Thursday, June 02, 2005
Wachovia Apologized for owning slaves: more evidence American Capitalism is really: CHEATERS MONOPOLY
So let me give you a little lesson for those of you that just don't get it. I call it "Cheaters Monopoly." It's a little game I came up with to help those of you who don't understand the capitalist system and why it's important to know how people acquired their wealth. (and remember the Supreme Court has said that corporations are people, so dont try to hide behind that.)
Get a group of your friends together. Preferably about 8 of you and get your Monopoly board out. Now you have to get a piece of paper and write the following eight categories on it: White Protestant male1, White Protestant Male2, White Immigrant Male, White Female, Native American, Black, Asian, and Latino.
Now take this piece of paper and cut it into the eight categories and put them all in a hat. Then each person takes a turn pulling a piece of paper from the hat. Whatever you pull from the hat is your category for the duration of the monopoly game. For example if you pull the paper that says "White Protestant Male" (and there should be two) from the hat then you get to play by the White Protestant Male rules. If you pull another category you play by that categories rules.
Here are the rules. The game starts as a regular monopoly game. The only big difference is that whomever pulled Native American from the hat gets to be the banker and gets to have all the property cards first, with the exception of any of the utilities or railroads. Any player who lands on a piece of property owned by the Native American gets to take it from him. The Native American does get to keep Mediterranean Avenue until the completion of the game as this is the least valuable piece of property on the board.
In addition, any player who pulled "White Protestant Male" from the hat plays the game according to normal monopoly rules, except that he doesn't have to buy property when he lands on it, he just gets to take it from the Native American if the Native American is still holding it.
In addition, the White Immigrant Male has to wait until the White Protestant Males have gone around the board once before they are allowed to play. And they start the game with half the starting cash of the White Protestant Male. Otherwise their rules are the same as the White Protestant Males.
If you pulled the term White Female from the hat you don't get to start the game until all the White Males have gone around the board 10 times. You start the game with the same amount of money as the White Immigrant male and continue to play normally. If you want to you can choose to "marry" one of the White Males which will allow you to merge with him. He will then control all your finances and property and you are effectively eliminated from the game but you can enjoy the benefits of watching your husband win.
If you have pulled the term Asian from the hat you don't get to start the game until all the other players, White males and White females have gone around the board 10 times. You don't start the game with any money. And once you've gone around the board 10 times, assuming you're still in the game, the white males get to take all your property and money and you go directly to jail for 5 turns. If you manage to make it through 10 more turns you will get 10% of your property and money back and you get to start again.
If you pulled the term Latino from the board you get to start the game with a single piece of property, Pacific Avenue. You also must wait to start the game until the White males have gone around the board 10 times and you also start with no money.
If you pulled the term Black from the hat you start the game the same time as the White Protestant Males. You do not get to start with any money, you are not allowed to buy property until the White Protestant Males have gone around the board 40 times and any money you receive as a result of community chests or for any other reasons are divided amongst the White Males. If you incur any debts they will stay with you even after you are finally allowed to keep your earnings and begin to buy property after the White Males have gone around the board 40 times.
Now that you know the rules, get out there and show everybody why White Males Rule!
And remember that every time you hear a white guy say "I never owned slaves!" he's really trying to get you to forget the benefits that have accrued to him over generations. When he claims "We should hire the best man for the job!", he's really trying to get you to forget that for CENTURIES, the phrase "best man for the job" really meant the best White Man for the job. Remember that every time someone says "Hey but we're all equal now" just remember that he's trying to get you to forget that in the Game of Monopoly, once you own all the property, it's easy to allow others to join the game and blame them if they can't succeed.
Dick & Bush Masters of the Straw Man: and shockingly W knows the word disassemble.
"I'm aware of the Amnesty International report, and it's absurd. It's an absurd allegation," Bush replied.
"The United States is a country that promotes freedom around the world. When there's accusations made about certain actions by our people, they're fully investigated in a transparent way. It's just an absurd allegation." TRANSPARENT WAY? Why is it then that Amnesty International is prevented from observing the United States detention centers directly? Dear Georgie: countries like Libya and Sudan allow Amnesty International observers because it prevents dissenters from spreading lies about the current regimes.
The president alleged that some of the accusations by detainees were made by "people who hate America, people that have been trained in some instances to disassemble, that means not tell the truth." (Editor's note: We think the 'tard-in-chief meant DISSEMBLE meaning to deliberately mislead or distort, you know like Fox News or Scott McClellan.)
Dear Georgie, if the detainees “hate America” then shouldn’t we have open international observers at all stages of interrogation so that they are prevented from “disassembling?” And if all these detainees “hate America” why is it that we have released so many of them after years of detention without ever charging them with any crimes? I’m sure if they didn’t “hate America” before they were detained in American gulag’s they sure did by the time we released them.
The Amnesty International report has riled the US administration with Vice President Dick Cheney saying Sunday he was "offended" by the accusations.
"I think the fact of the matter is the United States has done more to advance the cause of freedom, has liberated more people from tyranny over the course of the 20th century and up to the present day than any other nation in the history of the world," Cheney said.
Dear Dick: Your previous statement is what is known in logic as the straw man fallacy. You have overstated the position of Amnesty International. Amnesty International did not accused the UNITED STATES of failing to advance the cause of liberty during the 20th Century. Amnesty International did accused THIS ADMINISTRATION of operating a gulag. You did not respond to their accusation directly, instead you opted to pretend that Amnesty International was attacking the entire United States and it history. (and on a side note you right wingnuts usually save this type of bullshit for attacking us liberals, I guess now it's applied to anyone who disagrees with you.)
