Thursday, July 29, 2004

Some Clever Politcal Stuff

Tired of speeches and news articles, then you might enjoy these:

Brother Can You Spare a Job?

In November of 2003, launched "Bush in 30 Seconds", a contest whose goal was to "bring new talent and new messages into the world of mainstream political advertising". "Brother, Can You Spare a Job?" was nominated as one of four finalists in the "Best Animation" category. The creators Tom Neely and Greg Saundersour mutual love of 20's and 30's animation, a depression-era setting seemed like a natural fit to describe the first presidency since Herbert Hoover to end his term with job losses.

It has now been expanded into 7-minute short cartoon, which is under a creative commons license.

Another creative, though simpler site is 10 Reasons to Stop Bush.

Poker with Dick Cheney
Just a hilarious script now, but crying out for a flash animination.

Dick Cheney, 6/19/04. Start tape at 12:32 AM.

The Editors: We'll take three cards.

Dick Cheney: Give me one.

Sounds of cards being placed down, dealt, retrieved, and rearranged in hand. Non-commital noises, puffing of cigars.

TE: Fifty bucks.

DC: I'm in. Show 'em.

TE: Two pair, sevens and fives.

DC: Not good enough.

TE: What do you have?

DC: Better than that, that's for sure. Pay up.

TE: Can you show us your cards?

DC: Sure. One of them's a six.

TE: You need to show all your cards. That's the way the game is played.

<>Colin Powell: Ladies and gentlemen. We have accumulated overwhelming evidence that Mr. Cheney's poker hand is far, far better than two pair. Note this satellite photo, taken three minutes ago when The Editors went to get more chips. In it we clearly see the back sides of five playing cards, arranged in a poker hand. Defector reports have assured us that Mr. Cheney's hand was already well advanced at this stage. Later, Mr. Cheney drew only one card. Why only one card? Would a man without a strong hand choose only one card? We are absolutely convinced that Mr. Cheney has at least a full house.

.Just a script now, but crying out for a flash animination.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Manchurian (or Arabian) Candidate

Denzel Washington is starring in a remake of a movie classic "The Manchurian Candiate."

The original movie starred Frank Sinatra (as Major Bennett Marco) and Laurence (as Sergeant Raymond Shaw) army officers who are captured and brainwashed during the Korean War. Their squadron is made to believe Raymond Shaw saved their lives, for which he receives the Congressional Medal of Honor when they return to America. In fact, the Communists intended to use Raymond as an agent and, using the Queen of Diamonds as a subconscious trigger, compel him to commit heinous crimes, including murder.

The remake has been set in the current era and turned into an adventure/suspense saga. In the remake , and Washington are captured during the first Gulf War and, judging from the webtrailer, brainwashed by the Manchurian Global corporation.

This has the right-wing upset. James Hirson, Hollywood ("Left Coast") reporter for the Scaifian Newsmax, complains

In the remake of "The Manchurian Candidate," rather than using communism as the source of villainy as in the 1962 original, a multinational conglomerate called "Manchurian Global" is used.

Angela Lansbury, who was nominated for an Academy Award in the original, made clear her feelings about the remake. She has said: "I'm so unhappy. I'm so sorry they had to mess with something that was so perfect."
<>But what made the original "so perfect" was a plot twist that could hardly please the right wing. Shaw's control was his mother and the cosnpiracy was to elevate her husband (Shaw's step father), a McCarthy-like anti-Communist demagogue to the Presidency. In short, the original was not an anti-Communist movie. It was more like an anti-anti-Communist movie.

Now there's no reason a political movie element can't be transposed to the corporate world or vice versa. After all, the 1987 No Way Out starring Kevin Costner as a Soviet mole was a remake of the 1948 The Big Clock set in Time-like publishing corporation. There is at least a chance that this remake will be a solid movie. Still, it seems a shame to have abandoned the political angle.

Paul Krugman suggested a natural update: The Arabian Candidate<>

So let’s imagine an update .... This time the enemies would be Islamic fanatics, who install as their puppet president a demagogue who poses as the nation’s defender against terrorist evildoers.

The Arabian candidate wouldn’t openly help terrorists. Instead, he would serve their cause while pretending to be their enemy.

After an attack, he would strike back at the terrorist base, a necessary action to preserve his image of toughness, but botch the follow-up, allowing the terrorist leaders to escape. Once the public’s attention shifted, he would systematically squander the military victory: committing too few soldiers, reneging on promises of economic aid. Soon, warlords would once again rule most of the country, the heroin trade would be booming and terrorist allies would make a comeback.

Meanwhile, he would lead America into a war against a country that posed no imminent threat. He would insinuate, without saying anything literally false, that it was somehow responsible for the terrorist attack. This unnecessary war would alienate America’s allies and tie down a large part of the military. At the same time, the Arabian candidate would neglect the pursuit of those who attacked the United States, and do nothing about regimes that really shelter anti-American terrorists and really are building nuclear weapons.

Again, he would take care to squander a military victory. The Arabian candidate and his co-conspirators would block all planning for the war’s aftermath; they would arrange for the U.S. Army to allow looters to destroy much of the country’s infrastructure. Then they would disband the defeated regime’s army, turning hundreds of thousands of trained soldiers into disgruntled potential insurgents.

After this it would be easy to sabotage the occupied country’s reconstruction simply by failing to spend aid funds or rein in cronyism and corruption. Power outages, overflowing sewage and unemployment would swell the ranks of America’s enemies.

Who knows? The Arabian candidate might even be able to deprive America of the moral high ground by creating a climate in which U.S. guards torture, humiliate and starve prisoners, most of them innocent or guilty of only petty crimes.

At home, the Arabian candidate would leave the nation vulnerable, doing almost nothing to secure ports, chemical plants and other potential targets. He would stonewall investigations into why the initial terrorist attack succeeded. And by repeatedly issuing vague terror warnings obviously timed to drown out unfavorable political news, his officials would ensure public indifference if and when a real threat is announced.

Last but not least, by blatantly exploiting the terrorist threat for personal political gain, he would undermine the nation’s unity in the face of its enemies, sowing suspicion about the government’s motives.

O.K., end of conceit. President George W. Bush isn’t actually an Al Qaeda mole, with Dick Cheney his controller. Bush’s ‘‘war on terror’’ has, however, played with eerie perfection into Osama bin Laden’s hands — while Bush’s supporters see him as America’s champion against the evildoers.

Juan Cole's Reality Check on Iraq

Univerity of Michigan historian Juan Cole has become one of the most widely respected thinkers and information sources on Iraq with his blog Informed Comment. He recently caught flack for sugessting that John Kerry would be irrsponsible to have a simplisitic US out now policy.

Here's what he wrote:

If John Kerry wins, he will inherit the Iraq morass and will not have good options there. He can't just pull out the troops and leave oil-rich Persian Gulf to fall into chaos. The idea that the international community can be persuaded to come in and rescue us seems far-fetched. We'll just have to muddle through. This outcome is a kind of poison pill bequeathed all Americans by the jingoist party in Washington (both so-called realists and neoconservatives). We broke it, we own it, as Powell warned (threatened) Bush.

[I have gotten several complaints about this paragraph from readers who dream of a different Iraq policy. Believe me I wish I could see an alternative. But if the US troops withdrew tomorrow, I'd give Allawi and his "government" about two weeks to live, after which the Deluge. And the Deluge really would endanger US energy security (say, $10 a gallon gasoline, which equals de-industrialization, if the Persian Gulf region were destabilized) and possibly open us to further terrorist attacks, with a disheveled Iraq as a base. And France, Russia, Germany, India, etc. are not coming, folks. There are no "international troops" to replace US ones. Even if it were inclined, which it is not, the EU only has a spare capacity of 12,500 troops for service abroad, given its commitments in the Balkans and Afghanistan.

