Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Don't Turn Around ~ The Commissar's In Town

"Join the Red Cavalry"

Historic Poster

Y’all know by now that Demon Princess is fascinated by the assumptions underlying political discourse & public policy debate since the Neocons came to power, & the theme of today’s DP rant seems to be shaping up to be “political correctness” ~ you know, that old stalwart of a rallying cry that every instapundit from Newt Gingrich to the obnoxious Bill O’Reilly to the punk-rock- bad attitude-dude-who- found-God-& dress-suits radio host Glenn Beck ~ all have seized upon the term “political correctness” & twisted it such that they’ve made it safe for white guys to be racist, sexist, & everything-elsest again (anyone want to mock the disabled, like George does—go ahead!)

They’ve made it something of a point of pride & badge of Neocon honor to openly & “boldly” disdain “political correctness," is my point.

Don’t be fooled. It’s a shell game. While deriding “political correctness” as something cooked up by liberals with agendas, they haven’t eradicated it, they’ve just been busy remaking it into something more palatable to corporate white guys’ agendas, guys like themselves, in case you hadn’t noticed. (Newt, Bill, & Glenn, keep shouting, badgering & bullying ~ you guys are doing important work for the Neocon cause by providing a focus for the most vitriolic of the haters).

In the meantime, the White House will be busy undermining the legal underpinnings of democracy & also, hastening the capture & enslavement of government agencies to Neocon ideology.

It’s no secret that Bush has been stacking every level of government with “right” thinkers for as long as he’s been in office (including government agencies), but now he’s taken an extra step, by signing a declaration that, for each agency, a blatantly political gatekeeper be assigned to oversee all information in & information out to ensure Neocon “right think” & ideology control.

Alas, Demon Princess only wishes she were making it up. (New York Times article, title bar.)

TPM Muckraker’s excellent commentary:

“The dark reign of experts and regulatory officials is over! That's right, each agency (like, for instance, the Environmental Protection Agency and Occupational Safety and Health Administration) will now have a politically appointed babysitter to make sure that regulations aren't too onerous for corporations. In fact, the directive ensures that regulation is the absolute last resort: 'in deciding whether to issue regulations, federal agencies must identify 'the specific market failure' or problem that justifies government intervention."

"Business groups welcomed the executive order," the Times notes, in a terrific understatement.”

A commenter adds: ”Capitalism is the astounding belief that the most wickedest of men will do the most wickedest of things for the greatest good of everyone." -- John Maynard Keynes

“I'm not sure why they didn't think of this sooner. I mean, Cheney's secret energy policy task force -- when was that, 2000? 2001?”

Does the Bible mention global warming? So don’t be fooled into letting those pesky scientists think for themselves!

I repeat, this is nothing very new in BushWorld.™ I’m sure, if you think back on it, you’ll realize how very new it’s not.

For instance, this:

“Federal scientists have been pressured by the White House to play down global warming, advocacy groups testified Tuesday at the Democrats' first investigative hearing since taking control of Congress.

“The hearing focused on allegations that White House officials for years have micromanaged the government's climate programs and has closely controlled what scientists have been allowed to tell the public.

"It appears there may have been an orchestrated campaign to mislead the public about climate change," said Rep. Henry Waxman (news, bio, voting record), D-Calif. Waxman is chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee and a critic of the Bush administration's environmental policies, including its views on climate.

“The survey and separate interviews with scientists ‘has brought to light numerous ways in which U.S. federal climate science has been filtered, suppressed and manipulated in the last five years,’ Francesca Grifo, a senior scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, told the committee.

“Drew Shindell, a climate scientist with NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said that climate scientists frequently have been dissuaded from talking to the media about their research, though NASA's restrictions have been eased.

"Prior to the change, interview requests of climate scientists frequently were ‘routed through the White House' and then turned away or delayed, said Shindell. He described how a news release on his study forecasting a significant warming in Antarctica was ‘repeatedly delayed, altered and watered down’ at the insistence of the White House.

"Some Republican members of the committee questioned whether science and politics ever can be kept separate.

"’I am no climate-change denier,' said Rep. Tom Davis of Virginia, the top Republican on the committee, but he questioned whether ‘the issue of politicizing science has itself become politicized. 'The mere convergence of politics and science does not itself denote interference," said Davis."

"Waxman and Davis agreed the administration had not been forthcoming in providing documents to the committee that would shed additional light on allegations of political interference in climate science.

“’We know that the White House possesses documents that contain evidence of an attempt by senior administration officials to mislead the public by injecting doubt into the science of global warming and minimize the potential danger,' said Waxman, adding that he is ‘not trying to obtain state secrets.’

