The River

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Barking mad

Lessons for Liberals by George Will


Among the heroes of liberalism's civil war of 60 years ago was Arthur Schlesinger Jr., who today is 88. He stigmatized their anti-anti-communism as ``doughface-ism.'' [Peter] Beinart explains: ``The original doughfaces were 'Northern men with Southern principles' -- Northerners who opposed slavery, but who could not bring themselves to support the Civil War.'' Today's doughfaces are ``progressives'' who flinch from the fact that, as Beinart says, ``America could not have built schools for Afghan girls had it not bombed the Taliban first.''


Hey, George, we'd like to build a school in your neighborhood. Naturally, this means we're going to have to murder your family. Don't flinch, George. It's obvious you are a real man who understands things. Think of the schools, George. Just think of them!

Peter, looks like your neighborhood school is getting a bit scuffed up. We've got the AK-47s and some paint, just let us know when you'll be in.

(excerpt courtesy of the aptly named RealClearPolitics)

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Crazy conspiracy theories put to rest

Oil industry and weapons manufacturers finally force government to officially release video of terrorist-piloted plane striking the Pentagon

Seeking the truth about one of the attacks that precipitated the War on Terror, Judicial Watch has obtained video from two Pentagon security cameras showing a thin, white blur and an explosion at the Department of Defense facility.

Founded in 1994, Judicial Watch is best known for filing 18 lawsuits against the Clinton administration. According to Wikipedia, the bulk of its funding comes from three foundations – the Sarah Scaife Foundation (funded via oil/banking billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife), The Carthage Foundation (funded via oil/banking billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife org) and the John M. Olin Foundation, Inc. (funded via Olin's chemical and weapons industries).

In its press release, the organization states: “Judicial Watch originally filed a Freedom of Information Act request on December 15, 2004, seeking all records pertaining to September 11, 2001 camera recordings of the Pentagon attack from the Sheraton National Hotel, the Nexcomm/Citgo gas station, Pentagon security cameras and the Virginia Department of Transportation.”

The group succeeded in obtaining an official release of images already available, recorded on Pentagon cameras designed to record license plates of vehicles entering the Pentagon grounds.
The grainy, still-frame video, dominated by a close-up of a concrete entranceway, shows a split second of a thin white blur close to the ground, followed by an explosion.

"We fought hard to obtain this video because we felt that it was very important to complete the public record with respect to the terrorist attacks of September 11," said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.

Rather than dwell on the failure of the group to force the government to release all its information in regard to the incident, Fitton was buoyant: "Finally, we hope that this video will put to rest the conspiracy theories involving American Airlines Flight 77.”

Indeed, dark conspiracy theories have flourished on the Internet, fueled by everyday citizens and personal bank accounts. Now, an energy and weapons industry interest group, apparently troubled by the War on Terror’s skyrocketing gas prices and the need for larger Defense budgets, has finally made significant headway in finding the truth behind September 11.

Fitton concluded, “As always, our prayers remain with all those who suffered as a result of those murderous attacks."

No comment was sought or offered on the deaths of at least 150,000 civilians due to subsequent War on Terror attacks.

UPDATE: General scoffing and suspicion from Nimmo.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

How the world works

You are walking down the street. Out of nowhere, somebody slaps you upside the head.

You react with anger. You forcefully tell the person he is behaving like an asshole. Over it and on your way, you decide that warning others about the jerk is the right thing to do.

You are denounced as a traitor to the community/country/ideals of the founders, your sanity is questioned, you are said to be emotionally unstable and blinded by hatred, your original and heated defense of your right not to be assaulted is recounted with large dollop of spin, half-truths and outright lies, if the economy dips, it will be your fault, and if slapping was committed (some dispute this), it was a small tap and completely reasonable under the circumstances, considering the threat you pose to everything the country stands for, in fact, you should be happy for the slap as it really should have been a coldcock with the elbow or a fist, what with all the commotion you created, causing several people to be late for work.

