The MSM Afraid Of Scrutinizing Rush Limbaugh?

By MARC McDONALD

The New York Times Magazine's recent ridiculous puff piece on Rush Limbaugh continues a trend in which the mainstream media has shied away from any serious scrutiny of the nation's top-rated talk radio host.

It's a courtesy that Limbaugh has never reciprocated. After all, Limbaugh spends day after day on his radio program, demonizing The New York Times in the harshest language imaginable. After listening to Limbaugh's ramblings, you might well be under the impression that the Times is working closely with Al-Qaeda.

But the Times is hardly alone in treating Limbaugh with kid gloves. For such a major celebrity, Limbaugh has never faced any sort of real scrutiny from the mainstream media in his two decades as a national radio star.

It wasn't the MSM, for example, that broke the 2003 story of how Limbaugh was being investigated in connection with illegally obtaining OxyContin. It was the tabloid media (specifically, the National Enquirer).

Amazingly, in 20 years, there has really only been one in-depth look at Limbaugh (and it didn't come from the MSM). It came from author Al Franken's 1996 book, Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot.

Franken's best-selling book exposed Limbaugh for the fraud he is. For the first time ever, the book brought to light Limbaugh's astonishing hypocrisy (such as the fact that he once collected government jobless benefits and the fact he never voted for GOP hero Ronald Reagan) as well as his crude, vicious hate speech (such as calling then 13-year-old Chelsea Clinton a "dog").

Big Fat Idiot also revealed how Limbaugh's program peddles outright lies and misinformation on a daily basis. Until Franken's book appeared, little of this information had ever been revealed to a broad audience, thanks to the MSM's silence.

Frankly, if the MSM had been doing its job, there would never have been a need for Franken's book in the first place. Readers appreciated Franken's job in exposing Limbaugh (sending Big Fat Idiot soaring to the top of the best-seller lists).

The MSM has always given Limbaugh a pass. To this day, he serves up a daily helping of outright lies, GOP propaganda and misinformation to his Ditto-Head audience of 14 million.

And Limbaugh isn't the only Right-Wing Hate Spewer treated with kid gloves by the MSM.

Recall how in 2005, Time magazine did a puff piece on Ann Coulter. The article's author, John Cloud, stunned many readers with his cover-story valentine to Coulter, as well as his contention that he "didn't find many outright Coulter errors" in her unhinged, rambling books. (In reality, watchdog sites like Media Matters have documented loads of outrageous lies in Coulter's shoddily researched writings).

And radio host Glenn Beck is yet another nutcase fringe right-wing extremist who gets a free pass from the MSM. In fact, in Beck's case, the MSM rewarded this hate-spewer with his own daily hour-long program on CNN's "Headline News." This, for a right-wing talk show host who once called Cindy Sheehan a "slut."

Sunday, July 06, 2008

$10 Billion Pentagon Program Fails To Defeat IED Threat In Iraq

By MARC McDONALD

Taking a look at the latest troop casualties from improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in Iraq, it quickly becomes apparent that IEDs remain a lethal threat to the U.S. military. In April, May and June, IEDs killed at least 54 U.S. troops, causing over half the 104 combat deaths suffered by the military in those three months.

It's clear that the U.S. military's $10 billion program to defeat the IED threat isn't working. The program (officially called the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization) was launched by the Pentagon in 2005 to foil IED attacks.

The program has increasingly come under fire as ineffective and poorly run. As WorldTribune.com reported in September, the program is a "boondoggle" that a Joint Forces Staff College review concluded is "mired in red tape and has relied excessively on technology."

Astonishingly, the U.S. has now spent more on this anti-IED program, in equivalent dollars, than it spent on the Manhattan Project installation that produced plutonium for World War II's atomic bombs.

Insurgents have enjoyed great success with IEDs, despite the fact the devices are remarkably low-tech and are often detonated with ordinary remote controls or cell phones.

What is particularly stunning about the whole IED saga is the fact that ordnance used in these devices was looted by insurgents in the first few weeks of the Iraq War. The Pentagon admits that over 250,000 tons of ordnance was looted--enough to build 1 million 500-pound bombs.

One might wonder why arms depots across Iraq were left unguarded in the early stages of the war. Well, it appears the U.S. military had higher priorities.

