Saturday, December 25, 2004

A Christmas Carol


The shepherds went their hasty way,
And found the lowly stable-shed
Where the Virgin-Mother lay:
And now they checked their eager tread,
For to the Babe, that at her bosom clung,
A Mother's song the Virgin-Mother sung.


They told her how a glorious light,
Streaming from a heavenly throng.
Around them shone, suspending night!
While sweeter than a mother's song,
Blest Angels heralded the Savior's birth,
Glory to God on high! and Peace on Earth.


She listened to the tale divine,
And closer still the Babe she pressed:
And while she cried, the Babe is mine!
The milk rushed faster to her breast:
Joy rose within her, like a summer's morn;
Peace, Peace on Earth! The Prince of Peace is born.


Thou Mother of the Prince of Peace,
Poor, simple, and of low estate!
That strife should vanish, battle cease,
O why should this thy soul elate?
Sweet Music's loudest note, the Poet's story,
Didst thou ne'er love to hear of fame and glory?


And is not War a youthful king,
A stately Hero clad in mail?
Beneath his footsteps laurels spring;
Him Earth's majestic monarchs hail
Their friends, their playmate! and his bold bright eye
Compels the maiden's love-confessing sigh.


Tell this in some more courtly scene,
To maids and youths in robes of state!
I am a woman poor and mean,
And wherefore is my soul elate.
War is a ruffian, all with guilt defiled,
That from the aged father tears his child!


A murderous fiend, by fiends adored,
He kills the sire and starves the son;
The husband kills, and from her board
Steals all his widow's toil had won;
Plunders God's world of beauty; rends away
All safety from the night, all comfort from the day.


Then wisely is my soul elate,
That strife should vanish, battle cease:
I'm poor and of low estate,
The Mother of the Prince of Peace.
Joy rises in me, like a summer's morn:
Peace, Peace on Earth! The Prince of Peace is born!

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Lie To Us

From Fafblog, the best political reporting in America:

After years of losing the the battle for hearts and minds to the Islamist menace, leaders in the Pentagon are finally planning to fight back with a plan sure to win the trust and confidence of the Arab street: a massive propaganda campaign.

The notion of seeding foreign nations - enemy, neutral and allied alike - with misleading information and outright lies may appear unseemly, immoral, and unwise, especially given the possibility that such false information will be picked up by credulous American news outlets to misinform the domestic populace. But one must consider the vast forces arrayed against the United States: in Iraq alone, America faces electricity, oil, food, and medical shortages, overstretched and overworn troops, a population incensed at ongoing and systematic torture and abuse at the hands of American occupiers, an escalating insurgency energized rather than deflated by recent counterstrikes, and the inescapable tug of civil war. With the facts solidly turned against the war effort, the war effort's last option is to officially declare war on the facts.

Facts - and the transmission of facts - have consistently proven to be a deadly opponent in the global war on terror. When the Abu Ghraib scandal broke, it was photographic proof - indisputable, hard evidence - that outraged the Arab world and forced a stunned America to ask the question, "Why did they take those photos?" When a missile crashes into a marketplace in Baghdad, or a child picks up a cluster bomb, it is television cameras - often from the despicable al-Jazeera network - that record the aftermath. And it was evidence of weapons of mass destruction - more hard facts - that failed to show up when most desperately needed, that deserted the proud coalition as quickly and as fiercely as Jacques Chirac.

The solution is obvious: if facts will not join the fight in the war on terror, then America must supply its own facts. If reality will not aid the United States, then lies will. New, friendly, manufactured news will counteract old, natural news of brutal slaughter and human rights abuses, overtake them with superior counterfactual force, and terminate them with extreme prejudice to win the hearts and minds of Muslims everywhere.

A lesser nation would consider changing its more hideous policies to win over the rest of the world, but the Pentagon realizes that the better response is to simply lie to it. The Bush Administration has successfully used this policy on America for the last four years, and the country, the Medium Lobster is told, is safer than ever.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Real War, Real Veterans

In belated honor of Veterns Day, here is a link to much needed presentation of those who have fallen in Iraq:

Faces of the Fallen

It's on the Washington Post so you may need to register to see it. The current administration may not wish us to see them coming back in their coffins or know what respect they are given at their funerals, but we can see them here. They died in a war that was pursued to make the Chimperor look tough for domestic voters.

Decision to Invade Iraq Decided Before 200 Election

Read the article and then think about the reasons politicians send our men and women in uniform into battle. Think about how veterans are treated once they get home. Think on who is getting the money the Congress allocates for the military - is it going to support our soldiers or does it disappear into the black maw of war profiteers?

Why is it unpatriotic to question the rush to war and to demand that these people's lives be put in danger only for clear and unequivocal reasons? How am I not "supporting our troops" by questioning whether the White House is lying about this? How do I fail to honor service men and women by denouncing Pentagon political appointees like Paul Wolfowitz being in league with Iranian spy Ahmad Chalabi?


Monday, November 08, 2004

Real Iraq

Danziger cuts to the chase:

Jeff Danziger cartoon of US soldiers under fire, realizing George Bush considers their sending them to their deaths to be part of his political capital. Please visit for more of Jeff Danziger's work.

Please be sure to visit Jeff Danziger's cartoon site.

I thought I was going to write about electoral reform, but current events got in the way. Given the invasion of Fallujah, I thought this an excellent reminder of what the war is *really* about - George W. Bush making political hay.

The invasion of Iraq was on the Chimperor's agenda before he seized the White House in 2000. It has always been his obsession, and the WTC attacks gave him the opening he wanted to conduct his glorious little war. Now that he did win an election (however much money had to be spent, however low the Turd Blossom Rove had to go), he figures Iraq is his playground. The lives of our soldiers and of ordinary Iraqis are his to spend as he sees fit.

W has no respect for life, and neither do those who voted for him. They'll "save" 2 month old US fetuses, and turn a blind eye to the butchery of 2 year old Iraqi children - how else can I look at their claim to respect life except as cynical mockery? These people did nothing to us. Iraq had nothing to do with Osama bin Laden or the WTC attack. The terrorists who killed the contractors are not even *from* Fallujah - it was a carefully staged event. But W and his supporters will praise the killing of those children anyway.

Those of us who actually judge the efficacy of the administration's foreign policy are called traitor and un-American for pointing out the truth - invading Iraq was done for short-term domestic political gain, and it will reap long-term intrnational and, yes, domestic grief. Have no doubt - we'll "win" the battle in Fallujah insofar as we will flatten the place and butcher the inhabitants. In the longer run, every dead child from that city will raise a dozen jihadists who each will wish to kill a dozen US children in revenge. And a few will probably succeed.


Sunday, November 07, 2004

Reality Check

Nope, I haven't disappeared nor am I the slightest bit daunted by the Chimperor's win. Let's be clear - W. won this round. There are a lot of reasons why, but the biggest one is that his supporters are ignorant of the world and voted for him under false assumptions about what he is doing in office. This is something that can be corrected in the next few years, and I don't think the Left will have much work to do on that count. Reality can be suppressed for only so long, after all.

1. Stingers missing in Iraq
2. High power explosives also gone missing
3. Osama bin Laden untrammeled and gaining prestige in the Muslim world
4. Increasingly few allies for the US
5. The coming collapse of the dollar (hat tip - Brad Delong)
6. The battle over privatizing Social Security
7. The growing deficit and debt (the fundamental root of the collapse of the dollar)
8. Rising interest rates and their effect on the housing market
9. The looming US draft to back imperial military adventures
10. Lack of any substantive homeland security coordination at a federal level (hat tip - Phil Carter, Intel Dump)

and other lesser issues that will percolate to the top of the swamp over the next four years. Chimpy thinks he won a mandate when he won with a narrow majority. He will over-reach.

Now, let's talk about this values nonsense. Please take a good look at amileoj's analysis at Granfalloon Junction on how the pollsters are missing the point. First off, "values" is not the issue that drove people - Iraq/War on Terror is. The way the questions were asked split this into its (correct) constituent parts (The Iraq invasion having nothing to do with fighting bin Laden), but most people see it as two sides of the same coin. They are linked as the debacle in Iraq is increasing the strength of jihadists around the world, but Saddaam Hussein and his Baathist regime had nothing to do with bin Laden.

But that's a secondary issue. What has pissed me off most is the talking heads and media heathers and pundits instantly agreeing that somehow I don't have morals because I'm not a member of some mega-church in the "heartland".

'Scuze me?

I'm a progressive liberal, and I have some very powerful values. I believe in human equality. I fight for substantive justice. I uphold the laws of my land, pay taxes to support my country, and serve in a public job. I protect the division of church and state, for the benefit of each. I refuse to watch or pay for exploitative, crude or vulgar entertainment (haven't owned a TV in years). I don't patronize places that exploit or demean other people, like Hooters restaurants. While I do not believe in an afterlife, I have been raised in the same judeo-christian ethos as most Americans of European descent, and my sense of right and wrong comes right from the Good Book. I live my life simply and responsibly. It goes on, but you get the picture.

Before declaring morality and values to be the private possession of a particular sub-group of Christians, the media might actually want to do some leg work on substantive ethical behavior.


Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Did We Really Expect Anything Else?

The Rethugs know they cannot win in a direct vote, so they are trying to use court orders to stop people from voting in Ohio.

Sorry, anyone who retains Republican Party membership after tonight's behavior is declaring themselves to be in active support of criminality to stay in power.

This is the kind of thing we shake our heads over in third world countries, you know? It will be interesting to see how the international press reports on the American elections tomorrow. I wonder how they will compare us to the recent elections in say, India or Venzuela?

I don't think we'll quite measure up...


Kerry/Edwards - the choice of the voters, regardless of Carl Rove's fascist tactics

Faith in America


"Florida's early polling was designed to make voting easier, but enormous voter turnout swamped the limited number of early polling sites. Over the weekend, people in some polling places had to stand in line for four, five, even six hours, often in the hot sun. Some of them - African-Americans in particular - surely suspected that those lines were so long because officials wanted to make it hard for them to vote. Yet they refused to be discouraged or intimidated.