In addition, your statement that “the United States has done more to advance the cause of liberty than any other nation in the history of the world” is irrelevant to whether or not the present administration of the United States is operating a gulag.
Dear Dick: Just because the United States has done some good in the world doesn’t mean we are allowed to cash in on that good by violating one of our most cherished American values, that we are a nation that respects due process of law, rather than the arbitrary whims of the President. Fuck you, you fascist pig!
Hugs and Kisses,
YOU MAY HAVE BEEN BRAINWASHED BY THE CORPORATE MEDIA IF YOU:
... believe $300 billion of U.S. tax money, allocated for the war and reconstruction in Iraq is actually going to Iraq .
... are unaware Iraq had 650 million barrels of oil in reserve just before the war in Iraq .
... are unaware at least $8.8 billion is known to be missing in Iraqi oil revenue from the period the U.S. was in control of Iraq .
... are unaware 198 million in Iraqi dollars is missing from the Iraq treasury from the period the U.S. was in control of Iraq .
... are unaware that war is exceptionally profitable for a small number of investors.
... believe Halliburton's no-bid contracts have nothing to do with former CEO, now Vice President Dick Cheney.
... are unaware that the Iraq war is the biggest case of war profiteering in human history.
... believe Saddam Hussein or Iraq had anything to do with 9/11, Al Qaeda or Osama bin Laden.
... are unaware the U.S. has killed more than 10,000 innocent women and children in Iraq with cluster bombs and depleted uranium munitions.
... believe depleted uranium weapons are not radioactive or deadly weapons of mass destruction (they are 12% less radioactive than nuclear weapons grade uranium and very deadly).
... believe wealthy, warmongers can also be true Christians.
... are unaware stem cell research threatens the pharmaceutical industry by curing and preventing diseases which drug companies profit from by treating with drugs.
... are unaware the pharmaceutical industry is based entirely on treatment and is threatened by cures and prevention.
... are unaware the Food and Drug Administration does NO testing of food or drugs. They only set guidelines and review the testing corporations do of their own products.
... are unaware the Medicare Prescription Drug and Modernization Act has been 're- estimated' to cost U.S. taxpayers $1.3 Trillion (not the original $243 billion or the 'adjusted' $400 billion), and only pharmaceutical corporations and HMOs benefit from the increase.
... are unaware the Boston Tea party was a protest against corporate corruption (East India Company).
... are unaware our founding fathers intentionally made sure that corporations had no power over people or our government.
... are unaware corporations have fought aggressively and systematically over the past 200 years to increase their power and influence over our government.
... are unaware U.S. corporations are now protected under the 14th amendment as a legal 'person.'
... are unaware the definition of fascism is: 'The marriage of corporation and state' -- Benito Mussolini.
... are unaware well known U.S. corporate interests attempted a military coup against Franklin Roosevelt in 1933.
... are unaware most corrupt and wasteful government projects are run primarily by corporate contractors.
... are unaware 'less government' means paying corporate contractors three times what we pay government workers to do the same work.
... are unaware American corporations behave very differently in other countries.
... are unaware Enron and others were NOT investigated until they collapsed under the weight of their own greed.
... are unaware Bush's massive tax cuts were invested overseas to build sweat shops, factories and other facilities, where our jobs have been outsourced.
... are unaware outsourcing American jobs weakens labor unions and keeps wages low and corporate profits high .
... are unaware weak enforcement of immigration laws lowers wages in the U.S. and increases corporate profits.
... are unaware 'Free Trade' means 'Slave Wages' to poor people in Honduras, Bangladesh, China, Malaysia, Burma, Cambodia, Dominican Republic, Colombia, Philippines, Thailand, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Nepal, El Salvador, Guatemala, Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and others.
... believe America is hated all over the world because of our freedom.
... believe the massive U.S. national debt (now $7,786,000,000,000) created by Republican presidents Reagan, Bush and Bush does not seriously threaten the future of our children and grandchildren.
... are unaware massive national debt ensures the expansion of poverty, which keeps wages low, which increases corporate profits.
... are unaware widespread poverty keeps wages low and corporate profits high.
... are unaware weak gun control laws perpetuate violence in poor neighborhoods which expands poverty, reduces wages and increases corporate profits.
... are unaware abortions go down only when we reduce poverty, expand healthcare and improve education.
... are unaware that making abortion illegal expands poverty which reduces wages and increases corporate profits.
... believe the Michael Jackson trial deserved more news coverage than the genocide of 400,000 people in Darfur , Sudan.
... believe Social Security is the biggest priority in America .
... are unaware privatizing Social Security would be a massive give away to experienced Wall Street investors that would also destabilize Social Security.
... are unaware that NOT funding 'No Child Left Behind' is dismantling funding for schools in poor neighborhoods, which expands poverty, lowers wages and increases corporate profits.
... are unaware the Healthy Forests Initiative has led to massive clear cutting of prime lumber and almost none of the forest fire prevention that it was sold on.
... are unaware the Clear Skies Initiative has increased pollution.
... are unaware Tort Reform will absolve corporations of massive negligent liabilities for things like asbestos exposure, pollution, mercury poisoning, hazardous waste, mad cow disease and all sorts of dangerous products and practices.
... are unaware mercury pollution (mostly from coal fired power plants and medical vaccines) has caused an epidemic of Autism, ADD and ADHD in the U.S.
... are unaware the Bush administration is dismantling three decades of US environmental protection.
... believe global warming is a rumor or conspiracy.
... are unaware 'Global Warming' is causing colder weather because the melting ice caps are cooling the gulf stream.
... believe the science of evolution is less valid than literal fundamentalist interpretation of creationism.
