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This is What Democracy Looks Like

Today's Note From a Madman

Monday, October 23, 2006


The "Plan" for Iraq

There are many different reasons that the Bush administration has stated for going to war in Iraq. WMD's, Iraqi freedom and "to fight them there so we don't have to fight them here" are just three of my personal favorites. But the unstated reason is so obvious and so infuriating that it just blows my mind.

War profiteering!

In a time when we have an all volunteer army, we need more. I was wrong when I stated in www.nationalview.org that, if President Bush was re-elected in 2004, there would be a draft in 2005. The "market", even in a time of war, will always take precedence over common sense.

A draft was never in the making no matter how many troops would be required. Sure we supplied the boots on the ground for actual battle, but so much more is in the hands of war profiteers such as Bechtel, Halliburton and Blackwater, just to name a few. In the case of Blackwater, they are providers of their own little army, at a hefty profit, of course.

By now we all know that Secretary of State Donald "We don't know what we don't know" Rumsfeld wanted a limited force in Iraq, not only for the invasion, but for everything which followed. Initially, as reported in Rumsfeld's own words from Bob Woodward's "Plan of Attack", his first of a series of three books, Tommy Franks, then CENTCOM commander, prepared a plan of attack that were repeatedly rejected by Rumsfeld due to the requested number of troops that Franks felt was required for the invasion and subsequent occupation.

Bear in mind "The (Colin) Powell Doctrine", which recommends an overwhelming force against an inferior enemy. Rumsfeld vs. Powell, or Defense over State, wouldn't allow that. Time and time again Franks went to Rumsfeld with a scaled down version of the invasion only to be rebuffed because Rumsfeld wanted to go in quicker and smaller. 500,000 troops got dropped down to 350,000, which went to 250,000 troops and ended up at around 135,000. Rummy wanted an invasion force of about 40,000. If asked, he might have said "okay" to one guy with a bee-bee gun. Time and time again the civilians over-ruled the boots on the ground. It was just stupid.

Or was it?

Due to the Rummy plan, which he states was the recommendation of General Franks (after all, this is the administration of no responsibility), we were unprepared for what was to come. Even now we require more troops than we have present in Iraq (not to mention Afghanistan). But as we stay under-manned in a land where an occupation will be generational (if the GOP has their way) the only ones who are getting what they want are the war profiteers.

Food is prepared by contractors; fuel is delivered by contractors; even security is provided by contractors. Ask yourself how many dollars are made by the military contractors - those who are in Iraq performing normal armed services duties - and how many more times that amount is "earned" by their employers: The ones who get the contract.

And, the funny (as in ironic) thing is that these military-war-profiteering companies are getting no-bid contracts! So the "open market" that the Bushies are always talking about is actually a private monopoly made up of these war profiteers who belong to the Bush "base" of "haves and have mores".

It's disgusting.

Where are we in Iraq right now? Things were bad, and now they're worse. There is no end in sight. However, there are things we can do. Although many of the former Iraqi army leaders are now working for the insurgents, there must be plenty of them out there who can be hired to retrain a new Iraqi army. Many of the new army that is patrolling Iraq now are members of the former army and would, more than likely, follow their former leaders.

Next, these troops should be retrained outside of Iraq in remote, hard to reach areas until they are ready for deployment. This is in much the same way we train our own armed forces.

Third, these people and their families need protection. Out in the open, they are simply targets for the insurgency. Much in the same way we offer our own military families places to live on a military base, there should be bases where the new Iraqi army/police would feel that their families are safe.

There is only one reason to not implement a plan such as this: The war profiteers would be against it.

A draft could have been the answer, but we don't want our children fighting against their will in a Vietnam-like war. We don't want a draft, and "I" and a part of "we". "I" prefer no draft for a war profiteers' war at all.

-Noah Greenberg

What is a BILLION?

The next time you hear a politician use the word "billion" in a casual manner, think about whether you want the "politicians" spending your tax money.

A billion is a difficult number to comprehend, but one advertising agency did a good job of putting that figure into some perspective in one of its releases.
a. A billion seconds ago it was 1959.
b. A billion minutes ago Jesus was alive.
c. A billion hours ago our ancestors were living in the Stone Age.
d. A billion days ago no-one walked on the earth on two feet.
e. A billion dollars ago was only 8 hours and 20 minutes, at the rate our government is spending it.

While this thought is still fresh in our brain, let's take a look at New Orleans. It's amazing what you can learn with some simple division . .

Louisiana Senator, Mary Landrieu (D), is presently asking the Congress for $250 BILLION to rebuild New Orleans. Interesting number, what does it mean?
a. Well, if you are one of 484,674 residents of New Orleans (every man, woman, child), you each get $516,528.
b. Or, if you have one of the 188,251 homes in New Orleans, your home gets $1 ,329,787.
c. Or, if you are a family of four, your family gets $2,066,012.