Here's what a correspondent from Florida wrote to Joshua Marshall, of "To see people coming out - elderly, disabled, blind, poor; people who have to hitch rides, take buses, etc. - and then staying in line for hours and hours and hours ... Well, it's humbling. And it's awesome. And it's kind of beautiful."

Yes, it is. I always get a little choked up when I go to the local school to cast my vote. The humbleness of the surroundings only emphasizes the majesty of the process: this is democracy, America's great gift to the world, in action.

But over the last few days I've been seeing pictures from Florida that are even more majestic. They show long lines of voters, snaking through buildings and on down the sidewalk: citizens patiently waiting to do their civic duty. Those people still believe in American democracy; and because they do, so do I.

In truth, I wasn't sure what would happen in Florida this year. After all that has gone wrong with voting in that state, it seemed all too possible that many people would simply give up and stay home.

But it's already clear that the people of Florida - and, I believe, America as a whole - have refused to give in to cynicism and spin.

Far from being discouraged by what happened in 2000, they seem to realize more than ever - and better than those of us in the chattering classes - what a precious thing the right to vote really is. And they are determined to exercise that right.

And it's not just in Florida. Similar stories are coming in from across the country, wherever early voting is allowed: everywhere, huge numbers of voters are coming to the polls, determined to exercise their democratic rights.

Of course, most Americans won't get their chance to vote until today, but I have no doubt that they will turn out in record numbers. I don't think the rain that will blanket some parts of the country will deter them. Regardless of their politics, most Americans understand that this is a crucial election, and that never before has their vote mattered so much for the nation's destiny.

The talking heads on TV will no doubt frame all of this in partisan terms: light turnout favors one party, heavy turnout favors the other. True enough.

But this isn't a zero-sum game: the more people vote, the more vital is our democracy.

By coming to the polls, citizens are literally giving a vote of confidence in American democracy. And in so doing, they are proving themselves wiser than some of those they elected.

Those who govern us seem to have learned little from the 2000 electoral debacle: voting machines are still unreliable, voting officials are still unforgivably partisan.

But the public seems to have learned a lesson. Instead of becoming cynical, people seem to have become motivated. After an election in which a few hundred votes determined the fate of the nation, after four years of an administration that has demonstrated, for good or ill, that it matters a lot who becomes president, citizens know that their votes matter. And they are determined to cast those votes.

What will happen when they do cast those votes? I don't know; neither does anyone else. That's how democracy works.

Regular readers won't be in any doubt about who I want to win, though New York Times rules prevent me from giving any explicit endorsement. (Hint: it's the side that benefits from large turnout.) Above all, though, I want to see democracy vindicated, and the stain of 2000 eradicated, by a clean election in which as many people as possible get to cast their votes, and have those votes counted.

And all the evidence says that's what the American people want, too. May all of us get our wish."

Monday, November 01, 2004

The Reality of Voting - Rethugs Hate Democracy

Much though some people want to pretend that there is an equivalence between the "dirty tricks" played by Democrats and Republicans as concerns voting, the facts simply won't bear them up.

I received one claim of voter registration fraud concerning ACORN, and there evidently really was somone in Pennsylvania who fraudulently filled out some registration cards with Disney cartoon characters - allegedly for some cocaine in exchange. Farhad Manjoo on Salon has demonstrated that the ACORN story is, in fact, a fabrication of the Florida Republican party. There was only ever one source for the news, a Rethug astroturf operation that fights against unions and living wages for ordinary Americans. So, folks, before you send me links to "proof" do your homework and see if the information can be sourced to more than one location.

However, the jerk with the cocaine habit is a true loser.

What the apologists for the Rethug tactics keep overlooking is that the Republican National Committee, state Republican parties, and local Republican party chapters are knowingly conspiring to destroy voter registrations and intimidate voters at the polls. There was Sproul's multi-state fraud effort, there are the guys under indictment in South Dakota for voter registration fraud are working for Bush in Ohio, another guy indicted on felony charges for crimes in the *last* presidential election is working for Bush in New England, and the increasing number of scams in swing states to bully and threaten Democrats into not voting.

They aren't worried about double voting - they are worried about voting period. They are deliberately targeting African-Americans, revealing the deep committment of Republicans to racist disenfranchisement of 12% of the population. After all, when the Dixiecrats finally abandoned the Democrats after the Civil Rights victories of the 60's and 70's, they ran their racist butts right over to the Republicans. They engage in elaborate schemes to find anything to challenge a Democratic voter's right to vote - like saying the lack of an apartment number on a registration should invalidate the voter.

It is a sorry state of affairs when the only way you can win is by being anti-democrats, not by promoting your own policies and true successes. Even with the Media Whores cheering for them, BushCo doesn't have a damn thing to say for itself. So they engage in voter intimidation, in the finest Southern tradition.

But it is backfiring. Voters aren't intimdated - they are mad. 30% voter turnouts already in states with early voting, disproportionately going for Kerry.


Kerry/Edwards - Not just Democrats, democrats

OT, but Real

The hubby surprised me yesterday with a present. He bought me Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, which I have been wanting since I read a review of it in Salon.

I'm only a few pages into it, and I love it. I'm going to have to dole this out.

Back to our regularly scheduled program of commentary on America.


Kerry/Edwards - Less than 24 hours now....

Sunday, October 31, 2004

Real Republicans

A friend took me to task for having lumped all registered Republicans together and called them a nasty name in a previous post. She was quite right – I am at fault. There are a wide range of people who are registered as Republicans, many of whom share most of my own values of fiscal responsibility, social liberalism, civil rights, and open, honest, accountable government. We differ in the policies and processes by which to achieve those ends, but not on the ends themselves. They are committed to government where differences are resolved through debate, persuasion, and compromise.

And then there is Bush and his thuggish supports who are committed to crony capitalism, preemptive war, and fascism as the fundamental form of government. These people have worked hard and fully deserve the epithet “Rethuglican”.

What has happened to the Republican party?

From my childhood, I have had seen a deep divide in the GOP. On the one hand are the demagogues, exemplified by Nixon, and on the other are true conservatives, exemplified by so very many men and women of character: Gerald and Betty Ford, Howard Baker, Dan Evans, Richard Lugar, Chuck Hagel, Olympia Snowe, the Chafees, the Eisenhowers, Bob Packwood, Pete McCloskey, Bob Smith, and many others. When Dan Evans was governor of Washington State, we proudly called ourselves “Evans Democrats” because he was the best man for the job. I was old enough to understand the importance of Watergate when it happened. My parents made clear that the honor and integrity of the law was of utmost importance, and to judge people by that standard. In the early 70’s, there were Republicans up to that challenge.

"What did the president know, and when did he know it?" Thirty years ago, a Republican was the one to ask that question of another Republican. Can you imagine Tom DeLay or Dennis Hastert asking such a question of their good buddy George? No. Far from being willing to hold the president accountable for having deliberately misled the nation into war, for having conducted the war badly, and for failing miserably to secure the US itself against terrorism, this pack accuses people like myself of being traitors to the nation for daring to question Commander Codpiece.

"The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the Nation as a whole. Therefore it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile. To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or any one else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about any one else."
Teddy Roosevelt in the Kansas City Star, May 7, 1918

There are the words of a true Republican. Was TR blameless or perfect in his public service? Far from it, and he’d be the first to tell you so. What he did was set a standard and demand that Americans hold themselves accountable to it, particularly members of his own party. When they failed, he formed a third party, the Bull Moose party.

Check out the Bull Moose web site. This is a Republican who denounces Bush as no kind of conservative, as lawless and self-indulgent, and as destructive to the interests of the Republican party, indeed, of America. This is not someone who wishes to be a Democrat, though he thinks the Democrats have greatly improved in the last few years. This is someone who wants his party back.

What about these Republicans? Or these? These are people who care about their country as well as their party. They are horrified at the Rethug shift to extremism and ideology, for-us-or-against-us attitudes, insulting behavior towards allies, and attempts to cast those in disagreement with Rethug extremism as traitors to the nation. They decry the abandonment of true conservative principles. They are chilled by the cavalier attitude towards protection of civil rights and legal protections.

So, just exactly who are the Republicans? Me, I vote for the people who speak moderately and honorably, who strongly but respectfully disagree with me about how to solve governmental problems, and who are not trying to develop some fascistic cult of the leader to frighten people into voting for a total turd of mediocrity.

Then there is the sad third group. These people, like John McCain, Colin Powell, Rudy Giuliani, are enablers of the lawless ideologues who have seized the reins of the GOP. This may be the majority of the party. Every GOP lawmaker, public servant and party official who knows what violence the Rethugs are doing to America and refuses to break with that faction is materially assisting the attack on America. They do so because of an unpleasant mix of desire for power and misplaced loyalty to a hijacked party machine. Perhaps they think they can direct this beast, or that they need to be in place to pick up the pieces when it collapses. Mostly it is their unwillingness to do as TR told them to do almost a century ago – judge what is in front of your eyes. Their unwillingness to do as Howard Baker did only thirty years ago – place the law before the party. Their unwillingness to speak the truth, lose an election cycle, take back control of their party, and emerge stronger than ever.

There are strong signs that Bush is going to lose badly this round, regardless of what the Gallup poll says. Remember, the polls had Gore behind as well and he won the popular vote. He won Florida, too, regardless of Jeb Bush’s machinations. A miscount is not the same as a win. Thus, the question on November 3rd will be – what kind of Republican are you?


Kerry/Edwards - It's going to happen

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Unreal - Blaming the Troops

The WH bastards are now blaming the troops for not securing the explosives. They sent Rudy Giuliani out to blame the fighting men and women for not being miracle workers as well as soldiers: "The president was cautious the president was prudent the president did what a commander in chief should do. No matter how you try to blame it on the president the actual responsibility for it really would be for the troops that were there. Did they search carefully enough? Didn't they search carefully enough?"

