Arranology

Archive for January 2004

CoxNews: Pols Weigh In

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Georgia Democrats, led by former president Jimmy Carter, spoke out yesterday on Superintendent Kathy Cox’s proposal to eliminate all mention of evolution from biology courses. Carter minced no words:

“As a Christian, a trained engineer and scientist, and a professor at Emory University, I am embarrassed by Superintendent Kathy Cox’s attempt to censor and distort the education of Georgia’s students,” the former president declared. “Nationwide ridicule of Georgia’s public education system will be inevitable if this proposal is adopted.”

No kidding. But Carter was not the only Georgia Democrat to offer an opinion.

At the state Capitol, some lawmakers denounced the proposal Friday.”You’re talking about a major change in public education in Georgia,” said Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor, a Democrat. “It appears Superintendent Cox finds the word ‘evolution’ too controversial to be discussed. She prefers a more nebulous term.”

State Rep. Bob Holmes (D-Atlanta), chairman of the House Education Committee, said the proposal will make Georgia look foolish on a national scale. “We have one black eye from the flag. This will give us another black eye,” he said.

Holmes said he couldn’t understand why the argument over evolution is continuing. “It seems to me this thing had been resolved 70 years ago during the Scopes monkey trial,” he said. In that landmark trial, in Tennessee in 1925, Clarence Darrow defended high school teacher John Scopes in the first court case to pit the theory of evolution against the biblical story of creation.

Although legislators may get no vote on whether Cox’s decision stands, Holmes noted that the House and Senate “provide funds for everything they do.”

Is that a threat, Bob?

Republican legislators, however, have been strangely silent. All Gov Sonny Perdue would say is that it’s not his place to get involved but that he “trust[s] the Superintendent…[who] is perfectly capable of making those kinds of curriculum decisions.” Not from where the 21st century is sitting, Sonny. From there it looks like she don’t know the difference between the Inquisition and an electron microscope. But then, you don’t either, probably.

Not satisfied with scrapping biology, Cox is also in the process of trying to “skip” the history of the Civil War as taught in Georgia’s high schools.

A proposal to all but skip the Civil War in high school history classes has state Superintendent Kathy Cox defending her views again.

The excuse they’re using–and there may be some validity to it–is that there just isn’t time to teach everything. Cox’s proposal suggests cutting the study into two parts:

Georgia teachers have complained for years that the state’s standards are a mile wide and an inch deep. Cox’s proposal — which includes changes such as placing the bulk of Civil War instruction in the fifth and eighth grades — is designed to free up time to cover topics in more depth, while meeting national standards that encourage hands-on activities in place of rote learning.But to free up more time, topics get introduced in earlier grades, a move Cox defends.

“We don’t need to dumb down expectations for our younger students and leave challenging material for the high school years alone,” Cox said in a statement released last week.

There are, of course, drawbacks to this arrangement.

[Andy] Preston, who teaches U.S. history at Ware County Magnet School and is president of the Georgia Council for the Social Studies, does not dispute the intention of the new standards. He sometimes has “trouble getting beyond World War II, you get bogged down.”But he worries whether fifth- or even eighth-graders have the maturity to deal with a topic as complex as the Civil War. So does Darrell Huckaby, a 29-year teaching veteran who teaches advanced-placement U.S. history at Heritage High School in Rockdale County.

“It just doesn’t make sense to learn half of history,” said Huckaby…

*******************************************

Under the proposed standards, Georgia’s high-schoolers would pretty much start at Reconstruction and move onward.

“It’s kind of sad we need to teach less to do better,” said Nathan Kumar, a junior at Marietta High School in Cobb County. “We live in America, not just the South, and the Civil War is a huge deal.”

Several legislators also have criticized the idea that the Civil War would not be a mandatory topic for high schoolers.

Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor said he is concerned about the proposed changes.

“I would urge you . . . to insist that educators in your districts, who you trust, review this,” Taylor said from the rostrum late last week. “These are very, very important changes.”

Sen. Steve Thompson (D-Powder Springs) also spoke out from the floor.

“How can we talk about today and the future if we don’t know about the past?” Thompson said. “We need to learn something about world history.”

Maybe it’s a matter of making choices, and sure, you can’t include everything, but sneaking the study of the Civil War–often called “The War of Northern Aggression” in the South and still a controversial topic after 150 years–into the lower, less demanding grades is a move that seems designed to allow (or even force) Georgian educators to soft-peddle the intricate and complex battles between Southern slave-owners and Northern Abolitionists, leaving a hole you could run a train through that is perfect for channeling the simple-minded “state’s rights” explanation that conservatives like Cox prefer, and down-playing the slavery aspect to the point of invisibility.

I wouldn’t assume that that is the intent if it weren’t for Cox’s attempt to eliminate evolution from the curriculum. Finding a way to turn the Civil War from a war over slavery into a war over state’s rights has been on the radcon agenda for years, just like dumping evolution, and it appears that Cox thinks she’s found a way to slip it into the curriculum under the radar with the excuse “we don’t have time to teach it.”

What this suggests, along with the evolution change, is that the radcons are using Cox to move their education agenda forward another step. Look for Cox to start showing up on wingnut radio and tv shows where she will be fawned over like a war hero, after which similar “proposals” will raise their ugly heads in other Southern states.

Cox represents the tip of the radcon iceberg, and it’s sailing mighty close to home.

Written by Mick

January 31, 2004 at 8:51 pm

“Yes/No/Maybe So” Voting

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Reader Peter K Harrell, writing in Comments on the “A Republican dirty trick” post, makes reference to something called “Yes/No/Maybe so” Voting. Mr Harrell is known to me–at least online–and an expert on Y/N/M. Without his permission–though with a reasonable certainty that he won’t mind–I’m going to be posting, over the next week or so (depending on time) some of his material explaining exactly what Y/N/M voting is and how it works.Why am I doing this? Because the Y/N/M voting system is the only truly democratic voting system I’ve ever seen or heard of for reasons you will read for yourself, and if we survive Junior and the Radcon takeover-attempt it’s going to be bloody important to put into place a system of voting that will prevent any group of ideologues from ever again thinking that our democracy can be hijacked or that America could be a one-party nation if they play enough tricks on us.

But before we get into the system itself, I want to post Mr Harrell’s lucid explanation of the weaknesses of majority rule, what he calls The Majority Rule Voting Paradox.

Part 1 of 2 What is the Majority Rule Voting Paradox?

A Majority Rule Voting Paradox exists whenever there is a candidate on the ballot who is preferred to another candidate by a majority of the electorate despite the fact that this preferred candidate is also simultaneously disapproved of by a majority of that same electorate while the other candidate is approved of by a majority of that same electorate.

This paradox, known as the Majority Rule Voting Paradox, is important because it demonstrates that voting techniques such as Plurality Voting and Instant Runoff Voting that focus solely on preference cannot even determine the Consent of the Governed much less return election results consistent with that consent.

Plurality Voting is the voting technique used most often in elections in the United States. The Consent of the Governed is the basis of a fundamental democratic principle that provides legitimacy to democratic government.

The Majority Rule Voting Paradox can most easily been demonstrated using an electorate that consists of three people, whose opinions can be described as follows.

Person 1:
Prefers Candidate A to Candidate B. Approves of Candidate A and Approves of Candidate B.

Person 2:
Prefers Candidate A to Candidate B. Disapproves of Candidate A and Disapproves of Candidate B.

Person 3:
Prefers Candidate B to Candidate A. Disapproves of Candidate A and Approves of Candidate B.

Please note that the description of the opinion of Person 2 is in fact the description of a voter confronted with the well-known “Lesser of Two Evils” voting dilemma.

A careful examination of this three-person electorate will reveal that Candidate A is preferred to Candidate B by a 2 to 1 majority consisting of Person 1 and Person 2. But Candidate A is also at the same time disapproved of by a 2 to 1 majority of this same electorate consisting of Person 2 and Person 3. Furthermore Candidate B is approved of by a 2 to 1 majority of this same electorate consisting of Person 1 and Person 3.

There are 3 different majorities existing simultaneously within this electorate. Two of these three majorities support the election of Candidate B, while one of these majorities, the preferential majority, supports the election of Candidate A hence the paradox.

Given this approach to modeling the opinions of the electorate there are six different types of voter opinion. There are an additional three more types of voter opinion that are a “mirror image” of those presented here. If all six of these opinion types are assumed to be equally probable, then a Majority Rule Voting Paradox situation should arise over 10% of the time. This is a large percentage for the occurrence of a voting paradox.

The Majority Rule Voting Paradox calls into question the likelihood that voting will result in the election of the candidate that best reflects the will of the people and can provide legitimacy to democratic government according to the principle of the Consent of the Governed.

IOW, folks, no wonder we all feel disenfranchised–the winner-take-all system itself denies our choice and our voice. As long as we are electing leaders on the basis of majority rule, those leaders will not be the ones we wanted but the ones most of us didn’t want but were willing to suffer. When you understand this, you begin to understand what’s really behind the phenomenon of plummeting voter registration: Why bother when your choice is between two people you dislike equally? or like equally? Why bother when the leader you prefer, the leader who is closest to your own positions, isn’t even in the race?

The political fall-out from the voting system we use is so immense that it’s hard to measure, and I’ll be talking about that, too, as we go along. For now, I’ll only comment on the most obvious effect: majority rule pushes both parties into least-common-denominator, dead-center campaigning, virtually assuring that no one will be represented by them. What they do represent is some amorphous, unreal “average citizen”, an unholy concoction of clashing attitudes and irreconcilable beliefs who, if s/he actually existed, would be a schizophrenic, paranoid/delusional basket case.

We MUST have a better, more representational system.

Jeff Alworth at american street has written an interesting post about the political changes in the last three weeks. At the end, he asks an important question. Here’s the last section:

The Vacuum of Opportunity
Joe Trippi recognized a year ago that this election would be about change. He understood that George W. Bush had taken the country in a direction almost no one wanted to go, and that any other direction would be seen as an improvement. As this emerges as the election’s central theme, everyone is focused on November 2. But what about November 3?There are rare moments in history when political change is possible. For change to happen, though, more than timing is necessary. A movement needs an ideological nucleus, it needs a leader willing to champion the cause, and it needs to be informed by and inspiring to a majority of Americans. Whether a viable movment will emerge from this election is debatable. But something will fill the void created by this desire for change. Trippi was correct: any other direction is better than the one we’re on. Things are happening too quickly for folks to consider more than the electability issue. But will liberals be able to seize the moment and build a movement after November 3? Time will tell.