Washington, D.C .. HELLO!!! ... Are all your calculators broken??

This is too true to be very funny:

Tax his land,
Tax his wage,
Tax his bed in which he lays.

Tax his tractor,
Tax his mule,
Teach him taxes is the rule.

Tax his cow,
Tax his goat,
Tax his pants,
Tax his coat.

Tax his ties,
Tax his shirts,
Tax his work,
Tax his dirt.

Tax his tobacco,
Tax his drink,
Tax him if he tries to think.

Tax his booze,
Tax his beers,
If he cries,
Tax his tears.

Tax his bills,
Tax his gas,
Tax his notes,

Tax his cash.

Tax him good and let him know
That after taxes, he has no dough.

If he hollers,
Tax him more,
Tax him until he's good and sore.

Tax his coffin,
Tax his grave,
Tax the sod in which he lays.

Put these words upon his tomb,
"Taxes drove me to my doom!"

And when he's gone,
We won't relax,
We'll still be after the inheritance TAX!!

Accounts Receivable Tax
Building Permit Tax
CDL License Tax
Cigarette Tax
Corporate Income Tax
Dog License Tax
Federal Income Tax
Federal Unemployment Tax (FUTA)

Fishing License Tax
Food License Tax
Fuel Permit Tax
Gasoline Tax
Hunting License Tax
Inheritance Tax
Inventory Tax
IRS Interest Charges (tax on top of tax),
IRS Penalties (tax on top of tax),

Liquor Tax,
Luxury Tax,
Marriage License Tax,
Medicare Tax,
Property Tax,
Real Estate Tax,
Service charge taxes,
Social Security Tax,
Road Usage Tax (Truckers),
Sales Taxes,

Recreational Vehicle Tax,
School Tax,
State Income Tax,
State Unemployment Tax (SUTA),
Telephone Federal Excise Tax,
Telephone Federal Universal Service Fee Tax,
Telephone Federal, State and Local Surcharge Tax,

Telephone Minimum Usage Surcharge Tax,
Telephone Recurring and Non-recurring Charges Tax,
T elephone State and Local Tax,
Telephone Usage Charge Tax,
Utility Tax,
Vehicle License Registration Tax,

Vehicle Sales Tax,
Watercraft Registration Tax,
Well Permit Tax,
Workers Compensation Tax.

COMMENTS: Not one of these taxes existed 100 years ago
and there was prosperity, absolutely no national debt,
the largest middle class in the world and Mom stayed
home to raise the kids.

What happened?????

-From David Fitz as forwarded by Jenny Hanniver


And an Answer


First, I don't believe your New Orleans $$ figures. Taxation is by far the most efficient way of sharing the wealth; one of our biggest problems today is that the middle and lower classes are being income taxed to provide Welfare for the Rich, and that most of the rest of our taxes are regressive sales/excise ones that unfairly burden the poor.

Second--"What happened"? That's an insane question. CHANGE is what happened. Nothing ever stays still. God forbid!

Most things we take for granted weren't around 100 years ago, that's what happened! Among about 100,000 other things, ideas, and aspirations, the change includes a MUCH longer life expectancy and a far better infant mortality rate (even though the US stands 47th in world health, compared to other nations), simple medical improvements like doctors and nurses that wash hands and use sterile equipment, households who have enough water to permit a bath or shower every day--not once a week or once a month, safe and freely available birth control, the end of killer diseases like smallpox, quick and safe laser repairs of everything from gallstones to cataracts, life-saving equipment, and--though they've been over-used and are endangered--antibiotics. There's been 100 years of thrilling science and technology like relativity, quantum theory, space travel, fractal mathematics, gene splicing, DNA research, and micro-miniaturization of prime movers. Applied science has created standards of government oversight of air, water, food preparation and medications, smoke scrubbing, safety, liability and other legislation to protect people and the environment, quiet and speedy electric trains, meds and household products that no longer contain 50% opium and the rest alcohol, technologies for communication like radio, stereo & computers, vacuum cleaners, and small efficient cars that get 65 MPG or better. Culturally, we now have avant-garde music and theater, a much greater supply and range of topics in books than ever, comfortable loose clothing that doesn't kill, much less smarmy hypocrisy and more up-front honesty in our personal and family relationships.