Wes Clark, once again, provides the rejoinder to this bullshit:

“For President Bush to send Rudolph Giuliani out on television to say that the 'actual responsibility' for the failure to secure explosives lies with the troops is insulting and cowardly.

The President approved the mission and the priorities. Civilian leaders tell military leaders what to do. The military follows those orders and gets the job done. This was a failure of civilian leadership, first in not telling the troops to secure explosives and other dangerous materials, and second for not providing sufficient troops and sufficient equipment for troops to do the job.

President Bush sent our troops to war without sufficient body armor, without a sound plan and without sufficient forces to accomplish the mission. Our troops are performing a difficult mission with skill, bravery and determination. They deserve a commander in chief who supports them and understands that the buck stops in the Oval Office, not one who gets weak knees and shifts blame for his mistakes.

No, Virginia, they have no shame.


Kerry/Edwards - Respect our troops

Creating Our Own Reality

I can't wait for next week when we can vote these lying bastards out of the White House.

Every realiable witness (not inside party hack) who knows shit about the missing explosives clearly says that the explosives were present after the US takeover, and that the looting occured under the US watch.

The WH keeps floating one idiot story after another, sourced through Druge or FOX, claiming they weren't a problem (I think that's probably the real attitude - who cares that these munitions are killing and maiming US soldiers every day?), that they were never there, that they were taken before the US arrived, oh, no, wait! We know! The Russians took 'em! Yeah, yeah, the Ruskies, that's it!

Can we say pathetic?

For the full scopp, just head on over to Talking Points Memo and settle in for a long and horrifying read. The first post can be found here if you would like to read them in order.

Myself, I like Wes Clark's rejoinder to the bullshit:

Today George W. Bush made a very compelling and thoughtful argument for why he should not be reelected. In his own words, he told the American people that “…a political candidate who jumps to conclusions without knowing the facts is not a person you want as your Commander in Chief.

President Bush couldn’t be more right. He jumped to conclusions about any connection between Saddam Hussein and 911. He jumped to conclusions about weapons of mass destruction. He jumped to conclusions about the mission being accomplished. He jumped to conclusions about how we had enough troops on the ground to win the peace. And because he jumped to conclusions, terrorists and insurgents in Iraq may very well have their hands on powerful explosives to attack our troops, we are stuck in Iraq without a plan to win the peace, and Americans are less safe both at home and abroad.

By doing all these things, he broke faith with our men and women in uniform. He has let them down. George W. Bush is unfit to be our Commander in Chief.

Having faith and being resolute isn't worth shit if you can't execute. Bush is not living on this planet (except when it comes to manipulating elections), and will consign thousands more US soldiers to a death trap because he believes we won the war back in May. That's when the invasion was supposed to end, so it did, and everything afterwards is just clean-up.

The reality is that unsecured explosives, which were left unprotected due to an ineptly planned and managed invasion, have been placed in terrorist hands, and soldiers and civilians around the world are going to pay for that oversight with their lives.

That's the reality.


Kerry/Edwards - In touch with reality

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Intermittant Reality, Criminal Activity

The Bush White House does have moments of lucidity. Sadly, they mostly involve getting itself reelected and are thoroughly corrupt. For example, they know their guy can't win a fair election, so they engage in criminal activity to try to interfere with voting. The one not getting enough big news is the Sproul attmepts, among other shenanigans, to collect Democratic voter's registrations and then destroy them so they don't appear on voter rolls. Salon's Farhad Manjoo has a long article on it:

Sproul play (Requires subscription or watching an ad first)

The deeper issue with the Bush group is that they simply do not give a shit about the rule of law. All that matters is staying in power, and whatever it takes to stay there is acceptable. Criminality is rewarded, not punished. This goes straight back to Nixon's enemies list and his grab-bag of dirty tricks.

Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo notes that Bush has put a criminal in charge of his New England reelection efforts:

Back on July 1st a source first told me that Allen Raymond, the man at the heart of the New Hampshire phone-jamming scandal, had fingered Jim Tobin as one of his accomplices.(Tobin's role was reported first on TPM on October 11th.) Tobin, as we've noted earlier, was the New England regional director of the Bush-Cheney campaign until he resigned last Friday.

That's more than three and a half months ago. The Bush campaign has known at least since then. And I suspect much longer. And yet they left him in the post.

That means the campaign kept in place a man implicated in an election tampering scam that took place in the same part of the country over which the campaign had given him oversight.

What does that tell you?

Another point ...

To the best of my knowledge no political reporter covering the Bush campaign has asked a campaign spokesperson 1) when they found out about Tobin's role in the election tampering scheme and 2) why they didn't remove him from the campaign after they learned.

What does that tell you?

If anyone knows of a reporter who's asked or an article where an answer has been published, please let me know.

In other phone-jamming news, yesterday the Justice Department again went to the mat to prevent New Hampshire Democrats from gaining access to evidence about Tobin's role in the case. (Link)

In short, the one time when Bush appears to escape his fantasy world is when his own personal desires are threatened, and then he will gladly break laws and deprive citizens of legal rights in order to maintain his death grip on power. To me, this indicates that the White House isn't quite as out of touch with reality as we've been led to believe, but also indicates that what they care about is in conflict with lawful governance.

Kerry/Edwards - Committed to the rule of law, not the law of the jungle

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

The Reality of a Draft

I concur with a variety of bloggers and pundits that George Bush means it when he says he doesn't intend to restart the draft in his second term. The problem is that he is speaking from inside of his fantasy world where Saddam Hussein was in league with al-Qaeda, where there wouldn't be any casualties for the US in the Iraq war, where we acoomplished our mission back in May of 2003, and so forth. He honestly doesn't want to reinstate the draft. But wishful thinking and fervent assertions are no replacement for a cold, hard look at the real world.

  1. The US military is overextended. We're calling up the Black Horse regiment, moving troops out of Korea, and enacting stop-loss measures. These facts add up to a near-future need for more troops.

  2. Enlistment numbers are down. Recruiters are failing to make their enlistment quotas *in a period of record unenployment.* Young men and women who are not yet in the armed forces no longer see the military as a reasonable choice, where danger is balanced with opportunity. Re-enlistment numbers are also down as people at the end of their tours are not re-upping. They take one look at Iraq and calculate that the skills they've learned in the forces will be enough to get work, even in a depressed employment situation. It's not like they are paid a whole hell of lot while in uniform, remember.

  3. The Bush administration likes imperial adventures. They are sabre-rattling against Syria and Iran, even as Iraq becomes less governable by the day. They do not appear to have learned any lessons from either Afghanistan or Iraq in terms of planning, goals, and intelligent use of armed forces.

  4. Due to the mismanagement of relations with our allies (He keeps forgetting Poland in speeches, nowadays), we are not going to be given much support from other sources, particularly when our allies can see the real situation.

These are just a few reasons I can pull up with a little thought. The question isn't whether Bush *wants* a draft. The question is whether the known and observable policies of his administration, established over the last four years and defended as 100% correct, will place the US in a situation such that we will have to start conscription to meet basic defense needs.

What if a cold conflict turns suddenly hot, such as North Korea? We can't simply leave Iraq, we can't ignore that new attack, we will have to respond, and the one fast way to get trops is through a draft. That's why we have mandatory Selective Service registration.

Here are two articles in particular that discusss in more detail than I have why a draft is a strong possibility under Bush:

Lying About the Draft Josh Marshall, Talking Points Memo

Yes, Virginia, there could be a draft Mark Kleiman

Both of them emphasize the selective part of the service - namely targeting skilled professionals such as medical providers and technology experts. So, don't think that your membership in a highly-skilled profession will keep you safe. It will probably make you more attractive.

So, while Bush's heart *might* be in the right place, his inability to understand, let alone acknowledge, that his perception of the world simply isn't in line with reality makes a draft more, not less, likely.

How does Kerry differ? First off, a realistic assessment of how things stand in Iraq and the rest of the world. Next, speaking honestly and respectfully with allies around the globe to clarify that a chaotic Iraq will bite us all and to win substantive support. This will definitely entail loosening Halliburton's stranglehold on contracts. My sense there is that we will all save some money by getting that pig away from the trough. Given a new assessment and better support, I anticipate a redoubling of efforts in both Iraq and Afghanistan to pacify the countries. He has stated he will support the Geneva Conventions, measures that protect our fighting troops.

Kerry has already said he wants to create two new *volunteer* divisions (one combat, one support) in the Army to beef up US forces the right way, but this takes time, it takes allocation of funds (not some numbers pulled out of somebody's ass), and it means that his policies will have to reassure the men and women who are asked to join that their lives will not be thrown away on a fantasy vision of what we are doing.

Bottom line: Bush has squandered the wealth, stength and reputation of our country in pursuit of his obsession with Saddam Hussein. His actions have weakened the US to the point where we may have to institute a draft simply to cover basic defense needs. To give him four more years of chasing bogeymen practically gurantees this will happen.


Kerry/Edwards - Realistic policies to defend the US

Monday, October 18, 2004

It's the Reality, Stupid

John Kenneth Galbraith writes another great short piece for Salon, commenting on how the gung-ho economic fantacists of the Reagan era are stunned at the complete disconnect from anything approximating reality in the Bush White House. He discusses three of these figures, quoting what they have to say about Bush. The scariest is from an email by Paul Craig Roberts, John M. Olin Fellow at the Independent Institute:

"Bush's supporters demand lock-step consensus that Bush is right. They regard truthful reports that Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction and was not involved in the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. -- truths now firmly established by the Bush administration's own reports -- as treasonous America-bashing ... In language reeking with hatred, Heritage Foundation Town Hall readers impolitely informed me that opposing the invasion of Iraq is identical to opposing America, that Bush is the greatest American leader in history and everyone who disagrees with him should be shot before they cause America to lose another war ... Bush's conservative supporters want no debate. They want no facts, no analysis. They want to denounce and to demonize the enemies that the Hannitys, Limbaughs, and Savages of talk radio assure them are everywhere at work destroying their great and noble country."

