Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Where We Are At This Moment

This post goes with and compliment the one previous.

The Myth of National Victimhood—All Wrapped and Delivered for Christmas
By Thom Hartman

It's Christmas week - Adolf Hitler's favorite season after he declared an official merger of church and state - and, ironically, conservatives are using the occasion to mount a new and bizarre attack.

They said liberals are out to destroy Christmas. Cobbling together a few anecdotes (unsupportable attacks are always anecdote-based), they managed to imply a vast anti-Christian conspiracy bubbling just under the belly of America, and pushed that frightening implication into the minds of millions of Americans just in time for the holiday season.

Conservatives must constantly attack others (and focus on "morality") to keep hidden their own true agenda, which is no less than a return to the world of Scrooge & Marley, Inc. They're working to bring about a return to Robber Baron feudalism, with a stable, rich, and powerful ruling class, and an impoverished, frightened, and politically impotent working class.

But for conservatives to keep the loyalty of the working-class victims of their policies (which are shipping American jobs overseas, while fighting unions and minimum-wage increases here), they must convince people that there is a "them" out there - liberals in this case - who are out to destroy America's moral fiber and are thus responsible for working-class misery.

This is an old trick, and one the cons know is very difficult to counter. Consider what happened when German militarism in WWI led, through the punishing Treaty of Versailles and then later the Great Depression, to the collapse of the German economy in the 1920s and early 1930s. Hitler couldn't blame the militarists and corporatist conservatives who had led his nation into WWI and mismanaged the economy afterwards, so he pointed to the Jews as the "them" responsible for the problems in German society.

The http://www.zenpickle.com/ website (disclosure: Zenpickle is owned by Joe McPherson, a former producer of my radio program) features a spoof book supposedly by Ann Coulter, titled "Mein Kampf, Second Edition." To create "Ann's" book, Joe clipped pieces out of Hitler's original and adroitly made a (very) few replacements, such as changing "Jews" and "Germany" into "Liberals" and "America." Thus, we find on his site:

Chapter 10: Why American Society Collapsed
It must be admitted that all this was partly the result of extraordinary crafty tactics on the part of Liberals on the one hand, and obvious official stupidity or naïveté on the other hand. The Liberals were too clever to allow a simultaneous attack to be made on the whole of their Press. No one section functioned as cover for the other. ...the national papers, also in Liberal hands, knew how to camouflage themselves as model examples of objectivity. They studiously avoided harsh language, knowing well that blockheads are capable of judging only by external appearances and never able to penetrate to the real depth and meaning of anything. ... This form of human frailty was carefully studied and understood by the Liberal Press..
Certainly in days to come the Liberals will raise a tremendous cry throughout their newspapers once a hand is laid on their favorite nest, once a move is made to put an end to this scandalous Liberal Press and once this instrument which shapes public opinion is brought under Conservative control and no longer left in the hands of Liberals and enemies of the people. I am certain that this will be easier for us than it was for our fathers. The scream of the twelve-inch shrapnel is more penetrating than the hiss from a thousand Liberal newspaper vipers. Therefore let them go on with their hissing..
By means of the Liberal Press, the Liberals spread the colossal falsehood about 'American Militarism' throughout the world and tried to inculpate America by every possible means, while at the same time the Democratic Party refused to assent to the measures that were necessary for the adequate training of our national defense forces. .
What soon gave me cause for very serious consideration were the activities of the Liberals in certain branches of life, into the mystery of which I penetrated little by little. Was there any shady undertaking, any form of foulness, especially in cultural life, in which at least one Liberal did not participate? On putting the probing knife carefully to that kind of abscess one immediately discovered, like a maggot in a putrescent body, a little Liberal who was often blinded by the sudden light.
In my eyes the charge against Liberalism became a grave one the moment I discovered the Liberal activities in the Press, in art, in literature and the theatre. All unctuous protests were now more or less futile. ... Here was a pestilence, a moral pestilence, with which the public was being infected..

I was happy at last to know for certain that a Liberal is not an American.
Perhaps Joe went to unnecessary effort in converting "Jews" to "Liberals" in Hitler's screed, since apparently it's again fashionable to be publicly anti-Semitic in America. Last week William Donahue, president of the Catholic League, told the nation on MSNBC, "Hollywood is controlled by secular Jews who hate Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular. It's not a secret, OK? And I'm not afraid to say it."

As you can see, the formula is simple. Identify real problems within a society, such as crime, poverty, and unemployment. Invent a conspiracy responsible for these problems, say it is led by a specific group, and hyperinflate a few anecdotes to make the conspiracy seem vast and powerful. Say they are trying to destroy the nation by weakening its defenses and corrupting its morals, thus causing the economic pains felt by the average person. Rally the people behind you in self-defense to restore military strength, moral clarity, and empower great wealth and corporations to "create jobs again."

As Leo Strauss - the mentor of the Neoconservatives currently controlling much of Washington, DC - pointed out, it's not even necessary that the so-called enemies of the nation really be enemies. The myth of national Victimhood, when wrapped in the language of morality, will elevate a politician to power just as surely as will true national victimhood.

It was the formula Hitler used, and it still works today. It is, in fact, the most consistently reliable way for demagogues to gain power. It works because it's gradual but relentless, and progressively absorbs - and then intimidates or co-opts - both government and the media.
For example, Milton Mayer, a German Jew who survived Hitler's era to write about the experience of Germany in his book They Thought They Were Free, noted that:
What happened here was the gradual habituation of the people, little by little, to being governed by surprise; to receiving decisions deliberated in secret; to believing that the situation was so complicated that the government had to act on information which the people could not understand, or so dangerous that, even if he people could understand it, it could not be released because of national security....

As a friend of Mayer's noted, and Mayer recorded in his book:
This separation of government from people, this widening of the gap, took place so gradually and so insensibly, each step disguised (perhaps not even intentionally) as a temporary emergency measure or associated with true patriotic allegiance or with real social purposes. And all the crises and reforms (real reforms, too) so occupied the people that they did not see the slow motion underneath, of the whole process of government growing remoter and remoter. ...
To live in this process is absolutely not to be able to notice it - please try to believe me - unless one has a much greater degree of political awareness, acuity, than most of us had ever had occasion to develop. Each step was so small, so inconsequential, so well explained or, on occasion, "regretted," that, unless one were detached from the whole process from the beginning, unless one understood what the whole thing was in principle, what all these "little measures" that no "patriotic German" could resent must some day lead to, one no more saw it developing from day to day than a farmer in his field sees the corn growing. One day it is over his head.

In this conversation, Mayer's friend suggests that he wasn't making an excuse for not resisting the rise of the fascists, but simply pointing out an undisputable reality. This, he suggests, is how fascism will always take over a nation.

