The River

Friday, February 29, 2008

Iraq war may cost US USD 7 trillion

When US troops invaded Iraq in March 2003, the Bush administration predicted that the war would be self-financing and that rebuilding the nation would cost less than USD 2b, but [Joseph] Stiglitz estimates that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are costing America more than USD 3 trillion.

That estimate from the Noble Prize-winning Sttiglitz also serves as the title of his new book, "The Three Trillion Dollar War", which hits store shelves Friday.

As Ralph Nader points out, it should be incredibly easy to blow the Republicans out of the water, yet this incredible and vile waste of our money is not even an issue in the Presidential campaign.

That's how effectively fear -- and the bread and circuses of which it is a part -- is used to keep people in line, including would-be reformers seeking high office.

Our two-party electoral system itself is mostly bread and circuses -- red meat to make us fear and hate others, while trillions of dollars from the public treasury are devoted exclusively to corporate cronyism. I applaud Ralph Nader, the Greens, and the Libertarians (and Joseph Stiglitz) for making that point abundantly clear.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Nothing to fear but fear itself

As if there wasn't enough fear and loathing in America, now we have Ralph Nader's presidential run. This makes me very happy, because nothing illustrates the pathetic state of the Democratic party quite like its hatred of Ralph.

Ralph Nader presents something of a conundrum for partisan Democrats. I'm an independent, but I think I understand how this works. You have to hold two contradictory ideas at the same time: You concede that the two-party system is too limiting, but demand everyone fall in line behind it. You call Ralph a buffoon, but fear his ability to attract the votes you feel entitled to. You claim you have the same progressive goals, but concede important ground during the campaign. You blame Nader for Gore losing in 2000, but also acknowledge that the election was stolen. Finally, you condemn Ralph's run for President (the greatest venue for a voice to be heard), but revere the First Amendment and the marketplace of ideas.


Will Shetterly sheds some light here, commenting on a Making Light blogpost called "Why Does Nader Hate America?" [title is perfect illustration of my point, even if it is tongue-in-cheek -ed]:

One last useful look at Nader's 2000 campaign: Dispelling the Myth of Election 2000: Did Nader Cost Gore the Election?

Here's my favorite bit from it:

"Twelve percent of Florida Democrats (over 200,000) voted for Republican George Bush" -San Francisco Chronicle, Nov. 9, 2000

Since there were 97,488 Green voters in Florida, that means the Democrats are objectively two times more responsible for the Florida results than the Greens.

Shadowy Overlords Slipping

Diebold Accidentally Leaks Results Of 2008 Election Early

Wednesday, February 27, 2008


My email addy received a notice that Seventeen Evergreen is going to play Fat City, 314 11th St, SF, Friday, February 29.

As much as I'd like to spend a weekend in San Francisco, I won't be there. But the band sounds good. I don't know what to call it. Dreamy, indie rock I guess. Not a musical style I seek out, but tend to enjoy when I hear it in venues such as independent coffee houses.

You can check them out virtually or in person if you're in the right place at the right time this Friday.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Bringing down the new Berlin Walls

By John Pilger
13 Feb 2008

In his latest article for the New Statesman, John Pilger describes how the Palestinian breakout of Gaza offers inspiration for people struggling to bring down the new Berlin Walls all over the world.

The recent breakout of the people of Gaza provided a heroic spectacle unlike any other since the Warsaw ghetto uprising and the smashing down of the Berlin Wall. Whereas on the occupied West Bank, Ariel Sharon’s master plan of walling in the population and stealing their land and resources has all but succeeded, requiring only a Palestinian Vichy to sign it off, the people of Gaza have defied their tormentors, however briefly, and it is a guarantee they will do so again. There is profound symbolism in their achievement, touching lives and hopes all over the world.

“[Sharon’s] fate for us,” wrote Karma Nabulsi, a Palestinian, “was a Hobbesian vision of an anarchic society: truncated, violent, powerless, destroyed, cowed, ruled by disparate militias, gangs, religious ideologues and extremists, broken up into ethnic and religious tribalism, and co-opted [by] collaborationists. Look to the Iraq of today – that is what he had in store for us and he nearly achieved it.”

