Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Reality Testing Fails at PBS

Here's a BBC bit about President Bush's recent comments at the Nato summit in Riga:
He rejected the use of "civil war" as a term to describe the fighting in Iraq, preferring to say: "The battles in Iraq and Afghanistan are part of a struggle between moderation and extremism that is unfolding across the broader Middle East."

One wonders why the fierce opposition to the term "civil war"? The Bush administration is doing everything it can to prevent the term "civil war" being given credibility. However, like it's "war on terror" in Iraq even in this war of propaganda the Bush administration is losing. The Los Angeles Times over a month ago began officially using the term civil war for the Iraq situation and this week NBC announced that it too would begin using the term civil war officially.

Last night on PBS's The News Hour with Jim Lehrer there were four "journalists" talking about whether it is a "civil war" in Iraq. Though the foreign editor from the LA Times, Marjorie Miller, described her paper's adoption of the term and the Bush propagandist from Yale DONALD KAGAN, Professor of History, said "I don't see how it helps" to call it a "civil war", none of the four journalists, including the New Hour's reporter JEFFREY BROWN, ever bothered to even state the definition of "civil war." This clearly demonstrates the complete lack of reality testing that is evident today in the national media.

Well for those who like their reality tested by the facts, here is the definition from Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary:

civil war
One entry found for civil war.
Main Entry: civil war
Function: noun
: a war between opposing groups of citizens of the same country

So DONALD KAGAN, a professor of history at Yale University, says,
"It has been very significantly Sunni against Shia, perhaps in a more cloaked form. The majority of the government is, after all, Shiite, as the majority of the country is. The Sunnis have been insurgents because they refuse to accept the fact that their minority will no longer be allowed to lord it over the majority. The first job has always been to convince the Sunnis, however we do it, that they must accept the new realities.

And then he has the audacity to say this is not a civil war. Obviously, KAGAN'S "new reality" doesn't include using language accurately to state the self-evident truths. Whether or not his simplistic description of the fighting as being between Shia and Sunni is accurate, it clearly and unambiguously meets the plain definition of civil war. Yet this professor says it does no good to call it a civil war. How could this be? How could it do no good to use the English language properly?

The answer of course is that like all propagandists, Professor KAGAN, doesn't want the language used plainly when it can be bent to his own ends, which he very clearly stated were the continuation of the Bush agenda in Iraq. KAGEN understands that if people see the fighting in Iraq for what it is as a civil war underneath an occupation, that the reason for the occupation evaporates unless we choose sides. And as we discovered in Vietnam, if we choose the wrong side we lose anyway.

As much as this segment exposed the muddleheaded propaganda of the Yale professor, I can't help but think that the whole piece by JEFFREY BROWN would have made much more sense and benefitted the public discourse to a far greater extent if he had only begun with the simple definition of civil war and measured the words of his interviewees against that conventional reality.

If we return to Pres. Bush’s quote at the top of this piece, we see that Bush does the classic bait and switch by claiming the war in Iraq is not a civil war because it is “part of a struggle between moderation and extremism that is unfolding across the broader Middle East.” Of course whether or not there are similarities in any other country between the sides fighting in Iraq is irrelevant to answering the question of whether the fighting in Iraq is “a war between opposing groups of citizens of the same country.” The vast majority of deaths in Iraq are Iraqis killed by other Iraqis. That US troops are there killing Iraqis and being killed by Iraqis is only another layer of fighting which makes the occupation a political cover for the civil war.

President Bush’s continuing denial of the civil war in Iraq is like a veterinarian who can’t tell the difference between a horse and a crocodile. He can’t have much to say about how to be of help if he can’t even diagnose the species of the animal he’s dealing with. No one should believe that Bush is that stupid as to believe the propaganda is issues. The underlying problem with our democracy is that the national news media like PBS totally fails to measure the government’s propaganda against something as simple as a dictionary definition.

On another note of failed reality testing by PBS last night was the great presence of ex-President Jimmy Carter being interviewed about his new book "Palestine, Peace Not Apartheid". Here JUDY WOODRUFF, NewsHour Special Correspondent, was in the full glory of inside the beltway bias. There is a funny thing the journalists do when they interview someone like President Carter who presents a politically unorthodox view not countenanced by the opinion makers in the media. They take an adversarial position and call that being "objective." You don't see this approach when they interview people who are the purveyors of political orthodoxy with whom the publishers and editors agree.