This is fascism. As Arendt points out repeatedly in her writings, why I cite her entreaty to bear witness to the truth, the sheer thereness or reality can be rejected by those determined determined to see the world in simple and brutal terms. Their story makes sense of the complexity and confusion, but that does not mean it is thereby more accurate. It creates a world in which there are the holy, the elect, the chosen, and the rest who deserve eradication. They are all too eager to deal out death in judgement. It seems like strength, certitude, decisiveness; in reality it masks fear, ignorance and lust for power.

Galbraith concludes:

"All three of these men remain highly conservative. Bartlett has become a budget realist, stating frankly that taxes will rise in the next administration because they have to. Thus, he correctly argues, the choice is whether they should go up on capital and the wealthy, as they would under John Kerry -- or on consumption and the poor, as they would under Bush. Roberts has become an economic nationalist in the Pat Buchanan mold, mourning the loss of manufacturing jobs and writing stridently against free trade. Wanniski holds much the same economic views he always did.

And how are these three Reagan conservatives going to vote this year? I don't know. I haven't asked them. And so far as I know they haven't said in public. But their recent words speak powerfully to the emerging political divide in America today. It isn't left against right, rich against poor or North against South. It's reason against certitude. It's evidence against dogma. It's a willingness to argue facts against a refusal to brook doubt.

Welcome to the coalition of the reality-based."

Welcome, indeed.

Kerry/Edwards - It's the reality, stupid.

Reality Means Thinking Ahead

Bush's worst departure from reality was his unwillingness to hear from people who knew better than he did what was and wasn't possible with regard to fighting terrorism and then fighting in Iraq. He shoved Richard Clarke aside because the man wouldn't let up on the fact that Osama bin Laden is *not* a state actor, not even a henchman of a rogue state. Then Bush brushed aside the utterly realistic warnings by lifetime military men, like Gen. Shalikashvili, who said it would take tens of thousands of more US troops to effectively subdue Iraq, as well as involving a long, dangerous occupation. The Meocons ("It's all about *me* and what I want!") simply declared that we would be met as liberators. It's more than bad ideas - it is a lack of any connection to reality:

"In March 2003, days before the start of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, American war planners and intelligence officials met at Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina to review the Bush administration's plans to oust Saddam Hussein and implant democracy in Iraq.

Near the end of his presentation, an Army lieutenant colonel who was giving a briefing showed a slide describing the Pentagon's plans for rebuilding Iraq after the war, known in the planners' parlance as Phase 4-C. He was uncomfortable with his material - and for good reason.

The slide said: "To Be Provided."

A Knight Ridder review of the administration's Iraq policy and decisions has found that it invaded Iraq without a comprehensive plan in place to secure and rebuild the country. The administration also failed to provide some 100,000 additional U.S. troops that American military commanders originally wanted to help restore order and reconstruct a country shattered by war, a brutal dictatorship and economic sanctions."

Planning for After the War in Iraq Non-Existent

Bush listened to the ultimate con man, Ahmed Chalabi (an Iranian spy, no less!), and let himself be sweet-talked into an invasion. The glorious war would simply happen, and then we would all come home, victorious over "terra". The inability of anyone to consider that there is an "after" to go with the "happily ever" boggles the imagination. Bush never thought about what would happen. Catastrophic success, indeed.

However, you always have to pay the piper. Phil Carter of Intel Dump reports on an article in the Sunday LA Times, where it is reported that the elite "Blackhorse" Army training division in southern California is going to be sent to Iraq to do real fighting:

"The Los Angeles Times provides a long report in Sunday's paper on the deployment of the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, dubbed "Blackhorse" for the stallion on its shoulder patch, to Iraq for a year of combat duty. The regiment has long served as as the opposing force, or "OPFOR", for units from other installations coming to train at the Army's National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif. Now, with the Army stretched to practically its breaking point over the Iraq and Afghanistan missions, the Army has turned to the Blackhorse regiment for help.

For years, The Box has been a stage for the Army's elite "opposition force" — soldiers expert at assuming the roles of enemy fighters, be they the Taliban or Iraqi insurgents. Their mission is to toughen new soldiers with elaborate simulations — staging sniper fire, riots, suicide car bombings and potentially dangerous culture clashes.

Staging such scenes has long been the work of the fabled 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, or Black Horse Regiment. But starting next month, the 3,500-member unit will begin shipping out to Iraq from the Ft. Irwin National Training Center, near Barstow. Deployments are nothing new in the Army, of course, but there is a special sense of urgency about dispatching the Black Horse to tackle situations that it has trained roughly 500,000 soldiers to handle since 1994. Now the bombs and bullets they encounter will be all too real.

"No one ever thought the Black Horse would be taken out of the National Training Center; they are just too valuable here," said Maj. John Clearwater. "But the Army is stretched too thin, and Iraq is a big mission."
The article misses the most important point: deploying the OPFOR is like eating your seed corn. This unit is responsible for training other units and raising their level of expertise and combat readiness. The 11th ACR is being replaced by a National Guard unit. That's like replacing the Dodgers with a high school baseball team. Sure, they can both play baseball and wear the uniform — but one is a whole lot more proficient and experienced at its job. The OPFOR has a reputation as a tough enemy, and that's a good thing because it forces units training at the NTC to become better themselves. By replacing this unit with National Guard troops, the Army has hurt its ability to produce good units for Iraq in the future. Suffice to say, National Guard and active units that go through Fort Irwin aren't going to get the same tough experience they would have with the Blackhorse regiment as OPFOR — and that means they'll be less ready for combat when they get to Iraq. This is a desperation measure, and I think the Army will come to regret it." Permalink

Consuming the resources we need in order to fight off *real* enemies. All for the sake of a fantasy war. As an FYI, the Blackhorse unit was made into such a formidable training group by Gen. Wesley Clark, who learned from the last fantasy war, Vietnam, where he and thousands of other servicemen were sacrificed for a fantasy of hegemony. If forethought had been given to this imperial adventure, perhaps we still would have invaded, but on much different terms and with attention paid to what comes after the Iraqi army is defeated.

The Blackhorse is going into this fantasy/nightmare. What about those who are there? We're hearing more and more about the Reservists who refused to be sent on a fool's errand. If you want to see who is paying much of the price of Bush's fantasy, visit Operation Truth, a site run by returning Iraq veterans and their families. Look at how they are already fighting bureaucracy to get medical treatment for injuries, how Reservist families are being left destitute because they are losing pay when they are deployed with no end in site.

None of this should be a mystery. Hell, I wrote about much of this before any troops went in, and I'm not what you could call an expert military strategist. But I live in the real world, unlike Mr. Bush.

Kerry/Edwards - thinking ahead, not wishful thinking

Reality-based Community

This blog is part of the reality-based community, people of all political, religious, philosophical, and other thoughtful persuasions who understand that at some point reality must be answered.

This is in response to BMM (Big Media Matt, aka Matthew Yglesias), and his coining of a perfect catch-phrase, one that captures the true divide between Bush and the rest of the world. We live in and acknowledge reality, like the fact that invading another country on a pretext is Not A Good Idea(TM). Or gutting the treasury to put more money in the pockets of those who don't need it. Etc.

People who disagree on any number of points can agree that Bush is living in a fantasy land, unmoored from reality, and is pulling the rest of the world along with him into chaos.

Kerry/Edwards - Standing firmly on solid ground

Sunday, October 17, 2004

John Kenneth Galbraith on Social Security

CBS New anchor Bob Schieffer did a fine job of moderating the third presidential debate. Except for one thing. And that was when he began his question on Social Security by stating, "We all know Social Security is running out of money."

Social Security is not running out of money. Here are the facts.

  1. Social Security is part of the government. It cannot run out of money unless the whole government also runs out of money. And the government of the United States cannot run out of money. That is not my opinion, it's an economic fact.
  2. Social Security is an entitlement. Not even Congress can easily interfere with its payments. Congress would have to vote to default on the bonds Social Security holds for benefits to fail over the next 40 years. It would have made more sense for Schieffer to say, "We all know that the Pentagon is running out of money" -- military spending must be appropriated each year. But we all know that the Pentagon won't be permitted to run out of money. Ditto Social Security, in spades.
  3. Yes, the U.S. government can make policy mistakes. It could potentially run such large deficits that we would get a ruinous inflation, or a disastrous decline of the dollar. But such a result could never be due to Social Security alone. It's a risk of the budget deficit as a whole. Obviously, Bush's tax cuts made a much larger contribution to the overall deficit than Social Security ever will.
  4. Right now, Social Security isn't running a deficit. It's running a surplus. Yes, that's right. The payroll tax takes in more revenue than Social Security pays out. This will continue to be true until at least 2018. It could remain true for much longer than that -- if the economy starts to grow good payroll jobs, on which Social Security taxes are paid.
  5. After 2018, because of the retirement of the baby boomers, it's likely that Social Security benefits will exceed payroll tax revenues. Is this a problem? Not really. The program's trustees project that benefits can be paid with no changes at all in the program until 2042. The Congressional Budget Office says 2052. If the economy does as well between now and then as it did during the past 75 years, no changes will ever be needed. And if it doesn't, the real benefit when shortfalls hit will still be higher than today.
  6. If the Trust Funds eventually have to be adjusted in order for full promised benefits to be paid, minor adjustments will suffice. And they will be good policy. When payrolls are relatively small, why not tap other revenues to pay pensions? The tax increases in any decade from the '50s to the '80s would have been adequate to plug the gap. Suppose, for example, that the estate tax were not repealed but instead credited to Social Security? In that way, much of the shortfall could be covered from America's most progressive revenue source. (Even the New York Times' editorial board recently suggested this might be a good idea.)
  7. How long can we go on paying Social Security benefits at present and projected levels? Essentially forever. Social Security benefits are not grossly excessive. And at 6.6 percent of gross domestic product over the long run, they won't become grossly excessive. Unlike medical costs, per capita retirement costs are not exploding. As economist Dean Baker puts it: "There was no point in the years from 1937 until the 1983 reforms when the program would have looked as strong as it does today."
  8. When NBC's Andrea Mitchell accused John Kerry of pandering on Social Security after the debate, she reflected the mind-set of the coddled rich. Yes, it may be necessary someday to touch a little more of her income to cover all the bills. But frankly, Mrs. Greenspan, it's worth it -- both to protect America's elderly and to watch you squirm.
  9. After that lousy preface, Schieffer asked a good question. Privatization of Social Security would divert payroll tax revenues into private accounts. And that would blow a huge whole in the budget. Bush simply ignored this fact, as he always does. The fact is, Bush wants to gut Social Security. He made that clear Wednesday night.