What Jeff is talking about is an all-out effort to counter the right-wing’s success in defining themselves with a plan of our own to do likewise. My response to Jeff is that I agree, and that adopting Y/N/M voting must be a vital part of that plan. We owe it to ourselves, we owe it to democracy to put a voting system in place that allows real people to be represented without the cumbersome difficulties of proportional representation. If we don’t, the rest of our efforts may not count for much.

First, of course, we have to eject Junior Bush and His Ragged Radcon Band before they decide to declare Martial Law and dispense with little annoyances like “elections”.

Written by Mick

January 31, 2004 at 6:40 am

Posted in Voting

Update: Non-Evolution

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Not much time today, but I wanted to acknowledge a mistake. In the “Comments” section of the Inherit the Wind post, Phaedrus of No Fear of Freedom called my attention to the fact that I had slightly misread the article–the new curriculum is a proposal, not a done deal. The NYT picked up the story today when Superindent Cox decided to respond to the AJC article, noting that the proposal had caused a “furor”, and that opponents of the change have 90 days in which to respond. Let’s begin with the “furor”:

ATLANTA, Jan. 29 — A proposed set of guidelines for middle and high school science classes in Georgia has caused a furor after state education officials removed the word “evolution” and scaled back ideas about the age of Earth and the natural selection of species.Educators across the state said that the document, which was released on the Internet this month, was a veiled effort to bolster creationism and that it would leave the state’s public school graduates at a disadvantage.

“They’ve taken away a major component of biology and acted as if it doesn’t exist,” said David Bechler, who heads the biology department at Valdosta State University. “By doing this, we’re leaving the public shortchanged of the knowledge they should have.

And, as the AJC article said yesterday, biology is what is known in academic circles as a “gateway” course, meaning that a student has to show mastery of it before she can move on to more advanced science courses like physics and chemistry.

In her press conference today, Cox seems to be less concerned with the hole she’s willing to put Georgia’s students into than with pushing her religious agenda. The NYT report on the press conference ends, fittingly enough, with a breath-taking Orwellianism in which she equates her determination to see creationism taught in schools with Galileo’s fight to force the Catholic Church to acknowledge scientific reality:

Georgia’s schools superintendent, Kathy Cox, held a news conference near the Capitol on Thursday, a day after The Atlanta Journal-Constitution published an article about the proposed changes.A handful of states already omit the word “evolution” from their teaching guidelines, and Ms. Cox called it “a buzz word that causes a lot of negative reaction.” She added that people often associate it with “that monkeys-to-man sort of thing.”

Still, Ms. Cox, who was elected to the post in 2002, said the concept would be taught, as well as “emerging models of change” that challenge Darwin’s theories. “Galileo was not considered reputable when he came out with his theory,” she said

Sorry, Kathy, but just saying that a faith-based theory is the same as a science-based theory just because neither was readily accepted doesn’t make it true. But try to explain to a radcon that assertion isn’t fact and “everybody does it” isn’t a defense.

Unfortunately some of the changes go beyond presenting a competing “theory” and slam-bang into the realm of altering well-documented fact.

Much of the state’s 800-page curriculum was adopted verbatim from the “Standards for Excellence in Education,” an academic framework produced by the Council for Basic Education, a nonprofit group. But when it came to science, the Georgia Education Department omitted large chunks of material, including references to Earth’s age and the concept that all organisms on Earth are related through common ancestry. “Evolution” was replaced with “changes over time,” and in another phrase that referred to the “long history of the Earth,” the authors removed the word “long.” Many proponents of creationism say Earth is at most several thousand years old, based on a literal reading of the Bible.Sarah L. Pallas, an associate professor of biology at Georgia State University, said, “The point of these benchmarks is to prepare the American work force to be scientifically competitive.” She said, “By removing the benchmarks that deal with evolutionary life, we don’t have a chance of catching up to the rest of the world.”

As Darrow said in Dayton, TN almost 80 years ago, in order to insist that the earth is only a few thousand years old (4,000 according to Bishop Usher, who counted the ages of Biblical prophets backwards to reach his number), the sciences of astronomy, paleontology, geology, botany, and archeology, among others, would have to be thrown out; so would physics and chemistry since they provide the proofs for the findings of the others. “Long” is a short word, but removing it is a very big deal and proves that the creationists have a lot more on their minds than discrediting Darwin: they ultimately want to discredit all science that conflicts with a literal interpretation of the Bible.

What the changes proposed by Cox and the Scopes Trial do NOT have in common is intent: John Scopes was put on trial as a publicity stunt, but these people are serious. Ironically, the most chilling statement and the most hopeful statement of the press conference were the same statement:

The guidelines, which were adopted by a panel of 25 educators, will be officially adopted in 90 days, and Ms. Cox said the public could still influence the final document. “If the teachers and parents across the state say this isn’t what we want,” she said, “then we’ll change it.

“Chilling” because it appears that the radcons are fostering an era when “good science” is going to be defined by polling the electorate; “hopeful” because the backlash is significant and will have to be taken account of before the curriculum can be officially sanctioned and enforced. But even though it may work–this time–in favor of scientific learning, leaving scientific decisions up to a public that is largely science-illiterate is a really bad, not to say dangerous, idea and a truly lousy way to advance our knowledge of the world around us.

Written by Mick

January 30, 2004 at 7:09 pm

Pubs Invent Green Party Candidate to Siphon Votes from Dems

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A new Republican dirty trick–these guys never rest–has been outed by Jeanne at Body and Soul. It seems that California Republicans manufactured a supposed Green Party candidate to siphon votes from a Democrat.

We have a very tight contest for State Senate going on around here. The district is enormous. It covers five counties, stretching from Santa Maria to San Jose, which not only covers a lot of land, it includes a wide range of political opinions. Nobody can call this one.The Democratic candidate is Peg Pinard, who was a little late getting into the race, and is definitely underfunded. The Republican is Abel Maldonado, a young assemblyman who is being groomed as a future party superstar. They already gave him a national forum (although it didn’t go over to well with some Republicans). He was also co-chair of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s campain. He’s raised more than $600 thousand in the race (compared to Pinard’s $88 thousand).

Not satisfied with their money advantage, the Republicans decided to try peeling a few votes away from Peg Pinard in a rather dirty way: They dug up a guy, Brook Madsen — who says he doesn’t even think of himself as a Green — talked him into running, and paid his filing fees to run as the Green Party candidate. Peg Pinard has a strong environmental record, and the Green Party had no intention of running anyone against her. But many voters may not get the message, and a fake Green candidate might siphon off crucial votes.

This is low even for Pubs, and in the Days of Bush, that’s saying something. Jeanne says the Greens are fighting back with a campaign to let their members know what’s going on and ask them to vote for Pinard, but as she points out, the message may not get to everyone, especially those who are sympathetic to the Greens but not actual members–like me.

I know I have some readers in CA. If you live in that district, please tell everyone you know about this Publican deception. Even if you don’t vote in that district, tell them anyway. If we don’t nip this in the bud, Karl–who may very well have set this up as a test run–will be doing it everywhere.

Get this through your heads: There is no limit to the depths Republicans will sink in order to win. None.

Written by Mick

January 29, 2004 at 6:15 pm

Inherit the Wind

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I remember thinking a few years ago while watching the movie starring Spencer Tracy and Fredric March that the age when science could be thrown out the window and replaced by religious dogma was forever behind us, a relic of past bigotry and superstition that we had passed through never to see again, like the Inquisition or the persecution of witches.

I was wrong. It isn’t over after all, it seems. Junior’s fundamentalist religious convictions allow him to claim, inaccurately and inappropriately, in the SOTU that abstinence is he “only” protection from AIDs, ignoring condoms as if they didn’t exist, and now the State of Georgia has wiped the word “evolution” from its science curriculum, according to the AJC.

Georgia students could graduate from high school without learning much about evolution, and may never even hear the word uttered in class.New middle and high school science standards proposed by state Schools Superintendent Kathy Cox strike references to “evolution” and replace them with the term “biological changes over time,” a revision critics say will further weaken learning in a critical subject.

The curriculum revision which had begun as “an attempt to strengthen the performance of students by requiring greater depth”, was simply hijacked by Republican State Schools Superintendent Kathy Cox and State Dept of Education’s Stephen Pruitt, who ordered the “committee of science teachers, college professors and curriculum experts…involved in reviewing the proposal” to delete both the word “evolution” and most of the curriculum recommended by the American Association for the Advancement of Science that covers “the origin of living things”.

Cox, in what has come to be the standard Republican “say one thing in the election, do another in office” bait-and-switch tactic, was asked about the teaching of evolution in a public debate during her campaign.

Cox, a Republican elected to the state’s top public school position in 2002, addressed the issue briefly in a public debate during the campaign. The candidates were asked about a school dispute in Cobb County over evolution and Bible-based teachings on creation.Cox responded: “It was a good thing for parents and the community to stand up and say we want our children exposed to this [creationism] idea as well. . . . I’d leave the state out of it and I would make sure teachers were well prepared to deal with competing theories.

Once elected, however, she instantly injected the state into the controversy. Of course. Voters who were paying attention would have known she was going to do that from her radcon equation of the scientific theory of evolution with the the religious dogma of creationism. That was a dead give-away. They are not “competing theories”. Labeling creationism a “theory” is like calling the Holy Ghost a “distinct personality type”.

Fortunately, Georgian educators do not, as a rule, live in the Middle Ages, and church control of science is still frowned upon. More than 600 of them have signed an online petition “challeging the curriculum as misguided.” Whether or not that will stop this latest radcon attempt to force science to obey religion remains to be seen.

Where is our Clarence Darrow?