... believe the UN scandals could have taken place without the largest, most influential member and host nation being involved.
... believe making a war monger ambassador to the UN will help prevent more wars.
... are unaware that expanding equal rights to any segment of the population (including gay people) also expands economic opportunity and puts pressure on wages, which would reduce corporate profits.
If you believe Fox News is fair and balanced, you have been brainwashed by corporate owned media.
BY TODD SMYTH
Wednesday, June 01, 2005
The Bush Administration Was For Amnesty International Before It Was Against It
For Amnesty International to suggest that somehow the United States is a violator of human rights, I frankly just don’t take them seriously.
Other Administration officials have similarly been quick to lash out against the Amnesty report. White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan said the allegations were “ridiculous and unsupported by the facts.” Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Richard Myers called the Amnesty International report “absolutely irresponsible.”
But in the past, when it was convenient to the Administration, they did not hesitate to cite Amnesty to make its case. And nowhere did the Administration need more help than in selling the Iraq war. Secretary Rumsfeld repeatedly turned to Amnesty to highlight the repressive nature of Saddam’s regime. On March 27, 2003, Rumsfeld said:
We know that it’s a repressive regime…Anyone who has read Amnesty International or any of the human rights organizations about how the regime of Saddam Hussein treats his people…
The next day, Rumsfeld even cited his “careful reading” of Amnesty:
…[I]t seems to me a careful reading of Amnesty International or the record of Saddam Hussein, having used chemical weapons on his own people as well as his neighbors, and the viciousness of that regime, which is well known and documented by human rights organizations, ought not to be surprised.
And on April 1, 2003, Rumsfeld said once again:
[I]f you read the various human rights groups and Amnesty International’s description of what they know has gone on, it’s not a happy picture.
So the rule here appears to be: Amnesty is a legitimate source for human rights violations of other countries, but is an unreliable and irresponsible source for reporting on the U.S.
Convicted Felon Calls National Hero "Unethical"
why the hell do we care what G. Gordon Liddy says? He's a convicted burglar, wiretapper and all around "unethical" guy. Mark Felt is a National hero. He had the courage to stand up against Nixon and his thugs who hated Democracy and sought to undermine the Constitution at every turn. We the editors of the Obfuscation Report wish to thank Mr. Felt, and all the other whistleblowers out there who love America and the Constitution. Thank You. We need more people in positions of power willing to tell the truth and expose the lies of those who seek to control us and our country without regard to the principles that this great country was founded upon. ~somadude
Tuesday, May 31, 2005
Iraq War Costs Spiraling out of Control. Now the Bush Lie Machine has cranked up to spread the lie that they never said it would be cheap.
The cost of Iraq War projected to reach 600 billion. Remember what the Bushies said about the cost?
Earlier this year, experts said the war and aftermath in Iraq would cost hundreds of billions of dollars, a fact the White House refused to acknowledge as valid, even going so far as to fire Lawrence Lindsey for his realistic projections. In September, 2003, Paul Wolfowitz even told the Senate “no one said we would know anything other than this would be very bloody, it could be very long and by implication, it could be very expensive." Here’s a record of what the administration, in fact, said:
Budget Director Mitch Daniels
Ø On September 15th 2002, White House economic advisor Lawrence Lindsay estimated the high limit on the cost to be 1-2% of GNP, or about $100-$200 billion. Mitch Daniels, Director of the Office of Management and Budget subsequently discounted this estimate as “very, very high” and stated that the costs would be between $50-$60 billion [Source: WSJ, “Bush Economic Aide Says Cost Of Iraq War May Top $100 Billion,” Davis 09/16/02; NYT, “Estimated Cost of Iraq War Reduced, Bumiller, 12/31/02; Reuters News, “Daniels sees U.S. Iraq war cost below $200 billion,” 09/18/02]
Ø “When a reporter asked Daniels yesterday whether the administration was preparing to ask other countries to help defray possible Iraq war costs, as the United States did for the 1991 war, the budget director said he knew of no such plans. Other countries are having economic downturns of their own, he said.” [Source: Pittsburgh-Post Gazette, “Byrd attacks cost of possible Iraq War, McFeatters, 9/25/02]
Ø “There’s just no reason that this can’t be an affordable endeavor.” [Source: Reuters, “U.S. Officials Play Down Iraq Reconstruction Needs,” Entous, 4/11/03]
Ø “The United States is committed to helping Iraq recover from the conflict, but Iraq will not require sustained aid.” [Source: Washington Post, 4/21/03]
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld
Ø “Well, the Office of Management and Budget, has come up come up with a number that's something under $50 billion for the cost. How much of that would be the U.S. burden, and how much would be other countries, is an open question.” [Source: Media Stakeout, 1/19/03]
Ø “I don’t know that there is much reconstruction to do.” [Source: Reuters, “U.S. Officials Play Down Iraq Reconstruction Needs,” Entous, 4/11/03]
Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz
Ø “I think it's necessary to preserve some ambiguity of exactly where the numbers are.” [Source: House Budget Committee, 2/27/03]
Top Economist Adviser Glen Hubbard
Ø “Costs of any such intervention would be very small.” [Source: CNBC, 10/4/02]
Budget Director Josh Bolten
Ø “We don't anticipate requesting anything additional for the balance of this year.” [Source: Congressional Testimony , 7/29/03]
Past Comments About How Much Iraq Would Cost
The Bush administration promised reconstruction of Iraq could be financed through oil revenue, which they said would provide tens of billions of dollars. However, according to the New York Times, devastated and decrepit production systems leave the country “unable to make any significant contribution.”
