Saturday, August 18, 2007

Only one Bush twin left 

You probably heard that Jenna Bush is engaged.

But have you seen this actual, unretouched photograph of the couple?

The AP reports that the rouged corpse in that photo is MBA student Henry Hager, 29.
Hager, who has been a White House aide and worked on Bush's re-election campaign, is the son of John and Maggie Hager of Richmond, Va. His father is chairman of the Republican Party in Virginia, former assistant secretary of the Education Department's office of special education, former lieutenant governor of Virginia and former director of Virginia's Office of Commonwealth Preparedness.
The same article also provides a rundown of the Bush twins' past misdeeds, such as the arrests for underage drinking, and also adds:
And Jenna, full of spunk, was photographed sticking her tongue out at the media during a campaign stop in Missouri in 2004.
I guess they meant "moxie." But you never know.

Friday, August 17, 2007

not quite there yet... 

Matthew Good returns from Lebanon:

The customs officials at the end of the blue line checked my luggage after questioning me about the reason I was in Lebanon and other Middle Eastern countries that I had visited during my 4 year stay. They were actually very polite and I wasn’t really bothered until they pulled out my laptop. At first I thought they probably want me to just turn it on to make sure I wasn’t hiding a bomb in it. But then I was asked to put in my password and soon one of the customs officers was going through my personal files and photos. Something that really bothered me, I felt a complete invasion of privacy.

I was questioned behind the reason I had a document saved from a Lebanese newspaper, I then explained my interest in middle east politics and that I used to write for Dose and I blog occasionally. This was followed by the question “Do you write anti American material”. I said I didn’t, that I mostly concentrated on Middle East politics but for some reason one of the officers said that sometimes even Americans wrote anti American material.

IOZ considers:

If you asked me, "What would a contemporary police state look like?" I'd reply that it would look an awful lot like what America looks like right now. I would tell you that subsidized consumer affluence has proven a far more effective method of social control than centrally planned, faux-egalitarianism. I would tell you that someone finally figured out that breadlines breed rebellion but lines at the multiplex for the midnight opening of the next blockbuster do not. I would tell you that keeping up with the Joneses has proven a more effective enforcer of conformity than any book of Dear Leader's wisdom ever did. I would tell you that hope for Vegas vacations beats fear of the work camps for quashing dissent. I would tell you that subtle is better than overt, seemingly random better than routine, carnivalesque better than somber, colorful better than drab. Look at the billions of dollars and man-hours thrown into deciding between a guy from Massachusetts and a gal from New York who evince no convincingly held differences of belief. Has ever a nation been farther from revolution than the United States in the year 2007?

I feel a great many people waiting, breathing shallowly, as if one day at last the whole edifice will tip over and reveal its infested foundation. It won't. I feel as if a great many people are waiting for a president to suspend the government, or for black-hood squads to start snatching people in broad daylight, or for the police to establish checkpoint entrances to our cities and loyalty oaths in our schools. (That last, of course, already . . . ) They are waiting, in other words, for incontrovertible and public evidence that Denmark is rotten, some moment of national epiphany when Candidate-for-Life Benito Giuliani descends through the clouds in his own airline trailing some athletic blond with a camera on his way to a firelit vigil in Yankee Stadium.

a clarification (from Togus/Tocus?) 

I suspect there may be some lack of clarity concerning what was meant by the phrase "withdrawal of consent" in the post and comments below. Obviously the concept stems from the Declaration of Independence, but might need some qualifications in light of the current arrangement which is in certain respects very distant from the experience of the signers of that document. Generally I agree with the meaning most clearly stated by Chomsky (cue eye-rolling) in this excerpt from a 1970 talk:

Roughly speaking, I think it’s accurate to say that a corporate elite of managers and owners governs the economy and the political system as well, at least in very large measure. The people so-called do exercise an occasional choice among those who Marx once called “the rival factions and adventurers of the ruling class”. Those who find this characterization too harsh may prefer the formulations of modern democratic theorists like Joseph Schumpeter who describes modern political democracy, favorably, as:

A system in which the deciding of issues by the electorate is secondary to the election of the men who are to do the deciding. A party is not, as classical doctrine (or Edmund Burke) would have us believe, a group of men who intend to promote public welfare. A party is a group whose members propose to act in concert in the competitive struggle for political power. If that were not so it would be impossible for different parties to adopt exactly or almost exactly the same program.