Israel’s and America’s experiments in mass suffering nearly achieved it. There was First Rains, the code name for a terror of sonic booms that came every night and sent Gazan children mad. There was Summer Rains, which showered bombs and missiles on civilians, then extrajudicial executions, and finally a land invasion. Ehud Barak, the current Israeli defence minister, has tried every kind of blockade: the denial of electricity for water and sewage pumps, incubators and dialysis machines and the denial of fuel and food to a population of mostly malnourished children. This has been accompanied by the droning, insincere, incessant voices of western broadcasters and politicians, one merging with the other, platitude upon platitude, tribunes of the “international community” whose response is not to help, but to excuse an indisputably illegal occupation as “disputed” and damn a democratically elected Palestinian Authority as “Hamas militants” who “refuse to recognise Israel’s right to exist” when it is Israel that demonstrably refuses to recognise the Palestinians’ right to exist.

“What is being hidden from the [Israeli] public,” wrote Uri Avnery, a founder of Gush Shalom, the Israeli peace movement, on 26 January, “is that the launching of the Qassams [rockets from Gaza] could be stopped tomorrow. Several months ago, Hamas proposed a ceasefire. It repeated the offer this week . . . Why doesn’t our government jump at this proposal? Simple: to make such a deal, we must speak to Hamas . . . It is more important to boycott Hamas than to put an end to the suffering of Sderot. All the media co-operate with this pretence.” Hamas long ago offered Israel a ten-year ceasefire and has since recognised the “reality” of the Jewish state. This is almost never reported in the west.

The inspiration of the Palestinian breakout from Gaza was dramatically demonstrated by the star Egyptian midfielder Mohamed Aboutreika. Helping his national side to a 3-0 victory over Sudan in the African Nations Cup, he raised his shirt to reveal a T-shirt with the words “Sympathise with Gaza” in English and Arabic. The crowd stood and cheered, and hundreds of thousands of people around the world expressed their support for him and for Gaza. An Egyptian journalist who joined a delegation of sports writers to Fifa to protest against Aboutreika’s yellow card said: “It is actions like his that bring many walls down, walls of silence, walls in our minds.”

In the murdochracies, where most of the world is viewed as useful or expendable, we have little sense of this. The news selection is unremittingly distracting and disabling. The cynicism of an identical group of opportunists laying claim to the White House is given respectability as each of them competes to support the Bush regime’s despotic war-making. John McCain, almost certainly the Republican nominee for president, wants a “hundred-year war”. That the leading Democratic candidates are a woman and a black man is of supreme irrelevance; the fanatical Condoleezza Rice is both female and black. Look into the murky world behind Hillary Clinton and you find the likes of Monsanto, a company that produced Agent Orange, the war chemical that continues to destroy Vietnam. One of Barack Obama’s chief whisperers is Zbigniew Brzezinski, architect of Operation Cyclone in Afghanistan, which spawned jihadism, al-Qaeda and 9/11.

This malign circus has been silent on Palestine and Gaza and almost anything that matters, including the following announcement, perhaps the most important of the century: “The first use of nuclear weapons must remain in the quiver of escalation as the ultimate instrument to prevent the use of weapons of mass destruction.”


h/t to thoughts on the eve

Monday, February 25, 2008

Bullet list

Twelve Issues that Matter for 2008

Remember, these twelve issues represent the tip of the political iceberg. But they are indicative of the corporate domination of the Democratic and Republican parties. There are many more where these came from. We’ll be adding them as we go along.

Adopt single payer national health insurance
Cut the huge, bloated, wasteful military budget
No to nuclear power, solar energy first
Aggressive crackdown on corporate crime
and corporate welfare
Open up the Presidential debates
Adopt a carbon pollution tax
Reverse U.S. policy in the Middle East
Impeach Bush/Cheney
Repeal the Taft-Hartley anti-union law
Adopt a Wall Street securities speculation tax
Put an end to ballot access obstructionism
Work to end corporate personhood


Truthtellers are never welcome, especially in the American homefantasyland. But next to Kucinich, Nader is about the most realistic and sensible candidate out there.

ThanksRalph pandering

"He thought that there was no difference between Al Gore and George Bush, and, eight years later, I think people realize that Ralph did not know what he was talking about," Obama said at a town hall meeting Sunday. [no, not exactly]


[Ralph, tell him what he's won]

Nader stood by his contention that Gore won the 2000 race because he took the popular vote, saying Florida's electoral vote "was stolen from him."

Nader said Democrats should "concentrate on the thieves who steal elections" instead of "scapegoating the Greens," a reference to the Green Party, the ticket he ran on in 2000.

"The Democrats ought to look themselves in the mirror and ask themselves why they have not been able to landslide the worst Republican Party and the White House and Congress over the last 20 years," he said.

