Apr 27, 2007

The Former CIA Chief George Tenet Comes out of the Closet (way too late) to Sell Books

Not all those who receive presidential medals are true patriots.

George Tenet is now speaking out adding his voice to those who have said that the Bush administration did not seriously discuss and evaluate the evidence on which it was building the case for war against Iraq. No kidding! BushCo was not interested in the evidence, because implementing neoconservative policy was more important than anything else. Mr. "slam-dunk" Tenet was a willing participant in perpetuating this huge hoax on the American people while he was CIA chief. He sat behind Secretary Powell at the UN to add his authority to the (false) claims the US Secretary of State was making to the world.

Tenet is going public today--today, when things are going very badly in Iraq. I have no doubt that he'd be claiming credit if the occupation of Iraq had been managed more competently. If he truly had any sense of responsibility left, he should have come out one year ago before the midterm elections when many Republicans still argued that the war in Iraq was a necessity! Now Tenet is out to sell his book. His credibility was destroyed by his own actions (or inaction) and by the man who gave him a presidential medal of freedom! Tenet is just one of the several incompetent but loyal Praetorians who were given medals, promotions, and plum jobs in the private sector after their tour of duty in the Bush administration.

Loyalty to Caesar is the guiding principle here--above and beyond loyalty to the country. How can a person sit there in support of a policy to commit the nation's most precious resources, to shed our blood sweat & tears, spend a stupendous amount of money, when you know there is no hard evidence to support the necessity of such action? Where's the patriotism, where's the duty to rise up and try to prevent the country from plunging into a disastrous war of (bad) choice?

Streching evidence & peddling faith-based intelligence at the UN
Today, Tenet is playing the sympathy card--that he was used by tricky Dickey and, thus, his career destroyed. That's right, blaming others because he couldn't stand up. What career is he talking about anyway? Staying a couple more years as CIA chief? That's baloney. Tenet was a very ordinary man who rose to a high position but could not rise to the occasion when the country needed him the most. He accepted his tarnished medal and he kept his mouth shut. He moved on to the lucrative private sector using his CIA credentials. Now, he wants to sell books while appealing to the incredulity of the American people. His opportunity to do good for America has passed. He's not bringing anything new to the table. We already know about the horrible deceit perpetrated on the world by the neocons. Tenet was a facilitator and a lackey.

UPDATE, 4/30.
"You were a willing participant in a poorly considered policy to start an unnecessary war and you share culpability with Dick Cheney and George Bush for the debacle in Iraq."
Former CIA officers in a letter to George Tenet.

Apr 22, 2007

Newt Gingrich Can Utter Absurdities, Because only a Liberal Democracy Protects Free Speech! And, the "Liberal Media" Carries it!

Conservatives Call Upon Fear, Distrust, Cynicism, and the Devil in Attempt for Power.

Another typical Republican scoundrel that blames liberalism for anything that goes bad. I bet you, in won't be long before the conservatives will blame the liberals for the global warming and adverse climate change! This disgraced former Speaker of the House, and possible presidential candidate, blamed the liberals for the tragedy at Virginia Tech, and for not allowing students to carry arms in order to defend themselves! Wow! I suppose the liberal academic elite has brainwashed most students! When I asked my college students (OK, this is New York) whether they would feel safer if most students carried guns, they emphatically replied, NO! [guess I've obtained some measure of success in making students think]

Gingrich condemns the liberal culture that questions the notion that all rights originate from God! Hmmm, I wonder which God... Probably the one that says gun owning & gun carrying is a god-given right! Maybe our legal system should be based on the 10 Commandments, though I wonder which of the three versions Gingrich prefers. Nevertheless, all three versions have something to say about adultery--and the thrice married Gingrich is an admitted adulterer. Yes, our liberal system let him get off easy! Tsk, tsk.

Wait, there's more. Gingrich condemned this culture for allowing kids to wear improper Halloween costumes! I didn't know; was this a big concern? I'm not making this up. Check the video from his appearance on ABC's This Week. These absurdities would just be funny--stemming from a pathetic attempt of a conservative politician to stir up a conservative base--if they were marginal and not given serious consideration by the so-called "liberal media."

It's a common strategy--when appealing to the ignorant and those with highly impressionable minds--to beat up a straw man, like the "liberal media." I happen to be teaching a course on politics & media this semester, so this subject was discussed in class. It's a misconception that the media has a liberal bias--unless of course we accept John Colbert's definition: the truth has a liberal bias!