“At Boxer's Senate hearing, her predecessor as chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, Sen. James Inhofe (news, bio, voting record), R-Okla., had his own view of the science.

"'There is ‘no convincing scientific evidence’ that human activity is causing global warming, declared Inhofe, who once called global warming a hoax. ‘We all know the Weather Channel would like to have people afraid all the time.’

"'I'll put you down as skeptical,' replied Boxer."

Well, that certainly outs the Weather Channel!

We know now that everybody at the Weather Channel is a bunch of fear-mongers & defeatists, & probably liberals to boot.



Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Semantic Promiscuousness

yadda yadda yadda blather blather yammer blather yadda yadda yaddah yah

I know, I know.

All five of my loyal readers, including the guyz at the CIA & FBI, have been anxiously awaiting to hear what smart-assed commentary Demon Princess might come up with in the wake of Hapless George's State of the Union address last night. I feel y'all thinking about it. The pressure!

I was not overly enthused, when first alerted that George was about to make his appearance. In fact, I groaned & hissed & spit a little & seriously considered skipping it altogether, so riveting do I find that particular speaker. I really wanted nothing more than to be left alone to work the crossword puzzles that are a favorite way to wind down after work.

Reluctantly I dragged myself & my bad attitude into the room to watch.

Here's what Demon Princess heard:

yadda yadda yadda..."healthcare best left to private market insurers"....yadda yadda...tax cuts.

DP (talking to TV): "So you're so out of touch with the ordinary person you think tax cuts will fix it. How many of the uninsured have steady incomes or even file tax returns? And how does urging people to give up their "expensive" (read decent) health insurance plans for less expensive ones or be taxed help the situation a damned bit?"

blather blather blather energy......"clean-burning coal" ("Isn't that an oxymoron?" DP's thinking about pea-soup fog at this point)..."agriculture-based fuels" (she said, "Ho, now, don't forget that we have to eat some."
...."increase oil reserves..."

yammer yammer yammer yadda

"Give my new plan for Iraq a chance," and especially "Iran." Amazing how those words are being linked together with nary a public discussion of George's perceived problems with Iran...

We're being set up to attack/invade Iran, again..

Truthfully, kids, DP is much more interested in continuing to think about how the public policy discourse has gotten so distorted that we can't even carefully, rationally think about what Bushco continues to dictate to us as a foregone conclusion, & what they don't apparently see any compelling reasons to consult with us or our elected representatives about such momentous decisions as starting World War III. (See "Mr. Belligerent" blog entry below.)

True to form, the very day after yesterday's address, Mr. Belligerent announces that Bush & he are going forward with their surge, damn the torpedoes & nanny nanny nanny at the Democrats who've made noises about cutting off funding in lieu of passing toothless resolutions.

I did like Jim Webb's retort. A lot. Would that all Democrats were not afraid to wrest back the nation's direction, as the voters apparently wish: grow some cajones, people!

All else DP has to offer today is more food for thought about the ways the neocons have changed the public policy discourse so subtly that many people don't even recognize how they've done it. (Article from Slate.com, title bar.)

I say, change it back.

Monday, January 22, 2007

World Gives Neocon Foreign Policy Big Fat "F"

Interesting item in the news today from the BBC. (Title bar.)

Friday, January 19, 2007

Mr. Belligerent ~ No F*** ing Wonder

Another infamous recent quote has it that America just needs the "stomach" to escalate the war in Iraq, else bin Laden's personal plan to force us out of Iraq will have succeeded, as Cheney famously told the only news organization (I use that term charitably) he ever deigns to speak to voluntarily, Fox News, last week.

Apparently he's not very concerned about maintaining the appearance of consistency, nor is George.

What is it with the dastardly duo dictating to us what we will or won't do, anyway? Never mind the way they constantly change the story-line. And can they really be surprised when their provocative, arrogant behavior meets resistance from the rest of us?

An interesting theory about how, exactly, George & Darth Cheney have been getting away with it comes to us in this item worth a read (title bar), explaining how "meta-framing" has worked to the Neocons' advantage in selling us a war the vast majority of us really don't want to fight.

"For example, the Bush administration conflated the Iraq War with the war on terror, until the mainstream media (as Media Matters for America pointed out), labeled their Iraq War coverage as 'war on terror' coverage. The administration bolstered that conflation by insinuating, in every way possible, that Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9/11 - then denied that they ever made the connection. It worked brilliantly: in 2003, 70% of the American public believed there was a link.

"And now, Cheney continues to blur distinctions, by conflating the responsibility for executing wars (i.e., the role of Commander in Chief), with the decision to wage war (the job of Congress). The reference to 'war by committee' is a cynical manipulation; a thinly veiled swipe at the whole idea of democracy.