Written by Mick

January 29, 2004 at 2:57 pm

CIA Innocent of Misleading Bush Admin

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David Kay’s “No-WMD-after-all” findings made a lot of news, as they should have. But his rap on the intelligence services–claiming that they provided bad information to the WH–is more Republican spin control. In fact, the evidence is overwhelming, as readers of this blog may remember, that the CIA, DIA, and even the State Dept repeatedly warned the Bush Admin that there was NO evidence of the WMD charges they were making. The Center for American Progress lays it out:

Intel Warnings IgnoredFormer weapons inspector David Kay will testify before the Senate today, facing questions about his admission that most likely there were never WMD in Iraq before the Iraq invasion. Kay has spent the last three days pummeling the intelligence community, instead of the Bush Administration, saying the intelligence agencies “owe President Bush an apology.” But Kay’s comments and the White House’s efforts to pass the buck face a challenge from President Bush himself, who “refused to blame faulty intelligence for overstating the threat.” Instead, Bush “evaded questions” and joined Secretary of State Colin Powell and Vice President Cheney as the three top Administration officials to publicly back away from their previous WMD claims. Here are the highlights of the intelligence community’s warnings to the White House (for more, see the complete list):

CIA WARNINGS IGNORED: On February 6, 2002, the CIA told the White House there was “no evidence that Iraq has engaged in terrorist operations against the United States in nearly a decade, and the agency is also convinced that President Saddam Hussein has not provided chemical or biological weapons to Al Qaeda or related terrorist groups.” In October of 2002, the CIA also “sent two memos to the White House voicing strong doubts about a claim President Bush made three months later in the State of the Union address that Iraq was trying to buy nuclear materials in Africa.” And in February of 2003, the CIA again warned the White House, “We do not have any direct evidence that Iraq has used the period since Desert Fox to reconstitute its Weapons of Mass Destruction programs.”

DIA WARNINGS IGNORED: In September, 2002, the Defense Intelligence Agency told the White House that there is “no reliable information on whether Iraq is producing and stockpiling chemical weapons.” The report also said, “A substantial amount of Iraq’s chemical warfare agents, precursors, munitions, and production equipment were destroyed between 1991 and 1998 as a result of Operation Desert Storm and UN actions.”

DOE WARNINGS IGNORED: In September, 2002, the Energy Department’s technical experts warned the White House that the aluminum tubes Iraq was seeking –the central basis for the conclusion that Iraq was reconstituting its nuclear weapons program – were ill-suited to build centrifuges for enriching uranium. In fact, Secretary Powell even admitted before the U.N. that there was controversy over the tubes.

STATE DEPT. INTELLIGENCE WARNINGS IGNORED: In October, 2002, the State Department’s Intelligence and Research Department (INR) told the White House that its WMD conclusions were inaccurate. Its report said, “the activities we have detected do not … add up to a compelling case that Iraq is currently pursuing what INR would consider to be an integrated and comprehensive approach to acquiring nuclear weapons.” The Financial Times on 7/30/03 noted that this warning was specifically reiterated to Secretary Powell during the preparations of his U.N. speech, but again was ignored.

AIR FORCE INTELLIGENCE WARNINGS IGNORED: While President Bush said Iraq had Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) that could spray biological weapons on American soil, the WP reported on 9/26/03 that “the government organization most knowledgeable about UAV programs – the Air Force’s National Air and Space Intelligence Center – had sharply disputed that notion” to the White House, but was ignored.

U.N./IAEA WARNINGS IGNORED: CNN reported on 2/14/03 that weapons inspectors told the White House “they had not found any weapons of mass destruction.” On 2/15/03, the WP reported that the International Atomic Energy Agency warned the White House, “We have to date found no evidence of ongoing prohibited nuclear or nuclear-related activities in Iraq.”

ANY QUESTIONS?

Nope. Seems clear enough to me.

(From Tom Tomorrow)

Written by Mick

January 29, 2004 at 6:16 am

Worry About Kerry Dept: An Analysis

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An analysis by Yvonne Abraham in the Boston Globe suggests the reason for the importance of Kerry’s NH victory:

That is where momentum comes in. Kerry was nowhere in Arizona until he won the Iowa caucuses. But an Arizona Republic poll Sunday showed him leading the field. Because the primary calendar is so short this year (a compression championed by Democratic National Committee chief Terry McAuliffe, in the hopes of quickly uniting the party behind the nominee), bounce will count for a great deal more than in previous years. Although states with earlier primaries, eager for the courting enjoyed by the first two primary states, were all too happy to oblige McAuliffe, the compressed calendar has left precious little time for the wooing, and effectively increased the clout of New Hampshire and Iowa.

Slammed tight together with no time for breath, let alone reflection, voters will tend to go with the flow–and the winner-on-paper. Abraham quotes a voter who is, unfortunately, thinking exactly as I feared voters might be thinking–wait for the winner to emerge and then vote for him:

In Missouri, barber Lee Moss certainly wasn’t committing to anyone before he knew last night’s results. “If you go to a racetrack and see all the horses lined up, the one that [looks like he will be] first isn’t the one that is necessarily going to win,” Moss said in his Webster Groves shop late last week. “I’m still waiting to see what happens in New Hampshire.”

Told ya. Are we doomed yet?

Written by Mick

January 28, 2004 at 7:17 pm

SERVE Security Hopelessly Flawed

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The seemingly ubiquitous Benedict Spinoza (that can’t be a real name) of American Samizdat and Benedict@Large has yet another interesting blog, it seems. This one’s called Black Box Notes, and it’s dedicated to news about the electronic voting system. The latest post links to a report on Wired News that a bevy of experts from Lawrence Livermore Laboratories and Johns Hopkins University (among other places) strongly recommends scrapping the SERVE system that’s supposed to be used to collect overseas votes because its security is so flawed.

Researchers warned last week that an Internet voting system designed for Americans overseas to use in the November presidential election should be scrapped — because Internet insecurities could compromise the election.The government dismissed the researchers’ findings, saying the report offered false conclusions about the security of the Secure Electronic Registration and Voting Experiment, or SERVE, system. The evaluation was written for the Defense Department by four of 10 computer experts assembled by the Federal Voting Assistance Program.

“They didn’t know that we would come up with a conclusion as strongly as we did that they really shouldn’t field this system,” David Jefferson, a computer scientist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California and one of the report authors, said. “But once we decided that the system was sufficiently dangerous, we felt we had to recommend it couldn’t go forward.”

Jefferson expressed concern that the test-run will occur during an important presidential election. “They think the value of the experiment outweighs the risk; we don’t,” he said.

SERVE is the program that will register and count the votes of the absentees, the largest chunk of which would be military, an all-important sector of Bush’s base. After 3 solid years of Republicans cutting veterans’ benefits and making promises they have blithely broken, it would seem that that vote is no longer as automatically Republican as it was last time. I don’t want to sound paranoid but with WH pol-ops outing covert agents and Publican Congressional staffers hacking into Democratic files for more than a year proving that the Pubs don’t have a lot of integrity mixed into their “winning is all that matters” philosophy, the scope for potential vote-theft is massive. There are a number of ways it could be done:

The researchers said an Internet voting system that allows ballots to be cast through personal computers would be vulnerable to viruses and worms, spoofing attacks (in which a hacker could intercept and change votes using a fake site resembling the real voting site) or a DoS attack preventing voters from accessing the real site.

Imagine this not-unimaginable scenario:

Tom DeLay sets up a spoof operated by the same staffers who hacked into the Congressional Democrats’ network and intercepts the estimated 6M votes coming in from overseas, most of them military, before they get to the official server. If they’re Republican votes, he passes them on to the server to be counted; if they’re Democratic, he deletes them or changes them into Republican votes. If done properly, the experts warn, there would be no way to know whether or not the votes had been tampered with.

Too cynical and suspicious? Maybe, but in the last 3 years being cynical and suspicious has been a good way to accurately predict Republican tactics. And with the questions swirling around the oddities in the Georgia voting, for instance, that centered on electronic voting machines spitting out results almost opposite to poll results in the same districts, and with the fact that in almost every single election in which electronic voting results were considered anomalies it was the Republicans who gained from them, a little suspicion may be a necessary defense mechanism.

It’s becoming more obvious every day that we can’t afford a system of voting that doesn’t provide a paper trail for checking electronic results against actual voter intentions. Without a paper trail, the risks of fraud are too great.

Written by Mick

January 28, 2004 at 6:24 pm

Posted in Voting

Worry About Kerry Dept: Poll Results

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CNN has the final results–you probably know them by now:

Kerry……………39%
Dean……………26%
Clark……………12%
Edwards………12%
Liberman………9%
Kucinich………..2%
Sharpton……….Zippo

I have to admit I’m surprised at Dean’s strong showing in a state that has historically disliked him. What the hell did he say up there? Was it Judy that made the difference? Might’ve been. This is the first time she’s campaigned with him in months–and she gave interviews. Interesting woman, comes across a lot warmer than Deano.

Kerry’s victory was predictable but none the less depressing. This gives him a push going into the South, which is too bad. IMO, he’s the worst possible candidate to put against Junior; as I’ve said, they already know how to beat him. Dennis would have a better shot against Bush than Kerry’s got.

Edwards’ poor showing is truly disappointing after the shove he got in Iowa. I thought he’d do better, maybe even a solid second. A lame tie for third doesn’t do much for him or Clark, and both have a far better chance against Bush than Kerry.

My god, what are the Dems doing? Shooting themselves in the foot again? Bush didn’t win the last election; Gore lost it. So what do they do? Put another Gore-type wanna-be on track to do the same damn thing. Will we never learn?

Comments picked up by field reporters in NH in the days leading up to this primary were heavy on the “I wanna vote for the guy that can beat Bush” mantra. Maybe we outsmarted ourselves. On paper, Kerry looks like the best bet and we are desperate to field a winner so we go with the paper. The trouble is, Mondale looked good on paper. So did The Duke. Both suffered massive losses. Gore looked unbeatable on paper, and he turned the election into a squeaker…which he lost. We keep going with the favorite and we keep losing, which anybody who plays the ponies will tell you is standard–”Never bet the favorite; they usually lose.” Maybe it’s time to go with a medium long-shot, say 5- or 6-1–a Dean or an Edwards. Leave the favorite alone for a change.