That’s all the advantages of political democracy as he sees it. This program, that both parties adopt more or less exactly, and the individuals who compete for power, they express a narrow conservative ideology, basically the interests of one or another element in the corporate elite, with some modifications.

Now this is obviously no conspiracy. I think it’s simply implicit in the system of corporate capitalism. These people and the institutions they represent are, in effect, in power, and their interests are the national interest. It’s this interest that is served primarily and overwhelmingly by the overseas Empire and the growing system of military state-capitalism at home. If we were to withdraw the consent of the governed, as I think we should, we’re withdrawing our consent to have these men and the interests they represent govern and manage American society and impose their concept of world order and their criteria for legitimate political and economic development on much of the world.

How this works out in practical terms varies considerably even among those who are in agreement about the desirability of withdrawing consent.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Dispatches from Togus 

So yesterday the US government declared that a branch of a sovereign nation's military forces is a "terrorist organization". Thus another flagstone in the path to an attack on Iran is laid in front of the Senate vote and the House vote, both confirming Iran's status as enemy of the state and accusing it of acts of war against the US.

So its all set. It is unanimously agreed by our rulers that Iran is a mortal threat, that total fictions about its behavior are part of the Congressional record, and now with its military designated a terrorist organization, an attack can be brought under the legal umbrella provided by the AUMF. The legalisms are in place. The public mind is nearing the appropriate saturation level of demonizing propaganda, thanks to the the NY Times among others. The only thing that's needed is an act of violence which can be plausibly be supplied as a pretext. The CIA is hard at work on that front no doubt.

Thus the US gears up for its second war of aggression within the decade amidst a backdrop of expanded police state powers, torture, gulags, and a genocidal occupation of a sovereign nation. All nice, clean, and legal-like...at least under US law. Surely when the attack comes, no one of national prominence will have a leg to stand on to oppose it, legally or morally. Just as surely when the retaliation comes, and many Americans die, the country will unite as they bay for blood, and opposition will completely evaporate or be suppressed without comment.

In light of all this, I've got a question for the sane people: What's it gonna take?

How many countries have to be attacked? How many prisoners have to be tortured and indefinitely detained? How many people's minds and lives have to be destroyed? How many letters of your sacred Constitution have to be dead? How many elections have to be stolen? How many mandates have to be ignored? How much of your money has to be plundered? How much a mockery of your ideals has to be made? How many times does your hope in the so-called opposition have to be betrayed? How many war-crimes have to be committed with your support?

What would the US government have to do to get you to admit that "the system" is bankrupt? Who do they have to start killing or locking up? What would have to happen before you said to yourself, "y'know, this isn't a democracy in any meaningful sense of the word." Where is the line that they could cross and you would say, "this far and no further"? At what point would you withdraw the consent of the governed?

How far does someone's dick have to be up your ass before you realize you are getting fucked?

All except the last are serious questions. I'm not asking rhetorically, I really want to know. Where is the line for the sane people? What are the substantial commitments of the sane?

So sane people, sound off in the comments! Let us know where you stand! Or if you stand at all! Shout the limits of the depravity you will accept from the rooftops! Let it all hang out! Go nuts, sane people!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

beating a dead donkey 

Teh corpse's comment in the post below reminded me of Mike Davis' post-election piece about the Dems. Some excerpts below. You can read the whole thing here. Keep in mind this was in a January/February issue, so it was probably written in December. Eight months out and partisans are stunned by the predictable FISA vote.

The irony of the anti-war vote, of course, was that it elected Democrats who are under no obligation to actually end the barbarous US occupation.