Nader said he does not believe that any of the candidates, including McCain, will come through on pledges to reduce the influence of special interests in Washington.

"First of all, if they wanted to do that, they'd put front and center public funding of public campaigns," cracking down on corporate crimes and other issues. "Washington has closed its doors on citizen groups," he complained, calling the nation's capital "corporate-occupied territory."

"We have to give the system more competition, more voices, more choices, more freedom, more diversity," Nader said in a defense of his candidacy.

-- CNN

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Protest Music (4): "Sounds of Silence"

Protest Music (2): Springsteen (Banned)

Add this to things we love about America: catchy, smart pop music about what's goin on. Kudos to Bruce and his fine work on "Magic."

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

$275 million per day

That's the cost of the Iraq occupation according to the National Priorities Project. That's substantially less than $720 million per day figure given by the American Friends Service Committee.

Their figure is explained on a FAQ page:

Q. How did you come up with $720 million for one day of the Iraq war?

The Iraq War supplemental funding bills passed by Congress comes to $410 billion for four years or about $280 million/day. The additional $440 million/day represents the costs already incurred but not yet paid for such as paying the interest on the war debt, caring for the wounded, replenishing military equipment and rebuilding Iraq. These future costs are based upon the work of Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. In a Milken Review update to an article first published in the National Bureau of Economic Research, Stiglitz and Bilmes calculated the costs that have already been incurred and will come due in the future.

PCR again

Without the impeachment of Bush and Cheney, America can never recover. The precedents for unaccountable government established by the Bush administration are too great, their damage too lasting. Without impeachment, America will continue to sink into dictatorship in which criticism of the government and appeals to the Constitution are criminalized. We are closer to executive rule than many people know.

Silber reminds us that America once had leaders, such as Speaker of the House Thomas B. Reed and Sen. Robert M. LaFollette Sr., who valued the principles upon which America was based more than they valued their political careers. Perhaps Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich are of this ilk, but America has fallen so low that people who stand on principle today are marginalized. They cannot become speaker of the House or a leader in the Senate.

Today Congress is almost as superfluous as the Roman Senate under the caesars. On Feb. 13 the U.S. Senate barely passed a bill banning torture, and the White House promptly announced that President Bush would veto it. Torture is now the American way. The U.S. Senate was only able to muster 51 votes against torture, an indication that almost a majority of U.S. senators support torture.


Thursday, February 14, 2008

Dick Cheney's ride on January 20


Please welcome to the blogroll

The Real News


Winter Patriot

Thank you

I have no interest in raining on this parade

I offered to my (young-adult) daughter: "Reagan was my Obama."
She nodded.
I then spoke in general of the Republican party breaking my heart, so to speak, and of how dispiriting it was.
I said something like: "Even if Obama is elected, your generation had better keep working to keep him from ending up as just another cog in the machine."

I think that covered this issue well enough, because it does not condemn a little civic faith, while arguing for the necessity of continuous action, of a healthy distrust-of-government in action. This necessity remains, whoever is elected.

-- comment at Orcinus

But we best keep it honest.

The Cost of War

The Iraq war costs $720 million per day.

$500,000 a minute.

It's hard to get your head around the enormity of this crime.

via thoughts on the eve, via Cursor

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Bush Calls on France for Help

War without end

By Paul Craig Roberts


The Afghanistan “mission,” like the Iraq “mission,” was a mission for US and Israel hegemony. The official reason for invading Afghanistan was 9/11 and the alleged refusal of the Taliban to hand over Osama bin Laden. It had nothing whatsoever to do with Europe, NATO, or any “international mission.” The official reason for invading Iraq was alleged, but nonexistent, weapons of mass destruction that allegedly threatened America--another, but more deadly, 9/11 in the making according to the Bush regime.

If the US now needs foreign troops to save its bacon in these two lost wars, it should demand them from Israel. Israel is why the US is at war in the Middle East. Let Israel supply the troops. The neocons who dominated the Bush regime and took America to illegal wars are allied with the extreme right-wing government of Israel. The goal of neoconservatism is to remove all obstacles to Israeli territorial expansion. The Zionist aim is to grab the entirely of the West Bank and southern Lebanon, with more to follow later.