Kerry's answer on Social Security wasn't pandering. He said that we can keep the system we have. He said we must not privatize it -- "an invitation to disaster." He said our priority should be to create jobs, the best way to pay for the system. And he said that we can well afford to wait until later to see if some minor changes would be wise. Kerry was right on all of these facts.


Taken from Salon's Opinion section - requires subscription or viewing an advertisement.

Galbraith's observations about the real state of Social Security and the venality of those pushing for its privitization are spot on. His big point is don't listen to the fear mongers. If somone starts talking doomsday, look to see where their own financial interests lie - as with "news" reporter Andrea Mitchell a.k.a Mrs. Alan Greenspan.

Brad DeLong, Berkley economist and all around insightful thinker, extends the observations by Galbraith here by looking at where risk falls when comparing an entitlement program to a do-it-yourself investment scheme. Basically, the risk falls entirely on the individual, while providing many opportunities for private profit at the expense of the taxpayer. In short, it is a scheme to get at more cash and then leave the future taxpayers faced with supporting Granny & Grandpa directly out of their own pockets.

Kerry/Edwards - sane fiscal policy

There's Something About Mary

When John Kerry used Mary Cheney as an example of an out lesbian, one who is owed the full protection of the law, it was a little bit of a cheap shot, particularly in contrast to the more oblique treatment Sen. Edwards gave her the previous week. However, it was something that needed to be said. If anything, Kerry did not go far enough. He should have pounded home the fact that the Rethuglican party is the one who stirs up homophobia for the sake of electoral votes, even as they don't really think being gay is a problem. Assuming you have enough money, of course.

Then again, maybe Big John did just that.

The Rethug response, particularly from Lynne Cheney, has been nothing short of evil. Led by this woman, they are trying to portray Kerry as having called Mary something foul or criminal. The only way in which this could be true is if you are part of the shrinking minority of people in the US who think being homosexual is something horrible, a sin, "selfish hedonism" according Alan Keyes - who has an out lesbian daughter. By protesting that calling Mary a lesbian is doing her a wrong, you are arguing that to *be* a lesbian (or anything short of heterosexual) is wrong.

I think there is some discomfort among Kerry supporters that he was so deliberate in naming Mary. This is misplaced. Mary is not closeted and she actively uses her sexual orientation to gain high-profile employment. I wish Kerry/Edwards was flatly pro-gay rights. That I do criticize them for. However, it was overdue for the Rethugs to be called for their pandering.

Rethugs have no intention of passing a gay marriage ban. The upper leadership couldn't give a shit less if you fuck dead goats as long as you give them funds and votes. What they want to do is make the "assault on marriage" the next "killing the unborn" campaign. This is practised evil, because, in the end, they don't care *one way or the other* what happens to gays and lesbians in the US, because their true loyalty is to their own power. The VP from Wyoming does not need to worry about *his* homosexual child being beaten and crucified, left to die on a fence in Wyoming. Their money makes sure that she can live in security, escaping the brutal mass who understands nothing except kill what scares it.

Remember that. It isn't that Cheney/Bush hate fags; it is that they are indifferent to the fate of an oppressed minority and are happy to exploit hatred and cruelty to stay in power.

It's not something about Mary. It's something about protecting human rights and dignity.

Kerry/Edwards 2004 - protect human rights for all

Thursday, October 14, 2004

A Realistic Foreign Policy

There are two posts by bloggers that are well worth reading. The first is by Kevin Drum, writing the "Political Animal" blog for The Washington Monthly, where he presents a short, clear distinction between rogue states, such as Iran or North Korea, and failed states, such as Afghanistan.

Rogue States vs. Failed States

The second post is by Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo, his own blog. In this post, he quotes an Atlantic Monthly article on the ways in which terrorism flourishes in failed states, and *why* Bush foreign policy is completely inadequate to addressing this problem:

Talking Points Memo - Policy Differences

The link between these two articles, and the key to understanding why Bush foreign policy has failed, is how the Bushies cannot see the reality in front of their noses - chaotic conditions are where extra-state actors with large amounts of cash and global communications can flourish. A rogue state is characterized by a controlling and hostile regime who stamps out dissent internally. That such states are also fragile and when they can no longer maintain themselves (whether due to internal or external pressures) shatter in spectacular ways, such as Iraq, should also be noted - a rogue state may collapse abruptly into a failed state. Thus, a terrorist organization within a rogue state may be paid or directed by that state (such as Hezbollah & Iran), but is (if equipped with an extra-state funding source), can easily survive the downfall of that state and may even flourish after its demise (think just about everyone and Iraq).

This is why defeating the Taliban did nothing to stop al-Qaeda, and why defeating Saddam Hussein actually opened up opportunities for terror. Osama bin Laden does not need a state sponsor. He just needs a place to hang out and can handle his own fund-raising, thank you.

Marshall's post points out that the US has faced the problem of failed states before and has succeeded - in the Balkans. The success there, and the birth of a new, modern, and effective US foreign policy, was the recognition that state building is not something to be avoided, but embraced. Successful states create stability which deprives terrorists and organized crime of a place in which to operate. Successful states are not easy to build and cannot be done simply through "the free market" (i.e., rapacious contractors) forces and application of gunfire. They take negotiation, economic incentives, application of force, and most particularly, engagement of the local population. They have to live there, after all.

Thus, the "Hellfire and Hallibuton" approach was doomed to fail when addressing the problem of failed states, and it appears only to be able to make failed states out of rogue states.

It is not a mistake that Kerry has, as his two top foreign policy advisors, William Holbrooke and Wes Clark, architects of the Balkan plan. They will be the foundation of a very agile and intelligent foreign policy team for President Kerry.


Keery/Edwards 2004 - For a realistic foreign policy

The Bush Cocoon

"One more quick note on Bush's Osama bin Laden gaffe. I think the most interesting question about it is: why? Why did he say it?

It's inexplicable at first glance. After all, he could have easily ignored Kerry's barb and moved on, or at worst just made a generic statement about how Osama is a top priority and always has been. Why did he specifically deny saying something that the whole world knows he's on videotape saying?

I suspect the answer lies in the cocoon Bush lives in. Not only has he convinced himself that he never really said that he wasn't concerned about Osama, but he has no idea that the outside world believes otherwise. He doesn't realize that not only is his Osama statement well known, it's actually quite a popular target of mockery. What's more, nobody on his staff has ever clued him in.

It's a pretty good metaphor for Bush's biggest problem: his staff spoon feeds him a rosy view of the outside world and he honestly believes that this rosy world is the real world — and that's why he makes so many disastrous decisions. After all, you can't solve real world problems if you refuse to understand the real world in the first place."

Kevin Drum, "Political Animal," The Washington Monthly

Arrogant, clueless, lost in his own fantasyland that what he wants to be is so. As Kerry said, you can be resolute *and* wrong, and Smirky the Wonder Chimp seems resolutely wrong at every turn.

This spoiled rich boy, lost in his own alternative reality, is backed by a fascist party dedicated to keeping itself in power at all costs. Voter registration fraud, voter intimidation, illegal redistricting to break up voting districts, illegal purging of voters from rolls, support of voting machines that are ddemonstrated to be untrustworthy and are manufactured by one of their own, and so on. We don't even need to get into their kleptocratic plundering of the nation - its wealth, its military, its reputation, its hope - to see what it is they are about.

Finally, Smirky's fake-religion act is wearing thin. This man has no faith. He is mouthing platitudes and fanticizing that God talks to him. He cannot actually tie his behavior to his faith. In short, he is as delusional and mendacious about his belief as his is about his policies. When standing next to a man of faith, we begin to see the difference. Of course, the Xtians yamemring on about the sacred embryos (We believe in a right to life until birth, whereupon you little shits can go starve, die of disease, and be murdered at crime-ridden schools.) are as delusional and mendacious as their Great Leader.


Kerry/Edwards 2004 and 2008 - Hope is On the Way

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Voter Registrations Possibly Trashed

Well, well, well. The Rethuglicans are at it again. While their Xtian adherents rant about the sacred life of embryos, the Republican National Committee is disenfranchising their rivals through the most crude manner possible - destroying Democratic voter registrations:

Employees of a private voter registration company allege that hundreds, perhaps thousands of voters who may think they are registered will be rudely surprised on election day. The company claims hundreds of registration forms were thrown in the trash.

Anyone who has recently registered or re-registered to vote outside a mall or grocery store or even government building may be affected.

The I-Team has obtained information about an alleged widespread pattern of potential registration fraud aimed at democrats. Thee focus of the story is a private registration company called Voters Outreach of America, AKA America Votes.

The out-of-state firm has been in Las Vegas for the past few months, registering voters. It employed up to 300 part-time workers and collected hundreds of registrations per day, but former employees of the company say that Voters Outreach of America only wanted Republican registrations.

Two former workers say they personally witnessed company supervisors rip up and trash registration forms signed by Democrats.

"We caught her taking Democrats out of my pile, handed them to her assistant and he ripped them up right in front of us. I grabbed some of them out of the garbage and she tells her assisatnt to get those from me," said Eric Russell, former Voters Outreach employee.