"Pastor Niemoller spoke for the thousands and thousands of men like me when he spoke (too modestly of himself) and said that, when the Nazis attacked the Communists, he was a little uneasy, but, after all, he was not a Communist, and so he did nothing: and then they attacked the Socialists, and he was a little uneasier, but, still, he was not a Socialist, and he did nothing; and then the schools, the press, the Jews, and so on, and he was always uneasier, but still he did nothing. And then they attacked the Church, and he was a Churchman, and he did something - but then it was too late."
"Yes," I said.
"You see," my colleague went on, "one doesn't see exactly where or how to move. Believe me, this is true. Each act, each occasion, is worse than the last, but only a little worse. You wait for the next and the next. You wait for the one great shocking occasion, thinking that others, when such a shock comes, will join with you in resisting somehow. You don't want to act, or even to talk, alone; you don't want to 'go out of your way to make trouble.' Why not? - Well, you are not in the habit of doing it. And it is not just fear, fear of standing alone, that restrains you; it is also genuine uncertainty.
"Uncertainty is a very important factor, and, instead of decreasing as time goes on, it grows. Outside, in the streets, in the general community, everyone is happy. One hears no protest, and certainly sees none. You know, in France or Italy there will be slogans against the government painted on walls and fences; in Germany, outside the great cities, perhaps, there is not even this. In the university community, in your own community, you speak privately to your colleagues, some of whom certainly feel as you do; but what do they say? They say, 'It's not so bad' or 'You're seeing things' or 'You're an alarmist.'
"And you are an alarmist. You are saying that this must lead to this, and you can't prove it. These are the beginnings, yes; but how do you know for sure when you don't know the end, and how do you know, or even surmise, the end? On the one hand, your enemies, the law, the regime, the Party, intimidate you. On the other, your colleagues pooh-pooh you as pessimistic or even neurotic. ...
"But the one great shocking occasion, when tens or hundreds or thousands will join with you, never comes. That's the difficulty. If the last and worst act of the whole regime had come immediately after the first and the smallest, thousands, yes, millions would have been sufficiently shocked - if, let us say, the gassing of the Jews in '43 had come immediately after the 'German Firm' stickers on the windows of non-Jewish shops in '33. But of course this isn't the way it happens. In between come all the hundreds of little steps, some of them imperceptible, each of them preparing you not to be shocked by the next. Step C is not so much worse than Step B, and, if you did not make a stand at Step B, why should you at Step C? And so on to Step D.
"And one day, too late, your principles, if you were ever sensible of them, all rush in upon you. The burden of self-deception has grown too heavy, and some minor incident, in my case my little boy, hardly more than a baby, saying 'Jew swine,' collapses it all at once, and you see that everything, everything, has changed and changed completely under your nose. The world you live in - your nation, your people - is not the world you were in at all. The forms are all there, all untouched, all reassuring, the houses, the shops, the jobs, the mealtimes, the visits, the concerts, the cinema, the holidays. But the spirit, which you never noticed because you made the lifelong mistake of identifying it with the forms, is changed. Now you live in a world of hate and fear, and the people who hate and fear do not even know it themselves; when everyone is transformed, no one is transformed. Now you live in a system which rules without responsibility even to God." ...

Mayer's friend pointed out the terrible challenge faced then by average Germans, and today by peoples across the world, as governments are taken over by authoritarian, corporatist - fascist - regimes.

"How is this to be avoided, among ordinary men, even highly educated ordinary men?" Mayer's friend asked rhetorically. And, without the benefit of a previous and recent and well-remembered fascistic regime to refer to, he had to candidly answer: "Frankly, I do not know."
This was the great problem that Mayer and so many in his day faced.

As Mayer's friend noted, "I do not see, even now [how we could have stopped it]. Many, many times since it all happened I have pondered that pair of great maxims, Principiis obsta and Finem respice - 'Resist the beginnings' and 'consider the end.' But one must foresee the end in order to resist, or even see, the beginnings. One must foresee the end clearly and certainly and how is this to be done, by ordinary men or even by extraordinary men?"
And here we are.

Sinclair Broadcast Group runs right-wing editorials on its stations over public airways with no pretense of balance.

Former MSNBC producer Jeff Cohen tells me that he was ordered to always have at least two conservatives on the Donahue show whenever one liberal appeared, "and three conservatives to Michael Moore." Apparently the Moore Rule at MSNBC now also extends to Amy Goodman - a few days after Cohen said this on my radio program, I watched MSNBC's Chris Matthews position Goodman against three conservatives, and then dismiss her before the show ended so the remaining three could make their final points.

Hundreds of hours a day of right-wing programming pour out of radio stations nationwide, and conservative extremists are the most common "guests" and "experts" on network news and weekend political TV shows.

The 2004 election may have been stolen with massive nationwide fraud - the statistics in New Mexico, Ohio, and Florida are truly startling - and Alliance for Democracy lawyer Cliff Arnebeck has filed a lawsuit against Bush, Cheney, Rove, et al, suggesting that Kerry actually won Ohio. The story was only covered in any depth by C-SPAN.

The possibility that the election of 2002 was also stolen - particularly in Georgia, where Max Cleland losing his seat to Saxby Chambliss gave Republicans control of the Senate - has never been seriously investigated.

And when a consortium of news organizations recounted the Florida 2000 vote and it was found that Al Gore actually won the entire state - and thus the presidency - no matter what standard was used to count the ballots, the corporate news organizations of America buried the story (although the New York Times and Washington Post at least did report it on 09/12/01).

Our Attorney General-designate calls the Geneva Conventions "quaint"; our Secretary of Defense stands accused of ordering torture; our President and Vice President knowingly lie to us and the world in order to lead an election-year preemptive war; and Congress passes national security bills without reading them - eerily like the German Parliament passed the Enabling Acts after the Reichstag was burned.

So how to counter it?

The experience of 20th century Europe demonstrates that those abusing power must be confronted with equally vigorous power. In the 1930s, Germans who believed in republican democracy were overwhelmed before they realized how completely their civil liberties and national institutions had been seized.
We must not allow it to happen in our nation.

And, fortunately, there are now groups and people working hard to push back against the growing forces of corporatism - fascism - here in the United States. They range from web-based news sites, to progressive magazines and newspapers, to liberal talk radio programs, to groups outing media bias and holding both corporations and government accountable.
But if American democracy is to survive, we must all participate.

Whether it's standing in a vigil like the Ukrainians did, joining a political party, sending money to your favorite reader-supported websites and groups, or forwarding articles to friends and speaking out in our homes and workplaces, we all must all "consider the end" and "resist the beginnings." And we must do so now, today.

In this holiday season, can we give this gift of democracy to our children and our world?
Please say yes.

Thom Hartmann (thom at thomhartmann.com) is a Project Censored Award-winning best-selling author and host of a nationally syndicated daily progressive talk show. http://www.thomhartmann.com/commondreams.shtml His most recent books are "The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight," "Unequal Protection," "We The People," "The Edison Gene", and "What Would Jefferson Do?."

The Parallels of History

If you don't think America is on the threshold of fascism read this:

When Democracy Failed: the Warnings of History
by Thom Hartmann
The 70th anniversary wasn't noticed in the United States, and was barely reported in the corporate media. But the Germans remembered well that fateful day seventy years ago - February 27, 1933. They commemorated the anniversary by joining in demonstrations for peace that mobilized citizens all across the world.
It started when the government, in the midst of a worldwide economic crisis, received reports of an imminent terrorist attack. A foreign ideologue had launched feeble attacks on a few famous buildings, but the media largely ignored his relatively small efforts. The intelligence services knew, however, that the odds were he would eventually succeed. (Historians are still arguing whether or not rogue elements in the intelligence service helped the terrorist; the most recent research implies they did not.)
But the warnings of investigators were ignored at the highest levels, in part because the government was distracted; the man who claimed to be the nation's leader had not been elected by a majority vote and the majority of citizens claimed he had no right to the powers he coveted. He was a simpleton, some said, a cartoon character of a man who saw things in black-and-white terms and didn't have the intellect to understand the subtleties of running a nation in a complex and internationalist world. His coarse use of language - reflecting his political roots in a southernmost state - and his simplistic and often-inflammatory nationalistic rhetoric offended the aristocrats, foreign leaders, and the well-educated elite in the government and media. And, as a young man, he'd joined a secret society with an occult-sounding name and bizarre initiation rituals that involved skulls and human bones.
Nonetheless, he knew the terrorist was going to strike (although he didn't know where or when), and he had already considered his response. When an aide brought him word that the nation's most prestigious building was ablaze, he verified it was the terrorist who had struck and then rushed to the scene and called a press conference.
"You are now witnessing the beginning of a great epoch in history," he proclaimed, standing in front of the burned-out building, surrounded by national media. "This fire," he said, his voice trembling with emotion, "is the beginning." He used the occasion - "a sign from God," he called it - to declare an all-out war on terrorism and its ideological sponsors, a people, he said, who traced their origins to the Middle East and found motivation for their evil deeds in their religion.
Two weeks later, the first detention center for terrorists was built in Oranianberg to hold the first suspected allies of the infamous terrorist. In a national outburst of patriotism, the leader's flag was everywhere, even printed large in newspapers suitable for window display.
Within four weeks of the terrorist attack, the nation's now-popular leader had pushed through legislation - in the name of combating terrorism and fighting the philosophy he said spawned it - that suspended constitutional guarantees of free speech, privacy, and habeas corpus. Police could now intercept mail and wiretap phones; suspected terrorists could be imprisoned without specific charges and without access to their lawyers; police could sneak into people's homes without warrants if the cases involved terrorism.
To get his patriotic "Decree on the Protection of People and State" passed over the objections of concerned legislators and civil libertarians, he agreed to put a 4-year sunset provision on it: if the national emergency provoked by the terrorist attack was over by then, the freedoms and rights would be returned to the people, and the police agencies would be re-restrained. Legislators would later say they hadn't had time to read the bill before voting on it.
Immediately after passage of the anti-terrorism act, his federal police agencies stepped up their program of arresting suspicious persons and holding them without access to lawyers or courts. In the first year only a few hundred were interred, and those who objected were largely ignored by the mainstream press, which was afraid to offend and thus lose access to a leader with such high popularity ratings. Citizens who protested the leader in public - and there were many - quickly found themselves confronting the newly empowered police's batons, gas, and jail cells, or fenced off in protest zones safely out of earshot of the leader's public speeches. (In the meantime, he was taking almost daily lessons in public speaking, learning to control his tonality, gestures, and facial expressions. He became a very competent orator.)
Within the first months after that terrorist attack, at the suggestion of a political advisor, he brought a formerly obscure word into common usage. He wanted to stir a "racial pride" among his countrymen, so, instead of referring to the nation by its name, he began to refer to it as "The Homeland," a phrase publicly promoted in the introduction to a 1934 speech recorded in Leni Riefenstahl's famous propaganda movie "Triumph Of The Will." As hoped, people's hearts swelled with pride, and the beginning of an us-versus-them mentality was sewn. Our land was "the" homeland, citizens thought: all others were simply foreign lands. We are the "true people," he suggested, the only ones worthy of our nation's concern; if bombs fall on others, or human rights are violated in other nations and it makes our lives better, it's of little concern to us.
Playing on this new nationalism, and exploiting a disagreement with the French over his increasing militarism, he argued that any international body that didn't act first and foremost in the best interest of his own nation was neither relevant nor useful. He thus withdrew his country from the League Of Nations in October, 1933, and then negotiated a separate naval armaments agreement with Anthony Eden of The United Kingdom to create a worldwide military ruling elite.
His propaganda minister orchestrated a campaign to ensure the people that he was a deeply religious man and that his motivations were rooted in Christianity. He even proclaimed the need for a revival of the Christian faith across his nation, what he called a "New Christianity." Every man in his rapidly growing army wore a belt buckle that declared "Gott Mit Uns" - God Is With Us - and most of them fervently believed it was true.
Within a year of the terrorist attack, the nation's leader determined that the various local police and federal agencies around the nation were lacking the clear communication and overall coordinated administration necessary to deal with the terrorist threat facing the nation, particularly those citizens who were of Middle Eastern ancestry and thus probably terrorist and communist sympathizers, and various troublesome "intellectuals" and "liberals." He proposed a single new national agency to protect the security of the homeland, consolidating the actions of dozens of previously independent police, border, and investigative agencies under a single leader.
He appointed one of his most trusted associates to be leader of this new agency, the Central Security Office for the homeland, and gave it a role in the government equal to the other major departments.
His assistant who dealt with the press noted that, since the terrorist attack, "Radio and press are at out disposal." Those voices questioning the legitimacy of their nation's leader, or raising questions about his checkered past, had by now faded from the public's recollection as his central security office began advertising a program encouraging people to phone in tips about suspicious neighbors. This program was so successful that the names of some of the people "denounced" were soon being broadcast on radio stations. Those denounced often included opposition politicians and celebrities who dared speak out - a favorite target of his regime and the media he now controlled through intimidation and ownership by corporate allies.
To consolidate his power, he concluded that government alone wasn't enough. He reached out to industry and forged an alliance, bringing former executives of the nation's largest corporations into high government positions. A flood of government money poured into corporate coffers to fight the war against the Middle Eastern ancestry terrorists lurking within the homeland, and to prepare for wars overseas. He encouraged large corporations friendly to him to acquire media outlets and other industrial concerns across the nation, particularly those previously owned by suspicious people of Middle Eastern ancestry. He built powerful alliances with industry; one corporate ally got the lucrative contract worth millions to build the first large-scale detention center for enemies of the state. Soon more would follow. Industry flourished.
But after an interval of peace following the terrorist attack, voices of dissent again arose within and without the government. Students had started an active program opposing him (later known as the White Rose Society), and leaders of nearby nations were speaking out against his bellicose rhetoric. He needed a diversion, something to direct people away from the corporate cronyism being exposed in his own government, questions of his possibly illegitimate rise to power, and the oft-voiced concerns of civil libertarians about the people being held in detention without due process or access to attorneys or family.
With his number two man - a master at manipulating the media - he began a campaign to convince the people of the nation that a small, limited war was necessary. Another nation was harboring many of the suspicious Middle Eastern people, and even though its connection with the terrorist who had set afire the nation's most important building was tenuous at best, it held resources their nation badly needed if they were to have room to live and maintain their prosperity. He called a press conference and publicly delivered an ultimatum to the leader of the other nation, provoking an international uproar. He claimed the right to strike preemptively in self-defense, and nations across Europe - at first - denounced him for it, pointing out that it was a doctrine only claimed in the past by nations seeking worldwide empire, like Caesar's Rome or Alexander's Greece.
It took a few months, and intense international debate and lobbying with European nations, but, after he personally met with the leader of the United Kingdom, finally a deal was struck. After the military action began, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain told the nervous British people that giving in to this leader's new first-strike doctrine would bring "peace for our time." Thus Hitler annexed Austria in a lightning move, riding a wave of popular support as leaders so often do in times of war. The Austrian government was unseated and replaced by a new leadership friendly to Germany, and German corporations began to take over Austrian resources.
In a speech responding to critics of the invasion, Hitler said, "Certain foreign newspapers have said that we fell on Austria with brutal methods. I can only say; even in death they cannot stop lying. I have in the course of my political struggle won much love from my people, but when I crossed the former frontier [into Austria] there met me such a stream of love as I have never experienced. Not as tyrants have we come, but as liberators."
To deal with those who dissented from his policies, at the advice of his politically savvy advisors, he and his handmaidens in the press began a campaign to equate him and his policies with patriotism and the nation itself. National unity was essential, they said, to ensure that the terrorists or their sponsors didn't think they'd succeeded in splitting the nation or weakening its will. In times of war, they said, there could be only "one people, one nation, and one commander-in-chief" ("Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Fuhrer"), and so his advocates in the media began a nationwide campaign charging that critics of his policies were attacking the nation itself. Those questioning him were labeled "anti-German" or "not good Germans," and it was suggested they were aiding the enemies of the state by failing in the patriotic necessity of supporting the nation's valiant men in uniform. It was one of his most effective ways to stifle dissent and pit wage-earning people (from whom most of the army came) against the "intellectuals and liberals" who were critical of his policies.
Nonetheless, once the "small war" annexation of Austria was successfully and quickly completed, and peace returned, voices of opposition were again raised in the Homeland. The almost-daily release of news bulletins about the dangers of terrorist communist cells wasn't enough to rouse the populace and totally suppress dissent. A full-out war was necessary to divert public attention from the growing rumbles within the country about disappearing dissidents; violence against liberals, Jews, and union leaders; and the epidemic of crony capitalism that was producing empires of wealth in the corporate sector but threatening the middle class's way of life.
A year later, to the week, Hitler invaded Czechoslovakia; the nation was now fully at war, and all internal dissent was suppressed in the name of national security. It was the end of Germany's first experiment with democracy.
As we conclude this review of history, there are a few milestones worth remembering.
February 27, 2003, was the 70th anniversary of Dutch terrorist Marinus van der Lubbe's successful firebombing of the German Parliament (Reichstag) building, the terrorist act that catapulted Hitler to legitimacy and reshaped the German constitution. By the time of his successful and brief action to seize Austria, in which almost no German blood was shed, Hitler was the most beloved and popular leader in the history of his nation. Hailed around the world, he was later Time magazine's "Man Of The Year."
Most Americans remember his office for the security of the homeland, known as the Reichssicherheitshauptamt and its SchutzStaffel, simply by its most famous agency's initials: the SS.
We also remember that the Germans developed a new form of highly violent warfare they named "lightning war" or blitzkrieg, which, while generating devastating civilian losses, also produced a highly desirable "shock and awe" among the nation's leadership according to the authors of the 1996 book "Shock And Awe" published by the National Defense University Press.
Reflecting on that time, The American Heritage Dictionary (Houghton Mifflin Company, 1983) left us this definition of the form of government the German democracy had become through Hitler's close alliance with the largest German corporations and his policy of using war as a tool to keep power: "fas-cism (fbsh'iz'em) n. A system of government that exercises a dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through the merging of state and business leadership, together with belligerent nationalism."
Today, as we face financial and political crises, it's useful to remember that the ravages of the Great Depression hit Germany and the United States alike. Through the 1930s, however, Hitler and Roosevelt chose very different courses to bring their nations back to power and prosperity.
Germany's response was to use government to empower corporations and reward the society's richest individuals, privatize much of the commons, stifle dissent, strip people of constitutional rights, and create an illusion of prosperity through continual and ever-expanding war. America passed minimum wage laws to raise the middle class, enforced anti-trust laws to diminish the power of corporations, increased taxes on corporations and the wealthiest individuals, created Social Security, and became the employer of last resort through programs to build national infrastructure, promote the arts, and replant forests.
To the extent that our Constitution is still intact, the choice is again ours.
Thom Hartmann lived and worked in Germany during the 1980s, and is the author of over a dozen books, including "Unequal Protection" and "The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight." This article is copyright by Thom Hartmann, but permission is granted for reprint in print, email, blog, or web media so long as this credit is attached.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Unanswered Bush Administration Questions