Remember “mission accomplished”? Remember all the strutting neocons with their promises of a “cakewalk war”? Remember all the ignorant bragging about having “defeated the Taliban”? All of these lies were designed to tie American down in interminable wars in the Middle East for Israel’s benefit. There is no other reason for Bush’s invasions. We know for certain that Bush and his entire administration lied through their teeth about the Taliban and about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

What a total crock of ignorance and deception the Bush regime represents. Bush, defeated in Iraq, defeated in Afghanistan, with Pakistan crumbling in front of his eyes, is now reduced to begging the French, whom it was such grand sport for his neocon officials to denigrate, to send soldiers to save his ass in Afghanistan.

What a laughing stock Bush has made of America. What ruination this utter idiot and his supporters have brought to America. What total traitors the neoconservatives are. Every last one of them should be immediately arrested for high treason. Neonconservatives are America’s greatest enemies, and they control our government! All Americans have to show for six years of Bush’s “war on terror” is an incipient police state.

Now standing in the wings is mad John “hundred year war” McCain. Will the American electorate wipe out the Republican Party before this insane party wipes out America?


"Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury during President Reagan’s first term. He was Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal." [Now he is just one king-hell Internet writer.]


Damn, if Obama wants to ignite something, he should hire this guy.

Hamster prices triple in China
By Michael Bristow
BBC News, Beijing

Hamsters have become the must-have pet in China since the Year of the Rat began on 7 February.

Pet shop owners say stocks are running low - and prices high - as children clamour for a furry friend.

According to the Chinese media, prices have tripled to about 30 yuan ($4.20, £2.10) per hamster across the country.

banks now selling Hamster Backed Securities (HBS)

-- JimmyMac,

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Super Tuesday: Why I voted for Kucinich

By Kéllia Ramares
Online Journal Associate Editor

Feb 8, 2008, 00:12

On January 22, the registration deadline for the California Presidential Primary, I changed my party affiliation from Green to "decline to state" so that I could vote in the Democratic primary. I wanted to vote for Dennis Kucinich. Two days later, he quit the presidential race. But, on February 5, his name was still on the ballot, so I voted for him anyway.

Some people would call this a wasted vote. But I don't think so. I voted for the person I thought was best fit to be president. That's what you are supposed to do in an election: vote for the person you think is best qualified. If all I wanted to do was to pick the winner, I would have done better to seek out a bookie and place a wager rather than cast a ballot. At least that way, if I picked the winner, I would have gotten some money.

My Kucinich vote was more than an act of idealism. It was a protest against the way elections are conducted in this country. Specifically, it was a protest against the way the corporate media, with the complicity of the leading candidates, can ignore some people who are running, and stop the momentum of their ideas and campaigns, by denying them news coverage or much time in debates, and then finally barring their participation in debates because they have not met criteria for gaining entrance, viz. poll numbers that the candidate might have gotten if he'd gotten any decent amount of coverage. In Kucinich's case, the situation was even worse. He met the criteria for participating in the January 15 debate but then two days later, the criteria were rewritten specifically to exclude him. And I didn't hear Edwards, Obama, or Clinton yell, "Foul! That's not the way elections in a democracy are supposed to work!"

(Republicans: do you know that Ron Paul is still in the race?)

I refuse to let the corporations tell me who my candidates are. Think about it, how different really is that from the Communist Party's electoral dictates in Cuba, China or the former Soviet Union? That we might have two or three candidates on the ballot to the Communists' one is only a cosmetic difference. We are still steered to whom we are supposed to vote for, and if enough of us still get it “wrong,” the power elites have ways to steal the elections. Florida 2000, Ohio 2004, and now there are reports of irregularities in the primary voting in New Hampshire and California.

How is it that pre-election polling showed Obama in the lead in critical New Hampshire and California yet he lost, but the pre-election polling was accurate for other races and other states?

I'm troubled by the fact that I don't know that my vote was counted for Kucinich and not for someone else. The ballot was slipped into an optical scanning machine; we have proof that electronic voting machines can be easily compromised. How do I know that votes for Kucinch, Edwards, Gravel, etc., were not turned into votes for Obama and (especially) Clinton?

We need paper ballots counted publicly by hand.