Well, I'm happy to report that Pres. Carter gracefully put Ms. WOODRUFF in her reportorial place. Here's the exchange in which Pres. Carter politely outed WOODRUFF's bias.
JUDY WOODRUFF: President Carter, people would listen to what you're saying here, and they would read your book, and they would say, "He's putting the onus here on the Israelis." And many would return that by saying, "But wait a minute. It's the Palestinians who continue to fire rockets into Israeli land. It's the Palestinians who have kidnaped Israeli soldiers. It's the Palestinians that continue to perpetuate terrorist acts against the Israelis."

JIMMY CARTER: Sure, that's what you say, and that's the general consensus in the United States. The fact is that, when the Palestinians dug under the Israeli wall from Gaza and captured the Israeli soldier, one soldier, at that time, Israel was holding 9,200 Palestinians prisoner, including 300 children, almost 300, 293 children, some of them 12 years old, and holding almost 100 women prisoner.

And immediately, the Palestinians who took that soldier said, "We want to swap this soldier for some of our women and children." And the Israelis rejected that proposal and refused to swap at all with the Palestinians in the West Bank. That was the key to the issue.

So it's right that the Palestinians took a soldier, which they should release. But for Israel to keep 9,000 Palestinians and not release any of them is something that you don't mention in the question, and it's generally not even known in this country.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And we want to give you the opportunity to give that side of the story...

JIMMY CARTER: That's why I wrote the book.

JUDY WOODRUFF: ... as well, and that's why we're here talking to you about it.


WOODRUFF"S bias was again exposed in her final comments of the segment when she exited with these words:
JUDY WOODRUFF: President Jimmy Carter, with some passionately held views. We thank you very much for being with us on the NewsHour. We appreciate it.

Everyone who knows anything about reportage knows that the words "passionately held views" are code for "emotional and irrational beliefs." So, there she was getting a strong dose of reality testing from Pres. Carter, and her response was to dismiss him by saying in effect, "Well, that was nice, too bad you are irrational."

So much for the ability of PBS reporters to provide reality testing for the public. For now, we the public must gather our reality between the lines, using our own good sense to defend against the beltway propaganda presented by the government with the willing cooperation of the national media..

Sunday, November 26, 2006

The Iraq Game Show is All About the Money

Whether you call it "oil profits" or "weapon's profits" or "campaign contributions", the fatal Game Show that is Iraq is all about the money.

Bruce K. Gagnon is coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space and has written an opinion piece about the mounting debt of the Iraq avdenture. The full essay is below. This phony war on terror is costing as much as the Vietnam War and Bush is going to Congress soon to ask for more moola.

Gagnon correctly draws our attention to current events. "In our recent national election, the people voted for a change in policy in Iraq. The message seems to have reached Washington and their answer to the public appears to be 'OK, we will change our policy. We will dramatically increase the amount of money we are spending on the war and we will send even more troops.' Not quite what the 62 percent of Americans who oppose the war had in mind." No, not by a long shot.

What's it all about? As Gagnon points out, "Our nation's No. 1 industrial export product today is weapons. In 2006 the U.S. exported more than $21 billion in weapons —— up from $10.6 billion the previous year."

One has to ask why spend all this money on weapons and war when it goes without saying that the crippling debt would be better spent on infrastructure, as Gagnon suggests "building trains, solar panels or windmills."

Howard Zinn stated it bluntly in his speech
on The Uses of History and the War on Terrorism
in Madison, Wisconsin, rcently aired on Democracy Now! He said,
And if you know some history, you would understand something which is even more basic, perhaps, than the question of lying about this war or lying about this invasion, lying about this intervention, something more basic, if you knew some history: you would understand a sort of fundamental fact about society, and including our society, that the interests of the government and the interests of the people are not the same.

The interests of the Bush administration, as with the Clinton administration before it, are not the people's interests in security, family, food on the table, and a warm place to sleep. The interests of the government are only the interests of the giant corporations that pay the way for the elections. And of course the interests of those giant corporations are only to make themselves rich.

This is no where better exposed than in the fake war on terror. The money being squandered in order to kill so many people rather than to do good in the world is not even good financial sense from the point of view of social investment. It would have a greater impact and return in social growth and development if invested in education, building infrastructure, and putting people to work. However, the capital intensive investment of the weapons industry does make sense when it is seen that the point is to funnel profits into the pockets of certain corporations and the people who own and control those corporations.

The other fact exposing the fake war on terror is teh death ration of combatants to civilians. In World War I the ratio was approximately 80% combat casulties and 20% civilian deaths. In World War II it was about 50-50. Since Vietnam, the ratio is now about 20% combat deaths and 80% civilian deaths including about 30% children. For the weapons profits going into the pockets of corporation chieftans, we are killing as many children as combatants, and add on top of that the men and women civilians.