I’m continually amazed at how so many public questions remain unanswered before we’re on to the next round of unanswered questions. Why isn’t the American public howling with indignation?

A partial and very incomplete list:

Where is the CIA report being suppressed by Porter Goss?

Where is the Fitzgerald investigation into someone in the administration revealing Valerie Plame’s CIA status?

Where is the investigation of Dick Cheney’s energy policy meetings?

What’s happening in the investigation of voting fraud and electronic voting manipulation, and why are stories and evidence not more highlighted?

Why aren’t the administration’s previously repeated lies about Iraq’s WMD and how the story kept changing to fit new revelations not being sufficiently questioned and highlighted? http://www.thememoryhole.com/cold-shoulder.htm

Why isn’t the fact that Bush disbanded the 400 person team hunting for WMD in January of 2001 not being highlighted and re-highlighted? http://www.thememoryhole.com/cold-shoulder.htm

Why isn’t Bush administration’s development of new and different atomic weapons not more scrutinized? http://www.thememoryhole.com/cold-shoulder.htm

Why isn’t Dick Cheney’s intrusion and pressure tactics on the CIA’s intelligence analysts still being highlighted? http://www.thememoryhole.com/cold-shoulder.htm

Why don’t we hear more about oil in Afghanistan and how important it is to the Bush/neo-con administration?

Why aren’t all American military deaths included in the totals reported, or the extent of real injuries to those wounded?

Why doesn’t it matter more that Bushes policies reward the richest Americans at the expense of the rest?

Why can Bush lie with impunity?

And last, why aren’t we (the mass of American citizens) demanding the answers?

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

An Apt Metaphor

There's been a lot of talk lately about how Democrats will only have a chance in the next election if they move more to the right. Nonsense. To do so would only play into the Republican's strength. We have to wake up, stand up, and stop allowing ourselves to get hit.

"By Mel Giles—by way of Michael Moore
Watch Dan Rather apologize for not getting his facts straight, humiliated before the eyes of America, voluntarily undermining his credibility and career of over thirty years. Observe Donna Brazille squirm as she is ridiculed by Bay Buchanan, and pronounced irrelevant and nearly non-existent. Listen as Donna and Nancy Pelosi and Senator Charles Schumer take to the airwaves saying that they have to go back to the drawing board and learn from their mistakes and try to be better, more likable, more appealing, have a stronger message, speak to morality. Watch them awkwardly quote the bible, trying to speak the ‘new’ language of America. Surf the blogs, and read the comments of dismayed, discombobulated, confused individuals trying to figure out what they did wrong. Hear the cacophony of voices, crying out, "Why did they beat me?"
And then ask anyone who has ever worked in a domestic violence shelter if they have heard this before.
They will tell you: Every single day.
The answer is quite simple. They beat us because they are abusers. We can call it hate. We can call it fear. We can say it is unfair. But we are looped into the cycle of violence, and we need to start calling the dominating side what they are: abusive. And we need to recognize that we are the victims of verbal, mental, and even, in the case of Iraq, physical violence.
As victims we can't stop asking ourselves what we did wrong. We can't seem to grasp that they will keep hitting us and beating us as long as we keep sticking around and asking ourselves what we are doing to deserve the beating.
Listen to George Bush say that the will of God excuses his behavior. Listen, as he refuses to take responsibility, or express remorse, or even once, admit a mistake. Watch him strut, and tell us that he will only work with those who agree with him, and that each of us is only allowed one question (soon, it will be none at all; abusers hit hard when questioned; the press corps can tell you that). See him surround himself with only those who pledge oaths of allegiance. Hear him tell us that if we will only listen and do as he says and agree with his every utterance, all will go well for us (it won't; we will never be worthy).
And watch the Democratic Party leadership walk on eggshells, try to meet him, please him, wash the windows better, get out that spot, distance themselves from gays and civil rights. See the Democrats cry for the attention and affection and approval of the President and his followers. Watch us squirm. Watch us descend into a world of crazy-making, where logic does not work and the other side tells us we are nuts when we rely on facts. A world where, worst of all, we begin to believe we are crazy.
How to break free? Again, the answer is quite simple.
First, you must admit you are a victim. Then, you must declare the state of affairs unacceptable. Next, you must promise to protect yourself and everyone around you that is being victimized. You don't do this by responding to their demands, or becoming more like them, or engaging in logical conversation, or trying to persuade them that you are right. You also don't do this by going catatonic and resigned, by closing up your ears and eyes and covering your head and submitting to the blows, figuring its over faster and hurts less if you don't resist and fight back.
Instead, you walk away. You find other folks like yourself, 57 million of them, who are hurting, broken, and beating themselves up. You tell them what you've learned, and that you aren't going to take it anymore. You stand tall, with 57 million people at your side and behind you, and you look right into the eyes of the abuser and you tell him to go to hell. Then you walk out the door, taking the kids and gays and minorities with you, and you start a new life. The new life is hard. But it's better than the abuse.
We have a mandate to be as radical and liberal and steadfast as we need to be. The progressive beliefs and social justice we stand for, our core, must not be altered. We are 57 million strong. We are building from the bottom up. We are meeting, on the net, in church basements, at work, in small groups, and right now, we are crying, because we are trying to break free and we don't know how.
Any battered woman in America, any oppressed person around the globe who has defied her oppressor will tell you this: There is nothing wrong with you. You are in good company. You are safe. You are not alone. You are strong. You must change only one thing: Stop responding to the abuser.
Don't let him dictate the terms or frame the debate (he'll win, not because he's right, but because force works). Sure, we can build a better grassroots campaign, cultivate and raise up better leaders, reform the election system to make it fail-proof, stick to our message, learn from the strategy of the other side. But we absolutely must dispense with the notion that we are weak, godless, cowardly, disorganized, crazy, too liberal, naive, amoral, "loose,” irrelevant, outmoded, stupid and soon to be extinct. We have the mandate of the world to back us, and the legacy of oppressed people throughout history.
Even if you do everything right, they'll hit you anyway. Look at the poor souls who voted for this nonsense. They are working for six dollars an hour if they are working at all, their children are dying overseas and suffering from lack of health care and a depleted environment and a shoddy education.
And they don't even know they are being hit."

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Where is E.B. White When You Need Him?