"Once such conflations are accepted by the mainstream media, they become seen as simple common sense. They form what social cognition theorists (a branch of social psychology) refer to as 'schemas,' or organized understandings about something or someone. (A stereotype is a kind of schema; another kind of schema are 'scripts' we hold in our heads - like the sequence of events we expect when we go to a restaurant.) If our 'war on terror' schema forms in a way that includes Iraq, after a while it becomes automatic, and we stop thinking about it.

"Years later, when all the facts get out, we may look back in disbelief at how easily we accepted the distortion; e.g., how we accepted the claim of Saddam's complicity in 9/11. Nevertheless, one of the early social cognition findings on schemas was that once they are formed, people tend to resist remembering information that doesn't fit into them. It's one of our brains' mechanisms for avoiding information overload.

"Falling into the conflation trap might be difficult to resist. Bringing it into the public's awareness could help. The profession of journalism has a unique opportunity - and obligation - to play a role in that consciousness-raising process."

Amen. And, it goes without saying, whatever Fox broadcasts qualifies less as news than propaganda & spin. That would be why, DP guesses, it's the only "news" Cheney watches.

And in other news, the recent revelation that it was Cheney who, in 2003, rebuffed Iranian overtures to negotiate & actual offers of concessions we have since deemed beneficial & helpful to the entire messed-up situation in the Mideast. Cheney nixed that ("we don't negotiate with 'evil.'"

And look where it's got us now ~ in a worse predicament.

Cheney apparently needs to develop the "stomach" of a true statesman & stop imposing his truly bizarre ideas of absolute arrogant dominance upon every issue he declares himself competent to remark upon or handle. It's painfully plain to most of us that he's not.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Lessons of War & The Dangers Of Believing Your Own PR

When not preoccupied with re-learning to ice skate gracefully in an automobile recently (what? you're not caring what happens in Seattle with our unaccustomed winter snowstorms of late --weren't you aware that we are the self-involved center of the universe here?), your Demon Princess has been paying attention to recent news. She just hasn't had a lot of time to do anything about it.

Some days ago, for instance, I was watching the televised questioning that proponents of the Bush admistration's pro-surge policy were receiving from Congress on C-Span or CNN when it occurred to me (not for the first time) that I wasn't but half-listening to the tepid, indeed flaccid "debate" ~ because I wasn't hearing anything I hadn't already heard before. No fresh ideas, either in substance or in the way we present them to selves & others.

Just the same old tired propaganda & PR, so I gave up & changed the channel, thereby accidentally stumbling upon a debate on the very same topic being held in Britain.

I was stunned by the contrast. There, sharp questions were being asked, & the speakers being grilled apparently knew nothing but a substantive answer would do. Or maybe it just sounded that way because the Brits are in the habit of articulating complex thoughts by speaking in complete sentences instead of rah-rah sloganeering & jingoism. (If their politicians attempt it, they get a sound drubbing; the Brits took a lot less time to catch on than the average American apparently did. And, by the way, in later news from abroad, the Brits have indeed decided not only to not participate in George's surge, they are scaling back their participation in Iraq, period.)

What especially interested me about the Brits' discussion was the fact that they were asking pointed & intelligent questions with reference to their historical experience with having tried, unsuccessfully, to colonize half the world & their ample experience with insurgencies & counterinsurgencies (including America). It was once a common saying that "The sun never sets on the British Empire," so vast were their holdings & so fiercely determined were they make foreign populations bend to their mores and values.

Wow! Would that Americans would accept the concept ~ heeding & learning from history.

Stumbling upon that broadcast also highlighted for me the fact that human critical thinking skills are indeed shaped by the tools of fluency, experience (& nuance) we are accustomed to having on hand. The question then becomes why present-day Americans have such a hard time doing that. The common answer to that in political science departments is that, as I was bitching the other day, Americans are the world's brash, arrogant kids, content to believe that not only has anything not like what's happening to them ever happened before, we are the exceptions to every rule even if it did. So we can make it up as we go along.

The idea that "nothing like what's happening now" has ever happened to us before is patently untrue. Wars have happened before & we have participated in them; wars in fact that make Iraq look like the tempest in a teapot that it really is, as I've said before ~ or was, before George's Neocons started applying their warped ideas of drastic warfare-as-foreign policy with complete abandon.

If our forbearers could see what Bush has done ~ well, let's just say that they're spinning in their graves as we speak.

Americans haven't always behaved this stupidly on the world stage. And the particular kind of stupidity we're hell-bent on reenacting has a very direct precedent in recent memory, but we have wilfully refused to learn from it.