Well, the South comes up next week. Not much time. Edwards, Dean and Clark all have good chances to blow Kerry out of the top spot–unless, that is, the primary-goers in the South are as determined to go with the winner-on-paper as the guys in NH. If that’s the case, gawd help us–this may be the last genuine election I see in my lifetime.

Go Howie!

Written by Mick

January 28, 2004 at 3:37 am

How Corporate CEO’s Embezzled $$$Millions$$$

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More from FITE–How Corporate CEO’s Embezzled $$$Millions$$$

How did the CEOs embezzle trillions?

We want to make clear that our information is based on many respected sources in the business world. We say this because the information you will read below will probably stun you as it did us. It helps to know that everything we say can be verified by several sources.

What was their goal?

They wanted to eliminate all barriers to giving themselves huge pay increases every year regardless of how well their companies did.

What was stopping them?

Honest accountants who prevented them from lying on company financial reports.

Honest compensation experts who were setting limits on CEO raises based on what other CEOs were getting.

How did they get them to lie?

The CEOs came from the largest corporations in the country, so they provided a lot of work for compensation experts and accountants. They simply let them know that telling the truth would get them in trouble. Head of the corporate giant Citicorp John Reed, who led the charge, called it “education.”

How did the compensation experts help?

They stopped publishing the CEO’s pay. For example, they refused to cooperate any longer with the Wall Street Journal to produce a yearly compensation survey. Without any standards of pay, CEOs could then give themselves whatever they pleased.

How did the accountants help?

As with all accounting schemes, the details are complex. Basically, they helped by certifying false financial reports that ignored about 2/3rds of CEO income, a trick they called “not expensing stock options.” It was as if the CEO got paid under the table. The money came from the owners, but didn’t show up in the books.

That boosted real or non-existent profits, making the CEOs look like heroes. With profits so high, nobody could object to the huge pay raises that amounted to 500% for the average CEO during the 1990s. The compensation experts helped by not supplying standards of reasonable pay.

That’s the short answer. The accounting details could fill volumes. Even the best experts have trouble understanding parts of it. We provide references to sources that explain more of the details in readable form in the last section.

But didn’t the owners protest?

Absolutely. They were very mad. But they didn’t go to the people who police these matters because the powerful Business Round Table and their friends controlled a large number of high ranking officials responsible for enforcing laws against financial fraud. So they hired lawyers who became very rich by winning many court settlements worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

How did the CEOs react?

The justly high settlements only enraged the CEOs who had hatched the plan. A lot of high tech CEOs joined up. Under cover of accusations that the lawyers were the kind we all love to hate, the CEOs pressured congress to pass the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 which effectively legalized the embezzlement. Incredibly, this act made it nearly impossible to use perfectly good evidence of the crime in court. For example, the even the best lawyers (like Lerach) found it almost impossible to win a case against a CEO who deliberately and wildly exaggerated future earnings.

This was public information. Lawyer William Lerach testified in congressional hearings that

“most investors have no idea that Congress eliminated the liability of corporate executives for even deliberate lies. I want to say that again. Even deliberate lies about future corporate performance. This was one of the most astonishing parts of the 1995 act.”

Lerach met with another top rate lawyer, President Clinton, to tell him how the act would harm a lot of people. To Clinton’s credit, he agreed and vetoed the act. But the senate, largely led by Democratic Senator Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn), overrode the veto. It was passed both houses with overwhelming majorities. Both parties enthusiastically participated in this trillion dollar lie. The rental market for politicians in Washington DC was alive and well!

How come all the top corporations didn’t all go broke?

The ones that did collapse carried the game too far. Most were smart enough to know that if they embezzled too much, they might be prosecuted for the collapse they would cause. It was no accident that a lot of the corporations that collapsed were run by young entrepreneurs without enough experience to control their greed.

So at least the CEOs were punished in the end by going bankrupt, right?

No. Many were not – or were given a slap on the wrist. In fact, they were in a sense rewarded because they sold their stock at the high point – just before the collapse they knew would happen. They made sure the stock was the highest possible by lying to the public that the company was in great shape.

How many corporations are involved?

Several studies by reputable economist concluded that, in the words of Dr. Francois Degeorge of the University of Chicago, “we have no doubt that [profits] are being manipulated in many, if not all, companies.” They are referring to 4,500 of our largest corporations that are listed on our stock markets. This was public knowledge. David Wessel of The Wall Street Journal concluded that the average high tech corporation listed in Nasdaq made “not a dime.” Put another way, the CEOs had stolen the profits by taking 2/3rds of their compensation under-the-table so they could claim non-existent profits and further enrich their already astronomical compensation.

Why did they keep doing it? Don’t they already have enough money?

It’s hard for those of us who work for living to imagine there’s no end to greed. Stories about it just don’t seem believable. But lawyer William Lerach knows the embezzlers well because he worked for them for several years. It’s worth quoting in detail from a The Nation article by William Greider that described Lerach’s explanation for why these ultra embezzlers simply could not stop embezzling.

Lerach has a simple explanation. “Penis envy,” he said. “I don’t want to use the term, but that’s almost what it is. It’s like, ‘Gee, when the CEO of that company over there is making $20 million, I ought to make $24 million.’ Then the other guy says, ‘Well, if he makes $24 million, then I’ve got to make $30 million.’”

Corporate moguls, Lerach explained, have a character flaw that is often fatal. “The CEO ultimately gets brought down by the very personality characteristics that made him successful in the first place,” he said. “How did these guys get to the point where they control a big public company? It’s not because they take no for an answer. Their whole life has been fighting and overcoming people who say no, you can’t do it, don’t do it, it’s illegal. These guys say, ‘To hell with you, we’re doing it, we’re getting it done, nobody can stop me.’” And, when they get to the top, nobody dares stop them.

Do they steal in other ways?

Yes. We will be writing about two of them, the well-known corporate welfare that has supported by our tax dollars, and the much less known practice of paying substandard wages. Since these employees can’t afford health and other services, taxpayers are forced to pay this bill.

Written by Mick

January 28, 2004 at 2:33 am

King CONG Flexes Its Muscles: The Dominance of Energy Corps

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In Mother Jones this month, Harvey Wasserman warns against assuming that Cheney’s pork-fed scandal of an energy bill, written entirely by the Coal-Oil-Nuclear-Gas (CONG) industries and their lobbyists, has been safely defeated. It hasn’t.

Two months ago, Senate Democrats – supported by seven Republicans — barely beat back a Bush Administration-backed national energy plan. The proposal was a fossil/nuke grab-bag, bloated by $20-30 billion in subsidies, tax breaks and other giveaways for some of the nation’s biggest polluters.*****************************

The Bush energy plan that failed in December was an unvarnished partisan play. Drafted in secret by Vice President Dick Cheney’s infamous task force, it was fine-tuned in secret by Sen. Pete Domenici and Rep. Billy Tauzin — two of King CONG’s most ardent Capitol Hill guerillas. The resulting pork-laden legislation and the steamroller approach offended scores of lawmakers, and prompted scathing editorials nationwide. But in the Senate, the final straw was a rider providing a legal shield for makers of MTBE, a gasoline additive that’s a suspected carcinogen (both Tauzin and House Majority Leader Tom DeLay have big MTBE producers in their districts). Some have opined, reassuringly, that the Bush/Cheney/Tauzin/Domenici CONG nightmare is dead – that it could never pass in an election year. Unlikely. Bush now says he’s shooting for a mid-February passage.

It’s coming back, pushed by the same interests responsible for its creation and the same Pubs who tried to shove it through the first time, only this time the fragile coalition that narrowly defeated it is showing cracks and King CONG is moving in to exploit them. They’re not going to let go–there’s too much at stake. And the Bush WH is so larded with ex-industry execs and lobbyists that it’s sometimes hard to tell where the industry leaves off and govt begins. Maybe it doesn’t.

Two examples from MJ’s Informed Dissent newsletter suggest pretty strongly that the Bush Admin is functioning as little more than a King CONG subsidiary. In a host of uncertain ventures, the BA–at the direct behest of King CONG–is arranging for the US taxpayers, you and me, to put up the money both the banks and the corporations themselves are afraid to risk.

Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan on the shores of the oil-rich Caspian Sea, is point-of-origin for a 1000-mile-long oil pipeline that will be blasted through the mountains of Georgia and Turkey. Its purpose is to provide 1M barrels of oil a day, “a gusher of profits to the consortium of 10 companies headed by British Petroleum that is developing the project.” But here’s the rub:

[R]egional conflicts and uncertain production make the $3.5 billion pipeline so risky that the oil executives who devised the venture don’t want to pay for it — and the commercial banks they normally deal with don’t want to lend them the money. So the oil companies are turning to another big lender for help: Uncle Sam. The U.S. government, which helped broker the pipeline deal and has paid for engineering studies in Azerbaijan, is expected to provide as much as $500 million this year to help finance the project, supplying some of the world’s wealthiest companies with what British Petroleum CEO John Browne calls “free public money.”

Reporter Daphne Eviatar makes it clear that this is hardly the only such project being subsidized by American taxpayers; the Cheney energy bill contains a number of them.

***$350Mil for an American energy company called Unocal to develop an oil-and-gas field in Indonesia

***$116Mil to Marathon Oil and Royal Dutch/Shell for an oil field in Russia

***$135Mil to a subsidiary of Halliburton to expand a natural gas facility in Nigeria

And that’s only a partial list. The money is provided mainly by two US Agencies: OPIC (the Overseas Private Investment Corp) and the Export-Import Bank, known as Ex-Im. In theory, the money was provided by the Congress to increase trade and create jobs, but in fact the bulk of the financing is going to King CONG corps that do neither.

[This] public financing is doing little to achieve its stated goal of creating jobs. Since 2000, the two largest oil companies subsidized by Ex-Im — ExxonMobil and ChevronTexaco — have actually slashed their workforces by more than 20,000. Oil and gas companies that apply for financing are not required to submit any information on the economic impact of their projects, and many of the documents they do provide are kept secret even from those charged with monitoring the agencies. “We don’t have a lot of confidence in the process,” says Thea Lee, the AFL-CIO’s chief international economist, who sits on an Ex-Im advisory committee. “There’s simply no way to know whether it’s helping support U.S. jobs.”