The only way for the US and UK and other foreign troops to get out of Iraq is for an Iraqi army to be reestablished pronto. The only way to do that pronto is essentially to bring back the Baath army. I'd say bringing back the non-dirty Baath regular army may be the best near-term solution, if the politics of it can be resolved; it isn't happening with any rapidity. Allawi may be trying to do that, but remember that the Kurds and the Sadrist Shiites won't exactly be elated, and the country could break up over it. To repeat, this is not Bush's mess. This is America's mess. It is not going away, there are no good options, and it may go terribly wrong on Kerry if he is elected. It is not my job to give you good news or make you feel better about the future. My American readers may as well understand that their country is caught in quicksand in Iraq and Afghanistan, and nobody is there to throw us a rope. - addendum 2:09 pm 7/26]

Monday, July 26, 2004

Politics Worth Reading

Scott McLemme reviews Rick Hertzberg's new collection of writings entitled Politics.

To write about political affairs in these United States in prose that is clean and sharp and smart requires a knack that is not exactly common. Nor is it, in the present circumstances, all that valuable a skill. The demand for it is just too small. The texture of public life is now conditioned, in the deepest folds of its fabric, by the mutually reinforcing effects of cable television and the Internet. The resulting mixture is practically impervious to the use of intelligence -- though it rewards cynicism, which is the lazy person's substitute for thinking.

Increasingly, that cynicism is structural. Ideology and entertainment blur together. It is now possible to claim to be a political journalist while advertising one's complete indifference to facts. The best lack all conviction, while the worst burn with the passionate intensity born of wanting to get on television.

So Hendrik Hertzberg's "Politics" -- arriving in the middle of an election cycle, when all the usual symptoms flourish in excess -- is the most anomalous of cultural commodities: a book by an author who takes politics very seriously but does not yell, and who can be humorous without resorting to sarcasm.

Hertzberg's book is named after the legendary 1940s journal edited by Dwight MacDonald which, as McLemee puts its "with its critique of the military-industrial complex, its support for civil rights and its perfect freedom from illusions about the totalitarian Left, Politics anticipated most of whatever was honorable in the social movements of the 1960s."

If you don't much about MacDonald, check out this review of Michael Wreszin's 1994 bio A Rebel in Defense of Tradition: The Life and Politics of Dwight Macdonald.

Illinois Jacquet and the Great Tenor Solos

Illinois Jacquet, one of the great tenor saxophone players in jazz history passed on July 22. While never accorded "superstar" status, which is, after all, more the result of marketing than artistic merit, he recorded one of the landmark tenor solos and pioneered two widely imitated tenor techniques: honking and altissimo playing. The New York Times obit is here (registration required)

Jacquet was a youngster in 1942 when Lionel Hampton tapped him to solo on a recording of "Flying Home." A discussion of that solo (original source not identified) makes this point

Jacquet became an overnight star with the solo and the solo actually BECAME part of the song. Saxophone players had it written into their contracts that when the song was played, they had to play it like Jacquet. One saxophone player interviewed on the NPR program said during his life, he only memorized 2 solos: Coleman Hawkins' legendary Body and Soul solo and Illinois Jacquet's Flying Home solo.

This inspired me to come up with

My Top Ten Tenor Sax Solos

1. Coleman Hawkins Body and Soul
2. Illinois Jacquet Flying Home (Lionel Hampton)
3. Paul Gonzalves, Dimuendo and Crescendo in Blue (Duke Ellington)
4. Lester Young Lester Leaps In
5. Sonny Rollins Blue Seven
6. Wardell Gray Twisted
7. Ben Webster Cottontail
8. Lucky Thompson Walkin’ (Miles Davis)
9. Gene Ammons/Sonny Stitt Blues Up and Down (Boss Tenors)
10. John Coltrane Giant Steps

Subject to revision and second thoughts, of course. Dexter Gordon, Roland Kirk, Booker Ervin, Hank Mobley, Charlie Rouse, Joe Henderson, and Joe Lovano have also recorded great solos

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Kansas Churches Get Political

From a recent column by Dr. Bill Roy "So Much for Church and State Separation"

After all, partisan political activity using church property or funds is specifically forbidden by federal law. While there are no criminal sanctions, pastors are not going to put their church's charitable tax-exemption status at risk, are they?

If the detailed report of a mole who attended a June 3 meeting at an evangelical church is correct, pastors are willing to risk their church's tax-exempt status to elect God's chosen to political office.

The senior pastor of the host church called on the more than 100 pastors present to register 100,000 conservative voters throughout the state of Kansas. He appealed to the pastors to combat liberal misinformation by sending mass e-mails to church members.

Participants were treated to a slide showing how each Wyandotte and Johnson County senator and representative voted on the Defense of Marriage Act and pro-life legislation. Available brochures were printed in red for those who voted wrong and in blue for favored candidates.

Among the speakers was Kris Kobach, former counsel for Attorney General John Ashcroft and current candidate for Congress in the 3rd District. He let them know that he believes in God and that his opponents believe in evil, making the pastors' choice pretty easy.

Friday, July 23, 2004

What Should Kerry Do About Iraq

Salon asks a number of people including John Judis, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., Charles W. Maynes, former editor of Foreign Policy, and Michael Lind, whose answer is below:

Neither John Kerry nor any other member of the U.S. Congress voted for the war in Iraq. They voted for the threat of war as a tool of coercive diplomacy. The Iraq Resolution was a conditional declaration of war, like Eisenhower's Formosa Resolution of 1956 and Johnson's Southeast Asia Resolution of 1964. Conditional declarations of war allow the president to threaten war in an effort to achieve diplomatic results.

Congress authorized President Bush to use the threat of war in order to coerce Saddam Hussein into allowing intrusive arms inspections to determine whether his regime possessed weapons of mass destruction in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions. The policy worked. The buildup of U.S. armed forces pressured Saddam into allowing arms inspectors. They discovered that, indeed, he probably had no weapons of mass destruction. Since it was likely if not certain that Saddam posed no real threat, the existing sanctions regime should have been continued, with the addition of intrusive arms inspections. Most of the U.S. troops who had taken part in the buildup as part of America's successful coercive diplomacy should have been transferred to Afghanistan, where they were needed to fight al-Qaida and the Taliban and to pacify the country.

The members of Congress who voted to give the president the threat of waging war to pressure Saddam into allowing intrusive arms inspections were vindicated, when coercive diplomacy in Iraq succeeded. By proceeding to wage war, President Bush disobeyed the express terms of the congressional resolution, which authorized him to use "necessary and appropriate" force only in two circumstances: to "defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq" and to "enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council Resolutions regarding Iraq." Because the inspectors had determined that there was no threat to the U.S. from Iraq, and because Saddam had broadly complied with all "relevant" (arms-related) Security Council resolutions, neither of the two express conditions for either the threat or the actual use of force had been met.

George W. Bush waged the war in defiance of the terms of the resolution which he claims authorized it. Bush asked Congress for the authority to threaten force to pressure Saddam Hussein into admitting international arms inspectors. Then, after the success of that policy made war unnecessary, he proceeded to wage a war of regime change which Congress had not authorized. Bush, not Kerry, is the flip-flopper.

The article is available to Salon Premium subscribers and through Salon's One-day Pass (I think you have to view some ads.) SALON is one of the best journals, web or print, and breaks lots of stories. It deserves your support.

More on Allawi

Allisa Rubin in the Los Angeles Times (registration required)

The stories have been denied by Allawi and dismissed by members of his interim government, the U.S. Embassy and a State Department spokesman. The Iraqi press has refrained from making any mention of the matter. On the other hand, former British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook urged the International Committee of the Red Cross to investigate.


However, the rumor began to circulate well before the article, and its numerous iterations serve as a barometer of the mental state of many Iraqis — quite apart from whether any of the stories might be true.

Such apparent urban myths are particularly potent in a society frayed by violence and divided over whether democracy or dictatorship will best deliver the life people desire. They are also a product of a society stripped of any frame of reference for leadership other than a system that relies on the fear of violence.

Psychology professor Qassim Hussein Saleh sees the prevalence of the rumor as a sign of Iraqi society's struggle to control its fury over the violence that has become a part of daily life.

"Ordinary Iraqis are furious at those who are creating the insecurity," said Saleh, who teaches at the University of Baghdad. "When they hear the prime minister has killed these people it functions as a kind of relief … and it legitimizes their own sense of violent fury."

In many ways Allawi has played up the image of being a tough enforcer. In his public appearances, he has concentrated on security issues and has not had much to say about elections or building democracy.

He is known for arriving at the scene of suicide bombings to threaten the attackers and reiterate his government's commitment to killing or capturing them. He often uses violent language, speaking recently of "annihilating" the insurgents. His government has taken steps to reinstate the death penalty.

Tony Karron in Time

The reason the CIA had Allawi on its payroll in the first place during the 1990s was that he was the point man for efforts to have Saddam Hussein overthrown by his own generals. The idea was to get rid of the Butcher of Baghdad while keeping the rump of his regime in place to stop Iraq splintering into dangerous shards. A kind of Baathism without Saddam, in other words, its premise being that holding Iraq together required a strongman regime, but that such a strongman ought to be a relatively enlightened, pro-Western modernizer rather than an erratic sociopath like Saddam and his sons. In other words, a regime more like the one in Egypt, whose authoritarianism is more predictable: You're tortured only if the secret police suspect you're aligned with a banned (although very popular) Islamist political organization, as opposed to in Saddam's Iraq where you could be tortured to death because the leader's son wanted to rape your wife. There's no question it's an improvement, but lets not kid ourselves that it heralds any kind of sea-change in the politics of the Middle East — nor, for that matter, that it's particularly stable in the long run.

Committee on the Present Danger Off to Rocky Start

Journalist Laura Rozen demonstrated the power of the internet when she did a quick google search and posting on her War and Piece blog about the third go-round of the Committee on the Present Danger.

Launched with a Tuesday Washington Post column by Senators Joe Lieberman and John Kyl, honorary chairs of the group, and a full page ad in the New York Times, the new CPD invoked the memory of its 1950 predecessor which attacked the missile gap and the 1970s effort which opposed the SALT treaty and urged a nuclear buildup.

This time in this third incarnation, we intend to focus the committee on the present danger our generation faces: international terrorism from Islamic extremists and the outlaw states that either harbor or support them. The Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks awoke all Americans to the capabilities and brutality of our new enemy, but today too many people are insufficiently aware of our enemy's evil worldwide designs, which include waging jihad against all Americans and reestablishing a totalitarian religious empire in the Middle East. The past struggle against communism was, in some ways, different from the current war against Islamist terrorism. But America's freedom and security, which each has aimed to undermine, are exactly the same. The national and international solidarity needed to prevail over both enemies is also the same. In fact, the world war against Islamic terrorism is the test of our time.

Liebarmann and Kyl said their group was made up of Americans with diverse views. That turned out to be an understatement when Rozen did her research.

She found that

The managing director of this - uh - effort, Peter Hannaford, has been lobbying for some of the world's nasties, I noticed in some recent reporting. Including for Austria's Nazi-nostalgic Jorg Haider and the Austrian Freedom Party, and some African dictators, too.

Also Algeria, and the People's Republic of China.

in 2002, Haider made a solidarity visit to Saddam's Iraq, met with the dictator himself, Tariq Aziz and others. Apparently, they all had a merry time denoucing Zionism and Saddam suggested they "develop relations" between his ruling Baath party and Austria's Freedom Party.

By Thursday, Hannaford had resigned from this CPD post.

According to the New York Sun "the founding publisher of the American Spectator and a member of the second Cold War iteration of the Committee on the Present Danger, R. Emmett Tyrrell, said Mr. Hannaford was a “great Reaganite” and a “wonderful friend of freedom.”

Rozen notes that some prominent conservative and neo-conservative hawks hesitated to sign on. Equally prominent in their absence are "liberal hawks."

Protestant Numbers and Morality Decline

Losing Majority Status

The United States will lose its historic status as a majority-Protestant nation as early as this year, according to a national survey released yesterday.
Between 1993 and 2002, the proportion of Americans who said they were Protestants fell from 63 percent to 52 percent after decades of stability, according to the study released by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago.
--Joyce Howard Price U.S. Protestant population seen losing majority statusTHE WASHINGTON TIMES (Sorry, I couldn't find the report on the NORC website).

And the NORC uses a strange definition of Protestant. They include any post-reformation Christian church, " although their theologies differ substantially from those of most Christians and they are not universally viewed as Protestant." In other words, the count of Protestants includes many non-Protestants.

Mormons, for instance, are not so "not universally viewed" as almost universally rejected by Protestants. See this entry in the informative Apologetics Index which reports that Methodists and Roman Catholics, and others reject the claim of Mormons to be Christians.

The main reasons for the numerical decline of Protestantism appear to be

•The number of Americans who said they had no religion rose from 9 percent in 1993 to 14 percent in 2002. Many in this group were former Protestants.

•Americans who said they belonged to religions other than Christianity or Judaism rose from 3 percent to 7 percent between 1993 and 2002.

Christian Teens Adopt Liberal Outlook

Sunday school teacher Dale Buss complains on the Wall Street Journal's editorial page:

while they may profess the faith and indeed love Jesus, the vast majority of Christian teenagers in this country actually hold beliefs fundamentally antithetical to the creed. The forces of moral relativism and "tolerance" have gotten to them in a big way. In fact, some leaders believe that mushy doctrine among the younger generation ranks as the No. 1 crisis facing American Christendom today.

About one-third of American teenagers claim they're "born again" believers, according to data gathered over the past few years by Barna Research Group, the gold standard in data about the U.S. Protestant church, and 88% of teens say they are Christians. About 60% believe that "the Bible is totally accurate in all of its teachings." And 56% feel that their religious faith is very important in their life.

Yet, Barna says, slightly more than half of all U.S. teens also believe that Jesus committed sins while he was on earth. About 60% agree that enough good works will earn them a place in heaven, in part reflecting a Catholic view, but also flouting Protestantism's central theme of salvation only by grace. About two-thirds say that Satan is just a symbol of evil, not really a living being. Only 6% of all teens believe that there are moral absolutes--and, most troubling to evangelical leaders, only 9% of self-described born-again teens believe that moral truth is absolute.

"When you ask even Christian kids, 'How can you say A is true as well as B, which is the antithesis of A?,' their typical response is, 'I'm not sure how it works, but it works for me,'" says George Barna, president of the Ventura, Calif.-based research company. "It's personal, pragmatic and fairly superficial."

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Kansas Right Plays Nativist Card

Thomas Frank's much acclaimed What's the Matter With Kansas examines how the right-wing in Kansas and nation-wide has used abortion and other social issues to mobilize voters into supporting the economic agenda of big business. Frank argues that what he calls "backlash populism" is not based on racism.

Senator Sam Brownback and Wichita Congressman Todd Tiahrt, both favorites fo the Christian Right, have taken relatively enlightened, though far from perfect, views on immigrant/Hispanic issues. Whether this is out of loyalty to President Bush, the big business interest in a exploitable and cheap labor force, or simply a response to the rapidly growing Hispanic population in the state is hard to say. If you are a strong anti-abortion candidate, there would be a certain political logic in reaching out to this growing, largely Catholic voting population.

But now in the tightly contested primary race in the state's Third Congressional District, Kris Kobach--with an assist from FAIR-- is playing the anti-immigrant, anti-Hispanic card. Kolbach, a former aid to Attorney General John Ashcroft, faces ex-Air Force pilot Adam Taff, who narrowly lost to Congressman Dennis Moore in 2002 and a third candidate.

A report on the race at Our Congress says that Kolbach's "radio ads feature 2 issues: keeping Kansas safe from terrorists (we were all kinda worried about that, what with all of our undefended ports) and protecting Kansans from the scourge of gay marriage. Yep- he's the Xian Right's candidate in this race."

What is especially interesting is that instead of following its customary practice of flooding mailboxes and airwaves with anti-immigrant messages like those aimed at Texas Congressman Martin Frost, FAIR has filed a lawsuit--with Kolbach as attorney--against a new Kansas law allowing children of some illegal immigrant to qualify for in-state tuition at state colleges. See this story from the to the Kansas City Star (registration required).

The Star reports that "Kobach said he would try to get a temporary restraining order issued before the start of university classes next month."

Between all of his campaign appearances, sure. But, of course, the lawsuit has all the appreances of being a politcal stunt. One has to wonder if a few laws on political contributions might have been violated.

FAIR is often portrayed in the press as " mainstream" or "responsible" immigration control group, but it has very close ties to the racist and extreme right as revealed in reports by the Southern Poverty Law Center (here and here) and the Center for New Community. This is what the SPLC says

Founded in 1978 by Michigan activist John Tanton of U.S. Inc. (see below), the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) blames immigrants for a host of social problems including crime, poverty, disease, urban sprawl, traffic jams, school overcrowding, racial tensions and potential terrorism.
Between 1985 and 1994, FAIR accepted some $1.2 million from the racist Pioneer Fund*, until bad publicity apparently convinced its leaders to desist. Another Pioneer Fund grant recipient, Garrett Hardin, was for years a FAIR adviser and remains a "board member emeritus." Hardin has opposed sending food aid to Africa because, he argues, that only encourages overpopulation. "Tragically, flights of food that save lives increase fertility — which increases the mistreatment of the environment." He also told OMNI magazine, "Looking at history with an open mind, you'll see that infanticide has been used as an effective population control."
FAIR has run ads that attacked then-Sen. Spencer Abraham (R.-Mich.), an Arab American, for supporting more visas for those with high-technology skills. The ads said Abraham's proposal would make it easier for Middle Eastern terrorists to strike, sparking widespread condemnation of what was seen as a race-based attack. On FAIR's board of advisors is Pat Choate, who helped white nationalist Patrick Buchanan take over the Reform Party prior to Buchanan's run for president in 2000.
Wonder what the chances are that Brownback or Tiahrt will criticize Kolbach for his alliance with a racist organization like FAIR?

Attorney General Phil Kline, another favorite of the Christian right, has announced that he will remove himself from defending the state's tuition law and leave it in the hands of the states Civil Litigation Division. Given Kline's thin record as an attorney, that's probably a good thing.

(In the American Prospect Harold Meyersen discusses how the Bush administration abandoned the Dream Act and the AgJobs bills in order to placate the nativist right. Even though it meant killing Tort reform.)

Saturday, July 17, 2004

Did Iraq's New PM Murder Prisoners?

The Sydney Daily Herald reports

Iyad Allawi, the new Prime Minister of Iraq, pulled a pistol and
executed as many as six suspected insurgents at a Baghdad police
station, just days before Washington handed control of the country to
his interim government, according to two people who allege they
witnessed the killings.

They say the prisoners - handcuffed and blindfolded - were lined up
against a wall in a courtyard adjacent to the maximum-security cell
block in which they were held at the Al-Amariyah security centre, in
the city's south-western suburbs.

They say Dr Allawi told onlookers the victims had each killed as many as 50 Iraqis and they "deserved worse than death".

The witnesses said the Iraqi police observers were "shocked and
surprised". But asked what message they might take from such an act,
one said: "Any terrorists in Iraq should have the same destiny. This is
the new Iraq.

"Allawi wanted to send a message to his policemen and soldiers not
to be scared if they kill anyone - especially, they are not to worry
about tribal revenge. He said there would be an order from him and the
Interior Ministry that all would be fully protected.

"He told them: 'We must destroy anyone who wants to destroy Iraq and kill our people.'

Juan Cole takes the story seriously. Given what Seymour Hersch has written abut Allawi's political history, the story in not implausible.

a Baath Party operative while Saddam struggled for control in the
nineteen-sixties and seventies—Saddam became President in 1979—is much
less well known. “Allawi helped Saddam get to power,” an American
intelligence officer told me. “He was a very effective operator and a
true believer.” Reuel Marc Gerecht, a former C.I.A. case officer who
served in the Middle East, added, “Two facts stand out about Allawi.
One, he likes to think of himself as a man of ideas; and, two, his
strongest virtue is that he’s a thug.”

Early this year, one of Allawi’s former medical-school classmates,
Dr. Haifa al-Azawi, published an essay in an Arabic newspaper in London
raising questions about his character and his medical bona fides. She
depicted Allawi as a “big husky man . . . who carried a gun on his belt
and frequently brandished it, terrorizing the medical students.”
Allawi’s medical degree, she wrote, “was conferred upon him by the
Baath party.” Allawi moved to London in 1971, ostensibly to continue
his medical education; there he was in charge of the European
operations of the Baath Party organization and the local activities of
the Mukhabarat, its intelligence agency, until 1975.

“If you’re asking me if Allawi has blood on his hands from his days
in London, the answer is yes, he does,” Vincent Cannistraro, the former
C.I.A. officer, said. “He was a paid Mukhabarat agent for the Iraqis,
and he was involved in dirty stuff.” A cabinet-level Middle East
diplomat, who was rankled by the U.S. indifference to Allawi’s personal
history, told me early this month that Allawi was involved with a
Mukhabarat “hit team” that sought out and killed Baath Party dissenters
throughout Europe

Wilson Demands Senate Correct Record

In a letter available on Salon's website former Ambassador Joseph Wilson demands that Republican members of the Senate Intelligence Committee set the record straight.

Salon writer Mary Jacoby sets the Wilson letter in perspetive:

editorials and Op-Ed pieces on Thursday in the Wall Street Journal and
National Review and by conservative columnist Robert Novak signaled the
revving up of a Republican campaign to discredit former ambassador
Joseph Wilson and his claims that President Bush trumpeted flimsy
intelligence in the drive to invade Iraq.

Atlerman: Bush's Impeachable Offenses

Eric Altermann's latest Nation column ("Wrong Again") is right again:

Nearly every day brings fresh evidence that the Bush Administration
deliberately undermined the security of this nation by misleading us
into a costly and potentially ruinous war in Iraq. If Republicans were
not in control of Congress, these would be impeachable offenses--far
worse than anything Bill Clinton or even Richard Nixon ever did. And
yet, by muddying the waters through clever manipulation of the known
facts (free of vigorous challenge from the media), the Administration
stands a strong chance of getting away with it. With the help of
Republican stooge Ralph Nader and his misguided supporters, they may
just win their first election.

...the Bush Administration has been able to convey the impression of having
been (along with Congress and the rest of us) the innocent victim of a
CIA misinformation campaign--much easier since the committee postponed
its examination of the Administration's prewar hype until after the
election. But this misimpression is also a product of the selective
amnesia of much of the media that covered the release of the report.

Friday, July 16, 2004

Libertarians Nominate a Nut Case

R. W. Bradford reports in Liberty magzine on

{David] Badnarik believes that the federal income tax has no legal authority and that people are justified in refusing to file a tax return until such time as the IRS provides them with an explanation of its authority to collect the tax. He hadn't filed income tax returns for several years. He moved from California to Texas because of Texas' more liberal gun laws, but he refused to obtain a Texas driver's license because the state requires drivers to provide their fingerprints and Social Security numbers. He has been ticketed several times for driving without a license; sometimes he has gotten off for various technical legal reasons, but on three occasions he has been convicted and paid a fine. He also refused to use postal ZIP codes, seeing them as "federal territories."

He has written a book on the Constitution for students in his one-day, $50 seminar on the Constitution, but it is available elsewhere, including on It features an introduction by Congressman Ron Paul and Badnarik's theory about taxes. His campaign website included a potpourri of right-wing constitutional positions, as well as some very unorthodox views on various issues. He proposed that convicted felons serve the first month of their sentence in bed so that their muscles would atrophy and they'd be less trouble for prison guards and to blow up the U.N. building on the eighth day of his administration, after giving the building's occupants a chance to evacuate.

July Surprise Update

Asia Times reports that, under US pressure, the Pakistani army is about to begin "a major oeration" aimed at the Taliban in its northwest territories.

If you aren;t comfortable with the Judis thesis that the Bush administration wants to upstage the Democratic convention by capturing a HVT (High Value Target) as close to July as possible, then consider the alternative. Rather than finishing the battle against the Taliban and Al-Queda, the US devoted resources and attention to Iraq.

Foreign fighters and local Wazir tribals have established themselves in a belt stretching from North Waziristan to South Waziristan and into the remote Shawal area in Afghanistan, a veritable no-man's land that now serves as the base for the Afghan resistance movement.

President General Pervez Musharraf is right, therefore, to say that the Pakistani tribal areas have become a base camp for the Taliban and al-Qaeda, "from where they have spun a web of terror from Kabul to Karachi".

When the Taliban and al-Qaeda retreated from Afghanistan in late 2001 in the face of the US-led assault on the country, without much of a fight, the move surprised many people. Strategic experts then argued that the Taliban withdrawal was a prelude to a guerrilla war, up to the point that they could start an organized war against US-led forces in Afghanistan.

The present situation in the Pakistan-Afghanistan tribal area bears testimony to this theory - and the war has only just begun, in North and South Waziristan, and parts of Afghanistan, where the Taliban have taken control of many districts around Zabul and Kandahar, with the US-sponsored Afghan administration unable to take them back. Even the US base in Kandahar came under attack recently, and according to a spokesperson of the Afghan government, several US soldiers lost their lives.

How Liberal are Kerry and Edwards

Conservative talk-show hosts and media pundits have been repeating the urban legend that John Kerry and John Edwards are the most and fourth-most liberal Senators. They even cite the National Journal. The ranking, however, is based on one-year (2004) of Senate votes, when both were on the campaing trail and missed many votes.

Looked at over the last-six years, the Demoratic candidates are liberals, but far from being the most liberal members of the Senate.

2003: Kerry - 1st (96.5) Edwards - 4th (94.5)
2002: Kerry - 9th (87.3) Edwards - 31st (63.0)
2001: Kerry - 11th (87.7) Edwards - 35th (68.2)
2000: Kerry - 20th (77) Edwards - 19th (80.8)
1999: Kerry - 16th (80.8) Edwards - 31st (72.2)

Average: Kerry - 12th (85.9) Edwards - 24th (75.7)
source: Andrew Sullivan

Worse to Come on Abu Ghrab

Ed Cone has this:

Seymour Hersh says the US government has videotapes of boys being sodomized at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

"The worst is the soundtrack of the boys shrieking," the reporter told an ACLU convention last week. Hersh says there was "a massive amount of criminal wrongdoing that was covered up at the highest command out there, and higher."

He called the prison scene "a series of massive crimes, criminal activity by the president and the vice president, by this administration anyway…war crimes."

The outrages have cost us the support of moderate Arabs, says Hersh. "They see us as a sexually perverse society."

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Two House Races to Watch


A report on the new Our Congress site says that GOP gerrymandering aimed removing Demoratic voters from the 3rd District seat held by Congressman Dennis Moore, has made the Second District less-friendly to right-wing Republican Jim Ryun.

This is what they say about Ryun's challenger

The second trend is Ryun's opponent, Nancy Boyda. Ryun's never really had to run a tough race based on his record, but that's what Nancy plans on giving him. She's a former Republican who's never held elected office, and a former drug company researcher. She can speak intelligently and personally about how prescription drugs are priced and why the system must be overhauled. She's also an amazing fund-raiser, and has hired the right team of outside consultants. In 2002, Democratic Governor Kathleen Sebelius won this district over a candidate who wasn't nearly as conservative as Ryun. There's no reason to think that Boyda can't do the same.

For the full report, go here


Frank Barbaro, a lifelong fighter for liberal values and a man who never forgot his working- class roots, in running a progressive campaign in this district that includes Brooklyn and Staten Island.

Katrina Van Huevel has nice article about Barbaro on The Nation website .

Barbaro is running not just on the Democratic ticket but also on the Working Families Party line, which sees in Barbaro an exemplary vessel for its core mission "to inject the concerns of working-class, middle-class, and poor people into the public debate." Dan Cantor at WFP explained Barbaro's appeal: "If Paul Wellstone was a 78 year old Italian from Brooklyn, his name would be Frank Barbaro."

Dalton Trumbo: FBI Informant

Dalton Trumbo was a great Hollywood screenwriter, but for much of his adult life a Stalinist. Trumbo, as one of the Hollywood Ten, has been celebrated as victim of the blacklist and contrasted to Elia Kazan, another great screen writer who named names before the House UnAmerican Activities Committee.

In turns out, however, the Trumbo was an FBI informant. Glenn Carvin write in Reason magazine (via Leftwatch)

Everybody ... should read Dalton Trumbo's 1944 letter to the FBI reprinted in Additional Dialogue. In it, he boasts of having provided the FBI with letters from writers who are "1) anti-war, 2) anti-Semitic, 3) in the process of organizing politically, 4) distributing pamphlets to further their cause and corresponding with persons detained by the Federal government, and 5) of the opinion that the Commander in Chief of American forces is 'the greatest criminal incendiary in history.'" He adds, "I share with the men of your organization a sincere desire to see an end to all such seditious propaganda as criminal slander of the Commander in Chief, defeatism, pacifism, anti-Semitism and all similar deceits and stratagems designed to assist the German cause." He closes by noting that he's including more letters and begging the FBI not to tip off the writers about what he has done, presumably so he can keep ratting on them.

This was no isolated incident.

When the Smith Act, the predecessor of McCarthyism, was enacted by Congress and signed by Roosevelt, its first victims were leading members of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) and of Minneapolis Teamsters local 544, eighteen of whom were convicted. This was in 1941, when Russia and America were wartime allies. Convinced that the 18 were convicted for their views and not for any illegal acts, the labor and liberal movements rallied to their cause in large numbers, again without regard for their political differences with Trotskyism. The Communists also rallied in unions and arenas where they could gain a hearing throughout the country. What made their intervention so singularly notorious however is that they rallied tirelessly to isolate and discredit the supporters of the indicted socialist unionists, regretting only that the sentences were not harsher.

When a few years later it was the Stalinists who were persecuted by the same provisions of the Smith Act, a Conference to Defend the Bill of Rights was hastily convened in July of 1949, largely under Stalinist initiative, to solidify a defense movement. In preparation, the Daily Worker printed an editorial warning in advance that the Communist Party would not allow the forum to defend the civil liberties of "Trotskyites." Those with scruples, like I. F. Stone and Professor Thomas I. Emerson, were put on notice that such support would be considered disruptive. Nevertheless, endorsement of the Minneapolis defendants and the related case of the veteran, James Kutcher, who had lost both legs in the very "peoples' war" which the Communists invoked with such religious fervor, was not short in coming having been proposed by none less than the chair of the conference, Paul J. Kern. Kutcher had lost first his limbs and then, due to his membership in the "subversive" Socialist Workers Party, lost his clerical position in the Veterans' Administration, his disability pension and finally his public housing. Paul Robeson, a leading World War II sentimentalist, (after Hitler unilaterally and violently destroyed his Pact with Stalin) then took to the platform and in a sordid display of Stalinist solidarity denounced adherents of the Socialist Workers Party as "allies of fascism who want to destroy the new democracies of the world. Let us not be confused. They are the enemies of the working class. Would you give civil rights to the Ku Klux Klan?" Kern's resolution was defeated.

--Barry Finger "Paul Robeson: A Flawed Martyr" New Politics, vol. 7, no. 1 (new series), whole no. 25, Summer 199

Saturday, July 10, 2004

70th Anniversary of Southern Tenant Farmers Union

In the summer of 1934, a remarkable interracial protest movement arose among the sharecroppers and tenant farmers of eastern Arkansas—the Southern Tenant Farmers Union (STFU). Battered by the Depression and by New Deal crop reduction programs that led to massive evictions from the land, black and white sharecroppers joined together to try to gain economic security from a collapsing plantation system. Aided by local and national leaders of the Socialist Party, they tried to lobby the federal government to win a share of crop reduction payments and to resist planter efforts to drive them from the land. The union, often led by black and white fundamentalist ministers, spread quickly throughout the region. In 1935 it organized a cotton choppers' strike to raise wages for day laborers; it sent members to lobby in Washington, and it maintained interracial solidarity in the face of fierce planter repression. By 1936, the organization claimed more than twenty-five thousand members in Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas, and had won national recognition for dramatizing the plight of sharecroppers under the New Deal.

However, external and internal pressures prevented the union from consolidating its gains. First of all, planter terror—murders, beatings, arrests— made it impossible for the union to maintain headquarters "in the field." After 1936, its organizers had to operate from the relative safety of Memphis. Second, Socialist-Communist conflict frayed the union's solidarity....the President of the [CIO’s agricultural union]...was a Communist Professor, Donald Henderson, who regarded the SFTU as a utopian agrarian movement rather than a legitimate union.....

For a brief moment, the SFTU had given voice to the poorest of the South’s people, demonstrating that blacks and white could be united around common goals, even in the heartland of Jim Crrow.

--Mark Naison, Encyclopedia of the American Left

H. L. Mitchell (1906-1989) was one of the foremost twentieth-century American socialists engaged in farm activism and multiracial organizing. Born in Halls, Tennessee, Mitchell worked at farm chores from the age of eight, and after high school graduation tried his hand at a number of jobs, from bootlegging in prohibition days to sharecropping. As an eleven-year-old newspaper boy, he had ridden a special train to Dyersburg, Tennessee, and watched whites lynch a young black man. Searching for some way to understand the world around him, Mitchell became what southerners called a "reading fool." Converted to socialism, he in turn converted his friend. Clay East, and the two created a "Red Square" for Norman Thomas's 1932 presidential campaign in Tyronza, Arkansas, around Mitchell's dry-cleaning shop and East's filling station.

In 1934 the two spearheaded the interracial STFU. With Mitchell's organizing skills and and East packing a pistol as the duly elected township constable, the union thrived. By protesting sharecropper evictions, organizing strikes, and lobbying for federal legislation to improve agricultural conditions in the South—with the support and cooperation of black and white farm families—southern radicals forcefully fought the system. Along with strikes to raise wages, their most successful effort culminated in the formation of the Delta Cooperative Farm at Rochdale, Mississippi, by tenants evicted from Arkansas plantations for joining the STFU. This project became the model for the Farm Security Administration, created as a result of growing national concern for the plight of the southern tenant farmer.

--Orville Vernon Burton, Encyclopedia of the American Left

A handout on the SFTU from

The story of a 1939 strike by black and white sharecroppers in southeastern Missouri is told in the documentary film
Oh Freedom After Awhile.

Mean Things Happening, a 1993 PBS documentary on the SFTU, has been much praised.

Mitchell wrote several books on the SFTU, check your library.

Southern Strategies

The American Prospect TAPped blog comments "There's an intriguing article in next week's New Republic by John Judis, who argues that John Edwards points the way to a viable Democratic southern strategy -- contrary to those who argue that the South is dead to Democratic hopes Part of Judis' argument is practical: The Democrats can't afford to cede the Republicans 153 electoral votes and 22 Senate seats before the race even starts. But he also has a solution. Thanks to demographic shifts -- chiefly Latino immigration and the rise of idea-industry professional classes in southern suburbs -- Democrats in the region need no longer run as anti–national-party conservatives:

In the '80s, aspiring Southern Democratic politicians had to cobble together majorities by combining the black vote with the little that remained of white, working-class loyalty to Democrats. But the emergence of these new, post-industrial areas has provided Democrats a new potential base of support. At the same time, the national party's turn toward the center under Bill Clinton made it possible for Southern Democrats to court white, working-class voters without dissociating themselves from the national party.

Kenneth Baer has a differing view

The brilliance of the Edwards selection is not that he will enable Kerry to win states in the South (short of a landslide, they are still completely out of reach), but that he will help Kerry remain competitive in “southern” areas of non-southern states

Baer cites a very insightful study, Beyond Red and Blue, by Massachusetts Institute for a New Commonwealth which break the country down into ten political regions. Most states are a mixture of two or more political regions.

July 11: International Day Against Stoning

Here is an extract from a letter from the Coordinator of the International Committee Against Stoning to Kofi Annan:

The International Committee against Stoning is a network of more than 200 women’s rights and human rights organizations and individuals. We, heartened by the success of our campaign to save the Nigerian woman Amina Lawal from the brink of stoning, and overwhelmed by the level of support and sympathy directed towards our campaign, proposed to declare July 11th, the day on which in 2001 Maryam Ayoubi, an Iranian woman and mother of three children was stoned to death, as the International Day against Stoning. This day has been endorsed by many other organizations.

In order to recognize this day by the international community, we have urged all women’s rights and human rights organizations to observe one-minute silence at 11:00 am GMT on 11th July 2004.

On behalf of the International Committee against Stoning, I would like to urge you as the Secretary-General of the United Nation to announce and observe a minute silence on July 11th 2004 at 11:00 am. I am sure you agree with us that the announcement by the UN will definitely be a step forward towards saving many lives and recognizing one of the most basic rights of people living under the threat of stoning.

Mina Ahadi
Coordinator of the International Committee against Stoning

Cc: European Union
Human rights and women’s rights organizations

You can find all this and much more extremely important information at in English, Farsi, and more.

Friday, July 09, 2004

July Surprise?

The New Republic has learned that Pakistani security officials have been told they must produce HVTs by the
election. According to one source in Pakistan's powerful Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), "The Pakistani government is really desperate and wants to flush out bin Laden and his associates after the latest pressures from the U.S. administration to deliver before the [upcoming] U.S. elections."

A third source, an official who works under ISI's director, Lieutenant General Ehsan ul-Haq, informed tnr that the Pakistanis "have been told at every level that apprehension or killing of HVTs before [the] election is [an] absolute must." What's more, this source claims that Bush administration officials have told their Pakistani counterparts they have a date in mind for announcing this achievement: "The last ten days of July deadline has been given repeatedly by visitors to Islamabad and during [ul-Haq's] meetings in Washington." Says McCormack: "I'm aware of no such comment." But according to this ISI official, a White House aide told ul-Haq
last spring that "it would be best if the arrest or killing of [any] HVT were announced on twenty-six, twenty-seven, or twenty-eight July"--the first three days of the Democratic National Convention in Boston.

Surprise: Bush records destroyed

Washington Post reports:

Military records that could help establish President Bush's whereabouts during his disputed service in the Texas Air National Guard more than 30 years ago have been inadvertently destroyed, according to the Pentagon.

It said the payroll records of "numerous service members," including former First Lt. Bush, had been ruined in 1996 and 1997 by the Defense Finance and Accounting Service during a project to salvage deteriorating microfilm. No back-up paper copies could be found, it added in notices dated June 25.

The destroyed records cover three months of a period in 1972 and 1973 when Mr. Bush's claims of service in Alabama are in question.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

World-wide Demonstrations for Democracy in Iraq

Check out the list of demonstrations

US, Germany, Holland, Canada, Denmark.

Bush Snubbs NAACP

According to CNN

President Bush declined an invitation to speak at the NAACP's annual convention, the group said.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People expects more than 8,000 people to attend the convention, which opens on Saturday...

NAACP spokesman John White said Wednesday that Bush has declined invitations in each year of his presidency -- becoming the first president since Herbert Hoover not to attend an NAACP convention

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Learning the Blues: Downbeat's 50 best of the last 50 years

Norm Geras shares Thom Nickell's email with some recommendations for the blues novice.

Thom's suggestions strike me as a little eccentric: Bukka White over Robert Johnson and Stevie Ray Vaughn as the apex of blues guitar. (Magic Sam, Buddy Guy's best Chess, and Chess 50 year compilation are solid picks.)

About a year ago, Downbeat polled 80 blues musicians, journalists, and record company folks and compiled a list of the 50 greatest blues albums of the last 50 years, asking each participant for a pick of five desert island discs.

Junior Wells' Hoo-doo Man Blues was by far the top pick.

These five made the rest of the "seminal six"

2. B.B. King Live At The Regal (1964)

3.Muddy Waters, 20th Centyrt Masters: The Millennium Collection: The Best Of (1999)

4. Howlin' Wolf/Moanin' in the Moonlight
Howlin' Wolf
Howlin' Wolf/Moanin' in the Moonlight (1986)

5 Bobbie Bland, Two Steps From The Blues (1961)

6. Little Walter Best Of (1958)

I can't locate the list, which includes nice short comments from some of the polled, on Downbeat's website, but all 50 picks can be found here.
SRV didn't make the cut.

My work schedule preventing me from catching the PBS series on The Blues, which in now available on DVD and video. There is a campanion book,a gift from my brother, which I am starting to read. And a radio series, which I did catch. The TV series was impressionistic, while the radio series more historical. BTW, the radio series website had web-only audio features in addition to the original programs.

A Progressive Scholars' and Activists' Conference on Anti-Semitism and The Left.

I don't know much about the people putting on this conference, but it addresses a very critical issue on the left.

Check out their website

August 21 - 23, 2004
Oakland Marriott Downtown
Oakland, California
Presented by Catalyst to Coalition

This conference is a gathering of Progressives and activists to share and develop our ideas, theories, and personal reactions to anti-Semitism within ourselves and our own communities, in an atmosphere of self-reflection, mutual respect and deep concern.

From their purpose page

The purpose of this conference is to:

Bring together diverse activists from many parts of the Left who are concerned about anti-Semitism.

Develop effective and responsible strategies for challenging anti-Semitism within our organizations and our political theories

Learn from one another about the history of anti-Semitism, about traditional stereotypes against Jews, and how we see those bigotries living within our psyches and in our current activist beliefs.

Validate that non-Jewish allies’ concern about anti-Semitism is an essential Progressive issue.

Develop the concept of coalition politics to include Jews among other oppressed peoples, counteracting the divide and conquer strategy that benefits larger forces of control.

Examine our ideas about oppressed groups who are
in conflict with one another, in order to show concern
for the oppression of both.

Strengthen the Left by learning to work with
organizations primarily concerned with anti-Semitism.

This conference will not attempt to resolve any
international disputes and will not produce any
resolutions or statements about any international

A sobering look at the Iraq invasion--skill or luck?

Was the American victory in deposing Saddam Hussein the result of superior technology, brilliant war planning, and strategic superiority or more the result of luck and improvisation on the ground? A recent report from the US Army points in the later direction.

David Zucchino reported in the LA Times (registration required)

American soldiers who defeated the Iraqi regime 15 months ago received virtually none of the critical spare parts they needed to keep their tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles running. They ran chronically short of food, water and ammunition. Their radios often failed them. Their medics had to forage for medical supplies, artillery gunners had to cannibalize parts from captured Iraqi guns and intelligence units provided little useful information about the enemy.

These revelations come not from embedded reporters or congressional committees but from the Army itself. In the first internal assessment of the war in Iraq, an exhaustive Army study has concluded that American forces prevailed despite supply and logistical failures, poor intelligence, communication breakdowns and futile attempts at psychological warfare.

The study, titled "On Point" and aimed at "lessons learned," is at odds with the public perception of a technologically superior invasion force that easily drove Hussein from power. In fact, as the authors point out in their battle-by-battle narrative, there were many precarious moments when U.S. units were critically short of fuel and ammunition, with little understanding of the forces arrayed against them.

The study credits a relatively junior commander — Col. David Perkins of the Second Brigade of the Third Infantry Division — with shortening the war with a bold armored strike into the heart of Baghdad on April 7. Perkins' "thunder run" surprised Baghdad's defenders with its speed and firepower, collapsing the regime from within before Iraqi forces could draw the Americans into a protracted urban war.

Army Stage Managaed Saddam Statue Toppling

David Zucchino writes in the Los Angeles Times
(registration required)

The Army's internal study of the war in Iraq criticizes some efforts by its own psychological operations units, but one spur-of-the-moment effort last year produced the most memorable image of the invasion.

As the Iraqi regime was collapsing on April 9, 2003, Marines converged on Firdos Square in central Baghdad, site of an enormous statue of Saddam Hussein. It was a Marine colonel — not joyous Iraqi civilians, as was widely assumed from the TV images — who decided to topple the statue, the Army report said. And it was a quick-thinking Army psychological operations team that made it appear to be a spontaneous Iraqi undertaking.

The Day I Stopped Being a Rock Fan

I can date the moment when I ceased to be a rock music fan with exact precision, at least in my personal narrative if not on the calendar. I still listened to rock music at parties, on the radio, and even bought rock LPs and in later years CDs. But there came a moment when I no longer defined myself in a certain way or paid close and careful attention to the music that had once been so important to me.

On the same day I bought The Beatles White Album and Fathers and Sons a Chess LP that joined blues veterans Muddy Watters Otis Spann,and Sam Lay with a newer generation Mike Bloomfield, Paul Butterfield, stax bassist Dick "Duck" Dunn, and Buddy Miles. The were both double LPs. I stacked them on the spindle, alternating Beatles and blues. By the time, I had played all eight sides, I had left rock and roll behind.

There's a moment when Paul Butterfield comes in with a wild harmonica woop. For me that was it. The real authentic stuff. The White Album seemed a pale imitation. I may have played it a few more times, but shortly loaned it to a classmate. He never returned it and I never asked..

That was also the year of Miles Davis' Bitches Brew.

After that it was blues and jazz for me.

Normpoll: Ten Favorite Rock Artists

Norm Geras has another of his intriguing polls. This time he is asking for our all-time favourite rock stars. Norm leaves it to us to define the borders of the genre. Which is no little problem. Recently, Peter Guralnik was interviewed by NPR on the 50th anniversary of Elvis' first SUN single, "That's Allright, Mama." Guralnik, author of what is said to be the definitive Elvis bio and the superb Sweet Soul Music said that rock did not define a musical genre, but a marketing category.

That segmentation has been largely racial. There have been a few periods when the racial barriers have receeded--the late 1960s and early 1970s. Prince and Lenny Kravitz broke through in a latter period. But a cultural curmudgeon still might define rock as "black-influenced music made by white musicians for white consumers."

Here's my list

Rolling Stones
Allman Brothers
Creedence Clearwater Revival
Aretha Franklin
Bob Dylan
Bruce Springsteen
Electric Flag
Van Morrison
Otis Redding

Honorable mentions: Chuck Berry, Jimi Hendrix,The Band, Booker T and the MGs. Ray Charles, Santana, The Who,Was Not Was, Buffalo Springfield, Steely Dan, Sly and the Family Stone, Joni Mitchell, Shelby Lynn, Sheryl Crow, Ike and Tina Turner, The Beatles, Living Colour, Los Lobos, The Doors, Grateful Dead, Phish, Elvis Presley, Blood Sweat and Tears (Al Kooper, Stevie Wonder, James Brown

Saturday, July 03, 2004

Ralph's Unholy Alliances: Oregon

TAPPED (American Prospect's blog) also has the low-down on Nader in Oregon

Two conservative groups, Citizens for a Sound Economy and Oregon Family Council, were phone-banking their supporters to get them to a Nader nominating convention -- with scripts reading “Ralph Nader is undoubtedly going to pull some very crucial votes from John Kerry, and that could mean the difference in a razor-thin Presidential election” -- Nader appeared on Lars Larson’s right-wing Oregonian radio show to plead for help in making it onto the ballot. Nader ultimately secured 1,150 signatures -- slightly more than the 1,000 signatures he needed to get on the ballot but possibly not enough to guard against a likely Oregon Democratic Party challenge to the petitions (if it finds enough mistakes to disqualify 151 signatures).

Friday, July 02, 2004

My Brush with MPAA's New Head

Fomer Kansas Congressman Dan Glickman has been tabbed to replace Jack Valenti as head of the MPAA, the movie industry's association and lobbying organization.

I met Dan in Congressman Bill Roy's almost successful challenge to Senator Bob Dole. Dan was chair of the Wichita school board and I was a student at Wichita State University. Dan was elected to the House two years later. By that time I had moved to New York City. During the Reagan years, I was working in DC for SANE/FREEZE. One Saturday, I went to the movies and saw Dan waiting in line. Even though it had been years since our last contact, Dan recognized me by name almost instantly.

I've had friendly, though brief, contact with Dan through the years, so I was pleased to hear of his new job. I didn't grasp at first, the political import of his selection, which struck a blow against the neo-spoils system which the GOP has been constructing in DC.

The Washington Post reported

K Street Project spokesman Grover G. Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, fumed that the Glickman hiring was "a mistake. It's goofy. It's a studied insult." The Motion Picture Association's "ability to work with the House and Senate is greatly reduced because they've decided to hire a guy whose claim to fame is that he is a retired Clinton hire," Norquist said.

The K Street Project, which was conceived by Republican leaders in Congress and GOP activists elsewhere, identifies loyal Republican lobbyists and campaign contributors and then encourages lawmakers to welcome them into their offices to the exclusion of others.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Daily Howler's Howler Underestimates Americans

The Daily Howler, unmatched in critiquing the media’s right-wing bias, committed a howler of his own

what do American voters think? American voters are clueless, as always. More than half the American people still think Saddam was behind 9/11. The public is completely misinformed on this point—and the deceptions continue apace.

But as Oliver Kamm notes this cliche is based on a surface reading of the polls

Since le Carre wrote, the legend has persisted. One much-trumpeted poll reported in the Washington Post last September concluded that 69 per cent of Americans "thought it at least likely that Hussein was involved in the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon" - yet it's clear that this finding depends on the way the question is asked. Since February 2003 the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland has regularly tested public opinion on the relationship between Saddam and al-Qaeda, asking respondents to select one of four options ranging from "no connection at all" to "Iraq was directly involved in carrying out the September 11th attacks". The latter option has been supported consistently by around 20 per cent - and never more than 25 per cent - of respondents. The belief is flat wrong - but it is (a) substantially lower than the figure cited by the Financial Times and (b) not the same belief as that cited by the FT, either ("was directly involved" is a weaker claim than "was behind"). The bulk of respondents opted for either "a few al-Qaeda individuals visited Iraq or had contact with Iraqi officials" (a view held consistently by around 30 per cent) or (emphasis added) "Iraq gave substantial support to al-Qaeda but was not involved in the September 11th attacks" (around 35 per cent).

Those two middle options strike me as entirely plausible and indeed likely claims. Rather than revealing a nefarious propaganda campaign by the White House, they testify to the good sense and scepticism of American public opinion. I wish the same characteristics were as much in evidence in the pages of the world's premier financial daily.

Bacon on unions in Iraq

David Bacon has a good piece on "Solidarity in Wartime" The Nation, which is marred by a couple of sloppy historical references and a questionable political demand.

The good stuff: Bacon rightly lauds the solidarity campaign of US Labor Against the War to support Iraqi trade unions. USLAW is raising funds to support the fledging trade unions and splitting the proceeds 50-50 between the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions and the the Federation of Workers' Councils and Unions. I had the pleasure of hearing Amjad Al-Jawhar of the later group speak at a March conference in Kansas City organized by KCLAW and a rally organized by many groups. (I made a presentation about labor rights in China at the conference.)

The Iraqi unions are demanding a new labour law in Iraq, codifying the precarious de facto rights to organise and take action they have won over the last year, remains unmet. Saddam Hussein’s 1987 labour law remains on the statute books, unenforceable for now but a threat for the future.

Unfortunately, Bacon attacks the AFL-CIO for accepting funds from the National Endowment for Democracy because The NED has a long, unsavory cold war history, abetting coups in Chile and Brazil..." The US-aided military coup in Brazil took place in 1964, the coup that toppled Salvador Allende ocurred in 1973. The National Endowment for Democracy, however, was not founded until 1983.

This anachronism is a key point in Bacon's misguided political demand. Bacon argues

Just as Iraqi unionists seek US labor support, the Administration wants American unions to assist in imposing this neoliberal model on Iraq. In an Orwellian moment, Bush announced in his State of the Union address that the occupation would lead to "free labor unions" in the Middle East. Soon after, the National Endowment for Democracy announced that it intends to supply funds for programs in Iraq to build such unions. The NED has a long, unsavory cold war history, abetting coups in Chile and Brazil, war in Central America and attacks on militant unions around the world. Funding US labor solidarity work with NED dollars would involve the AFL-CIO in helping to administer the very occupation that Iraqi workers and unions oppose. To build real labor solidarity, US unions must be willing to challenge the Bush/Bremer program, which means finding other resources to do this vital work.

The NED funds overseas programs for the Democratic and Republican parties, the US Chamber of Commerce, and the AFL-CIO. It is modeled on a similar program in Germany. Now I don't see any reason why the labor movement should unilaterally disarm and refuse NED funds. Ideally, the international solidarity efforts of American labor should not rely on NED funds. There exists a potential to involve labor's grass roots in international labor solidarity.

I don't accept the premise that accepting NED funds means that US unions must necessarily accept the Bush/Bremer program.