Here’s the latest transcript of a White House press briefing posted on their official website. From all the TV clips of White House press briefings I’ve seen over the last few years I’ve always known how Orwellian and self-serving they were, but this is the first time I’ve seen one as text. They’re even worse than I thought. How does Scott McClellan sleep at night? Anyone who can, with a straight face, invent and regurgatate this sophist crap has to be a sleeze-ball of the first order. Is a pat on the head from Dubya (along with a nice fat paycheck) enough to assuage his conscience—assuming he has one. Again, how does Scott McClellan keep his skin from crawling when he lies down at night in that terryfying, existential, self-reflective time between awareness and sleep? And what brings these reporters back again and again to get non-answers--another fat paycheck and a chance to hobnob with power? It must be like trying to dance with a partner who won’t move their feet, or a repeated sexual encounter that always ends in frustration. Not once is there ever a real answer to a real question. Hell, with a little effort we could do away with human presence altogether; someone could easily compile a compendium of stock phrases and cliches, insert them into a computer program, and then just let the software answer the reporter’s questions automatically. The pen may be mighter than the sword, but not if the ink’s integrity has been diluted. Can you say Winston Smith? Can you say 1984?

Press Briefing by Scott McClellan The James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
1:06 P.M. EST
MR. McCLELLAN: Good afternoon, everybody. The President looks forward to here shortly going to visit the USO care package stuffing facility in Fort Belvoir, Virginia. The President and Mrs. Bush will participate with other volunteers in assembling care packages for Operation USO care packages. It's an opportunity to highlight the many ways Americans can show their support for our troops, our men and women in uniform who are serving abroad.
Let me give you a little bit of details about this before you go, but for a $25 donation, Americans can sponsor a care package for a service member who is either en route to an overseas assignment or already deployed. The packages are assembled on military bases by volunteers. Each operation package contains, at a minimum, a 100-minute international calling card, a disposable camera, toiletries, sun screen, playing cards, and a message of support from a care package sponsor. And more than 480,000 care packages have been assembled and distributed, as of December of 2004. And Fort Belvoir has donated space and assistance to Operation USO Care Package since August of 2004.
And the President looks forward to going there and thanking all those volunteers for to their service to their country, and highlighting the real strength of America, which is found in the heart and soul of every American.
And with that, I'll be glad to go to your questions. Helen.
Q I asked you the other day and didn't get an answer and I'll ask you again, do we follow the Geneva Conventions at Guantanamo?
MR. McCLELLAN: The President has already answered that question. We've answered that question on numerous occasions, Helen. The President's most solemn obligation is to protect the American people, and in terms of -- in terms of Guantanamo, it's related to the war on terrorism that we're fighting. We're fighting a different kind of war and we face an enemy like we have never faced before. The President designated individuals again Guantanamo as unlawful enemy combatants who do not share -- they are people who do not share our values, who do not respect the rule of law, and who have no regard for innocent --
Q You haven't even charged them.
MR. McCLELLAN: Helen, I'm going to move on to other people if you're not going to let me answer the questions.
Q Go ahead.
MR. McCLELLAN: I would like to answer your question and I'm trying to do that. We can disagree on the war on terrorism, but I want to make my points, too.
But these are people who have no regard for innocent civilian life, and the military -- and in terms of the military and the detainees who are at Guantanamo Bay, the President expects them to be treated humanely and consistent with the Geneva Conventions. That's what he has said to the Pentagon, and that's what he expects to happen. We are a nation of values and laws, and we adhere to our values and laws.
Q Why are there so many reports, then, of abuses at Guantanamo?
MR. McCLELLAN: You should direct your questions to the Department of Defense if there are any allegations of abuse. They take them very seriously.
Q You're not aware of any?
MR. McCLELLAN: Okay, Helen, we can disagree on this, but --
Q It isn't a question of -- I'm asking you a very valid question.
MR. McCLELLAN: And you're not letting me respond to it, Helen. I would like to respond to it, but you're not letting me.
Q You said that we don't really have to obey the law in this case, in terms of not giving these people a fair trial and charging them --
MR. McCLELLAN: These are people that are -- that do not adhere to the Geneva Conventions. These are enemy combatants who were picked up on the battlefield trying to do harm to Americans, or plotting to carry out attacks against the American people.
Q How do you know that without charging them?
MR. McCLELLAN: John, go ahead. Helen you've got to let me have a chance to respond. Thank you.
Q I want to ask about the White House Economic Conference next week. What does the President really get out of this? I mean, he pretty much knows what he wants to do in a second term economically, right? He's talked about Social Security. He's talked about the tax code, about trying to make the tax cuts permanent. So what is this supposed to accomplish next week?
MR. McCLELLAN: The President's number -- one of his top priorities is making sure that we are doing everything we can to keep our economy growing stronger and creating jobs. Because of the policies this President has implemented, our economy is growing stronger. And we are seeing strong job creation. Over the last 15 months, we've seen some 2.4 billion new jobs created. But there is more to do. We're in very much a changing economy, where people don't have the same -- don't have the same kind of jobs that they used to. The President has talked about this at length during the campaign, where he wants to help people plan for careers.
But in a changing economy, you need to make sure that workers have the skills they need and the education they need to fill the high growth, high paying jobs that are being created. There are a lot of high paying, high growth jobs being created in the health care sector and the technology sector, and people do not have the skills and -- there are people that do not have the training and skills to fill those jobs. And so we need to continue to build upon all that we have done when it comes to strengthening our economy.
The President has outlined six very clear proposals for strengthening our economy even more. And he wants to talk about those. And he wants to talk about how we keep our economy growing. And this is an opportunity for him to sit down with people from across the business sector and other people to talk about ways that we can continue to strengthen our economy. It's a top priority for the President.
Q Could I ask you what his first economic goal is in terms of legislation of this Congress. Some have said it's the tort reform. It's the cap on damages for pain and suffering, $250,000. Is that the first thing he wants to get through Congress, followed by other things?
MR. McCLELLAN: We're talking with congressional leaders about how we proceed in the second term. And how we move forward on the priorities that the President outlined. The priorities that the President outlined for continuing to keep our economy growing are very clear. He talked about the need for a comprehensive energy plan. He talked about the need for reducing lawsuit abuse. It is a serious matter, and that's one of the things he will be talking about next week at this economic conference and participating in a panel relating to the rising costs associated with lawsuit abuse. He's talked about the importance of continuing to expand trade opportunities. He's talked about the importance of supporting community colleges and a number of other issues.
But we intend to move forward on all those priorities, working very closely with members of Congress to implement them.
Go ahead, Steve.
Q Are you preparing a new supplemental funding request for Iraq? And there's some reports that it could be as much as $100 billion. Is that accurate?
MR. McCLELLAN: We are continuing to talk with the Department of Defense about how we move forward on a supplemental for next year, that we'll make sure our troops have all the resources and equipment they need to continue to do their job. That's the President's top commitment to our troops, making sure that they have the best equipment so that they can complete their mission.
And this builds upon the $87 billion supplemental that we passed last year for Afghanistan and Iraq. The President also set up a $25 billion emergency reserve contingency fund so that there would be no disruption in terms of supplies and equipment that our troops need during the time frame from that supplemental to the time we pass a new supplemental. But we are continuing to talk with the Department of Defense and members of Congress, and we expect to move forward on one at some point early next year.
In terms of the exact cost, that will be determined by what the needs are and the circumstances are on the ground. But the President will make sure that our troops are getting everything they need, and that supplemental is a big part of making sure that happens.
Q Can I follow on that?
MR. McCLELLAN: Go ahead, Bill.
Q If Bernard Kerik is confirmed the head of Homeland Security, he would be in charge of a department which does substantial business with Taser and other firms in which he's had a direct or indirect interests. Is this an ethical conflict of interest?