Meanwhile, reports of corruption and massive environmental damage tied to these projects that we are paying for surround them like maggots on decaying meat:

Overseas, the loans contain no safeguards against corruption or human rights abuses, and applicants do not have to meet even the minimal environmental standards mandated by the World Bank. The Unocal project in Indonesia has polluted rice fields and fishing waters; when residents held a protest in October 2000, state security forces shot and beat nearly two dozen demonstrators. In Cameroon, where ExxonMobil has received $500 million in U.S. financing for a pipeline, international observers say the project has destroyed rainforest and fueled a public health crisis. And in Russia, environmentalists warn that oil projects off Sakhalin Island threaten 11 endangered species, including the Western Pacific gray whale.In Azerbaijan, where the U.S.-backed pipeline broke ground in September, the CIA reports that “corruption is ubiquitous.” Few observers expect the project to help the nearly two-thirds of Azeris who live in poverty. “People are afraid the pipeline won’t benefit them,” says Farda Asadov, director of the Open Society Institute’s office in Azerbaijan.

They’re right–it won’t. It isn’t about creating jobs for them, it’s about putting the risks of development capital on somebody else while King CONG takes the profits for themselves at the same time they’re cutting jobs. And if Azerbaijani land and water gets polluted along the way because poluuting is cheaper than not polluting, tough luck–the King CONG execs don’t have to live there.

The rampant cynicism of blatantly appropriating govt funds intended to create jobs and turning them into nothing more than a hidden form of corporate welfare is outdone by the breath-taking hypocrisy of trumpeting a project in public whose whole rationale is to undercut our reliance on fossil fuels while privately insuring that this “alternative energy initiative” will in fact maintain our reliance on fossil fuels. You think I’m kidding? Barry Lynn lays it out:

When President Bush unveiled his plans for a hydrogen-powered car in his State of the Union address in January, he proposed $1.2 billion in spending to develop a revolutionary automobile that will be “pollution-free.” The new vehicle, he declared, will rely on “a simple chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen” to power a car “producing only water, not exhaust fumes.” Within 20 years, the president vowed, fuel-cell cars will “make our air significantly cleaner, and our country much less dependent on foreign sources of oil.”By launching an ambitious program to develop what he calls the “Freedom Car,” Bush seemed determined to realize the kind of future that hydrogen-car supporters have envisioned for years. Using existing technology, hydrogen can be easily and cleanly extracted from water. Electricity generated by solar panels and wind turbines is used to split the water’s hydrogen atoms from its oxygen atoms. The hydrogen is then recombined with oxygen in fuel cells, where it releases electrons that drive an electric motor in a car. What Bush didn’t reveal in his nationwide address, however, is that his administration has been working quietly to ensure that the system used to produce hydrogen will be as fossil fuel-dependent — and potentially as dirty — as the one that fuels today’s SUVs. According to the administration’s National Hydrogen Energy Roadmap, drafted last year in concert with the energy industry, up to 90 percent of all hydrogen will be refined from oil, natural gas, and other fossil fuels — in a process using energy generated by burning oil, coal, and natural gas. The remaining 10 percent will be cracked from water using nuclear energy.

So, after years of attempts to block, buy out, or otherwise destroy the potential of alternative energy sources, King CONG has finally found a way to have its cake and eat it, too: it will take (or let its political puppet take) credit for developing a pollution-free alternative to dirty gas-combustion engines while using its muscle to ram through laws that will tie the creation of a clean fuel to their unimaginably dirty fuel for the indefinite future. Neat, huh? And the BA was a big help.

Mike Nicklas, chair of the American Solar Energy Society, was one of 224 energy experts invited by the Department of Energy to develop the government’s Roadmap last spring. The sessions, environmentalists quickly discovered, were dominated by representatives from the oil, coal, and nuclear industries. “All the emphasis was on how the process would benefit traditional energy industries,” recalls Nicklas, who sat on a committee chaired by an executive from ChevronTexaco. “The whole meeting had been staged to get a particular result, which was a plan to extract hydrogen from fossil fuels and not from renewables.” The plan does not call for a single ounce of hydrogen to come from power generated by the sun or the wind, concluding that such technologies “need further development for hydrogen production to be more cost competitive.”But instead of investing in developing those sources, the budget that Bush submitted to Congress pays scant attention to renewable methods of producing hydrogen. More than half of all hydrogen funding is earmarked for automakers and the energy industry. Under the president’s plan, more than $22 million of hydrogen research for 2004 will be devoted to coal, nuclear power, and natural gas, compared with $17 million for renewable sources. Overall funding for renewable research and energy conservation, meanwhile, will be slashed by more than $86 million. “Cutting R&D for renewable sources and replacing them with fossil and nuclear doesn’t make for a sustainable approach,” says Jason Mark, director of the clean vehicles program for the Union of Concerned Scientists.

That may be the understatement of the year. What used to be a genuine effort to find a real alternative to destructive fossil fuels has been subverted by King CONG into little more than another fraud perpetrated on consumers.

To protect its fuel franchise, the energy industry has moved swiftly in recent years to shape government policy toward hydrogen. In 1999, oil companies and automakers began attending the meetings of an obscure group called the National Hydrogen Association. Founded in 1989 by scientists from government labs and universities, the association was a haven for many of the small companies — fuel-cell designers, electrolyzer makers — that were dabbling in hydrogen power. The group promoted the use of hydrogen but was careful not to take any position on who would make the fuel or how.All that changed once the energy industry got involved. “All of a sudden Shell joined our board, and then the interest grew very quickly,” says Karen Miller, the association’s vice president. “Our chair last year was from BP; this year our chair is from ChevronTexaco.” The companies quickly began to use the association as a platform to lobby for more federal funding for research, and to push the government to emphasize fossil fuels in the national energy plan for hydrogen. Along with the big automakers, energy companies also formed a consortium called the International Hydrogen Infrastructure Group to monitor federal officials charged with developing fuel cells. “Basically,” says Neil Rossmeissl, a hydrogen standards expert at the Department of Energy, “what they do is look over our shoulder at doe to make sure we are doing what they think is the right thing.”

As hydrogen gained momentum, the oil companies rushed to buy up interests in technology companies developing ways to refine and store the new fuel. Texaco has invested $82 million in a firm called Energy Conversion Devices, and Shell now owns half of Hydrogen Source. BP, Chevron-Texaco, ExxonMobil, Ford, and General Electric have also locked up the services of many of America’s top energy scientists, devoting more than $270 million to hydrogen research at MIT, Princeton, and Stanford.

Not to promote clean energy, mind you, but to protect their own interests by making sure it isn’t too clean. Ever.

Lest you mistakenly believe that there are limits to King CONG’s corporate greed, I will leave you with this from Tom Engelhardt (link on sidebar):

In a briefing NASA administrator Sean O’Keefe quickly reassured reporters that Bush’s “exploration program” [to the moon and Mars--m] would be “industry-driven.” And who wouldn’t claim that industry is driven? The space exploration program seems, by the way, to have emerged at least in part from our vice president’s office, where the swinging door has Halliburton written all over it. And even if none of this pans out in anybody’s lifetime, in a week in which Halliburton agreed to pay back $6.3 million in overcharges for its Iraq operations without even scratching the surface of things, imagine the overcharges in space. I mean, there’s no limit in space, is there?And let’s not forget the helium 3 isotope, supposedly to be found in abundance on the moon. Jim Wolf of Reuters (U.S. Eyes Space as Possible Battleground) wrote of it as “a near perfect fuel source: potent, nonpolluting and causing virtually no radioactive byproduct in a fusion reactor. ‘And if we could get a monopoly on that, we wouldn’t have to worry about the Saudis and we could basically tell everybody what the price of energy was going to be,’ said [John] Pike [of Globalsecurity.org].”

Interestingly in regard to that small cast of characters, Wolf writes:

“Among companies that could cash in on Bush’s space plans are Lockheed Martin Corp., Boeing Co. and Northrop Grumman Corp., which do big business with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration as well as with the Pentagon.”

All this and yet, as Dr. Seuss might have written, oh no, that is not all; oh no, that is not all. Wolf adds:

“President Bush’s plan to expand the exploration of space parallels U.S. efforts to control the heavens for military, economic and strategic gain. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld long has pushed for technology that could be used to attack or defend orbiting satellites as well as a costly program, heavily reliant on space-based sensors, to thwart incoming warheads.”

Ah, Donald Rumsfeld. Michelle Ciarrocca of the World Policy Institute in “Bush’s Space Odyssey,” a piece included below, discusses just how long our Secretary of Defense has been eyeing the military (and industrial) control of space, while warning of future “space Pearl Harbors.” As she points out, “the military has long eyed the moon as a potential base of operations as warfare is moved into the heavens.” (Those of you who go to the new Errol Morris film, The Fog of War, will hear a little anecdote by former Defense Secretary Robert McNamara about how the Joint Chiefs tried to scuttle a bit of arms control by claiming, in a blame-it-on-the-neighbors moment — this was the wild-eyed 1960s, of course — that the Russians might avoid scrutiny by secretly testing atomic weapons on the other side of the moon.)

Ciarocca points out that the normal cast of characters was well represented on Rumsfeld’s “Space Commission” of 2001 and that the new presidential commission to be formed soon to consider the President’s space goals will be headed by Edward C. “Pete” Aldridge Jr., former Air Force secretary and presently on the board of… you guessed it, Lockheed Martin.

Even if you don’t take all this too seriously, it certainly reveals a good deal about the kinds of dreams that are deeply lodged in the Bush administration’s overheated brain trust. For them, space exploration is evidently the final fantasy, the Iraq that should have been: Industry-driven; backed by government; involving a few large corporations; no guerrillas anywhere in sight; totally “privatized”; and, at the end of the “rainbow,” energy sources beyond anyone’s wildest imaginings, and all ours. Or maybe I’m wrong and this was all preparation work for the next Star Trek movie, Space, The Final Dollar Frontier or the Wrath of Vice-President Khan.

Let’s hope so. If there are limits to King CONG’s ambitions, they don’t appear to be terrestrial.

Written by Mick

January 27, 2004 at 9:34 pm

How Radical Conservatives Took Over the GOP

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Remember how I talked in The Cult of Personality about the role of conservative foundations, think tanks, and corporate media in the Radcon take-over of the Republican Party? Well, I’m not the only one who sees it.