Eventually, Haliburton gets a huge no-bid, cost-plus contract from the government for detention centers. Studies are published showing the number of jobs created. Haliburton’s media arm hires the person who slapped you in the head as a talk radio personality. His brother enters politics.

A few people remember when walking down the street was a natural and pleasant activity, but considering what happened to you, the mysterious detention centers, and overwhelming support for random violence (polls and media reports back this up), most decide that perhaps its best not to mention it.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Documenting America's Armed Farces

In the little-seen but excellent movie Tigerland, a recruit in training prior to deployment to Vietnam causes all kinds of problems due to his rebellious spirit. In one of my favorite scenes, he comes before a commanding officer who asks, “when did ‘my country right or wrong’ become ‘fuck this shit’?”

According the new documentary “Sir! No Sir!” the answer is “1971,” which also happens to be the year of the fictional events in Tigerland. By 1971, a GI movement against the war – the subject of the documentary – had reached its height. The film’s website sums it up:

This movement didn’t take place on college campuses, but in barracks and on aircraft carriers. It flourished in army stockades, navy brigs and in the dingy towns that surround military bases. It penetrated elite military colleges like West Point. And it spread throughout the battlefields of Vietnam. It was a movement no one expected, least of all those in it. Hundreds went to prison and thousands into exile. And by 1971 it had, in the words of one colonel, infested the entire armed services.

Peace, love, and misunderstandings at the cineplex

About a week ago, surfing the usual suspects on the net, I had about had my fill of politics and despair when Leigh called me to ask if I wanted to go to the opening of the film. After looking at the website, I decided I could take it.

I’m glad I went, not only because the film is well crafted, but also because director David Zeiger, Jane Fonda, a Vietnam vet and two Iraq war vets were there for a Q&A after the screening. This added a sense of community and shared spirit among the audience, which was good for my soul. Many thanked Jane for her opposition to the Vietnam war.

Fonda has never been here nor there for me, a decent actress, some good films back in the day – “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?”; “Bonnie and Clyde”; “Klute”. Although a famous actress, she’s probably just as well known for her opposition to the Vietnam War, particularly for some of her ill-considered words and actions during a visit to North Vietnam, which right-wingers and war lovers have latched onto as a great little tool for spreading hatred and propaganda. But after reading her Wikipedia entry, I have to say I admire her progressive activism. In regard to her Vietnam era political activities, Wikipedia notes:

She is credited with publicly exposing Richard Nixon's potential strategy of bombing the dikes in Vietnam. At the time, she was called a liar by United Nations ambassador George H. W. Bush. Bush was intending to provide evidence of US innocence, but cancelled the press conference after Fonda released filmed evidence, with Bush saying, "I think that the best thing I can do on the subject is to shut up."

Would that all the Bushes would shut the fuck up.

Fonda is featured in “Sir! No Sir!” doing FTA shows for soldiers. FTA was an army PR campaign denoting “Fun, Travel, and Adventure.” GIs saw it differently. For them, FTA stood for “Fuck the Army.” Fonda and some others formed the tour as an answer to Bob Hope’s USO tours and as a way to support the troops in their quest to end the unjust war, rather than fight it.

A good friend and sometimes active progressive, Curry St. John, got us the tickets and met us the theater. Afterwards we had a bite at the trendy restaurant next door. We had learned that the GI movement spread by way of numerous underground newspapers and café hangouts near army bases. Today, we decided, the underground movement is limited to the Internet, and we wondered if venting through blogging, posting comments, etc., was very productive. Instead of meeting at coffee houses, passing on literature, talking about issues face to face, we’re isolated.

Not that I feel that way, necessarily. As a blogger, I’ve made connections and grown confident in my voice. As Jane Fonda said at the screening regarding the soldiers who spoke up and spoke out, there’s redemption in speaking your truth.

So while it may be that in cyberspace almost no one can hear you scream, at least the act loosens up the vocal chords. Which helps when you’re at that place where, as one GI put it in the film, you have “nothing to lose…It’s a really free place. You don’t know what’s going to happen, you don’t know where you’re going, but you know what you’re doing.”