One of the few buildings left untouched by looters in April 2003 was the massive Oil Ministry building in Baghdad, which was heavily guarded by U.S. troops. When U.S. forces entered Baghdad, they immediately surrounded the building with 50 tanks, while sharpshooters positioned themselves on the roof and in the windows.

Oil fields in Iraq were also heavily guarded in the early days of the war. Amnesty International criticized the attention placed on controlling oilfields, which it noted must have taken "much planning and resources."

But while the U.S. military lavished great care on securing the Baghdad Oil Ministry and Iraq's oil fields, hundreds of arms depots remained unguarded in April 2003.

Five years later, the ordnance looted from those arms depots continues to be used to build IEDs. And despite spending $10 billion to defeat IEDs, the Pentagon has yet to come up with an answer to this lethal threat to our troops.
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Saturday, July 05, 2008

Protesters Heckle Bush At July 4 Monticello Event

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With the carefully pre-screened, hand-picked audiences that he has always faced in his eight years in the White House, it's not often that George W. Bush gets a earful from ordinary citizens.

But he did on July 4, as protesters spoke out for many of us when they screamed "Impeach Bush!" and "War Criminal!" to Bush during a July 4 appearance he made at Thomas Jefferson's Monticello.

I find Bush's "We believe in free speech in the United States" remark particularly ironic. Even as Bush was making this comment, protesters trying to exercise freedom of speech were being forcibly removed from the event.

Speaking of freedom of speech, how about Joseph Wilson's freedom of speech? He tried to inform the American people that Bush's case for war in Iraq was a pack of lies. In return, his wife, Valerie Plame was treasonously outed as a covert CIA agent, which destroyed her career (and no doubt put the lives of other agents in the field in jeopardy).

From silencing government scientists speaking out on global warming to using our tax dollars to pay a newspaper columnist to peddle propaganda, it's clear that Bush holds the concept of "freedom of speech" as much in contempt as he does the rest of the Constitution.

By the way, if you want to prevent the very real possibility that the next four years will be no different with McSame in the White House, considering donating a few bucks to Obama's campaign. If you can spare even one dollar, it'd be most appreciated. Click here to donate.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Your Fourth of July and My Fourth of July

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Juan Cole's piece sums up the way I feel about Independence Day, 2008 nicely:

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Your Fourth of July is blood for oil.

My Fourth of July is the pure sunbeam of peace.


Yours is the imperial presidency and "so what?" to public opinion.

Mine is "deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed"


Yours is profiling and discrimination.

Mine is "all men are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights."


Yours is "My country right or wrong."

Mine is avoiding "Offences against the Law of Nations"


Yours is the veto of child health care and rejection of Kyoto,

Mine is an America that cares about the wellbeing of our children.


Yours is a monarchical presidency above the law.

Mine is, with Tom Paine, "in free countries the law ought to be king; and there ought to be no other."


Yours is aggressive invasions of countries that did not attack us first.

Mine is "and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends."


Yours is water-boarding and electrocution.

Mine is the prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.


Yours is the stench of a million moldering corpses, military rule over 27 million, and the creation of oceans of misery.

Mine is "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."


Yours is off-shore drilling, coddling polluters, 'heckuva job Brownie.'

Mine is a stewardship of America the beautiful for succeeding generations.


Yours is the privatization of war and the deployment of whole divisions of "contractors. . ."

Mine is an America where privates do not risk their lives for a tenth of what a mercenary is paid by the Pentagon.


Yours is the erection of protest zones as zoos for citizens.

Mine is, "or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."


Yours is the swagger of the flight jacket and the bombs raining down.

Mine is the schooling of the next global generation.


Mine is America, the pure sunbeam of peace.

Go to Juan Cole's site Informed Comment for more.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Speaking Of The Worst Ever...

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Seven years into the fiasco of the Bush Administration, everyone these days (outside of the hard-core, cult-like 25-percent base) now agrees that Bush is our Worst President Ever.

Speaking of "The Worst Ever" and cult-like bases, I got to wondering: What is the worst movie ever made?

This is a question open to debate. But I think a good candidate would have to be The Beast of Yucca Flats, a bizarre, incoherent 1961 horror movie directed by Coleman Francis that many "bad film" buffs regard as even more abysmal than Ed Wood's notorious, 1959 film, Plan 9 From Outer Space.