MR. McCLELLAN: We've looked into all these issues, and obviously, he'll be talking about some of these matters during his confirmation hearing. But the President appointed Commissioner Kerik because he knows he is someone who is firmly committed to helping us win the war on terrorism and make sure that we are doing everything we can to protect the homeland.
We have full confidence in his integrity and we are confident that he will take the appropriate steps necessary to make sure that there are no conflicts there.
Q But even if he is not any longer connected with any of these companies, there is still the perception that he can influence the way the department does business with them, no?
MR. McCLELLAN: We believe he will take all the appropriate steps to make sure that there are no conflicts.
Go ahead, Connie.
Q Thank you. Similar, on the Iraqi situation, there's a report from at least one manufacturer claiming the Army has not given them a go-ahead to build any more armored plating. Is that true, and is there a slow down on that because of budgetary constraints?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry, on the first part of your question, it was the reports relating to these contracts?
Q Yes, there was one manufacturer, at least, who was quoted as saying they could manufacture more metal plating for the Humvees and the others, but they haven't been given any instructions by the military.
MR. McCLELLAN: First of all, let me reiterate, the President is committed to making sure our troops have the best equipment and all the resources they need to do their job. And that's what he expects to happen.
If there -- if our troops need additional resources or equipment, then we will work to make sure that they have that equipment and those resources. And that's why the President worked with Congress to pass the $87 billion supplemental for Afghanistan and Iraq, to make sure that our troops had the armor and had the equipment and had the resources they needed to do their job. That's why he worked to establish that $25 billion emergency contingency fund, so that there is no disruption in the troops getting the equipment. And we're continuing to work through that, as I mentioned to Steve.
In terms of some of these reports, that's just come to our attention. We've talked to the Department of Defense about it. They're looking into it, and I expect they'll be able to tell you more about it once they've had an opportunity to look into it.
Q So, theoretically, orders could be given right away to accelerate the manufacture, if that's the problem?
MR. McCLELLAN: Again, the Department of Defense is looking into it. And when they've had a chance to look into it, I'm sure they can tell you more.
But let me point out that I've been with the President on many occasions when he visits with our troops, and he visits with the families of our troops. One of the first questions the President asks is: Are you getting everything you need? Do you have all the support and do you have everything that you need? And if they have concerns, then the President works to make sure that those concerns are addressed. That's what he's committed to doing.
I have been with him when he has visited with the families and talked to them about -- and thanked them for the sacrifices that they have made. I've been with him when he's visited with --
Q What do they say?
MR. McCLELLAN: -- when he's visited with the soldier at the lowest level of the military, or visited with the sergeant, or visited with the general higher up the chain of command. And I've seen the President talk to them about their concerns and listen to their concerns. And if they have some, then he makes sure that those concerns are addressed.
And in fact, earlier this week, he just went to Camp Pendleton and visited with families and visited with our troops, thanking them for their service and sacrifice. That's the kind of President that he is.
Q Scott, following up the Kerik nomination, Democrats, when it was announced that he was the President's choice, received the news quite warmly -- notably, Senators Schumer and Clinton, as you know. Now with these questions, though, kind of out there about his financial dealings, is there any worry on the part of the White House that his confirmation may be in jeopardy?
MR. McCLELLAN: No. In fact, I think all you need to do is look to the people of New York to see the kind of support that Commissioner Kerik has, because he is someone who has a proven record of working to transform large institutions to make sure that they are doing an even better job than they were before he took that position. He's been the head of a corrections facility. He's been the commissioner of the New York Police Department. He was someone who was one of the first ones on the scene at Ground Zero. And he was there helping to coordinate the response and recovery efforts.
He is someone who is very capable, and someone who has the strong support of those who know him best, on both sides of the aisle. He has the strong support of Democrats and Republicans alike. Mayor Giuliani certainly is a strong supporter of his. Senator Schumer and Senator Clinton have made very strong statements of support for Commissioner Kerik. He is someone that will do a great job at the Department of Homeland Security, and we hope that the Senate will move forward quickly on his nomination next year when the hearings begin.
Go ahead, Wendell.
Q Scott, a couple of questions. The first, does the President, like Ambassador Danforth, still have confidence in Kofi Annan and remain believe he should remain the Secretary General of the United Nations?
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes. I think, one, we've addressed this issue before. And I think that Ambassador Danforth addressed it just yesterday. Secretary General Annan is someone we have worked very closely with on a number of important priorities, like the global AIDS initiative, and like our efforts in Sudan and other areas where we've worked to make the world safer and better. He is someone we will continue to work closely with.
Now, this has all come up recently in the whole oil-for-food program investigation that is ongoing. And I think it's very important for us to continue to emphasize that we expect a full investigation and a transparent investigation. It's important that all the facts be known about this investigation. And we are continuing to urge that that investigation proceed in a way that is fully transparent so that everybody knows exactly what happened with the oil-for-food program. And that's what we continue to emphasize.
At the same time, separate and apart from that, we continue to work with the Secretary General to address some of the priorities that we all share across the globe.
Q And the other question, does the President agree with Secretary Powell that the reluctance of some NATO members to participate in training Iraqi troops is hurting the credibility and cohesion of NATO?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think Secretary Powell stated it very well. When NATO has a mission, it's important for everybody to be supportive of that mission. And there are a number of countries that are participating in the training mission in Iraq. NATO just announced earlier this week that they were increasing the number of people participating in that training mission for the Iraqi people. But in any mission related to NATO, we think it's important for all countries that are members of NATO to be supportive of those efforts.
Q But NATO is an organization that works by consensus: All agree or NATO does not follow. So how is it that you can say that, when obviously there is such reluctance on the part of a number of NATO members to be involved --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, first of all, I think the international community is --
Q -- in training troops in Iraq?
MR. McCLELLAN: -- is strongly behind the efforts of the Iraqi people to realize a free and peaceful future and to move forward on holding elections. The international community is in strong support of the Iraqi people assuming full responsibility for their nation, and there are different ways that the international community can help the Iraqi people. We've seen that, whether it's through debt reduction or reconstruction efforts or troops. There are many ways that the international community can help.
Obviously, each country has to make their own decision. But when it comes to NATO, which you're referring to, we do believe it's important for everybody to be supportive of the missions that NATO sets.
Q Secretary Rumsfeld is in India, right after Mr. Putin's visit. I wonder if he's carrying any special message from the President. And also, I understand that U.S. has offered weapons to India also, as well as Pakistan. So how President feels about that?
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't have any update for you on either of those countries, beyond what we have said recently.
In terms of the Secretary Rumsfeld's trip, I think it's best to talk to the Department of Defense about what he will be talking about.
Q Scott, tomorrow the President will undergo his physical. How will information be disseminated about that? Will it be here? Will it be a piece of paper? Can you --
MR. McCLELLAN: It will go out, like it always does, to everybody. There will be a medical summary that will be provided to everybody from his physical. The President is someone who remains in great physical shape. Anyone that doubts that can just try to go on a mountain bike ride with him and see. But this will be his annual physical tomorrow at Bethesda.
It will also be an opportunity for the President to visit with some of our wounded soldiers who are at Bethesda, our sailors and others who are there. The President looks forward to visiting with them, thanking them for their service and sacrifice, and visiting with their families as well.
Q Two questions, if I may. Afghanistan President Karzai says the drug problem in his country is a cancer more serious than terrorism or the Soviet Union of Afghanistan. Is the President committed to helping Karzai get rid of the opium trade?