Despite majority public belief that Iraq is a ‘bad war’ and the troops should come home, the current Democratic strategy is to snipe from the sidelines at Bush’s ruinous policies while avoiding any decisive steps to actually end the occupation. Indeed, from the standpoint of cold political calculus, the Democrats have no more interest in helping Bush extract himself from the morass of Iraq than Bush has had in actually capturing or killing Osama bin Laden. Accordingly, as the Los Angeles Times recently reported, ‘Pelosi and the Democrats plan no dramatic steps to influence the course of the war’. Democratic National Committee chair Howard Dean, who once claimed to be the very incarnation of the anti-war movement, now cautions that the most the public can expect from the new majority is ‘some restraint on the president’. Likewise Pelosi has renounced from the outset the Democrats’ one actual power over White House war policy: ‘We will have oversight. We will not cut off funding’.


One of Howard Dean’s principal assignments as national Democratic chair (and the major reason for his selection) has been to keep anti-war forces immobilized within a diffuse and hypocritical Anybody But Bush coalition. By making Bush and his political parents Cheney and Rumsfeld the paramount issues, Democratic sophistry has avoided a real debate on Iraq. Leading Democrats may bash the President for the chaos in Baghdad, but none of them has offered a critique of American responsibility for the larger anarchy that is rapidly engulfing a vast arc of countries from Pakistan to Sudan. There has been no debate on the Bush administration’s green light for the Israeli massacre of Lebanese civilians or, more recently, on the cia’s sinister role in instigating the Ethiopian invasion of Somalia and the us air strikes there. The Israeli right, meanwhile, knows that Hillary Clinton will be as intransigently supportive of its policies in Gaza and on the West Bank as any Texas fundamentalist eagerly awaiting Armageddon.

Indeed the Democratic leadership—the Black Caucus and a few notable progressives aside—has exploited domestic resentment against Bush policies in Iraq to consolidate, not debunk, the underlying Washington consensus about the War on Terrorism. Whereas a national anti-war movement would presumably have linked the apocalypse in Iraq with looming catastrophe in Afghanistan and a new regional war in the Horn of Africa, the Democratic platform, in contrast, reaffirmed commitment to the war against Islamists as part of a larger programme of expanding, not reducing, global counter-insurgency. ‘Bring the troops home now’ was not a Democratic plank, but doubling the size of the Special Forces ‘to destroy terrorist networks’ and increasing spending on homeland anti-terrorism are centrepieces of the Democrats’ ‘New Direction for America’ (a collection of sound bites and slogans that offers a pale shadow to Gingrich’s robust 1994 ‘Contract with America’).

The Democratic leadership likewise has deliberately avoided a debate on the constitutional implications of the Patriot Act; not a single prominent Democrat has proposed the straightforward rollback of the totalitarian powers claimed by the presidency since 9/11. Indeed Hillary Clinton has signalled that she favours imprisonment without trial and even the use of torture in certain circumstances.

The fusion between Corporate America and the Republican Party appears less permanent and unassailable than it did a year ago and, as BusinessWeek predicted shortly after the election, ‘companies will be rushing to stock up on lobbyists with Democratic credentials’. [33] The Democratic leadership, for its part, is brazenly cruising for cash. The next election cycle will be the most expensive in history, and Hillary Clinton is unlikely to relish congressional hearings into the crimes of the pharmaceutical, oil and military-construction industries that could unleash massive corporate retaliation against her in 2008. From a strategic perspective, it makes far more sense for the Democrats to concentrate congressional exposés on a handful of Administration villains, while quietly rebuilding parity of representation on K Street, where many of the winged monkeys are reputedly rejoicing at their recent liberation from DeLay, the wicked witch of Texas.

As BusinessWeek reassured nervous readers, any tendency toward populist excess in the new Congress would be counteracted by the millionaires, corporate lawyers and hi-tech entrepreneurs in the ranks of Democracy itself, especially the fervently pro-business New Democrat Coalition (the House arm of the Democratic Leadership Council) chaired by Rep. Ellen Tauscher of California.


Despite claims in the Nation and elsewhere that the Democrats are now channelling their ‘inner populist’, the party remains completely in thrall to ‘Rubinomics’—the fervent emphasis on budgetary discipline rather than social spending that characterized the reign of former Goldman Sachs ceo Robert Rubin as Clinton’s Secretary of the Treasury. In practice, this translates not simply into a Democratic reluctance to undertake new spending, but also a refusal to debate the rollback of any of Bush’s $1 trillion in tax cuts for the affluent.