The more I think about it, the more I think a big part of what's what's wrong with American politics is the extent to which we've been trained to view ourselves as passive consumer-critters & not much of anything else. We're so used to being sold a bill of goods, we don't even object or reject it when that marketing mentality is carried over into the realm of public policy. In fact, that's all we expect, & we don't seem at all surprised or concerned, or motivated to discern the difference between buying a consumer product & a political philosophy-the latter is just a background concern best left to others whose job it is to think deeply about such things. Besides, we have more entertaining things to do with ourselves--like go shopping.

(Besides the fact that Demon Princess may be in the distinct minority of Americans who don't define themselves by what they can buy), she also dares opine that our collective lazy consumer mentality is an unfortunate (for us) factor in our going along with the "Bush Doctrine" arrogant conception of foreign policy, the mess in Iraq, & the hideous attendant consequences. Now we're trapped.

Americans have slowly been trained to perceive themselves as passive consumers of politics as all else, rather than active, engaged citizen-participants. And so we accept : 1. That we really can't do anything anyway (something I heard, to my great surprise), in several analyses why, despite the fact that a majority of Americans oppose the surge in Iraq, Bush is going to do it anyway; and 2. we have relieved ourselves of any great burden to try by assigning others the task of doing our political thinking for us.

As for the former argument, it's backwards: Bush is only going "to do it anyway" because he stands to lose nothing ~ but the party he leaves behind stands to lose a lot. George never thought he was our employee, but there's still time for the rest of the GOP remaining in office to learn otherwise.

But right now all we seem to expect is that they throw us a few dumbed-down slogans to throw at our "political" enemies, such as "If you're not with Bush, you're for the terrorists," & that other really tragically stupid canard somebody tossed at me: "Better there than here." Oh really? It's okay to sacrifice countless Iraqis to a war they didn't start, & which had nothing, nada, zilch, to do with terrorism? (Oh, I forget--if they're Iraqis, they are by definition terrorists. Thanks for clearing that up for me).

If the 25% of Americans who actually prefer to let George Bush & the Neocons do their thinking for them really can't see through the arrogance & rank stupidity of those excessively shallow excuses I really fear for this country's long-term viability. Seriously.

All the above was floating in the mix when I came across this article in the Washington Post (title bar). The author calls himself "a gray-haired journalist" who covered the Vietnam war back in the day & draws some deft comparisons definitely worth reading. Why are we fighting this war again? We collectively need to ask ourselves why we're letting Bush pursue another war that it's highly unlikely we can win.

"For a gray-haired journalist whose career included 18 months covering the Vietnam War for The Washington Post, it is a source of amazement to realize that my country has done this again. We twice took a huge risk in the hope that we could predict and dominate events in a nation whose history we did not know, whose language few of us spoke, whose rivalries we didn't understand, whose expectations for life, politics and economics were all foreign to many Americans.

"Both times, we put our fate in the hands of local politicians who would not follow U.S. orders, who did not see their country's fate the way we did, and who could not muster the support of enough of their countrymen to produce the outcome Washington wanted. In Vietnam as in Iraq, U.S. military power alone proved unable to achieve the desired political objectives.

"How did this happen again? After all, we're Americans -- practical, common-sense people who know how to get things done. Or so we'd like to think. In truth, we are ethnocentric to a fault, certain of our own superiority, convinced that others see us as we do, blithely indifferent to cultural, religious, political and historical realities far different from our own. These failings -- more than any tactical or strategic errors -- help explain the U.S. catastrophes in Vietnam and Iraq.
"What's the lesson to be learned? Modesty. Before initiating a war of choice -- and Vietnam and Iraq both qualify -- define the goal with honesty and precision, then analyze what means will be needed to achieve it. Be certain you really understand the society you propose to transform. And never gamble that the political solution to such an adventure will somehow materialize after the military operation has begun. Without a plausible political plan and strong local support at the outset, military operations alone are unlikely to produce success.

"Bush's latest initiatives -- like all his earlier ones -- will not produce the desired political result, because Americans cannot accomplish political objectives in Iraq. Americans are outsiders, occupiers, foreigners in every sense of the word. Only Iraqis have a chance of finding a political resolution for their divisions. So now we await the fate of this latest gamble like a high roller in Las Vegas watching a roulette ball in a spinning wheel. We have about as much control over the situation as the gambler has of that ball. The outcome is out of our hands, and it would be foolish to bet that we will like the way the conflict ends."

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Funny ~ The Strictly Hypothetical GW Bush Severance Package

His stock is falling. He has lost the confidence of shareholders.

So how much would it take to make him go away?

Another "low-concept" great idea from Slate.com (title bar)

Bush Wants to Escalate His "Legacy" War ~ Surprise!