Monday, May 15, 2006

State-of-the-art hypocrisy

When dictators collide

Jonathan Schwarz at A Tiny Revolution explains why Ahmadinejad's letter to Bush sounds like Cindy Sheehan, and why Bush's pre-election message broadcast to Iranians in June sounded like Iranian activist Shirin Ebadi.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Corrosive cultural influences

Squirrel beer. Ask your congressman.

Worth the wait

Bill at Thoughts on the Eve of the Appocalypse has one of his great recap posts up, this one covering the last two weeks. His take on political events is one of the most comprehensive, level-headed and discriminating you will come across. He makes it look easy, but I'm sure it involves quite a bit of work. Thanks, Bill.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

A brown block is a brown block. Until it is painted and then it is a work of art.

-- Eleanor, kindergarten creative writing assignment

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Sometimes, the "update" makes the post

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Monson the Ultimate Fighter uses Plato’s allegory of the cave to describe the experience

Ya gotta love this story. Step outside the box. Step back in the box. Put on a show.

It’s not your whole life. Read a book. Open your eyes. Spend time with your family.

It’s a beautiful thing. It’s entertainment. Relax.

Read Chomsky. Join the Industrial Workers of the World. Tell the Secret Service to stuff it.

Take a class, earn a masters. In the humanities. Of course.

Oh man, that class really opened my eyes. Just looking at the way the world is run, the way that the people that might be disabled or have mental issues are left behind. How education and general welfare are not a priority, and how the elite run everything for their own benefit. Then I started reading a bunch of stuff — Animal Farm, the International Socialist Review, Chomsky — and I started thinking in a different way.
-- Jeff Monson, Ultimate Fighting Champion fighter

And, yes, in this story from In These Times that is a must read, Monson the Ultimate Fighter uses Plato’s allegory of the cave to describe the experience.


thanks to loveecstacycrime for the link.


UPDATE: A blinding flash of a post at Thomas Paine's Corner, a look at Noam Chomsky's new book Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy including:

One of Chomsky’s most startling and often over-looked observations about America is the chasm between political will and popular will.

Consider that in 1984, Reagan won with 30% of the popular vote. Of those polled, 4% said they voted for Reagan because “he’s a real conservative”. This equates to 1% of voters stating they were endorsing conservatism with their vote. America’s media proclaimed the election “a powerful mandate for conservatism”. Polls showed that in 1984 over 80% of Americans supported increases in social spending and a majority favored cuts in military spending over decreased spending on healthcare. Obviously the Reagan and his administration chose to curry the favor of 20% of the population when they implemented policy.

The United States is the only industrialized nation with no universal health care system. 46 million Americans are uninsured and the WHO recently rated the US healthcare system as number 37 in the world. Chomsky cited numerous opinion polls, including those conducted by NBC-Wall Street Journal and the Pew Research Center. Each poll reflected that over 60% of Americans wanted a universal health care system. Yet the privatized system is too great a benefit to the “substantial people”. It is politically “untouchable”. A nation as wealthy as the United States that does not provide basic healthcare to all of its people is a failed state.


thanks to Informed Dissent for that one. Lots of good links over there.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Report: Colbert

(L-R) Uncomfortable silence; unflinching courage

Regarding Saturday night's White House Correspondent's Dinner and Stephen Colbert's monologue.

It’s the fact that Bush is sitting right there, about 10 feet away. The proximity gave the performance enormous power. So many are appalled by the man. Angry at the man. But to tell him off to his face, without flinching, without wavering, blowing only one line, but backing up to get it right, because this part isn’t throwaway, it’s throw it in your face. Mr. President, sir. “Pay no attention to the people that say the glass is half full. 32% means the glass -- it's important to set up your jokes properly, sir. Sir, pay no attention to the people who say the glass is half empty, because 32% means it's 2/3 empty.”

Got that, sir? At long last, do you get it?

It’s the proximity of the attack, and it’s the fact that the truth of what Colbert said, the truth that the mainstream, everyday, workaday world ignores, is an attack, an affront to the Neocons. Or, as Colbert said, reality has a well-known liberal bias.