Thursday, February 07, 2008

The friggin election

You may well ask, gee, uh, Bruce, what's with the fashionable cynicism regarding the election? The answer is well put by Scott Ritter in his report "Iraq's Tragic Future":

The continued ambivalence of the American population as a whole toward the war in Iraq, perhaps best manifested by the superficiality of the slogan “Support the Troops,” all the while remaining ignorant of what the troops are actually doing, has led to a similar amnesia among politicians all too willing to allow themselves to seek political advantage at the expense of American life and treasure. January 2008 cost the United States nearly 40 lives in Iraq. The current military budget is unprecedented in its size, and doesn’t even come close to paying for ongoing military operations in Iraq. The war in Iraq has bankrupted Americans morally and fiscally, and yet the American public continues to shake the hands of aspiring politicians who ignore Iraq, pretending that the blood which soaks the hands of these political aspirants hasn’t stained their own. In the sick kabuki dance that is American politics, this refusal to call a spade a spade is deserving of little more than disdain and sorrow.

Nothing has changed since the 2004 election, which centered on a farcial debate on "mistakes" and mismanagement of our ongoing war crime.

The people who don't participate in the sick kabuki dance -- Gravel, Paul, and Kucinich come to mind -- are marginalized and ridiculed. The rest on the so-called left are either kidding themselves, or are ten times more cynical than I am. If you know the war is a lie and that AIPAC controls our politicians, and you say nothing and participate in the charade anyway, as does the supposed leading light left standing, Barack Obama, you are no better than Bush and Cheney. Or you are a fool who thinks you can change things by playing on their court. It may be a bit of both. It's a sad spectacle, either way.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Bogus Terror: Feds Wage War Against The Rule Of Law

Great post by Winter Patriot (title and link above) on the 95 percent stage managed Terror War, and how it's used to consolidate power and strip civil rights, and to dupe thousands of into sincerely believing they are fighting it.

A news report propaganda piece published today called Western cadre said to boost al Qaeda's ability to hit U.S. fits perfectly with his thesis, published Feb. 2. That is, in WP's words, the crackdown is coming. The flurry of news articles like the one I've linked are part of preparing the public for H.R.1955 Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007, which provides broad powers to the government to claim dissidents are terrorists.

If there is no will, and no ability, to deal with this phony war, and there isn't, then the entire two-year presidential election season is one more empty media spectacle designed to distract the populace. Can any reader here honestly tell me it isn't?

As long as the 9/11 Commission's conspiracy theory goes unchallenged, there will be no effective brake on this forever war. Those left on the campaign trail talking about change are just blowing smoke.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Grateful Dead Reunite for Barack Obama Benefit Show

Obama's got his mojo working, apparently, if he can inspire the Dead to perform again. It still doesn't cancel out his subservience to AIPAC.

In one debate, he accused Hillary of a willingness to say anything to get elected. The question is, does Obama do the same? Does he pander to Israel just to get elected, or is he just the softer side of Neocon?

Here he is at the AIPAC Policy Conference on March 2, 2007, in Chicago:

As the U.S. redeploys from Iraq, we can recapture lost influence in the Middle East. We can refocus our efforts to critical, yet neglected priorities, such as combating international terrorism and winning the war in Afghanistan. And we can, then, more effectively deal with one of the greatest threats to the United States, Israel and world peace: Iran.

Iran’s President Ahmadinejad’s regime is a threat to all of us.

Uh, no, it's not.

On Iraq, he tells them not to worry about his "opposition" to the Iraq invasion, it was merely his concern that "giving this [my emphasis] President the open-ended authority to invade Iraq would lead to the open-ended occupation we find ourselves in today." Yep, war crimes are okay if they are properly managed. I'm the President to do that for you.

Read the whole thing. There's not one thought that doesn't originate from Israel.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Don't be fooled by the myth of John McCain

By Johann Hari, The Independent
Thursday, 24 January 2008

A lazy, hazy myth has arisen out of the mists of New Hampshire and South Carolina. Across the pan-Atlantic press, the grizzled 71-year-old Vietnam vet, John McCain, is being billed as the Republican liberals can live with. He is "a bipartisan progressive"", "a principled hard liberal", "a decent man" – in the words of liberal newspapers. His fragile new frontrunner status as we go into Super Tuesday is being seen as something to cautiously welcome, a kick to the rotten Republican establishment.

But the truth is that McCain is the candidate we should most fear. Not only is he to the right of Bush on a whole range of subjects, he is also the Republican candidate most likely to dispense with Hillary or Barack.

McCain is third-generation navy royalty, raised from a young age to be a senior figure in the Armed Forces, like his father and grandfather before him. He was sent to one of the most elite boarding schools in America, then to a naval academy where he ranked 894th out of 899 students in ability. He used nepotism to get ahead: when he was rejected by the National War College, he used his father's contacts with the Secretary of the Navy to make them reconsider. He then swiftly married the heiress to a multi-million dollar fortune.