Eric Russell managed to retrieve a pile of shredded paperwork including signed voter registration forms, all from Democrats. We took them to the Clark County Election Department and confirmed that they had not, in fact, been filed with the county as required by law.

So the people on those forms who think they will be able to vote on Election Day are sadly mistaken. We attempted to speak to Voters Outreach but found that its office has been rented out to someone else.

The landlord says Voters Outreach was evicted for non-payment of rent. Another source said the company has now moved on to Oregon where it is once again registering voters. It's unknown how many registrations may have been tossed out, but another ex-employee told Eyewitness News she had the same suspicions when she worked there.

It's going to take a while to sort all of this out, but the immediate concern for voters is to make sure you really are registered.

Call the Clark County Election Department at 455-VOTE orclick here to see if you are registered.

The company has been largely, if not entirely funded, by the Republican National Committee. Similar complaints have been received in Reno where the registrar has asked the FBI to investigate.


Yeah, *that* RNC kids. The RNC is paying a front company to destroy Democratic registrations.

Of course, since the Chimperor has God talking in his head (time to up the meds, George), it is not wrong for them to destroy their enemies and abjure the law. After all, they have Truth on their sides.

What a bunch of fucktards - and yes, if you are registered as a Republican, I *am* talking about you.


Kerry/Edwards - Law and Order for All

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Irreversibility and the Power to Forgive

“[T]he remedy against the irreversibility and unpredictability of the process started by acting does not arise out of another and possibly higher faculty, but is one of the potentialities of action itself. The possible redemption from the predicament of irreversibility – of being unable to undo what one has done though one did not, and could not, have known what he was doing – is the faculty of forgiving. The remedy for unpredictability, for the chaotic uncertainty of the future, is contained in the faculty to make and keep promises. The two faculties belong together in so far as one of them, forgiveness, serves to undo the deeds of the past, whose “sins” hang like Damocles’ sword over every new generation; and the other, binding oneself through promises, serves to set up in the ocean of uncertainty, which the future is by definition, islands of security without which not even continuity, let alone durability of any kind, would be possible in the relationship between men.

Without being forgiven, released from the consequences of what we have done, our capacity to act would, as it were, be confined to one single deed from which we could never recover; we would remain the victims of its consequences forever, not unlike the sorcerer’s apprentice who lacked the magic formula to break the spell. Without being bound to the fulfillment of promises we would never be able to keep our identities; we would be condemned to wander helplessly and without direction in the darkness of each man’s lonely heart, caught in its contradictions and equivocalities – a darkness which only the light shed over the public realm through the presence of others, who confirm the identity between the one who promises and the one who fulfills, can dispel. Both faculties, therefore, depend on plurality, and the presence and acting of others, for no one can forgive himself and no one can feel bound by a promise made only to himself; forgiving and promising enacted in solitude or isolation remain without reality and can signify no more than a role played before one’s self.


The discoverer of the role of forgiveness in the realm of human affairs was Jesus of Nazareth. The fact that he made this discovery in a religious context and articulated it in religious language is no reason to take it any less seriously in a strictly secular sense. … The only rudimentary sign of an awareness that forgiveness may be the necessary corrective for the inevitable damages resulting from action may be seen in the Roman principle to spare the vanquished (parcere subiectus) – a wisdom entirely unknown to the Greeks – or in the right to commute the death sentence, probably also of Roman origin, which is the prerogative of nearly all Western heads of state.

It is decisive in our context that Jesus maintains against the “scribes and pharisees” first that it is not true that only God has the power to forgive, and second that this power does not derive from God … but on the contrary must be mobilized by men towards each other before they can hope to be forgiven by God. Jesus’ formulation is even more radical. Man in the gospel is not supposed to forgive because God forgives and must do “likewise,” but “if ye from your hearts forgive,” God shall do “likewise.” … [T]respassing is an everyday occurrence which is in the very nature of action’s constant establishment of new relationships within a web of relations, and it needs forgiving, dismissing, in order to make it possible for life to go on by constantly releasing men from what they have done unknowingly. Only through this constant mutual release from what they do can men remain free agents, only by a constant willingness to change their minds and to start again can they be trusted with so great a power as that to begin something new.

In this respect, forgiveness is the exact opposite of vengeance, which acts in the form of re-acting against the original trespassing, whereby far from putting an end to the consequences of the first misdeed, everybody remains bound to the process, permitting the chain reaction contained in every action to take its unhindered course … the act of forgiving can never be predicted; it is the only reaction that acts in an unexpected way and thus retains, though being a reaction, something of the original character of action. Forgiving, in other words, is the only reaction which does not merely re-act but acts anew and unexpectedly, unconditioned by the act which provoked it and therefore freeing from its consequences both the one who forgives and the one who is forgiven. The freedom contained in Jesus’ teachings of forgiveness is the freedom from vengeance, which incloses both doer and sufferer in the relentless automatism of the action process, which by itself need never come to an end.

The alternative to forgiveness, but by no means its opposite, is punishment, and both have in common that they attempt to put an end to something that without interference could go on endlessly. It is therefore quite significant, a structural element in the realm of human affairs, that men are unable to forgive what they cannot punish and that they are unable to punish what has turned out to be unforgivable.


…Action is, in fact, the one miracle-working faculty of man, as Jesus of Nazareth, whose insights into this faculty can be compared in their originality and unprecedentedness with Socrates’ insights into the possibilities of thought, must have known very well when he likened the power to forgive to the more general power of performing miracles, putting both on the same level and within the reach of men.”

Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

When the truth will not go away

Danziger, as usual, gets it right:

Jeff Danziger cartoon of GOP mocking John Kerry's windsurfing in order to draw attention away from the dead US soldiers of Iraq. Please visit for more of Jeff Danziger's work.

Please be sure to visit Jeff Danziger's cartoon site. There is much more than just this. There's an entire political education.

Why look at all the dead and maimed, why think about the triumph of the terrorists, why ponder the utter savage mendacity of the current administration, when we can laugh at a picture of John Kerry windsurfing? A sport the Chimperor's cocaine and alcohol damaged brain can't handle. Bush lives in a fantasyland, and the media helps to keep us all trapped in this madhouse with him.

Look, look, see the funny senator from Massachusetts try to talk intelligently about our rape and pillage of the national treasury! Silly, silly man!

But these bodies just keep showing up, and they are beginning to smell...


Kerry/Edwards 2004 - reality, it's a good thing

Monday, September 27, 2004

Why lying fails

"It is this fragility that makes deception so very easy up to a point, and so tempting. It never comes into a conflict with reason, because things could indeed have been as the liar maintains they were. Lies are often much more plausible, more appealing to reason, than reality, since the liar has the great advantage of knowing beforehand what the audience wishes or expects to hear. He has prepared his story for public consumption with a careful eye to making it credible, whereas reality has the disconcerting habit of confronting us with the unexpected, for which we were not prepared.

Under normal circumstances, the liar is defeated by reality, for which there is no substitute; no matter how large the tissue of falsehood that an experienced liar has to offer, it will never be large enough, even if he enlists the help of computers, to cover the immensity of factuality. The liar, who may get away with any number of single falsehoods, will find it impossible to get away with lying on principle."

Hannah Arendt

Another point is how the liar may be so drawn into the fabric of his own lies that he is no longer able to perceive reality. He honestly beleives his own fantasyland is true. Then the danger becomes that others will also cling to the lie because they trust the self-deceiving sincerity of the liar more than they trust the evidence on the table before them. The liar's story tells them what they want to hear.

Kerry/Edwards - 2004 - Leaving fantasyland behind

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Elementary, said he.

"How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?"

Sherlock Holmes, The Sign of the Four

Friday, September 24, 2004

On Lying - the Cost of Political Lies

The war, illegal and founded on a vast lie, has produced two tragedies of equal magnitude: an embryonic civil war in the world's oldest country, and a triumph for those in the Bush administration who, without a trace of shame, act as if the truth does not matter. Lying until the lie became true, the administration pursued a course of action that guaranteed large sections of Iraq would become havens for jihadis and radical Islamists. That is the logic promoted by people who take for themselves divine infallibility -- a righteousness that blinds and destroys. Like credulous Weimar Germans who were so delighted by rigged wrestling matches, millions of Americans have accepted Bush's assertions that the war in Iraq has made the United States and the rest of the world a safer place to live. Of course, this is false.

But it is a useful fiction because it is a happy one. All we need to know, according to the administration, is that America is a good country, full of good people and therefore cannot make bloody mistakes when it comes to its own security. The bitter consequence of succumbing to such happy talk is that the government of the most powerful nation in the world now operates unchecked and unmoored from reality; leaving us teetering on the brink of another presidential term where abuse of authority has been recast as virtue.

The logic the administration uses to promote its actions -- preemptive war, indefinite detention, torture of prisoners, the abandonment of the Geneva Convention abroad and the Bill of Rights at home -- is simple, faith-based and therefore empty of reason. The worsening war is the creation of the Bush administration, which is simultaneously holding Americans and Iraqis hostage to a bloody conflict that cannot be won, only stalemated.

Excerpt from "Hell", by Phillip Robertson. Complete article on Salon - requires subscription or viewing an ad.

Here is what a nation lying to itself has accomplished. Make no mistake; America lied to itself in order to engage in this endeavor. The administration is living in a fantasyland, utterly out of touch with reality, and always has been. As Richard Clarke documented in "Against All Enemies," they simply did not wish to believe the evidence in front of their faces that Al-Qaeda was a real and serious threat to the US and all civilized peoples. Why not? Because their fantasy revolves around Iraq; getting Saddam, taking over the oil fields, privitizing the national resources, installing a more amenable dictator. Their lie was there for all to see before one US boot touched the ground in Iraq.

And far too many continue to lie to themselves about what we are about in that butchered land. Colin Powell's cynical analysis - You break it, you bought it - is a truth most will not accept. Part fantacize that we are bringing "democracy" to Iraq (News flash - you might try bringing it to Florida, first), while others take up the equally dangerous dream of walking away, saying that the sinkhole of misery we have in no small part created is not our problem any more.