Monday, August 13, 2007

No light, just tunnel 

That's the title of an excellent piece by Chris Floyd, which I will quote in a moment.

But first, look at this quotation from the New Yorker, from 1972:

"There are all kinds of factories, and the American machine in Vietnam is a death factory. We are its workers and its consumers, our ships and planes its moving parts, and the Vietnamese its raw materials. In this new guise the war has become so much a part of our lives that we scarcely notice it any longer. In a way, those who claim that the United States is no longer active in Vietnam are right. The war cannot now be seen merely as something we are doing; it is what we are."

If that was true of America in 1972, what is true of it now?

Here are some bits of the Floyd article. I added a few comments:

...The nation is nearing a state of collapse as a direct result of the war that was launched by Bush, approved by Congress, countenanced by the American people and set to continue under every "serious" Democratic candidate running for president. Oxfam's recent study of the humanitarian catastrophe put in plainly:

[There follows an account of the plight of the 2 million refugees in Syria and Jordan, the 2 million internally displaced persons, the lack of nutrition of the majority of Iraqis, the nearly total absence of basic sanitation.]

What's more, the national power grid is breaking down -- in the midst of summer temperatures that make the US heat wave look like a wintry chill, as the BBC reports:

"Iraq's national power grid is on the brink of collapse, the country's electricity ministry has warned. Water supplies to Baghdad have also been cut off for days at a time, with summertime pressures on key systems said to be more intense than ever..."

And what is the answer of the occupying power to this crisis? Not surprisingly, it is an echo of Vice President Cheney's famous remarks to Senator Pat Leahy on the floor of the Senate: GFY.

"The US Army told the BBC that Iraq must now take charge of fixing the problems. The general in charge of helping Iraq rebuild its infrastructure, Michael Walsh, said that although Iraqi authorities only have one-quarter of the money needed for reconstruction, solving the problem was now up to them."

So the Iraqis don't have the money to rebuild the infrastructure destroyed by the war launched by the Americans -- doubtless because billions upon billions of reconstruction dollars have been looted by the crony conquistadors and their local bagmen.

[This raises the criminality of the occupation exponentially. The war has allowed Bush to simply dump the U.S. treasury into the coffers of about 15 companies. Also, there are 200,000 "independent contractors" in Iraq right now--more mercenaries than troops. They are their solely to enrich the stockholders in the American companies that sent them. And also to do some killing.]

The Pentagon knows the Iraqis don't have the money to rebuild the infrastructure destroyed by the war launched by the Americans; but they don't care. Bush doesn't care. The Democratic leaders in Congress don't care. The "serious" Democratic candidates don't care. Thousands of innocent Iraqis -- the young, the sick, the injured, the poor, the abandoned -- will be added to the death count this summer from this collapse of basic services. But none of this is an American responsibility. Not the collapse of the state, not the collapse of the society, not the plunge into wholesale sectarian violence by forces being armed on all sides by the Americans. No, it's all the Iraqis' responsibility now.

This unspeakably hideous attitude is not just the stance of the Pentagon, of course; it's also the credo the most serious Democratic candidate of all, the breakaway leader for the nomination, Hillary Clinton. As the Times tells us:

"In February, [Clinton] said her message to the Iraqi government would be simple: 'I would say 'I'm sorry, it's over. We are not going to baby-sit a civil war.'"

We invaded your country. We occupied your country. We wrote your constitution, in which the arbitrary decrees of our colonial viceroy were imposed as fundamental law. We looted your money. We armed your sectarians. And we are going to keep a large number of troops in your country, come what may. But we aren't going to baby-sit you anymore. No, if you don't get your act together -- and sign the goddamned Oil Law already -- we are just going to withdraw to our permanent bases and watch you kill each other. -- That is the sum total of the leading Democratic candidate's position on Iraq.