Zinn also reminded us of the Nazi Goring's quote about how these phony wars are able to get the support of the people whose interests the war is directly against.
“Why, of course, the people don’t want war. Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war? But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy. The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. All you have to do is tell them they’re being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism. It works the same way in any country.” -Herman Goring, from the book Nuremberg Diary.

It is really very simple, there is no hope for the direction of human society until the majority of the people wake up and demand that their "leaders" be honest and kind. By lying to us and accepting those lies, we the people continue to allow the government interests to be different than our shared interests, and for the so-called "national interests" in war profits to be anything but the real national interests.

After being elected in a tidal change, the Democrats have not shown any cohesive understanding of what they were elected for. Many Democrats are even echoing Bush's call for more troops in Iraq in total disregard of the election results. Only a small minority of Democrats are daring to say that the troops must be removed without delay.

You can count on your fingers the number of Democrats who are willing to say openly that the War on Terror is a phony and a fake, and none of them are being given any space in the national media. Why? Because their camaigns are funded by the corporation culture also, and they are afraid to do anyting but lick the hand that feeds them.

Democracy is a wonderful system compared to monarchy or dictatorship. But democracy is subject to fascist currents and today we in the USA have a fascist democracy in which the democracy of the people has been usurped by the giant corporations. This is done through the great money machine that ties industry and corporations to the military and uses the national media as the propaganda machine to fool and lull the voters into going along with the politician's personal interests rather than with the people's interests.

Viewed over centuries, political progress is incremental and is in the right direction. But if the setbacks are to be mitigated and the progess to be steady, the people must vote against the interests of the politicians in government and even vote against their individual interests on occasion, to vote for the shared national interests defined as progress for the greater betterment of the human condition.

Alan Gregory Wonderwheel


The Times Record
Of Mid-coast Maine: Brunswick and Bath


Funding Iraq war, killing our country

11/21/2006 By Bruce Gagnon

The Bush administration is preparing to submit a request to Congress for up to $160 billion to fund the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan for fiscal year 2007. This will be on top of $70 billion that Congress has already approved for 2007.

Since 2001, Congress has approved $502 billion for the war on "terror," roughly two-thirds for Iraq. The cost of the entire Vietnam War, in today's dollars, was $536 billion.

The UK's Guardian recently reported that Bush told senior advisers that the U.S. must make "a last big push" to win in Iraq and might increase U.S. military forces by as many as 20,000 soldiers.
In our recent national election, the people voted for a change in policy in Iraq. The message seems to have reached Washington and their answer to the public appears to be "OK, we will change our policy. We will dramatically increase the amount of money we are spending on the war and we will send even more troops."

Not quite what the 62 percent of Americans who oppose the war had in mind.

The net result of this new policy will likely be more violence in Iraq, more hostility toward U.S. troops, more casualties on all sides and a deepening quagmire.

Another important result will be that the Democrats, who so far have been most willing to support all Bush's funding requests for the occupation of Iraq, get locked in to the "new policy."

Bush has long said that in his remaining time in office he will not bring the troops home. Thus the only way to end the costly and outrageous Iraq fiasco is to cut the funding for the occupation. This is ultimately how the Congress had to end the war in Vietnam.

Soldiers are now coming home from Iraq and not getting adequate treatment from the Veterans Administration because of lack of funding. Cutbacks in social programs are now becoming the norm in the U.S. as we spend 50 percent of every tax dollar on the Pentagon budget.

Our nation's No. 1 industrial export product today is weapons. In 2006 the U.S. exported more than $21 billion in weapons —— up from $10.6 billion the previous year.

Studies have long shown that military spending is capital intensive. In other words, each million dollars spent on military production creates far fewer jobs than if the money were invested in any other kind of job creation effort, including building trains, solar panels or windmills.

America is now hemorrhaging jobs and our debt is more than $8.6 trillion and growing by $2 billion a day. We'd better wake up quick and tell the Democrats that they must stop funding this war. It's killing our country.

Bruce K. Gagnon is coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space.
On the Net:

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Bush's New Bipartisanship is a Joke

Bush still doesn’t know the meaning of “bipartianship.”

In his first post-election speech President George W. Bush made a joke. It fell flat, as flat as John Kerry’s botched joke a week earlier. Here’s Bush’s joke:

“And in my first act of bipartisanship outreach, I shared with her [Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi] the names of some Republican interior decorators who can help her pick out the new drapes in her new offices.” The loudest chuckle in the room was Bush’s own.