MR. McCLELLAN: Absolutely. In fact, we have -- there was just a briefing recently about that very subject, about how we've been supportive of those efforts to crackdown on opium in Afghanistan and crack down on the trade there. The British are playing an important role in helping with those efforts. And President Karzai is someone who is committed to moving that country forward and addressing issues like drugs. So, absolutely.
Q One more?
MR. McCLELLAN: Go ahead.
Q There is a report that nearly 6,000 people in the U.S. wind up in emergency rooms over the holidays because of decorating injuries. What specifically are you and the President doing to hang the holly and the mistletoe safely? (Laughter.) And have orders been issued that there is to be no dipping into the punch bowl while decorating? (Laughter.)
MR. McCLELLAN: I would just say that we have great appreciation for all the staff and the volunteers who help put up the Christmas decorations and the holiday decorations that adorn the White House, and we appreciate all that they have done in that.
Q Follow-up, Scott. (Laughter.)
MR. McCLELLAN: Happy holidays. Go ahead, Les.
Q The Washington Times has twice reported the Center for Military Readiness charged that the U.S. Army is currently violating the Defense Department's ban on women in land combat. In the first of two, the President, as Commander-in-Chief, is aware that most women can't carry male wounded, they can't pass the male strength tests at our service academies, that female POWs have been gang-raped, and that thousands of impregnated women had to be brought home from Desert Storm, isn't he? Isn't he aware of this?
MR. McCLELLAN: Les, let me tell you that the President is grateful for the sacrifice and the service of all our men and our women who serve in uniform. They're doing an outstanding job, and he greatly appreciates it. And that's what I would say in response to that question.
Q A follow-up. Considering the reports from the Air Force Academy, more than 100 rapes as a result of rooming females in the same dormitories as males. Why does the President think it's all right to send women into combat zones where they are so outnumbered by healthy and normal young men with raging hormones?
MR. McCLELLAN: Les, first of all, on the Air Force Academy issue, this is something that the Pentagon has taken very seriously, and they looked into, and they are making it clear that if women have been abused or assaulted in any way, they need to come forward and they will be there to help. That was a very serious matter. It was fully investigated. The Pentagon briefed on it earlier this week. And we expect it to be addressed. And they are working --
Q Wouldn't it be better to put them, the women, in a separate dorm? Wouldn't it be better?
MR. McCLELLAN: They are -- they are working to address it.
Q They're going to do that? Okay.
MR. McCLELLAN: And in terms of all of our men and all of our women who serve in uniform, the President could not be more appreciative or more grateful for their service.
Jay, go ahead.
Q Turning back to the economic summit next week, are there any more details you can give us about what topics are going to be discussed? And are any of these sessions going to be open to the press, including the ones that the President is expecting to attend?
MR. McCLELLAN: I expect it would be similar to some of the summits and other economic meetings that we've had. We will be putting out more information, hopefully later this afternoon. We're still finalizing some of those details. There will be several panel sessions looking at different areas. Like I said earlier, the President will be participating in one relating to the high cost of lawsuit abuse. There are some others that he'll be participating in, as well. And he'll be making remarks at the end of the economic conference to talk about the importance of continuing to take steps to keep our economy growing stronger.
Go ahead.
Q Can I ask about the economic conference, as well? It's a conference, not a summit, like we have in the summer of 2002. What's the difference?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, you're going to see the difference when we put out all the details. I know you all are wanting to get ahead of next Wednesday, but we're going to be putting out details later. There will be several panel sessions with people participating on that to talk about how we can continue to move the economy forward and keep it growing stronger. And the President will be participating in some of those -- a couple of those panels, I believe. The Vice President will be there. The President's economic team will be there, and talking about all these issues.
Q Why not call it a summit, though?
MR. McCLELLAN: Again, Mark, we'll put out all the details later today, but we have different names for different meetings that the President participates in, or different events, and this is called the Conference on the Economy, so the President's Conference on the Economy.
Q Can I ask one other thing about it. Is there any chance that there's going to be anybody speaking at these conferences who, for example, doesn't think private Social Security accounts are a good idea or doesn't think making the tax cuts permanent is a good idea?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, you're going to see the list of people that are participating in this, and I think it will resemble -- or that there will be a wide range of people from the business community participating in this.
I think the President's policies, in terms of how he believes we need to move forward to keep the economy growing are very clear. He talked about them at length during the campaign. And I think that generally speaking, there are going to be people there who are supportive of ways we can continue to move forward on these policies together to keep the economy growing stronger. The President is someone who has a strong record of working to implement pro-growth, pro-jobs economic policies, and we want to use this economic conference as an opportunity to talk about how we can continue to build upon those efforts, and continue to address the needs that our economy faces in a changing economy and the needs of workers in that changing economy.
Q Scott, at the gaggle this morning you said the United States, as a matter of policy, does not support this or that candidate in Ukraine's elections. Congressman Paul has said the overwhelming amount of taxpayer money that went into the Ukraine elections, via NGOs, et cetera, went to help the opposition candidate. Are you absolutely confident that NGOs that receive taxpayer money, U.S. taxpayer money, abide by the same position, that they don't support this or that candidate?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, there is accountability in place that we make sure that that money is being used for the purposes for which it's assigned or designated.
Q I'd like to follow up on Wendell's last question. The United Nations -- there's a report out of London, the United Nations has ordered its staff not to help in the training of the Iraqi prosecutors that are to conduct the war crimes trial of Saddam Hussein. Also, some of our European allies have also declined to assist in training these jurists. How can you say that there is international support for Iraq when these things are taking place by, once again, the United Nations?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think first of all, it's in everybody's interest that a free and peaceful Iraq emerge, and the Iraqi people want that to happen. They are moving forward to hold elections at the end of next month. We're there to support them in those efforts. And the United Nations is playing a role to support the independent Iraqi Election Commission as it moves forward on holding the elections.
Q But it's important for the Iraqi people to close the chapter on Saddam Hussein, that he will be tried for his crimes, and that he will not return to power. How can that be accomplished without the support of the United Nations?
MR. McCLELLAN: He will be tried for the oppression and brutality of his regime. He is someone who is no longer carrying out the atrocities on the American [sic] people. He is now in jail. There is a legal process that has been put in place, and the Iraqis will move forward on that legal process.
Go ahead, Bob.
Q Scott, could you say where the prospects of a new generation of nuclear power plants fits in with the President's vision of economic and energy security for the country?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I mean, the President talked about it in his comprehensive energy plan that he outlined back in 2001, about the importance of diversifying our sources of supply so that we can become less dependent upon foreign sources of energy. And nuclear energy is something that was discussed at length in that energy report. Energy security is important to our economic security and our national security. It's a high priority for the President. The President will continue to talk about ways we can reduce our dependence on foreign sources of energy to make America more energy self-sufficient. And nuclear energy is something he is certainly committed to looking at. He has talked about it in the past on a number of occasions, as well.
Q Scott, going back to NATO, the refusal of some members to participate in the training, do you see that as symbolic or symptomatic of a deeper fissure within NATO than maybe we thought there had been before, given that this is not the first time that this sort of thing has happened?
MR. McCLELLAN: I would leave it where Secretary Powell described it. I think he described it well. He was attending those meetings, and he addressed the matter. I don't think --
Q Do you believe we need a --
MR. McCLELLAN: I was reiterating what he said. But he talked about how some of the differences of the past are behind us now, and we're all focused on helping the Iraqi people build a free and peaceful future, like I said earlier today.
Thank you.
END 1:32 P.M. EST

