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This Is What Democracy Looks Like

Today's Note From a Madman

December 9, 2007


After Seven Years...

After seven years, it seems as if President Bush might actually want to do something to make the world better. Or, maybe he just wants to make it appear that he wants to make the world better. In this, The Administration of Diminished Responsibility, it's hard to tell. Below you will find a list of the top seven issues, as presented by the Los Angeles Times/ Bloomberg Poll taken between November 30 and December 3, 2007. So allow me to look at what WAS, and now IS the agenda of the administration of George W. Bush, as it relates to this Big Seven:

The question was, "What issue or problem do you consider the top priority for candidates running for president to address this election? Is it the war in Iraq, or protecting the country from terrorist attacks, or the economy, or education, or the environment, or health care issues, or illegal immigration, or other social issues, such as abortion and gay rights, or is there another issue?" (Two replies accepted; 1,245 registered voters nationwide):

Number 1 - The War in Iraq: Thirty-two percent of those polled believe that the candidates would make the War in Iraq their top priority. I think that we can safely say that those who put this as their top priority are looking at how to end it, not escalate it. President Bush's answer was to implement a "Surge" which included adding up to 40,000 troops into various sections of the war-torn nation.
On September 11, 2001, terrorists based in Afghanistan attacked us in New York, Washington DC and somewhere in central Pennsylvania. We attacked Iraq.
So far over four-thousand "Coalition of the Willing" lives have been lost in Iraq while tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis have also died. Regular US troop death counts have dropped since its recent 12-month high of 126 this past May. And although the troop "Surge" began about one year ago, those rates grew and grew until they began to decrease in September.
When the Iraq war began, almost every one of the President's real military advisors told him, through his then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, that an overwhelming force should be utilized to make sure that we not only win the war, but we win the Peace. They told of scenarios that would keep us in Iraq almost indefinitely while we fought insurgents, ex-Iraqi soldiers and anyone else with a beef against us. We disbanded that military against the beliefs of many higher-ups in our own military. We fired all of the people who ran the country, including those in charge of the infrastructure, also against advice. we gave away billions - yes, billions - of dollars in some sort of no-questions-asked give-away and lost - yes, lost - nearly 200,000 guns (and such) without so much as a hand-written receipt to check.
Today, the President says that "the Surge is working." Forget about the fact that he, Vice President Dick Cheney and Rumsfeld were the ones responsible for not allowing out initial attack and occupation to be a "Surge" which would have saved, at least, hundreds of American lives and thousands of Iraqis.
Seven years after President Bush took office and closing in on five years after the invasion of Iraq, the Bushies like to tell us that the death count is finally receding in Iraq, while at the same time say it's necessary for us still to stay there indefinitely.
With the people of Iraq finally taking things into their own hands and fighting the likes of al-Qaeda in Iraq - an organization which wasn't present there before we invaded - the people have began policing themselves, as best they can. They still can't rely on the new Iraqi government, nor do they believe that they can trust the new Iraqi police.
So after years of screwing up, the inevitable happened: something positive happened in Iraq and George Bush is taking bows for it over the dead bodies of our soldiers and Iraqi innocents.
Nice job, George.

Number 2 - The Economy: The economy takes into account many more things than the Bush administration would like to admit. If you were to ask anyone who works at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, they would tell you to look at the stock market, but only on the days that it rises. (They don't talk about it on the days Wall Street drops.) In truth, after a first term in office in which the Bushies showed a NET LOSS of jobs, the loss of jobs er month did get better, but not by much. As a percentage of the "non-institutionalized adult population" (those of age to work who are physically able to work and not in jails or other institutions), this administration has fewer people working than even the administration of his father, George H.W. Bush. And even as they take bows for a relatively stable unemployment rate of 4.6-4.7 percent, the truth remains that Americans aren't working for more money; their savings have diminished, and their dollars don't buy what they used to. However, they are working harder, longer hours and more jobs per household.
So while the Bushies tell us that the stock market is getting better, we - the US middle class - don't get to see it. After seven years of outsourcing, cheap and sometimes dangerous Chinese goods, and customer service representatives who live half a world away, the Bushies are telling us that there is light at the end of this tunnel they have built with our hard-earned money. Never mind that this tunnel's light is nothing but a train coming at many of us at break-neck speed.

Number 3 - Health Care: They can't even spin this one. No one who is living this health care nightmare believes that our current system of health care is the best system in the world. The want us to forget the fact that 47 million Americans don't have health care at all; nearly 90 million of us hadn't had health care insurance during the Bush years; and more than half of us believe that our health care is, at the very best, inadequate.
The spin that the Bushies want us to believe is that the Medicare Drug Benefit Plan, designed to offer relief for the elderly, is a success. it isn't An senior citizen who earns $13,000 (or more) a year and whose retail drug price is $6,000 per year ($500 per month) will spend nearly $4,000 out of pocket for their life-saving medicine.
And as the Bushies say we can save for our health care future with HSA's (Health Savings Accounts), they fail to realize that many of us still have no choice to live hand-to-mouth (or nearly so) as our dollars go to higher gas prices, home heating costs and other staple of American life.
Seven years later, the cost of health care spirals with things like higher co-pays, higher premiums, less coverage and much, much more. During this time, our health care dollar has grown and now tops 18 percent of our nation's GDP.
Seven years later, the President Bush and almost all of the Republican Party want health care to go away, just so long as their health care insurance company contributors get to keep making huge profits, that is.

Number 4 - Terrorism: The best thing we can say about terrorism is that we haven't had an attack on US soil since 911. But using that logic, the Republicans would have to call Bill Clinton the greatest President in recent history! After all, there wasn't a catastrophic attack on US soil since the first Twin Tower attacks just about two weeks after he was inaugurated.
The attacks of 911 spurred us into Afghanistan where we chased Osama bin-Laden from the mountains of Tora Bora. (Some in the CIA insist that they watched as he left.) The Taliban, along with their leader, the blind Sheik Mullah Omar, also ran away into some sort of exile. And President Bush's approval rating soared. No two men have taken advantage more of a catastrophe than GW and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani who, just prior to 911, had an approval rating of somewhere around twenty percent.
President Bush took advantage of the perception that he would protect us and won re-election in 2004. (One wonders how bad his defeat would have been had Hurricane Katrina hit one year earlier.) However, seven years later, al-Qaeda leaders are safe in Warziristan, Pakistan and The Taliban is back in power in some areas of Afghanistan. Afghani President Hamid Karzai can't even go out of Kabul, the Afghan capital, without an army to accompany him and is more like a mayor of a city on the brink than a President of a free and Democratic nation.
Seven years later, terror is as much of a concern as it was on September 12, 2001. Seven years later, Osama bin-Laden, a six-foot six inch man with a kidney problem is still eluding the us. Seven years later looks like seven years ago, despite the claims of the Bushies that we aren't safe, merely safer.
Seven years later, they want us just to have just the right amount of fear and they're determined to keep us that way.

Number 5 - Illegal Immigration: The most recent favorite weapon of the Bush administration has been the issue of what to do with undocumented workers. Too bad for The President and his (hench)men that it has turned into a "broken arrow" that has pitted many in GW's own party against him while at the same time having many of those he aimed this hair-triggered gun at - The Democrats - standing besides him.
You see, President Bush's idea was simple: Use immigration, more notably, those who look less like Bush and look more like Mexicans, who attain that status by crossing our borders illegally in order to find work, as a wedge tool. What GW failed to realize is that this issue isn't necessarily a Red versus Blue states issue. Those in our southern border states are more affected by undocumented workers than those in northern states, just because of proximity.
George Bush's plan was to allow for a "Guest Worker" program which would create a new class of not-ready-for-prime-time-citizen here in the US. These people would be encouraged to come here, work for two years, go home for a year, then apply to come back. It had no way of figuring how to enforce this two-year/ one-year period to make these semi-legal immigrants comply with the law, nor did it figure out how to get the 11 million or so illegal immigrants out of the US in order to get them back in!
Its design was, quite simply, to provide workers who would live in hovels, ship most of their meager wages back to Mexico (and south), have them living in poor conditions and offer them no benefits at all just so the Bush "base" of "haves and have more" could have a cheap work force.
After his re-election, seeking a new wedge issue to separate Americans from other Americans, immigration has not become that winner he has been pushing for. GW is still attempting to ram immigration down America's throat, not being able to see how it hurts nearly everyone in its path. Seven years after taking office, and three years after making immigration his own. personal hate-hate issue, George Bush still doesn't get it: Americans don't want to hate, no matter how much he, the Vice President and Fox News tell us to.

Number 6 - Education: No Child Left Behind sounded good, but when it became an unfunded monster which put money into the pockets of the likes of Neil Bush, the President's "other brother", everyone looked to it as it appeared - just another gimmick for those at the top to stay there and take more of our hard-earned, middle-class tax dollars.
In the end NCLB left state and local government holding the empty bag. Although some schools were able to keep up with the rigid and unbending requirements of math and reading tests, others could not. Take Jeb Bush's Florida, for example: Although 80 percent of the schools in the Sunshine State had passed "The Smart Bush's" state's requirements, only 20 percent could pass NCLB's.
It had gotten so bad that the little money some districts received wasn't worth the headaches and the unfunded mandate required by the law to take the money. And what's worse was that this law made no mention of how schools were to treat children who didn't have it so easy. By now we all know that the environment which kids have to deal with outside of school is even more important than the learning the had to achieve in the school. What if little Johnny had no breakfast? What if little Janey had nowhere to go after school because her one-parent household's parent had to work late? School and learning is not just a 9-to-3 day with all students being equal.
In a vacuum, all children would have the ability to learn the same, have the same opportunities and the same chance. But as George W. Bush has shown us, not everybody has been born on third base.
By the way, George, you didn't hit a triple.
Seven years later, schools are still struggling not only to meet the federal requirements, but to even understand what they can and can't do towards those ends. Seven years later, President Bush still doesn't get it - a one size fits all education system leaves many a child behind.

Number 7 - The Environment: Finally, President Bush says he believes that there is Global Warming. His solution, however, has been the same as it was when he didn't believe it, or, as he termed it, "needs more study". After passing such laws as the Clean Water Act and the Clear Skies Initiative, the Bush administration was patting themselves on the back, not for actually doing something to help the environment, but for making it sound that way.
After all. in this, the Administration of Diminished Responsibility, it is better to look and sound good than to actually be or "fell" good.
President Bush's idea is a sort of trickle-down pollution plan where Big Businesses get to police themselves. That fox is right at home in that henhouse.
And while some states passed their own, more strict rules regarding pollution, their neighbors looking to make a buck allowed the unfettered polluting of theirs and their more conscientious border partners to pay the environmental price. You see, polluted water doesn't stop at a dotted line on some map and the air is... well... everywhere!
Seven years later, President Bush no longer denies that our environment might need a little help. However, seven years later he still keeps on that same course with absolutely nothing done, getting done or planned.

Rounding out the poll were "Other Social Issues", not categorized by issue for fear of rendering them negligible; "None/All" for those either not worried at all to care or too worried to choose; and the "Unsure" crowd who, as my daughter likes to say were "just here for the cake."

-Noah Greenberg

On Iran and the NIE

This was truly an appalling week for American foreign policy. The neoconservatives hit rock bottom. Dick Cheney purposely withheld the NIE (National Intelligence Estimate) - even from Congress - for months. There is speculation that Cheney may have held the details from Bush. So, who really is the President?

The NIE clearly shows that Iran abandoned a nuclear weapons program years ago. They are enriching uranium but it would take years to constitute a nuclear weapons program. Meanwhile, Iran agreed to inspections from the IAEA. At this point, the rational solution is to persist on IAEA inspections but allow them to enrich uranium for energy generation purposes.

Recently revealed is the amazing story that former CIA agents were willing risk jail time by leaking the NIE. The story comes from retired Col.
Patrick Lang. To quote Mr. Lang:

"Intelligence career seniors were lined up to go to jail if necessary"


At this point Bush should stop warmongering. He got us into a bottomless pit in Iraq using similar tactics. We don't need another one in Iran.

-Robert Scardapane

The NJ Media Corps is running this poll:

Who is your first choice for the 2008 Democratic Presidential nomination?


Visit the above link and look on the Main Menu under "Polls".

You do not need to register to vote! Just visit the site and let us know who your preference is.

-Eddie Konczal

A Review of Charlie Wilson's War

Don't waste your money on "Charlie Wilson's War." You won't have any money anyhow, since we've learned that the arms manufacturers who evidently paid for this film have made sure that U.S. citizens are now going further into debt to the tune of one million dollars per minute. The current and ever-rising grand total has reached ten trillion, requiring that the display board on Times' Square be replaced, since it can't accommodate such a large figure. That's important news. This movie should be circular filed.

STARRING: Tom Hanks, who has one facial expression throughout the film: petulant; Julia Roberts, alarmingly skeletal, like something from a Tim Burton afterlife cartoon; Philip Seymour Hoffman, chewing the scenery trying to make his psychotic character lovable; Ned Beatty, unbelievably ancient; plus a gaggle of beautiful women who should have known better, anonymous extras playing Afghans, Rooskies, U.S. partygoers, and so on.

DIRECTED BY: Mike Nicholas, in his senility

REVIEW: This movie should have been titled "Kill a Commie for Christ." I kept expecting those exact words to emerge from the frog-sized mouth of Julia Roberts or through Ned Beatty's false teeth. It's the one and only theme of the film, which praises some guy named Charlie Wilson for single-handedly saving the world and bringing down Soviet Communism which anyone with sense could see was collapsing from its own overspending on war (remind you of any other country?). This flick resuscitates every Cold War cliché, falsehood and propaganda ploy not just once but over and over and over and over. . . and manages to slander current Congressman John Murtha, no doubt for timidly questioning the imperialist point of view.!

The acting is either off-the-wall or wooden, the direction clunky, the camera-work amateurish, and the subject of the Soviet shock-and-awe bombings and occupation of Afghanistan (remind you of anything?), which could have made a thoughtful serious film, is milked for phony laughs and cowboy chest-thumping. It opens like the biopic "Patton," with Congressman Charlie Wilson (who I pray to God was by then an EX-Congressman!) walking on stage at the CIA or maybe Blackwater HQ? He's receiving some sort of award for being a really, truly great killer of Commies.

Charlie's played by Tom Hanks as a good ol' boy, although Hanks keeps forgetting to do a Texas drawl. Charlie's a boozin', coke-snortin', womanizin', fanny-pinchin', bed-hoppin' Bible Belt Texan (remind you of anyone?), whose major contribution to morality seems to be goin' nekkid with Vegas callgirls, Roberts' Born-Again Commie Killin' Militia Mom who just loves Jeesus, and his all-Playboy-centerfold office workers. (In fact they were probably the safest young women in Washington DC, considering the amount of alcohol Congressman Wilson consumed, since I doubt he was capable of bodily activity beyond letting his pants fall to the floor.)

I stopped laughing about ten minutes into the movie. Not only were the jokes tiresome and repetitive, but I began to realize that this was the same smarmy, toothy, giggly "infotainment" delivered nightly by the Beautiful People, the kind of crap that infests Faux News on television. Read the late Molly Ivins' 2003 review of the Crile book from which this film was taken, at http://www.alternet.org/columnists/story/16352/, and you'll see that as a Texas good ol' gal she thought Charlie was hilarious. She misjudged or maybe forgave him because he was a Democrat; for shame, Molly. Apparently the book covered considerably more geopolitical depth than this superficial movie. Even so, Ivins still found Crile's analysis of the Afghan war and the aftermath of the CIA's covert operations to fall far short of the sordid reality that's been so painfully embarrassing, damaging and expensive for our country.

We need a movie about the REAL American hero who put a stop to covert cowboy Ramboism, Senator Frank Church. As for this film, I figure it's the bow-shot in a forthcoming cannonade of trashy election year films spinning the truth on behalf of the NeoCons who are busily undermining America. It deserves a ton of bad reviews for trivializing world-important issues, over-simplifying history, propagandizing on behalf of the international cartel of munitions manufacturers, and apologizing on behalf of yet another unnecessary drunken sexist pig who may have been funny to Molly Ivins and no doubt did a few good things in Congress, but by and large exemplified why Lincoln should have let the South secede so it could go to hell on its own! .

-Jenny Hanniver

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-Noah Greenberg