The problem here goes much deeper than a flat joke. What Bush’s lame joke demonstrates is that he really doesn’t know the meaning of bipartisanship. By characterizing his vision of bipartisanship as Speaker-to-be Pelosi using Republican interior decorators, Bush shows his approach for bipartisanship has not changed one bit. In his world, bipartisanship still means that Democrats adopt what Republicans design.

This will be an interesting two years watching Bush’s world view collapse as his spoiled child mentality will face the reality of having to talk to the people of the other party, something he has refused to do in the last six years.

For example, when Bush was asked in this first news conference if he heard the call of the voters to bring the troops home, he said he hadn't heard that. He said he still wants the trrops "to come home with victory" and he's committed to keeping the troops in Iraq until victory. So bipartisanship in review of the Iraq situation is a non-starter. He still believes that "what the American people want" is victory in Iraq ss he defines it.

Outing Republicans in Democrat's Clothing

The Democrats have taken control of the House of Representatives and have an equal number of seats as the Republicans in the Senate with 49 each. Though tied with the Republicans in seats, the Democrats will control the Senate with the help of two independents, the progressive independent Barry Sanders of Vermont and the conservative independent Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, joining in a coalition government. Of course there is no question of Sanders' continued affiliation with the Dems since he is far more progressive than the Democrats and so they are the only game in town for him. However, the Democratic control of the Senate will be provisional only as it rests on the tenuous alliance that incumbent Joseph Lieberman will continue with his ties to the Democrats because Lieberman's values and politics are really closer to the Republicans than to the Democrats and his election proves that he no longer needs the Democrats.

In fact, since Lieberman will now be a swing vote for control of the Senate, watch out for Lieberman having far greater influence than he deserves. In order to get Lieberman to help the Democrats secure the majority control the Democrats will have to concede much to Lieberman that they would not have to concede if his alliance was not necessary. Bernie Sanders, the other "independent" in the Senate who is night and day different from Lieberman, would hold significant swing power but as a true progressive he is not the kind of person who would use his position in that way.

There should be at least two additional parties, one for the Sanders style Progressives-in-Democrat-clothing and one for the Lieberman style Republicans-in-Democrat-clothing. Then the regular Democrats and regular Republicans would make much more sense as parties.

Even though Ned Lamont lost to Lieberman in the general election, the great challenge of Ned Lamont resulted in unseating Lieberman in the Democratic primary and was a tremendous success in outing Lieberman for who he was, a Republican in Democrat clothing. Lieberman is now simply a Republican in "independent" clothing. But if truth were told there would be many more flushed out of the same closet Lieberman lived in.

Lieberman won the general election with 50% to Lamont's 40% because the vast majority of Republicans voted against their own party and for him instead: the Republican candidate, Alan Schlesinger, only got 10% of the total vote. Even though Lieberman lost their primary, a large 33% minority of Democrats stayed loyal to Lieberman and voted against their own party. Sixty-five percent of the Democrats voted for Lamont. Registered independents split 54% for Lieberman, 35% for Lamont, and 10% for the Republican. Only the Republican vote made it possible for Lieberman to win with 70% of Republicans voting for Lieberman and a mere 21% of Republicans voting for their own candidate. That clearly shows what is wrong with the Lieberman picture.

In other words "Democratic" politicians like Lieberman are as much "real" Republicans as any Republican, but in today's political alignments there is no party for them since they come out of regions where Democrats typically win. Thus, people who want to win an election must call themselves Democrats even if they are truly Republicans. Lamont successfully outed Lieberman as a Republican, and now the irony is that the Democrats will be under the threat of Lieberman who was voted in by Republicans.

Democrat Bob Casey, Jr., the Senate winner in Pennsylvania is another Republican-in-Democratic-clothing who, if he were honest, would join with Lieberman and others to found a new party that reflects their values.

The problem with the two-party dictatorship that we have today goes in two directions. First, it forces the voters into a false choice in which the two parties play a shell game and voters don't get to have a real choice among candidates. Each party wins control with a call that voters "can vote for a change", yet no real change in way the politics are played ever occurs. The only changes are minor and cosmetic. The two parties simply cater to two different constituencies of corporate business, but they both cater to those big business profiteering interests. No alternative party can break through the barrier of credibility because they are not allowed to participate with equal footing.

The voters who buy into the rhetoric of the parties again and again are simply sold a pig in a poke. Republicans find their representatives no more practicing the values they espouse than Democrats find their representatives doing. But because the two parties have made themselves the only game in town, voters live in fear that if they vote their real values by voting for an alternative party that their votes will be “wasted.” Of course this is group folly, because if enough voters stopped playing their vote between the two parties then real change would happen overnight.