Press Secretary Ari Fleischer: “Well, the reconstruction costs remain a very -- an issue for the future. And Iraq, unlike Afghanistan, is a rather wealthy country. Iraq has tremendous resources that belong to the Iraqi people. And so there are a variety of means that Iraq has to be able to shoulder much of the burden for their own reconstruction.” [Source: White House Press Briefing, 2/18/03]
Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage: “This is not Afghanistan…When we approach the question of Iraq, we realize here is a country which has a resource. And it’s obvious, it’s oil. And it can bring in and does bring in a certain amount of revenue each year…$10, $15, even $18 billion…this is not a broke country.” [Source: House Committee on Appropriations Hearing on a Supplemental War Regulation, 3/27/03]
Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz: “There’s a lot of money to pay for this that doesn’t have to be U.S. taxpayer money, and it starts with the assets of the Iraqi people…and on a rough recollection, the oil revenues of that country could bring between $50 and $100 billion over the course of the next two or three years…We’re dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction, and relatively soon.” [Source: House Committee on Appropriations Hearing on a Supplemental War Regulation, 3/27/03]
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld: “If you [Source: worry about just] the cost, the money, Iraq is a very different situation from Afghanistan…Iraq has oil. They have financial resources.” [Source: Fortune Magazine, Fall 2002]
State Department Official Alan Larson: “On the resource side, Iraq itself will rightly shoulder much of the responsibilities. Among the sources of revenue available are $1.7 billion in invested Iraqi assets, the found assets in Iraq…and unallocated oil-for-food money that will be deposited in the development fund.” [Source: Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearing on Iraq Stabilization, 06/04/03]
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld: “I don't believe that the United States has the responsibility for reconstruction, in a sense…[Reconstruction] funds can come from those various sources I mentioned: frozen assets, oil revenues and a variety of other things, including the Oil for Food, which has a very substantial number of billions of dollars in it. [Source: Senate Appropriations Hearing, 3/27/03]
Makes one long for the days when a President could be Impeached for lying about a blowjob.
Minneapolis Star Tribune Editorial: Finally a major newspaper has the balls to call Bush a liar. Now if the rest of the left wing media would wake up
In exchange for our uniformed young people's willingness to offer the gift of their lives, civilian Americans owe them something important: It is our duty to ensure that they never are called to make that sacrifice unless it is truly necessary for the security of the country. In the case of Iraq, the American public has failed them; we did not prevent the Bush administration from spending their blood in an unnecessary war based on contrived concerns about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. President Bush and those around him lied, and the rest of us let them. Harsh? Yes. True? Also yes. Perhaps it happened because Americans, understandably, don't expect untruths from those in power. But that works better as an explanation than as an excuse.
The "smoking gun," as some call it, surfaced on May 1 in the London Times. It is a highly classified document containing the minutes of a July 23, 2002, meeting at 10 Downing Street in which Sir Richard Dearlove, head of Britain's Secret Intelligence Service, reported to Prime Minister Tony Blair on talks he'd just held in Washington. His mission was to determine the Bush administration's intentions toward Iraq.
At a time when the White House was saying it had "no plans" for an invasion, the British document says Dearlove reported that there had been "a perceptible shift in attitude" in Washington. "Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The (National Security Council) had no patience with the U.N. route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime's record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action."
It turns out that former counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke and former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill were right. Both have been pilloried for writing that by summer 2002 Bush had already decided to invade.
Walter Pincus, writing in the Washington Post on May 22, provides further evidence that the administration did, indeed, fix the intelligence on Iraq to fit a policy it had already embraced: invasion and regime change. Just four days before Bush's State of the Union address in January 2003, Pincus writes, the National Security Council staff "put out a call for new intelligence to bolster claims" about Saddam Hussein's WMD programs. The call went out because the NSC staff believed the case was weak. Moreover, Pincus says, "as the war approached, many U.S. intelligence analysts were internally questioning almost every major piece of prewar intelligence about Hussein's alleged weapons programs." But no one at high ranks in the administration would listen to them.
On the day before Bush's speech, the CIA's Berlin station chief warned that the source for some of what Bush would say was untrustworthy. Bush said it anyway. He based part of his most important annual speech to the American people on a single, dubious, unnamed source. The source was later found to have fabricated his information.
Also comes word, from the May 19 New York Times, that senior U.S. military leaders are not encouraged about prospects in Iraq. Yes, they think the United States can prevail, but as one said, it may take "many years."
As this bloody month of car bombs and American deaths -- the most since January -- comes to a close, as we gather in groups small and large to honor our war dead, let us all sing of their bravery and sacrifice. But let us also ask their forgiveness for sending them to a war that should never have happened. In the 1960s it was Vietnam. Today it is Iraq. Let us resolve to never, ever make this mistake again. Our young people are simply too precious.
Why I'm joining the GOP: Leaving the left for fun and profit
Sunday, May 29, 2005
After a lifetime voting for and working for Democratic candidates and independents, I'm finally going to make the switch and become a Republican.
The reasons are many, not the least of which is age. I turned 55 recently and, having lived more than half my life, I can't afford to worry anymore about the other guy. It's time for me.
As a Republican, I can now proudly -- indeed, defiantly -- pledge to never again vote for anyone who raises taxes for any reason. To hell with roads, bridges, schools, police and fire protection, Medicare, Social Security and regulation of the airwaves.
President Bush has promised to give me more tax cuts even though our federal government owes trillions of dollars to its creditors. But that's someone else's problem, not mine. Republicans are about the here and now, and I'm here now.