The US is going to be in Iraq for the next 20 years - because we broke it. The press hounds Kerry for his "Iraq Plan" and he does his best, but the only honest answer is "Who knows what kind of fucked up mess I will inherit in 2005? I will give you a plan when I know what I've got." When the owl of Minerva takes flight, and we can look backwards at this presidency and the actions of the US, we will be able to take full measure of the folly that is "Iraq War II." But I will wager two things will be so. First, that this will be acknowledged as the single worst policy decision in the history of the republic. Second, that it marked the end of America's leadership of the world.

And to think that all of this could have been avoided by telling the tuth - that Osama bin Laden & Al-Qaeda are a pack of murdering thugs who are the furthest thing from devout Muslims on the face of the stinking planet; that they declared war on all nations, all peoples, and all civil life when they destroyed the WTC; that we owed the world and Afghanistan all our strength and ingenuity to stablize that nation; that while we could lead, this was not just our fight.

Back in fighting mode,


Kerry/Edwards 2004 - a vote for truth

Thursday, September 23, 2004

E.L. Doctorow - The Unfeeling President

Taken from the Easthampton Star Guestwords section. Please visit the Star and read the rest of the edition.

"I fault this president for not knowing what death is. He does not suffer the death of our 21-year-olds who wanted to be what they could be. On the eve of D-Day in 1944 General Eisenhower prayed to God for the lives of the young soldiers he knew were going to die. He knew what death was. Even in a justifiable war, a war not of choice but of necessity, a war of survival, the cost was almost more than Eisenhower could bear.

But this president does not know what death is. He hasn't the mind for it. You see him joking with the press, peering under the table for the weapons of mass destruction he can't seem to find, you see him at rallies strutting up to the stage in shirt sleeves to the roar of the carefully screened crowd, smiling and waving, triumphal, a he-man.

He does not mourn. He doesn't understand why he should mourn. He is satisfied during the course of a speech written for him to look solemn for a moment and speak of the brave young Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

But you study him, you look into his eyes and know he dissembles an emotion which he does not feel in the depths of his being because he has no capacity for it. He does not feel a personal responsibility for the 1,000 dead young men and women who wanted to be what they could be.

They come to his desk not as youngsters with mothers and fathers or wives and children who will suffer to the end of their days a terribly torn fabric of familial relationships and the inconsolable remembrance of aborted life . . . they come to his desk as a political liability, which is why the press is not permitted to photograph the arrival of their coffins from Iraq.

How then can he mourn? To mourn is to express regret and he regrets nothing. He does not regret that his reason for going to war was, as he knew, unsubstantiated by the facts. He does not regret that his bungled plan for the war's aftermath has made of his mission-accomplished a disaster. He does not regret that, rather than controlling terrorism, his war in Iraq has licensed it. So he never mourns for the dead and crippled youngsters who have fought this war of his choice.

He wanted to go to war and he did. He had not the mind to perceive the costs of war, or to listen to those who knew those costs. He did not understand that you do not go to war when it is one of the options but when it is the only option; you go not because you want to but because you have to.

Yet this president knew it would be difficult for Americans not to cheer the overthrow of a foreign dictator. He knew that much. This president and his supporters would seem to have a mind for only one thing -- to take power, to remain in power, and to use that power for the sake of themselves and their friends.

A war will do that as well as anything. You become a wartime leader. The country gets behind you. Dissent becomes inappropriate. And so he does not drop to his knees, he is not contrite, he does not sit in the church with the grieving parents and wives and children. He is the president who does not feel. He does not feel for the families of the dead, he does not feel for the 35 million of us who live in poverty, he does not feel for the 40 percent who cannot afford health insurance, he does not feel for the miners whose lungs are turning black or for the working people he has deprived of the chance to work overtime at time-and-a-half to pay their bills - it is amazing for how many people in this country this president does not feel.

But he will dissemble feeling. He will say in all sincerity he is relieving the wealthiest 1 percent of the population of their tax burden for the sake of the rest of us, and that he is polluting the air we breathe for the sake of our economy, and that he is decreasing the quality of air in coal mines to save the coal miners' jobs, and that he is depriving workers of their time-and-a-half benefits for overtime because this is actually a way to honor them by raising them into the professional class.

And this litany of lies he will versify with reverences for God and the flag and democracy, when just what he and his party are doing to our democracy is choking the life out of it.

But there is one more terribly sad thing about all of this. I remember the millions of people here and around the world who marched against the war. It was extraordinary, that spontaneous aroused oversoul of alarm and protest that transcended national borders. Why did it happen? After all, this was not the only war anyone had ever seen coming. There are little wars all over he world most of the time.

But the cry of protest was the appalled understanding of millions of people that America was ceding its role as the last best hope of mankind. It was their perception that the classic archetype of democracy was morphing into a rogue nation. The greatest democratic republic in history was turning its back on the future, using its extraordinary power and standing not to advance the ideal of a concordance of civilizations but to endorse the kind of tribal combat that originated with the Neanderthals, a people, now extinct, who could imagine ensuring their survival by no other means than pre-emptive war.

The president we get is the country we get. With each president the nation is conformed spiritually. He is the artificer of our malleable national soul. He proposes not only the laws but the kinds of lawlessness that govern our lives and invoke our responses. The people he appoints are cast in his image. The trouble they get into and get us into, is his characteristic trouble.

Finally, the media amplify his character into our moral weather report. He becomes the face of our sky, the conditions that prevail. How can we sustain ourselves as the United States of America given the stupid and ineffective warmaking, the constitutionally insensitive lawgiving, and the monarchal economics of this president? He cannot mourn but is a figure of such moral vacancy as to make us mourn for ourselves."

E.L. Doctorow

The Irony of a Good name

Good name in man and woman, dear my lord,
Is the immediate jewel of their souls:
Who steals my purse steals trash; ’tis something, nothing;
’Twas mine, ’tis his, and has been slave to thousands;
But he that filches from me my good name
Robs me of that which not enriches him
And makes me poor indeed.

Iago, Act III, Scene 3, Othello

Saturday, September 18, 2004

On Lying

"A characteristic of human action is that it always begins something new, and this does not mean that it is ever permitted to start ab ovo, to create ex nihilo. In order to make room for one’s own action, something that was there before must be removed or destroyed, and things as they were before are changed. Such change would be impossible if we could not mentally remove ourselves from where we physically are located and imagine that things might as well be different from what thy actually are. In other words, the deliberate denial of factual truth – the ability to lie – and the capacity to change facts – the ability to act – are interconnected; they owe their existence to the same source: imagination. It is by no means a matter of course that we can say, "The sun shines," when it actually is raining (the consequence of certain brain injuries is the loss of this capacity); rather, it indicates that while we are well equipped for the world, sensually as well as mentally, we are not fitted or embedded into it as one of its inalienable parts. Without the mental freedom to deny of affirm existence, to say "yes" or "no" – not just to statements or propositions in order to express agreements of disagreement, but to things as they are given, beyond agreement or disagreement, to our organs of perception and cognition – no action would be possible; and action is of course the very stuff politics are made of.

Hence when we talk about lying, and especially about lying among acting men, let us remember that the lie did not creep into politics by some accident of human sinfulness. Moral outrage, for this reason alone, is not likely to make it disappear. The deliberate falsehood deals with contingent facts; that is, with matters that carry no inherent truth within themselves, no necessity to be as they are. Factual truths are never compellingly true. The historian knows how vulnerable is the whole texture of facts in which we spend our daily life; it is always in danger of being perforated by single lies or torn to shreds by the organized lying of groups, nations, or classes, or denied and distorted, often carefully covered up by reams of falsehoods or simply allowed to fall into oblivion. Facts need testimony to be remembered and trustworthy witnesses to be established in order to find a secure dwelling place in the domain of human affairs. From this, it follows that no factual statement can ever be beyond doubt – as secure and shielded against attack as, for instance, the statement that two and two make four.

It is this fragility that makes deception so very easy up to a point, and so tempting. It never comes into a conflict with reason, because things could indeed have been as the liar maintains they were. Lies are often much more plausible, more appealing to reason, than reality, since the liar has the great advantage of knowing beforehand what the audience wishes or expects to hear. He has prepared his story for public consumption with a careful eye to making it credible, whereas reality has the disconcerting habit of confronting us with the unexpected, for which we were not prepared.

Under normal circumstances, the liar is defeated by reality, for which there is no substitute; no matter how large the tissue of falsehood that an experienced liar has to offer, it will never be large enough, even if he enlists the help of computers, to cover the immensity of factuality. The liar, who may get away with any number of single falsehoods, will find it impossible to get away with lying on principle."

Hannah Arendt, "Lying in Politics," Crises of the Republic

This meditation on lying is as applicable to the drama whores of the JRRT fandom as to the profoundly mendacious US administration - both in their way commit violence upon the confusion of sheer existence by imposing a story upon it that makes sense, telling at least a certain portion of the audience what it wants to hear. They account for the sheer presence of facts. However, neither of them, petty grubbers in gossip or terrifying destroyers of nations, can account for everything, for facts, as Reagan reminds us, are stupid things. Facts do not understand the stories being told about them and have a disconcerting tendency of popping up at the worst possible moment. Then it is the tissue of the lie that is torn assunder.

Even so, the damage to the truth has been done. What has been done once is done forever. Something has been brought into the world at the expense of something else; coherent falsehood in place of messy and inconvenient truths. The lie that good boys did honorable serive in the National Guard vs. the messy truth that men of principle went to war, than came home to wage peace.

I will be dealing much with truth and falsehoods in the next few days.


