Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Word is 'Faith-Based Economics'

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Debate Telemetry Part 2

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Reboot! reboot! why won't this damn thing reboot?!

[originally published by Nico Pitney in Hufington Post as McCain May Suspend Campaign Again September 30, 2008 11:50 AM]

David Kurtz at TPM writes, "John McCain made the morning show rounds today. On Fox they were virtually begging him to 'suspend' his campaign again in the wake of the bailout failure yesterday on the Hill. You know, since it worked out so well the first time. McCain's answer: He just might suspend again."

McCain's comments follow a blog post by William Kristol yesterday arguing, "if this is really 'a national economic crisis,' and others have failed to lead, then McCain should lead--by re-suspending his campaign (fine, let observers mock him when he announces this), and leading his party and the Congress towards a solution. They won't mock if he can pull this off."

Watch the video of McCain on Fox News this morning:

Was McCain's Campaign Suspension Meant as a 'Clean Break?'

Did McCain's campaign advisers, Kissinger chief among them, advise a "suspension" as a way to rupture the narrative and start all over? Did they intend it as the "clean break" from path dependence the neocons had hoped for Israel--to side-step history by simply "tuning out and turning on" to their myth-jacking lies?

These people believe in the Great Cosmic Machine, with themselves as the masters, of course. They believe they have a god-given right to dominate the rest of us. Not govern, not shepherd: dominate. And that's what makes their actions monstrous, as Prof. Samantha Power tried to convey about Clinton's blatant fear-mongering in the primaries.

Green Light for Jacking and Stacking the Justice Department

Scott Horton summarizes the recent Inspector General/Office of Professional Responsibility report on the US Attorney firings in his No Comment blog in Harper's:

Internal Justice Department Probe Suggests Political Manipulation of Prosecutions, Obstruction

by Scott Horton

[originally published September 29, 2008 in Harper's]

Today the Justice Department’s Inspector General and Office of Professional Responsibility jointly issued a complex, detailed report investigating the dismissal of nine U.S. Attorneys in December 2006. The “process used to remove the nine U.S. Attorneys in 2006,” they wrote,

was fundamentally flawed. While Presidential appointees can be removed for any reason or for no reason, as long as it is not an illegal or improper reason, Department officials publicly justified the removals as the result of an evaluation that sought to replace underperforming U.S. Attorneys.

In fact, we determined that the process implemented largely by Kyle Sampson, Chief of Staff to the Attorney General, was unsystematic and arbitrary. We believe the primary responsibility for these serious failures rest with senior Department leaders—Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty—who abdicated their responsibility to adequately oversee the process and to ensure that the reasons for removal of each U.S. Attorney were supportable and not improper. These removals were not a minor personnel matter—they were an unprecedented removal of a group of high-level Department officials that was certain to raise concerns if not handled properly… We also concluded that Sampson bears significant responsibility for the flawed and arbitrary removal process.

The report raises very severe doubt about the accuracy, completeness and reliability of Kyle Sampson’s representations to investigators–many of which appear absurd. Sampson, known as Karl Rove’s “Mini Me,” was placed within the Justice Department as the White House’s implementer; Gonzales and McNulty appreciated that he was doing the White House’s–and specifically Karl Rove’s–bidding. And once again the Inspector General’s effort reflects remarkable skill in its presentation. Facts are cautiously presented in a fair-minded way, and there is a good deal of reserve about assessing those facts until the conclusion. However, even upon my first reading I was amazed by the great volume of information available in the public record that the Inspector General simply missed; much of that information has immediate relevance to the questions the Inspector General is examining and would tend to discredit many of the statements that were collected.

In particular, there is little consideration of facts in the cases in the San Diego and Los Angeles U.S. Attorneys offices, and the facts arising out of the New Mexico case are incomplete. All this excluded information suggests that prosecutions were manipulated for improper purposes, a conclusion that this report strains–at times absurdly–to avoid. The best way to describe this report, and the description that the Inspector General himself applies, is “incomplete.” In fact, though submitted twenty-two months after the deed, the report is little more than a start.

The report is incomplete because a number of persons—members of Congress, their staffers, and particularly figures in the White House—refused to cooperate with the investigation. At the top of this list are Karl Rove and Harriet Miers. The White House and several Republican lawmakers also failed to provide investigators with documents, including documents which all acknowledge are highly relevant and are not privileged in any way. It is a fair inference in such circumstances that these documents would be harmful and that this is the reason why they have been withheld. So the first lesson to be drawn from the report is a simple one: Obstruction continues to be the order of the day. Particularly in light of this fact, Attorney General Mukasey’s statement issued in connection with the publication of the report is worth noting:

The Offices of the Inspector General and Professional Responsibility dispelled many of the most disturbing allegations made in the wake of the removals.

This statement is simply wishful thinking and reflects predictable political biases. To his credit, the Inspector General is careful in noting that without access to statements from White House personnel and lawmakers, and access to their withheld documents, he is not in a position to refute the most troubling accusations. These are accusations, for which the report presents considerable evidence, that the White House drove the firings for improper partisan political purposes. In fact, the report clearly establishes that while seemingly valid arguments for firings were mouthed, they were never treated with any seriousness. It also makes clear that improper efforts to wield the powers of prosecution to manipulate federal elections were commonplace and that the White House had its hand firmly on the prosecutorial rudder throughout this process. Mukasey’s brush-off can easily be read as a green light to prosecutors around the country to continue with just these abusive criminal practices–and indeed improper prosecutions have continued unabated on Mukasey’s watch.

Similarly, Mukasey’s appointment of a special prosecutor to handle the open threads of the investigation raised widespread criticism on Capitol Hill, with good reason. Mukasey could, using available Justice Department precedent and authority, have drawn upon a special prosecutor with suitable stature and experience to handle the matter. It could have been a retired federal judge or former federal prosecutor known for integrity and independence. However, Mukasey tapped a relatively inexperienced and youthful career prosecutor from Connecticut.

Mukasey’s pick may well handle the matter with ability, but the choice sends a clear signal that Mukasey does not appreciate the gravity and importance of the issues raised. Moreover, it seems reasonably clear at this point that Mukasey’s prime objective in this maneuver is to ensure that the matter is swept under the rug until after the November 4 election, so that those responsible for trashing the traditions and integrity of the Department of Justice will suffer no political damage for their misdeeds. This is a disappointing, but at this point hardly surprising, development that favors White House stonewalling. Michael Mukasey has emerged as just the sort of Attorney General George W. Bush was hoping for.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Dumbing Us Down with Fear

Fear and the Brain

By Maia Szalavitz

[From Huffington Post originally published 10/12/2008]

Over the last year, I've had the privilege of working on a book with Bruce D. Perry, M.D., Ph.D., who heads the ChildTrauma Academy and is one of the leading experts on how traumatic stress affects children and the development of their brains.

Reading the various "Fearless" posts-- and thinking about terror quite personally yesterday as a small plane hit a building just blocks from my home office-- I was struck by what Dr. Perry taught me about fear during our work.

Fear literally makes us stupid. It is mediated by the most ancient parts of the brain. These regions take control when we are frightened and basically turn off the areas responsible for rational thought. This is not just a metaphor: quite literally, these primitive regions control our actions and prevent abstract thoughts from occurring to us when we are terrified. The pattern can be seen on brain scans.

For most of our evolutionary history, of course, this ability to shut down more recently evolved areas like the cortex and simply act was highly adaptive. When a predator is chasing you, abstract ideas and long-term considerations are not useful: to survive, you need lightening-quick reactions, not deliberative decision-making processes. As a result, however, the more frightened you are, the more reflexive your responses will be.

What's more, because the brain changes in response to how you use it, the more time you spend in a terrified state, the more developed these lower regions become. Worse, since you are not exercising the higher regions and the connections that modulate the fear circuits, these are weakened comparatively.

This is why children raised in abusive or threatening environments so often have problems with impulse control: their fear regions are being strengthened, promoting quick reactions and thoughtless responses while the areas devoted to self-control and consideration of the consequences of one's actions are under-developed. Tragedies often result as they misinterpret neutral events as threatening and unthinkingly respond with aggression.

These properties of our brains also leave us vulnerable to terrorists and politicians who try to take advantage of our impaired reasoning when threatened-- and the longer we live in a state of fear, the worse it gets. Moreover, because our brains are designed to mirror the responses of those around us, the cycle can become self-reinforcing.

Arianna's call for an epidemic of fearlessness is exactly the right response. If we exercise our control over our fear, if we focus on responding thoughtfully, our brains will sharpen their skills in those areas. The more people participate, the more others will join in, due to mirroring effects. Virtuous cycles are as powerful as vicious ones. But we have to start them.

Sowing Seeds of Peculiar Fruit

From Think Progress 9/28/2008:
Fort Hill, SC Mayor Danny Funderburk said he forwarded a chain email suggesting Barack Obama is the antichrist because he was “just curious” if it was true:

“I was just curious if there was any validity to it,” Funderburk said in a telephone interview. “I was trying to get documentation if there was any scripture to back it up.”

The e-mail, which has circulated in the last six months, claims the biblical book of Revelation says the antichrist will be in his 40s and of Muslim ancestry. The Charlotte Observer reports, “There is no such scripture. And Obama is not a Muslim. But that hasn’t stopped the e-mail.” In March, CNN’s Glenn Beck wondered aloud “Is Obama the antichrist?

Substituting a religious argument, even one that flatly makes no sense, for a political one, is a hallmark of mythjacking.

Bailout, or Economic Hit Job?

AMY GOODMAN: The Senate could take up the bill by Wednesday. The financial package looms as a final piece of business before lawmakers leave to campaign for the November elections.

Just before this broadcast, I caught up with Democratic Congress member Dennis Kucinich of Ohio. He was just headed to the House floor. I asked him about his thoughts on the bailout plan.

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: This is a copy of the bill which will provide for a $700 billion bailout of Wall Street. It has provisions in it where it talks about helping homeowners, but when you read the fine print, you see it has language like “may” instead of “shall” and “encouraging” instead of “mandating” help for the millions of homeowners who are worried right now about whether they’re going to lose their home. There’s no help for them in this.

So what we have here is a rescue plan that essentially gives all the speculators a bailout and puts the bad debts in the custody of the government. The president of the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank has said that this plan could create a fiscal chasm, says that the problem isn’t tight monetary policy, it’s the reckless behavior of some of these investors who have now found themselves in a position where a government bailout is going to help reward their bad behavior.

AMY GOODMAN: Is it any better than when it was first introduced by the Treasury Secretary, by Henry Paulson?

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: Well, you know, that implies that you would accept the underlying premise. I reject the underlying premise that we needed this bill. And as a matter of fact, that we’re putting this up before an adjournment in an election season shows that Congress is being put under extraordinary pressure to bail out Wall Street. We haven’t looked at any alternatives, Amy. This is—you know, it isn’t as though, if you had a liquidity crisis, that—you know, a real one—that you’d start to look at all the alternatives. We haven’t done that. We have a bill here, a bill of more than a hundred pages, that we haven’t had a single hearing on the bill, you know—on the concept, yes, on what Paulson and Bernanke asked for initially. But, you know, we need to have hearings on this. There’s 400 economists and three Nobel Prize-winning economists who have said, “Whoa, wait a minute! What are you doing? Why are you rushing this?” You know, this thing doesn’t smell right, frankly.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you think has to happen right now?

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: Well, you know, Congress better get ready with a plan B. If this thing goes down, we need to find a way to help Wall Street pay for its own problems. You can do that with a 20—.25 percent stock transfer tax, cancellation of dividends. You know, make the shareholders and the investors have to pay for the funny business that was going on on Wall Street. Why make the taxpayers pay? You know, the very underlying idea of this needs to be challenged, and frankly, there hasn’t been enough of that going on.

Well, what we have is a transfer of wealth, actually. It’s a continuation of a transfer of wealth. This whole government has become nothing more than a big machine that transfers the wealth upwards with our tax policies, our energy policies, with this fiscal policies, with the war. All the wealth of the country goes from the pockets of the people into the hands of a few. This is a very dangerous moment. You know, it’s the biggest amount of injection of capital by the government in a single time since the New Deal. And frankly, there is no trickle down here. There’s just rewarding bad behavior.

AMY GOODMAN: It sounds like it was mainly the House Republicans who balked, who revolted on Friday. Yet, you and a number of your colleagues are joining them. Do you believe this will pass today?

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: It’s going to be a very close vote. And I don’t see this as a partisan issue, by the way. I mean, in a way, the debate that tries to make it a partisan issue is a diversion. This is really whether or not people will side with Main Street in a struggle with Wall Street, because, you know, this is not about left or right. This is about up or down, and it’s about the color green.

And frankly, Wall Street is—has put itself on a trajectory with now we have almost a quadrillion—half a quadrillion dollars of derivatives that are out there, floating out there. People have said that if this is intended to be a fix, it’s a joke, on one hand. On the other hand, who’s paying for it? Why are we rushing this? I don’t—you know, and everything about this, I think, is unacceptable.

AMY GOODMAN: Congressman Kucinich, what happens if this doesn’t pass?

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: Well, that’s exactly right. I mean, we need to be ready with plan B, which helps Wall Street restrain some of this bad conduct, which immediately, you know, puts—looks at some of the issues of liquidity that have to do with the policies of the Fed. We had a former head of the FDIC tell a group of congressmen yesterday that the Bush administration has been going around the last few weeks, actually, so tightening up on the practices of banks that they’re forcing them to have bigger reserves, which in a way would, you know, kind of create—help to create the kind of tight money policies that we’re saying we’re trying to alleviate with this bill. So, you know, there needs to be a deeper look at this.

It seems to me there’s a possibility that this crisis has a little bit of manufacture to it. And that really concerns me, because we haven’t had enough time to look at this in an in-depth way, to analyze the impact of it on the economy, to see if it’s going to do anything about a recession that we’re obviously headed into, to see if it’s going to handle the underlying concerns on Wall Street about the speculation and a lack of regulation. The bill doesn’t, by the way, address anything about the speculation, anything about the lack of regulation. The SEC has failed. The Fed has failed. And we’re essentially telling all the same actors, “Go for it. You know, here’s another opportunity,” except this time it’s with taxpayers’ money.


AMY GOODMAN: We go back to my interview with Democratic Congress member Dennis Kucinich. I spoke to him just before the broadcast. He was headed to the House floor, and I asked him what he said on the House floor earlier, comparing the Congress to the board of Goldman Sachs.

    REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: I said we’re the Congress of the United States; we’re not the board of Goldman Sachs. Goldman Sachs is struggling to survive. And, you know, their former chief is now the head of the US Treasury. He’s in a position to be able to direct assets in a way that would help enhance his own financial standing. I mean, that’s a clear conflict of interest. And, you know, that’s something that needs to be said. You know, why are we permitting the person who has essentially been in a position where he’s managed assets that—you know, many of which are now in trouble, and he can come back and help clear the books for a lot of his friends? This is wrong. It’s fundamentally wrong. And, you know, it’s one of the things that adds a degree of stench to this.

    AMY GOODMAN: What concessions do you think right now are critical? For example, what do you think should happen to homeowners who have already been foreclosed on or are facing foreclosure?

    REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: Well, you know, there’s been a number of suggestions about the homeowners, and, you know, one is by an economist by the name of Nouriel Rubini, who says that we should come up with a plan that’s very similar to what’s happened in the ’30s, where you have a home loan process called the HOLC, and this would enable homeowners to actually be protected, that people wouldn’t go out of their—wouldn’t find themselves in a position where they’re going to lose their homes. It’s called the Home Owners’ Mortgage Enterprise. And this would be a means of helping—several steps that would help assure that we address directly the issue of people losing their homes, often through no fault of their own, and finding themselves in a position where they’re not getting any help from the government, because one of the real conceits of this bill is that it has the word “homeowner” all over it, but when you look deeper at the fine print of the text, it does not provide any direct aid for homeowners and doesn’t even require that the government set itself on a path to help homeowners. This is not about homeowners. This bill is about bailing out Wall Street speculators with $700 billion of taxpayers’ money.

    AMY GOODMAN: Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke warned lawmakers that an imminent meltdown in financial markets threatens to destroy the wealth and jobs of millions of Americans, if this isn’t passed.

    REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: Well, there’s many ways that you can stimulate the economy. One is that you can have massive infrastructure spending. You could get that started right away. It would have to go far beyond what Congress passed the other day. If you want to spend money into circulation and move the money in the economy, you can do that through spending on things that are tangible: bridges, water systems, sewer system. You can stimulate the economy by having a national healthcare plan. I mean, that would take a little bit longer to set up, but that would be a huge break for all these businesses that are having difficulties.

    There are many ways that we could address this, but the plan that they’ve put to us, they said this is the only option. Isn’t it interesting that the only plan that we get up—you know, for an up or down vote is one that gives a complete bailout to Wall Street without any restraints or protections for the investors who might come into this now.

    AMY GOODMAN: Congressman Kucinich, can you explain how it is that the Democrats are in charge, yet the Democrats back down on their demand to give bankruptcy judges authority to alter the terms of mortgages for homeowners facing foreclosure, that Democrats also failed in their attempt to steer a portion of any government profits from the package to affordable housing programs?

    REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: Well, I mean, those are two of the most glaring deficiencies in this bill. And I would maintain there was never any intention to—you know, well, many members of Congress had the intention of helping people who were in foreclosure. You know, this—Wall Street doesn’t want to do that. Wall Street wants to grab whatever change they can and equity that’s left in these properties. So—

    AMY GOODMAN: Right, but the Democrats are in charge of this.

    REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: Right. You know, I’ll tell you something that we were told in our caucus. We were told that our presidential candidate, when the negotiations started at the White House, said that he didn’t want this in this bill. Now, that’s what we were told.

    AMY GOODMAN: You were told that Barack Obama did not want this in the bill?

    REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: That he didn’t want the bankruptcy provisions in the bill. Now, you know, that’s what we were told. And I don’t understand why he would say that, if he did say that. And I think that there is a—the fact that we didn’t put bankruptcy provisions in, that actually we removed any hope for judges to do any loan modifications or any forbearance. There’s no moratorium on mortgage foreclosures in here. So, who’s getting—who’s really getting helped by this bill? This is a bailout, pure and simple, of Wall Street interests who have been involved in speculation.

    And I don’t, for the life of me, understand why this is going to do anything to address the underlying problems in the economy, which actually had to do with the recklessness. This is what the president of the Federal Reserve Bank in Dallas said, that—and, you know, I might have the actual quote here. Listen to this quote: he said, “The seizures and convulsions we’ve experienced in the debt and equity markets have been the consequences of a sustained orgy of excess and reckless behavior, not a too tight monetary policy.” This is the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank president, Richard Fisher.

    So, you know, we’re getting stampeded here to vote for something that doesn’t help homeowners, that doesn’t do anything about foreclosures, that doesn’t help those people who have been in bankruptcy and are looking for a way out. As a matter of fact, it made sure they can’t get out. So, who’s this for? It’s for speculators. It’s to play a game that provides some temporary help in the market, and, you know, you might see an uptick today if this passes the House. On the other hand, if it doesn’t, we need to be ready to find a way for Wall Street to address its problems without having to tap the increasingly diminishing resources of the federal taxpayers.

    AMY GOODMAN: And the issue of oversight, Congressman Kucinich? Before, there was Section 8, saying there was no executive or legislative oversight here.

    REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: Well, you know, the word “oversight” has new meaning here. You know, oversight could mean “I overlooked something.” And frankly, the Securities and Exchange Commission looked the other way while all these—all this fast-paced trading was going in derivatives and derivatives of derivatives. We have about a four—$500 trillion, almost a half a quadrillion dollars of derivatives floating out there that no one really understands how that’s going to affect the underlying economy when some of these things start imploding.

    You know, I think that—I think we’re looking at a situation here where it is precisely the lack of regulation and the lack of oversight by the administration that has caused this. Congress is going to have hearings next month, but frankly, we should be having hearings now, before we pass a bill. I mean, it’s just upside-down that you have hearings about the underlying problem after you pass a bill, because you have hearings first, you do the analysis, and then you come up with a fix that can protect investors, strengthen the economy.

    We should be concerned about the strength of the FDIC. We’re told that there’s more than a hundred banks that are in trouble right now and could collapse. We have to make sure depositors’ money is protected. This bill doesn’t have anything to do with that.

    AMY GOODMAN: The issue of corporate compensation? According to the Institute for Policy Studies, chief executives of large US companies made an average of $10.5 million last year, 344 times the pay of the average worker.

    REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: Well, this is really a fundamental issue in our society. Again, it’s all about how the wealth accelerates to the top and how work is not respected or rewarded for its own intrinsic value. We’ve really moved, you know. We’ve made a transition in our economy from industrial capitalism to finance capitalism. And with this debt-based economy that we have, where we keep—this public and private debt keeps exploding, as it has under—as it did under Alan Greenspan, quadrupling in a period of twenty years, we see ourselves in a position where the debt just keeps building and building and building, and we’re calling that economic progress. It is not.

    We need to challenge again the underlying assumptions about a debt-based economy, about whether or not we should revisit the 1913 Federal Reserve Act, which has an unfortunately privatized monetary system and created a system which includes banks having the ability to create money almost out of thin air with a fractional reserve. We have to look at the implications of that, maybe put the Federal Reserve under the Treasury and have the Treasury really be responsive to the interests of the American people and keeping the economy going.

    You know, we’re looking at the potential here for some positive changes, if we address them directly. But what this bill does, unfortunately, it just kind of helps things keep going until the next trillion-dollar crisis, which is coming in a few months when the Alt-A or jumbo mortgages, which are being reset in ’09 and 2010, will find their maximum financial stress on marketplaces. So I think that you have to realize that this—what we’re doing today is not going to forestall a recession, it is not going to solve the problem of a collapse of mortgages, it’s not going to help homeowners.

    When all is said and done and the jeweler’s eye is applied to this bill, this bill is about Wall Street. And unfortunately, you know, Goldman Sachs, with their man now as the Secretary of the Treasury, is going to be able to have some of its policies escape scrutiny. And this is probably a way to keep them afloat, I’m sure. Well, you know, I don’t want anybody to go down or out of business, but it seems to me that when the Secretary of the Treasury has massive holdings in Goldman Sachs and he’s going to be in a position of being able to direct investments and buy out bad investments, I think that we could easily conclude what that would do for his former firm.

AMY GOODMAN: Democratic Congress member Dennis Kucinich. He’s voting against the bailout today.

"The Process of Bankrupting Us"

The Pentagon Bailout Fraud
Chalmers Johnson and Tom Englehardt
(originally published September 29, 2008 in TomDispatch; via AntiWar.com)

Let's start with the money the Bush administration has already thrown at the war in Iraq. According to the June congressional testimony of William Beach, director of the Center for Data Analysis, the war has cost $646 billion so far. The new defense budget for 2009 tacks on another $68.6 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan in the coming year. However, military expert Bill Hartung of the New America Foundation puts a conservative estimate of the costs of a single week of the Iraq War at approximately $3.5 billion (or about $180 billion a year).

In other words, the war in Iraq will cost far more in the next year than the Iraq portion of that $68.6 billion Congress is about to pony up in the defense budget, and so will be funded, as has long been true, through supplemental war bills submitted by the Bush administration (and then whatever administration follows). In other words, sometime in 2009 the direct costs of the war the Bush administration once predicted would cost perhaps $50-60 billion in total will stand at more than $800 billion, or $100 billion above the cost (if all goes well, which it won't) of the bailout of the financial system now being proposed in Washington.

Estimates of the true long-term costs of the president's war of choice, including payments of health care and veterans benefits into the distant future, soar into the budgetary stratosphere. They range from the Congressional Budget Office's $1-2 trillion to an estimate by economists Joseph Stiglitz and Linda J. Bilmes of up to $4-5 trillion. So we're talking somewhere between one-and-a-half and seven bailouts-worth of taxpayer dollars flowing into the morass of disaster, corruption, and carnage in Iraq.

And here's another curious bit of information: Just the other day, the Web site ThinkProgress pointed out a strange glitch in Iraq planning. The Bush administration, deep into negotiations with the Iraqi government, evidently managed to wheedle an extra year's time for the prospective withdrawal of American combat troops from Iraq; they pushed the date from 2010 – the year suggested by both Barack Obama and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki – to 2011. According to Maliki in an interview with an Iraqi TV station, this change came from the administration's concern over the "domestic situation" in the U.S. (that is, the needs of the McCain campaign).

"Actually," said Maliki, "the final date was really the end of 2010 and the period between the end of 2010 and the end of 2011 was for withdrawing the remaining troops from all of Iraq, but they asked for a change [in date] due to political circumstances related to the [U.S] domestic situation so it will not be said to the end of 2010 followed by one year for withdrawal but the end of 2011 as a final date." So we're talking about another perhaps $150-180 billion in 2011 – or approximately the full suggested initial payout in the Washington bailout plan of at least one key Democrat. This gives the phrase "presidential politics" new meaning. Now, just imagine for a moment the situation we might be in if there had been no Iraq War. We could have bailed ourselves out many times over.

As Chalmers Johnson, author most recently of Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic, the final volume of his Blowback Trilogy, has pointed out for years, the Pentagon, the military-industrial complex, and America's wars are in the process of bankrupting us. How strange then that, as he indicates below, no one in the mainstream even blinks when a staggering new Pentagon budget sails through the House of Representatives and then, by voice vote, through the Senate just as negotiators in Washington have been scrambling to find a similar sum to deal with a catastrophic financial meltdown; nor does anyone in the mainstream bother to make any connection between that budget and the funds we don't have available to use elsewhere, or between the looting of Iraq and the looting of our financial system (and, in both cases, of course, the looting of the American taxpayer). Tom

We Have the Money

If only we didn't waste it on the defense budget
by Chalmers Johnson

There has been much moaning, air-sucking, and outrage about the $700 billion that the U.S. government is thinking of throwing away on rich New York bankers who have been ripping us off for the past few years and then letting greed drive their businesses into a variety of ditches. In fact, we dole out similar amounts of money every year in the form of payoffs to the armed services, the military-industrial complex, and powerful senators and representatives allied with the Pentagon.

On Wednesday, Sept. 24, right in the middle of the fight over billions of taxpayer dollars slated to bail out Wall Street, the House of Representatives passed a $612 billion defense authorization bill for 2009 without a murmur of public protest or any meaningful press comment at all. (The New York Times gave the matter only three short paragraphs buried in a story about another appropriations measure.)

The defense bill includes $68.6 billion to pursue the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which is only a down-payment on the full yearly cost of these wars. (The rest will be raised through future supplementary bills.) It also included a 3.9 percent pay raise for military personnel and $5 billion in pork-barrel projects not even requested by the administration or the secretary of defense. It also fully funds the Pentagon's request for a radar site in the Czech Republic, a hare-brained scheme sure to infuriate the Russians just as much as a Russian missile base in Cuba once infuriated us. The whole bill passed by a vote of 392-39 and will fly through the Senate, where a similar bill has already been approved. And no one will even think to mention it in the same breath with the discussion of bailout funds for dying investment banks and the like.

This is pure waste. Our annual spending on "national security" – meaning the defense budget plus all military expenditures hidden in the budgets for the departments of Energy, State, Treasury, Veterans Affairs, the CIA, and numerous other places in the executive branch – already exceeds a trillion dollars, an amount larger than that of all other national defense budgets combined. Not only was there no significant media coverage of this latest appropriation, there have been no signs of even the slightest urge to inquire into the relationship between our bloated military, our staggering weapons expenditures, our extravagantly expensive failed wars abroad, and the financial catastrophe on Wall Street.

The only congressional "commentary" on the size of our military outlay was the usual pompous drivel about how a failure to vote for the defense authorization bill would betray our troops. The aged Sen. John Warner (R-Va.), former chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, implored his Republican colleagues to vote for the bill "out of respect for military personnel." He seems to be unaware that these troops are actually volunteers, not draftees, and that they joined the armed forces as a matter of career choice, rather than because the nation demanded such a sacrifice from them.

We would better respect our armed forces by bringing the futile and misbegotten wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to an end. A relative degree of peace and order has returned to Iraq not because of President Bush's belated reinforcement of our expeditionary army there (the so-called surge), but thanks to shifting internal dynamics within Iraq and in the Middle East region generally. Such shifts include a growing awareness among Iraq's Sunni population of the need to restore law and order, a growing confidence among Iraqi Shi'ites of their nearly unassailable position of political influence in the country, and a growing awareness among Sunni nations that the ill-informed war of aggression the Bush administration waged against Iraq has vastly increased the influence of Shi'ism and Iran in the region.

The continued presence of American troops and their heavily reinforced bases in Iraq threatens this return to relative stability. The refusal of the Shia government of Iraq to agree to an American Status of Forces Agreement – much desired by the Bush administration – that would exempt off-duty American troops from Iraqi law is actually a good sign for the future of Iraq.

In Afghanistan, our historically deaf generals and civilian strategists do not seem to understand that our defeat by the Afghan insurgents is inevitable. Since the time of Alexander the Great, no foreign intruder has ever prevailed over Afghan guerrillas defending their home turf. The first Anglo-Afghan War (1838-1842) marked a particularly humiliating defeat of British imperialism at the very height of English military power in the Victorian era. The Soviet-Afghan War (1978-1989) resulted in a Russian defeat so demoralizing that it contributed significantly to the disintegration of the former Soviet Union in 1991. We are now on track to repeat virtually all the errors committed by previous invaders of Afghanistan over the centuries.

In the past year, perhaps most disastrously, we have carried our Afghan war into Pakistan, a relatively wealthy and sophisticated nuclear power that has long cooperated with us militarily. Our recent bungling brutality along the Afghan-Pakistan border threatens to radicalize the Pashtuns in both countries and advance the interests of radical Islam throughout the region. The United States is now identified in each country mainly with Hellfire missiles, unmanned drones, special operations raids, and repeated incidents of the killing of innocent bystanders.

The brutal bombing of the Marriott Hotel in Pakistan's capital, Islamabad, on Sept. 20, 2008, was a powerful indicator of the spreading strength of virulent anti-American sentiment in the area. The hotel was a well-known watering hole for American Marines, Special Forces troops, and CIA agents. Our military activities in Pakistan have been as misguided as the Nixon-Kissinger invasion of Cambodia in 1970. The end result will almost surely be the same.

We should begin our disengagement from Afghanistan at once. We dislike the Taliban's fundamentalist religious values, but the Afghan public, with its desperate desire for a return of law and order and the curbing of corruption, knows that the Taliban is the only political force in the country that has ever brought the opium trade under control. The Pakistanis and their effective army can defend their country from Taliban domination so long as we abandon the activities that are causing both Afghans and Pakistanis to see the Taliban as a lesser evil.

One of America's greatest authorities on the defense budget, Winslow Wheeler, worked for 31 years for Republican members of the Senate and for the General Accounting Office on military expenditures. His conclusion, when it comes to the fiscal sanity of our military spending, is devastating:

"America's defense budget is now larger in inflation-adjusted dollars than at any point since the end of World War II, and yet our Army has fewer combat brigades than at any point in that period; our Navy has fewer combat ships; and the Air Force has fewer combat aircraft. Our major equipment inventories for these major forces are older on average than any point since 1946 – or in some cases, in our entire history."

This in itself is a national disgrace. Spending hundreds of billions of dollars on present and future wars that have nothing to do with our national security is simply obscene. And yet Congress has been corrupted by the military-industrial complex into believing that, by voting for more defense spending, they are supplying "jobs" for the economy. In fact, they are only diverting scarce resources from the desperately needed rebuilding of the American infrastructure and other crucial spending necessities into utterly wasteful munitions. If we cannot cut back our long-standing, ever increasing military spending in a major way, then the bankruptcy of the United States is inevitable. As the current Wall Street meltdown has demonstrated, that is no longer an abstract possibility but a growing likelihood. We do not have much time left.

Chalmers Johnson is the author of three linked books on the crises of American imperialism and militarism. They are Blowback (2000), The Sorrows of Empire (2004), and Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic (2006). All are available in paperback from Metropolitan Books.

Copyright 2008 Chalmers Johnson

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Beware politicians who peddle fables that cast themselves as the heroes.

From the Opinion page of the Wall Street Journal:

Once upon a time, in the land that FDR built, there was the rule of "regulation" and all was right on Wall and Main Streets. Wise 27-year-old bank examiners looked down upon the banks and saw that they were sound. America's Hobbits lived happily in homes financed by 30-year-mortgages that never left their local banker's balance sheet, and nary a crisis did we have.

Then, lo, came the evil Reagan marching from Mordor with his horde of Orcs, short for "market fundamentalists." Reagan's apprentice, Gramm of Texas and later of McCain, unleashed the scourge of "deregulation," and thus were "greed," short-selling, securitization, McMansions, liar loans and other horrors loosed upon the world of men.

Now, however, comes Obama of Illinois, Schumer of New York and others in the fellowship of the Beltway to slay the Orcs and restore the rule of the regulator. So once more will the Hobbits be able to sleep peacefully in the shire.

With apologies to Tolkien, or at least Peter Jackson, something like this tale is now being sold to the American people to explain the financial panic of the past year. It is truly a fable from start to finish. Yet we are likely to hear some version of it often in the coming months as the barons of Congress try to absolve themselves of any responsibility for the housing and mortgage meltdowns.

Yes, greed is ever with us, at least until Washington transforms human nature. The wizards of Wall Street and London became ever more inventive in finding ways to sell mortgages and finance housing. Some of those peddling subprime loans were crooks, as were some of the borrowers who lied about their incomes. This is what happens in a credit bubble that becomes a societal mania....

Our point here isn't to absolve Wall Street or pretend there weren't private excesses. But the investment mistakes would surely have been less extreme, and ultimately their damage more containable, if not for the enormous political support and subsidy for mortgage credit. Beware politicians who peddle fables that cast themselves as the heroes.

[Full article]

Instrumental Use of Words in Palin's Non-Answers

via Huffington Post

"Note that Fey often quotes directly from Palin's original interview -- apparently no parody was required."

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Our Beliefs and Intentions Materialize Our Realities

It’s the Economy, Stupid
words and music by John McCutcheon

Written after reading Wendell Berry’s fabulous novel, Jayber Crow.

It’s the economy, stupid
A victory sign
A mantra
An explanation
A reminder
A warning
An omen
An onus
A threat
It’s the economy, stupid

Farmers’ wives bring eggs
Whole milk
Fresh butter
To the local market
To the store
Come in with groceries
And leave with groceries and money

Small farmers raise crops
For local markets
Up at dawn
Home at dusk
More in fallow
Than under the plow
Dark loam
Rich with earthworms
Defying erosion
Anchoring forest borders
Home for
Now virginity is no longer fashionable
Even in our forests
We will harvest another crop
Of walnut
Cherry, oak
If we only live
Another hundred years.
Man was the last piece
Of creation
And has been playing catch up
Ever since.

Farming is a balance
Of muscle
And conservation
Becomes the muscle now
Allowing us to work
Into the night.
We plant our debts
Fencerow to fencerow
Every bitter dram
Of expert advice
…drunk with dreams
of fortune

We grow
What we cannot use
What we used to raise
What we used to save
What we used to treasure
What we used to revere
What we used to love
It’s the economy, stupid

I am not a nostalgist
I am a most pragmatic man
I look at what naturally occurs
In the living world…
And see diversity
Not specialization.
I look at
Hometown banks
Hardware stores
Where your name
Is your credit
And decisions are rendered
By people who know you
Where you are more than
The five banks
And the four airlines
And the three newspaper chains
And the two big box stores
And the one-and-a-half political parties
And the one retort:
It’s the economy stupid

And the standards
That demand that
Every teacher teaches
Every student
Exactly the same thing
And, like these students
I have to ask “why?”
It’s the economy, stupid

Now those educated
Appraised students
Ride their buses
From their consolidated schools
Back to their small towns and farms
And cannot wait
To drive their cars away
On that highway of diamonds
Into the consolidated cities
Where they look back
In shame
And wonder
Between what they know
And what they’ve been sold
It’s the economy, stupid

The economy that looks
For the maximum return
For the quick turnaround
For the short term gain
For the unearned income
For the Big Lotto
It’s the economy, stupid

And the economy
Is impatient
It has a short attention span
It is easily bored
It is hungry
It is late for its next appointment
It puts you on hold
It does not return your call
It’s the economy, stupid

The economy
Has you working two jobs
It is mandatory overtime
It is expensive sneakers
Made by sweating children
It is cheap food
Picked by landless hands
It is good paying jobs
Disappearing from American towns
And reappearing
It is your closed up main street
And it is your boarded up mill
And it is your condo-minimized factory
And it is your cookie cutter mall
And it is not accountable
It is not America
It’s the economy, stupid

The economy now has no borders
Or horizons
Or faces
Or hands
The economy has only one rule:

And the economy lies.
The economy tells us it is about Freedom.
The economy is about Dependence.
Not on land
Or animals
Or weather
Or neighbors
On machinery
And fuel
And credit.
Most farmers
Have borrowed their way
Right out of farming.
No government loan
No government program
Will change
That cycle.
Because the government
Is powerless now, see…
It’s the economy, stupid

And the government is the economy’s
Biggest cheerleader.
It plays by the same rules:
The quick fix
The stronger army
The bigger bomb
The dependence on machinery
To do work
That can only effectively be done
By humans.
It consolidates
When diversity is required.

It’s about economy
It’s about small towns with
And baseball teams
A general store
Family cemeteries
A schoolhouse
A lumberyard
A radio station
A newspaper
A roadhouse
A funeral home
A filling station
Open space
Open opportunity
Open eyes
Open hearts
It’s about economy

Craigston, Carriacou, Grenada February 2001

©2001 John McCutcheon/Appalsongs (ASCAP)

Brother Max in the House!

Report: Secretive Right-Wing Group Vetted McCain’s VP Candidate Sarah Palin

[originally broadcast September 2, 2008]

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about, Max, the Council for National Policy, the story that you broke


MAX BLUMENTHAL: Well, this is the larger issue, which is, you know, what role Sarah Palin would play in a potential McCain administration? And last week in Minneapolis at the Radisson Hotel, without any media present, the most powerful power brokers of the Christian right met and essentially vetted Sarah Palin. They were there to watch her speech accepting her selection as the vice-presidential candidate. And they were delighted.

The only way I found out about this meeting is through a web video posted by the Christian right organization Focus on the Family, in which they discussed attending the meeting. One of James Dobson’s spokesmen discussed attending the meeting and being electrified by the selection of Sarah Palin. The Christian right absolutely loves this woman. And so—and what I wrote in my article is that the Council for National Policy is sort of the hidden hand behind the selection.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain who is in this council.

MAX BLUMENTHAL: Right. And it’s hard to know who is in this Council for National Policy. What it is is an umbrella group of the most powerful figures in the Christian right; the biggest donors of the right wing; the activists, like Grover Norquist, anti-tax activist; people like Erik Prince from Blackwater and his family; people—

AMY GOODMAN: He’s a part of the council.

MAX BLUMENTHAL: Yes. Paul Weyrich, the Catholic right organizer; Tim LaHaye, author of the best—“Left Behind” series; James Dobson and his entire family are in this. You know—

AMY GOODMAN: James Dobson, who said pray for rain during the Democratic convention.

MAX BLUMENTHAL: Exactly, exactly, and who thinks SpongeBob is gay, and who I consider the most powerful figure in the Christian right, by the way. And—but remember—

AMY GOODMAN: So they all met, as the Democrats were in Denver, in Minneapolis.

MAX BLUMENTHAL: Right. They all met—exactly. And the point of meeting while the media was focusing on the Democrats was so that the media wouldn’t, you know, detect this meeting, because they want to make—they want to plan for the long term without any—you know, outside of the spotlight. Their membership rolls are completely secret.

And so, that’s part of the reason why the selection of Sarah Palin caught people off guard, because John McCain had always been seen as a maverick who defied right-wing orthodoxy, and it was hard for the media to imagine that he would make such a radical selection for vice president, someone who would actually be the liaison to the Christian right in his administration. She wouldn’t play a role like Dick Cheney, where she, you know, has any influence over foreign policy. She would control the agencies like Health and Human Services and block condom distribution to Africa, block sex education in public schools, things like that.

AMY GOODMAN: So, are you saying that this whole questioning of, oh, is this really being done to attract Hillary delegates, is way off base, that this is about shoring up the evangelical base?

MAX BLUMENTHAL: Well, this never would have happened if Barack Obama had selected Hillary Clinton as his vice president, that’s for sure. He would have selected Romney or Pawlenty, the Minnesota governor. And if McCain is elected president, you’re going to have another radical administration, in part because Barack Obama was afraid of being overshadowed by the Clintons.

But this has nothing to do with attracting Hillary supporters. And the Hillary supporters I’ve spoken to are actually offended by this pick, because most of them are feminists who are pro-choice.

AMY GOODMAN: How did you learn of this secret gathering?

MAX BLUMENTHAL: Right. I saw a web video posted on Focus on the Family, where they mentioned in—where the spokesman for James Dobson, Tom Minnery, mentioned in passing that he had attended this gathering the week prior and that all of these power brokers—I don’t know who was there, because they kept it secret—had watched—you know, had met to watch Sarah Palin and discuss her and that they were electrified by her selection. And they feel now that they can support a McCain administration.

So James Dobson, the most powerful figure in the Christian right, who had said—who had earlier vowed that he could never vote for John McCain, I expect to endorse John McCain and to play an enormous role in this campaign. He has 3.5 million members. He has thirty-six policy councils in the States. His organization has a $150 million budget.

So, McCain is doing this in part to get the—to channel the grassroots muscle of the Christian right into an electoral victory over Barack Obama. And I think, you know, anyone who dismisses Sarah Palin’s lack of experience or her seeming shallowness on policy, you know, should not underestimate her, because this is—there’s a larger story here, and it’s about, you know, winning this election by pandering to the Christian right.

AMY GOODMAN: And finally, the Alaska delegation in the context of—in the political spectrum in comparison with all the Republican delegations that are here this week?

MAX BLUMENTHAL: Right. Well, I mean, you can clearly see how radical most of the members of this delegation are through my video. Those three people I spoke to were indicative of, you know, the—you know, all of the interviews I did. Many of them are Ron Paul supporters—excuse me—Buchananites, people who identify with the far fringes of the radical right.

And Sarah Palin, herself, is a member of a party called the Alaska Independence Party, which has endorsed seceding from the union and may have ties to other neosecessionist groups, like the Vermont—excuse me—Independence Party, which themselves have ties to neo-Confederate groups. So you’re talking about, you know, a state far off in the hinterlands, where people deeply mistrust government, where they—you know, where they have a, you know, very radical ideology on social policy. And we’ve never had a candidate from that state elevated to this position. So I think this is unique, and at the same time it’s typical, because the Republican Party, through John McCain, is intent on continuing the social policies of George W. Bush, which have been disastrous.

AMY GOODMAN: And now, James Dobson said he would never support John McCain—


AMY GOODMAN: —has reversed his position.

MAX BLUMENTHAL: Well, he said he may support him. And now I expect him to actually support him and throw the full weight of his organization behind John McCain.

AMY GOODMAN: Max Blumenthal, I want to thank you very much for being with us. Of course, people can watch that video on our website, and we’ll link to yours. Max Blumenthal of The Nation magazine.

The Witch Hunter and the Governor--no, it's not a new sitcom

via Huffington Post

Reminding the Reader

The reader hardly need be reminded that the images not only of poetry and love but also of religion and patriotism, when effec­tive, are apprehended with actual physical responses: tears, sighs, interior aches, spontaneous groans, cries, bursts of laughter, wrath, and impulsive deeds. Human experience and human art, that is to say, have succeeded in creating for the human species an en­vironment of sign stimuli that release physical responses and direct them to ends no less effectively than do the signs of nature the instincts of the beasts. The biology, psychology, sociology, and history of these sign stimuli may be said to constitute the field of our subject, the science of Comparative Mythology. And although no one has yet devised an effective method for distinguishing be­tween the innate and the acquired, the natural and the culturally conditioned, the "elementary" and the "ethnic" aspects of such human-cultural catalysts and their evoked responses, the radical distinction here made by the poet Housman between images that act upon our nervous structure as energy releasers and those that serve, rather, for the transmission of thought, supplies an excellent criterion for the testing of our themes.

"I cannot satisfy myself," he writes, "that there are any such things as poetical ideas. No truth, it seems to me, is too precious, no observation too profound, and no sentiment too exalted to be


expressed in prose. The utmost that I could admit is that some ideas do, while others do not, lend themselves kindly to poetical expression; and that these receive from poetry an enhancement which glorifies and almost transfigures them, and which is not perceived to be a separate thing except by analysis."

When Housman writes that "poetry is not the thing said but a way of saying it," and when he states again "that the intellect is not the fount of poetry, that it may actually hinder its production, and that it cannot even be trusted to recognize poetry when it is produced," he is no more than reaffirming and lucidly formu­lating the first axiom of all creative art--whether it be in poetry, music, dance, architecture, painting, or sculpture--which is, namely, that art is not, like science, a logic of references but a re­lease from reference and rendition of immediate experience: a presentation of forms, images, or ideas in such a way that they will communicate, not primarily a thought or even a feeling, but an impact.

[Joseph Campbell. (1968). Masks of God: Primitive Mythology, pp.40-42. New York: Penguin.]

Pushkin's Remembrance

[Originally published September 21, 2008 in Harper's]

When the noisy day of mortal men grows still
With illusory nocturnal shadows.
And sleep, the harvest of a day’s exertion,
Sinks down upon the silent city streets
This is my hour of the night, when silent hours
Drag by in painful attentiveness:
During the indolent night the wound of my heart’s serpent
Rises up in me more powerfully;
Imagination surges: my mind, numbed by yearning,
Entertains a parade of tortured thoughts;
Before my eyes, quiet remembrance
Unfurls its lengthy parchment;
Thus set back, I rehearse the course of my life,
I quake and I curse,
I shed bitter tears and complain painfully,
But alas the dismal lines cannot be purged.

Aleksandr Sergeevich Pushkin, Remembrance (Воспоминание) (1827)(S.H. transl.)

As Within, So Without

Bruno on Cultivating the Heaven Within

By Scott Horton
September 27, 2008
[Originally published in Harper's]

Let us restore to order the heaven that lies within us intellectually, and then that visible heaven that presents itself bodily to your eyes. Let us distance from the heaven of our mind the bear of roughness, the arrow of envy, the foal of levity, the dog of evil calumny, the bitch of flattery; let us banish the Hercules of violence, the lyre of complacency… When we have in this way made for ourselves a new home and restored our heaven, then, too, shall reign new constellations, new influences and powers and new destinies. All depends upon this higher world, and out of its contradictory causes flow necessarily contradictory effects. Oh we happy ones, we truly blissful ones, know that our happiness depends upon the proper cultivation of our minds and thoughts. If we wish to improve our condition, we must change our customs; if we want the former to become good and better, the latter must not be allowed to worsen. If we purify the drive within us, then it will not be hard to pass from this transformation in the inner world to the reformation of the sensible and external world.

Giordano Bruno, La spaccio della bestia trionfante (1584) in Le opere italiane (P. de Lagarde ed. 1888), p. 412 (S.H. transl.)

McCain Fingers the Problem, Pulls Words Out of Own Ass

Lousy Is As Lousy Does: McCain puts his finger on the economic problem

By Ken Silverstein [originally published September 27, 2008 in Harper's]

There didn’t seem to be any clear winner in last night’s presidential debate, which presumably is good for Barack Obama since he seems to be slightly ahead at this point. It was discouraging, though, to have Obama endorse the money pit known as “missile defense,” and for him to more or less hold up Henry Kissinger as a foreign policy guru when he talked about the desirability of negotiating directly with Iran (and other “enemies”) without preconditions.

Surely the most penetrating observation of the night came from McCain, when he said in discussing the beleaguered people of one nation currently enmeshed in an economic crisis: they “have a lousy government, so therefore their economy is lousy.” He was talking about Iranians, but I imagine the sentiment rang true for quite a few Americans as well.

“Lousy government” is in fact the best explanation available for the current financial disaster, and House Republicans put on a fresh display the past few days by posing as populist defenders of “Main Street” while offering further tax cuts to Wall Street. As Steven Pearlstein wrote today in The Washington Post:
If you worked at Saturday Night Live and had to construct a parody of what Republican wing nuts might come up with as a solution to the current financial crisis, you simply couldn’t do better than the loopy plan served up by House Republicans this week. Minority Leader John Boehner and his crew have never met a problem they think couldn’t be solved by attracting private capital, and never met a dollar of private capital that couldn’t be lured with a tax cut. So it should have been no surprise that they would try to use the same approach to plug the trillion-dollar hole that’s been blown in the American financial system.

That’s right, my fellow Americans, we can lick this financial crisis just by offering an additional capital gains tax break to any investor or hedge fund that agrees to invest in a bank or Wall Street investment house.

That Obama Cartoon

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First you put out their eyes, then rob them even blinder

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Wyatt Cenac Crosses the eh, not so Great Divide

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Going Ape Over Obama

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The Swish Heard 'Round the World

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Ashcroft Threatens to Sing

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Debate Telemetry

Two focus groups, one by GOP pollster Frank Luntz and another by Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg, both declared Obama the winner. Here's video of Luntz, some pretty powerful stuff:

via Huffington Post

Friday, September 26, 2008


Henry Kissinger is our mythjacker-in-chief.

Bush's Fear Factor Rerun

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Thomas Frank: Deliberate Deficit Spending Defunds Liberal Causes

Thomas Frank, author of The Wrecking Crew: How a gang of right-wing con men destroyed Washington and made a killing (published August, 2008 in Harper's), lays out the implications of their actions in an article at Huffington Post that features some of the best comments I've ever read:

No future for you.

Thomas Frank (originally published September 26, 2008 at Huffington Post)

A seven-hundred-billion-dollar bailout plan? Weren't Republicans supposed to be opposed to deficit spending? Weren't they the party that was all about balanced budgets and fiscal responsibility?

That's what Republicans say, of course. And now they tell us they wish they didn't have to take this course; that the bailout violates their own first principles; that they're so, so sorry. But none of this is true. At some point in the first Reagan administration, Washington conservatives (as opposed to your average conservative pundit or grassroots activist) learned to stop worrying and love public debt. Maybe that first, gigantic deficit the Reaganites piled up was an accident, just a combination of deluded "supply side" tax cuts and a huge bag of good stuff for the Pentagon. But pretty quickly conservatives discovered that deficits, when done correctly, did something really cool: deficits defunded the left.

For one thing, deficits gave the Reaganites an enormous weapon to wield against their enemies in Congress and the executive branch. Having to pay down the debt was the excuse for "reductions in force" in agencies detested by conservatives; it was the rationale for attacks on this liberal program and that; and it was--believe it or not--the original justification for the trademark conservative innovation of outsourcing and privatizing public operations, an innovation that has, as we now know, turned out to be one of the most fantastic money-burning frauds ever conceived by the mind of man.

And then, of course, the whole thing was dumped in the lap of the incoming president Bill Clinton in 1993. The story is so famous it borders on legend: One fine day, after being briefed by his economic team, Clinton realized that, thanks to the deficit, he would not be able to enact most of the economic program he had been promising voters throughout the campaign. He cursed. He screamed. He referred to it as "Stockman's revenge," after President Reagan's budget director (whose memoirs are an invaluable account of conservative thinking about deficits). And, of course, he did as the situation bade him: he balanced the budget and ruled like a nice, responsible Republican.

When done right--or wrong, depending on how you look at it--deficits remove liberal options from the table. Suddenly there's no money for building bridges or inspecting meat. Not surprisingly, running up a deficit is a strategy favored by the wrecking crew for its liberal-killing properties.

But seven hundred billion dollars, all of it to make Wall Street whole again after it cheated and deceived itself into its worst crisis in seventy-five years? Add this to the already enormous deficit Bush piled up by sluicing waves of public money down the pipe to whatever contractor has the best lobbyists, and you're talking deficit Armageddon.

And with a deficit that size, what a lot of defunding we'll have! Perhaps your individual share of the bailout will be manageable, but its larger effects will take much more from you than you think: public schools, workplace safety, health care reform all might well be sacrificed.

These gratifying effects are already being acknowledged. On Tuesday Barack Obama recognized that the bailout may crowd out some of the programs he's been promising on the campaign trail. Yes, I know that something has to be done to avoid Great Depression II; I know we have no choice in the matter; and I don't even have a problem with deficit spending in the abstract. But it seems to me that the combined result of all this might be to compel even Obama into acting like a Republican.

Letterman Got Myth-Jacked

From the Huffington Post:

NEW YORK — "Late Show" host David Letterman kept up a verbal assault on John McCain Thursday, saying he felt like an "ugly date" because the GOP presidential candidate backed out of a scheduled appearance on his talk show.

The night before, Letterman had said McCain's decision to suspend his campaign to deal with the economic crisis "didn't smell right." Letterman substituted MSNBC's "Countdown" host _ and critic of the Arizona senator _ Keith Olbermann when McCain called him to say he wouldn't appear Wednesday.

The comic was unhappy when McCain sat for an interview with Katie Couric instead of him Wednesday _ and even more perturbed to learn that McCain didn't leave New York until Thursday.

He said he felt like a "patriot" to let McCain off his commitment to deal with the economy and "now I'm feeling like an ugly date."

"That's what I feel like, I feel like an ugly date," he said. "I feel used. I feel cheap. I feel sullied."

Clearly, McCain took advantage of Letterman's patriotic emotions, his willingness to make a sacrifice to do What's Right for the Country, for McCain's personal political gain. That's myth-jacking, baby.

Video Playback Issue: No Audio?

Playing videos works fine, but to hear the audio, I've had to click "Links to this post." This opens a new page where, after scrolling up, the video will play complete with audio.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Living Legends of Deception

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Using Religious Tests to Stack and Jack the Justice Department

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Jacking the Numbers

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How We Got Jacked

No audio? Click "Links to this post," scroll up. Only Comedy Central videos seem to be missing the audio track--for now. Don't have a clue why.

Caution: Now Entering our Virtual Mythogenetic Zone

No audio? Click "Links to this post," scroll up. Only Comedy Central videos seem to be missing the audio track--for now. Don't have a clue why.