As a Republican, I can favor exploiting the environment for everything she's got. No need to worry about quaint notions like posterity and natural legacy. There are plenty of resources left for everyone, and if we don't use them, someone else will.
I want a party that doesn't worry about things before we have to. Republicans refuse to get hog-tied by theories such as global warming, ozone depletion, fished-out oceans and disappearing wetlands. The real problems -- if there are any -- aren't forecast to take hold for at least 50 years. So what do I care? I'll be dead.
As a Republican, I can swagger and clamor for war -- in Iraq, Afghanistan, Colombia, wherever -- even though I've never fought in one or even been in the military. I can claim that we're fighting for Democracy, ignoring reports of torture at Abu Ghraib, Bagram Air Base and Guantanamo Bay, and a spreading gulag of secret detention centers around the world.
Freedom, as every American should know after spending $300 billion for wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, isn't free.
As a Republican, I can insist on strict moral values when it comes to sex and ignore the growing moral chasms in business, politics, sports, journalism and the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church.
A society that loses control of its sexual urges faces unwanted pregnancies, socially transmitted disease, broken families. Those overzealous about wealth, however, produce only a higher GDP, lifelong security for their family and more minimum wage jobs for the lower classes. What's wrong with that?
As a Republican, I can favor strict punishment of criminals, except for those who happen to be my friends or neighbors. Isn't that the very definition of community -- looking out for friends and family?
I will be pro-death penalty and anti-abortion, pro-child but anti-child care, for education but against funding of public schools. As a Republican, I'll have a better chance of getting to spout my opinions in the media, which for some reason seems convinced that since Bush was re-elected with the smallest electoral margin of any sitting president in history, liberals are passe.
As a Republican, I'll say goodbye to "old Jesus" and hello to "new Jesus. " Sure Christ started out as a liberal Jew, and look where that got him. Compassion, love and diatribes against the rich only encourage the weak and punish the most successful among us. The Jesus that Republicans worship is a muscular, decisive, pro-war crusader hard at work cleansing the world of evildoers, not, God forbid, turning the other cheek.
My decision to become a Republican didn't come easily. For years I clung to the idea that the foundation of a democratic society was our implied social contract, each of us committing some level of personal sacrifice to the common good of all.
I regarded taxes as dues we pay for better roads and schools, safe inspection of meat and dairy products, maintenance of parks and protection of wilderness areas. I see now that looking out for the common good resulted in shortchanging the most important element in this formula -- me.
Let Democrats continue promising the "greatest good for the greatest number." Republicans clearly have my number -- No. 1.
I'm sure a lot of my friends reading this will ask me, "How can you sleep?" My answer will be, "Who's got time? I'm busy earning money." While they're bellyaching about rising deficits, the outsourcing of jobs and casualties in Iraq, I'll be marveling at the march of freedom in the Middle East, upticks in the GDP and the president's plan to link Social Security to the magic of the marketplace.
As a Republican, I simply won't listen to bad news anymore. Bad news doesn't get me or my family anywhere. If you don't have anything good to say about somebody, don't say anything at all -- unless it happens to be about a Democrat, of course.
Freedom's just another word for dodging tough questions
BY DEBRA PICKETT SUN-TIMES COLUMNIST
The news from Washington is like a bad Broadway show, the kind that promises to make you laugh and cry and be better than "Cats."
The comedy came first. On Monday, President Bush stood beside Afghan President Hamid Karzai for a "Joint Press Availability."
Asked if the Iraqi insurgency was getting more difficult to defeat militarily, Bush answered with a classic Dubya-ism.
"No, I don't think so," he said, "I think they're being defeated. And that's why they continue to fight."
It's the sort of answer that makes you pause and scratch your head for just long enough to give him a chance to change the subject. He's quite masterful at doing this, which made me wonder if he hadn't taken Karzai aside before the press conference and whispered in his ear, "Listen, Hammie, these reporters are tricky. You better let me handle 'em. I've got 'em wrapped around my finger with this whole newspeak war-is-peace idea Karl found in some book from the 1980s."
But Bush's Orwellian logic -- good for only a cynical chuckle -- was definitely not the comic high point of the afternoon. Instead, for sheer free press-thwarting brilliance, Karzai easily won the day.
After the two men made some opening remarks, talking about the glories of bringing democracy to Afghanistan, Bush announced, "And in the spirit of the free press, we'll answer a couple of questions."
Afghanistan's 'free' press
The first question dealt with the military's treatment of Afghan prisoners of war. It was full of facts and details and built-in follow-ups, so you could tell the reporter asking it would probably never get called on again. And, after this rocky start, Bush decided to let the American reporters cool their heels for a while.
"Somebody from the Afghan press?" he asked next.
There was an awkward silence, which Karzai gamely tried to fill in by asking, "Anybody from the Afghan press? Do we have an Afghan press?"
Then he spotted the single reporter his government had permitted to travel outside Afghanistan.
"Oh, here he is," Karzai said, as the room filled with the not-quite-warm laughter of people who suspect they might actually be the butt of a joke but aren't sure.
It turned out, National Public Radio journalist David Greene reported later, there were nine other Afghan reporters who were to have followed Karzai on his U.S. visit but, at the last minute, the Karzai government decided to withhold their travel permits for fear the journalists might try to escape their troubled homeland.
Bush seemed genuinely surprised that the Afghan reporters weren't there -- American journalists had been asked to fill in their empty seats -- so it seems that Karzai forgot to mention to his good friend that the whole free press thing has a slightly different meaning in the burgeoning democracy that is Afghanistan.
I imagine they had a pretty good laugh about that one.
And I bet Bush was jealous.
Making a grown man cry
Later in the week, the comic first act on Pennsylvania Avenue gave way to a tragic second act on Capital Hill.