Benedict Spinoza of American Samizdat has his own blog called Benedict@Large from which I stole the following article. Entitled The GOP, Inc. – Selling Public Policy as a Commodity, it lays out clearly both the path and the players I was talking about and explains exactly how and when corporations took control–and why. Author Richard Behan calls the radcon philosophy “Movement Conservatism”, but, as you’ll see for yourself, we’re talking about the same thing–a dump by any other name still smells of rotting fruit. Or words to that effect.

I’m reprinting it here in full. including the source-notes. It’s long but, like the Kuttner piece, required reading for anyone who wants to understand how we got here–and to get a handle on how we get out….

The GOP, Inc. – Selling Public Policy as a Commodity
by Richard W. BehanThe G.O.P. was once a respectable political party, giving voice to cautious citizens who saw much to protect in the affairs of the nation. The Democratic Party offered a forum for less sanguine citizens to disagree and seek reform, and in the healthy conflict between the two a robust democracy served the nation well.

Neither party was rigidly ideological, driven passionately to impose a set of beliefs, as the Taliban, say, imposed Islam in prewar Afghanistan. Both parties respected democracy.

Except in their Orwellian rhetoric, the Republicans no longer do, and the G.O.P. has withdrawn from serving the nation at large. About 25 years ago it became the political arm of “Movement Conservatism,” and today it promotes not the general welfare but the commercial interests of corporate enterprise.

Movement Conservatism is a self-serving and socially malevolent cabal of mega-corporations, right-wing think tanks in Washington, their archconservative foundation benefactors, and an intricate nationwide network of linkages in the communications media, religion, higher education, and law. It has been called the “conservative labyrinth,” and common to all its elements is a theology of “free markets,” an ideology coming to full bloom in the Administration of George W. Bush. Today, the G.O.P. seeks to impose it at every turn.

In the abstract, and historically, “free markets” are hugely appealing.

In the primitive markets of The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith’s seminal book of 200 years ago, there was absolute parity in bargaining power between autonomous consumers and subservient, proprietary producers. There were enough of both, competing among and between each other, that no one on either side could fix the market price. Prices were set only by the aggregated bargaining of the market as a whole, and hence were powerful signals of social preferences.

Smith detailed how such “free markets” assured the socially optimum allocation of raw materials, capital, labor, goods, services, and incomes, “as if by an invisible hand.”

“Free markets” so conceived still enchant the simplistic and determined thinking of Movement Conservatives, especially as they perceive and attack “government intervention” in the markets. They choose to ignore, however, 200 years of subsequent economic history.

“Free markets” today are a fantasy, because contemporary markets are wholly dominated by corporate, not proprietary enterprise, and characterized by its features: among others, by administered prices, branded goods and services, transnationalization, vertical integration, wholesale externalization of costs, consolidation by mergers and acquisitions, the instantaneous and international mobility of capital, and the subjugation, by ubiquitous advertising, of consumer sovereignty. Corporate domination of “free markets” has destroyed the ability of markets to make socially optimum allocations, but none of this seems to penetrate the minds of Movement Conservatives. Nor do they see that trumpeting “free markets” gives free reign to corporate license. (A cynic might suspect otherwise.)

There is nothing socially optimum about the calamitous conditions in the nation today.

A dangerous, unjust, and growing gap between rich and poor festers ominously. Public education is collapsing. Homelessness is rampant. Health care is denied 16% of our citizens. Real wages are stagnant or declining. The nation’s physical infrastructure is crumbling. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, eleven percent of American families are not adequately fed,[1] while an epidemic of obesity, diabetes, and other “lifestyle diseases” ravishes the rest of society. State and municipal governments retrench in fiscal panic, and federal deficits transcend anything ever known. Our economy survives only by exporting high-paying jobs and importing daily a billion dollars of foreign capital_to finance not investment, but consumption. For the first time ever we have invaded a sovereign nation without provocation, sundering the world community and enraging much of it. In approximately 25 years, this is what Movement Conservatism has delivered, while trumpeting “free markets.”

Public policy is malfunctioning. It is no longer fashioned to promote the welfare of the nation at large, but to create, enhance, or protect the profit opportunities of American corporations.

Two things occurred in sequence to enable corporations first to intervene and then to dominate politics, just as they have come to dominate markets.

Political campaigning switched, in the 1960′s, from party-centered rallies and print media to candidate-centered television_which was vastly more expensive. Then, in the 1970′s the campaign finance laws were rewritten, political action committees were authorized, and corporate PAC money soon flowed in floods. Today, about * of all campaign financing comes from corporate sources, and it is not contributed as a public service.[2]

Often the payoffs are effected with infuriating arrogance.

Noncompetitive contracts come to mind, for the Halliburton and Bechtel Corporations to rebuild Iraq. The purchase of energy policy by the Enron Corporation is another example. Yet another is the Medicare Prescription Drug and Modernization Act, signed by President Bush on December 8, 2003.

This law so heavily subsidizes the pharmaceutical and health insurance industries nearly 700 lobbyists were deployed to see it enacted.[3] At the photo-op signing ceremony, President Bush was joined by five Senators and five Representatives. Together, these eleven public servants accepted more than $14 million in campaign contributions from the health and drug companies.[4] (Roughly half went to Mr. Bush.) Among other provisions, the law makes it illegal for Medicare, using its market clout, to bargain down the cost of drugs, and effectively prohibits senior citizens from buying their prescriptions at far lower prices in Canada. Public policy to serve corporate well being? What, conceivably, else? Free markets at work?

Public policy is now a commodity, to be exchanged for value received.

The fantasy of “free markets” is politically expedient for Republicans and economically rewarding for their corporate clients. It suggests that parity still exists between producers and consumers, making palatable any policy said to increase the freedom of the market. (Deregulating markets for electricity comes to mind. Think Enron.) Such policies tend to increase only the freedom of corporate producers, typically at great expense to consumers. (Ask any Californian.) Only a malcontent would accuse Republicans of seeking this result intentionally.

How did the “free market” fantasy destroy the Republican party? First it had to be institutionalized as a coherent, secular theology, and that was done with skill, dispatch, money, and patience as Movement Conservatism took shape.

In the writings of Friedrich von Hayek (The Road to Serfdom, 1944), and his student Milton Friedman (Capitalism and Freedom, 1962) the ideology was at hand. Free markets, not governments, should regulate the affairs of society: that is the extent of the argument. “Government is not the solution,” a devotee proclaimed, “government is the problem.” And that is the extent of the vision.

Nuanced thinking is not a trademark of Movement Conservatism, however, and the need to apply the ideology was seen to be acute in the 1960′s and ’70′s. The nation’s campuses were percolating with protest, the result of anti-business, “liberal” faculties encouraging their impressionable students. On the national stage Nader’s Raiders were mounting successful attacks on what they alleged were excesses of corporate capitalism.

A seminal critique of the nation’s leftward drift was written in 1971 by Lewis F. Powell, Jr., a corporate attorney, a former president of the American Bar Association, a member of 11 corporate boards, and eventually a Supreme Court Justice. The “Powell Manifesto” saw the future of the free market at stake, and advocated a confrontational counterattack. It would become a long term, comprehensive, nationwide campaign to implant the “free market” paradigm, focusing on four primary arenas: higher education, the mass media, politics, and the court system. The “Manifesto” was widely circulated and it would achieve stunning success.

First Adolph Coors was persuaded. Beginning with a quarter-million dollar gift in the early 1970′s he transformed the obscure Analysis and Research Association into the Heritage Foundation. It has prospered with Coors funding ever since, channeled through his Castle Rock Foundation.

Endowed with corporate profits from the past, other archconservative foundations also established right-wing think tanks in Washington in the ’70′s and ’80′s or strengthened existing ones. In addition to Castle Rock, twelve other foundations form the financial core of Movement Conservatism. They are the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, the Carthage Foundation, the Earhart Foundation, The Charles G. Koch, David H. Koch, and Claude R. Lambe foundations, the Phillip M. McKenna Foundation, the JM Foundation, the John M. Olin Foundation, the Henry Salvatori Foundation, the Sarah Scaife Foundation, and the Smith Richardson Foundation.[5]

The Heritage Foundation is the largest and best financed beneficiary, but many others are familiar. The American Enterprise Institute, the Cato Institute, the Manhattan Institute, Citizens for a Sound Economy, the National Association of Scholars, Accuracy in Academe, the Media Research Center, and Accuracy in Media are prominent on the national level. Less well known are hundreds of “free market” cells scattered nationwide, all funded by these few foundations. (One such is F.R.E.E._the Foundation for Research in Economics and the Environment. It provides week-long indoctrinations into “free market” ideology, at luxury resorts near its home in Bozeman, Montana.. The invited participants, with all expenses paid by F.R.E.E., are federal judges.)

The top 20 conservative think tanks spend about $150 million a year, but not on short-term projects. Coordinated by an umbrella group, the Philanthropy Roundtable, they concentrate on a long-term ideological program: sustaining and expanding the free-market paradigm, and enshrining it in public thought, action, and policy.

Taking shape in the late ’70′s, Movement Conservatism became a sort of economic Taliban, absolutist in conviction, righteous, and anxious to impose its ideology on the American people. It found its vehicle in the presidential candidacy and election of Ronald Reagan, and over the next eight years Movement Conservatism and the Republican Party came to be coterminous.

There was little resistance. Since the Republican Party traditionally has been the party of commerce and finance, Movement Conservatism had only to sell an appealing ideology to a receptive constituency. As the pursuit of “free markets” came to mean “corporate well being,” the transaction was consummated. The Republican Party took on the ideology, and also assumed a commercial function: marketing public policy as a product. It became the G.O.P., Inc., and forfeited its role as a party of the people.

President Reagan’s agenda came almost whole-cloth from the Heritage Foundation. His massive tax cut slashed current revenues, but Reagan shoveled trillions of dollars to corporations in the defense industries anyway. In so doing he added twice as much to the national debt as all his predecessors combined, from George Washington to Jimmy Carter.