Due to the proximity of the boy emperor, it was the equivalent of a pie in the face. Here’s someone who has been insulated from the effect of his actions his entire life, until finally a lowly cable-circuit comedian breaks through and creams him, leaves him dripping, embarrassed, and, in the best case scenario, human. In this case, not so much.

It was shocking because it happened in a normally safe cultural context – an official function, televised, even if only on C-SPAN.

It was powerful because the target was more than one buffoon, it was the assembled gatekeepers of publicly disseminated information, the press, the enablers of the atrocity that is the Bush Administration. The monologue indicted the entire room for collusion in government via “powerfully staged photo-ops.”

The truth hurts. And Colbert definitely drew blood. The pie analogy is much too soft, actually. The Rocky analogy Colbert used was about right. But it wasn’t so much Colbert delivering the blows, as it was his pointing out that the Bush Administration has created a bloody mess, and is itself a horrifying sight. The performance said, "Allow me to draw back the curtain, people, because you need to see this."

And now we have Neil Young’s new album, Living with War, with the let’s-not-mince-words call to impeach the president (although that song, Let’s Impeach the President, features a children’s sing-song melody that is so inappropriate to my ears that it creeps me out somehow).

Over the past three or four years I’ve wondered why we haven’t seen much cultural response to our abysmal government. Shocked into silence after 9/11. Afraid to criticize. Whatever. Out here on the Web, we've been laboring, pushing, pulling, trying to make it happen. Amusing ourselves if nothing else. Now, in the culture at large, it seems it’s finally starting to happen. Thank you, Stephen Colbert.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Please welcome back...


Let's stop kidding ourselves about Bill Clinton, Jesse Jackson, and, of course, Hillary Clinton

The Anti-Empire Report
Some things you need to know before the world ends
April 22, 2006
by William Blum

- excerpt -

Charles Taylor and that fake opposition party known as the Democrats

Some things I have to repeat, because the news makes them relevant once again, and because the media ignores them once again. Charles Taylor, former president of Liberia, has been captured and is being held for trial in a UN-sponsored war-crimes court in neighboring Sierra Leone. In 2003 Taylor was indicted by this court for "bearing the greatest responsibility for war crimes, crimes against humanity and serious violations of international humanitarian law" during Sierra Leone's civil war. The United States, along with the rest of the world, condemns Taylor, applauds his capture, and calls for his punishment. What we're not reminded of is this:
In 1998, President Clinton sent Rev. Jesse Jackson as his special envoy to Liberia and Sierra Leone, the latter being in the midst of one of the great horrors of the 20th century -- You may remember the army of mostly young boys, the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), who went around raping and chopping off people's arms and legs. African and world opinion was enraged against the RUF, which was committed to protecting the diamond mines they controlled. Taylor was an indispensable ally and supporter of the RUF and Jackson was an old friend of his. Jesse was not sent to the region to try to curtail the RUF's atrocities, nor to hound Taylor about his widespread human rights violations, but instead, in June 1999, Jackson and other American officials drafted entire sections of an accord that made RUF leader, Foday Sankoh, Sierra Leone's vice president, and gave him official control over the diamond mines, the country's major source of wealth.(14)
And what was the Clinton administration's interest in all this? It's been speculated that the answer lies with certain individuals with ties to the diamond industry and to Clinton, while he was president or while governor of Arkansas; for example, Maurice Tempelsman, generous contributor to the Democratic Party and escort of Secretary of State Madeleine Albright around this time, whose Antwerp, Amsterdam and Tel Aviv diamond marts arranged for Sierra Leone diamond sales to Tiffany and Cartier.(15)
Good ol' Bill? Good ol' Jess? I know, I know, I keep tearing down your heroes. Who will you have left? But remember the words of the two characters in Bertolt Brecht's "Galileo":
"Unhappy the land that has no heroes," says the first.
"No," says the other, "Unhappy the land that needs heroes."
Or as Abbie Hoffman said: "Sacred cows make the best hamburger."

...more at