Reports are divided as to whether Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio) was crying or just fighting back tears as he spoke on the Senate floor on Wednesday. But either way, he was obviously very emotional as he begged his Republican colleagues to reconsider their party line support of John Bolton, the Bush nominee for ambassador to the United Nations.
"I know some of my friends say, 'Let it go, George. It's going to work out,' " Voinovich said. "I don't want to take the risk. I came back here and ran for a second term because I'm worried about my kids and my grandchildren."
It was also clear that Voinovich was worried for his political life. Conservative groups are already running ads against him, and Bush allies have been busily trashing him to anyone who'll listen.
The pressure, Voinovich told one interviewer, has been "overwhelming."
Listening to Voinovich's desperately cracking voice was utterly heartbreaking. And so was this line, written by Cleveland Plain Dealer reporter Sabrina Eaton after the close of the senator's speech: "With that, Voinovich returned to his seat and fidgeted with a yellow highlighting pen until he regained his composure."
Anyone who has ever cried at work knows exactly what that moment felt like, trying so hard to fight back tears that it only makes you cry more. It is the loneliest feeling in the world.
'Cats,' at least, was quick
I think we heard the Bush administration in full voice this week, laughing at those who ask questions, wringing tears from those who would dare dissent.
If it were a Broadway show, you could buy a ticket, watch the show and then walk out into the open air. But this is our real life, and there are not even fire exits.
Immigration Reform? Tom (Italian Origin) Tancredo trys to close the door behind him.
It’s April Fools’ Day and Congressman Tom Tancredo, dressed in jeans, an open-necked khaki shirt and a camouflage US Border Patrol cap, sparks a prolonged standing ovation from the hundred or so assembled volunteers of the Minuteman Project as they kick off their monthlong campaign to close down the Arizona-Mexico border. His presence here, at what is most definitely a fringe political event involving armed citizen patrols, is validation—at least in the minds of the project organizers—that their seal-the-borders message is finally resonating in Washington. The avenging angel of America’s anti-immigrant movement, Tancredo leads seventy mostly back-bench, restrictionist House members in the Immigration Reform Caucus.
The short, stocky Congressman grips the podium in this town’s high-ceilinged former courthouse and congratulates the Minutemen, saying, “You are not vigilantes; you are heroes, every single one of you.” He gets another thunderous ovation toward the end of his short speech when he asks the agitated audience, referring to upcoming immigration and border-reform legislation: “You know how I know we are winning? You know because I’m no longer the only one who stands up on this issue.... In Congress, I can’t promise you what’s going to happen. But I can promise you this much: There’s gonna be one hell of a fight.” And in case anyone’s wondering who it is that Tancredo and his supporters plan on fighting, fellow speaker Bay Buchanan, Pat’s sister, spells it out: “Our message to Mr. Bush is that you have failed us! You have failed our children, Mr. Bush, because you allow drugs and criminals across the border. Mr. President, you have failed America.”
It shouldn’t be surprising that George W. Bush, rather than liberal Democrats, should be the target of so much cranked-up ire from the nativist right. For the first time since 9/11, comprehensive immigration reform is back at the top of the national political agenda. It was put there last year largely by the President, wittingly or otherwise, when he publicly called for a large-scale guest-worker program. That call came at a point when both political parties were eyeing the burgeoning Latino population, especially in the Southwestern swing states, and had been for some time.
In 2001 Bush, who had already made significant inroads with Latinos and was trying to stretch that advantage, proposed a vast immigration deal with Mexico. And just three months before September 11, Mexico’s foreign minister at the time, Jorge Castantildeda, told US reporters he was confident that the “whole enchilada” was about to be agreed upon—i.e., a sweeping reform that would legalize millions of undocumented workers already in America as well as those coming in the future.
But the enchilada, the chips and the salsa were all blown to the winds by the terrorist attacks and the new focus on security.
Now, four years later, the issue has finally come full circle, but it no longer breaks cleanly along right-left, conservative-liberal lines. Traditionally the business lobby and its Republican allies have wanted only a bracero-like guest-worker program, while Democrats, labor and liberals have emphasized legalization, if not amnesty, for the undocumented. Advocates on both sides say they now realize they can’t get one without the other and have ceded ground to support comprehensive and liberalized immigration reform. The consensus for sweeping reform ranges from immigrants rights’ groups, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, the National Council of Churches and organized labor to farmers, growers and fast-food franchisers on up to the US Chamber of Commerce. So counterintuitive is the reform coalition in its composition that it includes the conservative Manhattan Institute’s Tamar Jacoby calling SEIU vice president Eliseo Medina “one of the smartest men on the planet.” Medina, representing the most militant union in America, in turn lauds President Bush for “doing a tremendous job” of putting the immigration issue on the table.
Conservative Idaho Senator Larry Craig and the American Farm Bureau link hands with Ted Kennedy and the AFL-CIO. And Senator John McCain allies with Kennedy to sponsor legislation that has been enthusiastically endorsed by both corporate and working America. “I think we now have the best shot at comprehensive reform since before 9/11,” says Medina, who strongly supports the McCain-Kennedy initiative. “It’s now part of the national debate, and conditions are such we now might actually get something done.”
Those “conditions,” as Medina puts it, include a widening recognition across ideological lines that the border and immigration policy of the past decade has utterly failed. Even with billions in additional Homeland Security funding, the fielding of hundreds of additional agents and the deployment of choppers, unmanned drones and other high-tech hardware, the chaotic situation on the Southern border remains unchanged. Apprehensions of illegal crossers continue to run at about a million a year, while an equal number or more make it across and an average of about 350 perish in the attempt. Meanwhile, as many as 11 million undocumented workers and their families continue to live in the shadows, even though they are productive and responsible members of society.