This was the first shot from the most vicious and despicable weapon in the arsenal of Movement Conservatism: pile more and more indebtedness onto future generations so that debt service increasingly forecloses public expenditures for anything else. The stupendous deficits of George W. Bush preordain a starving public sector for decades to come.

In 1988 the Democrats learned how effectively corporate financing can facilitate television-based campaigns. A lot of money can make Willy Horton a household name. And so by 1992, dominated by the Democratic Leadership Council, the Democrats veered sharply toward the center, seeking corporate financing for the Clinton campaign. Clinton delivered, enthusiastically embracing “free trade,” a global version of the free market fantasy. The Democrats were flirting with their own transformation to corporate status, and they continued in 2000, running free-trader Al Gore and Joe Lieberman, once chairman of the DLC.

Ralph Nader’s Greens couldn’t see much distinction between the G.O.P., Inc., and its Democratic emulators, and they high-centered the election. The Supreme Court, sporting a couple of Movement Conservatives on the bench, did the rest.

Some Democrats today are openly critical of a centrist, corporate-friendly stance for the party. Others still cling to it: the threat remains.

This is how the GOP, Inc., sells public policy as a commodity today.

45 million Americans have no health care coverage, as President Bush, on Heritage Foundation cue, undertakes the privatizing of Medicare. The greater his success, the more the Hospital Corporation of America will benefit. HCA operates the country’s largest chain of for-profit hospitals, but can’t make enough money honestly when Medicare is public. The company has paid $1.7 billion in fines for overcharging Medicare and Medicaid, the largest fraud settlement ever. HCA was formed by a Mr. Thomas Frist. One of his sons, Thomas Jr., earned $160 million a year as CEO. Another son, William, has a $26 million interest in HCA, and he is the Majority Leader of the United States Senate. Health care corporations and PAC’s have contributed over $2 million to William Frist’s campaigns.[6] Mr. Frist engineered a provision in the Homeland Security Bill shielding the Eli Lilly drug company from liability lawsuits. Lilly contributed $1.6 million to Senate election campaigns in the 2000 election cycle, 79% to the G.O.P., Inc. And now Mr. Frist has steered through the Senate the Medicare Prescription Drug and Modernization Act. Drug sales are expected to increase, under the law, by $13 billion a year.[7]

The American Enterprise Institute, the Cato Institute, and the Heritage Foundation have crafted or influenced virtually the entire programs of both domestic and foreign policy for the George W. Bush Administration. They display the intricate personal networks_mutually beneficial and self-serving_that characterize Movement Conservatism.

Mr. Jeb Bush, the President’s brother, served as a Trustee of the Heritage Foundation. Virginia Lamp Thomas is the Director of Executive Branch Relations there. Jeb Bush’s father appointed Ms. Thomas’ husband to the Supreme Court, which decided the 2000 election in favor of Jeb Bushs’ brother. Privatizing Medicare and public education are two of the targets at Heritage.

Mr. Rupert Murdoch served on the Board of The Cato Institute. He owns Fox Television News and the Weekly Standard, virtual house organs of the Bush Administration. Mr. Murdoch’s application to acquire Direct TV was finally approved by the Federal Communications Commission, chaired by Colin Powell’s son Michael. The approval was delayed because Mr. Murdoch’s communications empire exceeds the national media ownership cap of 35%. The Republican House raised the cap with a rider on the Omnibus spending bill to 39%–precisely the number Mr. Murdoch needs.

Charles Koch is a founder of the Cato Institute. His brother David is a Director. The Cato Institute wants to privatize both Social Security and the federal public lands. Charles and David own Koch Industries, a $35 billion oil company indicted in 1999 for cheating on its federal-land oil leases. It faced charges of $214 million. The Kochs and their employees contributed generously to George Bush’s several campaigns. David Koch and his wife gave $487,500 exclusively to Republican candidates in the 2000 election cycle. In that cycle Koch Industries contributed over a million dollars, 90% to the G.O.P., Inc.[8]

The Clinton Administration charged Koch Industries with $352 million in pollution and hazardous waste violations. The Bush Administration dropped the charges when Koch Industries agreed to settle for $332 million less. Shortly after that, the Bush Justice Department settled the lease-cheating case for $20 million, saving Koch Industries another $194 million.[9]

The Kochs have given handsomely to the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. So did Enron CEO Kenneth Lay. Wendy Gramm, Senator Phillip Gramm’s wife, was an ardent deregulator at Mercatus, and sat on Enron’s Board of Directors.[10]

Mr. Lay in turn was a Trustee of the American Enterprise Institute. He no longer is, but more than half the current trustees are CEO’s of American corporations, including Dow Chemical, State Farm Insurance, Mead Westvaco Corporation, American Express, Merck & Co., Motorola, and Exxon/Mobil.

Vice President Richard Cheney has been a Trustee of the American Enterprise Institute. His wife, Dr. Lynn Cheney, is currently a senior staffer there. So is Richard Perle, a chief architect of the National Security Strategy that drove the invasion of Iraq. So is Michael A. Ledeen who, grateful for Perle’s work, reveled in the success of the Iraqi war. “Every ten years or so,” Ledeen said recently, “the United States needs to pick up some crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business.”[11]

The Annual Dinner of the American Enterprise Institute was held last February 26th, in Washington. The featured speaker was President Bush, who “…delivered a historic address on the need for a new government in Iraq and the role it could play in spreading democracy in the Middle East.” [12] Soon thereafter, justified by a threat we now realize he fabricated, Mr. Bush picked up Iraq and threw it against the wall.

**************************

[1] “Household Food Security in the United States, 2001.” U.S. Department of Agriculture, ERS Food Assistance and Nutrition Research Report No. FANRR29, October, 2002.

[2] See opensecrets.org website, at http://www.opensecrets.org/

[3] See Public Citizen Congress Watch, June 2003

[4] See Center for American Progress, “The Progress Report, December 9, 2003.”

[5] See “How Conservative Philanthropies and Think Tanks Transform US Policy,” by Sally Covington, in Covert Action Quarterly #63, Winter, 1998.

[6] See “The Bad Doctor; Bill Frist’s long record of corporate vice,” by Doug Ireland, in the L.A. Weekly, January 10-16, 2003.

[7] See “Understanding the New Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit,” published by Families, USA, Nov. 25, 2003

[8] As reported in “Oil & Gas: Top Contributors,” at http://www.opensecrets.org/

[9] As reported in “Koch Industries and the Pollution of the Bush Whitehouse,” at http://www.mediawhoresonline.com/

[10] See “Bull Market,” by Garance Franke-Ruta, cover story in the Washington City Paper, March 8-14, 2002

[11] As quoted in “The Demonstration Effect,” by Lewis H. Lapham, Harper’s Magazine, June, 2003, p. 11

[12] Described on the American Enterprise Institute website, at http://www.aei.org/about/c

Richard W. Behan’s latest book is Plundered Promise: Capitalism, Politics, and the Fate of the Federal Lands (Island Press, 2001). For information about the book go to http://www.rockisland.com/~rwbehan/. Behan is currently working on a more broadly rendered critique, Citizens, Arise! A Patriotic Call to Retrieve Our Democracy.

The Working Class and Blogging

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David Neiwert at Orcinus has written an excellent post about the controversy over Junior’s military record that erupted when Michael Moore called it “desertion” and Wes Clark refused to renounce him for it. The second half of the post is as good a primer as exists of the facts behind the controversy–a quick read will bring you right up to speed.

And as long as we’re there, David wrote a post earlier in the week concerning what he called the “Latin Americanization” of American workers, or what others have called the “race to the bottom”, ie, the competition to offer corporations the cheapest possible labor with the least possible protections. In the context of Bush’s bogus immigration proposal to legalize so-called “guest workers” (a program that has failed miserably in Europe, btw), he quote John Kenneth Galbraith on the likely results:

Galbraith…details painfully just how many jobs we are losing, and what that means for working people. I was particularly struck by this passage, since it brought back Church’s remark like a bell:

What does Bush want? He wants a growth rate high enough to get him through the election. That’s obvious. After that, he doesn’t care. His clientele — the military contractors, oil companies, pharmaceutical firms and big media that control this government — make their money on patents, contracts and the exercise of monopoly power. (Case in point: Bush is pressuring impoverished Central Americans, in trade negotiations, to add 10 years to the length of drug patents.) These people have no interest in full employment. They like unemployment, weak labor, low wages and a government that bullies on their behalf. And after the election, if Bush wins, that is what they will get for four more years.

And I was likewise struck by Galbraith’s description of the outcome of Bush’s proposed immigration reforms:

This program will permit any employer to admit any worker. From any country. At any time. The only requirement is that it be for a job Americans are not willing to take. But it is easy to create such jobs: Cut wages. Terminate the unions. Lengthen the hours. Speed up the lines. Chicken farmers have known this for years. Bush’s plan is a blank check for every bad boss this country has…. For millions of citizen workers, what would happen? The answer is clear: Bad bosses drive out the good. Good bosses will turn bad under pressure. The terms of our jobs would get worse and worse. Who would want a citizen worker? A bracero will be so much cheaper, more loyal, and under control. And who among us, in our right mind, would want to look for work? Unless, of course, we needed to eat. Or pay the mortgage. I am not exaggerating: This is a threat to us all.

All of this is thought-provoking enough–and I highly recommend that you go to Salon, sign yourself in for the day, and read Galbraith’s whole piece–but what struck me was the paragraph that followed those quotes.

I’m not sure how many people writing in the blogosphere — or working in journalism, or especially among the pundit class — have a clear sense of the reality of this existence — what it is like to be trapped working for a Wal-Mart or a Con-Agra or any of the thousands of faceless bad bosses whose main purpose in life seems to be finding ways to worsen everyday life for their workers: refusing raises, shortening hours, slashing benefits, pitting employees against each other, allowing work conditions to steadily deteriorate. Eventually they may taste it, of course (anyone who works for a midsized or small-town chain newspaper already has), but for now it is mostly an abstraction, and thus not something as important as, say, John Kerry’s haircut.

It’s a good point and it got me thinking–how many bloggers in this massive blogosphere are actually working-class, actually suffer daily at the hands of bosses concerned only with the bottom line who have little respect let alone appreciation for the workers under them, how many actually have to cobble their meager finances together in an effort to stretch a steadily shrinking paycheck to cover ever-rising prices? And while I was thinking this, I realized that I am one of those but I have never admitted it, never openly acknowledged it, let alone identified myself as a working-class stiff.