Graduate-level lessons in war for boys who barely did

Music to conduct war by, courtesy John Hughes: http://www.johnhughes.ca/index2.html *

The more I contemplate what it must be like to be President, the more I want to grow up (using the term loosely) to be an overprivileged immature brat-boy who thinks nothing of wrecking one country & bankrupting another in pursuit of--what, exactly? -- Americans are asking themselves.

We can only think that the famously inarticulate & logically imprecise George casts it to himself as the "legacy" he so famously jabbers about --at the same time decreeing that his presidential papers be squirreled away & hidden from the public he governs 'til such time that you & I everybody else reading this in the present day will have been long gone & rotting in our graves. So let's us, his contemporaries, remark on his performance while we're still here.

Once again, George presents the American public with a Hobb's choice--the seeming offer of a free choice where none exists, really. The country he unilaterally invaded & justified by lying to us, don't forget, had not a thing to do with 911, & has since descended into chaos as a result of Rumsfeld's & others' fantasies of fast strikes by light forces & mismanagement such that Iraq has become terrorist-training-camp central.

So, now what do we do, George? Easy! Escalate, he says. Iraq, Somalia, where else? The GWAT promises to be never-ending, especially now that diplomatic relations with Islamic moderates is completely off the table, & we've offended everyone abroad with our ersatz concentration camps & sacrificed our own civil liberties at home.

I have a suggestion for the Democrats: if you go along with this "new" plan, which is not really "new" at all (& it appears that you have no real choice), extract some concessions & reverse the tide. Either George provides fair trials for detainees or shuts Gitmo down; give us Americans our civil rights back, no ifs ands or buts about it. There have always been legal means in place to monitor enemies--George was just too lazy & power-hungry to observe them. Enough with the bullshit & propaganda already. And insist on diplomatic relations.

It is a very sad measure of just how far backwards the GOP has managed to propel us in time with their Brave New World propaganda about this war when an American general's "zen" plan for stabilizing Iraq is heralded as a bold new idea. It should have been in place many billions of dollars & American & civilian lives ago. (Washington Post article, title bar).

But there again--it is a hallmark of the excessively immature to think that everything that happens in their lives is somehow new & unprecedented--because it's happening only to them, doncha know. Americans have always been famous for the short-attention span approach to world history, & very susceptible to the idea that they're somehow the exceptions to every rule. Civilizations grow & die, & others have learned before us that allowing boy-kings to run rampant without adult supervision can be very dangerous indeed.

Unfortunately, the drastic neocon "revolution" has proven to be just the step back into the dark ages that America didn't need.

Need I add that I don't agree with Newt Gingrich on much of anything, but especially this, from "Meet the Press" last week:

"This can't be Bush's war" -- [meaning] it has to be the country's. "

Au contraire, Newt. It is Bush & the neocons' war, entered into, we dare speculate, with great calculation for purposes bearing no relation in truth to the lies we were fed.

He who lies & cries wolf will inevitably meet his consequences, & that may be the true legacy of the Neocon Revolution. Next time, choose a grownup as a Presidential candidate who recognizes that the delaration of war in the modern world is by definition a declaration of political failure. George, in contrast, seemed unable to resist the urge to play "wartime President," & his friends unable to forego the attraction of wartime profiteering.

If the decent citizens of America elect to bail you guys out & rescue you from your reckless adventures, you can be sure there will be there will be consequences to that, too.

*More about John Hughes: the music to kick warmonger ass by is from a very talented friend & neighbor to the North. A chart-topper on Neil Young's antiwar site, it's been circulating virally since last summer & has earned John an invitation to Rome to play at Neil's birthday party, as well as upcoming events. Congrats, John!

Monday, January 08, 2007

Payback Is A Bitch ~ A Continuing Series

Ill: Wizard of Whimsy

Seems that George, in addition to being hell-bent on proving that he doesn't get it on all sorts of levels--e.g., firing generals who don't agree with his "surge in Iraq" policy, which we fully expect him to officially anounce relatively soon, & continued stealth signing-statements that completely eviscerate any notion of privacy & civil rights even in the face of court decisions attempting to hold him accountable (mail searches: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/01/04/politics/main2330382.shtml) --
recent news saw him temporarily doffing his “Constitutional Scholar Crown" in favor of his "Economist in Chief" thinking cap & writing op-eds for publication in the Wall Street Journal.

Designed to appeal, we daresay, to the Captains of Industry regarding, among other things, the continued benefits of continued tax cuts to the sector of the population that needs it least, & to highlight the sense of entitlement, a sector that doesn't apparently see any particular reason that they should have to give back, as evidenced by the nearly concurrent news of the scandalous amount of money Home Depot had to pay its ousted CEO go away & stop trashing the company. (What on earth are they teaching MBA’s in business school these days, anyway: a sort of scorched-earth policy of trash- &- burn the American economy?)