Every border clampdown since President Clinton’s 1994 Operation Gatekeeper has failed to stanch the human traffic, instead merely redirecting it into ever more perilous and remote routes. “When Gatekeeper was sold to us, the Clinton Administration said that we would need the lockdown on the border because in the short term NAFTA might generate a hump in immigration,” says Claudia Smith, border project director of the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, referring to the North American Free Trade Agreement. “But they said that in the mid- and long term NAFTA would reduce the need for immigration. Yet here we are, ten years later, and none of those promises have been borne out. Here we are, back to square one, only 3,000 deaths and $10 billion later. We’re back to square one.”
The total failure of border and immigration policy turns undeniably stark on a recent Saturday-morning visit to the dusty Mexican town of Altar, a kidney-jarring drive about two hours south of the Arizona border. Once an anonymous bus stop in the Sonoran Desert, Altar is now a major staging point for illegal immigration. The town’s few streets are lined with booths and stalls set up by yet other migrants, mostly from Oaxaca, selling everything needed to make the crossing: black jackets, black gloves, sturdy jeans, running shoes, backpacks, wool sweaters, black ski masks, one-gallon plastic jugs of water, small plastic bags of combs, toothbrushes, nail clippers, aspirin and lip balm, even $3 plastic trash bags cynically hawked as effective foilers of the Border Patrol heat sensors that riddle the US side of the line.
Hundreds of mostly young men from all over Mexico and points farther south, but also some families with small children, sit or stand patiently in the town square waiting to make contact with their “pollero” or “coyote,” who will smuggle them up the one dirt road and across the border. Thanks to the ongoing crackdown, the coyotes’ asking price has skyrocketed to $1,200 a head or more, but no one can detect any decline in the flow of about 1,800 people a day just through this one town.
Along with me on the visit to Altar is Steve Laffey, the Republican Mayor of Cranston, Rhode Island, a city of 80,000, which is experiencing its own influx of undocumented immigrants. Laffey seems emotionally struck by the sordid human spectacle. On our way back to Arizona he laments, “If you had a hundred US senators come down here and spend only a day in one of the flophouses or a morning talking to these people, you’d have this immigration issue solved in less than a week. But it isn’t gonna happen. Not yet.” Laffey’s at least half right: The US Senate is not about to convene in a Mexican border town. But something might happen anyway.
After a barrage of anti-immigration bills fired off earlier in this legislative season, Senators McCain and Kennedy introduced in mid-May their much-awaited immigration overhaul proposal—the first step toward comprehensive and bipartisan reform. There are other, more restrictionist proposals also in formation, including from Texas Republican John Cornyn. President Bush, for his part, while still paying lip service to reform, has yet to offer any specifics. In that vacuum, the pro-immigrant forces have rallied to McCain-Kennedy. “This measure would replace the wink-wink, nudge-nudge hypocritical system we have now with a common-sense law that can be enforced to the letter,” says Jacoby from the center-right. “It’s the basic bar we need,” says Medina from the labor left.
McCain-Kennedy would provide for the legalization of millions of undocumented workers already living in the United States with renewable visas after they’ve paid $2,000 in fines for illegal residency; allow new immigrants to come in with work permits and achieve eventual residency; and as a trade-off impose tougher enforcement at the border and in the workplace. Reform advocates are buoyed not only by polls showing that about two-thirds of Americans would support such measures but also by the political clout of the business lobby that has solidly lined up behind this bill.
“The only way we can grow the workforce we need is through immigration,” says John Gay, a vice president of the International Franchise Association and co-chair of the Essential Worker Immigration Coalition, an organization that includes the US Chamber of Commerce and nearly three dozen other national business groups. This year has seen pleas, from labor-short growers in the Southwest to crab processors in Maryland, for a loosening of immigration restrictions (in November the Arizona vegetable growers asked the Border Patrol to back off detention of undocumented workers). “We want two things,” says Gay, “a system by which we can hire workers for jobs that Americans don’t want and a mechanism by which the 9-10-12 million undocumented can get some form of legalization.”
“Yes,” he says before I can ask. “That second point is the A-word, amnesty. There are two sides to this problem: people coming here, and people already here. Can’t solve one problem without the other.”
That amnesty, until recently the private reserve of the progressive left, has now been adopted by corporate America provides insight into how labor and business have converged on this issue. It’s also why the toughest fight around McCain-Kennedy is going to be within the political right. Jacoby and others predict that if Bush pushes hard enough on his right flank, McCain-Kennedy could pass the Senate with a comfortable margin, while Representative Raul Grijalva, a liberal Arizona Democrat, calls himself “guardedly optimistic” about prospects for major reform in the House, where a McCain-Kennedy companion bill was introduced. Grijalva worries about the doggedly anti-immigration stance of the House leadership and the “inordinate” influence of Tancredo’s restrictionist caucus.
Just how tough the fight in both houses could be is indicated by the recent defeat in the Senate of Senator Larry Craig’s AgJobs bill, which would have legalized a half-million farmworkers, and passage in the House of Representative James Sensenbrenner’s draconian “REAL ID” provisions after a deal worked out by the Democratic and Republican Congressional leadership. These provisions make it harder for states to grant driver’s licenses to the undocumented and tighten US asylum criteria. Grijalva says only the President has the clout to bring his right flank to heel and pave the way for acceptable compromise. “Bush is simply going to have to spend some of that political capital he’s been talking about to get this through,” he says. The close-the-borders right is already ginning up a campaign against McCain-Kennedy, calling it a general amnesty and a “pay to stay” scheme. And even if the bill makes it in some form through both houses and winds up in conference, there’s a danger that it will be gutted into an empty bracero program, changing very little. “The real political fight,” says Grijalva, “will be on the exact details of the two components: guest worker and the path to legalization.”