Excerpt from Bill Moyers - Journalism Under Fire

Published on Friday, September 17, 2004 by
Journalism Under Fire
by Bill Moyers

Address to the Society of Professional Journalists
Saturday, September 11, 2004
New York City

"Our job remains essentially the same: to gather, weigh, organize, analyze, and present information people need to know in order to make sense of the world. You will hear it said this is not a professional task – John Carroll of the Los Angeles Times recently reminded us there are “no qualification tests, no boards to censure misconduct, no universally accepted set of standards.” Maybe so. But I think that what makes journalism a profession is the deep ethical imperative of which the public is aware only when we violate it – think Jayson Blair, Stephen Glass, Jim Kelly. Ed Wasserman, once an editor himself and now teaching at Washington and Lee University, says that journalism “is an ethical practice because it tells people what matters and helps them determine what they should do about it.” So good newsrooms “are marinated in ethical conversations…What should this lead say? What I should I tell that source?” We practice this craft inside “concentric rings of duty and obligations: Obligations to sources, our colleagues, our bosses, our readers, our profession, and our community” – and we function under a system of values “in which we try to understand and reconcile strong competing claims.” Our obligation is to sift patiently and fairly through untidy realities, measure the claims of affected people, and present honestly the best available approximation of the truth – and this, says Ed Wasserman, is an ethical practice."

This is not the responsibility of the press alone, of course. It is the duty of the citizen. Ethics is the foundation of a democratic society, not God or the Bible or capitalism or "freedom" - ethics. The obligation to tell the truth and to not damage the warp and weft of reality for personal interest.

More on this later.


Kerry/Edwards 2004

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Juan Cole - September 11 and Its Aftermath

I am reproducing a sobering article written by one of the US's experts on the Middle East. There is a follow up article on his site that reflects on two other US imperial adventures - Vietnam and the Spanish-American war, specifically, the aftermath in the Phillipines. Overall, while others have slammed Prof. Cole as "anti-American" (and people who reproduce or agree with his position as "pro-terrorist"), the fact remains that the true US patriot who watched the crimes committed on 9/11 will do everything within his or her power to ensure that those actually responsible for this attack on the US and the rest of the civilized world are hunted down.

To say that the Bush administration has done a miserable job, treating it as a photo-op and a campaign prop, is not "anti-American" and sure as shit has nothing to do with approving of the terrorists. *I want those fuckers DEAD, do you understand?* Right now, they are still gallivanting around the wilds of Afghanistan, picking off troops and civilians in Iraq and other places, and sawing people's heads off for shock value. They endanger the entire world, not just the US, or do you really not care about who they kill if those people are not US citizens?

It also is not anti-American to say that populations around the world may have a legitimate bone to pick with the US over unfair trade practices, moralistic health care policies, and the unwillingness in the US to acknowledge that we are not the only source of intelligence, morality, justice, and democaracy in the world. With power comes responsibility, not freedom alone. If you can't admit you may be wrong, you run the risk of never being right.

Enough - Juan Cole lays out the situation far better than I can.

In order to evaluate the aftermath of September 11, we first must understand that event. What did al-Qaeda intend to achieve? Only if we understand that can we gauge their success or failure.

From the point of view of al-Qaeda, the Muslim world can and should be united into a single country. They believe that it once had this political unity, under the early caliphs. Even as late as the outbreak of World War I, the Ottoman state ruled much of the Middle East, and the Ottoman sultans had begun making claims to be caliphs (Muslim popes) from about 1880. In the below map, blue indicates heavy Muslim populations, green means medium, and yellow means the Muslims are a significant minority.

From al-Qaeda's point of view, the political unity of the Muslim world was deliberately destroyed by a one-two punch. First, Western colonial powers invaded Muslim lands and detached them from the Ottoman Empire or other Muslim states. They ruled them brutally as colonies, reducing the people to little more than slaves serving the economic and political interests of the British, French, Russians, etc. France invaded Algeria in 1830. Great Britain took Egypt in 1882 and Iraq in 1917. Russia took the Emirate of Bukhara and other Central Asian territories in the 1860s and forward. Second, they formed these colonies into Western-style nation-states, often small and weak ones, so that the divisive effects of the colonial conquests have lasted. (Look at the British Empire and its imposition on much of the Muslim world, e.g.:)

The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan was not an unprecedented event from the point of view of Bin Laden and his followers. Far from it. It was only the latest in a long series of Western predations in Muslim lands. The British had conquered Palestine, Jordan and Iraq, and had unilaterally opened Palestine to Jewish immigration, with the colonized Palestinians unable to object. The Russians had taken the Caucasus and Chechnya in the early nineteenth century, and had so brutally repressed the Muslims under their rule that they probably killed hundreds of thousands and expelled even more to the Ottoman Empire (now Turkey).

From al-Qaeda's point of view, the Soviet attempt to absorb Afghanistan was the beginning of the end of the colonial venture. They demonstrated that even a superpower can be forced to withdraw from a Muslim land if sufficient guerrilla pressure is put on it.

Bin Laden sees the Muslim world as continually invaded, divided and weakened by outside forces. Among these is the Americans in Saudi Arabia and the Israelis in geographical Palestine. He repeatedly complained about the occupation of the three holy cities, i.e., Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem.

For al-Qaeda to succeed, it must overthrow the individual nation-states in the Middle East, most of them colonial creations, and unite them into a single, pan-Islamic state. But Ayman al-Zawahiri's organization, al-Jihad al-Islami, had tried very hard to overthrow the Egyptian state, and was always checked. Al-Zawahiri thought it was because of US backing for Egypt. They believed that the US also keeps Israel dominant in the Levant, and backs Saudi Arabia's royal family.

Al-Zawahiri then hit upon the idea of attacking the "far enemy" first. That is, since the United States was propping up the governments of Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, etc., all of which al-Qaeda wanted to overthrow so as to meld them into a single, Islamic super-state, then it would hit the United States first.

The attack on the World Trade Center was exactly analogous to Pearl Harbor. The Japanese generals had to neutralize the US fleet so that they could sweep into Southeast Asia and appropriate Indonesian petroleum. The US was going to cut off imperial Japan from petroleum, and without fuel the Japanese could not maintain their empire in China and Korea. So they pushed the US out of the way and took an alternative source of petroleum away from the Dutch (which then ruled what later became Indonesia).

Likewise, al-Qaeda was attempting to push the United States out of the Middle East so that Egypt, Jordan, Israel and Saudi Arabia would become more vulnerable to overthrow, lacking a superpower patron. Secondarily, the attack was conceived as revenge on the United States and American Jews for supporting Israel and the severe oppression of the Palestinians. Bin Laden wanted to move the timing of the operation up to spring of 2001 so as to "punish" the Israelis for their actions against the Palestinians in the second Intifadah. Khalid Shaikh Muhammad was mainly driven in planning the attack by his rage at Israel over the Palestinian issue. Another goal is to destroy the US economy, so weakening it that it cannot prevent the emergence of the Islamic superpower.

Al-Qaeda wanted to build enthusiasm for the Islamic superstate among the Muslim populace, to convince ordinary Muslims that the US could be defeated and they did not have to accept the small, largely secular, and powerless Middle Eastern states erected in the wake of colonialism. Jordan's population, e.g. is 5.6 million. Tunisia, a former French colony, is 10 million, less than Michigan. Most Muslims have been convinced of the naturalness of the nation-state model and are proud of their new nations, however small and weak. Bin Laden had to do a big demonstration project to convince them that another model is possible.

Bin Laden hoped the US would timidly withdraw from the Middle East. But he appears to have been aware that an aggressive US response to 9/11 was entirely possible. In that case, he had a Plan B: al-Qaeda hoped to draw the US into a debilitating guerrilla war in Afghanistan and do to the US military what they had earlier done to the Soviets. Al-Zawahiri's recent message shows that he still has faith in that strategy.

The US cleverly outfoxed al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, using air power and local Afghan allies (the Northern Alliance) to destroy the Taliban without many American boots on the ground.

Ironically, however, the Bush administration then went on to invade Iraq for no good reason, where Americans faced the kind of wearing guerrilla war they had avoided in Afghanistan.

Al-Qaeda has succeeded in several of its main goals. It had been trying to convince Muslims that the United States wanted to invade Muslim lands, humiliate Muslim men, and rape Muslim women. Most Muslims found this charge hard to accept. The Bush administration's Iraq invasion, along with the Abu Ghuraib prison torture scandal, was perceived by many Muslims to validate Bin Laden's wisdom and foresightedness.

After the Iraq War, Bin Laden is more popular than George W. Bush even in a significantly secular Muslim country such as Turkey. This is a bizarre finding, a weird turn of events. Turks didn't start out with such an attitude. It grew up in reaction against US policies.

It remains to be seen whether the US will be forced out of Iraq the way it was forced out of Iran in 1979. If so, as al-Zawahiri says, that will be a huge victory. A recent opinion poll did find that over 80 percent of Iraqis want an Islamic state. If Iraq goes Islamist, that will be the biggest victory the movement has had since the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan. An Islamist Iraq might well be able ultimately to form a joint state with Syria, starting the process of the formation of the Islamic superstate of which Bin Laden dreams.

If the Muslim world can find a way to combine the sophisticated intellectuals and engineers of Damascus and Cairo with the oil wealth of the Persian Gulf, it could well emerge as a 21st century superpower.

Bin Laden's dream of a united Muslim state under a revived caliphate may well be impossible to accomplish. But with the secular Baath gone, it could be one step closer to reality. If you add to the equation the generalized hatred for US policies (both against the Palestinians and in Iraq) among Muslims, that is a major step forward for al-Qaeda. In Saudi Arabia, al-Qaeda has emerged as a dissident political party. Before it had just been a small group of Bin Laden's personal acolytes in Afghanistan and a handful of other countries.

Although the United States and its Pakistani ally have captured significant numbers of al-Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan and Pakistan, a whole new generation of angry young Muslim men has been produced. Al-Qaeda has moved from being a concrete cell-based terrorist organization to being an ideal and a model, for small local groups in Casablanca, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia and elsewhere.

The US is not winning the war on terror. Al-Qaeda also has by no means won. But across a whole range of objectives, al-Qaeda has accomplished more of its goals than the US has of its.

Juan Cole - Informed Comment