Well, I am. I’ve said I teach acting, and I do, but it’s part-time at best. By far the vast majority of my working life is spent in a shop where I fix broken pallets for resale. It’s a form of recycling, which is nice, but it’s also a brutal job physically which I’m getting too old for, full of mind-numbing repetition and serial injuries. I hate it but I hang onto it in large part because, for the first time in my life as a laborer, I have a thoughtful boss who is flexible, cares about his people, and pays enough for even an oldster like myself to get by (some of his younger workers make as much as $50K/yr–a phenomenal income for a recycling worker; they are normally paid minimum wage). He provides group medical insurance (one of the few employers I know of who does) and has been known to pay for lost time due to injuries out of his own pocket when they aren’t serious enough to be covered by Workman’s Comp.

All of this is so contrary to my previous work experience that even if I could make more doing something else I wouldn’t leave because I know I’d wind up working for yet another petty tyrant who hates his employees and would replace them all with robots if he could because robots don’t get sick or have kids that need to be taken care of or threaten to join unions or refuse to risk their lives because he doesn’t want to pay for safety equipment. I know I’d wind up working for one of them because they are–by far–the kind of managers today’s corporations train. I know this because I have worked for so many of them over the years and for so few of the kind I have now.

If there is outrage on these pages about how corporations and their bought-and-paid-for govt stooges use us as cannon-fodder and make our lives harder and harder and more and more marginal with policies, laws, and a tax structure that favors the rich at our expense, then that’s where that rage comes from: a personal experience as one of those who has to pay the consequences when a corporate Scrooge demands yet another sacrifice to boost his dept’s profit statement a penny or two or throws hundreds of us out into the street to boost his stock price another half-point or moves the whole company to Ecuador so he can pay 8 cents an hour and boost his aleady-record profits even higher.

There are millions of us struggling down here where nobody ever looks who have things to say nobody ever listens to, suggestions nobody ever takes, and ideas nobody ever respects. We should have a voice, too.

Written by Mick

January 26, 2004 at 11:25 pm

Does Rove Want the Troops Out of Iraq Before Nov?

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Are the anti-war groups who want us out of Iraq ASAP deliberately–or unwittingly–playing into the hands of the Bush Admin? The “Out Now” contingent does seem to be echoing–for different reasons, perhaps–the Bush/Rove determination to bring the troops home well before the election.

When Chuck Palson, a free-lance writer and prime mover at FITE, made that observation in an email, I asked him to expand on it for Omnium.

Should anti war protesters help President Rove?Is the dominant Out Now faction of the peace movement in bed with President Rove? In bed or not, they share a common goal with him – quick withdrawal from Iraq. As often happens, politics makes for some strange bedfellows, even if the parties don’t notice who lies beside them. When there’s an unholy alliance, it’s helpful to look at the losses and gains of each side. First, the relevant facts.

Do the “Iraqi people,” meaning at least a majority, want a quick withdrawal? There’s plenty of evidence that they don’t. First, some very good reporters from both the American and foreign press say that the Iraqis do indeed want us out, but not now because they fear that chaos would certainly result with a quick withdrawal. Those who doubt this fear have probably never examined the character of life without a stable government. It’s like this: every essential and tiny detail of daily life is excruciatingly unpredictable, from going to work to getting gasoline to being alive. Life is so difficult under these conditions that people will vote for vicious and murderous leaders if only to get the proverbial brains to run on time. Or they will accept an occupation force, however grudgingly. The names Hitler, Stalin, Tito, Vichy, and Saddam Hussein come to mind.

Second, we now know that about 60% of Iraq – the Shiites – don’t want the troops to leave just yet because their highly respected leader, al Sistani, tells us so. He only wants them to leave after the election. They are currently aiming for a June exit, but that could change. More on that later.

President Rove’s strategy:
He wants the troops out in June, 5-1/2 months away, but there are problems with this. He says that this time span precludes having direct elections because it is not time enough to arrange the complex logistics necessary for a fair election. But there are three reasons to doubt his rationale. First, when a practical plan for arranging the logistics was presented by the Iraqi census director Nuha Yousef at the beginning of October, Bremmer refused to answer.

Second, there are political reasons for avoiding direct democracy. Time Magazine reports that U.N. officials privately say that “the real concern is that Iraq’s Sunnis, already a minority, are so poorly organized that direct elections would lead to a Shi’ite monopoly. That not only would stoke the flames of a potential Sunni rebellion but also could prompt Sunni states like Saudi Arabia and Egypt to refuse to recognize the new Iraq and pave the way for an anti-American alliance with Iran.”

Third, Bremmer’s complex caucus method is probably designed to prevent the election of a Shiite majority and to install a pro-American regime. That is what many Iraqis are saying, and it is probably true. The time span allows him to credibly insist on the caucus alternative.

The costs and benefits of Rove and Out Now.
The benefit of Rove’s strategy is well known by pundits and news junkies: Shrub could claim Iraq had been transformed into a democracy by the time of the Republican national convention. It probably doesn’t matter that chaos would ensue because perceived employment conditions here are good enough to ensure that unemployment won’t be an election issue. (Polls show that while a large majority of Americans think the economy isn’t so hot for others, they are doing fine. More than 80% say they will have a job, and neither the hours nor the wages will be reduced. That’s the same percentage that felt that way during the boom years.) Without the unemployment issue, voters won’t give much weight to the Iraqi situation.

There’s a downside for Rove – uncertainty. Iraq might spin out of control, and that might spin Iraq out of the control of the US. But Rove has never been one to think beyond getting votes, so he is incapable of considering that criteria.

The benefits for the Out Now people aren’t so clear cut. Uppermost is probably the satisfaction that moral certitude always brings – even when “doing the right thing” doesn’t necessarily advance the stated goals. Shrub got us into this stupid thing; it was wrong; get out. War is bad; peace is good.

Another benefit is organizational unity. Once an organization rallies its members around a slogan, changing it can fracture the organization. “Out Now” could bring into the streets the same millions that protested the war in the fall of 2003 because it speaks most directly to the moral outrage anti-war protesters are feeling in a way that other slogans might not.

The disadvantage of their position is that insofar as they actually succeed, it will help Shrub get elected again. That poses 2 profound moral dilemmas. First, another term will leave Shrub free to invade other countries, and he very well might. Is it morally desirable to trade off one invasion for another? Second, the civil war that will almost certainly take place will be a terrible bloodbath. Is that morally desirable? Nobody wants to send a message that Iraqi lives are less important, but reasonable people could justifiably read it that way.

An alternative

It would be a compromise between those who don’t mind supporting Rove by calling for a quick withdrawal, and those who are interested in making it difficult for Bush and, possibly, easier on the Iraqi people. Push the exit date forward about 5 more months so the Iraqi’s can implement the plan of Nuha Yousef. This would not only help to contribute to Bush’s defeat – if that is possible – but also broaden support beyond the traditional anti-war demographic. It would be using Shrub’s own rhetoric against him. And he won’t be able to claim a clear cut victory by convention time. Is it worth explicitly extending the date an extra 5 months? Only the members of Out Now can answer that, but, one hopes, only after they discuss the benefits and disadvantages of all the options.

Granted, Shrub dumped a bad situation in our laps. But before embracing President Rove’s goals, wouldn’t it be a good idea to lay everything out on the table? There has so far been no serious discussion of this dilemma.

Chuck Palson, FITE, Sherborn, MA.

Written by Mick

January 25, 2004 at 4:55 pm

Posted in Iraq, Rove

Worry About Kerry

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From David Podvin over at Make Them Accountable:

“Stop crying in your teacups. It isn’t going to change. Get over it.”That was the response of John Kerry to a liberal who condemned the theft of the presidency by George W. Bush. If the sentiment sounds familiar, that’s because it isn’t original. Kerry borrowed his words from America’s vapid conservative posse for whom chanting the phrase “Get over it” constitutes a dazzling display of wit.

Plagiarizing witticisms from Ann Coulter is not an endearing trait for a potential Democratic presidential nominee. It is one thing for liberals who are still incensed about the stolen election to be treated contemptuously by right wing banshees – it is an entirely different matter to incur such disdain from a man who seeks to be our champion.

But it is not unusual for Kerry to parrot the Republicans or be dismissive of liberal concerns. When members of the Congressional Black Caucus approached the senator for his support in challenging the Jim Crow tactics that subverted the 2000 presidential election, he told them to go away.

Kerry supported the Iraq War Resolution, either because he really believed Bush’s transparent lies (in which case he is not very bright) or because it was the politically shrewd thing to do (in which case he is not very honorable). Whatever the reason, there was no profile in courage from this Massachusetts senator.

When Bush and John Ashcroft used the terrorist attack on America as an excuse to confiscate civil liberties with the USA Patriot Act, it was Russ Feingold – not John Kerry – who rose with a stirring defense of American liberty. Kerry sided with the Republicans.

Kerry has consistently collaborated in stocking the federal courts with people who exalt the corporate agenda and reject the Theory of Evolution. He has voted to confirm the vast majority of Bush’s reactionary judicial appointees, and has thus doomed America to suffer many more miscarriages of justice like Bush v Gore.

The senator voted for the misnamed No Child Left Behind Act, legislation that drained money away from teaching school children by mandating unproductive testing. The result has been a decline in the quality of education and an increase in the profits of the Washington Post Company’s Kaplan test-publishing subsidiary.

Siding with Bush on the theft of the election, supporting an illegal war, gutting the Bill of Rights, voting to confirm extremist judges, and misusing education money to buy favorable news coverage for Bush comprise a track record that is unlikely to inoculate nominee Kerry from a crippling third party challenge. His record of accommodating the Republicans will prevent him from easily moving to the middle – where elections are won – because a significant number of liberals will hesitate to throw their support behind a candidate who has so frequently abandoned them.

Go read the rest, especially if you’re thinking about voting for him. He’s beginning to look like a dream candidate–for the Pubs.

(Thanx to Phaedrus at No Fear of Freedom.)

Written by Mick

January 24, 2004 at 9:58 pm

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