What WAS around 100 years ago? Drug stores and groceries that sold poisons because there was no regulation, and created drunkards and "Lydia Pinkham" dope addicts in every neighborhood from the rich and middle-class to the poor. Wife-beating in the same range of classes and cultures that was almost never prosecuted in court, and women without votes or legal rights. There was a climate of racism beyond belief, including anti-Semitic (in some places anti-Catholic) club and housing restrictions, and in the South Jim Crow laws, poll taxes, anti-"miscegenation" laws--and viciously murderous white supremacy lynchings almost every day. Federal and state legislation favored the rich only and neglected those in need-- and yes, we've temporarily skidded down into that black hole again, but it can't last because people know what makes a country great--and IT AIN'T THAT! Politicians spouted jingoist pro-war and imperialist pomposity--even those who should have known better like Teddy Roosevelt. There was political corruption and boss-ism at every level in both major parties. People died young, not only because there was little knowledge of how to stop most disease; men suffered 100 degree summer days in tight choking collars and 3-piece suits, while corsets and high necks smothered women and deformed the shape, and shoes were so tight and small my mother's size 10 feet were permanently deformed. Horse poop got walked in, skirts dragged in it. It got smeared it all over the streets, polluted everything from household back yards to the water supply. And imagine the stench!--what my dad and mom called "the coal smoke, kerosene lamp, unwashed body, manure pile and outhouse stink" they remembered--not nostalgically, but with a shudder!--from their childhoods.

My dad was born in 1899 and in his 60s and 70s he used to stop and look up whenever a jet airliner flew high overhead. He'd grin and wave at the plane, although it was miles up and couldn't possibly have noticed him. Once in the 1960s, when I was home on leave from Navy, I asked him why he waved at jet planes. "Because," he said, "it's amazing to be alive today. I was born in the Dark Ages. Honestly, we didn't have much of anything worth living for, just dreary, endless drudgery. The technology of my dad's farm was basically Medieval, and we had to work from before dawn to sunset just to get anything done. Religion? Forget it. It was nothing but tent-meeting greedy hypocrisy. Medicine? There was none. My mother died of childbed fever because the doctor was a dirty drunk. Education? It was worthless, teachers taught with the whip. When I was 13 in eighth grade, I watched my little brother Sam, in first grade, get beat up in our one-room schoolhouse--by the teacher--for the great crime of not being able to form a proper capital letter E! Well, I grabbed the whip from that sadist and used it on him, then I ran away from home, knocked around the country and learned a few things. When I was a young LaFollette Progressive we struggled for all kinds of social change--and though FDR made a lot of mistakes, his legislation brought this country to a new height of greatness and prosperity, and, for a wonder, not on the backs of workers. Ninety percent of the changes I've seen in my lifetime have been exciting and hopeful, and I love being alive today."

Although Dad was a lifelong registered Republican, his favorite president of all time was Jimmy Carter (mine, too). Dad died in 1977, during Pres. Carter's administration. I'm sorry that he was only 78 years old, but glad that he missed all the dreary, vicious, stupid, self-absorbed egomaniacs who've inhabited the White House ever since. Clinton may have been the best of a bad lot, but there hasn't been a really good one of either party. Dad and Mom were acquainted with Ronald Reagan (they knew him as a young obnoxious social climber in Des Moines in the 1930s) and they couldn't stand him. My dad chortled at the notion that "the tiresome boob" had been elected governor ("Stupid Californians!" he said), and would have thrown up at the prospect of Ronald McDonald Reagan, the Clown Prince, as president--and of course we saw what happened, eight dreadful years of selling out and impoverishing America and bringing us into embarrassing disrepute.

What would I borrow from the past? Not much; it's better to move forward than backward. But I grew up in the 1940s and 50s, in an America with fairer laws and the wide social spending choices allowed by Keynesian economics. First, I'd discard Taft-Hartley (one of the most destructive laws in US history), remove all barriers to union organizing, and not only encourage unionization and collective bargaining but prosecute undemocratic or corrupt unions. I'd return to the Wagner act's strict anti-monopoly enforcement and prosecution--actually, I'd improve it, divest the big corporations, starting with breaking up media monopolies and cartels and returning media ownership to local stations and newspapers, along with strict enforcement of political viewpoint "Equal Time". I'd restore (and improve) the social safety net, make sure wealth is shared by placing the heaviest taxation on the rich, set up tax systems that discourage flight to other countries and downsizing, with a goal that American business is owned by Americans and NOT by foreign multinational CEOs (like SIR Rupert Murdoch) who don't give a damn about the US. I'd legislate government-sponsored low-cost housing and get the hundreds of thousands of working-poor homeless off the street, stop the erosion of unemployment benefits, vastly increase the minimum wage, and strengthen Social Security by making its money secure and untouchable (which is NOT running out of money except when it's raided by the General Fund!), establish a government single-payer health care system that covers everyone, stop imperialist adventures overseas that benefit only the rich and the greedy, downsize the military establishment and get out of trying to police the world, put our tax money where it belong--OUT of Welfare for the Rich and into social programs. Most of us I'd restore the Constitution of the United States, add an amendment to maintain and strengthen voting rights, Habeas Corpus, first and 14th amendment rights, including keeping church and state absolutely separate as the Founders intended. I'd take away the perks the members of (Republican) Congresses have voted for themselves--roll back pay, and best of all, put THEM on Social Security and Medicare!

I'm not sure this is a "return" because education was terrible in the Bad Old Days and jingoism was running rampant 100 years ago, but I'd teach our school kids the truth about immigrants--that they, and the enslaved blacks, were the ones who built this country, that we are all descended from immigrants--including Native Americans. I'd encourage welcoming immigrants from everywhere in a spirit of love, honoring every group's unique culture, language, religious observances and artistic endeavor. Speaking of schools, I would forbid all religious activities in public schools. (You have no idea how shocked my mom was when we moved South and I told her they read from the King James Bible every morning. "Do you mean even Catholics and Jews have to sit there and listen to a Protestant translation?" said my devout Methodist mother. When I said "Yes," she was disgusted and told me that would NEVER have happened in any of the schools in Corydon, Iowa, where she grew up, because folks back there took the Bill of Rights seriously and obeyed its rules. I'd also teach lots of music, art, literature, GENUINE history, and logic in schools. Let's teach the kids how to analyze propaganda (like the course I took on MEIN KAMPF in Chicago in 5th grade), offer cooking, sewing and child care to boys, and auto mechanics, shop and electric wiring to girls (again, my Chicago grade school did that in 6th grade).

I hope after the coming election, we can roll up our sleeves and get to work making some of these changes!

If you really don't believe in change you could come to Pennsylvania and join the Amish. They work extremely hard from before dawn to past sunset, and it's a hard life, but, as I'm sure everyone realizes after the shattering experience of the past few weeks, they are wonderful people. I'm sure they would welcome anyone who wished to live in a 19t century mode as long as they sincerely subscribed to their Christian doctrine of love, pacifism, and extending complete forgiveness to one's enemy.

-Jenny Hanniver

In response to, "Yesterday I published a letter which I had no business publishing, and it hurt someone. I am so sorry. I've decided that if I go on publishing A Note From a Madman, I'm going to have to change my editorial policy. Starting tonight, I will edit any and all articles or letters which I deem fit. Then I'm going to rethink a few things over the weekend. -NG", Victoria Brownworth responds:

The letter to which Noah refers was the personal attack on me by Rhian. I wish I could say it was the only thing Noah has published of Rhian's that he had no business publishing. Alas, it is not. In fact it was the outrageous series of lies and homophobic assaults of hers that he had previously published--and to which I responded--that drew her ire in the first place.

I'm all for free speech and even the freedom of hate speech. I was not shocked by Rhian's vitriol and viciousness--she's spewed a lot of her hate speech on Madman before, against Muslims, immigrants, gays. And each time I have responded and said her words were just what they were: hateful and bigoted and lies. So her attack on me was just more of her own misguided misperceptions based on her own bigotry and hatred. I don't care if Rhian calls me a bitch--it's a typical sexist term and typical of schoolyard bullies to use it. I do care that she implies that I might be a child molester--that seems a little over the top even for her. I find it appalling that I struggled so to rein in my own outrage at her previous rants--each and every time--and resisted saying things like "you stupid, ignorant idiot!' and instead just calmly presented the FACTS to her. You know, like educated people attempting actual discourse try to do. Mostly I feel sorry for Rhian and most of all I feel sorry for her children who have been raised, clearly, to hate others based on difference. There's no room for that kind of prejudice in the global village. I thought we had learned that lesson a long time ago.

I also thought we had learned the lesson that there is a line on free speech and it is crying fire in a crowded theatre. When people assault others verbally, we do need to draw the line. Which is why Holocaust denial is a crime in Germany and hate speech in America is only partially protected.

Opening the door to free speech is important, opening the door to hate speech is dangerous.When we codify hate speech by giving it equal weight with facts, we do damage to the people it attacks. If Noah wants to continue to publish Rhian's hate speech as he has for over a year now, that I have noticed, that's fine--but do so with editorial commentary, not just as if her hatred of Muslims, immigrants, gays, me, whomever is her errant target of the day is okay. Because hate speech is NOT okay. It is summarily not okay. Your freedom stops when you take mine away.

Freedom of speech is a predicate of our democracy. But we have come to use it as a cudgel to with which to beat minorities and others we dislike. Rhian does this regularly. And if Noah continues to publish her (or anyone else with nothing but racist spew to vent) unplugged, uncensored and unremarked, then he is handing her that cudgel and has no business being shocked when blood splatters onto him.

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-Noah Greenberg