For immigration advocates to get an acceptable win, they’ll need what Austin-based immigration attorney and editor of Bender’s Immigration Bulletin Dan Kowalski calls a perfect storm: a convergence of “presidential leadership willing to stand up to the restrictionist right, Congressional compromise demonstrating a preference for action over posturing and an educated public willing to accept a more rational immigration system as the price for abolishing what is, in effect, a national plantation system with 10 million humans acting as our less-than-equal servants.” And some who know the Republican Party best say it’s a tough call whether or not Bush will actually risk any political investment. So far he’s talked a good game but has done nothing. “On the one hand, Bush is much more progressive on this issue than many Republican Congressmen,” says veteran California GOP strategist Allen Hoffenblum. “On the other hand, while Republican voters are very anti-immigrant—you know, with that ‘build a fence’ thinking—Bush has been so depleted by the Social Security fight that he has little political capital left to spend. He might decide to just stall out on the whole issue.”
Finally, there are back-room calculations by both parties as to who will bite off the strategic chunk of the Latino vote in crucial electoral states like Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado. The GOP’s share of the Arizona Latino vote climbed to an all-time high of more than 40 percent in last November’s presidential election. Pissing off a few Minuteman types might be a small price to pay to have the President become the champion of historic immigration liberalization and the elected official most responsible for delivering the Latino vote to the GOP.
The danger is that the longer meaningful federal action lags, the more the populist right, the Minuteman-style groups and the Congressional Tancredos will be energized into action. Anti-immigration drives are now under way in about a dozen states—not just in the Southwest but also in Washington, Colorado, Virginia, Georgia, Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Utah and even far-away liberal Massachusetts. Much of this activity was spurred by passage last November of Proposition 200 in Arizona, the state that experiences the greatest impact from illegal immigration. Passed with a 56 percent majority, the law requires that legal residency be demonstrated before certain state public services are offered. “We are at a boiling point now,” says Phoenix-based political consultant Mario Diaz, a former strategist for Democratic Governor Janet Napolitano. “When 47 percent of Latinos vote for Prop 200, you know there is a message being sent to the federal government.”
While Arizona’s Democratic attorney general interpreted the law in a vary narrow way, rendering its effects minimal, Arizona’s anti-immigration crusaders are hardly deterred; they believe they are surfing the crest of a breaking national political wave. When I met with Prop 200’s co-author State Representative Russell Pearce in his Phoenix office, he was downright elated. A former chief deputy to the Maricopa County sheriff and a former Republican-appointed head of the state motor vehicle agency (where he outlawed licenses to the undocumented), Pearce is churning out restrictionist proposals in industrial-sized doses. The day we met, two of his bills had just been considered by the Arizona Senate. One allows judges to refuse bond on certain undocumented felons; the other further tightens driver’s license regulations (the first one was approved; the second one failed). Other measures that Pearce supports would outlaw “day worker” facilities in Arizona, strengthen Prop 200 and empower local police to make arrests on the basis of immigration status. “What’s our alternative?” he asked in an avuncular style. “Watch while our neighborhoods burn and get destroyed? And then there’s assimilation. That’s what binds us together as a people. But now many, many of the people who come here have no intention of assimilating. They come here and they demand: They demand services in their languages, demand that we honor their culture, and that breeds a culture of war.” And like Tom Tancredo, at the top of State Senator Pearce’s enemies list are fellow Republicans, like McCain and Arizona Representative Jim Kolbe, who support immigration liberalization. “They’re on the other side!” he exclaimed. “It’s absolutely outrageous. A malfeasance of their office. Shame on them!”
While Pearce sees “momentum, lots of momentum” for his immigrant-crackdown message, other evidence indicates the restrictionist cause isn’t quite as compelling at the grassroots. In spite of extraordinary media hype, including millions of dollars in free publicity doled out on a daily basis on CNN as Lou Dobbs aggressively championed its cause, the Minuteman Project was an unmitigated flop. Though its organizers predicted that “potentially thousands” would attend its kickoff rallies, I counted no more than 135 participants in Tombstone—a lesser number than the journalists on hand. When the project shut down a month later, organizers claimed that 900 volunteers had participated in patrolling the border, but in reality the Minuteman patrols—mostly consisting of people camped out in the desert with tents and lawn chairs—never involved more than a few dozen people at a time.
Diaz, the political strategist, suggests that while frustration over chaos at the border runs high, people can be persuaded to accept sensible solutions—provided that politicians take the risk to be persuasive. “People who voted for Prop 200 are not at all necessarily racist,” he says. “Some are. But some are concerned about the welfare of the immigrants, others are worried about economic issues. Others are worried about lack of enforcement and loss of control.” But, he warns, “if we don’t hear some serious, serious discussion of this, then immigration reform will remain dead.”
Not trusting the Republicans and the White House to lead the fight, and arguing that Democrats are the natural champions of immigration reform, he says that it’s “the responsibility of Democrats more than anyone else to take this on as a central issue: Convene town hall meetings across the Southwest and undertake a public education program that makes people understand that no matter what the policy, people from Mexico and Latin America are going to keep coming here.” He adds, “Until there is real leadership on this, I’m afraid little will actually change.”
Monday, May 30, 2005
U.S. and U.K. conducted "War" on Iraq beginning in 2002
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