It is of course an incoherent mish-mash, because it is just a smokescreen to obscure Clinton's true policy: to continue the war, largely as it is being fought now. Such a course is absolutely inevitable if you leave American forces in Iraq, to "fight terrorism," to "keep the civil war from spilling across the border," to "protect American personnel" (including, er, the troops you have left in the country), and so on. How will you "fight terrorism" in Iraq without raiding residential areas where "terrorist units" are located and launching airstrikes on "terrorist targets" and rounding up "suspected terrorists" and subjecting them to "strenuous interrogation" without charges in mass prisons and mounting checkpoints to check for terrorists and wreaking the usual "collateral damage" from "force protection" incidents? In other words, how you will operate any differently than the Bush-led operation in Iraq right now? The only difference under Clinton and her "serious" rivals is that there will be fewer troops -- which will actually mean an increased reliance on airstrikes, and hair-trigger "force protection," and even more mercenaries to fill the gaps.

And if the mission of your "residual force" is to "prevent genocide" (that is, a different genocide from the one going on now)--

[Whatever you want to say about America, it is true that our nation has always has managed to not commit genocide. Right?]

--how will you do that without intervening -- with airstrikes, troops, checkpoints, arrests, interrogations, "force protection," the whole schmeer -- on behalf of one side or the other? Or both sides? And again, how will this be different from what's going on now?

...The Iraqis will never hammer out any kind of political accommodation as long as American troops are in the country, dividing the nation into "collaborators" and "insurgents" just by their very presence (much less by their alliance with one faction or another). The Iraqis will never come to any kind of fair agreement on the distribution of the nation's oil wealth as long as American troop are in the country, emblems of the nearly universal (and certainly correct) belief among Iraqis that the West is out to steal their oil.

[They're also actually building a pipeline to Haifa.]

...The sainted General Petraeus -- who has been one of the most egregiously mendacious blowhards touting the war's "success" for years -- is now telling U.S. lawmakers that his "surge" strategy will take 9-10 years to work, as The Hill reports...

In order to "preserve America's sacred way of life," the United States must have privileged access to the world's oil heartlands. The latter will not only allow America to continue using a vastly disproportionate share of the world's energy resources but also be a vital asset in containing the growth of any potential rivals and putting the squeeze on recalcitrant client states (or allies) who get out of line. No president dedicated to maintaining America's global dominance -- via a worldwide empire of military bases and a gargantuan war machine far surpassing that of any other nation -- can afford to willingly give up control of Iraq to a Shiite majority closely allied with Iran. (Unless of course there is a favorable "regime change" in Tehran.) This is part of the evil genius behind the Bush Regime's invasion of Iraq: it essentially commits any Establishment candidate -- one pledged to the aforesaid military-based global dominance (as all of the "serious" candidates of both parties are) -- to continuing the Bushists' policies. Now that the Rubicon of invading Iraq has been crossed, there is no going back... A sectarian-based Iraqi government allied with Iran -- or some other unknown quantity seizing power in the vacuum created by the invasion -- could very well curtail or cut off the flow to America for ideological reasons. If you are committed to American hegemony, American empire, then you will have to stay militarily involved in Iraq, now that Bush has led America into it...The logic of imperial geopolitics will lead inexorably to an attack on Iran as well, to secure the now-necessary dominion over Iraq...

Thus turning over ostensible authority to a "sovereign" Iraqi government was another masterstroke by the Bushists, a truly audacious scam. While still occupying the country and controlling its affairs, the United States has divested itself of the legal responsibilities of an occupying power.

[Here the model followed was the one set up Israel in the other Occupied Territories, where corrupt and incompetent Palestinian Authority stooges were alternately blamed for every problem and propped up against the resistance of the people they were supposed to represent.]

The leaders of both parties in Washington are now busy washing their hands of the blood they have shed, putting the onus on the occupied, co-opted and controlled nation to "put its own house in order." But of course, the Iraqis don't own their house anymore; the largest and most powerful armed force in the world is squatting there, and will keep squatting there for years to come, if the "serious" leaders of both parties have their way. And they will.


"No I can't," the president said, asked by a journalist if he could say something in French. "I can barely speak English."


"I fuckin' loved it!" - Scats McBinglebangle, KCRK-FM Bozeman 


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