I will write more on this subject in the near future, but for now, I'd like to surmise these points:

  • Liberal democracy is the only free & open political system we have today.

  • The conservatives of the Old Regime wanted to preserve ascribed status and religious conformity until liberalism replaced the old regime and most of them conservatives. The modern-times conservatives (most, like Reagan & Thatcher) have accepted the basic ideas about individual freedoms that liberalism advocates.

  • The US has one of the most conservative cultures of a western democracy. The Church and Republicans are responsible for it, and the latter for much of the pervasive violence in this country.

  • Although Gingrich and other self-appointed moralists decry all this immorality and excesses of modern culture, it is arch-conservatives like R. Murdoch who own the big media that put out this stuff.

  • Mr. Gingrich deserves much ridicule because instead of advancing the dialogue with serious conversation, he peddles the ridiculous instead. It is the same "liberal media" [which hounded former president Clinton] that gave him the platform to say in 1994, people should vote Republican so no Susan Smith could drown her children; in 2006, he said that the Republicans didn't try to restrain fellow Republican Mark Folley's pedophilia because they'd be accused of "gay-bashing"!!!!!

Does Newt Gingrich's rhetoric and actions make for a better America? Or, should the "liberal media" take a hint from him and put the lunatic fringe where it belongs, in the margins of our society?...

Apr 19, 2007

Memo to Gonzales: The US Attorney General's Job is to Defend the People's Rights--not Political Hackery

Gonzales suffers amnesia while testifying, but otherwise he's doing a heckuvajob! [up to the usual Bush standards]

I've been reading and listening to the testimony of US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales in the Senate, and I have to say that I'm seeing the same Katrina-like cronyism and political hackery. The same pattern of turning another branch of our government into another political arm to serve BushCo regardless of the harm done to our country.

To me, it's obvious that Gonzales is a shameful example of unchecked imperial (self-assumed) presidential power and a representative of a clan of people whose allegiance is not to the country but to caesar, regardless of the law of this land.

"I know nooooothing"
Accountability for illegal actions means consequences, not just a general statement of "accepting responsibility." Gonzales needs to resign. He should be prosecuted for lying to Congress, for firing US Attorneys for political reasons only, and for lying to the American people and to Congress. We should have confidence in our legal system and not think of it as an extension of the ruler's wishes--this is not how democracies operate. Yet, this A.G. infected our legal system with "Bushies" bent on a neoconservative ideology that holds the means are always justified by the ends. Those "ends" don't even have to be generally accepted either, as long as the current administration thinks of them as appropriate. A country of laws turned upside down, into a country of an arrogant power elite.

Gonzales's mean streak should have been detected much earlier and been dealt with--although under Republican leadership Congress wasn't interested in protecting our rights and our country's interests. This man argued that the "enemies of the state" should be kept outside the mainland, on GITMO in Cuba so the US Constitution--which speaks of persons, not citizens when it comes to individual rights--wouldn't apply. He changed the definition of what torture is--anything goes as long as there's no danger of death or a failure of a major body organ. Yes, pulling fingernails out, waterboarding, etc, are not torture methods.... It's the same A.G. who violated the Fourth Amendment (despite Congress making it extremenly easy for the government to obtain warrants), he did not stand up to defend the people's constitutional right to be secure in their domains against any unreasonable search & seizure.

Further, Gonzales has failed to protect our rights, because, although he's selected by the president, he should enforce the law and protect our civil liberties. He has not done the latter. He has, instead, helped create a very bad image of America to the world. Even our long-standing allies have been horrified by our practices, and the failure of our legal system to prosecute all those criminals (including white-collar ones... yes, there's such a thing as economic violence) and promote the public interest. This is the job description for a US Attorney General. But, words, even those in the Constitution, don't mean all that much to him and his boss--unless the language is turned into Newspeak, to confuse and to deceive.

Yes, it matters how we do things domestically and what image we project to the world. Democracies make mistakes, some deadly, some correctable. I don't know how much this Congress can do to control this imperial--and often unlawful--presidency (since the president has veto power), but Gonzales should be forced out. And, that Congress should use its subpoena power to shed some more light into the many abuses of this administration. Our citizens--at least those who care to know--have a right to be informed and given the choice to rectify a few things in the 2008 election.

Apr 18, 2007

The Camel's Back is Already Broken.... But, Bush Uses One More Club to Bash Consumers

In another political offense, president Bush nominated Michael Baroody to head the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC). The revolving-door policy of this administration continues. People from a particular industry are given power to regulate that industry, and, after serving in Bush's administration [not the public interest], they go back to the industry they came from within a few years! Gale Norton, the former Secretary of the Interior, is a recent example.