Second, the candidates themselves are presented falsely to the public, as Lieberman was for so long, and only when he lost his own party's primary was he forced out of the political closet and is now seen for what he is, neither Democrat nor Republican. That is actually great because it makes for reality testing and sanity. But the Democrats and Republicans prefer to both endorse the system of false party differences in order to confuse the voters and maintain their control of the partisan power games. Candidates are presented as Democrat or Republican, yet the individual differences are more often rhetorical than substantive. While Lieberman was voting Republican he was being praised by Democrats as a good Democrat. This makes illusion and cognitive dissonance the norm in Washington. D.C.

So, thank you to Ned Lamont, who successfully exposed the charade of the two-party dictatorship and the political phoniness of Lieberman's pro-Bush politics. Even though you didn't win your state's election, you did the nation a great service for one brief moment by removing the veil from the bogus political shell game that allows the parties to pass off candidates as their own merely for political expediency rather than real values. If real values controlled who was in the parties, there would be natural alignments of voters into four or five parties, not just two, and voters would be able to face reality rather than be prisoner to the pretense that the two parties speak for all Americans.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The Opium Bush

There is no better place than Afghanistan to see that the “War on Terror” is completely bogus, and this is easily observed through its marriage to the total fakery of the “War on Drugs.” The dictum “know them by their fruits” is useful in evaluating the works of George “Opium” Bush and the effectiveness of Bush’s “War on Terror.” Under the Afghan regime change instituted at the barrels of guns and the canisters of cluster bombs by George W. Bush, the opium production and trade in Afghanistan has never been better. On September 2, 2006, the executive director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Antonio Maria Costa, said in Kabul that Afghanistan's opium harvest this year has reached the highest levels ever recorded, showing an increase of almost 50 percent from last year.
Afghanistan Notes September 2006

Really, if Bush had any pretention of actually fighting a “War on Terror” he would have sent his 200,000 troops to Afghanistan -- not Iraq. Knocking out the Taliban from the capital was not the victory he thought it was, not any more than knocking over the statue of Sadaam Hussein in Baghdad was “Mission Accomplished” in Iraq. If Bush had any real intent to establish democracy in the region, he would have not moved against Iraq until Afghanistan was secured.

What would a secured Afghanistan have looked like? Well, first of all there would not be regions controlled by war criminals as de facto governors. Afghanistan would not be a narco-state where opium farming is the number one cash crop that is supported by both the war criminals Bush supports and Taliban alike. Financial assistance for real development would have been provided in a manner that supports local economies to make them inter-dependent with one another rather than dependent upon the gangster enterprises of the war criminals masquerading as regional leaders.

The core problem of course is that the bulk of the aid that has been set aside has not even gone to the people of Afghanistan but instead to security firms and US “reconstruction” business. In other words, Bush’s US business friends are getting rich off US “aid” to Afghanistan and Bush’s war criminal proxies in Afghanistan are getting rich off the opium that Bush has allowed to continue to be produced at ever increasing rates of production since the US invasion.

Most of the USA media, and virtually all the quotable Sunday Morning Talking Heads of the two-party dictatorship, have avoided the real dope on the Afghanistan phenomenon in preference to the drama of the Iraq theater. However, the consummate shame of Afghanistan stands out more clearly than Iraq if for no other reason than the fact that Bush actually had a real chance to achieve his stated goals in Afghanistan while he never could have achieved them in Iraq no matter how much he tried. Unfortunately, the fruit of Bush’s actions in Afghanistan speak louder than his stated desires as well as exposing their falseness, and that fruit is clearly the fruit of the Opium Bush.

POST SCRIPT: Just to be clear, I am not "anti-opium" or taking a position in favor of the "war on drugs." I'm against the phony "war on drugs" largely for the same reason I'm against the bogus "war on terror", because both are simply means of exploiting the ignorance of the public into supporting the neo-fascist dictators of the USA two-party dictatorship run by the plutocratic corporate class. While misuse of opium and its derivatives can be devastating, like the prohibition of alcohol in the USA, the prohibition of opium causes far more problems for society and turns a relatively contained problem into a conflagration of problems. What I am pointing out is that Opium Bush has been capitalizing on the illegal opium trade every bit as much as the illegal drug traffickers are doing.
Also, by pointing out that Opium Bush had the opportunity to actually accomplish his stated goals for Afghanistan but blew it, doesn't mean I agreed with those goals or the methods used - I didn't and don't. For the real story and nformation on Afghanistan see John Pilger's book FREEDOM NEXT TIME.
Here's a great review of the Afghanistan section from fellow blogger Steve Lendman, a kindred spirit: AFGHANISTAN - THE OTHER LOST WAR