A neat bit of hubris & macho bluster, especially in view of his Administration’s habit of overestimating the deficit so they can later say they brought it down, the editorial was clearly a countermove designed to bolster Bush’s appeal to his base, a political pissing contest aimed at the incoming Democrats.

The gap between uber-rich & uber-poor continues to widen & yawn while more & more ordinary Americans tumble into it, but we're apparently expected to overlook this, while he & some GOP holdouts argue that the working poor will not benefit at all by an increase to the long-overdue federal minimum wage & hammer on the specious talking point that mom 'n pop restaurants will have to let employees go. Rather disingenuous to argue, in DP's opinion, when what we're really talking about is a bare minimum of economic justice. Lest we forget, its been ten years or more.

The minimum wage issue is just the beginning. Let's get real & talk about the other multiplicity of factors that go into that mix: even the playing field, say, by not entering into free trade agreements with countries that don't have or enforce labor laws regarding child labor & sweatshops, & also bring the United States up to other "civilized" countries' standards in terms of universal health care (so the taxpayers aren't forced to cover WalMart workers' kids through Medicaid & foodstamps), and, to give all who aspire to higher education a fighting chance to attain it without crippling themselves with unreasonable & unmanageable student debt, for starters. And a host of lesser items such as usury laws aimed at non-negotiable contracts pertaining to every aspect of consumer finance (has anybody else noticed credit card companies & banks solidifying their hold & dictating terms to consumers lately?) would be welcome.

Bold & boldly drawn ideas as they may seem, I'll argue that it only seems that way in view of the fact that the GOP has had free rein to undo practically everything we as Americans perhaps took for granted at one time. The GOP has driven the American economy straight to the bottom. It only appears an impossible climb back up in view of that. It's really not. It's a matter of priorities.

Furthermore, Demon Princess is left wondering just what that last election was about, if not the voters' collective hunger for same. These things should all have been dealt with long ago, preferably incrementally. They were instead ignored in favor of robber-baron crony capitalism, which not coincidentally has kept our political leadership comfortably in its back pocket.

Didn't we just say it's time for a change--a righting of the balance, especially of matters going to competitiveness of the American economy without & economic justice within?

And as for the Dems' performance so far ~ the fol-de-rol & extended celebrations are all well & good; however, in the much-vaunted “First Hundred Days” legislation proposed so far, your Demon sees much more self-congratulatory heat & noise than actual light. Now that they’re poised to take office, there seems to be a lot more equivocating going on than we were led to expect.

1. Pay-go & national budget funding & lobbying reform proposals sound nice enough, but of course didn’t really go too deeply to the heart of the problem.

With respect to the latter, no sooner had the self-aggrandizing Democrats presented the bill in the House, they turned around & held a $1,000-a-head fundraiser.

2. Ditto for proposals to fix the shameful Medicare “donut hole.” I’ve read differing accounts of what the Democrats’ proposals purport to fix, but I do think that merely “allowing” Medicare to negotiate to bring overpriced meds in line with reality is not enough ~ is there more powerful evidence that the GOP knowingly granted Big Pharma a monopoly than the fact that manufacturers, protected as they are by this deeply flawed legislation, have already raised their prices in the short time it’s been in effect, & not a peep from the GOP in protest?

Lest we also forget, the United States Government created that market for Big Pharma & a host of "Medicaid Prescription Coverage" private insurance plans.

Is it really too much to expect them to give something back to the elderly & disabled peoples' pocketbooks from which all this largesse really issues, & by force ~ is this how a civilized nation treats its most vulnerable citizens?

The Washington Post stated several times that the Dem’s legislation would require, as opposed to merely permit, Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/01/06/AR2007010601096.html. Other sources, such as the AARP, say the proposal would merely permit it. Big difference.

At the same time, Medicare’s chief says she’ll refuse to do it.

So far, not very impressive. After an extended period of GOP looting the treasury in favor of its friends & big business interests, we need to completely rethink what Americans want America to be & our standing among the world’s economies.

Bandaids & boo-boo patches aren’t enough, & by the looks of it, that’s all the Democrats are offering.

Seize the day, people. Food for thought: “Economics for Contenders”:

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

A Scientific Theory of New Year's Resolutions ~ Why Bother?

Well, alright now. We've gotten through Christmas in the Demon household, through the exchange of nice expensive smelly stuffs, so your DP smells really good, the odd bit of jewelry, &, of course, that staple of grown-up Christmasses, sweaters.

In fact, DP's hypothesis is that you know you've reached boring full-blown adult-Christmas maturity when you finally accept:

1. There is no Santa, only fat, lecherous men; and

2. It dawns on you, finally, that there are a finite number winter sweaters in the world, & it is the Sugar Plum Fairy's responsibility to see that you never get the same one twice.