Right up to his twenties, he remained a strikingly violent man, "ready to fight at the drop of a hat", according to his biographer Robert Timberg. This rage seems to be at the core of his personality: describing his own childhood, McCain has written: "At the smallest provocation I would go off into a mad frenzy, and then suddenly crash to the floor unconscious. When I got angry I held my breath until I blacked out."

But he claims he was transformed by his experiences in Vietnam – a war he still defends as "noble" and "winnable", if only it had been fought harder. (More than three million Vietnamese died; how much harder could it be?) His plane was shot down on a bombing raid over Hanoi, and he was captured and tortured for five years. To this day, he cannot lift his arms high enough to comb his own hair.

On his release, he used his wife's fortune to run to as a Republican senator. He was a standard-issue Reaganite corporate Republican – until the Keating Five corruption scandal consumed him. In 1987, it was revealed that McCain, along with four other senators, had taken huge campaign donations from a fraudster called Charles Keating. In return they pressured government regulators not to look too hard into Keating's affairs, allowing him to commit even more fraud. McCain later admitted: "I did it for no other reason than I valued [Keating's] support."

McCain took the only course that could possibly preserve his reputation: he turned the scandal into a debate about the political system, rather than his own personal corruption. He said it showed how "we need to drive the special interests out of Washington", and became a high-profile campaigner for campaign finance reform. But privately, his behaviour hasn't changed much. For example, in 2000 he lobbied federal regulators hard on behalf of a major campaign contributor, Paxson Communications, in an act the regulators spluttered was "highly unusual". He has never won an election without outspending his opponent.

But McCain has distinguished himself most as an über-hawk on foreign policy. To give a brief smorgasbord of his views: at a recent rally, he sang "Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran," to the tune of the Beach Boys' "Barbara Ann". He says North Korea should be threatened with "extinction".

McCain has mostly opposed using US power for humanitarian goals, jeering at proposals to intervene in Rwanda or Bosnia – but he is very keen to use it for great power imperialism. He learnt this philosophy from his father and his granddad Slew, who fought in the Philippine wars at the turn of the 20th century, where he was part of a mission to crush the local resistance to the US invasion. They did it by forcing the entire population from their homes at gunpoint into "protection zones", and gunning down anybody over the age of ten who was found outside them. Today, McCain dreamily describes this as "an exotic adventure" which his grandfather "generally enjoyed".

Then McCain's father, John, led the US invasion of the Dominican Republic in 1965, at a time when there was a conflict on the Caribbean island. On one side, there were forces loyal to Juan Bosch, the democratically elected left-wing President who was committed to land redistribution and helping the poor. On the other side, there were forces who had overthrown the elected government and looked nostalgically to the playboy tyranny of Rafael Trujillo. John McCain Snr intervened to ensure the supporters of the democratic government were crushed, bragging that it taught the natives "how to behave themselves". He saw this as part of a wider mission, where the US would take over Britain's role as a "world empire".

These beliefs drive McCain today. He brags he would be happy for US troops to remain in Iraq for 100 years, and declares: "I'm not at all embarrassed of my friendship with Henry Kissinger; I'm proud of it." His most thorough biographer – and recent supporter – Matt Welch concludes: "McCain's programme for fighting foreign wars would be the most openly militaristic and interventionist platform in the White House since Teddy Roosevelt... [it] is considerably more hawkish than anything George Bush has ever practised." With him as president, we could expect much more aggressive destabilisation of Venezuela and Bolivia – and more.

So why do so many nice liberals have a weak spot for McCain? Well, to his credit, he doesn't hate immigrants: he proposed a programme to legalise the 12 million undocumented workers in the US. He sincerely opposes torture, as a survivor of it himself. He has apologised for denying global warming and now advocates a cap on greenhouse gas emissions – but only if China and India can also be locked into the system. He is somewhat uncomfortable with the religious right (while supporting a ban on abortion and gay marriage). It is a sign of how far to the right the Republican Party has drifted that these are considered signs of liberalism, rather than basic humanity.

Yet these sprinklings of sanity – onto a very extreme programme – are enough for a superficial, glib press to present McCain as "bipartisan" and "centrist". Will this be enough to put white hair into the White House? At the moment, he has considerably higher positive ratings than Hillary Clinton, and beats her in some match-up polls. If we don't start warning that the Real McCain is not the Real McCoy, we might sleepwalk into four more years of Republicanism.