Who's M. Baroody, you ask? For the past 13 years, Michael Baroody has served as Executive Vice President at the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) - a K Street lobbying behemoth devoted to helping big manufacturers evade accountability for their wrongdoing. [more info and action]

The CPSC is our top government agency in charge of protecting consumers from unsafe products! Oh, yeah, don't penalize any company for spilling arsenic in our drinking water! Why, this could harm profits! "NAM claimed that negligent manufacturers would feel a pinch in their profits if forced to prevent their waste products from poisoning local communities." [source] Now, don't tell me that asbestos is conclussively harmful... There's someone somewhere who says it ain't so!; let's not rush to judgment like those tree-hugging freedom-haters who have already been trying to save our environment! Pfff

Apr 12, 2007

Kurt Vonnegut is up in Heaven Now

“Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you’ve got about a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies — ‘God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.’ ” Kurt Vonnegut

We could, at least, do him this favor, as per his request:

KV: I am, incidentally, Honorary President of the American Humanist Association, having succeeded the late, great science fiction writer Isaac Asimov in that totally functionless capacity. We had a memorial service for Isaac a few years back, and I spoke and said at one point, "Isaac is up in heaven now." It was the funniest thing I could have said to an audience of humanists. I rolled them in the aisles. It was several minutes before order could be restored. And if I should ever die, God forbid, I hope you will say, "Kurt is up in heaven now." That's my favorite joke.

Apr 8, 2007

Public Myths & Ideology: Creating the Easter Bunny, Chocolate Eggs, and a Personal Jesus!

One of the best things in our country is the First Amendment--Freedom of Expression.

Obviously there's something that makes people all over the world devote so much time, energy, money, all sorts of resources to specific rituals that represent certain ideals. Religion provides this vehicle to having a purpose in life. People like to feel special and be part of a special group. Also, they need to have something that makes sense of it all, you know, explain the reason for all things that exist. Well, the particular activity doesn't have to make sense in itself as long as it provides a path to an ideal and reinforces the cultural norms of the group. Most people may not even know the origins of what's traditional. Myths have changed over the generations and have been exchanged among the various groups of people. It doesn't really matter when a myth appeared or where it came from [i.e., Pagan practices incorporated into Christianity] as long as it serves a purpose. I believe that myths have played and continue to play a very important and necessary role in human societies. I also believe that they're all man-made [emphasis on man].

There was--still is--a belief that the whole universe has somehow a divine order. Likewise, human societies are governed by this natural, divine order. Under the Old Regime*, there was a very hierarchical and rigid pyramid of society, and, for most of human history, people did not question their station in life.

I don't think a myth has to have a supernatural origin to be enjoyed--I'm a living proof of this. Most people enjoy rituals--formal or informal--without much thought or good knowledge of such practices. Likewise, secular rituals, like those in politics and sports, have the goal of reinforcing norms, promote certain ideals, a communal sense, and a collective purpose. And, that's OK. As long as things work out for the most part, people are content.
My choices don't have to be the choices of others, and vice-versa. I'm OK with this. Personally, I do want to know the purpose of my actions, especially when I'm told, "don't worry, do as I say, because it's best for you, trust me"! I'm not religious--in case you're haven't figured this out yet--but, in my efforts to understand the human condition and behaviour, I've studied religion and want to know more about it. Both of my parents, especially my mother, were religious persons, but they couldn't provide me with answers to my many questions. Most religious people I meet can't do that either. That's fine. What works for them and what makes them happy, it's fine by me. On the other hand, I wish more people learned more about their faiths. [PBS' Frontline is a good way to start, at least about Jesus] I still find it very intrigueging that most don't care to investigate something that governs their lives. Therefore, I've concluded that faith plays an entirely different role than I had originally expected. It gives people comfort.

So, when people wish me "Happy Easter", "Merry Christmas", "Hope you find lots eggs in your Easter basket", "Happy(?!) Halloween", "Kiss me I'm Irish"... whatever it is, I like it! If I think it's sincere. After all, everyone makes his own universe in a way. The perceived is often more important than the actual. Isn't it? I don't see a problem with Atheists For Jesus, for example. Jesus is something personal, like all gods. My personal Jesus is a liberal! I don’t see why I can’t have a personal Jesus like the faithful do. Oh, yeah! A few others agree with the Jesus is a Liberal idea. He was in favor of uplifting the poor & the underprivileged, against social injustice, against violence; he was for generosity & sharing, compassion, and he had no problem associating with prostitutes. I don’t think this Jesus would agree with the American ..fundies who recently told us that his father brought death & destruction to New York City, New Orleans because, and elsewhere, because there were too many people like his friend, Mary Magdalene--practicing hedonism and non-sanctioned love! Here, I do find a problem when the faithful that follow the likes of Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell do get up and leave those coots after such statements.