Saturday, December 04, 2004

One Way to Look at It

The following is from The Philadelphia Independent, a small alternative newspaper. There's something to be said about taking the long, historical view of human progress, or the lack of the same. Perhaps if we can look at our current situation through a longer lens it will all make sense and maybe give us a little peace.

Necks Elect Noose
by Alexander Swartwout
November 2004

America is the greatest damned mass of foolish, ignorant peasantry the world has ever produced. Not once before in the human race's mutable existence has there been a nation of such monumental idiocy; and what's more astounding is that history has given these dopes self-determination. In the exercise of this self-determination, America (if we are not so skeptical but as to actually believe the tally) has chosen to let George W. Bush lead it for another four critical years, and we are at once given a demonstration of our extraordinary mass moronism, and of the stunning depth of our ancestors' genius. Now it might seem to go against my famous tempered humanity to say such a thing as this—to argue that I, in fact, know better than sixty million American citizens. How can I, you ask, call the whole race stupid and still claim to admire it as a humanist must? Well, this is exactly what I am arguing. I do know better than the lot of you: it is my occupation to do so, it is the singular reason that I have taken up the mantle of public philosopher. I know that the sensible choice this Tuesday past would have been to exterminate the presidency of Mr. Bush, and to every one of those who cast their vote for this outcome, I offer that you are a buffoon and an intellectual stumblebum, if you love your country and your species. But unlike the rest of my punditious colleagues, who will be reeling for months once they have finally summoned the muster to resume their work, I will not dwell on the outcome. You are idiots, all, but there is method to it—and it is my job, also, to understand this. Under such circumstances as our nation today finds itself—where the immense mass of citizens are half-educated ingrates, where the people are completely cut off from their own experience of the wider world by the extraordinary power of technology and informative media, where religion and superstition have filled the mushy minds of an entire generation of frightened recluses—under such circumstances as these, how are we to celebrate the idea of democracy, how are we to wish for the rule of the majority, when indeed the majority is not fit to rule themselves? Msrs. Jefferson, Madison, Hamilton and the rest have devised just such a conundrum into their marvelous political equation. The democracy they built was designed to destroy itself, and this week it has accomplished just that. A free man, as the philosophers of the eighteenth century perceived him, could do and say what he pleases, so long as he does not adversely affect his neighbors; a free man may look and think as he likes, so long as he does not cause physical harm to his surroundings. But the American people have had enough of this freedom—and so they have granted it into the hands of Mr. Bush's cabal. Indeed, Mr. Bush is compelled to realize his agenda in the name of ‘freedom;' and yet Mr. bin Laden is compelled by the same thing. Each want their people to be free and unharassed, and each is prepared to scorch the earth and enslave their own native dissenters to accomplish it. Such freedom is dubious at best, where it comes at the cost of another's. George W. Bush is the embodiment of the end of just rule by the people. This is not to say that he was not justly elected—regardless of the means of his ascendance, he represents the last figure to be freely chosen by the American electorate, because under his continued administration, we shall cease to be free as the framers defined it. This is because Mr. Bush's handlers and political philosophers believe they know better than the people—as surely as I do. And yet where I know better from the privacy of my den or the quietude of my tower, and harmlessly make my announcements in ink and pencil, the Republican demagogues are determined to exercise their superiority by legislating the behavior of the citizenry. They shall determine what is legal and illegal to say and do; they shall legislate how we are able to take care of ourselves physically and economically; they shall determine where we live and how we die, by pulling the strings of money and manipulating the very material of the natural world. They will do this because the population is stupid, and in their stupidity, the population desires it, and registered this desire, by a great effort of their overweight and overtired persons, in the boobytrapped funhouses that our polling-places have been allowed to become. The population, in a democratic fashion, has chosen to demolish the democratic republic. Jefferson would have had it just the same way—it is the genius of the democratic model after all—though perhaps he would have been more proud to see it last a bit longer. Still, he knew that when an electorate becomes too ill-informed and too weakly-equipped to uphold its duty to itself, it shall earn and it shall receive the government it wants, and the relevance of his constitution would quietly dissolve. To the portion of us who didn't think it was quite time to destroy our democracy, and who attended the polls hoping to demonstrate at the least our desire to prolong our society's descent into medievalism, this might seem like a horrible tragedy; but we must acknowledge that we are outnumbered by rubes, and that the only way the human race might ever enjoy the fruits of freedom and the pleasure of human enlightenment again is to tear down what is ruined and rebuild it. The mistake we have made to this point is to think that this election is so important; to believe that these four years might make all the difference. In truth, the demise of our society is much more deep-rooted. George W. Bush is the newest embodiment, the most fully realized embodiment, of this degradation, but he is not a novel monster just come out of the void. The majority of the citizens of this country are not capable of liberty. We reside today in their country. And so four-year terms are not the units of history. History is slow and grand and great, and we are victimized by our own impatience in believing it can be steered around a bend as sharp as one single November. We must recognize the cycles of human history for the large sweeping arcs that they are, and know that ever since the Founding Fathers established our society by the light of European intellectual development, the cycle of history has been swinging away in the opposite direction. Perhaps we have come to the apogee of human enlightenment in the superstitious reign of Junior Bush; or perhaps we are doomed to go still further. Regardless, we ought to look and realize that the change we seek is one that will only come over the course of generations, of centuries, through the birth and death of nations and the rise and fall of great ideas. In the near term we shall lose our liberty, we shall be robbed of our human rights, and we shall see our nation turned into a kingdom of misguided divinity. We have little choice, as individuals, but to stop ‘fighting for it,' and begin fighting against it. For it is no longer a democracy, it is no longer the seat of freedom. America is the world's most dangerous nest of superstition and religious intolerance; the most sharp-fanged enemy to true intellectual and personal liberty; and the most seductive chimera of opportunity and promise. This country is not any longer Jefferson's noble resurrection of Athens; it is the modern Saudi Arabia of Christendom, the refuge of crusaders and bigots and fearmongers. Until now, we have been content or deluded in believing that our democracy was intact, and that in spite of its flaws, it was a self-healing mechanism. Imagine what you might be feeling today in a land governed by the Senator from Massachusetts. Is everything better? Is the urgency gone? Is the crisis passed, and the world, astonishingly, recovered? You might likely feel these sensations, but of course you would be perfectly deluded to the reality. Our society and our system are maimed by our sloth, our intellectual impotence, and our lack of concern or sympathy. And the only mechanism built into our system of governance to repair it under such conditions is not a healing one, but a self-destructive one. All that remains in our country of Jeffersonian democracy and Enlightenment secularism is the memory of the ideal, and it is this that we are charged with carrying forth and planting anew; it is this that those of us who know better, or know other, are obliged to give our lives to. The pendulum of history does not brush us briefly in our youth—it collides with us and demolishes our tranquility, and forces us to dedicate our whole existence to it. If you perhaps thought a few months of activism would straighten out the world, you have this week met the truth of the profundity of the human dilemma. We are a century from the nearest conceivable renaissance of reason and humanism, and in proportion to our own anemia, its date of arrival outstrips us. Our pride or our optimism or our slumbering reason has until now prevented us from realizing that we reside in an utterly dark age and in the land from which that darkness emanates. Science and reason and sense are nearly vanished from our society, and the great majority desire to be ruled by fear of the supernatural, ignorance, intolerance, and blindness. The majority of our countrymen are content to wage war for its own sake, they are content to annihilate populations unlike their own, they are content to be relieved of the responsibility for being human. They are content to lean back and let a mysterious, wrathful God govern their fate, and to dictate what is right and wrong. They are content, in short, to give away their liberty and become slaves of idiotic ideology, and in so doing to abandon the legacy of their country's founders. The United States is only the same nation it was in name; but it is not that country of hope and opportunity and possibility and absolute human freedom anymore. And it has not been this for some time—the great gift Mr. Bush might have given to us in his victory is a clear, long overdue picture of our country as the unlikely enemy of true human freedom. The last thing our democracy was ever meant to do was bring the hammer down upon itself. There the shards of our enlightened society will lay until enough members of an enlightened generation can be summoned to rebuild it. Until then, those of us who know better have nothing to do but to fight that shadowy thing that now stands in our old nation's place.Alexander Swartwout edited Three Weeks, a newspaper in Queens, New York.

Friday, December 03, 2004

A Rant On My Current State of Mind

I’ve been a news and current events hound since my awakening to vileness of Bush & Co., and all the issues surrounding his rise to power. If nothing else, hating him and his fellow Christian crypto-fascists riles up my passions and makes me feel alive. The downside is that I’m becoming a junky for those passionate feelings, any passionate feelings really. To compound it I’ve started reading internet weblogs and political blogs and alternative news sources, which are an endless chain that can never be followed to any satisfactory ending. So many good thoughts and ideas, so many political and social abstractions, and so much to think about. Trying to understand hurts my brain and sometimes rips my comprehension to shreds. What’s the right thing to say to an Iraqi sixteen year old girl who has a car in the street in front of her house full of bullet holes and gouts of innocent blood? How do I reply to the twisted wisdom of people who carry their ideological agenda like a gigantic American flag? There’s a sickness in the world. An age-old sickness that now has a means of spreading itself across the globe via TV and the internet. I long for our previous world; the world of worked-for access to knowledge—you know, back when to fully understand anything you had to sit down with a book and read. I hate the time in which we’re living. I feel like the world has been hijacked. I want the past back, and not in a sappy, nostalgic, Saturday Evening Post sort of way either. The past in which there was a genuine caring for the common men and women who worked for a living--in other words, a real republic. Maybe it’s just a longing for innocence, but whatever it is I want it back. Time is what we lack today—time to digest and think about how we feel before our understanding is swept away beneath us. Previously, I would read books (poetry, fiction, history, et al), perhaps read The New Yorker, and see no TV at all (I didn’t have one for twelve years)--now my brain is overwhelmed with input. Sometimes I hate myself. Is there anyone else out there who feels the same way?
Forgive my griping. I’m going to go and get a shower now and see if I can make myself feel clean and good.

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