Actually, I'm not the originator of the sweater theory--I was pointed toward it the Christmas several years ago that my son tore open a festively wrapped box & exclaimed with great delight, "Mom, you gave me this same sweater last year."

The Sugar Plum Fairy had fallen down on the job, he thought. That was not true, by the way.

They were just approximately the same color, which I thought would look good on him.

Maturity lesson at Christmas #3: while you may outgrow your willingness to wear it, your mother never outgrows her right to select clothing for you, for which she never saves the receipts.

So now we're onto that other great holiday tradition: New Year's resolutions. Not that I gave it a great deal of thought this year (in fact, not a one).

I keep them manageable by keeping them modest. Especially compared to those I made the year I graduated~ I fondly remember the year I wrote, "Grow up. Get a real job. Settle down." I still laugh heartily at that one.

Now comes news that, like me, y'all can blissfully ignore the whole matter of those stupid New Year's resolutions. This article from the New York Times (read it now, before it's archived & you have to pay for it) explains why, despite your best efforts, you'll never fulfill them anyway. It's written by a scientist ~ & despite that , it's very entertaining as well as interesting & thoughtful.

"Having just lived through another New Year’s Eve, many of you have just resolved to be better, wiser, stronger and richer in the coming months and years. After all, we’re free humans, not slaves, robots or animals doomed to repeat the same boring mistakes over and over again. As William James wrote in 1890, the whole 'sting and excitement' of life comes from 'our sense that in it things are really being decided from one moment to another, and that it is not the dull rattling off of a chain that was forged innumerable ages ago.'”

He goes on to say:

"Get over it, Dr. James. Go get yourself fitted for a new chain-mail vest. A bevy of experiments in recent years suggest that the conscious mind is like a monkey riding a tiger of subconscious decisions and actions in progress, frantically making up stories about being in control. "

I hate to be the one to break it to yas, cookies, but there's no such thing as free will ~ just the proverbial chattering "monkey mind" (familiar to all who try to meditate & find themselves beset by niggling little trivialities when they sat down expecting that today, finally, would be the day they reached nirvana) that also insists you can control things, especially yourself.

No harm in trying, I suppose, as long as you don't take yourself too seriously.

Happy New Year!

Monday, January 01, 2007

Saddam Hangs

Has the Bush family dynasty has engineered its own holiday treat by silencing a very bad man, whom history won't miss in any event? Seems to be rumored/suspected.

Robert Parry, a reporter who broke the news of the Iran-Contra scandal for the AP & Newsweek some years back, is now head of indie news organization Consortium News & authored this article for it . (Title bar)

Emphasizing the notorious secrecy with which the Bushes 41 & 43 operate, Parry apparently thinks it's not beyond the pale to believe the timing & the circumstances of Saddam's trial were engineered, too convienently.

"[Bush] has silenced a unique witness to crucial chapters of the secret history that stretched from Iran’s Islamic revolution in 1979 to the alleged American-Saudi 'green light' for Hussein to attack Iran in 1980, through the eight years of the Iran-Iraq War during which high-ranking U.S. intermediaries, such as Donald Rumsfeld and Robert Gates, allegedly helped broker supplies of war materiel for Hussein.

"Hussein now won’t be around to give troublesome testimony about how he obtained the chemical and biological agents that his scientists used to produce the unconventional weapons that were deployed against Iranian forces and Iraqi civilians. He can’t give his perspective on who got the money and who facilitated the deals.

"Nor will Hussein be available to give his account of the mixed messages delivered by George H.W. Bush’s ambassador April Glaspie before Hussein’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait. Was there another American 'green light' or did Hussein just hear what he wanted to hear? . . .George W. Bush has now guaranteed that there will be no public tribunal where Hussein gives testimony on these potentially devastating historical scandals, which could threaten the Bush Family legacy.

"That could have happened if Hussein had been turned over to an international tribunal at the Hague as was done with other tyrants, such as Yugoslavia’s late dictator Slobodan Milosevic. Instead Bush insisted that Hussein be tried in Iraq despite the obvious fact that the Iraqi dictator would receive nothing close to a fair trial before being put to death.

"Hussein's hanging [was] ... for executing 148 men and boys from the town of Dujail in 1982 after a foiled assassination attempt on Hussein and his entourage. Hussein's death effectively moots other cases that were supposed to deal with his alleged use of chemical weapons to kill Iraqi civilians and other crimes that might have exposed the U.S. role.