..I gather that Jesus was a very calculating guy. He didn’t do things by accident. He had a plan! A divine plan. I think he still does. That’s why I don’t pray to Jesus. I don’t want to impose. I mean, who am I to show up one day and pray for something that may not be part of the divine plan? If things are to happen, they will, regardless of my begging or the bargaining I offer. That’s simple logic to me. [George Carlin thinks along these lines].

Anyway, speaking of planning to invent Easter. Did you hear about the discovery of the Gospel of Judas**? Fascinating stuff, I tell you. It seems (just as I had suspected 30 years ago) that Jesus had a plan, so, he told Judas to betray him to the authorities. I mean, we couldn't have much of a Christian faith without the resurrection of Jesus, would we? Judas complied and the rest is history as they say.

A year ago, I wrote about this [I'm borrowing excerpts from ..myself above] and I argued that the environment we happen to be born in and the prevailing conditions around us shape our character and much of our world view. Very few people manage to see themselves and their original group from the outside. The less secure a person feels, the stronger the need for an identity that's provided by the group, and the stronger the fear & rejection of the "others". Where do you fall in this?

* The Old Regime denotes ascribed status and religious conformity--this was the order of human societies, until a new radical ideology, that of liberalism replaced it a couple centuries ago.

**There have been many Gospels. But the Church decided (sometimes by committee) which ones should be part of the official canon.

Apr 1, 2007

Having Lost All Credibility, the Scoundrels Use Patriotism as Their Last Refuge. But, this Domestic Abuse Must Stop.

"When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and will be carrying a cross." Sinclair Lewis 1885-1951

Bush is telling the Iranians to let go of those captured British soldiers. Tony Blair is saying how appalled he is with the treatment they're getting--being paraded in front of the TV and being used as propaganda tools. OK, what the Iranians are doing is not so cool, I understand, but it pales in comparison to the treatment we've been putting the detainees through in GITMO and elsewhere. Where is the indignation and protests by the leaders of US and Britain when the ..other abuses became known?

Oh, but the ones we're holding are terrorists, some have argued. I'm sure a few are, and a few others are really, really bad persons. However, even by our own experts' estimate, the majority of the detainees have nothing to do with terrorism or fighting the US. Did you know this? Most have been swept by a very wide net, and have been ..sold to us! The US offered a few thousand dollars per terrorist captured, but many were falsely accused by others in their homeland because the latter wanted to make an easy buck or settle a score.

Now, what do you say about the scandal of the Abu Graib prison? The present US government has done terrible acts of violence and mistreatment to whomever BushCo has labeled as "enemy combatant." Terry Jones in the British Guardian makes some interesting comparisons about how civilized nations treat their prisoners. It's worth a reading; here it is.

There is a point that we have to question the patriotism of those who do harm to our country. It's not those who criticize the government who give "comfort to the enemy" but those who violate our democratic & human rights principles. I don't understand how the neocons and other authoritarians have managed to put so many Americans on the defensive when it comes to patriotism. It's the scoundrels who wave the biggest American flag and sing patriotic songs that are the non-patriots.

Take for example the military, and anything that has to do with defending our country, our people. The Republicans have been a disaster. They are not good for our national defense against foreign and domestic threats (yes, this includes natural disasters). They have made bad, very bad policy decisions. Their political ideology and arrogance have even made a bad war of choice an ever greater military failure. As for our armed forces, they've been broken and abused by the current administration and the Republican Congress of the last 12 years!

I don't know how many of the rank and file members of our armed forces support the Republican leadership, but those who do probably suffer from the same abused-spouse syndrome. What would it take to go beyond the "I love you" and the rhetoric, and face reality? The armed forces have been over-extended, had to suffer serious but unnecessary casualties. Who sent them into battle without proper armor? Who refused to send enough troops to occupy Iraq and establish a monopoly of force to prevent much of the violence that ensued? Who's responsible for extending tours of duty, including those of the Guard and the Reserve, while taking away veterans' benefits? And, who presided over the disgraceful treatment of our wounded soldiers? Or, is it OK, because it's only a domestic abuse problem?

Yes, it's time to take the country back from all those abusers.