Monday, July 31, 2006

They can't stop lying

So New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg lied about why he wouldn’t let protestors gather in Central Park during the 2004 Republican Convention. It wasn’t about security or potential environmental concerns. It was political. What a surprise.

Republicans are habitual liars. Why? Ask Michael Corleone.

One of the many subplots in “The Godfather” movies was the gradual deterioration of the marriage between Michael Corleone and the outsider Kay. From the very beginning of their relationship, Kay is uneasy that Michael is evasive about his family’s business. As the saga progresses, Michael’s continuing lies about his illegal business dealings eventually push Kay out of his life.

In Michael’s world, there was no alternative for him but to lie, because telling the truth—that he was a bloodthirsty mobster who had people killed, including his own brother—would shock and alienate most anyone who wasn’t also a mobster. In other words, the lies were necessary to cover horrible truths understood by only a small group of initiates.

Which brings us to today’s conservatives. Why do they feel the need to lie, even at times when the truth would serve them better? The reasons are the same as their Mafioso brethren. Bush, Cheney, O’Reilly, Coulter, Robertson, Frist, et. al., have a horrible truth that can only be concealed by perpetual lies: The ideology to which they swear their allegiance is rotten at its core. Beneath the thin veneer of public service and fair and balanced is a dark, corrupt system powered by greed, hatred, cronyism, militarism, bigotry and selfishness. You won’t win a lot of votes with this agenda, so you lie.

You lie and you lie and you lie. You wrap your lies in religious images, patriotic slogans, family values and American flags. Twenty-first century conservatives won’t generally stand up at a podium and say, “I’m a racist.” They won’t admit that all of their tax cuts for wealthy individuals and large corporations are intended to buy support in elections. No political commercials will reveal that the Constitution doesn’t fit into their future plans for America.

So they lie. And they lie to cover their lies. Just as Michael Corleone could never be honest with his wife Kay, today’s Conservative politicians, pundits and prayermeisters can never be honest with the American people. The one difference is that Michael actually loved Kay.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Today's letter to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reader rep

I would like to understand the rationale behind your “Is that a fact?” series. So far, you’ve analyzed a misleading Republican ad and a misleading Democratic ad. And the point is?

The fact that both parties twist and distort the positions of the other is hardly enlightening or helpful, and may have the opposite effect you desire by reinforcing the widely-held opinion that because all politicians are liars, voting is irrelevant.

What I see in the “Is that a fact?” series is one more unfortunate example of the MSM’s addictive adherence to “balance.” In its attempts not to offend anyone (subscribers), the media continuously goes to extreme efforts to treat every subject as if there are always two legitimate sides to consider. In reality, there are not. The earth is not flat. Period. The earth revolves around the sun. Period. One political party lies and distorts the truth more egregiously and more often than the other. Period.

What would be far more helpful in educating readers than your current, “They said/they said,” approach would be an analysis of positions taken by each party with a discussion of which positions are backed primarily by facts and data, and which positions are backed primarily by ideology and wishful thinking.

Among the scientific community (those who actually know what they’re talking about), there is virtually no argument that global warming is the result of human activity. However, in its effort to balance the discussion, the media continue to print misleading articles and editorials by conservatives calling into question assertions about global warming. In this case, “balance” is resulting in a confused electorate and a dangerous delay in seeking remedies to a very serious problem.

Your goal of educating voters is worthy, but the tit-for-tat approach of “Is that a fact?” merely reinforces the biases of the party faithful and the cynicism of the undecided.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Noonan the nattering nabob

In a Wall Street Journal editorial today, Peggy Noonan attacked the scientific community over global warming, if you can believe it. It is, of course, one more attempt by the Bush Administration and its media propagandists to throw sand in the eyes of Americans. The questions Noonan asks have already been answered. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, made up of 1,000 of the world’s top experts in the field, have stated without reservation that the warming trend over the past 50 years is directly related to human activities. What other gathering of “the world’s great scientists” would Noonan want to convene? Or did she mean “the world’s great scientists who agree with President Bush and the energy industry CEOs?” Noonan could hold this meeting in her living room.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

It can't happen here, part XII

“The President is always right.”
Steven Bradbury, head of the Justice Department’s office of legal counsel at a July 11, 2006 Senate Judiciary Committee meeting

The Fuhrer is always right.
Article 6, Nazi Party Organization Book (1940)

8. Mussolini is always right.
From the Fascist Decolague, the Ten Commandments of the Italian soldiers under Mussolini

“The thoughts of Chairman Mao are always correct.”
Lin Biao, Defense Minister, 7,000 Cadres Conference, 1962

Napoleon is always right.
Boxer, in Animal Farm by George Orwell

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

President Hillary Clinton and the unitary executive theory: A Republican nightmare

There are reports of yet more secret U.S. intelligence operations emanating from the White House that have not been reported to Congress. The Great Decider continues to believe that he can decide to do whatever the hell he wants, and damn the Constitution. It’s the antidemocratic unitary executive theory in action, folks; a theory embraced by many Third World dictators and exactly two Americans. Unfortunately for us, those two individuals are members of the current administration in Washington.

The unitary executive theory embraced by Vice President Cheney and his Consigliore David Addington gives the President almost unlimited powers during war. We all know how well that’s working. Despite the fact that this theory flies in the face of everything the founding fathers tried to establish in the Constitution, it seems to be this administration’s governing framework.

It is a theory that begs for continual war. If a President can have almost unlimited powers simply because there is a conflict somewhere in the world involving American soldiers, hey, why not? And who says when the war on terror is over? That one could be squeezed for decades.

The question I’ve had since I first heard of this bizarre interpretation of executive power is this: what do theory supporters think is going to happen when there’s a Democratic president?
Are the Congressional Republicans actually willing to give up their power to reign in a President when that person is, oh, just for argument’s sake, let’s say, Hillary Clinton? I mean, that scenario has to be their worst nightmare come true.

Or, as difficult as it is to believe, do they think there won’t be another Democratic president? Ever? Now, as inept as the Democrats have proven to be over the last thirty years, there will come a day—maybe not in my lifetime—but there will come a day when a Democrat is in the Oval Office. If Cheney’s and Addington’s vision of the nearly infallible President were allowed to stand, their political heirs may one day get the finger from Al Gore.

My guess is that once GB leaves office, either for Texas or a jail cell, the unitary executive theory will evaporate like a raindrop on a Phoenix sidewalk in August. Having seen what happens when you hand over the steering wheel of a speeding car to a chimpanzee, few in Congress from either party will have the stomach to argue for unrestrained executive powers, war or no war. This will be good, since I’m sure the founding fathers are tired after five years of spinning in their graves.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Cheney gets under my skin

Dick Cheney may be one of the most sinister characters in American politics. He is the second most powerful elected official in the country (some will argue the first), and he does not believe in democracy. His view of an imperial president who is not accountable to anyone for anything is so far from the founding father’s idea of a government of and for the people, it resides in a parallel universe. He is a highly experienced liar and manipulator who routinely places his ideological agenda ahead of the nation’s best interests.

Cheney is the Neocons Neocon. Rigidly dogmatic, he is never in doubt about any course of action in which he’s involved, which makes picking out a tie in the morning easy, but running international policy virtually impossible. More than any other administration official, Cheney continues to argue about long resolved issues relating to pre-war Iraq, and, I don’t believe, has ever conceded that anything the administration said or did in the lead up to the war was a mistake.

When I think of Cheney I’m reminded of Henry Potter from “It’s a Wonderful Life,” the physically infirm, soulless capitalist who was an expert at exploiting the weaknesses of the good-hearted people of Bedford Falls. He revels in being the object of fear and never lets anyone forget who’s really in charge. Like Cheney, I imagine Potter never served in the military when he had the chance, yet enjoys shooting small animals from the window of his big black Cadillac.

The VP has been quiet of late, mostly popping up here and there to raise money for the GOP machine. It’s almost more unnerving when he’s not visible, because you know he’s lurking behind the curtain, whispering into George’s ear. Keeping close to the bunker. Hanging around, waiting for the sun to set.

Friday, July 07, 2006

To the streets or the liquor cabinet?

I just read a wonderfully written but seemingly fatalistic article by Mark Morford at It’s essentially a rumination on Bush fatigue. Mark has it. I have it. Virtually everyone I know has it. After nearly six years under the rule of the Neocon Nero (“He strummed while New Orleans drowned.”), there is little left to do, according to Mark, but let the virus run its course and look to better days down the road.

As a draft-age young man living in the Bay Area during the late 60s, I can vividly remember the television images of nearly constant anti-war rallies and protest marches in Oakland specifically, but around the world in general. I was not politically mature enough in those days to join them, but they were a part of my life and times, and I know that they ultimately helped bring an end to the Vietnam War.

Now in my fifties, I look at what’s happening in Washington and wonder why the streets are empty. Yes, there have been some large protests over the past five years, but nothing of the duration or intensity of those during Vietnam. It’s troubling to me, because I believe that the current political situation—the dismantling of the principals upon which this country was founded—is fundamentally far more serious than even an illegal war. The conundrum is that there is such widespread and deep resentment toward the Bush administration in this country, but it is not being vented in any cohesive, dramatic way.

Well, John, you ask, why aren’t you organizing something? Why aren’t you out there with your clever banner pounding the pavement? Those are good questions. The anger and outrage are there. The desire for change is there. What’s not there is an expectation that I may be able to actually effect change by taking to the streets. It sounds defeatist, and maybe it is, but the bad guys control everything right now, the executive, the judicial and the legislative branches, as well as the media. Who would hear our shouts and drums banging but ourselves?

Morford’s conclusions are not easy to swallow, and I’m not sure I’m ready to accept them yet, but he may in fact be right that the most productive course we can take is to gird our loins for two more nightmarish years and start planning for the reconstruction now. And drink a lot.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

What really happened to Kenny Boy?

A heart attack? Right. Not buying it for a second. How can a person without a heart have a heart attack? Facing the possibility of 30 years in jail at his October sentencing, Ken conveniently up and dies from coronary heart disease while vacationing in Colorado. All a coincidence? I don’t think so, and neither do a lot of other people. So here, then, is my list of theories as to what really happened to Ken at his house in Old Snowmass, Colorado. Some of these conjectures can be found elsewhere in cyber space, and some are my own.

1. He faked his death, had plastic surgery, and will live out the rest of his life farming radishes in Lichtenstein.
2. He was murdered by government agents to keep him from bargaining for leniency at sentencing time with “embarrassing” information about his oily acquaintances.
3. Over the last four years he had some of the world’s best scientist working in his basement laboratory creating Ken Clone, who now lies in a casket.
4. He’s hiding in the sub-basement of the White House and meets with Cheney daily.
5. Moments before death he was sealed in a cylinder of cryogenic preserving fluids with his cat, Mr. Bigglesworth.
6. Overcome by the thought of never seeing his true love again, he committed suicide and can only be brought back to life with a kiss from Condi Rice. His body lies in state on a marble slab in a forest clearing.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

What Republicans say and what they mean

Say: “The American press has a liberal bias.”
Mean: “If I believe something is true, I don’t want some Goddamn newspaper telling me it isn’t.”

Say: “Support the troops.”
Mean: “Shut up about the Iraq war already.”

Say: “I don’t agree with the way Ann Coulter says it, but I think she’s fundamentally correct.”
Mean: “You go, girl.”

Say: “Affirmative action is reverse discrimination.”
Mean: “I don’t like black people.”

Say: “Tax cuts help all Americans.”
Mean: “If we don't keep our major contributors happy, there won't be a Republican party.”

Say: “We need to take a tougher stand on immigration.”
Mean: “I don’t like brown-skinned people.”

Say: “If we don’t fight the terrorists over there, we’ll have to fight them here.”
Mean: “If terrorists ever get this far, it would force those of us in power to actually sacrifice something, like our children, and that is unacceptable.”

Say: “Democrats don’t understand the average, hard-working American.”
Mean: “Democrats don’t understand how to manipulate the average, hard-working American.”

Say: “Everything changed after 9/11.”
Mean: “We’re in control, suckers. We’re the deciders.”

Say: “Flag burning should be a federal crime.”
Mean: “Don’t look behind the curtain. Look over here. Hey, over here.”

Say: “We must stay the course.”
Mean: “We don’t know what the hell we’re doing, but there’s a chance it’ll go our way.”

Say: “The Republican party is a big tent where everyone is welcome.”
Mean: “Join us on the Dark Side.”