"[For details on what Hussein might have revealed, see Robert Parry’s Secrecy & Privilege or Consortiumnews.com’s “Missing U.S.-Iraq History” or “The Secret World of Robert Gates.”]
"Some observers think that Bush simply wanted the personal satisfaction of seeing Hussein hanged, which would not have happened if he had been sent to the Hague. As Texas governor, Bush sometimes took what appeared to be perverse pleasure at his power to execute prisoners. In a 1999 interview with conservative writer Tucker Carlson for Talk magazine, Bush ridiculed convicted murderer Karla Faye Tucker and her unsuccessful plea to Bush to spare her life.

"Asked about Karla Faye Tucker’s clemency appeal, Bush mimicked what he claimed was the condemned woman’s message to him. “With pursed lips in mock desperation, [Bush said]: ‘Please don’t kill me.’”

"But a more powerful motive was always Hussein’s potential threat to the Bush Family legacy if he ever had a forum where he could offer detailed testimony about the historic events of the past several decades.

"Since stepping into the White House on Jan. 20, 2001, George W. Bush has made it a top priority to conceal the history of his father’s 12 years as Vice President and President and to wrap his own presidency in a thick cloak of secrecy.

"One of Bush’s first acts as President was to sign an executive order that blocked the scheduled release of historic records from his father’s years. After the 9/11 attacks, Bush expanded his secrecy mandate to grant his family the power to withhold those documents from the American public in perpetuity, passing down the authority to keep the secrets to future Bush generations.

"So, even after George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush are dead, those noted historians Jenna and Barbara Bush will control key government documents covering a 20-year swath of U.S. history.

"Already, every document at the George H.W. Bush presidential library must not only be cleared for release by specialists at the National Archives and – if classified – by the affected agencies, but also by the personal representatives of both the senior and junior George Bush. With their backgrounds in secret societies like Skull and Bones – and with George H.W. Bush’s work at the CIA – the Bushes are keenly aware of the power that comes from controlling information. By keeping crucial facts from the American people, the Bushes feel they can turn the voters into easily manipulated children.

"When there is a potential rupture of valuable information, the Bushes intervene, turning to influential friends to discredit some witness or relying on the U.S. military to make the threat go away. The Bushes have been helped immeasurably, too, by the credulity and cowardice of the modern U.S. news media and the Democratic Party."

What Can Be Done

"Still, even with Hussein’s execution, there are actions that the American people can take to finally recover the lost history of the 1980s.

"The U.S. military is now sitting on a treasure trove of documents seized during the invasion of Iraq in 2003. The Bush administration exploited these documents to discredit the United Nations over the 'oil for food' scandal of the 1990s, ironically when Hussein wasn’t building weapons of mass destruction. But the Bush administration has withheld the records from the 1980s when Hussein was producing chemical and biological weapons.

"In 2004, for instance the CIA released the so-called Duelfer report, which acknowledged that the administration’s pre-invasion assertions about Hussein hiding WMD stockpiles were 'almost all wrong.' But a curious feature of the report was that it included a long section about Hussein’s abuse of the U.N.’s 'oil for food' program, although the report acknowledged that the diverted funds had not gone to build illegal weapons.

"Meanwhile, the report noted the existence of a robust WMD program in the 1980s but offered no documentary perspective on how that operation had occurred and who was responsible for the delivery of crucial equipment and precursor chemicals. In other words, the CIA’s WMD report didn’t identify the non-Iraqis who made Iraq’s WMD arsenal possible.

"One source who has seen the evidence told me that it contains information about the role of Chilean arms dealer Carlos Cardoen, who has been identified as a key link between the CIA and Iraq for the procurement of dangerous weapons in the 1980s. But that evidence has remained locked away.

"With the Democrats taking control of Congress on Jan. 4, 2007, there could finally be an opportunity to force out more of the full story, assuming the Democrats don’t opt for their usual course of putting 'bipartisanship' ahead of oversight and truth.

"The American people also could demand that the surviving members of Hussein’s regime be fully debriefed on their historical knowledge before their voices also fall silent either from natural causes or additional executions.

"But the singular figure who could have put the era in its fullest perspective – and provided the most damning evidence about the Bush Family’s role – has been silenced for good, dropped through a trap door of a gallows and made to twitch at the end of a noose fashioned from hemp.

"The White House announced that George W. Bush didn’t wait up for the happy news of Hussein’s hanging. After the U.S. military turned Hussein over to his Iraqi executioners, Bush went to bed at his Crawford, Texas, ranch and slept through the night."

It's something of a legend by now that Bush doesn't lose a lot of sleep over his decisions, no matter how ill-considered, but if you want to do something to comfort him in his complete lack of conscience & remorse (making him not a whit a better man than the one who has gone to his death by hanging so recently), send him one of these, available at Whitehouse.org: